This Thursday, Peter Beinart and Alan Dershowitz will once again square off on the subject of Zionism at CUNY, a debate that promises to cover a spectrum of opinion from A to B. It is unclear exactly what new ground they will cover, having debated at least twice before, once at CUNY last October, and a few months earlier on Martha’s Vineyard. One possibility is that Dershowitz will use the occasion to unveil newer and better lies. There is no shortage of exposés of his breathtaking dishonesty, including my own modest contributions about his 2010 debate with Susan Abulhawa, his whining about the BDS conference at Brooklyn College, and his recent claim that the Israel Army has the lowest rape rate of civilians. But Dershowitz keeps the lies coming fast and furious, and someone has to keep up with the Great Fabricator.
Take this short excerpt from last year’s Martha’s Vineyard debate with Beinart. Starting at about 29:20:
There’s a lot of common ground between us. Let me start by giving you a little of my own history on these issues. In 1967, as you probably all know, Israel tried very hard to keep Jordan out of the 1967 war… It was a responsive war, not a preemptive war. The War with Egypt and with Syria was a preemptive war, but the war that resulted in the capture of the West Bank was a reactive war. Israel captured the West Bank, immediately it offered to give it back, immediately… As … Moshe Dayan said, “I sat by the phone. We put an offer out, land for peace,” and the response was the meeting at Khartoum between all the Arab countries and the Palestinian leadership in which they issued the three famous no’s – no negotiation, no peace, and no recognition.
At 31:20: Israel has complied completely with 242. . . Any country that has made peace with Israel has gotten all of its territory back. So one has to remember that history and think of it very carefully. –
At 32:00: The Palestinian leader at the time, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, said there is no such thing as the Palestinian people. The last thing we want is a Palestinian State, we just don’t want there to be a Jewish State. So there’s a history here.
Those who view Dershowitz’s opening statement will no doubt spot other indefensible assertions of “fact,” but there are three major whoppers that I have never seen made by anyone else.
First whopper: “Israel captured the West Bank, immediately it offered to give it back, immediately.”
Seriously? Israel immediately offered to give back the West Bank? Where does Dershowitz get this from? Apparently by grossly embellishing on a more modest lie he previously spouted in his 2002 book, The Case for Israel. There, on p. 96, Dershowitz wrote that Israel agreed to comply with the principles of UNSC Resolution 242, and he recounts the story of poor forlorn Dayan waiting for a phone call from King Hussein. This earlier Dershowitz version does not make the claim that Israel actually offered to give back the West Bank, or that Dayan was ever quoted as saying, “We put an offer out, land for peace.” The book cites p. 330 of Benny Morris’s Righteous Victims for support.
Putting aside the problems presented by Morris’s historically inconsistent histories, what did he actually say on p. 330?
Morris does claim that Israeli leaders thought that “the conquered territories could be traded for peace,” that Dayan was waiting for King Hussein’s call (but not that Dayan said anything about an offer of land for peace), and that the Israeli cabinet secretly offered to give up the Sinai and Golan Heights for peace with Egypt and Syria, who rejected the overture.
However, when Morris discusses Israel’s plans for the West Bank, it’s a very different story.
[Israel] “postponed a decision concerning the West Bank, about which the ministers disagreed. There was a consensus not to return to the prewar borders – which Foreign Minister Abba Eban, nothing if not a dove, was to immortalize as “the Auschwitz lines” . . . The majority eventually coalesced around the plan proposed by Yigal Allon at the end of July 1967: to divide the West Bank between Israel and Jordan . . . Israel would retain and six-seven-mile-deep strip along the west bank of the Jordan as a “security belt”. . .
In other words, Israel’s plan was to expand its width into Jordanian territory rather than return to the pre-existing border, and in addition, acquire a 6 to 7 mile wide swath stretching west from the Jordan River, in the middle of Jordanian territory!
To recap, in 2012, Dershowitz claimed that Israel immediately offered to give the West Bank back to Jordan, based upon his own decade-old book that makes no such claim, which was in turn based upon a 1999 Morris work that explicitly stated the opposite.
Second whopper: “Israel has complied completely with 242. . . Any country that has made peace with Israel has gotten all of its territory back.”
The only two countries that lost territory in 1967 and subsequently signed a peace treaty with Israel are Egypt and Jordan. Israel conquered the Sinai peninsula and Gaza from Egypt in 1967, and built Jewish settlements in each territory. In the early 1970’s when Egypt indicated a willingness to agree to peace with Israel in return for its captured territories, PM Golda Meir dismissed the overture out of hand. This led directly to the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and eventually to the Camp David agreement five years later in which Israel finally agreed to withdraw from the Sinai. This was not compliance with 242. It took another war to get Israel to part with the Sinai. Moreover, Israel continued its control of Gaza after the peace treaty. So Egypt never got “all of its territory back” and only got the Sinai not out of Israel’s compliance with SC 242 but after Israel’s initial rejection of the resolution’s principles.
As for Jordan, Dershowitz’s lie is even worse. Jordan made peace with Israel but did not get any of its territory back. It is true that it renounced its claim to the West Bank, but it assigned its rights over the territory to the Palestinians. If Israel, in exchange for a peace treaty with Jordan, had returned “all of [Jordan’s] territory” captured in 1967, it would have returned the entire West Bank to Jordan’s designated beneficiary, the Palestinian people. Instead, it has never relinquished one inch of that territory.
Third whopper (this one a double): “The Grand Mufti said there is no such thing as the Palestinian people. The last thing we want is a Palestinian State.“
Where does Dershowitz get this from? Apparently from his own peculiar powers of deduction. It is, of course, true, that the Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, as well the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, opposed the 1947 UN Partition Plan proposing a Jewish and an Arab State, but the objection was to the Jewish State, where hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish Palestinians resided. There was no objection to a state for Palestinians that was independent from the surrounding Arab states. There is zero support for the proposition that al-Husseini rejected the notion of a Palestinian State or the existence of the Palestinian people. With respect to the latter, Dershowitz might be confusing the Mufti with Golda Meir, who famously did deny the existence of Palestinians; people make that mistake all the time.
Beinart did not challenge Dershowitz on any of these lies, as conspicuous and indefensible as they were. In fact, at 43:40, he meekly responded that “I agree with some of that history. . . much of it was back many, many decades ago.” It was not only outdated, Peter, it was fictional.
Note Dershowitz’s demeanor, which he cleverly uses to bolster his fabrications. He casually recites this invented history as if it were facts we can all agree on, like 2+2=4. He throws in the reassurances that this history is “common ground,” and “as you probably all know.” In fact, such phrases act to promote unanimity of agreement with the fabrications to follow, since anyone who dares dissent from or even acknowledges ignorance of Dershowitz’s thumbnail narrative would be confessing to an embarrassing level of crudeness and lack of cultivation.
Does it work? It looks like it. A couple of hundred well-heeled, mostly liberal MV vacationers went home enlightened about Israel’s extraordinary generosity toward the vanquished Arabs in the wake of victory, and the Fakestinians who pretend to be aggrieved about the loss of something that was never theirs. But Dershowitz has been getting away with and even thriving on this mendacity for decades. Probably the only interesting thing about Thursday’s debate will be to see if there are any new whoppers in the hopper.