Monday, June 11, 2007

ay oop, it's Alan Dershowitz!

"Teaming up" with leading British Decent Anthony Julius, in order to bankrupt, isolate and destroy British Academia, as just retribution for passing that "I Can't Believe It's Not A Boycott"[1] resolution. I hope that they have found some way in which this goal can be achieved without suppressing legitimate debate, because that would be bad.

In all seriousness, what the hell is Julius doing "teaming up with" Alan Dershowitz? Dershowitz has, in the past five years, written a defence of torture (no, guys, he did not just publish an academic speculation about a legal framework, he suggested that we should put needles under people's fingernails). He's in favour of weakening the protections given to civilians (and doing so in a way, btw, that Omar al-Bashir would find very congenial indeed for use in Darfur). He's in favour of the destruction of villages as a means of collective punishment, an outright war crime (note as well that this gives the lie to any claim that the problem with Dershowitz is that he is "pro-Israel" - this policy was widely regarded as insane and barbaric in Israel too. One might as well reserve the term "pro-Britain" for the sympathisers of Enoch Powell). He also has a nasty way with books and people he doesn't like.

Alan Dershowitz is the absolutely unacceptable face of the American pro-war left. He does, definitely and visibly, attempt to stifle criticism of the State of Israel, in exactly the way that plenty of people (Aaro included) say doesn't happen in the UK. Why is Anthony Julius associating with him, to what extent are the political organisations of which Julius is a board member (ENGAGE, Democratiya and the Euston Manifesto) signed up to "Project Dershowitz" and is it really a good idea to import Dershowtiz's personal brand of adversarial politics across the Atlantic?

PS, breaking news, Finkelstein got screwed. A picture of Norman Finkelstein does, of course, appear in the Dictionary of British Colloquialism under the entry for "do you have to be quite such a cunt about it?", but nevertheless this seems to me to be totally unjust. Also note that the Washington Post article misrepresents his book in the very first sentence of the article; the entire thesis of "The Holocaust Industry" relates to the behaviour of self-appointed organisations like the WJC, and how they've abused the legitimate compensation claims of Holocaust survivors.

[1] "I Can't Believe Bruschettaboy Is Still Using That Joke". The great thing about it is that "I Can't Believe It's Not Lazily Adaptable To More Or Less Any Story". I would be interested in any readers who have citations to this joke earlier than Patrick Kielty's description of the post-Good-Friday-Agreement terrorists as "I Can't Believe They're Not The IRA", because it really sticks in my craw to credit the awful Kielty with anything.


Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

On the point of him going after people, note the recent case of Robert Trivers:

6/11/2007 09:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I would be interested in any readers who have citations to this joke earlier than Patrick Kielty's description of the post-Good-Friday-Agreement terrorists as "I Can't Believe They're Not The IRA","

Rave-pop group Altern 8's 1992 album, "Full On: Mask Hysteria", uses the phrase "I can't believe it's not techno" in the sleeve notes. Can't remember if they credit an author by name but, knowing Altern 8, they'd probably claim their parrot came up with it while off its beak on eccies.

The useless information I have...

6/11/2007 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Can Dershowitz be meaningfully described as part of the Left?

Of course it's always possible to define the Left in a narrow sense, and this is often done to exclude almost anybody but the writer and their preferred political organisation - but it's really hard to see where Dershowitz fits into the category unless we assume that "person who supports the Democratic Party" automatically does the job.

This has some relevance to Aaro, since I can vividly recall his column for the Independent right after New Labour took power and began by announcing their intention to abolish One Parent Benefit. Aaro considered this a brave move which the Left (he used that term) should applaud.

I tended to respond by feeling that if you applaud that sort of thing you're probably not really on the Left any more. Neither the policy nor the support are necessarily wrong (though I disagree strongly with both) but it's just hard to see how either can be described as being on the Left. More likely they're to be described as the views and policies of people who used to be on the left but aren't any more - but consider themselves as on the Left purely by virtue of not being the Right. Which I don't think is quite enough. It's not really that relative a term.

6/11/2007 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

Marvellous ...

the man in his own words. (This also contains the claim that Anthony Julius is "Great Britain's most prominent barrister".)

6/11/2007 10:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a member of the Democratic Party does not qualify you as being 'on the left', the Democrats have a sizable conservative wing, mostly from the South and Mid-West I believe, certainly the party still embraces conservatives. Al Gore in fact was very much a conservative until the late 80's, his 1988 Presidential platform was very conservative, he seems to have began moving further left shortly after losing to Dukakis.

As for Dershowitz, he's a clown. A quite revolting character who will sink to any depths required to smear those he has a problem with. Chomsky exposed him as a fraud and a liar in the early 70's and Dershowitz has never forgiven him. Calling Finkelstein's mother a Nazi collaborator is probably a new low however.

Incidentally, on the subject of Finkelstein, he was called a 'Holocaust denier' by the Anti-Defamation League in a letter a short while back. Not sure if they retracted or apologised. Apparently you can say what you like about Finkelstein, and for some it seems the term 'Holocaust denier' has become devoid of any real meaning, its becoming a term you can throw around at random to smear people quite regardless of their actual views on the Holocaust. You can point out that your parents are Holocaust survivors and state in print that that you believe 5.1m-6.0m Jews died in the Holocaust, but apparently the ADL will still call you a Holocaust denier if they feel like doing so.

6/11/2007 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

"Holocaust denier" is now exactly equivalent to "fascist" in the sense Orwell meant when he remarked that ""Fascism" is now a word almost without meaning except as it signifies "something not desirable"".

Even the 'baccy funded anti-environment loons have taken to calling Tim Lambert one.

6/11/2007 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

No discussion of lunatic accusations of Holocaust denial is quite complete without a link to their foremost theorist

6/11/2007 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Wow, that's some love poem he's written himself there.

I've always thought Dershowitz was pretty disgusting as a lawyer, myself. Represents the worst excesses of the US adversarial system.

I know nothing about his political views, but I doubt he's on the left.

6/11/2007 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

George: Why should manslaughter be the least form of homicide? It's the slaughter of a man. They should call it involuntary snuffing out or something.

Jerry: Perhaps they could call it 'I can't believe it's not murder.'

6/11/2007 05:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is one of the reasons why I favour the boycott: because, despite many problems, opposition to Israeli chauvinism is in a real sense a struggle within our own societies, between those who back the likes of Dershowitz, and those who oppose them, just as the struggle against apartheid (not in all ways similar) was fundamentally a struggle within our own societies, in the US and UK particularly. I'm not surprised the Decentists have lined up with Alan D. - it was entirely to be expected.

6/12/2007 01:04:00 AM  
Blogger Martin Wisse said...

To be fair to Finkelstein, he has to be this obnoxious about it, or he would've long ago been swamped by the likes of Dershowitz.

6/12/2007 04:27:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

Hmmm, I would be in favour of something like a "targetted boycott" of Alan Dershowitz (and Omar al-Bashir, and anyone else who shares their repulsive views on the protected status of civilians), but anonymous' comments about Israel there are coming very close to "The Greatest Intellectual Struggle Of Our Time". Also, my question in the front page post was non-rhetorical - I am still not sure whether Dershowitz is now a fully-fledged member of Team Decent or whether this is just a solo project of Anthony Julius (I wouldn't call ENGAGE a core Decent organisation).

6/12/2007 06:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that the word 'struggle' in my post has prompted the comparison with 'greatest intellectual struggle of our time' (TM). The point merely is that Israel's power to behave as it does comes largely from its backers in the west, and that confronting those backers is the way to create change in Israeli politics. The same is true of e.g. trying to change US and UK policies in Iraq: it has to be done in the US and UK. There's no Great Intellectual Struggle about it...

6/12/2007 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading Dershowitz in the Times Higher last week, I had a brief moment of line wobble, and contemplated reneging on my earlier active opposition to the boycott. Lining up alongside that fucker is really quite hard to do.

I too rationalised it in terms like anonymous': the real battle is one for hearts and minds in the USA, and driving the Israelis themselves further into a corner is a necessary evil if it can help us end the US blank cheque by er [handwaves here . . .]. Once the IDF run out of backing (and squaddies), they'll treat, and will resist the temptation to go out with a bang.

But it still doesn't wash. The boycott is still a bad idea, though not for any reasons to do with international backlash (fuck 'em); academic freedom (ask Finkelstein); anti-Semitism (don't get me started) or the fundamental legitimacy of Zionism (Deir Yasin). It's a bad idea because it won't help, and it promotes nationalism.

I'll not be co-operating with Engage this time round, because it's revealed itself to be a soft-Zionist organisation (and very much part of the Decent core, IMO), rather than a clever solidarity one. But I'm still going to vote against, for all the good ultra-left reasons. Nice try Dershowitz - you won't get rid of me that easily.

Chris Williams

6/12/2007 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

One doubts that the musical boycott of South Africa helped significantly to end apartheid and its greatest public impact was certainly when it was ignored (by Paul Simon) rather than in anything it actually did. But one doubts that the Musician's Union feels penitent about suporting it, or that it should.

6/12/2007 01:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It's a bad idea because it won't help, and it promotes nationalism."

Well, the question of whether it will help or not is a purely pragmatic one. Since the Israeli lobby's power in the US is bolstered considerably by its efforts to truncate the open expression of intense opposition to Israeli policies, efforts to bring clear opposition out into the open in ways that cannot be ignored by large parts of US society may well help - and may encourage others in the US to do likewise. But time will tell. But what is the substance of your complaint that "[The boycott] promotes nationalism"?

6/12/2007 02:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get that about the boycott promoting nationalism either. Could you explain please.

6/12/2007 04:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get it either. Does a boycott promote Palestinian nationalism?

Many readers may have seen this, but it's an interesting piece on Dershowitz v Finkelstein by a clever friend of mine:

6/12/2007 05:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By failing to disaggregate Israeli society, a boycott takes as its unit of application 'the nation'. The boycott thus buys into the good nations / bad nations concept, which is at the root of so much evil that I can't begin to bang on about it. No war but the class war, etc.

Chris Williams

6/12/2007 06:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"By failing to disaggregate Israeli society, a boycott takes as its unit of application 'the nation'."

While true, in practice this leads to a 'heads I win, tails you loose' situation.

A previous boycott proposal was against specific universities, which had the same arguments against it. Specific persons is even more problematical.

And the one argument that I keep to is that no one is interested in this disagregation.

Looking for who's responsible for X in Israel always ends up in a wood of strawmen, with only the Palestinians/the right/the religious as an acceptable outcome.

6/12/2007 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

I see the Decents are busy pushing a statement by the President of Columbia on I-can't-believe-it's-not-a-boycott , which contains the line:

"As a university professor and president, I find this idea utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment."

Maybe he'll be offering Finkelstein a job then?

6/13/2007 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Or maybe go to Havana for a conference.

6/13/2007 10:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its not just Finkelstein who's got screwed. The New York Observer's recently forced out Philip Weiss, who's blog picked up on some of the themes raised by Finkelstein about Israel and Jewish identity. He's got an account of the ins and out of what happened:

6/13/2007 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

ohhhh, Columbia University. For a second there I thought that the President of Colombia had decided to stick his oar in, which would have been a bit odd.

6/13/2007 11:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bollinger: "we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment."

Columbia's actual policy: "Travel to Cuba Prohibited Without Explicit Prior OPG Approval"

6/13/2007 01:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Via Frank Menetrez, further developments in the Finkelstein tenure story:


6/14/2007 01:00:00 PM  

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