In this special edition of Frontpage Symposium, we are honored to have with us:
Melanie Phillips, a British columnist and author whose articles appear regularly in the Daily Mail newspaper and focus on political and social issues. Visit her site at melaniephillips.com.
Alan Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard. He is the author of many books, including, most recently, “The Case Against Israel’s Enemies.”
FP: Melanie Phillips and Alan Dershowitz, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
Melanie Phillips, let’s begin with you. You and Alan are in the midst of a debate at the moment. Tell us what it is about.
Phillips: Like many others, I respect Alan’s efforts to defend Israel and the Jewish people against the firestorm of global hatred. The difference between us is over the part being played by President Obama in that firestorm; and at a deeper level, what I perceive as the ‘cognitive dissonance’ over this among liberal American Jews.
I was astonished by Alan’s article in which he concluded that, despite expressed concerns, there wasn’t really a problem about Obama’s attitude to Israel because all he was doing was putting pressure on Israel over the settlements which most American Jews didn’t support anyway. This spectacularly failed to acknowledge the evidence of the hostility Obama is displaying towards Israel at the very moment when Israel is facing an enemy bent upon genocide.
The real point about the settlements issue is that Obama is treating Israel as if it is the obstacle to peace in the Middle East, airbrushing out six decades (and counting) of Arab aggression and putting pressure on Israel while soft-soaping genocidal Iran. Obama has torn up America’s previous understandings with Israel while making no demands of the Palestinians, even though they are the aggressors and there can be no peace unless they accept Israel as a Jewish state, which they have said explicitly they will never do.
In view of Alan’s remarks about the settlements, we need to know whether he himself also believes that it is Israel which is the main obstacle for peace. If he does not, he needs to explain why he ignored Obama’s egregious double standards in piling pressure on the Jewish victims of Arab and Muslim aggression while cosying up to their would-be exterminators; why he ignored the fact that Obama wants Israel to enable a state to come into being for people who say they will never accept Israel as a Jewish state; and why he still gives Obama ‘the benefit of the doubt’ in the light of all this.
But the settlements issue wasn’t the worst of it. Incomprehensibly, Alan has ignored Obama’s deeply shocking Cairo speech. In this, the President falsely asserted that the Jewish aspiration for Israel derived from the Holocaust -- thus repudiating Jewish history and religious identity, effectively denying that the Jewish people are in Israel as of right, and endorsing the central lie of Arab and Muslim propaganda. He conspicuously refrained from committing himself to defending Zionism and the Jewish people against attack and incitement to genocide, but did commit himself to defending their attackers against ‘negative stereotyping’. And he also subtly suggested an equivalence between the Nazi extermination camps and the Palestinian ‘refugee’ camps. How can Alan possibly give the ‘benefit of the doubt’ to someone with such attitudes?
Alan’s further remarks suggest that the explanation lies in his Manichean view of the world which blinds him to the obvious. He appears to think that liberals support Israel while right-wingers do not. He says Israel must not be turned into a ‘wedge issue’ in America as he thinks it is in Britain and Europe, where Israel has become a target of virulent hatred for the Left while the Right remain ‘more supportive’. He also claims that I have advised American Jews to vote Republican; that I don’t want American Jews to remain Democrats; and that I do not believe that ‘one can be a true liberal and a true supporter of Israel.’
All of this is complete nonsense.
Israel is not a political wedge issue in Britain. Hatred of Israel courses through both Left and Right, Labour and Conservative politicians, the professoriat and suburbia. It is Alan who has made support for Israel a partisan issue. According to him, liberals support Israel while its enemies are confined to the fringes of Left and Right. What planet is he on? In the US, ‘New Realist’ Republicans unite in their detestation of Israel with Democrat professors, the Democrat-leaning media and the liberal Christian churches; it is the Christian Right who are Israel’s most passionate supporters.
Contrary to Alan’s claim, I did not advise American Jews to vote Republican. Nor did I say I didn’t want them to remain Democrats. I hold no particular candle for the Republican party. I have no wish for American Jews generally to vote one way or the other. I simply want them to acknowledge the danger that Obama poses to Israel and the free world.
In any event, the issue is not Democrats v Republicans; after all, both parties have been cool or worse towards Israel in the past. The issue is simply this particular far-left Democrat President. Alan seems to think Obama is a ‘liberal’ who supports Israel. But all the evidence from the get-go has been that he came from a radical, far-left milieu which he never left; that he belonged for two decades to a church that preached hatred of Israel; and his closest friends included the likes of the anti-Zionist Rashid Khalidi and Samantha Power, who said American aid to Israel should be cut and given to the Palestinians instead and that criticism of Barack Obama all too often came down to what was ‘good for the Jews’. Against such creatures, Alan puts all his faith in the presence in the administration of Dennis Ross. But Obama is using such Jews as ‘human shields’ – not least because they too converge around the mistaken belief that ‘the settlements’ and a Palestinian state are the breaker issue.
Alan’s political partisanship is really very troubling. He argues that Obama must be supported -- because Republican support for Israel under George W Bush, which was linked to the war in Iraq, alienated younger voters. But it was not the Republicans who linked Israel to Iraq – it was the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people on both Left and Right who falsely claimed, a la Mearsheimer and Walt, that Israel had manipulated the Bush administration into war. It is quite remarkable to argue that American Jews should not vote Republican on account of this bigotry which has driven politics off the rails in both America and Britain. It is also wholly illogical to argue that Obama should be ‘given the benefit of the doubt’ and ‘taken at his word’ on account of this.
But then just as astoundingly Alan also says: ‘The vast majority of Jews were on the winning side, and that is good for Israel.’ The idea that because their guy won that must be good for anyone is just bizarre. It means that whatever Obama does it’s good that American Jews helped bring him to power to do it. But what if – as is becoming ever more apparent – Obama sides with the Arab and Muslim world against Israel and the west, either through conviction or opportunism?
It seems to me that for the 80 per cent of American Jews who voted for Obama, liberal issues are so important – or maybe wearing their liberal credentials on their sleeve by voting Democrat is so important -- that they just cannot acknowledge the down-side of a liberal Democrat President. The first consideration, as Alan states in terms, is that American Jews must always vote for the Democrats; their actual policies are a secondary issue. Alan says he has supported Republicans in the past and also campaigned against Jimmy Carter’s lies. I don’t doubt that he may have supported Republicans for tactical reasons in certain situations. But the default presumption is that liberals are Good and everyone else is The Right and therefore Bad. That’s why Alan helped bring Carter to power in the first place -- before ‘buyer’s remorse’ set in big time.
Alan says I don’t believe that one can be a true liberal and a true supporter of Israel. This is not only grossly untrue but demonstrates that he really does not understand the issue at all. I don’t think the liberal views held by Alan and others prevent them from supporting Israel. I think they prevent them from acknowledging that other liberals don’t support Israel.
Incidentally, I happen to consider myself a true liberal (in the English sense) -- but maybe we’ll have that discussion another time.
Dershowitz: What does Melanie Phillips, a staunchly right wing supporter of Israel have in common with Noam Chomsky, a rabidly hard left Israel basher? They both believe that liberalism is incompatible with support for Israel, and that Israel’s only true friends are right wing conservatives, Christian fundamentalists and neo-conservatives. They are both dead wrong, though their views are widely shared by many extremists on the hard right and hard left.
For years, I have travelled the world—speaking at countless universities, making films, writing hundreds of columns and seven books—trying to convince young people that they can be both liberal and pro-Israel, that they do not have to surrender their progressive politics in order to support the Jewish state, and that an important part of why I am such a committed Zionist in precisely because Israel is a state committed—often imperfectly in practice—to liberal values such as equal rights for women and gays, freedom of expression, religious freedom, environmental protection, the progress of scientific technology on such issues as stem cell research—and the purity of arms in the military defense of its citizens.
I am also a strong supporter of Israel’s right to defend itself against aggression, such as that which emanated from Southern Lebanon and Gaza, as well as from threats such as that posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons program. I favor targeted killing of known terrorists who cannot be arrested, preemptive actions such as the destruction of Egyptian and Syrian airplanes poised for attack in 1967, and preventive attacks such as that conducted against Iran’s nuclear reactor in 1981.
Since 1973, while strongly supporting Israel, I have also been critical its settlement policy. I favored territorial adjustments necessary to assure Israel’s security, consistent with UN Resolution 242, but I’ve opposed building civilian settlements in areas which should eventually become part of a peaceful independent Palestinian state that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state. Since 1973, I have strongly favored the two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, because I believe it is the only alternative that will allow Israel to remain a democracy with a Jewish majority—that is a Democratic Jewish state. I have never deviated from these positions, even when they were opposed by Israeli governments—Labor, Likud or Kadima. In these respects my views are similar to those of many leading Israeli intellectuals such as Aaron Bharak, Amnon Rubenstein, Amos Oz and Itamar Rabinowitz. They are also consistent with the views of many non-Israeli supporters of the Jewish state such as Irwin Cotler. Although I don’t purport to speak for them, I believe that none of us think that the settlements are the major, or even a major, barrier to peace. But expanding these settlements will make it harder to implement the two-state solution. The major barrier to peace is and remains Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The best evidence of that was Arafat’s turning down the generous offer make by President Clinton and Ehud Barak at Camp David and Taba. I completely supported that offer and continue to do so.
All of this could have easily been determined by anybody who was familiar with my extensive written and spoken record on these issues.
For years, I have been repeatedly and viciously attacked by the hard Left for my liberal advocacy of Israel. I have been called a “ziofascist,” “zionazi,” “right wing fanatic,” “neocon” and even—by Noam Chomsky—“not very bright.”
I expect these attacks, in part because liberals have always been the bane of hard left radicals. Social Democrats were hated by Communists; center-left political parties, labor unions and academics have long been viewed by the hard left as arch enemies. Where Israel is concerned, it has been an important element of hard left propaganda, particularly on university campuses, that Israel is a right-wing, conservative—indeed reactionary—cause, supported only by Republicans, neo-Cons, Christian fundamentalists and right wing Jews. The hard left, on the other hand, claims to be champions the Palestinian cause, almost to the exclusion of every other cause, except its strident anti-Americanism.
I have learned how to deal with hard-left criticism and have—I believe—effectively debated Chomsky and others of his ilk by persuading students that it’s ok to be a liberal and a supporter of Israel—indeed that the principles underlying liberalism should incline any rational person to support Israel (though not all of its policies and actions).
Recently, however, the attacks on me for my support of Israel have come mostly from the hard right, particularly from hard right supporters of Israel who favor expansion of West Bank settlements and oppose the two-state solution. They seem to believe that one does not qualify as a true supporter of Israel unless one supports expansion of the West Bank settlements and opposes the two-state solution. Now, an additional litmus test for being accepted as a supporter of Israel is strident opposition to President Obama and his efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution of the Middle East conflict and to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. (One of my hard right critics—Dan Friedman—echoed Chomsky in calling me “not very bright.”)
Representative of this new litmus test is Melanie Phillips who believes that Barack Obama is hostile to Israel, that he is a “hard left Democrat” President, that he is a captive of “a radical, far left milieu which he never left,” and that he represents the same anti-Israel attitude as his former minister and “the likes of anti-Zionist Rashid Khalidi.” This is simply not the Barak Obama that I know and voted for. No one who fits this characterture would have gone to Sderot and announced that “"if someone was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that, and I would expect Israelis to do the same thing." No one who fits that characterture would have appointed Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State, Dennis Ross (who she also attacks) as an advisor on Iran and Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff. If I believed that Barak Obama were as anti-Israel as Phillips wrongly claims, I would abandon support for him in a New York minute and lead the opposition to him—as I have with regard to Jimmy Carter. But I respectfully disagree with Phillips’ assessment of Barak Obama’s intentions and attitudes, though I always keep an open mind and a watchful eye.
Recall that I ended my Wall Street Journal article which so appalled Phillips by criticizing Rahm Emanuel for linking American efforts to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons with Israel’s actions with regard to the settlements. I insisted that this “disturbing linkage” should be disavowed by the Obama administration. I also argued strongly that the option of attacking Iran’s nuclear targets as a last resort should not be taken off the table. Finally, I cautioned that:
“There may be coming changes in the Obama administration's policies that do weaken the security of the Jewish state. Successful presidential candidates often soften their support for Israel once they are elected. So with Iran's burgeoning nuclear threat, it's important to be vigilant for any signs of weakening support for Israel's security -- and to criticize forcefully any such change. But getting tough on settlement expansion should not be confused with undercutting Israel's security.”
Phillips is right to criticize some of the things President Obama said in his Cairo speech. I too am critical though I don’t believe that he “subtly suggested an equivalence between the Nazi extermination camps and the Palestinian refugee camps.” That requires a paranoid and hateful reading of his words.
The reality is that Barak Obama is the most powerful leader in the world today. American Jews helped elect him to that position, because we believe and continue to believe that he is best for America, best for the world and best for Israel. It makes absolutely no sense, based on the current record, to try to turn American Jews against him and him against American Jews. It is critically important that we retain our ability to influence American policy toward Israel—both through the executive and legislative branches.
Phillips understands nothing about how the American political system works. This is not surprising since she seems to understand little about the British political system where she lives. It is completely false to suggest that there is no difference between the left and the right in Britain. I just returned from a week long visit to Great Britain where I have visited on numerous occasions and spoken on several university campuses and met with political leaders on both sides. I have also spoken to Jewish leaders in Great Britain. There is a clear difference between the hatred of the hard left—which supports extreme measures such as boycotts, divestment and war-crime prosecutions—and the far more balanced attitude that many moderates and conservatives have toward Israel. This is true throughout Europe where conservative political parties are far less opposed to Israel than are leftist parties. In this respect, Europe is very different from the United States, where as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi correctly observed, “When it comes to Israel, Republicans and Democrats speak with one voice.” I want to keep it that way, and I want to continue to persuade young people that support for Israel is consistent with their progressive and liberal values.
Both Melanie Phillips and Noam Chomsky oppose me in this regard. I understand why Chomsky takes the position he takes. I do not for the life of me understand why Melanie Phillips has joined this enemy of Israel in trying to persuade young Americans, particularly students, that liberalism is incompatible with support for Israel and that a President, who most of them deeply admire, is a strident enemy of the Jewish state. The vast majority of Americans support Israel, oppose expansion of the settlements and favor the two-state solution. We are right and Melanie Phillips is wrong. You can be a strong supporter of Israel and yet oppose the settlements and favor the two-state solution.
I don’t know who Melanie Phillips thinks she is kidding when she describes herself as a “true liberal,” even in the English sense. She is a strident, right wing ideologue who is using Israel to try to recruit young Americans to her conservative causes. Sorry, but we aren’t buying it. We will continue to support liberal policies while continuing to support Israel in the manner that we feel is best for Israel, for the United States and the world. I wish we could present united front on the issue with which we agree, but Phillips would rather see sharp divisions based on ideology. (That is an important difference between ideologues and pragmatists.)
If Israel ever becomes a cause of the right wing alone, and an anathema to liberals, this will weaken Israel in America as it has in Europe. So let’s continue to disagree on issues that we disagree—namely the settlements and the two-state solution—while agreeing on those issues with which most supporters of Israel do agree: namely Israel’s right to defend itself against aggression, to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, to refute unfair attacks from the United Nations and the international community, and to continue to thrive as a Jewish democratic state.
Phillips: What a very revealing response.
Choosing to ignore most of my arguments, Alan resorts to character assassination on the basis of how ‘right-wing’ and indeed predatory I am. Oh dear. It is a hallmark of the Manichean left that they mask the weakness of their position by damning all who disagree with them as right-wing and therefore evil. Indeed, Alan brackets me with the most evil person he can think of – Noam Chomsky. Me and Chomsky, eh, shoulder to shoulder! You really do have to laugh. Desperate, or what?
Then I’m apparently ‘using Israel to recruit young Americans to my right-wing causes’. What paranoia is this? What young Americans? What right-wing causes?
I defend Israel and the Jewish people because they are under vile attack. I also defend the bedrock values of western civilisation. That means upholding truth against lies, freedom against tyranny and justice against the moral inversion which regards third-world aggressors as victims and their victims as aggressors –- precisely the thinking demonstrated by Obama. That’s not right- or left-wing but moral –- and in accordance with Jewish precepts.
Alan repeats the bizarre falsehood that I find liberalism and support for Israel incompatible. On the contrary, I support core liberal values -- as opposed to the libertinism or brutal and anti-human utilitarianism that he endorses. But the crucial point is that, unlike him, I don’t support Israel because it is one type of society rather than another. He has said repeatedly that he supports Israel largely because it is ‘liberal’. The inescapable implication is that he would not back it if it did not support stem-cell research, abortion, gay rights and all the other causes by which Alan defines virtue. Such support is shallow, meretricious and narcissistic.
He is right that we disagree over the settlements and the ‘two-state solution’, but not for the reasons he gives. It is telling that he doesn’t bother to find out the facts but makes wild assertions about me which are untrue (doubtless the approach behind his ignorant and absurd bluster about Britain). I have never been a supporter of ‘greater Israel’. I have no wish for the settlements to expand. I have always disapproved of them as a trap for Israel. As for ‘two states’, I would have no problem with a Palestine that would live in peace alongside Israel.
Unlike Alan, however, I respond to the evidence of what is actually happening. Israel is being demonised on the false claim that the settlements and the ‘occupation’ of the West Bank are illegal. They are not. They -- and therefore Israel -- are being presented by Obama and others as the main obstacle to peace. They are not. If Israel were to leave the West Bank, it would turn Islamist overnight and become an Iranian proxy on Israel’s doorstep. That is why I cannot support a state of Palestine.
This brings us back to the main issue. Alan has still conspicuously failed to answer the points I have made. How can he support a state of Palestine run by people who declare they will never accept Israel as a Jewish state? How can he support Obama when he puts the thumbscrews on Israel and casts it as the villain but puts no pressure on the Palestinians and cosies up to Iran?
How can he support Obama after that Cairo speech in which he upheld the Arab lie that the Jews’ claim to Israel rested upon the Holocaust, represented the Palestinians’ six-decade aggression as ‘the pain of dislocation’, and drew an equivalence between not just the Nazi extermination camps and the Palestinian refugee camps but between the Shoah and the ‘undeniable’ fact that ‘the Palestinians have suffered in pursuit of a homeland’? Astonishingly, Alan denies this is what Obama said. His ideological partisanship runs so deep it prevents him seeing what is there in black and white.
He says Obama can’t be anti-Israel because his heart bled for Israeli victims in Sderot. How naive can you get? This is the same Obama who would turn Israelis in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem into sitting ducks for Palestinian rockets and bombs sited just down the road.
Alan hides behind Hillary, Dennis Ross and Rahm Emanuel. But Obama has skillfully constructed an administration composed of Israel-bashers, appeasement–minded ‘new realists’ and peace-process zealots -- several of them Jews -- all converging on precisely the same agenda to destroy Israel’s security.
Finally, let us not forget how long it took before Alan acknowledged that the Jimmy Carter he had assiduously supported was the same Carter accusing Israel of ‘apartheid’. How then can we take seriously a word Alan says? As he shows us ever more clearly, his obsession with his own ‘liberal’ image simply blinds him to the unpalatable reality that others can see.
Dershowitz: Melanie Phillips urges her readers not to “take seriously a word Alan says,” presumably because I do not accept her “lashon harah”—her malicious evil words—about Barak Obama and his administration.
At bottom, Phillips cannot recognize the difference between friends, even critical friends, and enemies. She regards Barak Obama as a strident enemy of Israel, and now she apparently includes me in that category, calling my alleged support for Israel “meretricious,” which means “insincere.”
Israel faces real dangers from Iran, from Hamas, from Hezbollah, from the United Nations, from hard left academics and from anti-Semites. Barak Obama, on the basis of his record thus far, does not fit into any of those categories. He recently met with leaders of the major Jewish organizations in the United States. These leaders represent the widest variety of political and ideological viewpoints. I do not believe that a single one of them came away from the meeting believing the extreme characterizations Phillips has made of Obama. Some were critical of certain positions his administration has taken and certain statements he has made. I share some of those criticisms. Recall that I led the campaign against the Obama administration’s appointment of Charles Freeman—so much for “ideological partisanship.” I will continue to oppose policies or statements by this or any other administration that I believe are deleterious to Israel’s security.
At this meeting, President Obama again declared himself to be a true friend of Israel and “reiterated his unshakeable commitment to the security of Israel and reiterated his commitment to working to achieve Middle East peace.”
By describing the Obama administration as “composed of Israel bashers,” and by accusing Obama himself of being anti-Israel, Phillips engages in the serious sin of crying wolf. She has lost all credibility to then criticize this administration if it were to do anything that seriously undercut Israel’s security.
She accuses me of endorsing “brutal, anti-human utilitarianism,” and being a card-carrying member of the “Manichean left.” What is she talking about? She accuses me of supporting “a state of Palestine run by people who declare they will never accept Israel as a Jewish state.” Has her hatred of me so blinded her that she has not read my repeated statements that a Palestinian state must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, be demilitarized and reject violence? She totally confuses civilian settlements with complete abandonment of the West Bank. As far back as 1973, I made the distinction between territorial adjustments consistent with United Nations Resolution 242 and even military occupation to protect Israel’s security, on the one hand, and civilian settlements which do not serve the security interest of Israel on the other hand. She admits that expanded settlements are” a trap for Israel.” So why is she so exercised about a policy that opposes such a trap?
Finally, she accuses me of being a fair weather friend of Israel because I support its liberal policies. She is right that if Israel were to turn against these values—if it were to become an oppressive theocracy, like all Muslim countries today, that subjugates women, discriminates against gays and subjects science to religious censorship—I would become extremely critical of any such nation. Israel will never become such a country because, fortunately, the vast majority of Israelis reject the extremist views of Melanie Phillips.
The extreme right wing approach that Phillips supports has not brought about peace. I firmly believe that the Obama administration is anxious to move the peace process forward in a manner that protects Israel’s security. A secure peace will be good for Israel as well as for the rest of the world. But peace will never come so long as Iran is permitted to develop nuclear weapons. For me and for most American and Israeli Jews, that is the line in the sand. As I wrote in my original Wall Street Journal article, “it's important to be vigilant for any signs of weakening support for Israel's security—and to criticize forcefully any such change.” But crying wolf over the settlements, which Phillips herself characterizes as “a trap for Israel,” and over a few ill-chosen words, which deserve calibrated criticism, will inevitably diminish the impact of harsh criticism—if such becomes necessary—over Israel’s security.
Maintaining unity over the security of Israel is essential. Melanie Phillips has undercut that unity by her vicious personal attacks against me and by her message to supporters of Israel not to “take seriously a word Alan says.” I hope that readers will continue to take seriously what I write, and I hope the Obama administration will also take my words and criticisms seriously. They certainly will pay no attention to the biased ranting of Melanie Phillips.
Phillips: I was wrong. There was even worse than Chomsky. I now stand accused of perpetrating the metaphysical evil, no less, of lashon harah. From which we learn that it’s apparently not just misguided but actually evil to criticise Obama.
Alan cites Obama’s meeting with Jewish leaders as evidence of his ‘unshakeable commitment’ to Israel’s security. This is the same Obama who told American Jews before the election that Jerusalem would never be divided, took it back the very next day -- and now has instructed Israel not to build in east Jerusalem, on land lawfully purchased from an Arab family, on the false basis that such building is illegal.
What Obama says to American Jews, in a meeting carefully choreographed to exclude those who would rock the boat, is less important than what he says and does to Israel.
Obama wants the Palestinians, who say they will never recognise Israel as a Jewish state and who continue to incite hatred and terror against it, to be rewarded for their unremitting aggression while he singles out Israel for punishment and appeases and strengthens Iran.
It is Alan who links the settlements and the ‘two-state solution’. He still doesn’t get my point that the settlements are irrelevant to a true solution, and fixating upon them as Obama is doing is merely a device to bash Israel.
Straight after asserting that Obama is a true friend of Israel, Alan nevertheless hypothesizes that he might ‘seriously undercut Israel’s security’. But if so, I would have ‘lost all credibility to then criticize’ because I have committed ‘the serious sin of crying wolf’. So if what I am now saying proves to be true, my analysis will have been a false alarm. What kind of logic is this?
And just what is my ‘extreme right wing approach?’ As I have said, I have no problem with a demilitarised Palestine that recognized Israel as a Jewish state and rejected violence. But I can’t see it happening; so I believe Israel should be fully protected, international law upheld and the Palestinians not rewarded for their aggression. What’s right-wing about that?
It is for readers to judge which of us has resorted to ‘vicious personal attacks’. Yes, Jewish unity is very important. But what’s more important is to speak up against all who jeopardize the safety of Israel – even when they are Jews with stars in their eyes.
Dershowitz: I did not start the personal attacks that have, unfortunately, characterized this exchange. I wrote an op-ed in which I argued that we should “be vigilant for any signs of weakening support for Israel’s security” from the Obama administration, especially if they “were to shift toward learning to live with a nuclear Iran and attempt to deny Israel the painful option of attacking its nuclear targets as a last resort.” (Interestingly, the only member of the Obama administration that has suggested this course is Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—a Republican holdover from the Bush administration). I suggested that “getting tough on settlement expansion should not be confused with undercutting Israel’s security.”
This article provoked Phillips to attack me as “blind,” “obsessive,” “irrational,” “bizarre,” “lamentable: and “Manichean.” She questions my support for Israel, calling it “meretricious,” and urges both supporters and opponents of Israel not to “take seriously a word Alan says.” In her attack on President Obama, she uses words such as “vile,” “appaling,” “reckless,” “hostile,” and “lethal for both Israel and the free world,” declaring Obama, Biden, Clinton, Ross and the rest of the Democratic Party to be irredeemable enemies of Israel. Her personal attacks on Obama—accusing him of being no different than the bigoted Reverend Wright and Rashid Khalidi—goes beyond criticism of policies, which is appropriate, and into the realm of ad hominem.
Phillips does not understand the reality of the American political system. She has given up on Obama and the Democrats and would turn the pro-Israel community against this administration based on his position on Jewish settlements and a few ill-chosen words in a speech (that I have criticized). She declares war on the world’s most powerful ally of Israel, characterizes him as an enemy of Israel. I do not want to see any President of the United States become Israel’s enemy. Nor do I want to see the pro-Israel community lose its ability to influence the President—as Phillips has. It may make Phillips feel good—and receive applause from right wing admirers—to try to turn the world’s most powerful leader into an enemy. But it hurts Israel, hurts the Jewish community and lessens our influence on matters relating to Israel’s security.
Now, please, can we end this unproductive name-calling and get back to creating a united front in support of Israel where it needs support—with regard to the existential threat from Iran.
FP: Melanie Phillips and Alan Dershowitz, thank you for joining Frontpage Symposium.