Middle East studies in the News
Alan Dershowitz, Won't You Please Come Home? [incl. Rashid Khalidi]
by David Solway
When I read Alan Dershowitz, I sometimes feel like printing his face on the side of a milk carton and hoping someone will recognize him. Maybe that way he might be found and restored to his proper home. As I've written before, in such books as The Case for Israel, The Case for Peace and The Case Against Israel's Enemies, Dershowitz does yeoman service on behalf of the beleaguered and universally misprised Jewish state, establishing the country's historical and juridical rights to existence. And yet, when it comes to the international figure who may well be the most serious threat to Israel's well-being and perhaps even to its survival—by whom I mean not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but Barack Obama—Dershowitz's pen tilts to the "sinister" side of the page as he no doubt meditates his still unwritten The Case for Obama.
For example, in a recent essay exposing the lies and bigotry—indeed, the not-so-latent anti-Semitism of the Reverend Desmond Tutu—Dershowitz concludes by scrubbing clean the image of the American president. "I am confident," he writes, "that President Obama was not aware of Tutu's sordid history of anti-Jewish rhetoric and actions when he awarded him the Medal of Freedom." This is pure nonsense. Obama surely has a team of researchers, advisers and vetters, trained to implement careful procedures of assessment, who would have made him intimately aware of Tutu's unforgiveable ignominy and malevolence. After all, it's not as if Tutu's "anti-Jewish rhetoric and actions" are a closely guarded secret. A Google half-minute would have sufficed to reveal Tutu for who he is.
Further, Dershowitz must know that Obama also awarded the now much-tarnished Medal to Mary Robinson at the same time as Tutu. Robinson, of course, was one of the chief instigators of the Durban I conference on racism which quickly descended into a torrent of anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist hatred, in which Israel was accused of being a practicing apartheid state and anyone visibly Jewish on the conference premises had to worry about personal safety. She also used her tenure as president of Ireland and as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to denigrate the West and cashier Israeli rights. Robinson's deep prejudice is perhaps even better known than Tutu's, but the two of them make a heraldic couple, a marriage consummated in anti-Semitic heaven. By affecting to ignore so stark a violation of common decency as awarding high honors to the patently undeserving, Dershowitz once again slides behind the wheel of the president's getaway car.
Obama has much to answer for but Dershowitz isn't asking any probing questions. Obama's duplicitous and historically inaccurate Cairo Address, in which among its many blunders and falsifications, we learn that Israel owes its inception primarily to the Holocaust, went right by him. "I think the Cairo speech could have been better," was Dershowitz's lame reaction. Obama's reneging on the settlement consensus worked out between Israel and the former American administration does not seem to trouble the learned scholar. Obama's appointment of anti-Zionist figures, such as Susan Rice and Samantha Power, to positions of importance seems a matter of no interest. Obama's friendships with clearly anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli agitators, like pastor Jeremiah Wright, former PLO spokesman Rashid Khalidi and unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers has not the slightest effect on Dershowitz's loyalty to a president who espouses precisely what Dershowitz clearly deplores. As far as I know, Obama's churlish and unprecedented treatment of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew not a disapproving peep from this great advocate of the Jewish state. Dershowitz does not so much as notice whatNational Post columnist George Jonas called "the malodorous miasma of gall, social engineering zeal, anti-Semitism and Arabist agenda that emanates from the Obama administration."
True, in recent articles for the Jerusalem Post and the New York Post, Dershowitz has criticized the president for getting the 'linkage" between Israeli settlements and Iran's nuclear ambitions backwards. This moment of lèse majesté was softened by a concessive "With due respect to the man I supported for president" and has not resulted in an overt act of repudiation of the president's muddled policies and painfully evident inclinations.
Dershowitz's indifference to the blatantly obvious is something of a conundrum. He is far too astute not to see that Obama has no love for the tiny country he has spent much of his career defending. Dershowitz has long been among the most eloquent and erudite supporters of the Jewish state. His opposition to the "settlements" may or may not be misguided but, in book after book, he has consolidated the "case for Israel" about as well as anyone can be expected to. At the same time, despite his transient critique of Obama's position on the Middle East, he remains staunchly in the president's camp, a strong liberal and a voting Democrat. I frankly cannot see how one can have it both ways, since Barack Obama is manifestly no friend of Israel and liberal Democrats are far less likely to promote Israel's welfare than are conservative Republicans. Something does not compute
What is Dershowitz's problem? Is it the liberal cocktail circuit's come-hither? Is it the Lucullan mindscape of Harvard University—where, interestingly enough, Islamic facilitators and academic revelers like Roy Mottahedeh (Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program) and Noah Feldman (Bemis Professor of International Law) prance about, without Dershowitz's pushback? Is it the inability to reverse a lifelong commitment to an ideological cause? Is it Obama's liberal-left agenda that attracts socialists and socialites alike, irrespective of massive failure? (American Jews are especially prone to this aberration.)
Maybe Dershowitz sees himself as a gentle mentor to the president, coddling him toward a more profound grasp of Middle East complexities? Are we dealing with what Czeslaw Milosz in The Captive Mind, borrowing from the Arabic, called "ketman," the false stance adopted by a person "in order to find himself at one with others, in order not to be alone"? Or adherence to a social convention that issues in the evasion of unpalatable truths which are not in themselves that obscure, in other words, the usual politically correct response to the problems of the age? Or perhaps a cognitive scotoma, a blind spot that blots out an emotionally unacceptable part of reality? "I know Obama's views on Israel," says Dershowitz, "I don't agree with all of them, but he is definitely not anti-Israel."
Earth to Dershowitz: It's time to recalibrate your coordinates. Obama is never where one thinks he is—except far to the left of one's rehabilitating gaze. Why would any intelligent person side with an administration that is visibly committed, to quote the excellent Pamela Geller, "to weakening American power and collaborating with the ascension of the Muslim world," the latter to Israel's undeniable detriment? Or perhaps the issue should be framed differently. As star journalist and political author Mark Steyn suggests, "I suppose it's conceivable that there are a few remaining suckers out there who still believe Barack Obama is the great post-partisan, fiscally responsible, pragmatic centrist he played so beguilingly just a year ago."
Barack Obama is the litmus test for all conscientious citizens—blue state or red state, so to speak. For devoted liberals with brains, the question remains: Will they eventually contrive to disenchant themselves and emerge from the political hallucination to which they have so readily succumbed? And for advocates of the Jewish state, Obama should provoke a crisis of conviction, one which should not be allowed to go to waste.
Whatever the reason for Dershowitz's sinuous temporizing and defection from the obvious, it would be a day of jubilation were the prodigal son to return home, that is, to a clear-sighted apprehension of the real relation between Washington and Jerusalem as it is currently being played out. For he has spent far too long sojourning in alien lands where deceit and stupefaction reign. There might be something, after all, to the apothegm from Ecclesiastes 10:2: "A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left."Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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