Arts and Entertainment your connection to The Boston Globe

Dershowitz makes a compelling 'Case for Peace'

The Case for Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can Be Resolved, By Alan Dershowitz, John Wiley & Sons Inc., 256 pp., $22.95

After writing his earlier book ''The Case for Israel," Alan Dershowitz, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, planned to write a sequel titled ''The Case Against Israel's Enemies" focusing on radical academics. In the interval, Yasser Arafat died and tentative steps toward peace have been taken. Dershowitz, therefore, changed his focus to a more positive theme in his new book, ''The Case for Peace."

Dershowitz begins by noting that the elements of the peace process that mainstream Israelis and Palestinians agree on are in place. These include an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank; symbolic recognition of the ''rights" of Palestinian refugees but no absolute ''right of return"; a division of greater Jerusalem, with the Arab part becoming the Palestinian capital and the Jewish part the capital of Israel; and a renunciation of violence by the Palestinian state and the dismantling of terrorist groups.

But, the author writes, one thing has not changed: Israel's enemies. They continue to work for the nation's destruction and are opposed to the two-state solution that is part of the ''road map" for peace. Who are they? Hard-line academics, religious leaders, and politicians who ''. . . prefer the deadlock of ideological purity to the slow but steady progression toward an achievable compromise peace." His view is that some cannot accept ''normalcy for Jews."

There is righteous anger in Dershowitz that burns to right wrongs against the Jewish state. Among the leaders of the enemies of Israel, according to him, is Noam Chomsky, whose recent work, ''No Chance for Peace: Why It Is Impossible to Establish a Palestinian State With Israel and the U.S.," is the equivalent of a ''one-state non-solution" to problems in the Middle East. Other enemies are academe, Europe, the United Nations, the Arab world, and some religious groups that oppose Israel. Among individual enemies are Norman Finkelstein, Alexander Cockburn, and Edward Said.

The author's advocacy skills are well-honed and incisive. In fact, one is reminded of the logical argumentation used by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica, a 13th-century summary of Catholic theology. There is a parry and thrust in Dershowitz's presentation that, notwithstanding a different faith perspective, reminds one of Aquinas's style: laying out basic questions for analysis, exploring arguments that appear reasonable, and concluding with an equivalent of Aquinas's famous ''I answer that . . .," which gives the ''correct" answer.

Dershowitz touches all the bases as he characterizes aids or impediments to peace. These include making peace and preventing terrorism at the same time; a Palestinian State as a launching pad to terrorism; and whether civil wars will be necessary to bring about peace. Some chapters, such as one on the Geneva Accords, seem too spare.

''The Case for Peace" argues forcefully for compromise in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. There's a good deal of Dershowitz's ego driving the book, but that's not a bad thing. He writes, ''. . . I am pro-peace because I am pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian."

The author quotes Amos Oz, the Israeli writer and philosopher, in developing an acceptable ending to the conflict. Oz does not expect old enemies ''to fall in love" with each other. ''Let's not be sentimental." He sees the conflict as a ''tragedy in the exact sense of the word -- a collision between one very powerful claim and another no less powerful."

Dershowitz offers the Arabic word, taarradhin, as a talisman for hope on both sides. Taarradhin, according to William Safire, ''suggests the resolution of a conflict that involves no humiliation; our closest definition is a 'win-win outcome.' "

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives