Should Alan Dershowitz refuse to take himself seriously?

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As Alan Dershowitz forcefully inserts himself into the BDS debate, it is helpful to recall Dershowtiz’s own insight into who should and should not be accepted as a “serious” thinker on peace in the Middle East. In his 2005 volume The Case For Peace, Dershowitz offers a lengthy attack on the late great Tony Judt’s groundbreaking 2003 article in the New York Review of Books. (Think Clifford Irving criticizing Pablo Picasso). Dershowitz dismissed as a “nonstarter” Judt’s call for a single binational state of Jews and Palestinians. He then pronounced that history had proven Judt “completely wrong” less than a year after his article appeared. Dershowitz chided Judt for his lack of faith in the “peace process”:

[Judt] declared that “the Middle East peace process is finished” – not delayed or postponed but forever “finished.” He also believed that “the two state solution – the core of the Oslo process and the present ‘road map’ – is probably already doomed.” Not endangered but ‘doomed’! And he criticized those who, in the spirit of “a ventriloquist’s dummy, pitifully recite . . . the Israeli cabinet line: It’s all Arafat’s fault. . . Well, it turned out the dummies were right and the professor was wrong. The peace process was not finished. All it needed to start up again was the death of Arafat, because its rejection was in fact “all Arafat’s fault.” Arafat’s untimely death (untimely, because if it had come a few years earlier the Camp David negotiations would almost certainly have produced peace and a Palestinian state) immediately changed the dynamics and restarted the peace process. Rarely has history provided such a natural experiment: while Arafat was alive the peace process remained stymied; as soon as Arafat dies the peace process continue. This alone should be more than enough to disqualify Judt from ever again being taken seriously about how to achieve peace in the Middle East.”

Now, more than six years after Dershowitz’s analysis, let’s revisit the issue. Dershowitz claimed that the “peace process” only needed the death of Arafat to proceed and progress toward eventual resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Judt claimed that the peace process was illusory and doomed to failure. Who was right and who was wrong? The 2005 resumption of peace talks was another inconsequential event in the never-ending series of starts and stops known as the “peace process.” Meanwhile, the Occupation wades through its fifth decade with no end in sight. Yet Dershowitz pinned high hopes on the opportunities presented by Arafat’s “untimely death,” and the ensuing fruitless umpteenth chapter of the peace talks that led to a predictable dead end.

Today, Judt looks like a visionary who accurately foresaw what many are only now coming to realize, that the “peace process” will never produce a viable two-state solution, and we had best prepare for the alternative. Dershowitz’s condemnation of Judt could not appear more foolish. If being wrong on this issue is “more than enough to disqualify someone from ever again being taken seriously,” Dershowitz’s own words consign him to the dustbin of history.

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