Alan Dershowitz’s Chuztpah, 27 Years Later

In 1991, star lawyer and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz published Chuztpah, a book on “what it means to be a Jew in America today”, as ascertained by its Amazon page; “today” now meaning “27 years ago”. After reading the book, I thought it would be interesting to reexamine the book in the context of what Jewish Americanism means in today’s context. 

Perhaps most interesting to reexamine were Dershowitz’s predictions for the future standing from 1991. He warned against believing one political party is “for the Jews” while the other is not, all the while predicting a trend towards rising conservatism. However, Jewish politics have overwhelmingly shifted towards the democratic party. In 1988, at the time Dershowitz was writing Chutzpah, Jews were more supportive of a Republican presedential candidate as ever: 64% voted for Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis while 35% voted for George Bush, Sr. In 2008, however, it became much more clear that Jews were undivisably supportive of democratic candidates than almost any other religious group in the country, with 78% voting for Barack Obama. This trend continued in the most recent election, where 71% of Jews voted for Hillary Clinton. Shockingly, Jews continue to vote in line with the Democratic party as Democratic sympathy for Israel steadily declines; in 2018, only 27% of surveyed Democrats reported sympathy for Israel, an all-time low since at least 1978. Meanwhile, Republican sympathy for Israel has climbed to an all-time high  at a whopping 79%. 

In 1991, Dershowitz rallied against Anti-Zionism led by Jews, and urged to support Israel as a state, yet not be afraid to criticize its policies. Now, it seems as though Jews have ignored his call and have gone against his predictions, since the vast majority now associate themselves the Democratic establishment, a party in which even sympathy with Israel is felt by the minority. 

Dershowitz also predicted and hoped that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) would lose international credibility after openly supporting Saddam Hussein’s slaughter of innocent people during the Gulf War. But the World defied his predictions yet again, not only by continuing to lend credibility to the PLO but by recognizing it as a state in the United Nations in 2012. 

Chutzpah predicted a hopeful period of growth for Jews as they speak out for themselves and for Israel, yet it seems as though the Jews have suddenly quieted themselves one again in the face of Anti-Zionism. 

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