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July 13, 2016 2:24 pm

Alan Dershowitz: Whom Do Bigots Blame for Police Shootings in America? Israel, Of Course!

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The logo for Students for Justice in Palestine. Dershowitz argued: "SJP bigots cannot help but exploit the deaths of innocent Americans to further their own anti-Semitic political agenda." Photo: Screenshot.

The logo for Students for Justice in Palestine. Photo: Screenshot.

In response to the tragic deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling at the hands of police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana, the New York University Chapter of the Students for Justice in Palestine (“SJP”) tweeted the following:

In the past 48 hours another two black men have been lynched by the police…. We must remember that many US police departments train with #IsraeliDefenceForces. The same forces behind the genocide of black people in America are behind the genocide of Palestinians. What this means is that Palestinians must stand with our black comrades. We must struggle for their liberation. It is as important as our own. #AltonSterling is as important as #AliDawabsheh. Palestinian liberation and black liberation go together. We must recognize this and commit to building for it.

Even in moments of national mourning such as these, SJP bigots cannot help but exploit the deaths of innocent Americans to further their own antisemitic political agenda, namely to delegitimize and demonize the nation state of the Jewish people.

By implicating Israel in these killings, the SJP is engaging in the old trope of blaming Jews for systemic, and far-reaching societal problems. This practice was antisemitic when some Christian communities used it to blame Jews for plagues, poisonings and murders; it was antisemitic when the Nazis used it to blame Jews for the failing German economy; and it is still antisemitic today. There is no more evidence that any of the police who killed Mr. Castile and Mr. Sterling were, in fact, trained in Israel than there was that Jews were responsible for any of the other crimes that formed the basis for traditional blood libels.

The oppression of black Americans long predates the founding of the state of Israel; contrary to the claims of the SJP and like-minded groups, Zionism did not beget racism, nor is Zionism a reflection of racism. It is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. But the twisted logic on the part of the SJP should come as no surprise, given that the same organization blamed Zionism for rising tuition costs in the City University of New York college system. The essence of antisemitism is the bigoted claim that if there is a problem, then Jews — and now Zionists — must be its cause.

Addressing the structural causes of racism in the United States will take more than scapegoating Israel — it will require the type of far-reaching legislative action of which our current Congress seems incapable. By morphing the discussion about criminal justice reform and systemic racism in the United States into a polemic against Israel, the SJP makes progress even more difficult.

That said, the reaction by the SJP is reflective of a broader trend in hard-Left politics. Increasingly, groups such as Black Lives Matter, MoveOn, Code Pink and Occupy Wall Street have embraced intersectionality — a radical academic theory, which holds that all forms of social oppression are inexorably linked.

This radical concept has led to the linking of disparate left-wing causes, no matter how tenuous their connections. Some intersectional feminist activists, for example, insist that feminists must oppose drone strikes (and by extension, Hilary Clinton), because they have a negative impact on women in the developing world. Even more absurdly, Jill Stein — the Green Party candidate for president — has come out in favor of the bigoted Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement against Israel, partly on the grounds that support for Israel furthers the interests of the military-industrial complex and, by extension, the fossil fuel industry.

Those activists who do not sufficiently embrace the new intersectional orthodoxy, meanwhile, have been targeted by protests: the 2016 Gay Pride parade in Toronto, for example, was broken up by Black Lives Matter for including a police float, and for not sufficiently prioritizing the concerns of black trans women. Similarly, a gay rights event in Chicago was broken up by activists who insisted on the exclusion of an Israeli organization, which they claimed was co-opting the gay rights agenda and “pinkwashing” Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

Intersectionality seems to be driving hard-Left activists towards a “No True Scotsman” worldview: increasingly, they insist on a package of unrelated left-wing causes that must be embraced by anyone claiming the label of progressive — including the demonization of Israel as a racist, apartheid state.

Perhaps, more worryingly, intersectionality tends towards the conclusion that the existing social, political and economic system is flawed in so many profound ways, that any attempt at remaking it through democratic means is unacceptable. Activists have become increasingly obsessed with “Shut it Down” protest tactics, and a proud politics of “disrespectability,” which prioritizes resistance to a “corrupt,” “rigged” socio-economic system over respectful discourse and political compromise.

This helps to explain the sympathetic attitude of Black Lives Matter activists towards groups like Hamas, which embrace terror as a mode of resistance against Israel. Indeed, Black Lives Matter activists have visited Gaza to express solidarity with Palestinians oppressed by so-called racist Israeli self-defense measures. While Black Lives Matter claims to disavow violence in securing its political objectives, many of its most prominent members are far more eager to criticize the “Israeli genocide of Palestinians” than to criticize Hamas for using rockets to target Israeli civilians. Black Lives Matter and other hard-Left groups have been notably silent about other oppressed ethnic groups, such as Tibetans, Chechens and Kurds. The only alleged “oppressors” they single out for condemnation are the Jews. This double standard raises legitimate questions about their real motivations.

Moreover, the conflation of police actions in American cities with Israeli military actions in Gaza raises a disturbing question: if the so-called oppression of Palestinians in Gaza and the oppression of people of color in the United States are two sides of the same coin — as the SJP implied in its tweet — are the violent resistance tactics employed by Hamas, and perversely supported by many on the hard-Left, an appropriate model to emulate in the United States? One hopes that the answer is no, and that the intersectionalist radicals will make that clear to their followers.

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Emeritus Professor at Harvard Law School and the author of Taking the Stand, My Life in the Law.

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  • Gene

    As a man on the Left, Prof. Dershowitz misses the essence of “intersectionality”: It is the organizing principle that enables various groups whose beliefs and ideas have no basis in objective reality to collaborate in expressing hostility toward the world as it really is. There is no way to convince or even discuss issues with such people because their beliefs are ultimately based on perceptions of reality that have no basis in fact.

    For example, the SJP claim that “The same forces behind the genocide of black people in America are behind the genocide of Palestinians” is nonsense because there is no genocide happening with either group. Rather, in each case, violence perpetrated by members of the group has resulted in their targets’ defending themselves. When facts are reversed, logic must be stood on its head.

    A thoughtful person might ask: “If I recognize that one group’s claims of oppression are objectively false, might it not be appropriate to question whether other such claims are also contrived?” If “intersectionality” is acceptable when the practitioners beliefs have no connection with reality, might the same concept not apply for those who have been targeted?

  • Alan,

    Your information on the Green Party is solid. I’m a long time Green Party member who joined shortly before it adopted BDS in 2005–I was one of 7 votes against the resolution, arguing in vain that sanctioning Israel while tacitly supporting Hamas, whose principal tenet is the violent overthrow of the Jewish state, is contrary to the Green Party principle of non-violence.

    I find it ironic that Jill Stein would find a connection between Israel and fossil fuels, while ignoring the same connection between two of the world’s leading producers of fossil fuels–Iran and Saudi Arabia. But when you’re pandering to ideologues of almost any stripe it’s important to gloss over inconvenient truths.

  • Harvey Lithwick

    I believe Dershowitz has hit the nail on the head with this piece. He has provided a clear and persuasive analysis of the “logic” underlying the hard left’s ideology including the nonsense of intersectionality and shows us how to demolish it. It is time to stop apologising and to begin focussing on the evil that has overtaken the left. The French have an interesting saying: Qui s’excuse, s’accuse.

  • AsheDina

    It’s nobodies fault but unruly criminals that resist arrest.

    I saw this on Twitter also:
    ‘All Israel’s fault that the Police shoot to kill anyone’ because some PD’s from America trained with Israel after 9-11 in joint terror task force.

  • The UN must be dismantled. It is a criminal enterprise.

    As an example of the way in which the principles of pan-Arab national self-determination then applied to Israel, Stone cited:
    a letter dated February 20, 1980 to the Secretary-General, transmitted for UN circulation to the General Assembly and the Security Council in connection with item 26 of A/35/11000-S/13816 (Situation in the Middle East) [which] declared a propos of inclusion in the Charter of a principle of non-use of force:
    “The principle of non-use of force shall apply to the relations of the Arab Nation and Arab States with the nations and countries neighboring the Arab homeland. Naturally, as you know, the Zionist entity is not included, because the Zionist entity is not considered a State, but a deformed entity occupying an Arab territory. It is not covered by these principles.

    How many holidays do the Arabs-Muslims celebrate due to historical events in the land of ancient Israel and Jerusalem. r9
    The Jewish people celebrate most of their holidays and fast days in memory of Jerusalem and Israel since 70 AD (that is over 2,000 years).
    Jewish people pray at least 3 times a day, remembering Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple destruction. Pleading the Jewish goal and aspiration to return to Israel and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem – where it was before it was destroyed and desecrated by the enemies of the Jews. Most of the Jewish prayers for thousands of years recite the love of Israel and the Jewish aspirations to return to their ancestral land and bring back its glory and holiness.
    At Jewish weddings they break a glass in memory of Jerusalem and the aspiration to return and build the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
    Every day at the end of the meal the Jews recite a blessing and thank G-d for providing sustenance and beseech G-d to return and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.
    Most Jewish prayers mention our glorious memory of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple and pleading to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.
    YJ Draiman

  • richard laub

    Whereas I agree with the totality of the argument made by Alan Dershowitz, am surprised by his need to equate lack of evidence of Israel training US police to the lack of any evidence linking Jews to blood libel. I personally would see no problems with Israel training US police forces and if it were the case would see no reason to draw any connection between that training and the tragic deaths of any US citizen at the hand of US police

  • great insight and clarity.

    one related point:

    the “intersectional” radicals have strong convictions but they do not know much. ordinarily, the facts can reach intelligent people, even those with strongly held opinions. however, the intersectionals not only refuse to listen to dissenting or heterodox views, they have demonstrated that they will attempt to suppress them wherever they can pull it off. (in that consequential endeavor, they have the collaboration of complicit or cowardly university administrations.) that, as the intersectionals know, is antithetical to liberalism and liberal democracy. it is a recipe for turmoil, chaos and repression, i.e. massive human suffering.

    that is what the intersectionals are attempting to usher in. in their relentless folly, they would foist upon us a “cultural revolution” or khmer rouge-type regime.

  • Prof. Dershowitz has hit the nail on the head, again. He describes a concept of “intersectionality” as being so flawed that it necessarily rejects democratic institutions. The radical forces which conflate all injustice are too blind to do anything except get in the way of progress, where it is possible and where it is promising. Unfortunately, this blindness falls victim to the senseless anti-Semitism of SJP, which is not the voice of even a tiny minority of NYU students. And when the irrationally agitated activists bring Israel into the discussion by grabbing at tangential and flimsy connections, they demonstrate that the poison of anti-Semitism is easily and shamefully smeared over our American tragedies. We need to reject the irrational and unfounded diversions, and focus on the real problems of our American experiment, which is still in progress. I believe the American experiment will continue to address the racial divide which has caused scars too long in the healing. We must continue to address the issues directly, and not be diverted by empty and irrational nonsense.

  • Tess

    Jews were, are and will always be the world’s scapegoat
    No surprise here

  • Harvard Law Professor Alan M. Dershowitz said:

    “There is yet a third strain of the current virus of anti-Semitism, this one even more difficult to diagnose. Its danger lies in its subtlety, its pervasiveness, and its acceptability at all levels of our society. This is a phenomenon familiar to all of us, yet difficult to articulate and expose: the singling out of Jewish institutions and especially Israel for special scrutiny, and the application of a double-standard to Jewish things and persons.

    This phenomenon, which currently has no accepted name, assumes a variety of forms, but its most obvious manifestation is the special and often gloating attention paid by the media, [and] by intellectuals, and by the government to any deviation by Israel, no matter how trivial, from the highest norms of humans rights, civility, and sacrifice.

    Though Israel may be deserving of criticism, what is missing is the comparable criticism of equal or greater violations by other countries and other groups. This constant, often legitimate criticism of Israel for every one of it deviations, when coupled with the absence of legitimate criticism of others, creates the impression currently prevalent on university campuses and in the press that Israel is among the worst rights violators in the world.
    We have all heard that phrase repeated many times. It is not true, but if it is repeated often enough, it takes on a reality of its own.”

    SOURCE: Chutzpah by Alan M. Dershowitz (chapter 4, page 119) published in year 1991 by Little Brown & Co ISBN: 9780316181372 ISBN: 0316181374