Opinion

Letter to the Editor

Alan Dershowitz and Rep. Steven Cohen: An exchange

On Nov. 11, JNS published a column by Alan Dershowitz with the title “A Jewish Democratic Congressman Called Me a Nazi Collaborator.” The column is wrong, and I hope you will correct the factual errors.

Professor Alan Dershowitz speaks at a conference in Tel Aviv, Dec. 11, 2016. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Professor Alan Dershowitz speaks at a conference in Tel Aviv, Dec. 11, 2016. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Rep. Steven Cohen. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Rep. Steven Cohen

On Nov. 11, you published a column by Alan Dershowitz with the title “A Jewish Democratic Congressman Called Me a Nazi Collaborator.” The column is just wrong, and I hope you will correct the factual errors that you published.

Here are the facts: On the Fox News channel, Laura Ingraham and her guest, John Yoo, disparaged Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs for the U.S. National Security Council, speculating that he might have dual or divided loyalties, with one panelist using the term “espionage.” Vindman was attacked for no other reason than his anticipated testimony about his firsthand knowledge of the phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, using Vindman’s birth in Ukraine (before he emigrated to the United States at the age of 3) as reason enough to question his loyalty to our country, for which he has shed his blood.

The third person on the panel was Mr. Dershowitz, who sat silently while a decorated Jewish American Army hero was vilified. Mr. Dershowitz claims I called him “a Nazi collaborator” when I made the observation that he sat silently by “like a quisling.” That is solely his interpretation, as the words “Nazi collaborator” were never spoken nor were they my intent. The term “quisling” is generally used to describe someone who sits by while wrong is being done, such as complacently allowing behavior like that Ingraham and Yoo displayed in such a reprehensible manner to remain unchallenged. The truth is that Professor Dershowitz could have weighed in to ask a question about Vindman, but he didn’t. He heard what was being said, and he sat by silently.

While not relevant to the matter at hand but included in his screed, Professor Dershowitz claims that I have “a long history of one-sided condemnation of Israel,” which is patently false. Those are his words and his judgment, which he presents as a fact. The truth is that I have a long history of support for Israel, and I have consistently voted for American military aid for Israel. In 1984, as a state senator, I passed legislation to create the first state Holocaust commission in the South and one of the first in the nation, and I spent the next two-plus decades as its champion.

Alan Dershowitz had a long and deserved reputation for standing up for civil rights and free speech. That Alan Dershowitz was absent from the Laura Ingraham show. I didn’t learn about Dershowitz’s eight-word tweet apologizing for his silence until I read his column on JNS. I am glad he acknowledged that sitting silently while Vindman was defamed was wrong. That’s exactly what I was pointing out.

Steven Cohen
Member of Congress

Congressman Steve Cohen represents Tennessee’s 9th Congressional District

* * *

Alan Dershowitz responds:

The dictionary defines “Quisling” as a Nazi traitor to his country. It derives from Vidkun Quisling, who actively collaborated with Hitler. Congressman Cohen’s claimed ignorance of the meaning of this horrible term is no excuse for him invoking it against me. His excuse is an extreme display of chutzpah (in the negative meaning of that term) since he accuses me of being silent despite my temporary ignorance of Col. Vindman’s background and service to our country. As soon as I learned of it, I corrected the record.

What’s worse: Being silent out of temporary ignorance or actively calling a fellow Jew a Nazi traitor, and refusing to apologize after learning the truth.

Shame on Congressman Cohen, both for his inexcusable attack against me and for having one of the worst voting records on Israel.

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of “Guilt by Accusation: The Challenge of Proving Innocence in the Age of #MeToo.”

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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