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Alan Dershowitz’s View of Mid-East Peace By: David Bedein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, January 05, 2006


Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz has been traveling the US, claiming to fight the purveyors of tendentious myths used to besmirch Israel. It would seem, however, that Dershowitz has now adopted a strategy of “if you can’t beat them, join them.” In his latest book, The Case for Peace, Dershowitz credulously accepts several of the fallacious claims used in the propaganda war against Israel.

Rewriting the Right of Return

Dershowitz asserts that the "Palestinian leadership seems willing to compromise on the right of return.” The right of return means that the ancestor of any Palestinian Arab who lived in the Holy Land for two years prior to 1948 may move into Israel and become a citizen. There are five million such Arabs living outside Israel’s 1948 border and such an action would spell the end of the Jewish state. So any sign of Palestinian intentions to forswear the right of return would be newsworthy indeed.

But Dershowitz can find no footnote to corroborate this assertion. The nearest he comes is writing that "[a]lthough Mahmoud Abbas insisted on a full right of return during his election campaign, he has, since becoming president, moderated his stance somewhat." For supporting evidence, Dershowitz relies only on a New York Times correspondent who thinks this to be the case, but cannot point to any such statement by Abbas to his own people in his own language and media.

Meanwhile, Dershowitz calls for the "symbolic recognition" of the "rights of Palestinian refugees” which would include a "compensation package and some family reunification,” without addressing implications of what it would mean for Israel if the Jewish State were to absorb a hostile population in its midst, and without addressing the issue of who would choose which families would be "reunited" within Israel.

Strangely for a law scholar, Dershowitz does not consider the legal precedent that such recognition would create for all Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendants who could demand the "right of return." While he writes that Palestinians stake a claim to all lands lost in 1967, such as the West Bank and Gaza, he neglects to mention that the PLO has a more ambitious agenda. In the context of its consistent demands for the realization of the "right of return" to lands lost in 1948, the PLO makes claims to all lands within Israel—even lands legally purchased by the Jewish Agency and settled by Jews under legal mechanisms at the time.

Instead, Dershowitz calls on Israel to allow for a "reasonable number" of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their "homes" in Israel. He does not address the situation that would be created if, say, Israel were to allow 5 percent of the four million refugees and their descendents now registered with UNRWA's refugee camps to "return," an act that would force Israel to allow 200,000 people from a hostile entity to reside in Israel itself.

What is worse, he offers no proof for the possibility that the PLO would accept any such "compromise," even were Israel to allow it. Dershowitz asserts that the Palestinian leadership "would have to waive or compromise the broad, collective political 'right' to turn Israel into another Palestinian state by orchestrating a mass return of Palestinians to Israel.” Again, though, he produces no evidence that the Palestinian leadership would make any such suggestion.

Dershowitz posits that "Israel should declare, in principle, its willingness to give up the captured territories in return for a firm assurance of lasting peace.” If he is aware of any evidence that the PLO would be willing to provide any such "firm assurance,” Dershowitz leaves his reader unenlightened. Indeed, in the wake of the Gaza withdrawal, which succeeded only in increasing the number of missiles fired into Israel from the vacated territories, one has to wonder whether Dershowitz is trying to pass of a pipe dream as a scholarly work.

The Folly of Dividing Jerusalem

Perhaps most astonishing of all is Dershowitz's call for a "division of greater Jerusalem," with the "Arab part becoming the capital of the Palestinian State," without relating this to the fact that Arab and Jewish neighborhoods are intertwined in Jerusalem. For example, when you drive from the Israeli neighborhood of Gilo to Katamon, you travel through the Arab neighborhood of Beit Tzfafa. And when you travel from the Israeli neighborhoods of Neve Yaakov to French Hill, you traverse the Shuafat and Beit Hanina. And when you travel from Mount Scopus to the center of town, you cross the Wadi Jose. Imagine what it would be like to have to negotiate a PLO army base in the middle of Jerusalem.

In other words, Dershowitz’s suggestion would mean that PLO armed forces would be placed at the edge of every Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem. Still, he asserts that "Jerusalem must be divided for peace," without saying on what basis he comes to the conclusion that relinquishing neighborhoods of Jerusalem to the PLO, which remains at war with Israel, would lead to peace. He advocates "Palestinian sovereignty in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem," without explaining to the reader that sovereignty means guns in the hands of the PLO in Jerusalem, and that if his suggestion were implemented, it would be life-threatening to Jews throughout Jerusalem.

Similarly, Dershowitz asserts that the "Moslem Quarter should be under Palestinian or Islamic Authority," without taking into consideration the Jewish population who live and own property there. The Moslem Quarter has only been known as the "Moslem Quarter" since the Mufti-inspired expulsion of the Jewish population in that part of Jerusalem in pogroms and riots in 1936. He also asserts that the Temple Mount, on which two mosques stand, "should be largely under the sovereignty and control of the Palestinians and Moslems," without considering that such sovereignty would mean possession of weapons, which would allow armed Palestinians to threaten lives of Jewish worshippers below at the Western Wall Plaza.

Dershowitz has the audience, but not the information required to lecture and write about Israel publicly. His ideas, based on liberal hubris at best, will only serve to worsen the conflict and cost many lives by clinging to delusional ideas the PLO itself has long since shown are unworkable due to its unwillingness to allow a Jewish state in a sea of Muslim dictatorships.

The Myth of a Peaceful Palestinian Leadership

By means not altogether clear, Dershowitz concludes that "mainstream Israelis and mainstream Palestinians, along with their respective governments, are largely on the same side: they all want peace, compromise and a two state solution.” But one seeks in vain for mainstream Palestinians who make such expressions of compromise in the official publications, radio or TV broadcasts of the official Arabic language Palestinian Authority media. The upcoming Palestine Solidarity Movement Conference, to take place at Georgetown University in February, has for the last five years had the same platform: demanding a one-state solution changing Israel into Palestine. In this, it echoes the stance Palestinian Authority (or at least the stance it maintains in Arabic).

Dershowitz does refer to preventive measures by Palestinian Authority armed forces against terrorists, but the evidence for these measures is conspicuously scant. Dershowitz contends that President Mahmoud Abbas condemned a terror attack in Tel Aviv in February, 2005, yet cites no evidence from Palestinian Authority or Arabic language media to support that assertion, and makes no mention of the honor that the official Arabic language Palestinian Authority media bestowed upon the killers.

That’s quite an omission. Monitoring the Arabic language expression of the Palestinian Authority has become a cottage industry of late, and Dershowitz could have easily accessed Palestinian Authority media from news organizations that retain credible Arabic speaking professionals such as the Israel Resource News Agency, The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, IMRA, PMW, MEMRI or Middle East News Line, all of which produce timely and publicly available updated reports from what is said in the PA public domain. Not one of these organizations has found that "mainstream Palestinians" express support for "peace, compromise and a two state solution," in their own language and in their own media. The fact is that the PA does not arrest terrorists. On the contrary, it is still rewarding their families for terrorist attacks on Israelis while hailing them as heroes and martyrs.

Because his book is based more on his imagined desires than the stated goals of the Palestinians themselves, Dershowitz also downplays the widespread embrace of anti-Israel violence in Palestinian society. He quotes the covenant of Hamas to dispossess the Jews and destroy Israel, which remains in force. Unmentioned is the PLO covenant which also remains in force with the same goals. Elsewhere, Dershowitz asserts that the "only way that Israel is going to have security is if the Palestinians provide it by restraining their own forces.” He does not dwell on the question of why a Palestinian leadership that has ostensibly foresworn its war against Israel would need to "restrain" its forces. And while he writes that the PA negotiators at Camp David "seemed" to accept the limitation of the PA armed forces to "only" have light weapons, he cites no Palestinian source to support any such assertion and ignores the weapons captured on the Karine A as well as weapons now pouring in through the Egyptian border since the Gaza withdrawal.

Dershowitz mentions that the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades is one of the terrorist organizations threatening the stability of Abbas's regime, yet forgets to mention that the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist group, remains an integral part of the Fatah and that Abbas remains the chairman of the Fatah. Dershowitz seems to subscribe to the statement of President Bush's press secretary that the Israelis and Palestinians "must work together to fight terror.” He ignores the fact that over the last five years, the security services of the PA have been engaged in direct acts of terror against the state and people of Israel.

A Curriculum of Terror

Dershowitz notes the "incitement to violence from Palestinians themselves," though only alluding to Hamas, and mentions the Imams who preach hatred on Palestinian-run radio and television, official textbooks continues. But he neglects to mention that this message of hatred emanates from the official Palestinian Authority-run radio station and TV, and that the Palestinian Authority employs these imams. A more unfortunate omission concerns the fact that the PA has done nothing to ameliorate the hatred and incitement to violence of its education system.

For instance, Dershowitz notes that Palestinians have been raised to hate Jews, and that this is a byproduct of their school curricula. He then mentions the Hamas Charter, without a word about the fact that the Palestinian school curriculum, available in English at www.edume.org, is produced by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education, and not by Hamas. Dershowitz also praises the PA Minister of Information for requesting that the Religious Affairs Ministry dismiss Sheik Ibraham Mudreis from his position after Mudreis had delivered an anti-Semitic sermon, yet he fails to report that the Religious Affairs Ministry simply refused the request to fire Mudreis, that Mudreis continues to deliver his virulent message every Friday as a paid employee of the PA, and that his speeches are broadcast by the official PBC Radio and RBC TV. Dershowitz reports that the "Elders of Zion" allegation was removed from an official PA web site. However, he seems unaware that the PA refused to remove the "Elders of Zion" lesson from its new official tenth grade civics book issued this past year by the PA education ministry. (The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is an anti-Semitic tract that, among other things, claims that Jews use the blood of Christian children to make matzo.) Dershowitz devotes much space to condemning those who engage in Holocaust denial. Astoundingly, however, he makes no mention of President Abbas's PhD, which promotes holocaust denial.

Dershowitz writes about the Palestinian "thirst for education," yet he does not address the connection between current Palestinian Authority education and incitement to terrorism. He could have mentioned how incitement to terror remains a focus of the curriculum at Palestinian Universities, as shown in studies conducted by The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center in Herzylia, or he could have mentioned the study of Palestinian school books conducted by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace. Instead, he seems determined to strike an optimistic pose—whether or nor it’s warranted by the facts. Thus, in contrast to the 34 members of Congress who petitioned Abbas, during his visit to Washington in May 2005, to remove blatant anti-Semitism from the PA curriculum, Dershowitz maintains there has been improvement.

Choosing Hope Over Experience

Dershowitz’s proposal for fighting the terrorism bred by Palestinian education is no more convincing. For instance, he gives credence to the assertion of New York Times columnist Tom Friedman that "hot pursuit" of terrorists does not work. The reader is left wondering on what basis he accepts that premise. He does not relate to the fact that the IDF's dispatch of troops inside Palestinian population centers, since April 2002, has served to curtail infiltrations of terrorists and saved many lives.

At bottom, such lacunas can be traced to the surfeit of optimism that pervades every page of The Case for Peace. Dershowitz fantasizes that the Palestinian state might become "economically viable, politically secure, religiously free, and protective of individual rights," yet makes no mention of the rampant corruption in a PA regime which is currently devoid of human rights and civil liberties as are found in Israel and the USA. One cannot help but wonder whether the Alan Dershowitz who advocates a "secure elevated highway" between Judea/Samaria, without taking into consideration the fact that the PLO remains in a state of war with Israel, is the same Alan Dershowitz who has made his name synonymous with support for human rights and civil liberties. After all, such a highway would afford Palestinian militants the opportunity to fire on Israeli vehicles and communities in the Negev.

Dershowitz repeatedly reposed his faith in Palestinian leaders, stating his confidence that Palestinian pragmatism will emerge. Absent are any statements made by Palestinian leaders to their own people in the Arabic language that would support any such confidence. Dershowitz states that the "only real hope for peace is that the current Palestinian leadership will be more like the pragmatic leadership of the Jewish Agency in 1937 and 1948.” Nowhere to be found is evidence that the Palestinian leadership has expressed any such pragmatism in their public statements to their own people in the Arabic language. What Dershowitz offers is not a pragmatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but a groundless prescription for Israeli concessions that, if history is any guide, will go unreciprocated. The Case for Peace is really the case for peace at any price.

Twisting the Historical Record

When the facts fail to align with his optimistic outlook for Israeli-Palestinian relations, Dershowitz rewrites history. He asserts that David Ben Gurion sank the Atalena because he wanted to "prevent arms from reaching Israeli paramilitary groups such as Etzel . . . and Lechi." He ignores the fact that the IDF fired on the Altalena and killed 19 Jewish passengers only after an agreement had been reached to hand over all of the weapons on board the ship to the IDF. For a scholar to write about history without researching his facts, especially one who has the ear of the public, is inexcusable.

Dershowitz even ascribes past peaceful intentions to Syria, and writes that "Syria seemed willing at least for a time to make peace with Israel in exchange for the Golan Heights and other considerations…,"  Dershowitz offers no documentation of any kind that Syria ever sought peace with Israel. Syria has instead been behind the unending terrorism not only in Israel, but in Iraq as well.

Collateral Damage

Dershowitz waits until page 91, the eighth chapter of The Case of Peace, to comment that "a Palestinian state may probably evolve into a launching pad for terrorism,” and notes only on page 96, chapter nine, that "Abbas will not disarm terrorist organizations." Such statements, buried in the midst of his book, undermine almost every premise of any theoretical possibility of peace with the Palestinian entity. He then he goes back to asserting that the new Palestinian entity will make peace with Israel in a “peace in our time” fashion worthy of Neville Chamberlain.

Dershowitz suggests that US troops could be positioned to respond to terror attacks on Israel, yet he does not relate to the danger that US troops placed in the line of fire who could be hurt in response to attacks on the sovereign state of Israel by the Palestinian Authority.

Even after Professor Dershowitz notes that Abbas will not disarm terrorists, he still continually advocates light weapons for the PA armed forces. Why? Does he not know that the PA's mainstream armed forces have taken credit for use of "light weapons" to murder hundreds of Israeli citizens, especially over the past five years? His reassurance that the PA entity would have to "control terror in its midst,” like much else in this book, goes unsupported.

Instead, he concludes with a bland wish for "democratic governance." Dershowitz makes no reference to the 51 Palestinian dissidents who linger on death row, and makes no reference to the proposed Palestinian State Constitution, which denies juridical status to Judaism and to Christianity and which is based on the Sharia, or strict Islamic law that persecutes these minorities and women.

Given Dershowitz's immense credibility, and his direct access to the media, his failure to challenge questionable assumptions about the prospects for peace is deeply regrettable. By exaggerating the Palestinian leadership’s readiness to make peace, Dershowitz has granted credibility to those critics, many of them rank anti-Semites, who are desperate to blame the persistence of the conflict on Israel. The damage that this book does to Israel will be immeasurable, and it is unworthy of a supporter of Israel like Alan Dershowitz.

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David Bedein, author of the forthcoming book, "Swimming Against the Mainstream", has run the Israel Resource News Agency. www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com, since 1987, at the Beit Agron Press Center in Jerusalem, where he also heads the Center for Near East Policy Research and serves as the Middle East correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin, www.thebulletin.us.


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