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Bar News - August 19, 2011

Book Review: The Trials of Zion By Alan M. Dershowitz


Noted legal scholar, Harvard professor and prolific author Alan Dershowitz, in a departure from his usual publications regarding civil rights, the law and the state of Israel, has written a fictional legal thriller set in the Middle East called The Trials of Zion. (Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (October 1, 2010)) The key players in this tale all come from Cambridge, Massachusetts, the home of the Ringel family. Father Abe is a Jewish professor at Harvard Law School, famous for his brilliant defense of unpopular criminal defendants, and somewhat of a celebrity for his outspoken views on a variety of subjects. (Whom could he possibly be modeled after)? Step-mother Rendi is a retired CIA agent who still maintains close ties to her former life, and daughter Emma, is a newly-minted Yale law grad who has taken a civil-rights attorney job in East Jerusalem. Your average all-American family.

Emmaís first assignment upon arriving in Jerusalem is the defense of a young Palestinian accused of nothing less than the assassinations by bomb of the president of the US, the prime minister of Israel and the head of Hamas at the signing of a peace treaty by the three leaders.

Emmaís boss is another idealistic attorney, Palestinian Habash Ein, whose goal is to provide quality representation to people of all colors and creeds, who also finds time to romance Emma. Their client, Husseini, refuses to cooperate with his lawyers, thus requiring Emma to conduct her own investigation, one that results in her kidnapping. Her captors insist that father Abe, who they know to be a great lawyer of the underdog, come to Israel to represent Husseini as their ransom demand. Needless to say, daddy, along with Rindi, is on the next flight to Ben Gurian airport. All Abe has to do is to defend the man accused of the most infamous international assassination in history, and gain an acquittal, in order to see his daughter alive again.

Abe is up to the task, with an assist from former spy Rendi. Combining the talents of Perry Mason, Dirty Harry and James Bond, the husband-and-wife team proves Husseiniís innocence, gain Emmaís freedom, identify the group behind the terrorist attack, and prevent the detonation of a dirty nuclear bomb which could have devastated the entire Middle East.

Dershowitz has done better work than this novel, but is entitled to a Mulligan after all of his successes. There are some interesting glimpses into the Israeli legal system and the crisp pace of the story and his skillful use of suspense and tension keep you turning the pages.

However, I must take issue with a particularly nasty scene in which he describes how the Israeli Mossad extracts certain key information from a former colleague of Rendiís by graphically describing an attack in the manís youth by a Catholic priest named Bulger. Granted, Dershowitz and former Senate Speaker Billy Bulger had a very antagonistic relationship, but that was many years ago. It is time to let bygones be bygones. This reference is nothing more than a gratuitous and ugly slam and is beneath a man who has achieved the fame and success of Alan Dershowitz.

Frank McDonough focuses his practice on special education law, received a BA from UMass, Amherst, and a JD from Western New England College School of Law; he is licensed to practice in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

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