Dear Professor Dershowitz and Rabbi Boteach: You Can’t Fight in Here, This is the War Room.
In case you missed it, Professor Alan Dershowitz and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach are engaged in an “op-ed off” in which they’ve been arguing about what at first appears to be Middle East policy. But the discussion has quickly turned into personal bickering over who has known Benjamin Netanyahu the longest, who supports Israel and Middle East peace efforts best, and why the other should defend his positions or quiet down.
Perhaps it takes the rest of us who don’t hold prestigious posts or possess an almost unrestricted platform to express our views to serve as a reminder to both that they are squandering their unique positions in the public eye to vent their obvious enmity toward one another. We should all expect more from both Dershowitz and Boteach.
The recent personal accusations boil down to Boteach calling Dershowitz a weak liberal who senselessly pushes the failed two-state solution on Israel and has ties to Qatar that compromise his integrity as a whole. Dershowitz calls Boteach an extremist due to his refusal to blindly adhere to and promote the two-state solution and for attempting to shut down Dershowitz’s right to express his views. Both men are substantially incorrect and quite petty in their accusations.
The reality about these esteemed gentlemen is mixed. We can start with the negative. Both men have arguably made terrible mistakes that weaken their positions as thought leaders with respect to Middle East policy and pro-Israel advocacy.
Dershowitz will readily admit that he has in effect been banished from the Democratic Party due to his reasonable views on President Trump, the US Constitution, and Israel. Despite the harsh treatment by his former liberal friends and colleagues, Dershowitz has not walked away from the party. Some argue that Dershowitz’s failure to do so damages his credibility on Israel. This isn’t true, but the perception exists.
Boteach is far from the Jewish extremist Dershowitz paints. He is also far from being an American extremist. Not long ago, when current presidential candidate Cory Booker was still Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and running for the US Senate, you couldn’t find a bigger cheerleader for a Senator Booker than Rabbi Boteach. Many of us warned Boteach at the time that this association would end in terrible disappointment and betrayal, as it did. The second Booker ascended to Capitol Hill, he quickly forgot his friend Boteach and his previous support for Israel. But as with Dershowitz, this failed association does not mean Boteach is disqualified from opining on Mideast policy.
And now, the very positive. Both men are iconic in their own way. Both are positive forces for good and for Israel, Judaism, and America. Boteach, also known as “America’s Rabbi,” has done a great deal of positive work in building bridges between American and Israeli Jews and should go back to that. Petty bickering and falsely accusing Professor Dershowitz of being tainted by the Qataris will not damage the professor’s credibility, only Boteach’s.
Similarly, Dershowitz is undoubtedly an icon and an American thought leader with respect to Israel, let alone American constitutional law. When attorneys discuss constitutional law among ourselves, we routinely also ask “but what did Dershowitz have to say about this?” The professor is a much-needed moderate voice for peace, logic, and tolerance among diverse opinions. The last thing the esteemed professor should be doing, despite the overwhelming and understandable instinct to defend oneself, is engage in petty bickering, with the Rabbi or anyone else.
In closing, gentlemen, you can’t fight in here, this is the war room. Please go back to doing what you do best.
Edward Manor is an Israeli born American lawyer and political commentator.