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Chomsky and Dershowitz
On Endless War and the End of Civil Liberties
Howard Friel

published 2014 • 6" x 9" • 376 pages
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“Declining civil liberties in the U.S. is a direct result of long U.S. support for violations of international law and human rights, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, argues Yale scholar Friel. Using the works of intellectuals Alan Dershowitz of Harvard and Noam Chomsky of MIT as metaphors, Friel considers how attitudes and public policy on international law have changed since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He argues that Dershowitz has not honored his commitment to international law and human rights, while Chomsky has remained steadfast in his challenge to any nation, including the U.S. and Israel, to threaten or use force in intervening in the affairs of other nations. He explores the 40-year rivalry between the two men and how their viewpoints have diverged. Drawing on the work of both men, Friel examines their positions in the broader context of U.S. domestic policy on civil liberties from the 1960s onward and foreign policy since the Vietnam War. Friel cautions that Dershowitz’s support of the war on terrorism threatens American civil liberties, while Chomsky’s viewpoint shows the way toward more peaceful resolution of conflicts at home and abroad.”

“Friel (an independent scholar) conducts a comparative exegesis of the intellectual productions of frequent antagonists Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz and MIT professor Noam Chomsky on questions of international law, human rights, and civil liberties over the course of their careers. Chomsky, by far, comes off as the more principled and consistent of the two, holding to a universal morality for assessing the actions of states and maintaining an opposition to violations of human rights and civil liberties no matter who is carrying them out, while Dershowitz is found to frequently compromise his own stated commitments to human rights and civil liberties principles in an effort to excuse, justify, and/or minimize the various crimes of Israel towards the Palestinians and of the United States as it prosecutes the so-called ‘War on  Terror.’”
Book News


Through the lens of a careful assessment of the political views of MIT’s Noam Chomsky and Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz—the two protagonists of a Cambridge-based feud over the past forty years—author Howard Friel chronicles an American intellectual history from the U.S. war in Vietnam in the 1960s to the contemporary debate about the Israel-Palestine conflict.
        Major findings reveal the consistency of Chomsky’s principled support of international law, human rights, and civil liberties, and a reversal by Dershowitz from support in the 1960s to opposition of those legal standards today. Whereas Chomsky has opposed aggressive war (including by the United States and Israel) throughout his academic career, Dershowitz moved from opposing the war in Vietnam to supporting the U.S.-led war on terrorism, which includes “preventive wars,” “preemptive attacks,” armed reprisals, and targeted extrajudicial killings. Although Dershowitz once opposed the Nixon administration’s assault on civil liberties, he now writes favorably about a “jurisprudence of the preventive state” in the United States, which would likely legalize “preventive surveillance,” “preventive interrogations,” and “preventive detentions.”
Friel’s volume argues that a Chomskyan adherence by the United States to international law and human rights would reduce the threat of terrorism and preserve civil liberties, that the Dershowitz-backed war on terrorism increases the threat of terrorism and undermines civil liberties, and that the incremental but steady transition toward a preventive state threatens the permanent suspension of civil liberties in the United States.

Howard Friel is a writer and author of The Record of the Paper: How The New York Times Misreports U.S. Foreign Policy (Verso, 2004) and Israel-Palestine On Record: How The New York Times Misreports Conflict in the Middle East (Verso, 2007), both with Richard Falk. He is author most recently of The Lomborg Deception: Setting the Record Straight about Global Warming (Yale University Press, 2010) 

Advance praise for Chomsky and Dershowitz 

“Howard Friel presents a superb depiction of the adversarial encounter between Noam Chomsky and Alan Dershowitz, two iconic figures of American intellectual life for the past many decades. Friel brilliantly assesses their contradictory political ideas and values, and their influence on our country and the world.”
―Richard Falk, Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law and Practice, Princeton University

“With unfailing accuracy, Howard Friel has shown why he is nearly without peer in analyzing the ideological conflicts of the day, from the news media’s coverage of war-making to climate change. Here he examines the Chomsky-Dershowitz rivalry and a myriad of important issues with the eyes if a teacher and a journalist who seeks truth.”
―Marcus G. Raskin, co-founder, Institute for Policy Studies

“Howard Friel has drawn a fascinating contrast between the scholarship of MIT’s Noam Chomsky and Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz. Friel traces Dershowitz’s transformation from a civil libertarian in the 1960s and 1970s to a supporter today of national ID cards, preventive detention, roving wiretaps, extra-judicial killing, and torture in extreme cases. This book is a must read for those who seek to understand some of the most critical issues of our time.”
―Marjorie Cohn, professor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild

“Howard Friel has written with courage and conviction about two major figures in American intellectual lifeNoam Chomsky and Alan Dershowitz. Friel's constructive polemics provide nuance and detail that could surprise readers into re-thinking the positions they hold on crucial concerns, from the Israel-Palestine conflict and human rights to perpetual war and civil liberties.”
―Robert F. Barsky, Professor of French and Comparative Literature, Vanderbilt University

“Howard Friel’s Chomsky and Dershowitz is a forensic dissection of the intellectual complicity of one American intellectualAlan Dershowitzand the courage and conviction of anotherNoam Chomsky. The book provides a full assessment of building careers on behalf of power (Dershowitz) and askance of power (Chomsky). The test cases here are U.S. foreign policy, Israel-Palestine, international law, and civil liberties.”
―Vijay Prashad, George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies, Trinity College

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