Friday, January 14, 2011

Alan Dershowitz Jumps The Shark

(With Alan Dershowitz much in the news for green-lighting
Sarah Palin's
use of the term "blood libel" in her video, this
July 2009 post
seems more appropriate than ever.)
I once admired Alan Dershowitz for his savvy. He is an appellate criminal lawyer possibly without peer, but when he strays from law into his other core interest -- Jewish self-interest in general and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular -- he has grown increasingly batty and bitter over the years and like some other pundits of the Jewish persuasion, has no problem making stuff up when it comes to vilifying Palestinians while defending the use of the very torture techniques that the Third Reich employed against Holocaust victims.

But Dershowitz has now jumped the shark in grand style in arguing "that the Palestinian leadership, supported by the Palestinian masses, played a significant role in Hitler's Holocaust."

To leap to this conclusion, Dershowitz parts the mists of history by noting that Palestinian clerical leader and virulent anti-Zionist Haj Amin al-Husseini spent World War II in Berlin serving as a consultant to Hitler on the Jewish question.

The reality is considerable less provocative.

Beginning in the 1920s, Al-Husseini opposed Jewish immigration to the newly carved-out Jewish homeland in Palestine. He was a player in the 1936-1937 Arab revolt and pursued by the British, who were still the big colonial dog in the Middle East, fled to Lebanon, Iraq, Italy and finally Nazi Germany. There he did indeed meet Hitler, did support the eradication of Jews and did ask Der F├╝hrer to oppose a Jewish homeland.

But to imply as Dershowitz does that Hitler was somehow swayed by Al-Husseini, let alone gave him a significant role, is ludicrous.

The Nazis had been rounding up Jews since 1938 while Hitler himself foretold the Final Solution in a speech in January 1939. Those eradication efforts were will under way, notably in Eastern Europe, before Al-Husseini had set foot in Berlin. Beside which, his influence waned quickly after he returned to Palestine after the war.

Dershowitz's outburst is part of a larger drama.

Israel long ago squandered the moral high ground in the Middle East. That has happened not by accident but by willful calculation: Building settlements in the Occupied Territories. Pushing back against Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza by inflicting maximum pain and suffering on civilians, including the probable use of weapons banned by treaties that it refuses to sign. Adopting the worst of American neoconservative talking points, including arguments eerily similar to those proffered by the White House when the U.S. invaded Iraq. Launching its 2008 Gaza offensive before the Bush administration skulked into the sunset since no other foreign power of consequence would support it.

More recently, Israel has pushed back against international criticism of its plans to build new homes in an Arab neighborhood of Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. In the service of that effort, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has pulled out an old and reliable bogeyman in ordering his embassies to display the photo of Hitler meeting with Al-Husseini that is atop this post.

What, you may ask, does the meeting of Hitler and an anti-Semitic Palestinian cleric 60-plus years ago have with building new Jewish homes in a Palestinian quarter of East Jerusalem? Indeed, what does the Holocaust have with building these homes?

Are we to infer from Dershowitz and Lieberman that Israel has a special claim to sovereignty in the Middle East because they believe that Palestinians should, as blogger Matt Duss astutely notes, feel a collective guilt for events in which Arabs at the worst were extremely peripheral?

Yes we are.

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