Sunday, March 20, 2011

The splendid Chutzpah of Alan Dershowitz

Chutzpah (pronounced ho͝otsʹpă) from the Hebrew word u (vpmj), meaning "insolence", "audacity", and "impertinence." The Joys of Yiddish defines chutzpah as "gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible 'guts,' presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to."

Another definition: Chutzpah is the quality shown by a person who murders his mother and father then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan

Or: A book by Alan Dershowitz.

The other day The Huffington Report ran an article by Alan Dershowitz entitled “Israel Has the Right to Attack Iran's Nuclear Reactors Now” which offers a dershowitzian legal argument in support of a possible attack by Israel against Iran. There is no reason for me to expound on the  civil liberties lawyer’s [as he is identified on Huffington] uncritical support of Israeli policy, but the basis of his argument in this article cries out for comment.

Many “pro-Israel” commentators attempt to answer the many imagined Israel “delegitimizers” by rooting the legitimacy of Israel’s right to exist in the 1947 United Nations partition plan, Dershowitz resorts to numerous U.N. positions and international laws. Given not only the way Israel has regularly denounced and/or ignored the majority of those same sources, but also its ongoing general rejection of the U.N. based on what it sees as an overwhelming bias against Israel, Zionism and sometimes Jews, this argument takes on an almost Kafkaesque  dimension.

Dershowitz begins by citing the delivery of weapons to Gaza:

"Iran's recent attempts to ship arms to Hamas in Gaza is an act of war committed by the Iranian government against the Israeli government. The Israeli Navy seized the ship, loaded with weapons designed to kill Israeli civilians, and traced the weapons back to Iran.”

I have no desire to defend Iran, it’s despicable leaders or it’s pretty obvious support of extremist factions in the Middle East. What I find astounding is the fact that Dershowitz roots his argument this way:

“Under international law, these acts of war -- known as Casus Belli -- fully justify an Israeli armed response. Even the UN Charter authorizes a unilateral response to an armed attack. Providing weapons to a declared enemy in the face of an embargo has historically been deemed an armed attack under the law of war, especially when those providing the weapons intend for them to be used against the enemy's civilians.”

Few people would accuse me of being at a loss of words, but I hardly know what to say about this – here is where the “chutzpah” chimes in.  Dershowitz has always joined those who say they reject all those awful things the U.N. has said about Israel and those anti-Israel/Zionist/Semitic resolutions but here he seems to say, “but this time they’re right and it means we can attack anyone we want.” Nor does the famous civil libertarian and defender of human rights address the whole question of the legality or morality of an “embargo” that “unilaterally” sentences a million and a half human beings to a life of fear and poverty.

But there is another issue that, to my continuing amazement, seems to have been totally swept under some universal carpet: Our [by which I mean citizens of the United States] government’s total disregard of our own laws, particularly the The Arms Export Control Act which sets specific standards for who we can and will sell which kinds of arms to, and specifies the consequences for misusing these weapons. Michael F. Brown, in his exhaustive examination of this act, “Arms Export Control Act: Israeli Breaches & U.S. Indulgence Result in Palestinian & Lebanese Civilian Casualties” says:

American law is clear regarding the “Purposes for Which Military Sales by the United States Are Authorized.” The Congressional Research Service asserts that Section 4 of the Arms Export Control Act notes sales can be made to allies “solely for”:
* “‘internal security’”
* “‘legitimate self-defense’”
* “enabling the recipient to participate in ‘regional or collective arrangements or measures consistent with the Charter of the United Nations’”
* “enabling the recipient to participate in ‘collective measures requested by the United Nations for the purpose of maintaining or restoring international peace and security’”
* “enabling the foreign military forces ‘in less developed countries to construct public works and to engage in other activities helpful to the economic and social development of such friendly countries.’”5

Dershowitz then goes on to say [and remember, this is in support of Israel’s legal right to attack Iran]:

“the recent killings in Itamar of a family including three children, demonstrate how weapons are used by Israel's enemies against civilians in violation of the laws of war. Even babies are targeted by those armed by Iran. Hamas praised the murders.

First let there be no mistake, the murder of the Fogel family was indefensible and horrific. [Isn’t it sad that I have to say that or I’ll be accused of defending something like this?] Let’s overlook the reality that we don’t know who the murderers are [one emerging theory is that they are Asians/Philipinos who worked for the Fogels and were not paid, but who knows] and that they used knives [“smuggled” in from Iran?]. My question for Dershowitz is: has he ever spoken about, much less condemned, the murder of 1,620 Palestinian children, mostly by the Israel “Defense” Forces, between 1987 and 2010? [Figures from B’Tselem, "The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories"? [And I don’t overlook the 142 Israeli children who were killed during that same time period, even though almost all of these deaths have been reported in the media.]

I give credit to Dershowitz for acknowledging that attacking Iran should be a last resort, “But under no circumstances should the military option ever be taken off the table. Israel must preserve its ability to exercise its fundamental right of preventive self defense.” [emphasis mine]. One can only wonder whether Israel, Dershowitz or, for that matter, the U.S. will ever recognize the fundamental rights of Palestinians to live in their own homes, return to their properties, have enough to eat, drink their own water, send their children safely to school, travel unimpeded or exercise the civil liberties Alan Dershowitz is famous for defending.

Or do these aspirations just prove the Palestinians' innate chutzpah?

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