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August 17, 2015 6:34 pm

Dershowitz: The President Should Stop Questioning the Motivations of the Iran Deal’s Opponents

avatar by Alan Dershowitz

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President Obama defends the Iran nuclear deal. Photo: Screenshot.

President Obama defends the Iran nuclear deal. Photo: Screenshot.

A number of prominent Jewish Organizations, publications, and some media outlets have sharply criticized the manner in which the Obama administration has gone about defending the Iran nuclear agreement by attacking its critics.

Tablet Magazine accused certain proponents of the agreement of using “Jew-baiting and other blatant and retrograde forms of racial and ethnic prejudice” such as “accusing Senators and Congressmen… of being agents of a foreign power…” to smear their opponents. Similarly, Abraham Foxman, the former director of the Anti-Defamation League, attacked President Obama for fueling the anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews as warmongers. Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center also attacked the administration for bullying opponents of the deal with the “crock of dual loyalty.”

The New York Post, went a step further, and railed that “Anti-Semitism is all over the drive to make Chuck Schumer shut up about his opposition to the Iran nuke deal….” Others have attacked President Obama directly. Lee Smith, also writing in Tablet, claims that “Obama is using a dog whistle. He is hinting broadly at anti-Semitic conceits.”

President Obama and his administration are not anti-Israel, nor are they anti-Semitic. There is little doubt, however, that as the debate over the Iran deal has grown increasingly heated, President Obama, members of his administration, and various supporters of the deal have impugned the integrity of their opponents, sometimes using language that some see as code words.

They have suggested that those members of Congress who have come out against the deal are in the pockets of billionaires and lobbyists. They have also sought to conflate opposition to the Iran deal with support for the U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2004. Finally, President Obama has accused Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu and the pro-Israel lobby of exercising an inappropriate level of pressure on American politicians in attempting to influence the course of the debate over the Iran agreement.

The notion that foreign leaders do not seek to influence American political discourse is patently false. More to the point, however, the cumulative thrust of the attacks leveled by the administration has engendered disturbing arguments from some quarters.

The Daily Kos, for example, recently published a cartoon questioning whether Chuck Schumer opposes the agreement out of loyalty to the United States or to Israel. Reza Marashi of the National Iranian American Institute commented: “shame on Chuck Schumer for putting Israel’s interests ahead of America’s interests.” Such suggestions of dual loyalty have been echoed in more respectable publications such as the New York Times, whose editorial board commented on the “unseemly spectacle of lawmakers siding with a foreign leader against their own commander in chief…” as if members of Congress—an independent branch of our government—should always kowtow to the President (who is not the Commander in Chief of Congress).

Certainly, it is clear at this point that President Obama, and supporters of the agreement are doing themselves no favours by attacking the motivations of those who oppose the deal. So too Republicans who have used deliberately loaded language in their effort to score political points against a president who they deeply dislike. The only result of these invectives has been to inject unnecessary vitriol into a debate whose result will have far reaching consequences for the United States, for Israel, and for the Middle East.

Rather than doubling down on his misguided and misleading accusations, President Obama should be seeking to elevate the tone of the national discussion. He should directly address concerns regarding the strength of the inspections regime envisioned by the deal, and he should insist on the release of the content of the side agreements between the IAEA and Iran regarding access to Iranian nuclear sites.

Regardless of what Congress and the President decide to do, these are issues that demand serious and substantive debate, and all interested parties should be encouraged to contribute their opinions. The arguments made in recent weeks by supporters of the deal have been completely counterproductive in that regard. We might expect such attacks by partisans on both sides of the aisle. However, we should demand that the President elevate the tone of the discussion.

Alan Dershowitz is an emeritus professor of law at Harvard Law School. His new e-book, The Case Against the Iran Deal: How Can We Now Stop Iran From Getting Nukes?, is now available.


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  • charles booker

    Dershowitz is a fraud. A supposed defender of Israel, he abandoned the country in its moments of need during the 2008 and 2012 elections.

    He could have made a difference with the liberal Jewish community that sides with progressive causes over the survival of Israel.

    This man is a pathetic fraud and deserves partial blame for the inevitable war in the middle east.

  • Yale

    >>President Obama and his administration are not anti-Israel, nor are they anti-Semitic.

    This is not evident to me.

    The real problem this deal poses is that it violates the standards Obama himself set for it only a few months ago. By his standards then, this is a bad deal, and at the time he accepted the notion that no deal is better than a bad deal.

    The deal got worse each time there was an interim agreement because that became the starting point for the next round of American capitulation. An intelligent negotiator would have understood this and insisted that any interruption returned the situation to the status quo ante. Obama failed on this.

    Successful negotiation with Iran over its nuclear weapons program requires
    that the regime give up its goal of obtaining these weapons. Obama cannot make a case that this is a good deal because ultimately that depends on whether one believes the incumbent regime will have been replaced or fundamentally altered its objectives by the time the deal ceases to be operative. If the current regime is still governing the country in ten or fifteen years, then the deal leads to a nuclear war. If Iran withdraws from the deal, as permitted under Article 26, then that also leads to nuclear war. Everything has to work exactly right for Obama’s bet on this deal to be vindicated, and the odds are completely against that.

    That leaves him no alternative to attacking those who recognize this deal for what it is. That it enables him to let his anti-Semitism show is simply a bonus.

  • Barry

    When will Dershowitz wake up to the fact that his President is doing everything on purpose.
    The President does not care one jot about the region and the lives of those living there. He is simply following the agenda of those who bankrolled him into current position to bring down the West. He was the biggest scam pulled on the US and the World to date.

  • A.D. you’ve woken up too late.Now you see the real Obama. And you voted for him TWICE!

  • mervyn

    A bunch of anti Jewish and anti Christian morons in the white house who supported Isis, kowtow to the Satanic Bohemian Grove and Evil Bildeberg scum.

  • Vicki Trachten-Schwartz

    You gave us Obama and now you have the nerve to criticize. How can someone ant, as smart as you was unable to discern how transparently anti Israel and anti-semitic the Reverend Wright’s churches sermons and proclamations were? Was it just convenient for you to ignore truth so you can stay a pure liberal democrat while ignoring truth.
    I love people who tell me that they did not know that Obama was great until they realized how arrogant, lacks talent threw his reverend away as an inconvenient truth.
    Obama and his friends are no good for the citizens of America, certainly not the black community or the Jewish community other then when he needs Jewish political money.
    Dershowitz you were so delighted that a half blackman became the President because he could to assuage the leberal mind set not because he is talented or concern with repairing the world and making it less safe.

  • Mark levine

    Finally a clear rational analysis of a highly emotional and
    Extremely important issue to US and Israel’s
    Security. I hope the President elevate the discourse on the debate
    Rather than politicize it.

  • Sorry, Alan. You voted for Obama twice. He is your guy. You have no credibility to criticism now. It never bothered you that his closest friends were a card carry communist (Frank Marshall Davis)) who enthusiastically supported Stalin’s mass murder of Jews or the antisemites Rev Wright and Bill Ayers. It never bothered you that Obama reveres the mass murderer of Jews, Muhammad. It was right in front you eyes, but you were blinded by your liberal Judaism.. You have no credibility Alan..

    • Barry

      You left out Soros and his Global Govt., scheme who has a lot of influence in the Cabal that runs the Whitehouse.