February 9, 2009
In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict
By Jamie Glazov
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law school professor.
FP: Alan M. Dershowitz, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Dershowitz: Thank you.
FP: What were the key issues on your mind during the Gaza war?
Dershowitz: Hamas figured out how to win a media victory by sacrificing its own civilians. It was committing a double war crime by targeting Israeli civilians from behind Palestinian human shields. This despicable and unlawful tactic could never have succeeded without the complicity of the United Nations, many in the European community, the hard left and much of the media.
FP: What was Hamas’s goal in the war?
Dershowitz: The goal of Hamas was to produce as many dead Palestinian women and children as possible and to have the media show these victims uncritically and without asking who was to blame. So there were many villains to this piece and yet Israel, which was acting entirely lawfully and in self-defense, bore the brunt of international criticism. This only encouraged Hamas, Hezbollah and Israel’s other enemies to repeat this tactic over and over again, because for the terrorists, it’s a win-win situation and for democracies, it’s a lose-lose situation.
FP: No other nation in history has dealt as humanely, and with such compassion, in its fight against terrorism as Israel. And yet, as you point out, it bears the brunt of international criticism. Why? What explains this phenomenon?
Dershowitz: There are several explanations. First is that the Hamas tactic of inducing Israel to kill Palestinian civilians by using them as human shields works at least on some people. But there are deeper factors at work. Many people, especially in Europe, look for excuses to hate Israel. They love to hate the Jewish state. Part of the reason is the close relationship between Israel and the United States. Part of the reason is that Israel is the Jew among nations and anti-Semites respond to the Jewish nation in the same way that they respond to the Jewish people. Finally, many young people are subjected to constant propaganda by their teachers, many of whom come from the hard left.
FP: Iran and Hezbollah decided to sit this war out. How come in your view?
Dershowitz: Because they can win without lifting a finger. They supply the rockets to Hamas. They complain loudly. They rattle a few swords and they sit back and laugh at how easily the media is manipulated in the service of terrorism.
FP: The media is easily manipulated in the service of terrorism because it is controlled by liberal elites — who are biased against the U.S. and Israel. Right?
Dershowitz: I don’t agree with that statement. I think that even neutral journalists are impacted by the Hamas strategy. It is extraordinarily effective because it works on emotion and not reason.
FP: Is there actually any real hope for a two-state solution?
Dershowitz: There was great hope for a two-state solution when Clinton and Barak offered it to the Palestinians in 2000. But as Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia correctly put it, Arafat committed a crime against the Palestinian people by turning down the offer. He wanted to see the end of the Jewish state more than he wanted to see the establishment of a Palestinian state. When the Palestinian leadership and a substantial majority of the Palestinian people want their own state more than they want the end of the Jewish state, there will be a two-state solution. There is no real alternative to the two-state solution, except continuing warfare.
FP: What do you think of the demographic trends that appear to threaten the future of Israel?
Dershowitz: The demographic trends are an important reason why Israel should actively seek a two-state solution. If a successful Palestinian state will emerge—a state with freedom, economic potential and peacefulness—many of the Arab citizens of Israel might eventually choose to move there. That must be their choice. Right now almost no Israeli Arabs want to move to Palestine because life in Israel is so much better for them than it is in any Arab state.
FP: When you refer to a “successful Palestinian state” that might emerge that will have “freedom, economic potential and peacefulness,” how optimistic are you that this is possible? It’s a wonderful scenario of course, but do you really believe that Palestinians, with their death-cult culture and their Islamist supporters who lust for Jewish blood, will one day somehow be able to accept Jews as neighbours and choose a democratic and peaceful way of life?
Dershowitz: Yes. The culture of life is more powerful than the culture of death.
FP: Your thoughts on the world’s reaction to Israel’s attempt to defend itself in the Gaza war?
Dershowitz: The reaction of much of the world was not only morally despicable but played right into the hands of terrorists. It encouraged terrorists to persist in their double war crime tactic and to use civilians as pawns.
FP: Tell us a bit about some of the criticisms of you and what you think of them.
Dershowitz: I’m generally proud of the criticism directed at me because it tends to come from some of the worst people in the world: the neo-Nazi hard right and the neo-Stalinist hard left. It tends to be ad hominem, thoughtless, non-substantive and often overtly bigoted. What does concern me is when otherwise thoughtful people fall for the Hamas tactic and allow their emotional reaction to terrible images to skew their rational views. I was particularly disappointed in Bill Moyers’ equation of Israeli self-defense to Hamas terrorism. He said it was “exactly the same.” Shame on him.
FP: Your thoughts on Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky? What impulses, in your view, motivate Jewish individuals to reach out in solidarity to those forces under whose power they would be annihilated?
Dershowitz: Norman Finkelstein is a sick and deeply disturbed, self-hating Jew, who in his autobiography implied that his own mother was a kappo. He constantly compares Israel to the Nazis (though he seems to admire the Nazis and to despise Israel). He constantly invokes anti-Semitic stereotypes of the kind that were found in Der Stutterer. He is beneath contempt and deserves no further comment. He should be relegated to the dustbin of history and ignored. Chomsky, on the other hand, is a serious linguist, but a total ignoramus and bigot when it comes to Israel. He must be taken seriously and answered in the marketplace of ideas. That’s why I always accept invitations to debate Chomsky.
FP: Jimmy Carter was at it again during the war. I’m sure you saw his Washington Post piece: An Unnecessary War. Carter referred to Hamas as if it was some kind of social welfare agency that was bullied into taking up arms. It’s as if Article XI in their Charter doesn’t exist, and as if Hamas has some reason for its existence other than the annihilation of Israel. Carter referred to “a defensive tunnel” being dug by Hamas. And this is not, apparently, some kind of morbid and twisted sense of humor on Carter’s part. What gives here? What’s the psychology of a man like this?
Dershowitz: Jimmy Carter has been completely bought and paid for by extremist Islamic money. He has accepted funding from Holocaust deniers, who he had characterized as friends. He seems to love tyrants such as Arafat, Assad, and the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah, but he seems to despise virtually all Israeli leaders. He also seems afflicted by a perverse form of deep-seeded theological anti-Judaism. I have written extensively about him in my book “The Case Against Israel’s Enemies: Exposing Jimmy Carter and Others Who Stand In The Way of Peace.”
FP: Your advice for Israel and the Obama administration in terms of how to deal with the Mid-east issue — in the context of Hamas, Fatah, Hezbollah and Iran?
Dershowitz: I hope that Barack Obama follows through with what he said as a presidential candidate. He should try to achieve peace through negotiations. He should be tough on Israel when it comes to non-security issues, such as civilian settlements deep in the West Bank. But he should support Israel in its legitimate efforts to defend itself from terrorism and from the existential threat posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
FP: Will the Obama administration be a true friend of Israel?
Dershowitz: There is every reason to hope and expect that he will be, based on what he said during the campaign and who he has appointed to serve in his administration.
FP: But what of his appointment of George Mitchell and seeming reaching out to Fatah and Abbas?
Dershowitz: I support that.
FP: Do you give the Bush administration credit for its support of Israel?
Dershowitz: I give the Bush administration great credit for its support of Israel, but it took actions which hurt Israel and failed to take some actions which hurt Israel. The war in Iraq, which then Prime Minister Arielle Sharon opposed, has been a disaster for Israel, since it has diverted attention away from Israel’s existential enemy, Iran. I wish that Bush had picked up where Clinton had left off and tried to initiate active peace efforts earlier on in his first term. I do think that George Bush’s heart is in the right place when it comes to Israel.
FP: Well, for the record, in Iraq the Bush administration overthrew a fascist dictator and ended up defeating Al Qaeda there. The surge succeeded, sectarian violence is now down, and Iraq is moving in a positive direction. In this success, which one will never read about in the mainstream media, America has dealt a deadly blow to our enemy in the terror war.
But this debate belongs in another forum — and the point cannot be denied that any diversion of attention away from dealing with Iran is a bad thing.
It is questionable how Bush can be criticized for not picking up where Clinton had left off in terms of the peace process. The Bush administration didn’t stop the “peace” process; Arafat did. As your own work has demonstrated, Mr. Dershowitz, Arafat rejected Barack’s over-generous offer and called for a new Intifada. What many had suspected became undeniably clear: from the very beginning of Oslo, Arafat had never been serious about real peace. All throughout the peace process, he continued to support terror against Israel and to oversee the ideological indoctrination of his own people – which propagated the illegitimacy of Israel and the necessity of its annihilation. The Palestinians clearly remained more interested in destroying the Jewish state than in creating their own.
The Bush administration understood that the Palestinians had to shed themselves of their terrorist infrastructure and ideology before any real peace process could be renewed. It would have been simply absurd and destructive for Bush to have continued Arafat’s sick charade. No?
Dershowitz: Yes, but as soon as Arafat met his untimely death—ultimately in the sense that if he had died five years earlier—we might have had a two-state solution, the Bush Administration should have moved aggressively to make peace with Abbas.
FP: Well, it is debatable whether there can be a real peace made with someone like Abbas — recognizing his past, who he actually is and what he believes. But we’ll save this for another time and place.
Final thoughts my friend?
Dershowitz: I love tough questions. And you asked some mighty tough ones.
FP: Alan Dershowitz, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Dershowitz: Thank you.
Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine’s managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. He is also the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left and the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union (McGill-Queens University Press, 2002) and 15 Tips on How to be a Good Leftist. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.