Dershowitz to J Street: Ditch the Distortions, Focus on Israel's Survival

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J Street has a long history of misrepresenting the facts and distorting the truth, whether it was about its financial dependence on George Soros or the statement by one of its founders regarding Israel’s creation as a mistake. But now its mendacity relates directly to Israel’s survival and the risk posed by an Iran with nuclear weapons. The Israelis, both the leadership and the people, stand strongly behind maintaining sanctions against Iran. Virtually all Israelis would prefer a diplomatic solution to a military attack, as would most American Jews. But in its article responding to my criticism of the United States for proposing to eliminate now some sanctions against Iran, J Street deliberately and maliciously distorts my position.

In my article, I clearly state my preference for diplomacy over war. Indeed, the first five words of my article are the following: “Diplomacy is better than war…” That is followed by the caveat that “bad diplomacy can cause bad wars.” I also state a strong preference for “jaw jaw” over “war war.” Yet the premise of J Street’s article is that I am opposed to diplomacy.

Here is what they say: “There are two alternatives to a negotiated agreement that verifiably make sure that Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons: a nuclear armed Iran and war…” That is a false dichotomy. There is a third alternative: Maintaining the current sanctions and negotiating from a position of strength rather than weakness. I do not “advocate throwing a spanner in the works of diplomacy,” which is how J Street characterizes my position. I advocate continuing diplomacy and maintaining sanctions, reducing them only in exchange for a verifiable decision by the Iranians to abandon their quest for nuclear weapons.

J Street also falsely suggests that I favor increasing sanctions at this time. Indeed they devote a considerable portion of their article railing against this straw man. J Street argues in response to my article that “legislating new sanctions at this time would undermine President [Hassan] Rohani's standing and leeway vis-a-vis hardliners in Iran.” They end their article with a sentence that they imply distinguishes their position from mine. Here is what they say: “Diplomacy leading to a tough, verifiable deal with Iran would be good for Israel, good for the United States and good for the world.” That is precisely my point and I challenge J Street to find a single word in my article that disagrees with it.

We disagree on whether reducing the sanctions now will increase or decrease our leverage for such a diplomatic solution. That should be the focus of the debate, rather than the straw people J Street had constructed in its effort to appease its hard left constituents, many of whom advocate containment of a nuclear Iran rather than preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Alan M. Dershowitz, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard, is a practicing criminal and constitutional lawyer and the author of The Trials of Zion. His autobiography, “Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law”, was published last month. 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with EU representative Catherine Ashton before the Meeting of EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Lithuania, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.Credit: AP

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