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CORRESPONDENCE

Calling sides on political issues

November 02, 2003

To the Editor:

Milton VIORST'S review of my book "The Case for Israel" [Book Review, Oct. 5] exemplifies its central thesis: that Israel and its defenders are often subjected to an invidious double standard. Viorst, a frequent Israel-basher, characterizes my book as "nationalist bombast," despite the fact that I advocate a two-state solution, have always opposed the occupation and call for an end to most settlements. Were a Palestinian writer to advocate comparable compromises on the part of Palestinians, Viorst would label him a moderate peace-seeker. Viorst resorts to outright mendacity when he suggests that I offer no "prospect of reconciliation," since I repeatedly argue that when Palestinian leaders want a Palestinian state more than they want the end of the Jewish state, there will finally be reconciliation.

Viorst is also wrong about his specifics. The Nazi collaborator Haj Amin Al-Husseini "represented the Palestinian national consensus," as even Edward Said acknowledged. Though Islamic nations did not inflict a Holocaust on its Jewish Dhimmis, they did inspire numerous massacres, which I document in my book. Finally, Viorst mischaracterizes the offer made by Israel at Camp David and Taba. If you don't believe me, listen to Saudi Prince Bandar, who was an advisor to Arafat at the time and who called Arafat's rejection of the peace offer "a crime against the Palestinian people, in fact against the entire region." Viorst, unlike Bandar, has placed most of the blame on Ehud Barak! Anyone who reads "The Case for Israel" will see how seriously Viorst distorts its contents and how transparently he applies his own double standard.

Alan Dershowitz

Cambridge, Mass.

Milton Viorst replies:

Dershowitz attacks several statements in my review, all of which I stand behind, but his least defensible assertion is that he was subjected to an "invidious double standard" by a "frequent Israel-basher." If this is so, then why did I comment favorably on the three other books covered in the review, all written by Jews in support of Israel? I am not a basher of Israel but a critic of its uncompromising, self-destructive policies. If Dershowitz were serious in claiming to favor peace (the same "two-state solution" that I support), he would not have hidden his view within pages of nationalist bombast.

To the Editor:

Mahnaz Ispahani's review of "Who Killed Daniel Pearl?" by Bernard-Henri Levy (Sept. 28, "Daniel in the Den of Lions"), of which I am the publisher, contains several major factual inaccuracies and is deeply misleading in its description of the book. Worse, it commits the cardinal sin of book reviewing: Ispahani criticizes Levy for not having written a different book altogether.

For instance, after noting that the book is intended as "a clarion call to the sleeping American giant" of the complicated dangers in having Pakistan as an ally, she castigates Levy because he didn't write about "ways to extricate us from this paralyzing historical moment...." It's a classic bit of sophistry, wherein readers are diverted from recognition and analysis of a problem by an attack on the whistle-blower for not simultaneously, single-handedly solving the problem. Shortly thereafter, Ispahani curtly cites Levy's bravery (although without clarifying how he was brave; that is, that as a Jew in Pakistan, he put his life on the line by following the footsteps of Daniel Pearl), then mocks him for lacking "intellectual courage" and for not taking the time "to delve into the troubling complexities of places like Pakistan and places like America." A book tracing the footsteps of Daniel Pearl and his killers is not delving into a troubling complexity? And rather than the book at hand, a firsthand account about Pakistan, Ispahani prefers a book about "places like Pakistan" (not to mention one about "places like America").

Beyond the bizarre statements rendered in an unnecessarily insulting tone, there are the inaccuracies rendered in an unnecessarily insulting tone. There are many, but because corrections writers are not permitted the space of original mistake makers in a newspaper, let me limit myself to noting three of the most egregious:

1) Ispahani lectures Levy for not making the point that "the fight against extremism is -- and must be -- primarily fought among Muslims." It is, in actuality, one of the basic tenets of the book, discussed repeatedly from early on, as on page 33, where the author notes that, indeed, one of the reasons he admires Daniel Pearl was that Pearl was among those who "reject the absurd theme of the clash of civilizations." (Almost as shockingly, Ispahani barely mentions another of the book's major themes, which is the influence of anti-Semitism upon this war within Islam.)

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