Logic, Harvard-style

December 5, 2005

In News


Finkelstein argued in Beyond Chutzpah that Dershowitz plagiarized tracts of The Case for Israel, a charge Dershowitz denies. “I wrote the entire original book in my own handwriting, so we have pretty clear evidence that I wrote it.”

Chasing peace

Claiming that he is being attacked by both sides, Alan Dershowitz argues for a
two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict

Montreal Mirror | 11.24.2005 | by MATTHEW HAYS

Alan Dershowitz probably won’t be seen as an impartial proponent for a Mid-East peace deal. After all, the Harvard law professor has been painted by the left as a hapless apologist for Israel, pointing to his 2003 bestseller The Case for Israel to seal their argument. But now, Dershowitz wants readers to believe that he is even-handed and peace-minded, penning a sequel, The Case for Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict can be Resolved (Wiley Books, $29.99), in which he outlines his own vision for how a compromise could be hammered out and leave everyone content.

It’s a tall order, of course, and Dershowitz—who was in Montreal last week to promote his latest book—knows it. The attorney, immortalized on the big screen by actor Ron Silver in his canny portrayal in the 1990 film Reversal of Fortune, concedes that the idea of an American-spearheaded peace process is a long shot at best, given the current administration.

Putting Bush aside

“I don’t think Bush can play a large or positive role in the process,” Dershowitz acknowledges. “I do think that Condoleeza Rice is still viewed as a fair person by many. If the administration were smart they would set up a bipartisan group to negotiate, one that would include Bill Clinton. Democrats, along with Republicans.”

But Bush’s bad policies, including the war in Iraq—something Dershowitz calls “foolish”—hasn’t stopped him from hoping. In this book, the author lays out his basic strategy for peace while answering his harshest critics—including MIT linguist Noam Chomsky, DePaul University professor Norman Finkelstein and journalist Andrew Cockburn—and attempting to make his views clear.

Much of the book is predictable: Dershowitz opposes the Palestinians’ right of return, dismisses the analogy that likens Israeli-Palestinian situation to South Africa’s apartheid regime, calls the security fence “a necessary evil” and deems any comparison of Israeli tactics with those of the Nazis anti-Semitism.

As well, Dershowitz dismisses the call for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One-state advocates have long argued that the daily lives and economies of Israelis and Palestinians are so intertwined as to make a separation of the two, via two states, simply untenable. Dershowitz counters that, given the violence between the two groups, the two-state solution is the only answer.

“Would anyone actually suggest that India and Pakistan be reunited?” he says. “The only goal of the one-state solution is to see the destruction of Israel. In that case, the Jews would have to rely on a Muslim state to protect them. And that’s proven that it won’t work. Look what’s happening in the Gaza and West Bank today: the largest rate of emigration from those areas are Christian Arabs—they’re leaving in droves. They don’t think they’ll be safe there.”

(For the record, Dershowitz dismisses the possibility of employing a Canadian model of multiculturalism and bilingualism, asking, “When was the last time Canadian anglophones and francophones went around killing each other?”)

Return to Camp David

Dershowitz’s main answer comes in the form of the Camp David talks of 2000, a settlement that he feels then-Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat foolishly rejected. “He single-handedly stopped the peace agreement at Camp David,” says Dershowitz. “A lot of Palestinians now recognize that that was a mistake. But I think they can still get a deal that’s very close to that.”

While discussing Dershowitz’s ideas, it’s impossible not to bring up various controversies surrounding the man himself. In an article in the July 11 issue of The Nation, Dershowitz is accused of writing to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger requesting that he suppress the University of California Press’s publication of Finkelstein’s latest book, Beyond Chutzpah, full of harsh criticism of Dershowitz.

“I did not write directly to Schwarzenegger,” Dershowitz now insists. Dershowitz argues that he wrote to the University of California Press to argue that, while he opposes censorship and supports Finkelstein’s right to be heard, he also wanted to ask them if they wanted to publish something by someone like Finkelstein, who, according to Dershowitz, makes a great many factual errors in his books. “I sent a copy of this letter to the University of California Press’s board members, past and present, and that included Schwarzenegger.”

Finkelstein argued in Beyond Chutzpah that Dershowitz plagiarized tracts of The Case for Israel, a charge Dershowitz denies. “I wrote the entire original book in my own handwriting, so we have pretty clear evidence that I wrote it.”

Though attacked by some as a right-wing Bush crony, Dershowitz points out that he has now received attacks from those on both sides of the divide. “A right-wing Israeli recently argued that The Case for Peace must have been written not by me but by Palestinians,” he says. “And Finkelstein argues I didn’t write my own books either. So I must be doing something right, if both sides deny my authorship.”