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Alan Dershowitz is Wrong About the Right….and the Left
by Aaron Goldstein
21 October 2003Israeli Flag

The political Left abandoned Israel after the Six Day War in 1967, and has never returned. A review of Alan Dershowitz's book, The Case for Israel.

First of all, I want to commend Alan Dershowitz for writing the book, The Case for Israel.   Dershowitz himself laments having to write the book but nonetheless has done a tremendous public service by debunking 32 myths about Israel.   He also does not suffer fools gladly, many of them on the Left such as Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and the late Edward Said.

Recently, I saw Dershowitz give a talk about his book in the People’s Republic of Cambridge.   I generally concurred with the comments of the Harvard Law Professor until he said the following, “Israel should not be a Left-Right issue.   It would be a terrible mistake to give up on the political Left. Jews should not count on the support of the Religious Right.”  He also later added, “I wrote this book for the Left.”

Let’s take these four sentences for individual consideration.

I agree that Israel and the place of Jews in the world should not be a Left-Right issue. But let us not kid ourselves.  It most definitely is a Left-Right issue and has been as long as these terms have existed. The only thing that has changed is who is on Israel’s side and who is not.    The Zionist movement that led to the creation of the State of Israel was founded as a result of the Dreyfuss Affair in France at the end of the 19th Century.   Colonel Albert Dreyfuss was convicted of treason (later exonerated) and a wave of anti-Semitism poured over France.    The forces representing the Left supported Dreyfuss and the Jewish people.    The forces representing the Right opposed Dreyfuss and France’s Jewish population.

What a difference 100 years makes. The Left has defined itself with a Kafiah.   Aside from U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Palestinian cause is the cause celebre of the Left. Israel is viewed by the Left as a colonialist extension of the United States and an apartheid state along the lines of South Africa.  Go to any college campus, anti-globalization rally or march for peace and you will find uniform condemnation of Israel by organizations representing the Left of the political spectrum.  If the Left isn’t seeking divestiture or boycott from Israel it seeks to prohibit Israelis from participating in academic, cultural and vocational opportunities.

Most conservative organizations, on the other hand, have been stalwarts in their support of Israel and understand the challenges it faces on a day-to-day basis.

So Mr. Dershowitz, why would it be a terrible mistake to give up on the political Left?   Sure, there are some individuals with Leftist leanings who are supportive of Israel and will stand up for it.   But this is the exception and not the rule.    Now Dershowitz might argue that the Chomskys and the Finkelsteins of the world represent the Far Left as opposed to the mainstream Left.    However, the Gallup Organization has done some interesting research over the past decade.    It has measured the support for Israel versus support for the Palestinians amongst Democrats and Republicans.  Year after year, two-thirds of all Democrats support the Palestinians while two thirds of all Republicans support Israel.   Is it any surprise that Howard Dean is the darling of Democratic Party activists, having firmly established his credentials as both a critic of the War in Iraq and of President Bush’s isolation of Yasser Arafat?

Dershowitz did not explain why Jews should not count on the support of the Religious Right. No doubt the use of the term “Religious Right” was not used by accident.  There is a long standing (and sometimes well founded) fear that the Religious Right and Evangelical Christians only support Israel as a means of converting Jews to Christianity and Dershowitz was tapping into that ancient fear.  However, this statement implies that Jews are somehow incapable of making sound judgment concerning people of other religious persuasions and that all Christians seek to convert Jews.   I am secure in my faith as a Jew and have no fear that anyone will persuade me to convert to Christianity or any other religion. Anyone who tries to do so will be politely but firmly put in his or her place. Of course, it is important to consider that many Evangelical churches and organizations are sensitive to this matter and expressly prohibit attempts at converting Jews.

I admire the Religious Right for its support for Israel but reserve the right to disagree with it on other issues.  Disagreements aside, given the fact that anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment are in fashion these days it does take a certain amount of courage to stand up to this sentiment and the Religious Right has done so.  Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby once remarked, “If you want to see Israel blamed, listen to NPR. If you want to see Israel praised, watch the 700 Club.”    

Dershowitz also uses the term “Religious Right” to marginalize how broad support for Israel is amongst the mainstream Right.  Conservatives and Republicans who are of other faiths or are secular are strongly supportive of Israel.  One only need take a look at conservative publications like National Review, American Spectator, the Weekly Standard and Commentary to verify this sentiment.

I don’t dispute that Alan Dershowitz wrote the book for the Left.  It no doubt breaks his heart to see people with whom he otherwise agrees make outrageous statements and sign anti-Israel petitions without having read them.  It broke my heart to see old friends and allies tell me that Israel had no right to exist and that it was colonialist, racist state.  Believe me I did my best to persuade them to the contrary but to no avail. If I wanted to find support for Israel I had to make a Right turn.  

For all intents and purposes, the Left began to abandon Israel after its triumph during the Six Day War in 1967, despite the fact that Israel almost immediately tried to return the territory it had won.  The Left likes underdogs and Israel is not an underdog in their eyes.    

But it should be.  Israel is the only Jewish State amongst 23 Arab nations, all of which are technically at war with it (except for Egypt and Jordan).  It has a population smaller than New York City inside a territory smaller than New Jersey. It is the only democracy in the Middle East. There are 5 million Jews in Israel and the Arab nations have a collective population of nearly half a billion.   If Israel isn’t an underdog then there are no underdogs.    

If the Left cannot recognize these simple facts then how it can Dershowitz expect the Left to recognize it in a 244-page book?

Aaron Goldstein, a former member of the socialist New Democratic Party, writes poetry and has a chapbook titled Oysters and the Newborn Child: Melancholy and Dead Musicians. His poetry can be viewed on www.poetsforthewar.org.

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