Into the Fray: Disputing Dershowitz (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By MARTIN SHERMAN 03/16/12)
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
‘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
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
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
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.
www.martinsherman.net (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 03/16/12)
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