Gallery of art and thoughts

The cartoons and contemplations of a twentysomething copy editor.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dershowitz vs. Chomsky

So, my alma mater, Harvard, has brought Alan Dershowitz and Noam Chomsky together for a debate on Israel. I wish I could have been there.

I loathe Chomsky; he singles out Israel and the US for his criticism while letting Sierra Leone, Sudan, China, North Korea and countless other ruthless dictatorships escape his lens. Perhaps I detest him so much because some of his points are valid; Israel is oppressing the Palestinians, through the security barrier, through landholding laws, through its policies in the occupied territories.

Israel exposes itself to scrutiny because of its unusual position: it attempts to maintain some democratic structure, but it is founded upon a religion. Until Israel becomes a true democracy or a true theocracy, voices like Chomsky's will challenge the contradictions in its philosophy instead of going after purer theocracies (like Iran, which the MIT professor praised, or Saudi Arabia, which admits no one but Muslims into Mecca and Medina).

Israel is no colonial occupier. The Holocaust refugees from Europe needed a refuge, and the Jews in Palestine gave it to them when other countries did not (including the US, whose newspapers downplayed the Holocaust and whose government officials turned back ships with Jewish refugees). As one famous Jew put it: "When you ain't got nothin', you got nothin' to lose."

Israel seized Palestine fair and square, in the purest way possible: through military might. The Israelis defeated the Arab armies and conquered the territory that constituted the pre-1967 Jewish state. Chomsky may speak of justice, but for Jews whose backs were to the Mediterranean Sea, the only justice was survival.

It makes sense for Israel to expand -- to a point. More land means more places to put people, and Israel needs to nurture its Jewish population if it wishes to remain a Jewish state. The settlers should move into the West Bank. It has water and other agricultural resources. However, it also has millions of Palestinians who want to hold onto their land, and who can blame them?

Chomsky, Dershowitz and myself spend the bulk of our lives in the comfortable West. We don't worry about suicide bombers on Jerusalem buses, and we don't live in squalid (or not-so-squalid) refugee camps in Jenin. It's very easy to talk about equality from a Western standpoint. But how freely do they live in Saudi Arabia? Is there an equivalent of B'tselem in Riyadh?

Because they both want the same land, Israelis and Palestinians will never live in peace. All they can hope for is a state of cold war, and an enhanced standard of living on the Palestinian side.

I hope to translate this into a newspaper column sometime soon.


At 8:46 AM, Anonymous Philip said...

I'd have to heartily disagree with your assertion that Israel is not a true democracy. I really don't see how you can say that. It has leaders that are popularly elected, and Arabs have the right to vote in Israel. I'm not sure what your operating definition of a 'true democracy' is if Israel doesn't qualify.

I agree that ideally, Israel wouldn't need a security fence. But ideally, Palestinian terrorists wouldn't carry out suicide bombings against Israeli civilians either. Suicide bombings have gone down something like 90 percent since the barrier went up.

I really mean this with all due respect Rich, but I think in your desire to appear objective, you really have allowed yourself to be duped by the Palestinian side.

In my view, this is precisely the reason why Jews have been opressed throughout history. Jews are always looking for ways to blame themselves for their victimhood.

I'm happy that Israelis have decided enough is enough and are willing to fight back.


Post a Comment

<< Home