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Dershowitz at War: The Case Against Israel’s Enemies

Alan Dershowitz
The Case Against Israel’s Enemies: Exposing Jimmy Carter and Others Who Stand In The Way of Peace
(Wiley, 2008)

In an attempt to rectify every factual wrong committed against the state of Israel, Alan Dershowitz has effectively argued himself into irrelevancy. The author of The Case For Israel has returned to battle for the Middle East with The Case Against Israel’s Enemies, a chapter by chapter response to Israel’s various ill-wishers.

Among the chosen are Jimmy Carter, the political scientists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, the hard left and right, and suicide bombers—a disparate group to be sure. The problem is not that Dershowitz is entirely wrong: Jimmy Carter’s relationship to Israel offends many people and few find suicide bombers admirable. The problem is that Dershowitz jumps into the conversation with such ferocity that he ends up sounding like the most unreliable voice of all.

“I have challenged anyone who claims that mere criticism of Israel is often labeled anti-Semitisim to document that serious charge by providing actual quotations,” Dershowitz writes in the introduction. “I am talking about mainstream supporters of Israel, who, it is claimed, have often equated mere criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.” Though allegedly writing to clarify that he and his compatriots do not believe that anti-Israel sentiment tends to be anti-Semitic, Dershowitz makes arguments time and again that sound quite a bit like cries of anti-Semitism. In the chapter on Mearsheimer and Walt’s screed against the “Israel Lobby,” Dershowitz writes, “American Jews and their friends are not only disloyal, Mearsheimer and Walt suggest, but dangerous to the United States.” Dershowitz then draws a parallel between this charge and the reasoning behind Pharoah’s instruction to the Egyptian people to enslave the Israelites. Though he explicitly denies that he is calling Mearsheimer and Walt anti-Semitic, it is difficult to interpret this comparison in any other way.

From an aesthetic standpoint, The Case Against Israel’s Enemies is nearly unbearable. Dershowitz is a lawyer and the book reads like a legal text. Each chapter is a painstakingly thorough deconstruction of every lie ever lodged against Israel—making it a well researched but unpleasant read, to say the least. In an attempt to moderate his tone, Dershowitz frequently cedes arguments to people that he disagrees with to show that he is open to other ideas, and then proceeds to rail on and on about the same point. His voice is measured, but the rage is palpable.

At this point in history, very little is clear about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, save for the fact that the only solution, if there is one, will be one that is both nuanced and complex. While Dershowitz is correct that many of Israel’s enemies are doing nothing to ameliorate the situation, Dershowitz himself could do his side a favor and introduce a more balanced perspective of his own.


Abby Margulies

ABBY MARGULIES is a freelance writer who lives in Brooklyn.


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