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Dershowitzian Logic or The Ultimate Chutzpah


By Kam Zarrabi


Responding to the article by Alan Dershowitz in Forward Newspaper Online, August 20, 2004: "Amend International Law to Allow Preemptive Strike on Iran"


The renowned defense attorney and Harvard Law School professor, Alan Dershowitz, needs no introduction to the American public, and not just for his involvement with the so-called Dream-Team of defense lawyers in the O. J. Simpson trials. Dershowitz is also the author of several books, among them Chutzpah and The Case For Israel.


Dershowitz is also greatly admired for championing the Jewish cause, Zionism, and for his unwavering support for Israel. His detractors call him an Israel apologist, and more often, the penultimate personification of chutzpah. Chutzpah is a Yiddish word that means unmitigated gall. To better illustrate the point, chutzpah is exhibited when the kid who has just been convicted of the double murder of his parents, asks the judge for clemency because he is now an orphan!


But one thing that nobody, friend or foe, could dispute regarding Mr. Dershowitz is the fact that he is a fantastic defense attorney, one of the best. Harvard doesn't employ lightweights as professors.


That said, let us define the job description or duties and responsibilities of defense attorneys. First, of course, is a solid education and a degree from a reputable law school. From then on it is the matter of specialization. Some law school graduates become district attorneys and prosecutors whose job is to level charges against the accused, utilizing all the legal arsenal at their disposal to convince the jury and the judge. Defense attorneys, on the other hand, use the same legal weaponry to present all conceivable loopholes and justifications to torpedo the prosecutors' case by disputing and discrediting their allegations and evidentiary arguments.


Neither the prosecutors, nor the defense attorneys are, or are even expected to be, interested in flushing out the truth or to help justice prevail. That is the job of those law school graduates who become judges and preside at the bench.


When Mr. Dershowitz decided to offer his expertise in the defense of O. J. Simpson, it was not for his sense of justice as a Good Samaritan, or because he truly felt that Mr. Simpson was innocent of the charges. He got involved in that high-profile case because it offered him a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate his legal skills to prevail against formidable odds. To Dershowitz and others in similar positions, the guilt or innocence of the accused is of absolutely no significance; they are simply doing their job of arguing on the defendant's behalf.


For Mr. Dershowitz, championing the Jewish cause in general, and Israel in particular, has been a life-long pursuit. Again, is matters little what Israel does or is accused of doing, for Dershowitz to mobilize all his legal resources and to rise in its defense. To be quite clear, his passion for what he certainly believes to be his heritage, his roots, is not object of any criticism here; his ruthless methodology is. But when we recall his field of expertise, his professional background and experience, this methodology, as ruthless as it truly is, becomes more understandable.


Let us examine the article in Forward, a Jewish publication in New York, where Mr. Dershowitz has expressed his very cavalier opinions.


He starts by: "Intelligence reports about Iran's capacity to produce nuclear weapons aimed at Israel are becoming ominous. Unless diplomatic pressure causes the Iranian mullahs to stop the project, Iran may be ready to deliver nuclear bombs against Israeli civilian targets within a few short years. Some Iranian leaders, such as former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, have made it clear that this is precisely what they intend to do. Killing 5 million Jews would be worth 15 million Iranians in a retaliatory Israeli strike, according to Rafsanjani's calculations."


After setting the premise based on several shrewdly chosen presuppositions, our world-class attorney and law professor begins to build his case. His thesis can be summarized as follows:


1-     Fact: Iran is actively engaged in developing nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles.

2-     Fact: Once these weapons are ready, the Israeli civilian centers will be targeted, even if the deaths of five million Israelis would cost Iran fifteen million Iranian lives in retaliation.

3-     Conclusion: If diplomacy doesn't result in Iran abandoning its aggressive intentions, preemptive strikes against Iran become imperative, even if that would mean causing major civilian casualties.

4-     Since Iran has strategically located its nuclear installations in the proximity of population centers, Iran should bear the responsibility for such casualties.

5-     International laws should be amended in such a way as to allow such preemptive attacks.


There are two separate issues that need to be addressed here: One issue has to do with the initial paragraph in Mr. Dershowitz's  article quoted above. The second issue is Mr. Dershowitz's solution to the problem as he sees it.


The first sentence of his opening paragraph states that Iran, according to intelligence reports, has the capacity to produce nuclear weapons. But he very cunningly adds that such weapons would be aimed at Israel. What he fails to say is the fact most countries have the capacity to create nuclear weapons, and that any nuclear weapon from any source, be it Pakistan, India, China, France or North Korea, could conceivably be aimed at Israel.  In the second sentence the visionary attorney projects that Iran's nuclear bombs may be ready to strike at Israeli civilian targets within a couple of years. Again, what he fails to say is how he reached the conclusion that Iran would aim at Israeli civilian targets. In the last sentence he cleverly misquotes Hashemi Rafsanjani by putting the cart before the horse in such a way that a/ Israeli civilian population become the target of an Iranian nuclear attack and, b/ such an attack becomes the official policy of the Iranian regime as soon as it succeeds in creating the bomb.


Mr. Rafsanjani's remarks were actually just the reverse of Dershowitz's quotes. The former Iranian president had commented that, should Israel attack Iran with its entire nuclear arsenal, killing fifteen million Iranians, Iran's retaliatory attack could wipe out five million Israelis, meaning the entire population of Israel. 


Dershowitz writes that "Israel has the right, under international law, to protect its civilians from a nuclear holocaust, and that right must include preemptive military action...." Question is: Why doesn't he grant other nations the same right?


Well, this is exactly what Iran's defense chief, Shamkhani, said recently in response to the renewed threats of preemptive strikes against Iran by Israel. He agrees that any nation has the right to defend itself against military attacks. He also suggested that the right to preemptive strikes against an imminent threat is not exclusive to only some states and forbidden for others.


For Alan Dershowitz Israel's interests always come first. Reading his book, Chutzpah, it is easy to conclude that the author is accusing the whole world to be anti-Semitic. He believes that the Jewish people must learn to be more assertive and proactive in standing for their rights; in short, Jews need more chutzpah, hence the title of his book, to get their fair share. It is, therefore, no surprise that Dershowitz is dismayed at the global attitude against Israel's decades-long policies that have been in clear violation of international laws. Dershowitz does not like that, even though he knows that international laws have never stopped Israel from following its desired course. As a professional lawyer and a renowned Harvard Law School professor, Mr. Dershowitz sees only one solution to this dilemma; amend international law to suit Israel!


His logic is indeed impeccably Dershowitzian: he simply wants Israel to pursue its agendas regardless of what they might be, pursue them with impunity, and look good doing it.


Now, that's real chutzpah!

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