Although Dershowitz's 2003 polemic The Case for Israel was widely praised (and purchased), it was also found to be seriously flawed. Dr. Norman Finkelstein of Depaul University revealed that a section about pre-1948 Palestine mirrored the sloppy scholarship of Joan Peters's From Time Immemorial. Peters's book cherry-picked, distorted, and in some cases even fabricated evidence to argue that the lion's share of Palestinians living in the Holy Land in 1948 were recent immigrants. Not only did Dershowitz rely on dozens of the same sources as Peters, but he also quoted nearly identical portions of those sources, and in one instance even reproduced one of Peters's citation errors. Following Finkelstein's disclosures, Dershowitz was subject to critical press coverage in addition to an embarrassing probe by his employer, Harvard University, to determine whether he had committed plagiarism. The Case for Peace represents Dershowitz's lawyerly effort at damage control in the wake of these events.
Dershowitz's "case" consists of two arguments. The first is for a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict along the lines discussed at Camp David in 2000, with Israel permanently annexing many of its illegally constructed West Bank settlements (p. 20). Despite the occasional overstatement, Dershowitz's advocacy on the first issue is coherent and more moderate than expected.
It is in his second argument, an explication of the political obstacles to his preferred two-state settlement, where he goes off the deep end. Dershowitz asserts that Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, and Norman Finkelstein constitute a small but powerful troika of "anti-Israel, antipeace, and antitruth zealots" (p. 167-168). Dershowitz profiles all three men, relying heavily on innuendo and cheap guilt-by-association tricks to cast his aspersions. Chomsky's support for the free-speech rights of a notorious Holocaust-denier in Europe, Cockburn's acceptance of money from a group Dershowitz deems "anti-Israel" (a term Dershowitz doesn't define), and Finkelstein's popularity amongst some neo-Nazis are all adduced as reasons to treat the trio harbor a hatred for the state of Israel and the prospect for a two-state solution.
Nowhere in his dossier does he mention that both Chomsky and Finkelstein support a two-state solution, one that is presumably "anti-Israel" because it calls for Israel to dismantle its illegal settlements inside the Palestinian territories. In an interview he gave to ZNet in 2004, Chomsky reiterated his position: "[T]he only feasible and minimally decent solution to the conflict is along the lines of the long-standing international consensus: a two-state settlement on the border (Green Line), with minor and mutual adjustments." Shannon McCord of the Santa Cruz Sentinel writes: "Finkelstein supports a two-state solution to the ongoing Middle East conflict that would include 'full Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories' and Palestinians recognizing the right of Israelis to live in security and peace with their neighbors." A simple web search will confirm the authenticity of both these quotes.
Yet according to Dershowitz, not only is the Chomsky-Finkelstein-Cockburn troika "anti-peace", they also coordinate to intimidate their political detractors: Chomsky selects the targets and then contacts Finkelstein; Finkelstein does the opposition research and then sends it to Cockburn; Cockburn then publishes it online, usually under the guise of exposing plagiarism or fraudulence. While Dershowitz provides zero substantiating evidence of such a tightly orchestrated intimidation campaign, he does correctly point out that Chomsky was the person who first notified Finkelstein about potential problems in Peters' book. Interestingly, though, Dershowitz's source for this claim is one of Finkelstein's own books. Why would Finkelstein be so candid if he were a member of a vast left-wing, Israel-hating conspiracy?
As Dershowitz lodges his accusations, he engages in some of the very same tactics he accuses the troika of using. Five pages before accusing Chomsky of "mis-citing authorities" (p. 172), he quotes Chomsky as saying: "[T]he Jews do not merit a 'second homeland' because they already have New York, with a huge Jewish population, Jewish-run media, a Jewish mayor, and domination of cultural and economic life" (p. 167). The brackets around the "t" in the first word of the quote indicate the omission of text earlier in the sentence. The full quote, as recorded in Dershowitz's source (The Anti-Chomsky Reader) is: "We might ask how the Times would react to an Arab claim that the Jews do not merit a 'second homeland' because they already have New York, with a huge Jewish population, Jewish-run media, a Jewish mayor, and domination of cultural and economic life." Chomsky authored this quote in response to an editorial by A.M. Rosenthal which questioned the need for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Citing the large Palestinian presence in Jordan, Rosenthal suggested that the Palestinians already had a state of their own. Chomsky's rejoinder demonstrates that such horrendous logic, when applied consistently, might be used to call Israel's legitimacy into question. In other words, Chomsky is denouncing a rationale that would undermine Israel's right to exist. This is not exactly the kind of argument one would expect from an "anti-Israel zealot."
Dershowitz also misleads his readers about how Chomsky has characterized Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson's writings. Once again citing the Anti-Chomsky Reader, Dershowitz claims that Chomsky described Faurisson's writings as "findings" produced by "extensive historical research" (p.171). This is untrue, however, as is clear from looking to the source Dershowitz cites. Chomsky merely signed a petition which included the language Dershowitz mentions. And the purpose of the petition was not to advocate or in any way support Faurisson's conclusions about the Holocaust. It called for the protection of Faurisson's "just right of academic freedom ... and the free exercise of his legal rights" (Anti-Chomsky Reader, p. 124).
In short, The Case for Peace raises serious questions not just about the overall quailty of Dershowitz's work, but also about Dershowitz's ethics.