Time to tell the truth about the Palestinian issue

January 24, 2019 by Alan Dershowitz
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The front page of the New York Times Sunday Review featured one of the most biased, one-sided, historically inaccurate, ignorant and bigoted articles ever published by that venerable newspaper.

Alan Dershowitz

Written by Michele Alexander it is entitled: “Time to break the silence on Palestine,” as if the Palestinian issue has not been the most over-hyped cause on campuses, the United Nations and the media.  There is no silence to break.  What must be broken is the bigotry of those who elevate the Palestinian claims over those of the Kurds, the Syrians, the Iranians, the Chechnyans, the Tibetans, the Ukrainians, and many other more deserving groups who truly suffer from the silence of the academy, the media and the international community.  The United Nations devotes more resources – time, money and votes – to the Palestinian issue than to the claims of all the other oppressed groups combined.  Some of these other groups cannot even get a hearing at the United Nations.

The suffering of the Palestinians, which does not compare to the suffering of other groups, has been largely self-inflicted. They could have had a state, with no occupation, if they had accepted the Peale Commission Report of 1938, the United Nations Partition of 1947, the Clinton Barak offer of 2000-2001, the Ehud Olmert offer of 2008.  They rejected all these offers – responding with violence and terrorism — because they would have required them to accept Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people – something they are unwilling to do even today. I know, because I have asked President Abbas that question directly and he has said no.  The Palestinian leadership has always wanted there not to be a Jewish state morethan they wanted there to be a Palestinian state.

The Palestinian issue is not “one of the great moral challenges of our time,” as the article insists.  It is a complex, nuanced, pragmatic problem, with fault on all sides. It could be solved, if Palestinian leaders were prepared to accept the “painful compromises” that Israeli leaders have already agreed to accept.  Had the early Palestinian leadership – which collaborated with Hitler – not, with all the surrounding Arab states, attacked Israel the moment it declared statehood, it would have a viable state.  Had Hamas used the resources it received when Israel ended its occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005 to build schools, hospitals and industry, instead of using these resources to construct rocket launchers and terror tunnels, it could have become a “Singapore on the Sea” instead of the poverty-stricken enclave its leaders have turned it into. The Palestinian leadership – Hamas as well as the Palestinian Authority — bears at least as much responsibility for the plight of the Palestinians as do the Israelis.

Israel is not without some fault, but the one-sided-blame-it-all-on-Israel approach taken by Alexander is ahistorical and bigoted. One illustration of the author’s bias is her absurd claim that “many students are fearful of expressing support for Palestinian rights” because of “McCarthyite tactics” employed by pro-Israel groups.  Has Alexander ever actually been on a campus?  Well, I have taught and lectured at hundreds of campuses, and I can attest that there is no international cause that is given more attention – far more than it deserves in comparison with other more compelling causes – than the Palestinians. It is pro-Israel students who are silenced out of fear of being graded down, denied recommendations and been shunned by peers.  Efforts have been made to prevent me from speaking on several campuses, despite the fact that I advocate a two-state solution to the conflict.

Alexander claims that there is legal discrimination against Israeli Arabs.  The reality is that Israeli Arabs have more rights than Arabs anywhere in the Muslim world.  They vote freely, have their own political parties, speak openly against the Israeli government and are beneficiaries of affirmative action in Israeli Universities. The only right they lack is to turn Israel into another Muslim state governed by Sharia law, instead of the nation-state of Jewish people governed by secular democratic law.  That is what the new nation state law does when it denies Arabs “the right of self-determination in Israel.”

Alexander condemns “Palestinian homes being bulldozed” without mentioning that these are the homes of terrorists who murder Jewish babies, women and men.  She bemoans casualties in Gaza – which she calls “occupied,” even though every Israeli soldier and settler left in 2005 – without mentioning that many of these casualties were human shields from beyond whom Hamas terrorist’s fire rockets at Israeli civilians.  She says there are “streets for Jews only,” which is a categorical lie.  There are roads in the disputed territories that are limited to cars with Israeli licenses – for security reasons. But these roads are open to all Israelis, including Muslims, Druze, Christians, Zoroastrians, and people of no faith.  But as MLK reminded us, when you repeat a lie often enough people believe it.

The most outrageous aspect of Alexander’s screed is her claim that MLK inspired her to write it.  MLK was a staunch Zionist, who famously said: “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews.  You’re talking anti-Semitism.”  MLK would have been appalled at Alexander’s one-sided attack on the nation-state of the Jewish people and especially on her misuse of his good name to support anti-Israel bigotry.

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of The Case Against the Democrats Impeaching Trump, Skyhorse publishing, 2019.

This article first appeared in The Hill.

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