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April 22, 2019 4:06 pm

Alan Dershowitz: Shmuley Boteach Lies to Cover Up His Hypocrisy

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Opinion

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Photo: Reuters / Mike Segar.

Shmuley Boteach — who falsely brags of being “America’s rabbi” because he has no congregation of his own — continues to recycle old lies about a trip I took to Qatar more than a year ago. I have disproved all of his lies, so why does he persist in his “lashon hara” — evil words? Perhaps to cover up his own hypocrisy. He has condemned every Jewish leader who traveled to Qatar in an effort to improve relationships between that important Sunni Gulf state and Israel. Yet, according to published reports, Boteach himself begged to be invited to travel to Qatar to meet the emir. The Forward has reported that Qatar “nixed Boteach from a list of prospective visitors,” finding him not credible. It also concluded that he lacked “a significant following or constituency” (“America’s rabbi”?). Finally, and understandably, they felt he could not “be trusted to keep sensitive information to himself.” According to a source quoted by the Forward, “Boteach had demanded a six figure fee for the proposed visit.”

Boteach has denied this, but his denials have been vague and ambiguous. The Forward cited phone records confirming multiple text messages and phone calls between Boteach and the person arranging the visits that ended just before Boteach began his rampage against those of us who did travel to Qatar.

So it is Boteach, not me, who should “come clean about Qatar.” I have come clean because I’m proud of what I did and would do it again if asked by Qatar, by Saudi Arabia or by any other Sunni Arab country interested in improving relations with Israel. Yes, my trip was paid for, as are all of my travels for professional purposes. If I had paid for the trip from my own pocket, hypocrite Boteach would have accused me of “contributing” money to Qatar. My trip was not a “junket” — Boteach’s favorite accusation. The trip was difficult and I worked hard during my visit, meeting numerous Qatari leaders and having little down time. At age 80, long trips to try to do good aren’t “junkets.”

Boteach’s most oft-repeated accusation is that I compared Qatar to Israel, which he calls “revolting” because Israel is a democracy and Qatar is not. But, of course, I made no such comparison. I merely said that both Qatar and Israel are “surrounded by enemies, subject to boycotts and unrealistic demands, and struggling for [their] survival.” That is absolutely true. I did not compare these very different countries in any other way, and Boteach knows it. I wrote critically of Qatar, especially after my speech was protested by anti-Israel students who walked out shouting anti-Zionist slogans.

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When I met the emir and other members of the royal family, I asked them to use their influence with Hamas to return the bodies of Israeli soldiers and the two Israeli civilians who are under the control of that terrorist group. They said they would try. I also complained about a proposed Al Jazeera broadcast demonizing AIPAC, that was scheduled to be aired soon thereafter. They promised to look into it. To date, it has not been shown.

Shortly after my visit, the United States expressed “appreciation” to Qatar for its work in Gaza. Relationships between the United States, Qatar and Israel are improving.

Before I decided to visit Qatar, I consulted with both United States and Israeli leaders, who encouraged me to make the trip. I did not seek Boteach’s permission, as I would never do before making any decision.

Boteach also continues to attack me for a congratulatory message I tweeted to my longtime friend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which I added my hope for a two-state solution that assured Israel’s security. Boteach says he is unaware that Netanyahu “wanted my advice.” Well, I can assure you he has, in fact, sought my advice, as have other Israeli prime ministers and American presidents. I will continue to offer my advice, regardless of what Boteach thinks. Among the advice I will offer is, “Do not listen to Boteach.” He has little to offer beyond ad hominen attacks, self-serving claims, hate speech and un-nuanced extreme views shouted ineffectively.

I have no plans to respond any further to Boteach’s lashon hara.

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