June 18, 2007

Dershowitz is as sincere as Engage?

There's something going down at Engage. Who knows? Maybe Engage itself is going down. I mentioned before about how Engage is a bit of an embarrassment to the zionist movement and that Dershowitz may prove an even bigger disaster. Well one of the Engage commentors has now expressed misgivings about Alan Dershowitz's involvement in the anti-boycott campaign. Here he is:
Chris Bertram posted on June 17, 2007 at 12:53:04 PM
People must make their own judgements about who they associate with. But I wouldn't feel able to participate in a meeting that features a close associate of Alan Dershowitz. (Obviously, I'm thinking of Anthony Julius here.) Dershowitz has publicly advocated "needles under the fingernails" of terrorist suspects and has written of a "continuum of civilianity" that reduces the immunity of (Lebanese) non-combatants to attack. He's also, through his attack on Finkelstein, shown himself to be an enemy of academic freedom and free inquiry (as well as making disgusting and unwarranted claims about Finkelstein's mother).

I realize that some people take the view that their enemy's enemy is their friend. But Engage is supposedly signed-up to various principles about the universality of human rights. By contrast, some people who are opposed to the boycott are opposed to it simply for reasons of ethno-nationalist partisanship. They should be given a wide berth. I'm disappointed that Engage doesn't seem to share that view.
"Ethno-nationalist partisanship?" This chap thinks that the boycott should be opposed on non-zionist grounds and it's clear to him, and of course to everyone else bar Hirsh, that that is why Dershowitz has weighed in. Well David Hirsh wasn't having that said about such a high profile ethno-nationalist partisan, aka zionist:
David Hirsh posted on June 17, 2007 at 04:40:25 PM
Chris this is all a bit tenuous, isn't it? Dershowitz made his case against the boycott - which he doesn't make in terms of "ethno-nationalist partisanship".

Julius is "associated with" Dershowitz - because they wrote a piece together - what is your critique of that piece? And because they together offered legal assistance to those discriminated against on the grounds of nationality - what is your critique of legal assistance?

We are "associated with" Julius... And now you accuse us of only "supposedly" being "signed up to" various principles about the universality of human rights, but you imply that we are only pretending.

I don't see how any of this is worth responding to and I don't see how any of this is worthy of you, Chris.
Only the genius Hirsh can respond to someone or something with the words "I don't see how any of this is worth responding to" and that after several lines of, er, response. Check out the Dershowitz/Julius masterpiece here. Their conclusion is that the boycott is antisemitic! Ok, a quick detour:
Anti-Semitism consists, first, of beliefs about Jews that are both false and hostile, and secondly, of injurious things said to or about Jews, or done to them, in consequence of those beliefs. It is no enlargement at all to rewrite this definition as follows. Anti-Semitism consists, first, of beliefs about Jews or the Jewish State that are both false and hostile, and secondly, of injurious things said to or about Jews or the Jewish State, or done to them, in consequence of those beliefs. Anti-Semites wrong Jews and the Jewish State, and they are wrong about Jews and the Jewish State. Many antiSemites also want to hurt Jews and the Jewish State or deny to them freedoms or rights enjoyed by nonJews or the generality of states.
There we have it. Nothing to betray any ethno-nationalist partisanship there.

In a way of course Hirsh is right. Dershowitz is a breathtakingly dodgy character but his sole contribution to the Engage site on this issue lately has been the article I just quoted from. Mr Betram needs to be critiquing the article, not Dershowitz. But doesn't Hirsh go in for a bit of that guilt by association stuff himself? Surely he wouldn't be so hypocritical:
Chris Bertram posted on June 17, 2007 at 07:00:46 PM
Come off it David (I won't bother with the others) ... you've been willing enough to play the guilt-by-association card when it comes to others (Ken Livingstone, remember him?). Julius isn't only associated with Dershowitz because they wrote a piece together (and wouldn't you criticize Livingstone if he co-wrote a Times article with Sheikh Al-Qaradwi on any subject?), he also features on Dershowitz's website as endorsing the guy

See

http://www.alandershowitz.com/detailed.php

Isn't to put some clear water between Engage and Dershowitz?
This is odd. He knows how Hirsh plays it and yet in his first comment he was surprised that Engage would run with Dershowitz. But anyway let's see Hirsh's defence. It's just a little too defensive since it denies a lot of allegations that I'm sure could have been made but actually weren't made:
Chris, you think our criticism of Livingstone constituted playing "guilt-by-association card" with Qaradawi?

Firstly your chosen phraseology makes clear that you think our politics is dishonest. As above, when you say Engage is "supposedly signed up to" now you say we play a card.

I think you make a very serious allegation and I think you should provide some evidence or withdraw it. Your allegation is that we dishonestly claim to be antiracist and that we dishonestly claim to support human rights but in truth we cynically play arguments as though they were cards and we lie about what we really think.

Your claim is that we are liars for Israel. Your claim is that we pretend to worry about antisemitism but really we are only concerned with de-legitimizing criticism of Israeli human rights abuses.

A very serious charge in my view, and one that you cannot sustain.

As for Livingstone - my own case against Livingstone does not rely on the fact that he, in the name of London, welcomes mysoginist, antisemite and homophobe Qaradawi to city hall as an honoured guest.

Livingstone himself has been on the nasty wing of British anti-Zionism for all his political life - since he was an editor for the WRP front newspaper "Labour Herald".

Livingstone understood that his trivial little racist digs at the Ruben Brothers and at Oliver Finegold could be transformed into political opportunities - and so he refused to apologise and instead used these sordid little incidents as springboards for attacks on Israel and the "Zionists" who, he says, are out to get him because he "criticises" Israel.

Livingstone opposes the suicide bombing of buses in his own city of London but he makes all sorts of apology for it in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Livingstone has no business cuddling up to the disgusting Jew hater Qaradawi, a man who has recently declared that today's Jews must take responsibility for the killing of Jesus. http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=624

Qaradawi is also a man who believes that women should be beaten by their husbands and that gay people should be executed.

For lots of material on Livingstone and Qaradawi, see here: http://www.engageonline.org.uk/archives/index.php?id=22

Deshowitz is seriously wrong, in my view, to raise the idea that we need a debate on torture. But Dershowitz is not a racist, he is not a mysoginist, he is not a homophobe and he is not a supporter of clerical fascism. Dershowitz is actually a supporter of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
See that? Engage is sincere and so is Dershowitz. Or to put it another way, Dershowitz is as sincere as Engage.

So how does it end? I'm not sure if our Chris character folds or resorts to sarcasm:
David Hirsh wrote:

Your claim is that we are liars for Israel. Your claim is that we pretend to worry about antisemitism but really we are only concerned with de-legitimizing criticism of Israeli human rights abuses.

No, David, I didn't say anything that would justify you in ascribing those views to me. I'm sure you are personally sincere in your commitment to human rights and I don't think you are lying for anyone. But I do think that Engage should take care to distance itself from the likes of Dershowitz (and also that you shouldn't minimize how repellent his views actually are, as you tend to above).
Actually, Dr Hirsh's partner, Alexandra Simonon is quite a fan of Dershowitz too.

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