It all began with an innocent enough request for an interview about the Goldstone report and my 49 page response to it. The Israeli Army radio station asked to interview me. The interview was conducted by an experienced host, Razi Barkai. Unbeknownst to me, Barkai had an agenda. He wanted to get me to say that I thought that Goldstone was a “moser.” He wanted me to use this Hebrew word, whose meaning I did not understand, because in Israel, this obscure theological term has taken on a meaning of its own. According to The Forward, “the term moser entered Israeli political discourse in 1995 in the wake of Rabin’s assassination by radical settler supporter Yigal Amir, when Amir cited some rabbis’ designation of Rabin as a moser as part of his justification for carrying out the murder.” The Forward quoted Michael Karpin, an Israeli journalist and the author of a book on Rabin’s assassination, as follows: “After the assassination, when Amir was interviewed by the police and he mentioned the term moser, people tried to find out what it is…Nobody used it here before the assassination.”
Unfortunately, I was totally unfamiliar with the “inside baseball”—or in this case “inside Israel”—use of this esoteric term.
Several times during the interview, Barkai tried to get me to agree that Goldstone was a moser, a word he pronounced with a thick accent. Since the interview was being conducted in English, I thought he was asking me to agree with him that Goldstone was a “monster.” I would never use the term “monster” since it suggests an inherent, even genetic, flaw in a person, without regard to what he has said or done. I was clear throughout my interview that I believed that Goldstone had exploited his Jewishness to lend illegitimate credibility to a false report. In this respect, he had betrayed his people and deserved to be condemned in the marketplace of ideas. Accordingly, when Barkai asked me the following question, “Do you hint, Professor, that he is a moser, someone who betrays his own people?,” I focused on the part of the question I understood. Believing that he is someone who betrays his own people, I answered the question in the affirmative. Barkai had sprung the trap. Now he had me. He could send out press releases indicating that I had called Goldstone a moser, even though I never used the word and had no idea what it meant.
The story spread quickly around the world, and I was condemned, largely by the extreme left, for advocating Goldstone’s murder. As soon as I heard this, I immediately demanded a clarification from Barkai, which he ran on the air. I repeatedly emphasized, in subsequent interviews, that “I certainly did not mean to imply that any physical harm should come to Goldstone.” But this didn’t stop the incitement by those in the media more interested in sensationalism than truth.
M.J. Rosenberg, the former Director of Policy Analysis for Israel Policy Forum, wrote in his Palestine Note blog that I was “calling for Goldstone’s murder.” Even more insidiously, the Forward, a mainstream Jewish newspaper, ran a lengthy piece strongly implying that I must have known the theological (or “Halachic”) implications of “moser.” They went so far as to find an elementary school classmate at Etz Chayim Yeshiva in Boro Park who told them, quite erroneously, that I “must have heard it as a child.” (Another classmate wrote the Forward a letter confirming that he too had never heard it—and he was a good Yeshiva student!) The Forward then went on to quote another rabbi to the effect that “a moser can become a capital crime” under certain circumstances. At the very bottom of the article, so as not to detract from its sensationalism, the Forward included the following disclaimer:
“I do not want any harm to come to Richard Goldstone,” Dershowitz said. “I want him to be responded to in the marketplace of ideas.”
An article in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency by Ron Kampares was even more irresponsible. It “reported” the following:
“Most recently, Alan Dershowitz likened him to a “moser”, a Jewish traitor deemed in some interpretations as worthy of a death sentence.”
This was written days after I had made it clear that I wanted no harm to befall Goldstone. A response to the JTA article by Debra DeLee, President and CEO of Americans For Peace Now, accused me—also days after I made my position clear—of calling Goldstone a “moser,” which she said is “a term reserved in traditional Jewish law for a Jewish traitor who should be killed.”
She also showed her ignorance of the fact that I had written a 49 page substantive response to the Goldstone report, by saying that I “could have—and should have—aired substantive disagreements about the report that Judge Goldstone authored following the Gaza War.”
Finally, a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz (Bradley Burston) described me as “Kahane-sounding,” a reference for the radical rabbi who did in fact call for violence—as contrasted for my call for peace based on a two-state solution and the end of civilian settlements. But no matter, its sells newspapers.
It’s bad enough that there are some religious extremists on both sides who actually incite their followers to commit violence. But when elements of the mainstream Israeli and Jewish media twist the truth in the interest of sensationalism to imply—or state outright—that I am calling for the murder of Richard Goldstone, it is those irresponsible members of the media (and of Americans For Peace Now) who become the inciters.