The Israeli lawyer and activist Michael Sfard has spent most of his career waging legal assaults on his country and its ability to defend itself while trying to draw the attention of European governments and the International Criminal Court to the Jewish state’s particular wickedness. In his recent book, The Wall and the Gate, Sfard argues vigorously in favor of the justness of his cause. Gerald Steinberg writes in his review:
Sfard’s weapon is international law—a nebulous, plastic, and readily manipulated commodity that has the feel and texture of real law (as practiced by lawyers and judges in individual nation-states), without the constitutional backbone. . . . At no point does Sfard ponder [international law’s] complexities and contradictions, such as the absence of universality or reciprocity—two essential dimensions of any legitimate legal system. Thus, he glosses over the daily human-rights violations and war crimes committed by his “clients,” as he paternalistically refers to Palestinians, repeating the standard victimization myths. His references to the horrors of terror that have taken so many Israeli lives are minor and parenthetical. . . .
The publication of the book in English rather than Hebrew reflects Sfard’s emphasis on persuading outsiders to help him impose his agenda on Israel. Readers likely to be convinced by this volume include those who already agree with him (including European officials who have provided Sfard’s law office and associated “human-rights organizations” with substantial taxpayer funds over the years), and others with one-dimensional views based on maps that begin at the Mediterranean and end at the Jordan River. Iraq, Iran, Syria, al-Qaeda, and the rest do not exist in Sfard’s imaginary Middle East. The unstated assumption behind this book and Sfard’s legal crusades is that the only issue that matters is the post-1967 “occupation,” which must end, regardless of what comes after. . . .
As he moves from one topic to the next, and from decade to decade, we can see how what began as the legal and political crusade of a few individuals became a major industry. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) was one of the first non-governmental organizations involved, followed by Hamoked, B’tselem, Yesh Din, Breaking the Silence, Adallah, and others—all seeded by the New Israel Fund. European governments then multiplied the grants and resources to Sfard’s network, thereby promoting their policies, prejudices, and interests. On the sensitive issue of foreign funding for what are essentially opposition advocacy groups operating without democratic checks and balances, Sfard is unusually silent. His successes with major donors gave a major boost to his own prestige, influence, and financial status, including the grant from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations that enabled him to write this book. . . .
As the book concludes, Sfard focuses on one hero in particular—Michael Sfard. . . .