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Jews Who Boo Efforts to Make Peace

May 7, 2013 2:27 pm 11 comments

Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz on stage at the second annual Jerusalem Post Conference in New York City. Dershowitz and Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick sharply disagreed on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Dershowitz's comments were laughed at by the audience. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

There are a small number of extremely vocal right wing Jews who believe that retaining the entire West Bank is more important than trying to make peace with the Palestinians.  Some of them believe that God gave the Jewish people the West Bank and it is a sin to give any of it up.  It was that kind of thinking that led to the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin when he tried to exchange land for peace with the Palestinians.  There are others who believe that because Jews lived in Judea and Samaria thousands of years ago, Israel has no right to end any current Jewish settlement on the West Bank.  There are still others who believe that it is foolish even to try to trade land for peace with the Palestinians, since the Palestinian leadership has no real interest in arriving at a peaceful solution.

This noisy clack boos disrespectfully when they hear the name of President Obama, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or anyone else who favors a two-state solution that does not compromise Israel’s security. I have now joined this distinguished company of people who get booed for advocating territorial compromise in the interest of peace.  I was booed and jeered at the Jerusalem Post Conference on April 28, 2013 when I proposed an idea for restarting peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

These same people cheered loudly when Carolyn Glick, a right wing opponent of any territorial compromise, announced that: “There are no competing narratives.  There is only the truth.”  For her, the only truth lies in history and archeology.  Of course it is true that the Jews lived on the West Bank for many years two millennia ago.  (It is equally true that Native Americans populated Manhattan Island as recently as four centuries ago.)  For some right wing opponents of the two state solution, this archeological truth ends the debate.  The fact that the West Bank has been largely populated by Arabs over the past several centuries is not part of any narrative.  Many of those who booed favor a one-state solution, with Israel simply annexing the West Bank and either expelling or disenfranchising the indigenous Palestinians.

It’s interesting to note that my statement that drew the loudest boos and the most derision was my suggestion that President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority might consider not bringing a case against Israel to the International Criminal Court as a way of showing good faith and making a concession calculated to encourage restarting the peace process.  But just days after the booing and mocking, President Abbas did just that.  Two days after my talk, the Palestinian Authority—according to the Jerusalem Post—

“pledged to the US that it would freeze its efforts to join United Nations agencies or turn to the International Criminal Court, PA Foreign Minister Riyad Malki announced on Wednesday.

Malki said that the promise was made to US Secretary of State John Kerry as a “gesture” on the part of the Palestinians “and in order to prove our true intentions to give a bigger chance to the peace process.”

The right wing Jewish extremists who boo everyone who wants to make compromises for peace, are every bit as dangerous as Jewish extremists on the hard left who also demand a one state solution—a binational state that will cease being the homeland of the Jewish people.  Both are unwilling to compromise their ideological claims.  Both make peace more difficult to achieve.  Both boo and jeer any effort to offer compromise in the interest of peace.  The difference, and it is a real difference, is that the right wingers love Israel—at least their conception of a Jewish Israel that extends from the river to the sea.  Many of the left wingers hate Israel and want a binational Palestinian state that extends from the same river to the same sea.  Motives are important, but the road to war is often paved with good intentions.

The writer J.J. Goldberg characterized the Jerusalem Post Conference as “an odd combination of high-level exchanges on security policy and raucous, far-right pep rally”.  He reported that among the former and present ministers and generals, “the most enthusiastic reception was reserved for Post columnist Caroline Glick, a passionate opponent of Israeli-Palestinian compromise known for her slashing attacks on liberals.”

Those in the large audience who booed and jeered were not interested in the “high level exchanges on security policy” or in subtlety or nuance.  They were there to cheer the right wing bumper stickers, bon mots and clichés of their champion and to show disdain for anyone who disagreed with her simple-minded “bombs away” solutions to complex problems.

That’s why I will no longer lend my support to “far right pep” rallies of the kind I spoke at last week.

This op-ed originally appeared in The Jerusalem Post on May 5, 2013.


  • As an intellectual (or so we’re told), it’s completely unbecoming of Alan Dershowitz to try and demonize people who disagree with him.

    As Yoel Nitzarim says above, humility matters, and it sure looks like Prof. Dershowitz has lost his.

    To my mind, people who derided the compromise did so because it gave the Palestinians a tangible asset in exchange for, well, nothing.

    A “commitment” not to take Israel to the ICC is

    (a) not a concession since there’s very little to suggest that the ICC would even hear such a case,

    (b) likely to be met by thousands of counter-cases brought before the same body by the likes of Shurat HaDin, and

    (c) when was the last time the Palestinians ever lived up to any commitment they made, no matter how trifling? Didn’t they agree to cease the hate-indoctrination of children 20 years ago?


    Here is an e-mail that I received that is relevant to Alan Dershowitz:

    Begin forwarded message:

    Date: April 30, 2013 11:26:50 PM PDT
    Subject: Assessing Alan Dershowitz’s View of Peace
    To: LTGJC

    This is a very thorough scrub of Dershowitz’s book. Most devastating is Dershowitz’s acknowledgment that the Palestinian state would likely most likely become a terrorist state. Professor Dershowitz waits until page 91 in the eighth chapter of his Case of Peace to comment that ” a Palestinian state may probably evolve into a launching pad for terrorism”, and notes only on page 96 in chapter nine that “Abbas will not disarm terrorist organizations”. Such statements, buried in the midst of his book, undermine almost every premise of any theoretical possibility of peace with the Palestinian entity, and then he goes back to asserting that the new Palestinian entity will make peace with Israel.

    The only issue I would take with Bedein concerns this paragraph: Professor Dershowitz rewrites history when he asserts that Ben Gurion sank the Altelana because he wanted to “prevent arms from reaching Israeli paramilitary groups such as Etzel… and Lechi.” And he ignores the fact that the IDF fired on the Altelena and killed 19 Jewish passengers only AFTER an agreement had been reached to hand over ALL of the weapons on board the ship to the IDF. While the statement by Bedein is literally correct, the circumstances were far more cloudy with mistrust on both sides since the actual attempted landing did not take place where and when agreed to. It would be much more powerful if this point and not been made in the article’s text.

    Assessing Alan Dershowitz’s View of Peace
    By David Bedein

    Apr 30 2013

  • Let me go on record. Normally I respect Alan Dershowitz. HOWEVER:

    His statements about “the right” and the murder of Prime Minister Rabin are despicable.

    “Those in the large audience who booed and jeered were not interested in the “high level exchanges on security policy” or in subtlety or nuance. They were there to cheer the right wing bumper stickers, bon mots and clichés of their champion and to show disdain for anyone who disagreed with her simple-minded “bombs away” solutions to complex problems.”

    When I spoke at a reform temple the audience revealed that they relied on 60 min. to form their a view of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and of the Christians on the West Bank and within Israel. They used Al Jazeera as a major information (with 3 describing it as accurate and balanced.) They were hostile to the settlers. And their main source of their knowledge of Israel came from J Street and Haaretz.

  • Honestly, there’s no shame in getting owned by Glick.

  • Appeasement simply doesn’t work. You can’t compromise your way out of a shark attack. The reason us “right wingers” are so passionate is because the paradigm is a proven failure. It is baseless wishful thinking. The world is as it is – not as we wish it to be. “Land for Peace” fails to take into account the cultural realities. A society so thoroughly militarized from birth to death, in every aspect of life, educated in Jew hatred, may not be ready to compromise for peace? For a few tiny scraps of land?

    The Arabs have made it clear that an agreement will not end the conflict – explicitly clear. Carving a second Gaza out of Israel will not bring peace – it will create the conditions that will allow the Arabs to intensify the conflict, while at the same time leaving Israel unacceptably vulnerable.

    The conflict is not about land. In the big picture of Arab conquest, the entire Land of Israel is half a postage stamp on a football field – and Judea and Samaria is a small corner of that half postage stamp. The conflict is about the Islamic religious duty to conquer – to kill, convert or enslave. Israel is a liberated former conquest. The Arabs are honor bound and religiously duty bound to reconquer it. The only allowable reason for them to not conquer a people is if that targeted prey is too powerful. “Land for Peace” means the Judea and Samaria Jews will suffer dhimmitude, pogroms, ethnic cleansing, and savage lynchings until they are completely wiped out. “Land for Peace” means Israel’s only international airport is shut down by rocket attacks while everyone in the entire coastal plain lives their lives underground for safety. “Land for Peace” means the end of tourism and the end of commerce. And don’t even think of responding. By then there will be at least two million human shields protecting the newly entrenched terrorist infrastructure – just like southern Lebanon, just like Gaza. Peace would be wonderful, but “Land for Peace” does the opposite. In Arab culture it is a display of weakness – a signal the “peacemaker” is ready to accept defeat.

    If Prof Dershowitz believes Israel’s “occupation” of its own heartland is a problem, wait and see what happens if Israel surrenders control. Until then, my thoughts are with Israel’s security, not a political ideology, and not with some celebrity lawyer’s hurt feelings.

    • dan kaplan

      sadly, you are 100% correct.interesting that both isaiah and pogo (remember him in the comic strips ?) were talking about the left-wing jews – 3000 years apart. “those who would destroy you are within” and “we have met the enemy, and he is us”.

  • Sonia Willats

    How rude to boo such a trusted and proven champion of the Jewish cause! Nevertheless, I do not believe in the long term good intentions of either the Fatah or Hamas regimes. Any temporary compromise is likely (I believe) to produce the same results that the Gaza evacuation and hand-over to Hamas produced.
    Nevertheless, it is good to seek the road to peace and negotiate in good faith; maintaining a level head as to what previous outcomes have been and looking (I believe equally rationally) to the G-d of Israel who does have intentions for Jerusalem and for His people.

  • Why does Israel “try to make peace” with the Palestinians? Haven’t they figured out YET that “Palestinians” only want Israel to go away? Isn’t this just another repetition of that imfamous line, “Peace in our time” – between Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler?

    How long is it going to take Israel to figure this out?

  • Paul Leber

    Mr. Dershowitz disappoints. He says he no longer want to play when there’s a risk that his views will be met with the boos and jeers. Ok, but why should he expect to be treated better than anyone else who presents an unpopular view at an academic conference these days. Imagine the reception Caroline Glick would be likely to receive were she given an opportunity to participate in an open debate on the Harvard Campus. Heck in Parliament, even the PM gets booed once in a while. Perhaps, Mr. Dershowitz is just taking the advice of Harry Truman;, ‘if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” Too bad.

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    Mr. Dershowitz, you are a popular, important American-Jewish voice who defends the State of Israel in the public sphere. People read your books and listen attentively to your views with respect as they should. You certainly voice the view of a large segment of American Jewry. However, in the end game, the voices that matter are not those resonating from the Jewish Diaspora. Those six million Jews who have made the decision to come to the former “Palestine” as refugees, to make aliyah, or to remain in the land of their birth must be the ones whose voices reverberate in the halls of domestic concerns. Those six million Jews whose sons and daughters serve in the military or in national service and the children themselves who do live their lives under the quotidian existential threats of their neighbors must be the key voices over their own future. Whether it is attending a “far right pep” rally or a national debate on Israeli policies sponsored by American Jewish organizations, your presence is, of course, honored; contrariwise, when the security and life-changing decisions requisite for those six million Jewish souls whose very survival may depend on their own wise counsel, it is incumbent upon even the most ardent Zionists among World Jewry to defer to the probity of decision-making which has thus far kept their Israeli brethren a leader among nations. American Jewry’s support, especially in introducing its youth to Israel, is a critical area which would certainly benefit from American Jewish leaders such as yourself. The education of Jewish-American youth not only about their Jewish heritage, rituals, liturgy, customs, and traditions, but also regarding the privilege they have to be living at a time when modern Israel is truly a place for them to visit or even to live–this arena of endeavor should be the thrust of American-Jewish leadership. I want to end by suggesting one extremely important trait of a Jew which should never be tossed aside by those who have been successful in life wherever they live in this world: humility. There is no greater feature that a Jew can possess. Those who are humble are righteous: people know about their decency and wisdom. Most importantly, those humble Jews know that their voice is the voice of one, the voice of a singular soul who wishes to make his or her contribution to the betterment of this world. Their voice is sincere, yet quiet; lofty, yet hopeful; sometimes simple, yet insightful; always aplomb, almost like a whisper of faith.

  • Itaintmojo

    Until Hamas and the PA get together, and announce that they accept Israel as their Jewish neighbor, and that they have a comprehensive plan to secure Israeli borders, then people like Carolyn Glick are not just right wing Israeli’s. They are also right thinking Israeli’s.

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