Op-Ed: Assessing Alan Dershowitz' View of Peace
At the Jerusalem Post Conference on April 28, 2013, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz once again declare that he has received assurances from Palestinian Authority leader Machmud Abbas, AKA Abu Mazen, that there is a Palestinian Authority partner for peace.
The commonly held assumptions on which Prof. Dershowtiz bases his optimism about Middle East. Are delineated in Dershowitz's book, The Case for Peace (Wiley and Sons, NYC, 2005)
The time has come to review the assumptions that guide Dershowitz's thinking, as expressed in Dershowitz's book, The Case for Peace.
These are Dershowitz's assumptions:
Palestinian willingness to compromise on the right of return?
Professor Dershowitz asserts that the "Palestinian leadership seems willing to compromise on the right of return," yet he cannot find any footnote to support any such newsworthy assertion. He also states that "Although Mahmood Abbas insisted on a full right of return during his election campaign, he has, since becoming president, moderated his stance somewhat." Yet Dershowitz relies only on a New York Times correspondent who thinks that this is the case, and cannot point to any such statement by Abbas to his own people in his own language and media.
Meanwhile, Professor 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, without addressing the issue of who would choose which families would be "reunited".
For some reason, Professor Dershowitz does not consider the legal precedent that such recognition would create for all Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendants who demand the "right of return." While he writes that Palestinians stake claim to all lands lost in 1967, he neglects to mention that the PLO claims all lands lost in all of their wars with Israel in the context of the consistent PLO demands for the realization of the "right of return" to lands lost in 1948.
Instead, Prof. Dershowitz calls on Israel to allow for a "reasonable number" of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their "homes" in Israel, yet he does not address the situation that would be created if, say, Israel were to allow 5% 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.
And he brings no source whatsoever to the possibility that the PLO would accept any such "compromise."
Professor 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," yet he produces no evidence that the Palestinian leadership would make any such move..
Professor 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," yet he does not show any hint o evidence that the PLO would be willing to provide any such "firm assurance".
Dividing Jerusalem Leading to Peace?
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 to the fact that Arab & 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 traverse Wadi Jose.
Imagine what it would be like to have to negotiate a PLO army base in the middle of Jerusalem. In other words, his suggestion would mean that PLO armed forces would be placed at the edge of every Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem. Yet 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.
Prof. Dershowitz also asserts that the "Moslem Quarter should be under Palestinian or Islamic Authority," without taking into consideration the Jewish population who live and own property in the Moslem Quarter, which, by the way, has only been known as the "Moslem Quarter" since the Mufti-inspired expulsion of the Jewish population in that part of Jerusalem 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 taking into consideration that such sovereignty would mean possession of weapons, which would allow armed Palestinians to threaten lives of Jewish worshipers below at the Western Wall Plaza.
Palestinian Leadership Desire for Peace?
Somehow, Prof. Dershowitz comes to the conclusion 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," yet no one has ever found mainstream Palestinians who make such expressions of compromise in the official publications, radio or TV broadcasts of the official Arabic language Palestinian Authority media.
Professor Dershowitz posits 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," yet he provides no evidence that the PA leadership has expressed any such pragmatism in their public statements to their own people in the Arabic language.
Professor Dershowitz refers to preventive measures by PA armed forces against terrorists, yet he brings no sources to support any such measures.
Professor Dershowitz gives credence to the assertion of Tom Friedman from the New York Times that "hot pursuit" of terrorists does not work, yet he does not say 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
Professor Dershowitz contends that Abbas condemned a terror attack in Tel Aviv in February, 2005, yet brings no evidence from Palestinian Authority Arabic language media to support that assertion, and makes no mention of the honor that the official Arabic language Palestinian Authority media afforded these killers.
Since monitoring the Arabic language expression of the Palestinian Authority has become a cottage industry of late, Professor 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.
None of these organizations have found that " mainstream Palestinians" express support for "peace, compromise and a two state solution," in their own language and in their own media, except in Dershowitz's imagination.
Furthermore Professor 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.
Is this the same Alan Dershowitz who has made his name synonymous with his lifelong struggle for human rights and civil liberties?
Professor Dershowitz advocates a "secure elevated highway" between Judea/Samaria and Gaza, without taking into consideration that since the PLO remains in a state of war with Israel, would this not give them the opportunity to fire on Israeli lands from their "elevated road" on Israeli vehicles and on Israeli communities in the Negev.
Professor Dershowitz quotes the covenant of the Hamas to dispossess the Jews and destroy Israel, which remains in force, yet makes no mention of the PLO covenant which also remains in force with the same goals.
Professor Dershowitz asserts that the "only way that Israel is going to have security is if the Palestinians provide it by restraining their own...", yet he does not relate to the fact that the PLO has not foresworn its war against Israel, raising the question of why an entity at war with Israel would "restrain" their forces.
Professor Dershowitz gives credence to the statement of President Bush's press secretary that the Israelis and Palestinians "must work together to fight terror", yet he does not relate to 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.
While Professor Dershowitz notes that Palestinians have been raised in hatred of Jews, and that this is a by product of their school curricula, he then goes on to mention 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.
Professor Dershowitz 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 does not report that the Religious Affairs Ministry simply refused the request to fire Mudreis, and 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.
Incidentally, he writes that the PA negotiators at Camp David "seemed" to accept the limitation of the PA armed forces to "only" have light weapons, yet he brings no Palestinian source to support any such assertion.
Professor Dershowitz mentions that Al Aksa Brigades as one of the terrorist organizations threatening the stability of Abbas's regime, yet forgets to mention that the Al Aksa Brigades remain an integral part of the Fatah, and that Abbas remains the chairman of the Fatah.
Professor Dershowitz does mention "incitement to violence from Palestinians themselves", and yet only alludes to Hamas, and mentions that the Imams who preach hatred on Palestinian-run radio and television, official textbooks, and 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, and that the PA has done nothing to ameliorate the hatred which emanates from its education system
Professor Dershowitz expresses confidence that Palestinian pragmatism will emerge, yet he cites no statements made by Palestinian leaders to their own people in the Arabic language which would support any such confidence.
Professor Dershowitz devotes much space to resentment of those who engage in holocaust denial, yet makes no mention of Abbas's PhD. which promotes holocaust denial.
Professor Dershowitz mentions 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 Herzliya, or he could have mentioned the study of Palestinian school books conducted by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace.
Professor Dershowitz rewrites history when he asserts that Ben Gurion sank the Altelana because he wanted to "prevent arms from reaching Israeli paramilitary groups such as Etzel... and Lechi." And he ignores the fact that the IDF fired on the Altelena 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.
Professor 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...," yet he brings no documentation of any kind that Syria ever sought peace with Israel.
Coping with Reality?
Professor Dershowitz waits until page 91 in the eighth chapter of his Case of Peaceto comment that " a Palestinian state may probably evolve into a launching pad for terrorism", and notes only on page 96 in 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, and then he goes back to asserting that the new Palestinian entity will make peace with Israel.
Professor 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 would be hurt in response to attacks on the sovereign state of Israel.
Yet even after Professor Dershowitz notes that Abbas will not disarm terrorists, he still advocates light weapons for the PA armed forces.
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" is left hanging, since he gives no indication that the PA will ever "control terror in its midst".
Instead, he concludes with a bland wish for "democratic governance"
Professor Dershowitz makes no reference to the 51 dissidents against Abbas 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 Law.
Again, is this the same Alan Dershowitz who has made his name synonymous with his lifelong struggle for human rights and civil liberties?
Is this a prescription for "democratic governance"?
Is the PA attitude towards democracy since its inception not an indication of how a PLO state would behave?
Then again, Professor Alan Dershowitz did not base his book on what the Palestinian Authority conveys in the Arabic language, in their own media, to their own people, but rather on what he hopes they would be saying.
However, given Professor Dershowitz's immense credibility and his direct access to the media, the damage that this book to Israel will be immeasurable.
Instead of using his immense skills to challenge questionable assumptions that this book is based on, Prof. Dershowitz has written a book that joins the cacophony of detractors of Israel, adding his respected voice to their chorus.