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April 19, 2019 12:38 pm

Alan Dershowitz Should Come Clean About Qatar

avatar by Shmuley Boteach


Alan Dershowitz. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld.

Alan Dershowitz published a blistering response to my column asking him why he was publicly pressuring Israel to create a Palestinian state when he would not publicly pressure Qatar, whom he defended in a bizarre op-ed, to stop funding Hamas.

“I will continue to ignore Boteach’s hectoring lectures about what I can and can’t say, who I can and can’t meet with, and what advice I can and can’t give to those who seek it,” Dershowitz wrote.

Of course, it’s a straw man’s argument. I never told Dershowitz that he should not meet with the emir of Qatar and I did not tell him he had no right to compare Qatar to Israel, no matter how foul it is to equate a vibrant democracy to a terror-funding autocracy. If Dershowitz chooses to legitimize the foremost funder of the Hamas terror organization, that is his business. Rather, what I asked him to do, as a law professor who has always advocated transparency, is come clean about his relationship with Qatar. His readers deserve to know if he has a financial relationship with a kingdom which became odious for its attempts to whitewash its terror-funding ways by infiltrating the pro-Israel community with all-expense-paid junkets, large donations to right-wing pro-Israel organizations and millions of dollars paid to now disgraced Orthodox Jewish lobbyists. Dershowitz accepted one of those junkets and came back and wrote in The Hill, “Qatar is quickly becoming the Israel of the Gulf States, surrounded by enemies, subject to boycotts and unrealistic demands, and struggling for its survival.”

He has never recanted that revolting comparison.

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When asked if he received remuneration for a lecture in Doha he gave a few weeks after the publication of his column, The Wall Street Journal reported, “Mr. Dershowitz declines to discuss payments for his Qatar experience.”

His readers deserve to know. But rather than answer the crucial question, he has decided to launch personal attacks against me.

I have a vested interest in knowing, seeing as both Bloomberg and The New York Times have reported that Qatar may have attempted to hack my emails, as it did to other critics of its terror-funding actions. I have every confidence that the truth of all these dealings, and Qatar’s attacks on its critics, will be exposed and the perpetrators punished.

As for Dershowitz’s pressure on Israel to create a Palestinian state, we ought to consider the following. Because most Jews consider Israel our homeland, many believe we are entitled to advise that nation’s government. Israel may be a country of nearly six million Jews who think they should be prime minister. Thousands more Jews in the United States have the same belief. One is Thomas Friedman whose columns in The New York Times routinely criticize the Israeli government when it does not do what Prime Minister Friedman believes it should.

Alan Dershowitz is another wannabe prime minister. When he tweeted his congratulations to Benjamin Netanyahu on winning the Israeli election, he gratuitously added, “Time for a fair two-state solution that assures Israel’s security,” knowing that this is not what the people who voted for Netanyahu want or believe. I pointed out that after he returned from his all-expense-paid junket to Qatar, he did not publicly advise the emir on how he should govern his country.

Dershowitz responded to my criticism with an ad hominem attack on me. Always ready to debate any critic, he rationalizes his unwillingness to debate me by claiming I “screamed” when I was on his side in a debate at Harvard. Anyone interested in my debating style can see videos of the countless debates I have participated in over the years, everywhere from Oxford to Columbia, from CNN to the BBC, and everything in-between. Dershowitz seems more afraid of the weakness of his position than the volume of my voice.

Dershowitz brags about being an adviser to Netanyahu and other prime ministers and presidents. If Netanyahu wanted his advice after his election, he would have asked for it. As far as we are aware, he did not.

The last thing the prime minister of Israel needs is advice from an American living 6,000 miles away who cannot see the moral difference between Qatar and Israel. And if Israelis supported Dershowitz’s two-state solution, they would have voted for Meretz or the Labor Party, two of the biggest losers in the election. The party that tied with the Likud in winning 35 seats, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, did not advocate a two-state solution either. Its platform called for strengthening the settlement blocs, no further disengagement, retaining the Jordan Valley and a maintain a united Jerusalem.

I realize the two-state idea is still popular in liberal Jewish circles and elsewhere. However, the people of Israel learned the hard way following the disengagement from Gaza what ceding additional territory to the Palestinians would mean for their security. Israelis remain committed to peace. No mother or father wants to have to send their child to serve in the military to protect the country from the constant reign of terror Israelis face. I know first-hand because both my daughter and my son served in the IDF. Maybe Dershowitz thinks it’s unfair for Israelis to place their survival ahead of his approval and popularity with American Jews whose children do not stand on the front lines defending Israel.

Dershowitz admits the Palestinians don’t support his two-state solution because he spoke to Mahmoud Abbas who told him he did not recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Apparently, Abbas was not interested in Dershowitz’s advice either.

Nevertheless, it’s a good thing Dershowitz personally spoke to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Otherwise, Prime Minister Netanyahu would have no idea where the Palestinians stand.

Dershowitz childishly argues that the intention of my criticism was to “silence” him. It’s unfortunate to see him that thin-skinned. He is free to speak his mind and does so without any impediments. His reputation assures his access to the media.

My point is that he should think more carefully before he speaks and consider what the people of Israel want before imputing his views on them. Israel is one of the greatest democracies in the world, as it proved again by a free and fair vote in an election in which a record 47 parties registered to run. Is America with its two-party system more representative?

If Dershowitz believes he knows what’s best for Israel, he is free to make aliyah, start his own party, run for prime minister and vote his conscience. He is also free to continue to give his unsolicited advice from the comfort of his home in Cambridge just as the prime minister is free to ignore it.

As for Dershowitz’s argument that Netanyahu gave a speech way back in 2009 supporting a two-state solution, perhaps Dershowitz missed the prime minister’s pledge, on the eve of last week’s election, to annex the settlement blocs. And when Dershowitz says that the American position is to support a two-state solution, he may also have missed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony where, to quote Reuters, “Pompeo declined to publicly say the Trump administration still backs a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”

All of which shows how vital it is for commentators on Israel’s vital security interests to remain current with the times.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, ‘America’s Rabbi,’ whom The Washington Post calls ‘the most famous rabbi in America,’ is the international bestselling author of 32 books, including his most recent, ‘The Israel Warrior.’ Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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