February 19, 2009

Goldstone’s Ad Hominem Argument

Regarding your February 12 article “Dershowitz Explains Critical Goldstone Remark: ‘Moser’? I Meant ‘Monster!’” I would like to note that Richard Goldstone has repeatedly declined to debate me on the merits of his report. Nor has he responded to my 49-page substantive critique, which is available online at www.alandershowitz.com/goldstone.pdf. Instead, Goldstone has responded to critics of his report by pointing to his Jewishness, his Zionism and his connections to Hebrew University. That is an argument by ethnic identity, namely that an anti-Israel argument is made stronger if offered by a Jew. It is a variation on the classic argument ad hominem.

It is precisely because Goldstone has so frequently invoked his Jewishness to attack the Jewish state that I stand by what I said to IDF Radio, namely that he is “someone who betrays his own people.” I did not repeat, nor did I understand, the Hebrew word used by the man who interviewed me in English over the telephone. I thought he used the English word “monster,” rather than the Hebrew word “moser.” (Rabbi Yosef Blau suggests that I might have learned the word moser in the yeshiva we both attended, but he didn’t tell your reporter what a terrible yeshiva student I was!) I certainly did not mean to imply that any physical harm should come to Goldstone. That is why I retracted the term “traitor,” which carries a somewhat different connotation in Israel than in the United States, even though I think its meaning suits Goldstone perfectly.

The headline of the Forward story — quoting me as saying “‘moser’? I meant ‘monster!’” — is entirely made up. I never used those quoted words. I told your reporter that I answered “absolutely” to the question of whether I believe Goldstone is “someone who betrays his own people.” Moreover, the use of the photograph accompanying the story suggests that it somehow relates to the Goldstone matter. It is actually a photograph of me being removed by Swiss police as I tried to challenge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about his Holocaust denial.

Goldstone’s report should be rejected on its numerous demerits. The added fact that it was authored by a Jew, who was selected precisely because he is a Jew, should not increase its credibility. I will promise not to make any ad hominem arguments against the report if he stops making ad hominem arguments in its favor. Or, to paraphrase what Adlai Stevenson once promised a political opponent: If you stop lying about me, I will stop telling the truth about you.

Alan Dershowitz says he was not familiar with the term moser — a Hebrew word describing a Jew who informs on other Jews. But Rabbi Yosef Blau is quoted in your news article suggesting that Alan must have heard the term as a child.

Well, I can vouch for Alan. Until the Rabin assassination, I had never heard of the word moser either. I grew up in Boro Park, Brooklyn, as did Alan. I attended Orthodox shuls and graduated from the same yeshiva as Alan (but a couple of years ahead of him). I am referring to Yeshiva Etz Chaim, also known as the Hebrew Institute of Boro Park. That was a great institution. Too bad it’s no longer around.

The writer is a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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February 19, 2009

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