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Awful, but essential reading
on 4 August 2010
One must credit Mr Dershovitz's passion in what he believes. But this is quite possibly the most dishonest book I have ever read.
Much of the book is dedicated to criticising Noam Chomsky and his writings on the Israel-Palestine issue. Some of those criticisms are in fact well made as Chomsky can also be rather selective of his facts when it suits him to be. But it is quite remarkeable that his accusations that Chomsky delights in misleading his readers does not prevent Dershowitz from doing exactly the same to his readers. Here are just a few of the ways in which Mr Dershowitz is dishonest:
- He repeatedly states that Israel has done more to uphold the rule of law and protect human rights that any other country faced with similar threats in history. He specifcally refers to the British in Northern Ireland as an example - unsurprisingly he offers no supporting evidence for this repeated assertion. I am from Northern Ireland, and I would be perceived as being on the nationalist (i.e. anti-british side of that conflict). But I never remember the British government demolishing the houses of those who just happen to be part of the community that opposed the government; of course, this isn't really that important to Dershowitz as all those whose houses were destroyed are not real victims anyway (see below). Nor do I remember the British using very substantial military fire power and directing it often indiscriminately into residential areas. I do remember the British government shooting unarmed civilians in 1972, 13 of whom died on Bloody Sunday. The British Government has been heavily criticised ever since and has recently admitted that the killings were "unjustified and unjustifiable". This leads nicely onto Dershowitz's next blatant lie:
- That no other country has ever received similar criticism for the kinds of actions that have been perpetrated by the Israeli state. How many children have now been shot by Israeli troops? Again, to Dershowitz their not real victims though - without any evidence to back this up he basically accuses all those children who have been killed of throwing bombs, grenades and stones. Yes that's right, a child throwing a stone is not really a victim if an israeli soldier responds - proportionately in Dershowitz's mind - by shooting them.
- He states that the population of mandatory Palestine was majority Jewish. He quotes a single rather obscure reference to back this up but fails to address the fact that pretty much every history book on the matter, including those which are pro-israeli, seem to agree that Jews made up only approximately a third of the population at the time of partition. Indeed, at other places in his own book he quotes in support of his argument on other matters the UN sourcs which include the figures from that period and which clearly support the real history re the figures. Obviously, Dershowitz doesn't feel the need to address this anomoly.
- He not only criticises equally partisan commentators who oppose his views, such as Chomsky, but in effect, portrays the majority of criticism directed at Israel as equally partisan and, yes, anti-semitic. So while he states that he has "never heard a mere critic of Israel be accused of anti-semitism," the whole jist of his book is that those people who criticise israel are pretty much wrong about every issue that is in dispute and the only way that their passionate criticism can be explained is, yes, you guessed it, anti-semitism.
This is just a few of the very obvious dishonisties that make up the bulk of Dershowitz's book.
It is not just dishonesty that is the problem though. Some of his arguments are so absurd that it is difficult to understand how anyone can take them seriously. For instance:
- To read his book, Israel has been in the right in relation to pretty much every disputed issue that there is between the two communities and those that argue otherwise, are unreasonable, ill-informed and often, anti-semitic. Anyone familiar with any conflict situation will know that this suggestion is simply absurd. In conflict situations wrongs are always committed by and against both sides. As a man who has never actually experienced a conflict, Dershowtiz of course wouldn't know this. Though he doesn't let that prevent him from spouting hate-filled drivel and then accuse all of Israel's critics of prolonging the conflict and condoning palestinian terrorism.
- He states that he diagrees with the policy of destroying the houses of Palestinians, not because it is wrong but because it will not prevent terrorism. He then proceeds to say "however, no person could reasonably argue that to do so is a breach of anyone's human rights" or words to that effect. It's quite remarkable to think that he is a lawyer and yet he seems to be wholly unfamiliar with key rights enshrined in many regional and international legal instruments, which sepcifcally protect right to family life, right to property, and the right to be free from inhumane and degrading treatment; not to mention the rights of children: even if he is right that only home owners who have harboured terrorists - something which I sincerely doubt - what about the children who also lose their home when it is demolished by the Israeli government. It is difficult to see how a reasonable person could argue that such actions are NOT a breach of human rights.
I could go on.
Despite my criticisms, however, I still believe that this is essential reading. It not only gives insight into the thinking of a highly partisan, highly blinkered Zionist, but if you come to it with an open mind, it will also make you think about whether the criticism directed at israel is always justfied. Some of it may well not be; or at least there may be countries that often remain below our radar which are equally deserving of criticism. It is perhaps this aspect of Dershowtiz's book that does need to be taken seriously. But please read with a very critical eye and check his "facts" very carefully.
Just one other thing: while I would recommend reading the book, please, I urge you, buy a second hand copy. A man as dishonest as this is certainly not worthy of your hard earned money.