Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 2005, page 42

Book Review

Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and The Abuse of History

By Norman G. Finkelstein, University of California Press, 2005, 332 pp. List: $22.50; AET: $15.

Reviewed by Sara Powell

AUTHOR Norman Finkelstein shows chutzpah himself, when he opens his new book with a quote from Alan Dershowitz—“The world is full of evil people and it is important to stand up to evil”—taken from Dershowitz’s Letters to a Young Lawyer. What is beyond chutzpah, according to Finkelstein, is Dershowitz’s book A Case for Israel.

After an introductory—and cautionary—section on the danger of using Holocaust and “perpetual victim” claims to silence all criticism of Israel, Finkelstein’s argument follows a two-pronged approach. In the main body of Beyond Chutzpah, Finkelstein demolishes Dershowitz’s case for Israel through careful documentation, primarily from respected human rights sources such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem, of accounts directly contradicting Dershowitz’s assertions. 

Beyond Chutzpah’s refutation of Dershowitz’s evidence and conclusions deals a fatal blow to A Case for Israel. Finkelstein, however, adds a coup de grace in the form of a devastating appendix. Using Harvard’s own definition of plagiarism, his second prong of attack proves (irrefutably, to this reviewer) that renowned Harvard Law professor Dershowitz plagiarized much of A Case for Israel from Joan Peters’ long-discredited From Time Immemorial.

Not surprisingly, Dershowitz tried to prevent publication of Beyond Chutzpah, and Finkelstein’s first publisher succumbed to the pressure. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the University of California Press went to unprecedented lengths to protect against litigation, using six (instead of the usual two) outside peer reviewers, and running the book by its board, as well as the usual 20-member editorial committee, and a team of lawyers. Apparently, many agree Finkelstein makes a strong case. In Beyond Chutzpah Finkelstein has served Dershowitz an unappetizing dish of crow, but Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, readers will enjoy a savory dish, liberally peppered with irony.

Neocon Middle East Policy: The “Clean Break” Plan Damage Assessment

By Adam Shapiro, E. Faye Williams, Khaled Dawoud, Muhammed Kaddam and William Martin, The Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, Inc. 2005, 108 pp. List: $9.95; AET: $8.

Reviewed by Sara Powell

In the course of covering and/or participating in Middle East-related events, one hears the repeated lament that there are no think tanks unbiased toward Israel. While it certainly is true that most of the well-known and oft-quoted American think tanks accept—and perpetuate—as gospel the standard misinformation about Israel, there are a few think tanks that question the dominant paradigm. The Palestine Center is well known among students of the Middle East, but there’s a new kid on the block which has made a valuable contribution to the dissemination of truth. This comes in the form of its slim volume, Neocon Middle East Policy: The “Clean Break” Plan Damage Assessment.”

The collection of essays considers the significance and repercussions of the 1996 policy paper written for Israel’s new (at the time) Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu by a variety of authors, including several prominent policymakers in the George W. Bush administration. As one of the recommendations of the ”Clean Break” plan was the overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussain—since duly carried out by the Bush administration under what have proven to be false premises—the possible ramifications of implementing the paper’s other points become highly problematic.

The main thrust of the analyses presented are that the plan was shaped to ease the way to Israel’s greatest desire, the conquest and consolidation of Israeli facts on Palestinian ground, by creating regional conditions more favorable to Israel through the removal of any strong or independent Arab regime. The complete text and its examination by several Middle East experts make this a valuable tool in the ongoing work for a just U.S. Middle East policy. 

Sara Powell is director of the AET Book Club.

Additional information