Harvard law professor and pundit Alan Dershowitz is, like most of us, a man of parts — good and bad. I witnessed the good personally a few years ago when I saw him go toe-to-toe with supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN’s Durban II conference in Geneva. He was magnificent.
Of course, opposing Ahmadinejad isn’t exactly a complicated moral challenge. The execrable Iranian is auditioning for Junior Hitler. Still, Ahmadinejad’s presence as speaker at a “human rights conference” was a disgrace and, as much as anyone else on the scene, Dershowitz led the charge against him.
He has also been a staunch defender of Israel against the likes of Walt and Mearsheimer and he recently had some insightful things to say about the dubious second-degree murder indictment of George Zimmerman. (We’ll excuse as best we can Dershowitz’s cringeworthy participation in OJ’s prevaricating legal Dream Team as an unfortunate exercise in self-promotion.)
But today, for reasons that are unclear at best, at the very moment of Mitt Romney’s arrival in Jerusalem, the law professor has decided to inject himself in the political process by publishing an apologia pro vita Obama regarding the president’s Israel policy. He has no “buyer’s remorse,” Dershowitz tells us, from supporting Obama in 2008 and will do it again this year.
All this although the president has made no secret of his distaste for the prime minister of Israel, both through overheard conversation with Sarkozy and his own ugly snubbing of Netanyahu at the White House. More importantly, in actual political terms, the Obama administration seems to have a policy of putting pressure on the Israelis in the peace process but never on the Palestinians. Besides being grossly unfair, this has also been unworkable and will undoubtedly continue to be so. (It is also arguably racist because it treats the Palestinians as ungovernable children unable to compromise like adults.) Obama’s Middle East policy has achieved the hat trick of being at once cynical, unimaginative, and reactionary.
In defense of the administration, Dershowitz points to its criticism of the Goldstone Report, which was tepid at best. Indeed, the administration ended up criticizing that pernicious and dishonest report on the Gaza conflict less stringently than Judge Goldstone himself, who finally renounced it after being confronted with obvious facts he chose to ignore.
Meanwhile, serious questions about Obama’s real beliefs about the Middle East remain. The Khalidi tape has still not been released by the Los Angeles Times, although that paper would leak just about anything that would ratify its narrative. (Somehow the tape is more sacrosanct that any secret held by the CIA or the NSA.) I wonder if Dershowitz would be embarrassed if it turned out that Obama was in substantial agreement with the militantly anti-Zionist views held by his friend Rashid Khalidi, whose going away party to replace Edward Said at Columbia that video tape documents. Barack and Michelle Obama were in attendance. Fortunately for the professor, he can probably rely on the Times to keep it hidden.
It’s worth noting too that Dershowitz has written his defense of Obama at a moment when, for the first time in memory, significant numbers of the Jewish community are beginning to desert the Democratic Party. (Even longtime Democrat and Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross appears to be withdrawing support for Obama. He, of all people, should know something.)
I hope the professor realizes that this is a good trend because, at a minimum, it is unhealthy for any religious or ethnic group to adhere slavishly to one political party. The near one hundred percent allegiance to the Democratic Party (and its policies) by African-Americans has been pretty close to a disaster for that minority. They have suffered most from the current economic situation, which Obama has done little or nothing to solve and probably exacerbated.
So why did Dershowitz publish this op-ed? Why is the august professor suddenly acting like a political hack, a kind of low-rent Ivy League Deborah Wasserman-Schultz, flacking for the president at the exact moment the administration is unleashing various forms of “aid to Israel” in a patently obvious attempt to undermine Romney’s trip?
Does Dershowitz care so much for the access available to him from being a loyal minion of Lord Barack that he is willing to ignore the obvious, that Obama is at best highly ambivalent about the Jewish state and that his reelection could lead to real problems for Israel? Or is he one of those who justifies his behavior with the usually useless canard about “working within the system for change”?
It’s hard to know. But it’s equally hard to take what he says very seriously until we have the answer, if then.