Into the Fray: Disputing Dershowitz

Support for a two-state solution has sown the seeds for the international delegitimization of Israel

Alan Dershowitz 311 (photo credit: (Courtesy of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East)
Alan Dershowitz 311
(photo credit: (Courtesy of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East)
It would be obnoxious for there to be a conference here [Harvard] on the subject of whether the Palestinians are a real people. They are, and so are the Israelis. The quest for a Palestinian state is a legitimate one, as is the need to preserve Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. – Alan Dershowitz, “Should Harvard Sponsor a One- Sided Conference Seeking the End of Israel?” (February 28)
Prof. Alan Dershowitz is a committed, articulate supporter of Israel. He has defended the Jewish state with eloquence and passion on numerous occasions, displaying commendable resolve and poise despite torrents of hostile reaction. The courageous, principled stance he has taken – regrettably rare among academics of his standing – should be greatly appreciated by Israelis across the political spectrum.
Ensnared by political correctness However, in embracing several central precepts of politically correct but factually impaired conventional wisdom, Dershowitz has, along with many other well-meaning pro-Israeli figures, severely undermined the efficacy of his “Case for Israel.”
This is particularly true regarding his unquestioning endorsement of Palestinian claims for statehood within the two-state paradigm, which for Dershowitz has seemingly become the litmus test for admission to civilized debate.
Thus in February 2010, when Palestinian hecklers prevented Ambassador Michael Oren from addressing students at the University of California, Irvine, Dershowitz rightly denounced this as anti- Israel censorship. However, what appeared to make this action particularly egregious in Dershowitz’s eyes was the fact that Oren was “a moderate supporter of the two-state solution,” thus hinting – perhaps without meaning to – that had Oren opposed this policy, silencing him might have been more understandable.
Indeed, as the citation above demonstrates, Dershowitz would consider any challenge to the authenticity of Palestinian national claims “obnoxious.”
Conundrum for the future
Future historians will be baffled as to why such a manifestly disastrous, unworkable concept came to be embraced by so many prominent, allegedly well-informed pundits, politicians, and policy-makers. They will be particularly perplexed why the two-state solution was so enthusiastically endorsed not only by those who had a vested interest in feigning support for it, but by those who had a vested interest in exposing it as the duplicitous subterfuge it is. They will be mystified why – despite the fact that it proved devastating for both Arabs and Jews – it became the hallmark of enlightenment.
Recent events have brought home dramatically not only how futile it is for Israel and Israel-supporters to adhere to the two-state paradigm, but also how counterproductive it is.
For by pursuing the “vision” (read “fantasy”) of two states, they will not only fail to reap the intended benefits this policy is purported to yield, but will precipitate outcomes highly deleterious to Israel – indeed the very outcomes the two-state policy was supposed to prevent.
The latest round of rocket fire from Gaza underscored just how ill-considered it would be to relinquish more land to the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria. The recent Harvard one-state conference demonstrated how clinging to an unfeasible formula has merely generated the opportunity to promote even more menacing alternatives.
Demonstrating the obvious The 300 rockets that rained down on southern Israel since last Friday, forcing a million civilians to huddle in shelters, proved for the umpteenth time what by now should be seared into the cognizance of all Israelis and all Israel supporters abroad: Ceding territory – any territory – to the Palestinians – any Palestinians – is unacceptably risky. For while one might fervently hope that events in the “West Bank” would turn out significantly better than in Gaza, there is little basis for such optimism. Hoping – however fervently – that tangible dangers will fail to materialize is hardly a formula for responsible risk management.
The consensus among security experts – strongly corroborated by the precedent in Gaza – is that without the presence of the IDF, the Abbas administration would be swiftly dispatched and replaced by an Islamist successor.
What is the significance of such a prospect? Clearly, the repercussions would be far more severe than in the case of Gaza.
For whatever the final contours of a putative Palestinian state, it would entail a frontier of at least 300 kilometers – approximately six times longer than the Gaza front – much of which would be adjacent to Israel’s most populous urban centers, from the environs of Haifa in the north to Beersheba and beyond in the south. (Significantly, Beersheba is much closer to the pre-1967 border of the “West Bank” than it is to the Gaza Strip).
Moreover, unlike in Gaza, a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria would reduce Israel’s width in its most populous areas to a minuscule 11-25 km. – roughly the distance from Beverly Hills to Malibu along Sunset Boulevard.
Even more important than geographic expanse – or the lack thereof – is topographical structure. Unlike the flat Gaza Strip, the limestone hills that comprise the “West Bank” dominate the urbanized Coastal Plain, together with much of Israel’s vital infrastructure, its only international airport, vital centers of civilian government and military command – and 80 percent of its population and commercial activity.
All of this would be in range of the weapons that forced a million Israelis into bomb shelters last weekend, now deployed along a much longer front and in far superior topographical positions.
Even given the impressive performance of the Iron Dome anti-rocket system, this would make any semblance of economic or social routine untenable.
‘One does not have to a military expert’
Ever since Abba Eban characterized the pre-1967 Green Line as the “Auschwitz Borders,” it has been widely accepted that such frontiers cannot, except under wildly optimistic and unrealistic assumptions, afford Israel acceptable levels of security.
Even iconic Labor Party moderate Yigal Allon declared: “One does not have to be a military expert to easily identify the critical defects of the armistice lines that existed until June 4, 1967,” warning that they risk “the physical extinction of a large part of [Israel’s] population and the political elimination of the Jewish state.”
Numerous military experts have endorsed this position. In one recent study, a host of senior military and diplomatic figures, including a former IDF chief of staff, a former head of Military Intelligence and the National Security Council, and ambassadors to the UN, US and France, concluded that to meet minimum security requirements, Israel must retain control of the high ground in Judea and Samaria, as well as the Jordan Valley and the air space up to the Jordan River.
What do these minimum requirements, necessitating Israeli control of wide swathes of territory in the “West Bank,” entail for the viability of Palestinian statehood?
The myth of defensible borders The answer is provided by an article, “The Myth of Defensible Borders” by Omar Dajani and Ezzedine Fishere in the January 2011 edition of Foreign Affairs.
The authors – an adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team and an adviser to the Egyptian foreign minister, respectively – point out: “A policy of defensible borders would... perpetuate the current sources of Palestinian insecurity, further delegitimizing an agreement in the public’s eyes. Israel would retain the discretion to impose arbitrary and crippling constraints on the movement of people and goods.... For these reasons, Palestinians are likely to regard defensible borders as little more than occupation by another name.”
Recent events in the Mideast – a triumphant Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the ever-ascendant Islamist influence in Jordan – are hardly likely to reduce Israeli threat perception, thus only increasing the incompatibility between a viable Palestinian state and minimal requirements for a secure Israel.
Dershowitz’s call that “Israel should recognize the right of Palestinians to establish an independent, democratic Palestinian state with politically and economically viable boundaries” appears increasing like a hapless attempt to “square the circle.”
‘Moderation’ begets delegitimization The point many well-intentioned friends of Israel seem be to missing is that it is precisely “moderate supporters of the two-state solution” who have, in large measure, sown the seeds for the delegitimization of Israel.
While this contention may appear counterintuitive, the logic behind it is unassailable. Once the legitimacy of a Palestinian state is conceded, the delegitimization of Israel is inevitable.
The chain of reasoning is clear: If the legitimacy of a Palestinian state is accepted, then any measures incompatible with its viability are illegitimate. But, Israel’s minimum security requirements necessarily obviate the viability of Palestinian state. Thus, by accepting the admissibility of a Palestinian state, one necessarily admits the inadmissibility of measures required to ensure Israeli security.
Conversely, measures required to ensure Israeli security necessarily negate the viability of a Palestinian state.
For the notion of a secure Israel to regain legitimacy, the notion of a Palestinian state must be discredited and removed from the discourse as a possible means of resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Indeed an invented people This, of course, is easier said than done.
Rolling back the decades of distortion, deception and delusion that have become entrenched in the collective international consciousness will be a Herculean task.
But the immense scale of the task cannot diminish the imperative of its implementation.
The first – and most crucial – step along this arduous road is to expose the Palestinian claim to nationhood for the hoax it is.
For the Palestinians are indeed an “invented people.” Not because Newt Gingrich deems them to be, but because they themselves declare this to be so.
The historical record is replete with proclamations from Arab and Palestinian leaders, echoing the frank admission by the late Zuheir Mohsen, former PLO Executive Council member, that a “separate Palestinian identity exists only for tactical reasons,” and that the “the establishment of a Palestinian state is a new tool to continue the fight against Israel.”
Indeed, the Palestinian National Charter (Article 12) concedes that the endeavor to “safeguard... Palestinian identity” in merely a temporary ruse.
Moreover, not only was the territory, now claimed as the age-old Palestinian homeland, under Jordanian rule for two decades prior to 1967, without even a feeble effort to establish a Palestinian state in it being made; but the Palestinians eschewed any sovereign claim to it, explicitly conceding (Article 24 of the 1964 National Charter) that it belonged to another sovereign entity – Jordan – which only in 1988 relinquished its claim to it.
It was only after these territories came under Jewish control that Palestinians began to see them as a location for their state.
A spiteful echo Nothing could underscore more dramatically the fundamental truth about the Palestinian claim to nationhood.
It is a claim devoid of any substantive positive content. It is no more than the negation of Jewish claims to nationhood, merely a contrary – and spiteful – echo of Zionist achievement, without which it would have neither the conceptual rationale nor the practical capacity to exist.
As the late King Hussein – not Newt Gingrich – stated: “The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.”
What could be clearer? No claim that Israel is not Jewish, no Palestinian national personality.
It thus astounding that Dershowitz would suggest there is any semblance of equivalency between Jewish and Palestinians claims to nationhood. Indeed, by any accepted criteria for political selfdetermination, the two are antipodal opposites. The Jews have a unique language – the Palestinians do not; the Jews have unique script – the Palestinians do not; the Jews have a unique religion – the Palestinians do not. The Jews have a unique heritage and documented history dating back thousands of years; the Palestinians – at best – have a contrived history dating back a few decades and supported largely by archeological vandalism and “creative” chronicling of the past.
Imperative not ‘obnoxious’ Dershowitz is gravely mistaken in dismissing debate on the authenticity of Palestinian claims to statehood as “obnoxious.” It is difficult to conceive of any more proper and pressing imperative.
Refraining from such discussion has inflicted devastating damage on Israel and its international legitimacy.
By desperately adhering to a paradigm that is unworkable – because it would make Israel untenable geographically – the two-state advocates have not only made Israel appear insincere and conniving.
By shunning discussion on other Zionist-compliant alternatives, they have – unintentionally – catalyzed debate on far more ominous proposals that threaten to make Israel untenable demographically.
The recent Harvard conference is the harbinger of things to come.