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Tuesday, November 2 2004
USA/ What Alan Dershowitz Says - And What I Say
A French Jewish journalist offers a personal view on the US presidential election.
1. A MESSAGE TO THE AMERICAN JEWISH COMMUNITY FROM PROFESSOR ALAN DERSHOWITZ
"There are American Jews who have said recently that although they support John Kerry's positions on every major domestic issue - - from the Supreme Court to women's rights to gay rights - - they plan to vote for President Bush because they believe Bush would be better for Israel.
"Respectfully, I believe they are wrong for two reasons.
"First, I know personally how strongly John Kerry feels about a safe and secure Israel. I remember vividly when John went to Israel with our dear mutual friend, the late Lenny Zakim, the New England director of the ADL. On his return, that's all John could talk about - - his admiration for Israel's combination of strength and determination to make peace. He has a perfect pro-Israel voting record in the Senate and I have no doubt that, as president, John Kerry’s unwavering commitment to Israel will continue.
"President Bush, though well intentioned on Israel, has hurt the Jewish nation's position in the world. The actions of the United States in Iraq, especially since President Bush prematurely declared “mission accomplished”, have been disastrous for Israel. The failures in Iraq have weakened the influence of the United States in the Middle East and have made it much more difficult for us to thwart Iran's determination to develop nuclear weapons aimed at Israeli population centers. The Iranian mullahs know that Americans could not stomach another military action in Iran while the occupation of Iraq continues. This reality, confirmed by President Bush during the first debate, has emboldened them to speed up their nuclear program - - a program that poses the greatest existential threat to Israel, the Jewish people and ultimately America, since an Iranian nuclear program could result in terrorists with dirty bombs. The current Bush policy with regard to Iraq has weakened America's war against terror by diverting military and other resources to a quagmire that is only getting worse.
"The second reason is that pro-Israel votes should not turn an American presidential election into a referendum on Israel. Our goal must be to keep support for Israel a bipartisan issue - - and in this we have succeeded. Pro-Israel voters are free in this election to vote based on other important issues, such as women's rights, separation of church and state and the Supreme Court.
"These issues actually coalesce in practice. If President Bush is reelected, he will have as many as four Supreme Court vacancies in his first year: and he has told us exactly who he intends to fill them with: clones of his two favorite justices - - Scalia and Thomas. A Bush Supreme Court will put at risk a woman's right to choose abortion. Equally important it will lower the wall of separation between church and state and increase the power of the religious right. Although the religious right has been very supportive of Israel - - especially in comparison with the Presbyterian and Episcopal branches of Protestantism - - their agenda for the American future poses considerable danger to the Jewish future in America.
"They envision a Christian state with Christian schools and a Christian Supreme court.
"Listen to the Texas Republican Party platform which “affirms that the United States is a Christian naton” and refers to the “myth of the separation of church and state.”
"Listen to Lou Sheldon, the founder of the “Traditional Values Coalition”:
“We were here first….We are the keepers of what is right and what is wrong.”
"And listen to Ralph Reed, the director of the Christian Coalition:
“What Christians have to do is to take back the country….I honestly believe that in my lifetime we will see a country once again governed by Christians…and Christian values.”
"And to Jerry Falwell:
“I hope to see the day when as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them….We must never allow our children to forget that this is a Christian nation. We must take back what is rightfully ours.”
"And to Pat Robertson:
“The Constitution of the United States…is a marvelous document for self-government by Christian people. But the minute you turn the document into the hands of non-Christian people and atheist people, they can use it to destroy the very foundation of our society. And that's what's been happening ….If Christian people work together, they can succeed…in winning back control of the institutions that have been taken from them over the past 70 years.”
"The Bush Administration supports the lowering of the wall of separation. Its prayer breakfasts, its faith-based programs, its Ashcroft Justice Department, and its evangelical rhetoric are all music to the ears of the proselytizing Religious Right. Remember President Bush's inauguration, which was dedicated to “our savior Jesus Christ” and seemed more like a Christian prayer service than a national civic event?
"A Kerry-Edwards Administration would keep the wall high. Senator Edwards has warned that “faith should not be used to divide us.” Jews especially have an important stake in the separation of church and state. We are first class citizens of this great nation precisely because no religious tests may be required for holding office and because the state may not favor one religion over another or religion over non-religion. We must preserve that neutrality for the good of America, the good of Jews and the good of the world."
2. MY OWN PERCEPTION
Mr Dershowitz knows personnally Mr Kerry and knows he is pro-Israel. Great. Not unlikely for a Massachussets senator.
Mr Dershowitz says that even if Mr Bush is as pro-Israel as Mr Kerry, the present election should not be turned into a referendum on Israel. Okay. So why is he mentioning at all to his Jewish friends and admirers that Mr Kerry is pro-Israel and why does he solemnly swear that he, Alan Dershowitz, "knows" it ?
Why should the pro-Israel argument be valid and compelling for Mr Kerry and not for Mr Bush ? Rather inconsistent, I am afraid.
Why should US Jews vote for a candidate that promises to be pro-Israel rather than for a president that has given evidence he is ? Beyond my understanding.
And is Mr Kerry as pro-Israel as Mr Dershowitz says he is ? Aipac reported that his voting record at the Senate is OK. Great. What however about his 2003 statement against the security fence ? What about Mr Kerry's early campaign mentions of bringing back Mr Clinton or even Mr Baker as peace process czars, something Israelis will undoubtedly welcome.
Mr Dershowitz's broader geopolitics surprise me as well. He says, essentially, that the war in Iraq (" a quagmire ") makes Iran stronger and has weakened Israel's position in the Middle East. I would rather think that losing the war in Iraq or retreating from Iraq in a Vietnam like fashion would make Iran stronger and endanger Israel.
The fact is that Mr Kerry's supporters do mention the Iraq " quagmire " as the #1 issue why Americans should vote Kerry-Edwards. The fact is they see the war as a disaster in itself. The fact is that one third or maybe one half of them do want the US to leave Iraq as soon as possible.
Now, the Christian Right argument. Does Mr Dershowitz believe that the Christian Right can turn America into a Bible belt theocracy in less than four years, and that this is President Bush's agenda for his second term ? If he believes so he actually believes in anything.
Maybe what Mr Dershowitz really has in mind is the Christian Right's concern about America being estranged from its Christian tradition. But what is so thoroughly illegitimate about that ? Even if you believe America is essentially a non-denominational place, you must admit that it was founded on Christian, and even more specifically Biblical and Judeo-Christian, principles. And that this is the true reason why America has always been a special place for Jews.
Is it not worth remembering such things, especially when radical Islam is on the rise ? Does Mr Dershowitz really want the US Muslim community to grow even stronger, offset the Jewish community as the major non-Christian religion of the land (as in France) and eventually challenge Christianity as the all-American religion of the 21st century ? Will Mr Dershowitz feel better off with a Coran belt theocracy ?
Please, think over the matter .Thank you.
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