Dershowitz: The Death of a Liberal Israel Lover

Image: Dershowitz: The Death of a Liberal Israel Lover Former NYC mayor Ed Koch was a larger-than-life figure, who loved the Jewish state despite its imperfections, just as he loved America despite its imperfections. (Getty Images)

Monday, 04 Feb 2013 04:11 PM

By Alan Dershowitz

  Comment  |
   Contact  |
  Print   |
    A   A  
  Copy Shortlink
Alan M. Dershowitz' Perspective: The passing of Ed Koch marks the beginning of the end of an important era in American Jewish life. Koch represented a time when support for Israel was a quintessentially liberal cause.

When Israel was established in 1948, it had the enthusiastic backing of the hard left — the Soviet Union, the Communist Party, labor unions, radical university professors, progressive entertainers and others whose knees automatically jerked in a leftward direction. Israel’s enemies tended to come from the hard right: oil interests, old state department types, traditional anti-Semites and those whose knees automatically jerked in a rightward direction.

This has all been changing over the past several decades, beginning with the Six Day War in 1967, when the Soviet Union and the Communist Party turned against Israel. This about-face had a trickle down effect on the hard left that has more recently impacted the center left as well. It has produced a generational shift. For many among today’s younger Jews, Israel has become a right wing cause, and the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel has become a left wing cause.

Some pundits, such as Peter Beinart, believe this shift has come about largely as a result of changes in Israeli policy, particularly with regard to the continued occupation of the West Bank and the measures Israel has taken with regard to the Gaza Strip. I think it has more to do with changes in the politics of the left, beginning with the European left and migrating to our American left.

If Israel were to end the occupation, make peace with the Palestinians and agree to the establishment of a viable, non-militarized Palestinian state — as it offered to do in 2001 and 2007 — little would change, because much of the left is opposed to the very existence of a Jewish Zionist state even on the 1948 lines.

What does Ed Koch’s death have to do with this — everything! Koch made the traditional liberal case for Israel. He made it with his words, with his deeds and with his persona. He was an unashamed and unapologetic cheerleader for Israel as a liberal cause.

He loved the Jewish state, despite its imperfections, just as he loved America despite its imperfections, and just as he loved liberalism despite its imperfections. His generation, which experienced real anti-Semitism in educational and employment opportunities, understood that if Israel were not the Jewish state — the Jew among nations — it would not be subjected to the crass double standard it has had imposed on it by the international community, academia and the media.

There is a generation gap, as Peter Beinart correctly reports, but the reason for it is much more emotional than it is rational. Young Jews are simply ashamed to support Israel, particularly in front of their lefty friends. Howard Jacobson, the author of the Finkler Question got it exactly right when he created a not so fictional group called “Ashamed Jews.”

Ed Koch was never ashamed of his support for Israel or his in your face Jewishness. Nor was he reliable as a Democrat or Republican. His party line was always principle. He sometimes supported Democrats, sometimes Republicans. Sometimes he supported President Obama, sometimes he didn’t. No one could take him or his vote for granted, because he always voted his values and his beliefs: in a strong America, a strong Israel, and strong liberalism.

There will never be another Ed Koch. He was an original, but he represented a significant, if shrinking, segment of American Jewry who refused to compromise their liberal values, their support for Israel or their Jewish pride. I count myself among his “Talmidim” — his students. We are an endangered species in a world where acceptance among peers is valued above commitment to principle.

Ed Koch will never “rest in peace.” That was not his way. He was always nervously squirming, while making others squirm as well. Comfort was not his goal. He understood that to be a proud and assertive Jew meant never being able to leave a sigh of relief and say “it’s over, we are at peace, we can now put down our guard and relax.” He knew that the struggle for Jewish self-determination never stays won.

When Shakespeare’s Jewish character Shylock is asked at the end of "The Merchant of Venice" whether he accepts Christianity, he responds “I am content,” thus proving he is no longer a Jew. Ed was never content. He lived and died as a real Jew, always pursuing the never-ending quest for justice.

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He is a graduate of Brooklyn College and Yale Law School. Read more reports from Alan M. Dershowitz — Click Here Now.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

  Comment  |
   Contact  |
  Print   |
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Country
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
 
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
Top Stories
You May Also Like

University's Soda Boycott Against Israel Misguided

Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 16:14 PM

Sodastream has been forced to move its factory to an area in Israel where few, if any, Arabs can be employed. This is no . . .

Amnesty International Suppresses Free Speech

Monday, 10 Nov 2014 11:47 AM

Last month the Columbia chapter of Amnesty International invited me to deliver a talk on human rights in the Middle East . . .

UK's Miliband Rips Israel For Defending Against Hamas

Thursday, 30 Oct 2014 20:34 PM

Ed Miliband, who is the leader of Great Britain's Labour Party, wants to become Prime Minister following the next genera . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved