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Exclusive Book & Movie Reviews:
Peace at Any Cost
The Case for Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can be Resolved by Alan Dershowitz, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2005, 246 pages, $22.95

by David Krusch


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Defense attorney and Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz is back on the case, this time putting both Israel's detractors and the enemies of peace in the dock of world opinion. Building off the highly successful volume, The Case for Israel, where Dershowitz refuted dozens of claims against Israel, The Case for Peace outlines the steps both Israel and the Palestinians must take to reach a final status peace agreement. While writing The Case for Israel, Dershowitz wished he could have written a book about peace instead, but did not believe peace was possible while Yasser Arafat was alive and directing a campaign of terrorism against Israelis. Now that Arafat is out of the picture, and Israel has disengaged from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank, he believes that genuine peace can be achieved.

Dershowitz gives his own version of the Bush Administration's roadmap plan, which he says should be “obvious to all reasonable people.” The solution will look something like this:

1. Two states based on Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and based on Security Council Resolution 242 and facts on the ground (ie, settlement blocs which Israel intends to keep).

2. Some symbolic recognition of the rights of Palestinian refugees, including a compensation package and some family reunification, but no absolute “right of return” for descendants who claim refugee status.

3. Jerusalem must be divided, with the Arab part becoming the capital of Palestine, and the Jewish part recognized as Israel's capital.

4. A renunciation of terrorism, along with the Palestinian Authority disarming terrorist groups, just as Israel has taken steps to disarm and punish Jewish terrorists who commit violent acts against Palestinians.

5. An end to the demonization of Israel by international organizations, academics, and other leading public figures, which will end a culture of hatred against the Jewish state and create an opportunity for peace and acceptance by the international community.

The purpose of The Case for Peace is twofold: to outline a plan for reaching a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and to call outl extremists on both sides as the real enemies of peace. Dershowitz surely realizes he has stepped into a highly-charged political minefield, and acknowledges that “extremists on both sides will reject my ideas, but moderates on both sides will, I hope, welcome them.” Whether or not Dershowitz's ideas will be accepted by moderates, he certainly has some creative (though not always practical) solutions to the issues surrounding the conflict.

The book itself is separated into two parts. The first and largest section is titled “Overcoming the Geopolitical Barriers to Peace,” while the second part is named “Overcoming the Hatred Barriers to Peace.” Part I suggests many solutions to geopolitical and security related questions surrounding the conflict. For example, it is in this section where Dershowitz addresses the issue of dividing Jerusalem into two capitals, one for Israelis and one for Palestinians (to be known as Al-Quds). In the Dershowitz plan, the Palestinians would have complete religious autonomy over the Temple Mount with an area set aside for Jews to pray at the Western Wall. However, it is also here that Dershowitz exhibits shaky logic. According to David Bedein, the bureau chief of the Israel Resource News Agency, it is almost impossible to divide Jerusalem along Dershowitz's proposal. In his review of The Case for Peace, Bedein states:

When you drive from the Israeli neighborhood of Gilo to Katamon, you travel through the Arab neighorhood of Beit Tzfafa. And when you travel from the Israeli neighborhoods of Neve Yaakov to French Hill, you traverse the Shuafat and Beit Hanina. And when you travel from Mount Scopus to the center of town, you traverse Wadi Jose. Imagine what it would be like to have to negotiate a PLO army base in the middle of Jerusalem. In other words, his suggestion would mean that PLO armed forces would be placed at the edge of every Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem...sovereignty means guns in the hands of the PLO in Jerusalem, and that if his suggestion were implemented, it would be life-threatening to Jews throughout Jerusalem.

Dershowitz also discusses the Palestinian refugee problem, and his controversial suggestions could make supporters of Israel uncomfortable with the possible outcomes. Although he is against the absolute “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, which number around 3-4 million people, he believes that there should be a “resonable” number of refugees allowed to return to what they claim used to be their homes inside Israel. However, Dershowitz does not give the number he considers “reasonable.” He also fails to mention that by even allowing a small percentage of Arab refugees to settle in Israel, this translates into hundreds of thousands of people hostile to its existence living between its borders.

The second part of the book discusses the extremists on both sides who are obstacles to peace. The anti-Israel academics throughout Europe and the United States who demonize Israel and the Jews contribute to the world-wide promulgation of anti-Semitism. In other words, they are “more Palestinian than the Palestinians.” According to Dershowitz, “It is fortunate that Israel must make peace with the Palestinians and not with the professors.” For example, Professor Edward Said of Columbia University, the academic credited with revolutionizing the anti-Israel movement on college campuses, “was not only a believer in violence and bloodshed, he was himself a practitioner of violence.” Said threw rocks at Israeli soldiers on the Lebanese border, and refused to condemn Palestinian terrorist attacks that killed dozens of Israeli civilians.

Also appearing in this section is a chapter about those who are “more Israeli than Israelis,” or who are against any type of settlement with the Arabs. Although Dershowitz acknowledges that the number of these people is far less than their anti-Israel counterparts, he is equally as adamant in labeling them as anti-peace extremists. He states, “How dare a rabbi from Brooklyn of New Jersey...choose land over life — and then blame that immoral choice on Jewish law...these rabbis should be relegated to the dustbin of history.”

Although Dershowitz's controversial ideas have sparked intense criticism from both sides, The Case for Peace does contain some gems that help put a different perspective on the conflict. In one of the harshest condemnations of anti-Israel academics I have heard, Dershowitz says that those that teach a message that “encourages continuing terrorism, these ivory-tower spectators — who live, write, and lecture far from the killing fields — have blood on their hands. They bear some responsibility for the continuing terrorism that their support encourages.”

Another excellent passage is from the chapter titled “Is a Noncontiguous Palestinian State a Barrier to Peace?” This chapter effectively refutes the false claim that Israel is giving the Palestinians a series of “Bantustans” for a state, similar to the mini-homelands given to black Africans in apartheid-era South Africa. Dershowitz goes further by saying that in today's world of high-speed internet and cheap air and rail travel, states do not require continguity to be viable and sustainable. He casually reminds the reader that many nations, including the United States, have areas that are noncontiguous (i.e., Alaska and Hawaii). This claim is nothing more than an attempt to pressure Israel into giving up more territory while it is already making painful concessions for peace.

The Case for Peace does put some creative solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict on the table. By identifying and discussing the obstacles to peace, it is possible to find ways to overcome them and reach an agreement. Pro-Israel critics of the book have said that if some of Dershowitz's proposals were implemented, such as his plans to divide Jerusalem or allow Palestinian refugees to settle inside Israel, it would put the lives of millions of Israelis on the line, and rightly so. Many of Dershowitz's ideas are controversial, or even radical, but as he says in the book's conclusion, “Peace is both a radical and traditional solution.”


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