The Case for Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can be Resolved Paperback – Aug 1 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
While holding out hope for a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, this lively polemic carries on the fierce war of words over the conflict. Harvard Law professor Dershowitz, author of The Case For Israel, feels that, with Arafat's death and a new Palestinian leadership, prospects for peace have brightened. He endorses the "obvious" two-state solution suggested by Ehud Barak's ill-fated 2000 proposals and the recent non-governmental Geneva accords, involving Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and most of the West Bank (except for some large Jewish settlements), divided sovereignty over Jerusalem and some "recognition" of Palestinian refugees by Israel without an absolute "right of return." Dershowitz continues to back such controversial Israeli actions as the targeted assassination of suspected terrorists and the construction of the West Bank security wall, but acknowledges a common interest in peace which must be protected from extremists on both sides. He is less conciliatory toward outside supporters of the Palestinians, whom he accuses of opposing peace and seeking "the destruction of the Jewish State," citing everything from anti-Semitic ravings in the Arab press to Western academics who violate his 28-point guidelines for separating legitimate criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism. He particularly targets the "real and acknowledged" conspiracy of "anti-Israel, anti-peace, anti-truth zealots" Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn and Norman Finkelstein and offers a detailed rebuttal of Finkelstein's recent anti-Dershowitz broadside Beyond Chutzpah. In keeping with the vitriolic conventions of the debate-over-the-debate-over the Middle East, he bombards opponents with inflammatory charges based on sometimes tendentious readings of skimpily contextualized remarks; readers trying to substantiate them must often follow long trails of footnotes to other sources. Dershowitz presents his usual vigorous case, but not the judicious treatment these issues cry out for.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Harvard Law's celebrity professor advocates a two-state solution, creating Palestine out of the territories Israel won in the 1967 war. Dershowitz believes two viable states with secure borders and stable political cultures can emerge from one of the world's most troubled pieces of real estate.
Invoking history, justice, reason and the rule of law, he analyzes the problems, seeking mutually agreeable solutions. Yet, sadly, rather than showing, as the hopeful subtitle suggests, ""How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can Be Resolved,"" this book makes a more convincing case that the conflict will continue.
Dershowitz once again proves in clear and readable prose that Israel is flexible, peace-seeking and ready to compromise, while offering little evidence that many Palestinian leaders are equally reasonable, courageous or committed to peace or democracy.
This short, punchy primer details just how virulent Palestinian rejectionism is--and has been for decades. Jewish and international compromises reach back to the Peel Commission in the 1930s, yet, again and again, Palestinians--and their cynical Arab allies--have preferred maximalist dreams to imperfect compromises.
Combining an appellate lawyer's precision with a courtroom showman's passion, Dershowitz examines how Yasser Arafat, among other destructive leaders, repeatedly turned Palestinians away from state-building, compromise and democracy, fostering an autocratic, demagogic, corrupt, delusional political culture addicted to terror.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir famously lamented that Arabs must love their own children more than they hate Israel's children for peace to flourish; now, Palestinians must become more committed to building a ""democratic Palestinian state living in peace with a democratic Israel"" than to destroying Israel.
Convinced that a pragmatic Palestinian majority can emerge, Dershowitz lambastes the academics, church leaders, diplomats, reporters and so-called ""peace activists"" who feed Palestinians' delusions and sanction violence by demonizing Israel, no matter what it does.
Dershowitz and others advocating for a rational peace should challenge the West's armchair jihadists for rationalizing Palestinian terrorism, robbing Palestinians and Jews of hope. And it is noble for intellectuals defending Israel's legitimacy to dream of a possible compromise.
Dershowitz mischievously confounds critics by insisting that, while ardently pro-Israel, he remains liberal and ""pro-Palestinian."" But while occasionally mentioning a ""peace process"" and praising the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Dershowitz fails to identify that Palestinian peace camp essential to creating a new, stable Middle East.
This book assumes that Israel disengaged from Gaza successfully. But Israel withdrew unilaterally because there was no credible negotiating partner, had to build a fence because Palestinian terrorists continue to target Israeli civilians and even uprooted Jewish gravesites because of justified fears that Hamas activists would desecrate the corpses.
Dershowitz's vision of peace will only work if Palestinians pass a simple test. Unless and until, Jews--and Jewish graves--can remain undisturbed on land ceded to the Palestinians, no peace is possible.
--Gil Troy, a professor of history at McGill University, is the author of ""Why I'm a Zionist."" (The New York Post, August 28, 2005)
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But Dershowitz, in a methodical analytic way approaches each of the pitfalls that I had considered and presents the consistent message that peace is possible.
This is not a pie in the sky book of dreams. It is rather a hard hitting, at times argumentative, but always convincing case for peace. The aspect of the book that I found most convincing was its avoidance of calling on the various parties to exercise "good will". The time for good will has long passed and now is the time when only hard nosed negotiation can bring about lasting peace.
Dershowitz rightfully points out that this final war for peace will be slow and painful for both sides. He predicts that terrorist attacks will continue after the peace is declared and that the parties must avoid, at all costs, the resumption of the "cycle of violence" that has been the hallmark of the intifada.
The second part of the book, entitled "Overcoming the Hatred Barriers to Peace" makes this book necessary reading for the opponents of peace throughout the world on both sides of the issue. Sadly, because Dershowitz has been such a vocal advocate for Israel and for a lasting and just peace between Israel and its neighbors, he has become the target of too many personal attacks. These attacks and his necessary defense reach a climax in his passionate call to the reader to "Marginalize and confront those who persist in their hate speech even while Israel and the Palestinians move toward peace."
What I did not like about the book is that a large proportion of it is devoted to a rebuttal to critics of his previous book, The Case for Israel, in which Dershowitz defends himself from accusations of plagiarism, poorly-cited material, and other textual matters. I understand his desire to defend himself, but I don't think this was the book for it. Also, since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is such a charged issue, these sections of the book actually made me more suspect that Dershowitz is in fact more partisan and less transparent than he presents himself, which is probably the exact opposite consequence he would want from people reading his book.
Essentially he adopts the two- state position of what in Israel has long been called the ` peace- camp'. It is pretty much the Peres- Beilin plan in which Israel cedes most of the West Bank ( Judaea and Samaria) and Gaza, and in return receives an end to Palestinian terror and violence, and complete international recognition of its legitimacy.
In the first part of the book, ` Overcoming the Geopolitical Barriers to Peace' Dershowitz presents the heart of his plan, and answers questions as to possible difficulties with it. The final goal is two states with secure and recognized borders, an end to violence, and end to all claims each side has on the other. In the course of this he indicates that claims which have long been neglected by the world, such as that of Jews expelled from Arab lands must also be taken into account. He indicates that one of the great sticking points, the question of Palestinian Arab refugee return must be solved within the framework of the Palestinian Arab state. He also answers objections to the critics who claim such a state would not be viable. He too criticizes what he calls `extremists' of both sides who would reject all compromise. But he makes it clear that there is a great assymetry here in that the Jewish extremists are on the margin of Israeli society, while Palestinian extremism and rejectionism is the present commanding position within the society.
In this regard Dershowitz has no illusion as to what has been the major reason peace has not been made to now. Palestinianian rejectionism of the Peel Commission report in 1937 which would have given them eighty percent of the land West of the Jordan, their rejection of the UN partition plan of 1947 , their rejection of post -1967 peace plan, their rejection most recently in 2000 of the Israeli ( Barak) and US (Clinton) plan which would have given them ninety- seven percent of the West Bank, the control over the Temple Mount, and control over East Jerusalem has prevented peace from coming earlier. The basic Palestinian Arab rejection of any Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land is what has made the conflict persist.
One source of hope for Dershowitz is the belief that with Arafat's passing a new and more realistic Palestinian leadership will emerge which will opt for the realistic benefit of its people, and not a demagogic vain hope of destroying Israel. Dershowitz seems optimistic that the Palestinians can take a new tack. And while this book was published before the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza he probably believes this an encouraging sign( However one- sided) for peace.
In the second section of the book `Overcoming the Hatred Barriers to Peace' Dershowitz briefly but convincingly makes a case for the idea that outside forces which presumably aim to help the Palestinians have caused them tremendous damage. These forces whether the U.N or a certain element of the media and academic world have by demonizing Israel and justifying Palestinian violence encouraged the Palestinians to believe that they need never be responsible and compromise. Deshowitz has his own score with the Evil - Three of Hate- Israel propaganda Chomsky- Cockburn- Finklestein and makes a brief but effective skowering of their being more Palestinian than the Palestinians , in promoting hate of Israel.
In this regard one central element Dershowitz claims in any peace - agreement must be the end to the demonization of Israel. And this of course especially by the Palestinian ,Arab and Islamic media for whom it is a major source for distracting their readers from real domestic woes.
As for the nuts and bolts of Dershowitz's plan and its realistic possibilities I have my reservations. He does make a very convincing argument that a ` one- state solution' is impossible, a clear cover for the destruction of Israel by demographic means. But my sense is that he does not go fully enough into the dangers of the ` two- state solution.' And my sense is that he is very over- optimistic about a Palestinian transformation towards acceptance of Israel.
Yet on the whole I believe his effort is a truly positive and fair one, that aims at providing benefit to both peoples.
Late in the book, Dershowitz makes an excellent point. Namely, that, perhaps in response to his own book called "The Case for Israel," Michael Neumann has written a book called "The Case Against Israel." Um, why not "The Case for the Arabs?" I think this shows part of the problem: many of those who are against Israel are not really for anyone.
Dershowitz realizes that many Arabs want to be rewarded, not punished, for their campaign of terrorism. And he knows that some actions he recommends may be seen as impractical appeasement of terrorism. He's willing to state some of the objections to what he says. And he then makes his points clearly and fairly.
The author notes that some people, including some Jews, say that the existence of Israel is bad for the Jews. Well, they might want to ask some of the Jews from Russia, Ethiopia, Argentina, and elsewhere who have found Israel to be a very useful haven!
There is a discussion of the failure of the Camp David talks. Dershowitz explains that although some people claim that the Arabs were offered only a disjointed and non-contiguous area in the West Bank, the truth is that they were offered a completely contiguous region there, and he shows maps to illustrate this. And he disposes of claims that peace would somehow infringe upon the rights of individuals or groups in the region.
The author says that Jerusalem can be shared in order to achieve peace. I disagree. It may indeed be shared, but I think this idea is too clever by half. I suspect it is likely to be a waste of time to spend so much effort to split up Jerusalem, inch by inch, when such agreements may last only hours before being replaced by something which changes the border by miles. If the people on both sides really want to split Jerusalem in this weird and awkward manner, they'll choose it. If not, I think it may be a bad idea anyway.
Dershowitz notes that suicide bombers, along with the hate speech and other incitement that helps produce them, are serious threats to peace. And that a new Levantine Arab state that launched terrorist attacks on Israel would also threaten peace. He also explains why the touted "Geneva Accords" won't work.
Well, what about having an international court help out? Dershowitz replies that the International Court of Justice is much like Mississippi courts in the 1930s. Just as these Mississippi courts, which excluded Blacks, could not judge fairly when issues involved disputes between Blacks and Whites, the International Court of Justice can't judge fairly when issues involve Israel. Nor can the United Nations.
The author argues in favor of having a demilitarized Levantine Arab state. I think this is a bad idea, and that the entire purpose of such a state would be to militarize and attack Israel.
Now, what about those who are on the sidelines, off in America or Europe? And not in the Middle East at all? Dershowitz shows us that many professors are so extreme in their demands for war that even if Israel could make peace with the Arabs, it would have no chance of making peace with these academics (especially with some of the professors at Columbia University, in New York City). Some of these scholars compare Israel with Germany of the 1930s and 1940s. Or with South African apartheid. But the author shows that such comparisons are not mere opinions, but wild falsehoods. And he also shows that there are some media folks with similar problems.
One frequent charge made by anti-Zionists is that any criticism of Israel is called anti-Semitic. Dershowitz carefully explains that this charge is false, and includes nice checklists that show the differences between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism.
But what about supporters of Israel who make stronger demands than Israel does itself? Dershowitz implies that this is going too far. But I disagree. I think a stand has to be judged on its merits, not on how unusual it is. Israeli Jews may be pressured into violating the rights of Arabs. They may be pressured into violating their own rights. I see absolutely no reason why I and others shouldn't criticize them, or simply disagree with them, if they do so.
Near the end of the book, Dershowitz takes on a trio of anti-Israeli writers: Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, and Alexander Cockburn. Chomsky is a very bright individual who has made many scholarly contributions to society, but as Dershowitz shows, Chomsky is also a very strong opponent of Jewish rights in the Levant. Finkelstein is a little different. He's not much of a scholar, and is a terrific example of one who has substituted political propaganda for scholarly work. As the author tells us, Finkelstein has criticized Joan Peters' book, "From Time Immemorial." And that some of Peters' data about Arab immigration and in-migration may be a little off, and some of her interpretations of these data may be inaccurate. Still, most of her book has nothing to do with any of this. And even in the part that is affected, others have shown that her most basic conclusions are valid. But Finkelstein has gone overboard, and called her whole work a "hoax" based on such minor points!
This is a fine book, and I recommend it to everyone.