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Norman Finkelstein: Dershowitz's Moral Barbarism

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    Should Alan Dershowitz Target Himself for Assassination? Descent Into Moral Barbarism By NORMAN FINKELSTEIN Aug 12/13, 2006=20
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2006
      Should Alan Dershowitz Target Himself for Assassination?

      Descent Into Moral Barbarism
      Aug 12/13, 2006=20

      As Israel's military bravely fires away shells and missiles to lay
      waste the fragile human and physical infrastructure of Lebanon,
      Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, waging battle on a second front
      to legitimize Israel's criminal aggression, bravely fires away op-eds
      from his foxhole at Martha's Vineyard to lay waste the fragile
      infrastructure of international law. These are but the latest salvoes
      in Dershowitz's long and distinguished career of apologetics on behalf
      of his Holy State.

      Since becoming a born-again Zionist after the June 1967 war Dershowitz
      has justified each and all of Israel's egregious violations of
      international law. In recent years he has used the "war on terrorism"
      as a springboard for a full frontal assault on this body of law.
      Appearing shortly after the outbreak of the second intifada, his book
      Why Terrorism Works (2002) served to rationalize Israel's brutal
      repression of the uprising. In 2006 Dershowitz published a companion
      volume, Preemption: A Knife that Cuts Both Ways, to justify Israel's
      preventive use of force against Iran. It is painfully clear from their
      content that Dershowitz possesses little knowledge or for that matter
      interest in the timely political topics that purport to be the stimuli
      for his interventions. In reality each book is keyed to a current
      Israeli political crisis and seeks to rationalize the most extreme
      measures for resolving it. If Why Terrorism Works used the war on
      terrorism as a juggernaut to set back the clock on protection of
      civilians from occupying armies, Preemption uses the war on terrorism
      to set back the clock on the protection of states from wars of
      aggression. Dershowitz's current missives from Martha's Vineyard take
      aim at the protection of civilians in times of war.

      The central premise of Dershowitz is that "international law, and
      those who administer it, must understand that the old rules" do not
      apply in the unprecedented war against a ruthless and fanatical foe,
      and that "the laws of war and the rules of morality must adapt to
      these [new] realities." This is not the first time such a rationale
      has been invoked to dispense with international law. According to Nazi
      ideology, ethical conventions couldn't be applied in the case of "Jews
      or Bolsheviks; their method of political warfare is entirely amoral."
      On the eve of the "preventive war" against the Soviet Union, Hitler
      issued the Commissar Order, which mandated the summary execution of
      Soviet political commissars and Jews, and set the stage for the Final
      Solution. He justified the order targeting them for assassination on
      the ground that the Judeo-Bolsheviks represented a fanatical ideology,
      and that in these "exceptional conditions" civilized methods of
      warfare had to be cast aside:

      In the fight against Bolshevism it must not be expected that the enemy
      will act in accordance with the principles of humanity or
      international lawany attitude of consideration or regard for
      international law in respect of these persons is an errorThe
      protagonists of barbaric Asiatic methods of warfare are the political
      commissars. Accordingly if captured in battle or while resisting, they
      should in principle be shot.

      It was simultaneously alleged that the Red Army commissars (who were
      assimilated to Jews) qualified neither as prisoners of war protected
      by the Geneva Convention nor civilians entitled to trial before
      military courts, but rather were in effect illegal combatants.

      It is similarly instructive that, although Dershowitz is represented,
      and represents himself, in the media as a liberal and civil
      libertarian, the sort of arguments he makes crops up most often at the
      far right of the political spectrum. For example, in the recent
      landmark decision Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court found that the
      petitioner, a Yemeni national captured in Afghanistan and held in
      Guantanamo Bay, was entitled, under both domestic statute and
      international law, to minimum standards of a fair trial, which the
      Commission Order, setting the guidelines for military commissions,
      didn't meet. A centerpiece of Judge Clarence Thomas's dissent was that
      "rules developed in the context of conventional warfare" were no
      longer applicable because quoting President Bush "the war against
      terrorism ushers in a new paradigm" and "this new paradigm requires
      new thinking in the law of war." Inasmuch as "we are not engaged in a
      traditional battle with a nation-state," he went on to argue, the
      Court's decision "would sorely hamper the President's ability to
      confront and defeat a new and deadly enemy." It's hard to know where
      Thomas (and Bush) ends and Dershowitz begins.

      The main thrust of Preemption is to justify an Israeli assault on
      Iran's nuclear facilities. Although the book purports to the lofty
      goal of constructing a jurisprudence for criminal intent prior to
      commission of an actual crime, Dershowitz's range of historical
      reference is pretty much limited to the Bible and Israel, and it is
      plainly not the Bible that is uppermost in his mind. To justify the
      Israeli assault on Iran Dershowitz sets up Israel's attack on Egypt in
      June 1967 as the paradigm of legitimate preemptive war and its attack
      on Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981 as the paradigm of legitimate
      preventive war. His argument seems to be that if the legitimacy of the
      June 1967 attack is beyond dispute and the legitimacy of the 1981
      attack has come to be seen as beyond dispute, then the legitimacy of a
      preventive war against Iran should also be beyond dispute.

      Before analyzing this argument it is instructive to look at the
      current legal consensus on preemptive and preventive war. Dershowitz
      asserts that an "accepted jurisprudence" doesn't exist. In fact,
      however, there is an enduring consensus, which recent events haven't
      shaken. In 2004 a high-level U.N. panel commissioned by the
      Secretary-General published its report on combating challenges to
      global security in the 21st century. The report reaffirmed the
      conventional understanding of Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, which
      prohibits the unilateral use of force by a State except to ward off an
      "armed attack" or if a "threatened attack is imminent, no other means
      would deflect it and the action is proportionate" (emphasis in
      original), the latter commonly denoted preemptive use of force. The
      report went on to prohibit the unilateral use of force by a State to
      ward off an inchoate armed attack, or what's commonly denoted
      preventive use of force, reaffirming that the Security Council is the
      sole legitimate forum for sanctioning the use of force in such a
      circumstance. "For those impatient with such a response," it
      explained, the answer must be that, in a world full of perceived
      potential threats, the risk to the global order and the norm of
      non-intervention on which it continues to be based is simply too great
      for the legality of unilateral preventive action, as distinct from
      collectively endorsed action, to be accepted. Allowing one to so act
      is to allow all.

      Although Dershowitz puts forth Israel's attack on Egypt in June 1967
      as the paradigm of preemptive use of force, both as a matter of fact
      and theory this claim is patently untenable. The scholarly consensus
      is that an Egyptian armed attack was not imminent while it is far from
      certain that diplomatic options had been exhausted when Israel struck.
      Dershowitz himself acknowledges that "it is not absolutely certain"
      that Egypt would have attacked, and that "Nasser may not have intended
      to attack." He finesses this with the assertion that Israeli leaders
      "reasonably believed" that an Egyptian attack was "imminent and
      potentially catastrophic." Yet, apart from some transparently
      self-serving public statements there isn't a scratch of evidence to
      sustain this claim either. Again, Dershowitz himself cites (in an
      endnote) the acknowledgment of former Prime Minister Begin, who was a
      member of the National Unity government in June 1967, that Israel "had
      a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai do not prove
      that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with
      ourselves. We decided to attack him." Even if for argument's sake it
      were true that Israeli leaders honestly erred, how can resort to
      preemptive force on the mistaken belief that an attack was imminent
      constitute the paradigm of legitimate use of preemption or, to use
      Dershowitz's coinage, how can a "false positive" be the paradigmatic
      case? Rather the contrary, if June 1967 were the paradigm of
      preemption, it would undercut the legitimacy of any such resort to
      force. Dershowitz seems not to be aware that he has made a case not
      for but against preemptive war.

      Dershowitz next nominates Israel's attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor
      as "paradigmatic" of legitimate use of preventive force. He mounts his
      case from multiple angles, sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly,
      but always falsely. In the first instance, Dershowitz puts preemptive
      war at one pole of a continuum and preventive war at the opposite
      pole. Although asserting that "the distinction between preventive and
      preemptive military action is important," and that there are "real
      differences between these concepts," he more often than not uses the
      terms interchangeably. For instance, he goes back and forth depicting
      the 1981 Israeli attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor and the 2003 U.S.
      attack on Iraq both as preemptive and preventive uses of force. By
      collapsing the distinction between them, whereby not even a flea's hop
      separates the two poles on his continuum, Dershowitz in effect
      legitimizes preventive war as preemptive war by another name. In like
      manner he redefines preemption so as to include preventive use of
      force: "preemption is widely, if not universally, regarded as a proper
      option for a nation operating under the rule of law, at least in some
      circumstances for example, when a threat is catastrophic and
      relatively certain, though nonimminent." If this is preemption, one
      wonders what prevention would be.

      In addition, although acknowledging that the U.N. panel explicitly
      ruled out preventive use of force, Dershowitz nonetheless maintains
      that it has come to be seen as legitimate. To demonstrate this he
      alleges that Israel's attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor has become
      recognized as "the proper and proportional example of anticipatory
      self-defense in the nuclear age" and "the paradigm for proportional,
      reasonable, and lawful preventive action" in the "emerging
      jurisprudence of preventive military actions," notwithstanding the
      "lack of imminence and certainty" of the Iraqi threat to Israel. He
      bases this resounding conclusion on a recent article in Foreign
      Affairs which "would certainly seem to have justified Israel's bombing
      of the Osirak reactor." Plainly the import of the U.N. panel's
      findings pales by comparison.

      Finally, invoking a philosopher's wisdom that "no one law governs all
      things," Dershowitz maintains that although preventive war might be
      illegitimate for all other States it remains a legitimate option for
      Israel. This is because the U.N., which is the court of last appeal
      for inchoate armed threats, is biased against it. Accordingly, unlike
      all other States, Israel cannot be held accountable to international
      law or, put otherwise, international law might apply to everyone else
      but it doesn't apply to Israel: "it cannot expect the United Nations
      to protect it from enemy attack, andwith regard to international law
      and international organizations, it lives in a state of nature." To
      demonstrate the U.N.'s inveterate hostility to Israel, Dershowitz
      specifically cites "Russia's and China's veto power" in the Security
      Council, which has allegedly blocked action supportive of it. Yet, not
      once in the past 20 years has Russia or China used the veto for a
      Security Council resolution bearing on Israel. On the other hand, the
      U.S. has exercised its veto power 23 times in just the past two
      decades (1986-2006) in support of Israel. Moreover, due to the U.S.
      veto Israel has been shielded from any U.N. sanctions, although the
      Security Council has imposed them on 15 member States since 1990,
      often for violations of international law identical to those committed
      by Israel. Not for the first time Dershowitz has turned reality on its

      On a related note Dershowitz correctly observes that Israel "was not
      condemned by the Security Council" in June 1967, although its resort
      to force violated the U.N. Charter, an armed Egyptian attack having
      been neither actual nor imminent. The Security Council and General
      Assembly were both divided on how to adjudicate responsibility for the
      war. This would seem to suggest that far from being an inherently
      hostile forum, the U.N. has in fact granted Israel special
      dispensations. More generally, as former Israeli Foreign Minister
      Shlomo Ben-Ami observes, it was Israel's policy of creeping annexation
      that shifted world opinion against it:

      Neither in 1948 nor in 1967 was Israel subjected to irresistible
      international pressure to relinquish her territorial gains because her
      victory was perceived as the result of a legitimate war of
      self-defense. But the international acquiescence created by Israel's
      victory in 1967 was to be extremely short-lived. When the war of
      salvation and survival turned into a war of conquest and settlement,
      the international community recoiled and Israel went on the defensive.
      She has remained there ever since.

      Insofar as the professed goal of Dershowitz's book is not descriptive
      but normative i.e., to devise ideal laws and institutional
      arrangements for combating terrorism it is curious that he doesn't
      propose reconfiguring the Security Council to mitigate its alleged
      bias. In this regard another of his claims merits attention: "The UN
      report fails to address the situation confronting a democracy with a
      just claim that is unable to secure protection from the Security
      Council and that reasonably concludes that failing to act unilaterally
      will pose existential dangers to its citizens." Yet, the High-level
      panel report explicitly addresses this concern and devotes one of its
      four parts specifically to proposals for reforming the Security
      Council as well as other U.N. institutions, noting preliminarily that:

      One of the reasons why States may want to bypass the Security Council
      is a lack of confidence in the quality and objectivity of its
      decision-making.But the solution is not to reduce the Council to
      impotence and irrelevance: it is to work from within to reform itnot
      to find alternatives to the Security Council as a source of authority
      but to make the Council work better than it has.

      The reason Dershowitz prefers to shunt aside the Security Council
      rather than reform it is not hard to find: it is difficult to conceive
      any configuration of the Security Council that would sanction Israel's
      periodic depredations of neighboring Arab countries. Finally,
      Dershowitz justifies ignoring the Security Council's strictures on the
      use of preventive force because its "anachronistic, mid-twentieth
      century view of international law" doesn't take into account the
      threat posed by "nuclear annihilation." It seems he forgot about the
      Cold War.

      Apart from the alleged biases of the U.N., Dershowitz defends Israel's
      unilateral right to prevent its neighbors from acquiring nuclear
      weapons apparently on the ground that conventional nuclear deterrence
      strategy is anchored in the mutually implied threat of inflicting
      massive civilian casualties. However Israel's neighbors know,
      according to him, that it would never indiscriminately target civilian
      population centers. Lest there be any doubt on this score he quotes
      former Prime Minister Begin, "That is our morality." As Lebanese
      civilians witnessed for themselves in 1982, and have witnessed again
      in 2006 from the "most moral army in the world" (Prime Minister Olmert).

      The indefeasible right of Israel to wage war as it pleases would seem
      to grant it very broad license: if there's just "five percent
      likelihood" that Israel might face a compelling threat in "ten years,"
      according to Dershowitz, it has the right to attack now, and
      apparently regardless of whether this potential threat emanates from a
      currently friendly state. This would seem to mean that no place in the
      world is safe from an Israeli attack at any moment. In Dershowitz's
      mind, this is the essence of a realistic and moral jurisprudence on war.


      Since the outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Lebanon in July
      2006, Dershowitz has used the war on terrorism to target yet another
      branch of international law, the protection of civilians during armed
      conflict. Before analyzing his allegations, it is necessary to look
      first at the factual picture.

      In early August Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a comprehensive
      report devoted mainly to Israel's violations of the laws of war during
      the first two weeks of the conflict. Its main findings were these:
      over 500 Lebanese had been killed, overwhelmingly civilians, and up to
      5,000 homes damaged or destroyed; "in dozens of attacks, Israeli
      forces struck an area with no apparent military target"; Israel
      attacked "both individual vehicles and entire convoys of civilians who
      heeded the Israeli warnings to abandon their villages" as well as
      "humanitarian convoys and ambulances" that were "clearly marked,"
      while none "of the attacks on vehiclesresulted in Hezbollah casualties
      or the destruction of weapons"; "in some casesIsraeli forces
      deliberately targeted civilians"; "no cases [were found] in which
      Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from
      retaliatory IDF attack"; "on some limited occasions, Hezbollah
      fighters have attempted to store weapons near civilian homes and have
      fired rockets from areas where civilians live." The "pattern of
      attacks during the Israeli offensive," HRW concluded, "indicate[s] the
      commission of war crimes."

      Contrariwise, Dershowitz has repeatedly alleged in numerous op-ed
      pieces that Israel typically takes "extraordinary steps to minimize
      civilian casualties," while Hezbollah's typical tactics were to "live
      among civilians, hide their missiles in the homes of civilians, fire
      them at civilian targets from densely populated areas, and then use
      civilians as human shields against counterattacks." He adduces no
      evidence to substantiate these claims, all of which are flatly
      contradicted by HRW's findings. In addition, Dershowitz juxtaposes the
      "indisputable reality" that "Israel uses pinpoint intelligence and
      smart bombs in an effortto target the terrorists" against Hezbollah
      which "targets Israeli population centers with anti-personnel bombs
      that spray thousands of pellets of shrapnel in an effort to maximize
      casualties." Yet, HRW has documented Israel's use in populated areas
      of artillery-fired cluster munitions with a "wide dispersal pattern"
      that "makes it very difficult to avoid civilian casualties" and a
      "high failure rate" such that they "injure and kill civilians even
      after the attack is over." Finally, Dershowitz deplores not only the
      actions of Hezbollah but also of "the U.N. peacekeepers on the
      Lebanese border [who] have turned out to be collaborators with
      Hezbollah." Shouldn't he get some credit for a job well done after
      Israel killed four of these "collaborators" in a deliberate attack on
      a U.N. compound?

      The "new kind of warfare" in the "age of terrorism," according to
      Dershowitz, underscores the "absurdity and counterproductive nature of
      current international law." He claims, for example, that this body of
      law "fails" to address contingencies such as the firing of missiles
      "from civilian population centers." International law "must be
      changed," he intones, and "it must become a war crime to fire rockets
      from civilian population centers and then hide among civilians," while
      those using human shields should incur full and exclusive
      responsibility for "foreseeable" deaths in the event of an attack.
      Yet, such a scenario is hardly new and the law has hardly been silent
      on it: use of civilians as a shield from attack is a war crime, but it
      is also a war crime to disregard totally the presence of civilians
      even if they are being used as a shield. Dershowitz further declares
      that "it should, of course, already be a war crime for terrorists to
      target civilians from anywhere." It of course already is a war crime.
      He alleges, however, that "you wouldn't know it by listening to
      statements from some U.N. leaders and 'human rights' groups." Isn't
      his real beef, however, that they don't only denounce the targeting of
      civilians by "terrorists" but the targeting of civilians by states as

      International law, Dershowitz alleges, is based on "old rules =AD
      written when uniformed armies fought other uniformed armies on a
      battlefield far away from cities" =AD whereas nowadays "well-armed
      terrorist armies" like Hezbollah "don't belong to regular armies and
      easily blend into civilian populations" that "recruit, finance, harbor
      and facilitate their terrorism." But these conditions are scarcely
      novel. In his writings Dershowitz often cites Michael Walzer's 1977
      study Just and Unjust Wars. He surely knows, then, that Walzer devotes
      the chapter on guerrilla war to these issues. Consider this passage:

      If you want to fight against us, the guerrillas say, you are going to
      have to fight civilians for you are not at war with an army, but with
      a nation.In fact, the guerrillas mobilize only a small part of the
      nation.They depend upon the counter-attacks of their enemies to
      mobilize the rest. Their strategy is framed in terms of the war
      convention: they seek to place the onus of indiscriminate warfare on
      the opposing army.Now, every army depends upon the civilian population
      of its home country for supplies, recruits, and political support. But
      this dependence is usually indirect, mediated by the bureaucratic
      apparatus of the state or the exchange system of the economy....But in
      guerrilla war, the dependence is immediate: the farmer hands the food
      to the guerrilla.Similarly, an ordinary citizen may vote for a
      political party that in turn supports the war effort and whose leaders
      are called in for military briefings. But in guerrilla war, the
      support a civilian provides is far more direct. He doesn't need to be
      briefed; he already knows the most important secret: he knows who the
      guerrillas are.The people, or some of them, are complicitous in
      guerrilla war, and the war would be impossible without their
      complicity.[G]uerrilla war makes for enforced intimacies, and the
      people are drawn into it in a new way even though the services they
      provide are nothing more than functional equivalents of the services
      civilians have always provided for soldiers.

      If the questions Dershowitz poses are not original, it must be said
      that his answers are, at any rate coming from someone who claims to be
      a liberal. He writes, for instance, that "the Israeli army has given
      well-publicized notice to civilians to leave those areas of southern
      Lebanon that have been turned into war zones. Those who voluntarily
      remain behind have become complicit." In fact, Walzer ponders
      precisely this scenario in the context of the Vietnam war where,
      according to the rules of engagement, "civilians were to be given
      warning in advance of the destruction of their villages, so that they
      could break with the guerrillas, expel them, or leave themselves.Any
      village known to be hostile could be bombed or shelled if its
      inhabitants were warned in advance, either by the dropping of leaflets
      or by helicopter loudspeaker." In Walzer's judgment such rules "could
      hardly be defended" in view of the massive devastation wrought. In the
      event that "civilians, duly warned, not only refuse to expel the
      guerrillas but also refuse to leave themselves," Walzer goes on to stress,

      so long as they give only political support, they are not legitimate
      targets, either as a group or as distinguishable individuals.So far as
      combat goes, these people cannot be shot on sight, when no firefight
      is in progress; nor can their villages be attacked merely because they
      might be used as firebases or because it is expected that they will be
      used; nor can they be randomly bombed and shelled, even after warning
      has been given.

      To be sure, Walzer wrote this in the context of Vietnam. Like
      Dershowitz, he became a born-again Zionist after the June 1967 war and
      accordingly has applied an altogether different standard to Israel.
      Whereas Dershowitz plays the tough Jew, Walzer's assigned role has
      been to stamp as kosher every war Israel wages, but only after anxious
      sighs. Thus, while HRW was deploring Israel's war crimes, Walzer
      opined on cue that "from a moral perspective, Israel has mostly been
      fighting legitimately," and that if Israeli commanders ever faced an
      international tribunal, "the defense lawyers will have a good case,"
      mainly because Hezbollah has used civilians as human shields even if
      in the real world they haven't.

      Dershowitz purports to make the case that the laws of war need to be
      revised in the "new" age of terrorism. In fact, his real concern is an
      old one. A standard tactic of Israel in its armed hostilities with
      Arab neighbors has been to inflict massive, indiscriminate civilian
      casualties, and Dershowitz's standard defense has been to deny it. But
      the credibility of human rights organizations that have documented
      these war crimes is rather higher than that of this notorious serial
      prevaricator, which is why he so loathes them. Dershowitz now uses the
      war on terror as a pretext to strip civilians of any protections in
      time of war, dragging the law down to put it on level with Israel's
      criminal practices.

      The main target of his "reassessment of the laws of war" has been the
      fundamental distinction between civilians and combatants. Ridiculing
      what he deems the "increasingly meaningless word 'civilian'" and
      asserting that, in the case of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah,
      "'civilianality' is often a matter of degree, rather than a bright
      line," Dershowitz proposes to replace the civilian-combatant dichotomy
      with a "continuum of civilianality":

      Near the most civilian end of this continuum are the pure innocents
      babies, hostages and others completely uninvolved; at the more
      combatant end are civilians who willingly harbor terrorists, provide
      material resources and serve as human shields; in the middle are those
      who support the terrorists politically, or spiritually.

      He imagines that this revision wouldn't apply to Israel because "the
      line between Israeli soldiers and civilians is relatively clear." But
      is this true? Israel has a civilian army, which means a mere call-up
      slip or phone call separates each adult Israeli male from a combatant.
      Israeli civilians willingly provide material resources to the army. To
      judge by its targeting of Lebanese power grids, factories, roads,
      bridges, trucks, vans, ambulances, airports, and seaports, Israel must
      reckon all civilian infrastructure legitimate military targets, in
      which case all Israelis residing in the vicinity of such Israeli
      infrastructure constitute human shields. Israel's recent brutal
      assault on Lebanon, like its past wars during which massive war crimes
      were committed, has enjoyed overwhelming political and spiritual
      support from the population. "If the media were to adopt the
      'continuum''' he has proposed, Dershowitz reflects, "it would be
      informative to learn how many of the 'civilian casualties' fall closer
      to the line of complicity and how many fall closer to the line of
      innocence." It would seem, however, that on his spectrum nearly every
      Israeli would be complicitous.

      In light of the revisions Dershowitz enters in international law, his
      reasoning begins to verge on the bizarre. He asserts that inasmuch as
      the Lebanese population overwhelmingly "supports Hezbollah," there are
      no real civilians or civilian casualties in Lebanon: "It is virtually
      impossible to distinguish the Hezbollah dead from the truly civilian
      dead, just as it is virtually impossible to distinguish the Hezbollah
      living from the civilian living." If this be the case, however, it is
      hard to make out the meaning of Dershowitz's praise of Israel for only
      targeting Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon. Didn't he just say that all
      of the Lebanese are Hezbollah? Similarly he condemns Hezbollah for
      targeting Israeli civilians. But Israelis are no less supportive of
      the IDF than Lebanese are of Hezbollah. Doesn't this mean that
      Hezbollah can't be targeting civilians in Israel because there aren't
      any? These are of course quibbles next to the fact that Dershowitz has
      now sanctioned mass murder of the Lebanese people.

      It remains to consider Dershowitz's own location on the continuum of
      civilianality. Israel could not have waged any of its wars of
      aggression or committed any of its war crimes without the blanket
      political and military support of the United States. Using his
      academic pedigree Dershowitz has played a conspicuous, crucial and
      entirely voluntary public role in rallying such support. He has for
      decades grossly falsified Israel's human rights record. He has urged
      the use of collective punishment such as the "automatic destruction"
      of a Palestinian village after each Palestinian attack. He has covered
      up Israel's use of torture on Palestinian detainees, and himself
      advocated the application of "excruciating" torture on suspected
      terrorists such as a "needle being shoved under the fingernails." He
      has aligned himself with the Israeli government against courageous
      Israeli pilots refusing the immorality of targeted assassinations. He
      has denounced nonviolent resisters to the Israeli occupation as
      "supporters of Palestinian terrorism." He has dismissed ethnic
      cleansing as a "fifth-rate issue" akin to "massive urban renewal." He
      has advised Israel's senior government officials that Israel is not
      bound by international law. He has now sanctioned the extermination of
      the Lebanese people.

      Finally, in Preemption he boasts of having vicariously participated in
      a targeted assassination while visiting Israel:

      I watched as a high-intensity television camera, mounted on a drone,
      zeroed in on the apartment of a terrorist ... I watched as the camera
      focused on the house and the nearly empty streets.

      It seems, however, that this moral pervert missed the climactic scene
      of his little peep show, although it isn't reported whether he got his
      quarter back: "I was permitted to watch for only a few minutes, and no
      action was taken while I was watching because the target remained in
      the house." One wonders whether Dershowitz carefully inserted these
      weasel words because, as he well knows, targeted assassinations
      constitute war crimes, and he might otherwise be charged as an
      accessory to one.

      In Preemption Dershowitz observes that "there can be no question that
      some kinds of expression contribute significantly to some kinds of
      evil." In this context he recalls that the International Criminal
      Tribunal for Rwanda handed down life sentences to Hutu radio
      broadcasters for inciting listeners to "hatred and murders." He also
      recalls the highly pertinent case of Nazi propagandist Julius
      Streicher, who was described by writer Rebecca West as "a dirty old
      man of the sort that gives trouble in parks," and by Nuremberg
      prosecutor Telford Taylor as "neither attractive nor bright." Although
      Hitler had stripped this self-styled Zionist and expert on Jews of all
      his political power by 1940, and his pornographic newspaper Der
      Stuermer had a circulation of only some 15,000 during the war, the
      International Tribunal at Nuremberg nonetheless sentenced Streicher to
      death for his murderous incitement.

      On his continuum of civilianality Dershowitz appears to fall in the
      proximity of the Hutu radio broadcasters and Streicher =AD less direct
      in his appeal, more influential in his reach. It is highly unlikely,
      however, that he will ever be brought before a tribunal for his
      criminal incitement. But there is yet another possibility for
      achieving justice. Dershowitz is a strong advocate of targeted
      assassinations when "reasonable alternatives" such as arrest and
      capture aren't available. The conclusion seems clear -- if , and only
      if, -- one uses his standard and his reasoning. Of course, the
      preponderance of humanity, this writer [and CounterPunch, Eds.,]
      included, does not think this way. After all the hard-won gains of
      civilization, who would want to live in a world that once again
      legally sanctioned torture, collective punishment, assassinations and
      mass murder? As Dershowitz descends into barbarism, it remains a
      hopeful sign that few seem inclined to join him.

      Norman Finkelstein's most recent book is Beyond Chutzpah: On the
      misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history (University of
      California Press). His web site is www.NormanFinkelstein.com.



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