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Friday, July 08, 2005

Chutzpah and Beyond

Kind of interesting article at The Nation about Norman Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah, a book attempting to debunk Alan Dershowitz's The Case for Israel.  Aside from the obvious merits of pointing out Dershowitz's tendency to overstate that very case for Israel, the article reveals that Dershowitz has gone to great lengths to prevent criticism of "his" "work" from even being published.  The depravity is astonishing.  Apparently, Dershowitz sent letters to Gov. Schwarzenegger, and the Directors of The New Press, and the University of California Press to try to get each to intervene in the publication decision.  A libel suit may be next--with Cravath representing Dershowitz.  Stay tuned.

Posted by Ethan Leib on July 8, 2005 at 01:50 AM in Books | Permalink

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Comments

"The Case for Israel" does not bill itself as a work of dispassionate scholarship but as a lawyers brief. It is a work of advocacy in a situation with immensley high stakes. Israel stands accused, and many are willing to condemn it to a quick or slow death (the latter would include one-state scenarios, or the creation of a Palestinian state whose inhabitants are presumed to be owed jobs inside Israel).

The accused gets a lawyer, Dershowitz. Are we to object if his last-minute habeas appeal, while the client is on death row, is a bit "overstated"? No -- so long as it is generally right -- ie, if it correctly shows the client to be wrongly condemned -- we would excuse some rhetorical lapses. We would not blame the death penalty defense lawyer of overstatement. Rather, if it were a DP case, we'd admire his plucky advocacy of the underdog.

Anyway, in the Nation article, it seems Finkelstein is the one prone to overstatement, claiming not one fact in Dershowtiz's book is true. I read "The Case for Israel" a year or to ago, and while I thought it could be much more tightly and persuasively argued, I definitely recall true facts.

Given the stakes, is it reasonable to ask someone to right a book along the lines of "Israel is probably in the right, but just maybe in the wrong"? given that the consequences of these views is so assymetric? If Americans believe Israel is in the right, it maybe has a chance. If they don't, pack up schwarma stands and go back to Poland. Especially given the fact that those who oppose Israel are not shy of polemics (Chomsky, Cockburn), one really can excuse a bit of overstatemet. (I don't know that there was overstatement by Dersh, I'm just conceding that for the sake of argument.)

Posted by: Eugene Kontorovich | Jul 8, 2005 11:32:01 AM

I don't get why people ever sue for libel. It only draws more attention to the isssue/thing/book/statement that the person wants ignored.

Posted by: Jeff V. | Jul 8, 2005 2:15:13 AM

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