By Ben Cohen
The problem with lawyers is that their vocation requires they become professional liars. Many use their powers of persuasion for good, but the majority are simply guns for hire aiming wherever they are paid to aim.
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz is a tremendously skilled lawyer who has lent his talent to defending people like OJ Simpson and Mike Tyson. Defending high profile people you know are guilty (anyone who still thinks OJ was innocent is either mentally ill or plain stupid) either means you have unbelievable faith in the legal system, or have an unbelievable ego. I suspect Dershowitz is guilty of the latter, and took the cases for the notoriety rather than a commitment to truth and justice.
Dershowitz has also used his professional skills to defend Israel from its detractors, going to extraordinary lengths to obscure the truth and excuse massive crimes committed against the Palestinian people. Dershowitz has built a career out of Israeli PR, and can be seen promoting his books on TV shows whenever the crisis in the Middle East flares up. Dershowitz's writings have been thoroughly debunked by people like Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein and exposed as completely fraudulent (check out this great debate between Finkelstein and Dershowitz where Finkelstein demolishes Dershowitz's book 'The Case for Israel'.), yet Dershowitz continues to spout nonsense disguised behind legal rhetoric. Let's take his recent article in the Huffington Post. Dershowitz writes:
What if Israel defended its citizens the way the British, the French,
the Americans and the Russians did? When German rockets hit British
cities during the World War II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill
retaliated by bombing German cities, killing thousands of German
civilians, and promised to continue until Germany's unconditional
surrender. The United States did the same following the Japanese attack
on Pearl Harbor. The French did much worse in Algeria and the Russians
showed no concern for civilian life in Chechnya or Georgia.
This is a typically dishonest argument much like the one we saw leading up to the war with Iraq. Saddam Hussein was compared to Hitler, and false analogies were made between pre war Germany and Iraq (one was a leading industrial power with a highly trained and well equipped military, while the other a bankrupt third world nation with little to no infrastructure). Hamas firing rockets into Israel does not compare to the German bombing of London, where a third of the capitol was destroyed and 32,000 people lost their lives (as compared to 19 killed in 6 years by Hamas).
Dershowitz goes on:
Every Hamas rocket attack against Israeli civilians -- and there have
been more than 6,500 of them since Israel ended its occupation of Gaza
-- is an armed attack against Israel under Article 51 of the United
Nations Charter, which authorizes member nations to respond militarily
to armed attacks against it.
Dershowitz of course fails to mention that Israel has never ended it's occupation of Gaza, and itself broke internation law when it broke the cease fire (contrary to conventional wisdom that Hamas broke the cease fire). Therefore, according to Dershowitz, the law must apply in reverse, giving the Palestinians the right to respond militarily.
Dershowitz also says:
No one condemned Great Britain and the United States for the collateral
damage it caused while trying to defeat those who attacked it during
the second world war. Moreover,Germany did not deny the right of Great
Britain or the United States to exist [after WW2]. The Hamas Charter not only
denies Israel's right to exist, it calls for the complete destruction
of the Jewish state. Surely Israel has as much right to defend its
citizens as did the United States and Great Britain.
This is a false statement as both sides in WW2 committed war crimes, many of which were condemned internationally (the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for example). Israel is not exempt from criticism just because Dershowitz perceives it as the victim. Also Noam Chomsky has dealt extensively with the issue of 'The Right to Exist', which appears nowhere in international law and has basically used to halt serious efforts at peace. Dershowitz's most specious argument is that Hamas is responsible for Palestinian casualties, not Israel. He writes:
Hamas has learned how to manipulate the media's coverage of Israeli
military actions. They deliberately fire their rockets from behind
civilian shields in order to provoke Israel to respond and kill
civilians. They are then ready to bring out the cameras to record and
transmit every civilian death around the world.......The only way to defeat this cynical tactic is for the international
community to place the blame squarely on Hamas for engaging in the
double war crime of targeting Israeli civilians and using Palestinian
civilians as human shields.
I debunked much of this argument in a previous article countering Mitchell Bard's similar assertions, but it is worth repeating. Despite Hamas's use of civilians as human shields, Israel had no right to invade Gaza given the fact that it broke the ceasefire (something even CNN reported). The Israeli army has killed over 1000 people, many of them women and children. Nine Israeli human rights groups have now spoken out, writing a letter to their government expressing a "heavy suspicion ... of grave violations of international humanitarian law by military forces". The situation in Gaza is deteriorating rapidly, and despite Hamas's often appalling behavior, it is fighting a war against and occupying nation. The means may not be justified, but the cause is right, something Dershowitz refuses to acknowledge.
When Americans fought their war of independence against the British, many innocent British civilians were killed in terrorist attacks. The acts of violence were appalling and wrong, but in a wider context, understandable (and I speak here as a Brit). Palestinians have as much right to their land and sovereignty as Americans did, and no peace agreement is worth anything unless that fact is acknowledged.