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June 4, 2013 4:09 pm

Syria Shows Why Israel Must Remain Strong

avatar by Alan Dershowitz

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Syrian Commander Riad al-Asaad, who heads a contingent of Syrian army defectors, in a screenshot from a video from his group's Facebook page. (Free Syrian Army)

Fareed Zakaria explained why neither side in the Syrian conflict is likely to surrender:

“People fight to the end because they know that losers in such wars get killed or ‘ethnically cleansed.'”

In this kind of war the worlds “ethnically cleansed” do not mean displaced or made refugees.  They mean, as Zakaria further explained, massacred:

“Then you have phase 2, which is the massacre of the Alawites, the 14 percent of Syria that has ruled and that will be a bloodbath.”

Nor will the massacres and bloodbaths be limited to combatants, or even civilian officials, if the past is any indication.  Babies, women, the elderly and everyone else will become targets of the vengeful blood lust.  Already somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 Syrians have been killed, the vast majority of them civilians.  According to United Nations investigators, some have been killed by chemical weapons and thermobaric bombs (that suck the oxygen out of the lungs of everyone in the area.)  There have been at least 17 massacres between mid-January and mid-May of this year alone.  And there is no sign that the bloodshed is abating.  Whether the death toll is closer to 80,000 or 100,000, this figure is more than all the people killed in nearly a century of conflict between Israel and its enemies —a conflict that includes half a dozen wars and thousands of acts of terrorism and reprisals.

Even if one credits the worst allegations against the nation state of the Jewish people, Israel has killed fewer civilians since it came into existence 65 years ago than any country in history facing comparable threats over so long a timeframe.  The world seems unaware of this remarkable fact because the media and international organizations focus far more on Arab and Muslim deaths caused by Israel than on those caused by fellow Arabs and Muslims.

Neither is Syria the first bloody battleground on which Arabs have massacred Arabs and Muslims have massacred Muslims.  Black September in Jordan, the protracted war between Iran and Iraq, the civil war in Lebanon, and the killings in post-Saddam Iraq are only some of the bloodiest battles that resulted in many thousands of civilian deaths.

Imagine then what would happen if Israel were ever to lose a war with its Arab and Muslim enemies (as it almost did when it was attacked on Yom Kippur in 1973 by the Egyptian and Syrian armies.)

The hatred directed against Jews in general and Israel in particular by Israel’s enemies is far more malignant than the animosity between Sunni and Shia Muslims or between Muslim and Christian Arabs.  It is taught in schools, preached in mosques and repeated in the media.  There would be no mercy shown.  Israeli armies would not be allowed to surrender and be repatriated, as the Egyptian army was when it was trapped in Sinai at the end of the 1973 war.

Israeli civilians would be targeted as they already have been by Hamas and Hezbollah rockets fired in the direction of large population centers.  The goal of the first war against Israel, as expressed by one of its leaders, was “this will be a war of extermination.”  The desire for revenge has only grown over the course of further warfare and more defeats.

Every Israeli lives under the grim shadow of this reality.  Nor do they count on timely outside intervention to prevent massacres.  Remember, this is a nation built on the memory of the Holocaust, during which the world—including the United States, Great Britain and Canada—shut their gates on those seeking to escape genocide.

That is why Israel will never surrender and will always fight to the end.  That is why Israel needs a nuclear deterrent, unsatisfactory as it may be in a part of the world where suicide in the name of Islam is a virtue to so many of Israel’s enemies.  That is why Israel must always maintain a preventive option, whereby it attacks the enemy military that is poised to attack Israeli civilians.  That is why Israel must always maintain qualitative military superiority over the combined resources of its enemies.  This is also why Israel should make every reasonable effort to make peace with the Palestinians, as it has with the Egyptians and the Jordanians, but without sacrificing its security and its ability to successfully resist attack.

The first duty of every democracy is to protect its civilians against enemy attack.  Thus far, Israel, though vastly outnumbered, has done a good job.  The changes now occurring in the Arab and Muslim world make Israel’s future somewhat less certain, as does Iran’s movement toward nuclear weaponry capable of inflicting a second Holocaust on Israel’s six million Jews and one million Arabs.

Yet so many in the international community seem unsympathetic to Israel’s situation.  Whenever it seeks to defend its civilians, by attacking military targets, though inadvertently killing some civilians on occasion, there is a disproportional outcry against the Jewish state.  Selective boycotts, divestment and other sanctions are directed only at Israel by people ranging from Alice Walker to Steven Hawking.  Israel must not allow these immorally selective threats of delegitimation to deter it from protecting its citizens against the threat of Syrian-type massacres.

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  • cba

    Nor do they count on timely outside intervention to prevent massacres. Remember, this is a nation built on the memory of the Holocaust, during which the world—including the United States, Great Britain and Canada—shut their gates on those seeking to escape genocide.

    I don’t think we have to go back that far to know we can’t count on timely outside intervention.

    In May 1967, Nasser blockaded the Straits of Tiran and told the UN Peacekeeping Force in the Sinai to get out because he wanted to drive the Jews into the sea. The UN complied.

    Jumping forward to our day, the UN has ignored the letters (an average of 20 letters a year) that Israel sent asking for condemnation of the many rockets and mortars fired from Gaza to Israel. Nada. But, as we know, as soon as Israel responds the UN springs into action.

    We also see statements from the Church of Scotland, the United Church of Canada, the hate and distortions from the likes of the BBC and the Guardian, etc. etc. etc.

    No, we’re not very inclined to put our lives in the hands of such people.

  • vivarto

    Well, this being true, how can Mr. Dershowitz still recommend “Two state solution,” peace accords with “Palestinians” and all that nonsense Arab propaganda?

    Does D. think that if Israel gives away its core lands of Judea and Samaria the Arabs will stop hating?
    Does he think that Israel will so endear itself to Europeans that they will change sides and start supporting Israel against Arabs in the next war?

    Mr. Dershowitz, WAKE UP!
    There is only one solution, remove all Muslim Arabs from The Land of Israel and respond with overwhelming force to every violation of Israeli sovereignty.
    In particular respond with direct rocket hits on Gaza for each rocket from Gaza.

    Let the international community of Jew-haters condemn.

  • Vivienne Leijonhufvud

    Good article concise, have to agree with fellow commentators. The driving forces of these extremists have been reinforced since their children were tiny. B Skinner and Stanley Milner would have some interesting comments to make on the psychology of these people. I learned yesterday, children under five go through a ritual, by the
    name of Ashura. I understand this was/is a Pagan God/ess of fertility? The ritual is cutting a deep hole or gash into the soft tissue, of skull front about two inches from hairline, bleeding is profuse. I am curious how this might affect the psychi and neural function of a yet unformed brain?

  • Dr. Sheila Frank

    One of the complications of this complex issue is that the Israelis themselves appear to be more concerned about the Iran/Syria/Russian connection than they are even about Al Quada.

    So, from the majority opinion in Israel, as bad as Al Quada is , it may be the lesser evil of a vast number of evils.

    Not a very good position for our Israeli brothers and sisters to be in.

    An Israeli friend once told me ” anyone in Israel who does not believe in miracles is not a realist!”

  • J. Joel Farber

    Prof. Dershowitz, once again you have written forcefully and clearly, and I cannot help but agree with everything in this piece with one exception: Israel did not make peace with Egypt. It made peace with Sadat. Any poll of the Egyptian people and a cursory glance at their media would make clear the longing of Egypt to massacre the Jews.

  • gedshep

    Peace between Israel, Jordan and Egypt is tentative and
    is superficial. Its not real peace.
    To call it peace is weakness.
    Peace with the with the so called Palestinian Arabs is suicide.

  • Mr. Dershowitz is absolutely right in what he wrote.
    Until you read his statement:

    “This is also why Israel should make every reasonable effort to make peace with the Palestinians … but without sacrificing its security and its ability to successfully resist attack.”

    I wish Mr. Dershowitz would realize the incompatibility of the two propositions quoted above.

  • Mr. Dershowitz is absolutely right in what he wrote. Until one reads the following sentence:

    “This is also why Israel should make every reasonable effort to make peace with the Palestinians … but without sacrificing its security and its ability to successfully resist attack.”

    I wish Mr. Dershowitz would realize the incompatibility of the two propositions above.

    • vivarto

      I feel exasperated with Dershowitz.
      How can a brilliantly intelligent man like him deceive himself so willfully.

      “Peace” with “Palestinians.”
      He knows well that there is no Palestinian nation.
      Even their constitution says so.
      It is a temporary invention deliberately manufactured for the purpose of destroying the Jewish state. The idea of making peace with Pals is about as realistic as Jews making peace with Nazis.

      Wake up Dershowitz!!


    I received notice that I have been banned from the Huffington Post. I checked my postings; they do not include inappropriate language as others do . If any thing I may have commented too often. Your reporter did a story on me when I was president of Rabbis for Romney. I enjoy the discussions and postings on your site and would appreciate an explanation. The only thing I can think of is that I posted against the Holocaust Claims Conference AND Muslims touring Auschwitz. If the Muslims complained, there was no foul language and as a child of Holocaust survivors I can speak out against extremist Muslims who are against Israel and America . I do not want those extremists praying for my dead siblings and other relatives at Auschwitz. It was the Mufti of Jerusalem who was in charge of an SS division for the Nazis. Is there anything here that would warrant my being banned. Please have the courtesy to email me.

    Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

  • The only thing that unites them is Jew hatred. The only thing that interrupts the massacres of their own populations is the opportunity to massacre Jews.

    Does anyone seriously imagine that would cease or even pause for a moment should they and their urgers in the West succeed in destroying Israel?

  • Fred

    Good article.

  • In case there’s anyone who doesn’t understand the paragraph above, a simple explanation may help”



  • Fredric M. London

    That is because anti-Semitism is a basic tenet of the media today.

  • j glueck

    As bad as Assad is, he has protected despised minorities such as Syrian Christians. The Sunni terrorist invaders single out vulnerable minorities for even worse treatment. Let them kill one another, one day they will turn their attention to Israel again. This tragedy will get worse before it gets better no matter what our leaders say or do.

  • Shalom Freedman

    Unfortunately this article is completely accurate. How insane and lamentable that there are gullible and malicious people in the West who still scapegoat Israel and do not understand that it is the single decent nation in its whole area.

    • Stephen

      There are many in the west that wholeheartedly support Israel and I am one of those people. Although our support and opinions are becoming increasingly marginalized here in the west. The world is becoming polarized like never before. You have to ask why paid bloggers from Beijing’s 50 cent party are posting anti-Semitic propoganda enmass on American news sites to influence Americas opinion of Israel. There are many real people who support Israel despite the propoganda smear campaigns against Israel. We are not all as stupid as the media would like to believe.

  • JB Silver

    Yashir Koach, Mr. Dershowitz! Great article.
    JB Silver