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Dershowitz on Palestine – blinkers and bombast

May 17, 2013

“Let me put it this way, I have never met anybody except perhaps Palestinians who really give one good goddamn about the Palestinian people. The love of the Palestinian people is largely a function of the hatred of the nation state of the Jewish people. People who don’t care about the Kurds, who don’t care about the Armenians, who don’t care about the Tibetans, who didn’t give a damn about the Cambodians, who didn’t say a word about the people of Rwanda and the people of Darfur, suddenly have discovered the Palestinian people. The deep hatred that people have of Israel– I’m not talking about criticism; I was very actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement, I remember how strongly we felt about white South Africa, it didn’t come close to the kind of hatred that many people feel today about Israel. Let me put it this way, Stephen Hawkings [sic] would not refuse to attend a conference in a country that was equally oppressing another country, say China and Tibet, or Russia and Chechnya– it’s all about the fact that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people. You cannot understand the hatred of Israel if you eliminate the fact that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people. Is that anti-Semitism? You know– you name it, I’m describing it.”

The words of American lawyer Alan Dershowitz, spoken in a debate with Peter Beinart, as reported by Mondoweiss via

If it were not for the fact that Dershowitz is such a prominent figure in US public life, one could dismiss his words as the rant of a blinkered extremist.

His argument is a variant of the old line that if you criticise Israel it is because you are anti-Semitic. He also implies that if you criticise Israel, you hate Israel.

Who are these people who don’t give a damn about Armenians, Tibetans and Kurds, who have “suddenly discovered the Palestinian people”? And how offensive to suggest that people who have a deep sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians, of whom I am one, feel that sympathy because they hate Israel.

I have sympathy for the Palestinians because I have visited the country. Because I have known many Palestinians over thirty years. Because I have spoken to Palestinians about life before and after the nabka.  And because only someone with their eyes shut would be able to ignore the injustice done to them since 1948.

And yes, I have also visited Israel. I have Jewish friends. I have listened to holocaust survivors. And no, I do not hate Jews. I don’t hate Israel. And only someone with a minimal knowledge of history – or a selective memory – would be able to ignore the persecution of Jews over centuries, culminating in the holocaust.

Dershowitz’s arguments might work with an American jury. But they don’t wash with me, and I suspect that they won’t convince others who are able to distinguish between the actions of a state and its leaders, and the human beings who populate that state.

As for Stephen Hawking, Dershowitz could be right. Perhaps Hawking would accept invitations to Russia or China, despite their human rights records. But would that invalidate his decision to protest in his own way against the actions of Israel? Is there any universal principle that says one must follow identical tactics in protesting against each country accused of human rights violations?

I certainly suspect that Hawking’s decision not to travel to Israel will have made a bigger impact on public opinion than a similar protest against China, for the simple reason of Israel’s pride in its democracy, its tradition of free speech and its scientific heritage.

Alan Dershowitz is a distinguished and talented man who has never been afraid to express his opinions. I agree with some of them – such as his stance in favour of gun control and animal rights.

But I find it hard not to be insulted by his cavalier dismissal of the motives of people like me who are able to be outraged by acts of inhumanity without that outrage being rooted in hatred.

Previous posts on Israel and Palestine:

From → Middle East, Politics, USA

  1. Ken Moore permalink

    Well said Steve . Dershowitz is exactly the mirror image of the people he criticises. One can’t say a damned thing about Israel, without being impugned with motives that don’t exist.

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