Alan Dershowitz is a virtual one-man industry — constantly churning out books, even as he remains a celebrity attorney and a Harvard law professor. His The Case for Israel has now been succeeded by The Case for Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can Be Solved.
In December, I caught most of a televised Harvard debate between Dershowitz and Noam Chomsky on C-Span. Both support a two-state solution and both have nice things to say about the Geneva Accord, but Dershowitz has a weaker grasp of the facts. Dershowitz disapprovingly referred to Geneva as accepting the Palestinian right of return. Chomsky said that Geneva doesn’t accept the right of return. Neither seems aware of the complex formula that Geneva arrived at in accepting a right of return in principle, while mostly confining its implementation to the new Palestinian state.
Dershowitz was overly enthusiastic about Kadima at a time when Sharon was still at its head, calling it the “peace party” and reading a lot into the fact that Peres has joined it. Although endorsing a two-state solution, Chomsky was relentless in condemning Israeli actions and US support for Israel. Chomsky was cold and cutting, basically arguing the facts of the occupation — which are not pretty.
Chomsky unfairly blamed Israel for “rejecting” Taba, ignoring that Taba came after Barak had been undermined politically by the Intifada and elections were around the corner. The real blame here should go to the Palestinians for their violence. Chomsky also says that Israel “rejected” Geneva — not precisely true, because Geneva was never a formal proposal.
Chomsky detests Peres and once called him a mass murderer in the same league with Idi Amin. Obviously, Chomsky is prone to outlandishly harsh statements.
Dershowitz knows that Israel has committed wrongs in its history, but gets too emotionally caught up in defending Israel to address them. Chomsky attacked both Kadima and Amir Peretz, with typical overstatement, as accepting the cantonization of the West Bank and leaving Jerusalem entirely under Israeli rule.
Surprisingly, Chomsky’s bottom-line position (as opposed to his vitriolic rhetoric) is not anti-Israel. As a member of Hashomer Hatzair, he was a left-wing Zionist in his youth and began to favor the two-state solution in the 1970s. Several times, he approvingly quoted Ron Pundak, an aide to Beilin from Oslo through Geneva. Maybe Chomsky’s hostility is analogous to the clouded judgment of a jilted lover. Dershowitz is usually a pit bull; but in this debate, he came off as a love-sick puppy, with Israel his object of affection.
[This, and the previous entry on Peres, basically constitute two of four sections of “Column Left” in the forthcoming spring issue of Israel Horizons.]