The Trials of Zion

The Trials of Zion

by Alan M. Dershowitz


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"No one knows more about Israel's existential dilemma than Alan Dershowitz-or writes about it better. From its explosive beginning to its startling climax, The Trials of Zion excites and intrigues, even as it depicts the unique dangers of a lethal part of the world. This is a terrific novel." — Richard North Patterson

"For a legalist, mired for years in towers of ivory not even hewn from the teeth of endangered elephants but constructed, indeed, and solely, of the casuistic and notional, Mr. Dershowitz writes a real good rip-snorter." — David Mamet

"A thought-provoking thriller set in two of the world's most gripping arenas of conflict, the Middle East and the courtroom." — Steven Pinker, author of The Stuff of Thought,and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction

"As in all his essays, in his novel also, Alan Dershowitz demonstrates his great love for Israel as well as his inspired passion for Jewish memory, justice, and storytelling." — Elie Wiesel

A shocking act of terror brings the Middle East to the point of explosion. As the resulting political conflict threatens to erupt, a young Jewish-American lawyer joins the defense team of an arrested but possibly innocent Palestinian. Soon the lawyer's father, a famed criminal attorney, must win the Palestinian's case or risk losing his daughter forever. To do so, he must take into account the tormented history of the Holy Land from every possible angle. The Trials of Zion combines the tension of the greatest courtroom dramas with the action of a fast-moving thriller, all set against the colorful backdrop of one of the most complex cultural settings in the world. Filled with memorable characters, this novel offers readers not only compelling suspense, but a panoramic view of the history of a beloved and bitterly contested land, and a sharply controversial perspective on the sources of—and the possible solutions to—the world's longest and most crucial international crisis.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446576734
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 10/01/2010
Pages: 341
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Alan Dershowitz has been involved in some of the most notorious cases of the past three decades including, O.J. Simpson's trial, Muhammad Ali's appeal, and Bill Clinton's impeachment trial. Dershowitz resides in Cambridge and is a professor at Harvard Law School. He is the author of Chutzpah, The Advocates Devil, America on Trial, and The Genesis of Justice, among others.

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The Trials of Zion

By Dershowitz, Alan M.

Grand Central Publishing

Copyright © 2010 Dershowitz, Alan M.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780446576734


American Colony Hotel

East Jerusalem, Sometime in the Not-Too-Distant Future

PRESIDENT BILL MOORE was a man of many talents, but choreography was not one of them. Yet the entire enterprise on which he had staked his presidency, along with the credibility of the United States, could now be threatened by his inability to choreograph the dance between two reluctant suitors, Prime Minister Amnon Ezratti of Israel and Mahmud Yassin, the Hamas leader who would soon become president of the newly established Palestinian state. Ezratti was willing to shake hands with Yassin, but his government could not survive the traditional Arab kiss on the cheek from a man widely regarded by Israelis as a mass murderer. Last-minute intelligence had alerted Ezratti to Yassin’s carefully designed plan to kiss him precisely in order to embarrass and perhaps topple his government.

Moore, who towered above Ezratti and Yassin, had assured his old friend Amnon that he would position himself so as to prevent a kiss, even if it took a not-so-gentle shove. “Remember, I played hockey at Dartmouth,” Moore whispered to the Harvard-educated Ezratti. The Israeli prime minister offered a subdued chuckle in recognition of Moore’s expectation that those around him would always laugh at his often lame attempts at humor. That’s what people do when presidents tell bad jokes.

Yassin huddled with his acting prime minister, Suri Chalaba, the leader of Fatah. Yassin had beaten Chalaba decisively in the last election, and there was no love lost between them. Chalaba had been appointed to his position as a symbol of unity, but it was expected that he would soon be replaced by a Yassin loyalist. The two men stayed in close proximity at public events in order to reduce the risk of an assassination attempt by supporters of the other.

“So this is what it comes down to,” Ezratti mused to Moore. “After so many thousands killed, peace depends on your ability to stop that son of a bitch from planting his big Arab lips on my pockmarked Jewish chin.”

“They don’t write about this kind of stuff in the history books,” Moore said with a look of solemnity returning to his handsome face. Ezratti forced a smile, masking his apprehension over the future.

“Okay. Let’s do it. The world is waiting,” Moore announced, adjusting Ezratti’s tie, then Chalaba’s, and finally his own, as the robed Yassin looked on with bemusement.

“This is a historic moment,” Yassin said. “The end of a long journey and the beginning of an even longer one.”

Ezratti didn’t like the last part, interpreting it — as many doubting Israelis did — as a way for Yassin to preserve the option of destroying the Jewish state, either demographically or violently. Many Palestinians were equally doubtful, believing that Ezratti would never dismantle the remaining Jewish settlements that still dotted the Palestinian state-to-be or end the targeted assassinations of suspected terrorists.

“Friends don’t need peace treaties,” President Moore reminded the old adversaries. “Enemies do.” Moore was well known for his unsentimental pragmatism — surprising to some from a man of such deep religious beliefs. “Let’s sign and see if time, and a few well-placed American soldiers, can’t turn you from hot enemies into cold enemies. And then, maybe, by the end of our lifetimes, into decent neighbors.”

“And don’t forget a few well-placed American dollars,” Yassin quipped, reminding the president of his pledge to give the new Palestinian state $35 billion to resettle the refugees.

“You won’t let me forget,” Moore replied. “So let’s get on with the most expensive handshake in history.”

President Moore paused for a moment, crossed himself solemnly, and whispered a prayer. Ezratti, who was agnostic, looked on a bit awkwardly, while Yassin and Chalaba turned away.

The four men, with their small entourages and security details, proceeded to walk, almost march, through large doors in the west wing of the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem. Entering a poorly air-cooled courtyard, they made their way to the cordoned-off podium area. Chalaba stood directly behind Yassin, watching his every move. The audience, sweating profusely in the early-summer heat, consisted of cabinet members, diplomats who had been instrumental in bringing the parties together, and media representatives from around the world. TV cameras transmitted live images to millions of viewers. The public had been excluded for security reasons, despite President Moore’s request to invite some important donors and political friends. When it came to security, the president had a vote but the Secret Service held the veto.

President Moore, with his patented toothy smile, briefly introduced the two signatories, placing his large arms around their shoulders. “Now for the handshake that seals the deal,” Moore said out loud. “And don’t even think about kissing him or I’ll knock you on your ass,” he whispered to Yassin without moving his lips.

Yassin smiled. He had a plan of his own. Like an anxious lover calculating a conquest, he knew that any attempt to kiss his enemy now would be thwarted. But later, at the reception… He had already alerted an Al Jazeera cameraman to be poised.

Yassin thrust his hand forward, tossing a head fake at the same time to disarm Ezratti, who stepped back nervously. Moore took Amnon’s hand and brought it toward Yassin’s. At the precise moment their hands touched, a massive explosion rocked the entire area. Everyone near the podium was killed instantly along with several people in the audience. The blast was seen and heard on television screens throughout the world, just before everything went black.

It was not the worst terrorist attack in history. Thirty-one people were killed and more than a hundred injured — a fraction of the casualties suffered on September 11, 2001. But it was certainly the worst political assassination in history. Never before had so many heads of state and leading officials been murdered at the same time.

The Martyrs of Jihad, a small offshoot of Hamas with close connections to Iranian religious figures, immediately claimed credit, but both the CIA and the Mossad were skeptical, because fringe groups frequently claim credit for terrorist acts in order to raise their profiles and gain new recruits. Within hours a young Muslim radical named Faisal Husseini was seen videotaping the crime scene from the roof of a nearby building. He was arrested by the Israeli police and accused of being a member of the Martyrs of Jihad. He was also suspected of being one of those responsible for the attack. After less than an hour of interrogation by the Shin Bet — the Israeli security service — Husseini confessed to having planted the bomb on behalf of the Martyrs of Jihad, who believed that all of Palestine, including what was now Israel, was holy Muslim land and that the two-state solution was heresy.

Habash Ein, a Christian Arab graduate of Hebrew University Law School with a master’s from Yale Law School, was appointed to represent Husseini. This was done to mollify the Palestinians, who were furious that the case was being tried in an Israeli court, despite the fact that the American Colony was in the part of Jerusalem slated to become the capital of the new Palestinian state. The explosion had put everything on hold — including Palestinian statehood.

The arrest of Husseini did not slow down the investigations being conducted by the Israeli Mossad, or by the American CIA, FBI, and Secret Service. Both Israel and the United States claimed jurisdiction over the horrible crime that had killed their leaders. They were determined to solve it and to prosecute those responsible. The United States did not seek to extradite Husseini for trial in America — at least not yet. Their investigation was far from complete. Let Israel take the first shot at bringing Husseini to trial, the Americans reasoned. A rush to judgment — especially in such emotionally laden cases — often produced the wrong result. If the Israelis got it right, the Americans could always bring him to the United States later and execute him — assuming the Israelis didn’t execute him first, under a rarely used law that authorized capital punishment in extraordinary terrorism cases involving multiple victims.

The new president of the United States, former vice president Christine Randall, declared a week of mourning and solemn prayer, while at the same time raising the terror-alert level to red. The acting prime minister of Israel, former minister of justice Tal Bar-Lev, asked his people to “sit shiva” in memory of the murder victims, while sealing the borders with Palestine and placing its air force on the highest level of preparedness. The Palestinian parliament could not agree on a new president or prime minister, but the spiritual leader of Hamas called for jihad, which he said involved purification through vengeance. The supreme leader of Iran characterized the deaths as “Allah’s revenge” against infidels who would give sacred Islamic land to “Zionist crusaders,” while demanding that Russia bolster Iranian air defenses against a possible Zionist attack.



Cambridge, Massachusetts, a Few Days Later

DAD! I’ve got incredible news!”

Abe Ringel’s quiet morning was interrupted by the exuberant appearance of his twenty-six-year-old daughter, Emma. She’d only recently moved back to Cambridge after finishing law school at Yale, and Abe still hadn’t gotten used to her being home. In fact, while he read the morning newspaper, still filled with accounts of the devastation in Jerusalem and its political aftermath around the world, and drank his single cup of decaf — he was hyper enough without caffeine — he’d almost forgotten she was in the house. There was no forgetting her now. Her energy was palpable. Before he had a chance to ask what the news was, she’d begun speaking in rapid-fire sentences.

“I’m going to the Mideast. I’ve gotten a job with a Palestinian human-rights group,” Emma Ringel gushed, thrusting a printed-out e-mail into the lap of her father. Her words tumbled out breathlessly. “Remember my friend Habash from Yale? He hired me!”

“Habash Ein?” Abe set his paper on the kitchen table and retrieved the e-mail from his lap. As he read, a look of recognition passed over his face. “You used to bring him by for dinner, didn’t you? Isn’t he the guy they appointed to represent the guy who bombed the American Colony?”

“Yeah! It’s so exciting!” Emma threw herself into a chair and grabbed the e-mail back from Abe. Since she’d finished school, the number-one topic of conversation in the Ringel household had been what her first job should be following her clerkship. She’d had offers — quality offers — thanks to her great grades and good, if controversial, pedigree. The daughter of Abe Ringel, famous defense attorney, part-time Harvard Law teacher, and celebrity in his own right (“TV ham” according to Emma), was sought after by law firms, corporations, and various do-gooder organizations around the country. But she’d turned down each job offer, much to Abe’s confusion. She told him she was waiting for the perfect job. It hadn’t occurred to Abe that she might leave the country. And now that the topic of going to Israel was raised, his stomach was uneasy.

“Habash needs help with the Husseini case.” She misconstrued the look on Abe’s face. “Jealous, Daddy? It’s your kind of case. But don’t try to horn in on me if I get to do it.”

Abe didn’t take the bait. “No way you’re going to the Mideast now,” he replied reflexively. Forty years of defending people in courts around the world made it hard for Abe to announce a decision without providing a detailed explanation. “It’s a tinderbox over there, especially with the leadership all dead. At least we have a vice president to take over for Moore. The Israelis have an interim prime minister, but the Palestinians have nobody. There’s going to be civil war on top of the existing war. Maybe two civil wars.”

His words hadn’t done a thing to dampen Emma’s determination. In fact, a smile lit up that face that looked so like her mother’s, with her brown eyes and long black hair. “It’s the perfect time. It’s so exciting. I can make a difference.”

“You’ve already accepted a clerkship with Judge Wolf. You can make a difference working with him.” When Emma didn’t say anything, Abe continued, “You can’t just pick yourself up and go to a battle zone! You have a commitment to the judge.”

She smiled, about to play her trump card. “That’s the beauty of it. Judge Wolf agrees. He’s holding the clerkship for me for a year.”

Abe was rarely outmaneuvered, and he didn’t like the feeling. Especially at the hands of his own daughter. “You told him first, before me!”

“I had to find out whether he would hold it before I told you.”

“Asked me, you mean.”

“No, Daddy, told you.” Emma crossed her arms over her chest, and her chin tilted in a display of stubbornness. She got that streak from him. “I’m an adult. I don’t need to ask you anymore, but I would love your approval.”

Abe glanced at his baby, now a beautiful young woman. As Emma unconsciously tossed her long black hair, Abe found himself thinking about her late mother, who had been killed in an automobile accident years earlier. Emma had the same remarkable combination of sweetness and — Abe hesitated even to think this — sexiness. Having lost one love of his life, it was easy for him to imagine losing another.

“Emma, be reasonable. Put yourself in my place. You’re my only child. I couldn’t go on without you. Please stay here. Do your clerkship. There’ll always be opportunities to do good.”

Emma nodded, and the tone of her voice softened. “Now’s the opportunity. I don’t want to go through life regretting blown chances.”

“But you do want to go through life! You’re too young to put yourself at such risk.”

“I’m going, Daddy. You just have to accept it. I’ll be safe. I’m smart, remember?”

“Lots of smart people get blown up by dumb bombs, Emma. Think of Yarden.”

Emma flinched. This was a direct hit from her father, and Abe felt momentarily sorry for saying it. Yet it was important to him that Emma think through the possibilities, and what better example than Yarden Golani, an Israeli woman who had been Emma’s bunkmate at Camp Ramah in the Berkshire Mountains when they were both in their early teens.

Yarden had become a jewelry maker and was engaged to a young Israeli archaeology student named Ram Arad. Yarden and Ram had visited Emma several months earlier, in Boston, where they’d had a great time planning their wedding. Emma then traveled to Israel to be one of Yarden’s bridesmaids. On the night before the wedding, Yarden and her father, a Holocaust survivor and emergency-room doctor, had gone to a café on Emek Refaim in Jerusalem for a celebratory drink. A Hamas suicide bomber blew himself up right next to them, killing them both. Yarden’s wedding day became her burial day. Emma, wearing her bridesmaid dress and with a face streaming with tears, was a pallbearer at Yarden’s funeral.

Tears came to Emma’s eyes again as she remembered her friend. “I’m going to the Mideast for Yarden, Daddy.” Her voice was now unsteady, woeful. “There have been too many Yardens on both sides. Too many funerals of young people. I want to help stop this.”

“Believe me. I understand why you want to do this. We all want the violence there to end, so that the Yardens of the world can lead happy lives. But what can you, Emma Ringel, a young American, do? You’re a lawyer, and, need I remind you, not a very experienced one.”

“Experience is just repeating old mistakes.”

Emma looked so sure of herself. Abe knew that this argument was one he’d lose; she was too young, too idealistic, too naïve about the situation in Israel to listen to her father’s wise words.

“Emma, you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. The hostilities in the Middle East go back generations. Everyone living there has a personal history tied to the conflict.” Abe paused, leaning over to touch Emma’s hand. “Even our family has suffered from the violence. Over there, experience is everything.

Emma shook her head. “They need fresh eyes. Young people who aren’t locked into the mistakes of the past.”

Abe exhaled, and his shoulders sagged just slightly. His posture signaled to Emma that he was resigned to the loss of this argument.

“Don’t ruin it for me by worrying all the time. How will I be able to enjoy myself if I’m worried about you worrying?”

Abe looked deeply into his daughter’s eyes. “I may not be able to stop you from going, Emma. I wish I could,” he said wistfully. “But you can’t stop me from worrying. It’s a father’s prerogative.”

Emma smiled at him. “Deal, Daddy. I go. You worry. And then I come back with the Nobel Peace Prize. Okay?”

“Not okay, but what can I do?”

Emma sprang from her side of the table and threw her arms around her father.

“When are you planning to leave?” he asked as he hugged his daughter, disappointment audible in his voice.

“In a week,” Emma said, smiling.

“A week!” Abe ran a hand through his hair. There’d be no time to talk her out of it.

She shrugged her shoulders. “I’d go tomorrow if I could, but I need clothing and stuff.”

“That’s Rendi’s department,” Abe said, referring to his wife and Emma’s stepmother.

“I know. Rendi’s on board. We’re going to Banana Republic this afternoon.”

“You told Rendi before me, too?”

“Of course. I needed her advice on how to make my case to you. She’s my dad coach. She has you down pat.”

Abe groaned. “‘Patsy’ may be a better description.”

“Seriously, Dad, Rendi understands Israel. She knows the Israelis and the Palestinians. I figured I could pick her brain while we shopped.” Rendi had been born in Algeria and had worked for Israeli intelligence before coming to America. Emma had often tried to coax her to tell stories of this time in her life, but she wouldn’t. She would purse her lips and change the topic. But now Emma hoped Rendi would tell her secrets, especially since Emma was going to be in the middle of the action.

“That was years ago, Emma. You need more current information, too. I’ll call my cousin Shimshon. You remember him?”

Emma nodded. She had met Shimshon Regel when she was thirteen and in Israel for her bat mitzvah. That branch of the family had changed their name, but there were still ties and shared family traits. Shimshon was also a lawyer, but a career prosecutor. Abe liked to call him “the black sheep in our family of defense attorneys.”

“He’s a wonderful man,” Abe said. “I’ll arrange it so that you stay with him.”

Before Emma could protest, Abe continued, “No, it’ll make me feel better to know you’re with family. And you’ll need Shimshon: He can tell you about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in a way that newspapers and reporters’ accounts never could. He can tell you the personal stories.”

“Okay, Daddy,” Emma said, kissing his cheek.

“The Regel family helped to establish Israel more than a century ago,” Abe said with pride. “We have deep roots over there, Emma. And Shimshon takes this genealogy stuff very seriously, so he can tell you about it. He not only plants orange trees in his spare time, he constructs family trees.”

“I promise, Daddy, I’ll dig into the family history. I hope I don’t find too many skeletons,” she joked.

“There are always skeletons. That’s why we have closets,” Abe said, with a knowing look designed to pique his daughter’s curiosity.


Excerpted from The Trials of Zion by Dershowitz, Alan M. Copyright © 2010 by Dershowitz, Alan M.. Excerpted by permission.
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