I begrudge no one, regardless of their views, the right to speak up and passionately defend what they believe is right. In no matter is this more important than in the case of the Israel-Palestine conflict and the US role in it.
But Dershowitz’s “contribution” to the debate is destructive to all involved. This is not a court case where the arena is set up for each side to zealously defend their case using whatever means necessary.
Dershowitz’s attack on Carter is built on argumentative chicanery and rhetorical trickery. Most of all, it is all too often a personal attack that doesn’t deal with the facts. In this milieu, we already have more than enough of that.
Here’s another example of how Dershowitz twists things to create his case against Carter. He quotes Carter, then writes his comment as follows:
“’It is inconceivable that any Palestinian, Arab leader, or any objective member of the international community could accept this illegal action as a permanent solution to the continuing altercation in the Middle East,’ he (Carter) wrote of Olmert’s plan last year in USA Today.
“Carter has, in effect, told Palestinian radicals to continue to do what they are doing: mainly to terrorize Jewish civilians and then whine to the world about Israeli responses to terrorism.”
Carter was actually referring to Olmert’s potentially disastrous “convergence plan” which has since been shelved.
The result of Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza has been a disaster for Palestinians and provided little gain for Israel, which is relieved of the burden of the pointless settlements in Gaza, but has been subject to rocket fire from the Strip for much of the time since the withdrawal.
Olmert’s plan to replicate this failed idea on the West Bank would have been an unmitigated catastrophe. All the problems with Gaza would have been replicated, except that Israel would have retained a large chunk of the West Bank under Olmert’s plan, which would have inevitably been seen by the Palestinians as a land grab. Indeed, no Palestinian leader could have accepted it, and the result would almost certainly be an enormous increase in the number of Palestinians willing to do whatever it took to harm any Israelis they could.
Carter was opposing a plan that would have increased suffering for both Palestinians and Israelis. On Planet Dershowitz, that’s called inciting Palestinians to terrorism.
Finally, Dershowitz blasts Carter for refusing to debate him. Yet his own articles demonstrate clearly why Carter should indeed refuse such a debate.
Dershowitz is not well-versed even in the Israel-Palestine conflict, let alone the broader Middle East. The question of whether or not he’s an “expert” does not even bear consideration–he’s not even a well-informed layman. I say this not because of his views. Many people hold views similar to his who are experts (Dennis Ross, David Makovsky, and a whole host of experts and fellows at many think-tanks and academic institutions come to mind). He simply isn’t particularly knowledgeable about this; not surprising since it’s not his field.
Dershowitz is, however, a masterful debater and an expert at constructing an argument. His article demonstrates precisely why he has made a name for himself on this issue and why he should not be debated about it. Because of his skill, he can win a debate, but he cannot do so based on his grasp of the facts.
As he did with Carter, Dershowitz bases his argument on personal attacks, on shading the facts, distorting the meaning of words and building upon a phony foundation. That makes him a very good lawyer. It makes him also a very dangerous person in the political arena, and I would stand by that even when (as he has done) he says things I agree with.
Consider that Dershowitz makes these two statements during the course of his article:
1. “I would like to join with President Carter in working for peace in the Middle East. But peace will not come if we insist on blaming one side in the conflict.”
2. “That is the core of the conflict. It is Palestinian terror, not Israeli policy, which prevents peace.”
Can it possibly be any clearer that Planet Dershowitz is not a place for civilized and rational discourse?