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
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
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.