Left, Right, and Dershowitz: Why the Left's inclination toward the Palestinians?

Lawyer Alan Dershowitz, usually categorized as a liberal, has written a book called THE CASE FOR ISRAEL.

The book intends to, and appears to, demolish the Palestinian side of the Israeli vs. Palestinian controversy.

My intent in this thread is to allow my fellow Dopers to engage in some (well-informed) ignorance abatement on two general issues: (1) To what extent is Dershowitz’s case a fair and accurate presentation of fact? (2) If it IS accurate in crucial respects, what is the basis for the Left’s fairly pervasive, longtime, and continuing “tilt” toward Palestinian views and against Israeli views?

Re: my #1: I’m not interested in ad hominem attacks on Dershowitz himself. Please focus on his claims (for example, that the State of Israel stems from a large, legal, peacefully established Jewish presence in the area going back to the mid-19th Century; that Palestinian leaders have repeatedly rejected any resolution that allows for the legally protected presence of any organized Jewish entity in the region–etc.). I don’t expect lawyers (on either side) not to be lawyers. I’m interested in the truth-status of their claims.

And re: my #2: If my comment about “the Left” seems offbase or unfair, tell me so. At least from my point of view as an American reading the daily papers, attacks on Israel’s position in the controversy track strongly with left-leaning views on such matters as the environment, women’s rights, anti-militarism, anti-globalization, the world role of the US, and so on. (Many obvious ironies there.) And I am speaking of the views of persons; obviously many of the governments that officially support the Palestinian claim are on the political right. But in terms of persons who tend leftward in their sympathies, what makes the Israeli view so unappealing (if the historical facts are anything like what Dershowitz claims)? Reflexive opposition to a religiously-defined society? Reflexive sympathy toward the economically poorer society?

When did antipathy toward Jews and their traditional aspiration for a homeland become an article of faith for those of “liberal” inclination? (I am not referring to anti-semitism per se.) Is it as simple as the fact that Zionism emerged as a “rival” to the world-unifying aspirations of Leninism, and we are still seeing reverberations from that struggle?

I don’t see the logical connection between being pro-Left in general, and pro-Palestinian in particular.

You coudl give us more info on that book…

This is a bullshit characterization. Antipathy towards Israel does not equal antipathy towards Jews.

Maybe us liberals just care about things like compassion and fairness. I think there may also be a tendency to feel empathy for underdogs and persecuted minorities.

When Israel decides to stop violating international laws, lying about their intentions, bulldozing people off their land and sending rockets into civilian apartment buldings then maybe we I’ll stop feeling antipathy. It’s the behavior of Israel that pisses me off. I couldn’t give less of a fuck what religion they are.

Lefties like Pat Buchanan?

Of course, the OP fails to ask the next, obvious question: Why the right’s inclination toward the Israelis?
Regardless, can we agree that both the Israelis and the Palestinians are behaving badly? I tend to have more sympathy for the Palestinians because, in part, they’re a displaced, impoverished tribe with no coherent power structure; Israel is a modern, western-style democracy, from which I expect more than the useless tit-for-tat violence to which they’ve been a party. In other words, they should know better, and we have a better chance of getting them to renounce the right of retribution than the Palestinians.

Most Palestinians have no civil/legal rights whatsoever, and can be shot, arrested or tortured by the Israeli army at will; a large percentage are now third-generation refugees living in squallid camps.

For some reason, the “liberal media” never dwells on the fact that Israel has defied more U.N. resolutions than any other country.

The OP reflects the misframing of this issue (and many others) in the American gnoosphere. The minute you focus on the extreme shittiness of the Palestinians fate, you’re a crazy liberal who wants to drive the Israelis into the sea. The whole issue is so misstated that no one is really interested anymore in “the truth status of their claims.”

BTW Alan Dershowitz lost any claim to the appellation “liberal” when he went on " 60 Minutes" to stump for his bizarre torture warrant idea.

If you want to choke on the actual liberal view of the issues, why don’t you read Politicide, by Baruch Kimmerling. Then decide what arguements Dershowitz has demolished. (Or if you want we can play “dueling copyright infringement” between the two books)

As I’ve spent as much time searching for one as I can keep my sanity for, I might as well have you do the work…
(By the by, I though US was #1, and Israel #2, at about 2/3rds our count.)
As for contributing something to the arguement-
There’s a difference between “Don’t say Israel is above reproach,” the position that’s held by “liberals,” and “Antipathy towards Jews,” which most people except marginalized radicals recognizes as a marginalized radical position.

One question interests me.

While it is no doubt true that Israel has defied many UN resolutions, is it not also the case that there have been more resolutions passed condemning Israel than any other country? Including the famous “Zionism = Racism” resolution?

Are you of the opinion that Israel is, in fact, deserving of this level of attention from that august body? That there is no other country in the entire world which is deserving of this treatment?

Or maybe, just maybe, this laser-focus on condemning Israel is evidence of bias, double standards and malice - leading to a justifiable lack of legitimacy on the part of that organization?

Probably because Israel is a traditional ally of the US, and therefore some elements of the left who are reflexively anti-American are going therefore to be anti-Israel. “My enemy’s friend is my enemy, too.”

Also that the USSR was anti-Israel and pro-Arab as a way to try to gain political advantage in the Middle East, and therefore those who sympathize with Marxism and the USSR will tend to take her side in international disagreements as well. The unpleasant history of anti-Semitism in Russia and the USSR reinforced their anti-Israel position as well. Certainly anti-Semitism was not unique to the USSR in Europe, but the defeat of Nazi Germany drove the overt expression of such sentiments underground. Since the USSR was one of the victors in WWII, and was officially atheist, they felt less need to confront their own anti-Semitism than did, say, France or West Germany.

Remember the Doctor’s Plot in the USSR in 1953? Stalin was getting ready for another pogrom, which was forestalled only by his overdue death. And a lot of leftist anti-Israel agitation is left over from the 30s, when the American Communist movement took its marching orders from Moscow. Then, when Israel became a nation in 1948, many of the extreme Left opposed them out of habit of agreeing with the USSR.

Mostly the Palestinians are for the American left much of what they are to the rest of the Arab world - a convenient tool to beat the US up with. Which is why we get the kind of one-sided condemnation of Israel in the UN that is so unpleasantly common (as well as on the SDMB). If the Arab world were so concerned with Palestinians well-being, they would not refuse so consistently to accept them as citizens of their own countries.


I’ve read excerpts from the book in question and I don’t understand it either. Why the constant denounciation of Israel yet the large silence about the utterly anti-Semitic, anti-American, anti-Christian horribly sexist Wahabist stream of Islam being propagated right now?

Why is Palestinians nationalism so attractive to the left? Why is the religious fundamentalism espoused by widely supported Palestinian organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad so ignored? They’re not going to create a state where gays would be welcome or women’s rights respected.

The Palestinians are poor? They shouldn’t be. The world – including the United States – has poured millions of dollars into Palestinian coffers. Yassir Arafat is one of the world’s richest men according to Forbes. Yet Palestinians overwhelmingly support him even though the corrupt PA is in charge of much of the occupied territory and has done little to help Palestinians besides encourage homicide bombing.

The Palestinians don’t have a state? They’ve been offered one several times. Granted it wasn’t the state of their dreams but isn’t that better than living in a refugee camp? And if they’re that upset about legal and civil rights why don’t they bomb and denounce other Arab nations for not letting them acquire citizenship?

Personally it’s hard for me to sympathize with the Palestinians because they’ve been offered a way out of their misery and it seems to me they’ve refused it. I’ve seen poll after indicating Palestinians do not want a state in the West Bank. They want a fundamentalism Islamic one in Tel Aviv and that doesn’t strike me a worldwide necessity. They’ve also indulged in profound anti-Semitism and let it fester in the Arab-Muslim world in the name of their cause.

I’d love to side with the Palestinians and see a multicultural state established in the West Bank and Jordan. But years of paying attention to the conflict has convinced that’s not what the Palestinians, the Muslims or the Arab world really wants to see.

All right, maybe I’m to blame here for not having clearly limned what this thread is about.

It’s not Left=good, Right=bad; nor Left=bad, Right=good; nor the usual crap about whether stinkin’ liberals/conservatives are lying through their teeth. Nor do I intend to equate opposition to this or that policy adopted by this or that Israeli government, with anti-Semitism. (My “antipathy toward Jews and their traditional aspiration for a homeland” would have been better rendered as "antipathy toward the aspiration for a homeland that is traditional in the religion of Judaism’; I apologize.)

Dershowitz is not a liberal? Seems to me he’s always been so classified. Has he taken so many positions viewed with favor by self-avowed rightists that, on balance, he’s no longer to be found in the leftward third of the political spectrum? I’m not saying he’s a pure and perfect liberal, only that he’s more liberal than “middle of the bird.” And of course the question of the relation of liberalism to the Israel/Palestine question is exactly what we’re discussing in this thread.

Here is a selection of some of the questions which he addresses in the cited book; he uses them to name his chapters:

Is Israel a colonial, imperialist state? Did European Jews displace Palestinians? Were the Jews unwilling to share Palestine? Have the Jews exploited the Holocaust? Did Israel create the Arab refugee problem? Why have more Palestinians than Israelis been killed? Does Israel torture Palestinians? Is Israel a racist state? Is Israel the prime human rights violator in the world? Is there moral equivalence between Palestinian terrorists and Israeli responses? --All tolled, 32 such chapters.

To summarize the overall position (in a manner that I fear is unjust to Dershowitz’s presentation), he seems to be saying that the leadership of the Palestinian people has, since the mid-19th century, used those people as cannon-fodder in support of a never-give-an-inch program in relation to the establishment of a permanent Jewish homeland in that part of the world. Much of the world has bought into this. And there is no particular reason to believe that acceptance of the Palestinian proposals presently on the table will curb that program.

The brief is being made by Dershowitz, not by Dickerson.

There are many vital issues in which a case can be made for both sides, and in which it is not clear which “facts” are facts, nor which facts are relevant. With regard to such issues, self-described “rationalists” usually render judgments tentatively–so I thought. This is usually an attitude with more appeal to the left than the right, this rational-skepticism. I have thought it characteristric of the SDMB as an entity, if not of all Dopers (least of all yours truly). Why, then, such a pronounced tilt to one side in this case? And why, especially, by the “rationalistic” Left? (There’s no big surprise that the religionistic Right, or the capitalistic Right, of the West would tend to push toward Israel. I’m asking about the tilt, wanting an explanation for what seems, on the face of it, to lack one .)

What a load of ill-informed crap, for a start the state was only offered after ~35 years of brutal occapation and it was not viable as it handed over nearly all of the West Banks natural resources to Israel, left it as a Bantustan entirely surrounded by Israeli-controlled teritory and even then significant parts of what was to be the new state were still to be indefintely occupied by the Israeli army. You cannot blame the Palestinians for turning down such a manifestly unfair offer.

It is clear that Israel are very much in the wrong by contiuning to occupy and oppress the Palestinians, that is why they are criticized.

Nothing I’ve said is “ill informed crap” as you so charmingly put it.

What would be your definition of the Palestinians *not * being oppressed? Rule under Arafat? Rule by Hamas? The majority of Palestinians don’t want Israel to exist. Period. They want it replaced with a Palestinian state. Why is that such an attractive cause? Why is nationalism bad except when the Palestinians march for it?

The West Bank itself was taken in a defensive war. The PLO was formed in 1964 with the intent of destroying Israel. Before that the West Bank was controlled by Jordan. Under the current situation Yassir Arafat is a rich man. He controls quite a bit of the West Bank under the 1994 Oslo accords so much of the Palestinian oppression is his own fault.

The 2000 talks to which you refer offered the Palestinians the following:

**The details were not disclosed formally, but according to media reports Barak’s offer included:

Israeli redeployment from 95% of the West Bank and 100% of the Gaza Strip

The creation of a Palestinian state in the areas of Israeli withdrawal

The removal of isolated settlements and transfer of the land to Palestinian control

Other Israeli land exchanged for West Bank settlements remaining under Israeli control

Palestinian control over East Jerusalem, including most of the Old City

“Religious Sovereignty” over the Temple Mount, replacing Israeli sovereignty in effect since 1967 **


It’s a plan I would support and so would millions of other Jews and Israelis. Yet the Guardian summed it up: “Arafat Didn’t Negotiate. He just kept saying no.”


Hardly “bantusuans” but certainly comforting to the Arab world to think otherwise. And certainly better than homocide bombing and massive poverty.

You haven’t addressed a single other question I’ve posed. What would a Palestinian state look like? Would it be a place where Jews are welcomed despite the PA’s terrible demonization of Jews? Would it be a multcultural Democracy? And would there be dozens and dozens of UN resolutions against it if it weren’t?

I’d also like to know just who the heck I am supposed to stand with for peace. Yassir Arafat? He doesn’t want it. Islamic Jihad? Hamas? The Palestinian people? They don’t seem to want peace either and they heavily support the above mentioned organizations.

You also can’t just set up the situation as “big bad Israel” and the “innocent Palestinians.” Israel has borders with other Islamic nations, places where expressions of anti-Semitism are a very common form of discourse. The recent speech by Malaysian President Mahathir was profoundly anti-Semitic and widely lauded in the Islamic world. Israel has to make peace with those countries. With the establishment of a Palestinian state, what to prevent them from using the West Bank to totally annilate the country? They’ve certainly tried it in the past.

I’m a moderate Democrat and I’d like to see the situation resolved. The two state solution strikes me as just. But it is that kind of “criticism” as you term it – and the unlenting Arab-Muslim scapegoating of Israel – that draws me away from sympathy with the Palestinians and towards profound puzzlement with the left’s identity with it.

This is, amazingly, a rather common viewpoint.
What it comes out sounding like is: “Poor dears (Palestinians), unlike the Israelis they just don’t know any better, and we can’t expect civilized behavior from them.”

Strikes me as patronizing and offensive in the extreme.

It does rather sound like “our little brown brothers”.
On the C-Span book program, an Indian author made the point that chosing to be religious or not is true freedom. I submit that the Afghans and the Iranians and the Iraqis don’t want a democracy because some might choose to not have their lives run by religious authority.

First, I think we are only talking about the far left. The moderate left, who represents the majority of liberals in this country, I feel recognizes Israel as a useful and steady ally, as well as a bastion of democratic values in a sea of relative tyranny.

There are a number of reasons IMHO that the “left” sides with the Palestinians. Some of these are obvious and have been touched upon – the left stands up for the poor, for the displaced, for the oppressed, for the occupied. Palestine is at the intersection of all of these factors.

Another reason is that I think that liberals have been slow to accept the failure of negotiations as a permanent aspect of the Israel/Palestine situation. Since 1948, apart from very notable exceptions, Israel has had a complete failure of negotiations with the Arab world, with only partial successes with Jordan, Egypt, and Morocco. In 2000, the Palestinian Authority was added to the list. Oslo collapsed and the next step towards reconciliation is not obvious.

Jews learned a hard lesson out of World War II. For centuries, their survival in Europe depended on negotiation skills and careful effort under repressive regimes. World War II taught them that negotiations don’t work all of the time. Negotiate where possible, but be prepared to fight. Look for signs of duplicity in your opponent. If they keep saying they are going to kill you, chances are negotiations are not in earnest. And that is the case with the Arab world, at least from the perspective of the average Israeli.

Those on the far left have not become accustomed to fighting this kind of war, the kind of war that 9/11 started for the US. This is not a fight like the US fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam – something we continue until we can negotiate a settlement. This is a war that won’t end until the other side is obliterated or change their opinions about us. The same is true for Israel, at least from the perspective of many Israelis. The Arab world is out for Israel’s destruction, and the failure of Oslo proved it. Until they start renouncing violence, until they concede, until they stop giving anti-Israel speeches, I don’t think there can be any settlement.

The last point is that Israel has earned the title of a Western democracy. They have had a decent human rights record, they do abide by international law. So unlike the democracy thrown haphazardly together in Russia or the dictatorships of Africa and the Arab World, the West tolerates far less from Israel. Israel becomes a test bed for new ideas, for opinions of how wars should be fought, of how “civilized countries” should behave while under attack. And anything that doesn’t match the detached opinions of the far left is criticized.

The solution is for Israel to dissociate itself from the Arab World. This has to be done through big borders and walls. It is like cutting off necrotic tissue. Dispose of it because the constant violence, the constant killing is destroying Israeli society and the values it was founded upon. Build that wall, and see if the Arab World changes its opinion in a few decades. Once they accept, truly, a Zionist presence in their midst, negotiations can take place.

It pleases me to say that Dershowitz is a flaming liberal jerk.

The irony of a sub-set of liberals being pro-palestinian is in the lies that underlie the creed of the larger group. Namely that…

Liberals are crusaders for the oppressed.


  • NPR style guide for NPR reporters*

**terrorism, terrorist **— Terrorism is the act of causing terror, usually for political purposes, and it connotes that the terror is perpetrated on innocents. Thus, the bombing of a civilian airliner clearly is a terrorist act, but an attack on an army convoy, even if away from the battlefield, is not. Do not ape government usage. The Israeli government, for instance, routinely refers to PLO actions as terrorist. A journalist should use independent criteria to judge whether the term is accurate.

Now tell me** Bleeding Hearts**, when was the last time that a Jew put on womens clothing and went to a Palestinian marketplace and blew up innocent men, women, and children?


Yes, I can see how it would sound like that, but I was making a statement about the sociological situation, not the ethnic situation.

First, the Palestinians are in political limbo. They can’t just break off relations with Israel and stay on their side of the border, because they don’t have a side, and the land they’d like one day to have as their own is occupied by Israeli soldiers and settlers.

Second, as a modern democracy, Israel is part of our club (speaking as an American); as such, it’s only right that we should demand good behavior from them before we demand it of others (I’m not a Christian . . . but it’s the Christian thing to do [verses 3-5]]). edwino explained this well.

Most importantly, who would we have to convince to get the Palestinians to cease their violence? How many radical, independent groups are there to deal with? Their power structure is splintered and incoherent – even if we convince the top, there’s no reason to think that the bottom will follow. This is obviously not the case with Israel.

After a certain point, it ceases to matter who began a particular cycle of violence, and all sides become equally culpable. Right now, neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians are giving the other side any reason to think that they’d make good neighbors. Since we’ve got to get one side to stop the reprisal attacks first, and since it would be impossible to get all the Palestinians to stop, the onus falls on Israel to act responsibly.

But since the vast majority of American liberals don’t “sympathize with Marxism and the USSR,” this doesn’t help us explain why the left (as a whole) tends to support the Palestinians. Believing otherwise would be like explaining conservatives’ beliefs by saying that they sympathize with fascism and Nazi Germany.

For a start it left settlemnts in places like Hebron and Ariel deep within Palestinian teritory, cut-off all of the West Bank from Jordan, took the best agricultural land and control of all the vital water sources:


Israel has absolutely no right to any of the West Bank, it dispossesed huge numbers of Palestinians in 1948 and in 2000 it demanded more Palestinian territory, hardly fair.

As for your ignorance, of course you knew that nearly all US aid to Palestine goes to NGOs? The money that Araft has is PLO money from Arab countries and members of the Palestinian disapora and again he hardly lives in obscene luxury, his headquarters in Ramallah were is confined a sa virtual prisoner is still crumbilng from when Israeli bulldozers attacked it.

You7 say Arafta doesn’t want peace, but what about the deal negoitated between the Israeli oppositon and a key Arafat aide just a couple of weeks ago? You seem to blame Arafat for everything and ignore the fact that 1 in every a hundred Palestinians has been killed or wounded by the Israelis.

You bang on about a Palestinian islamic fundmenta;ist stat yet the express goals of the PLO and the majority of the Palestinians is a secular state. yes most Palestinians would like their land back, but if they’re not even allowed to desire this where does thta leave the ideals of Ziopnism. In the seventies the PLO taled back there demands only to the pre-1967 borders.

The settlemnts must be removed as part of any peace deal as they are both legally and morally bankrupt and a racist enterprise.

I don’t know what happened to the US dollars poured into the country, but the money spent by the EU went - for example - into an airport and a couple of other installations, which have been destroyed by Israel. For no reason whatsoever.

Yesterday Israel bombed 3 high-risers, which were not even yet finished. “National security”, as always.

Perhaps that answers your question, where the money goes.