Saturday, August 12, 2006

Alan Dershowitz Needs an Enema

I was over at Huffington Post yesterday and noticed the latest entry from Alan Dershowitz amazingly titled, "Terrorism Causes Occupation, Not the Other Way Around". Seriously. I'm not joking. Click the link and see for yourself. He wrote it and even signed his name to it. Honestly, I don't think even a defense attorney of Dershowitz' stature can convince a jury of that one.


His argument unravels within just a few keystrokes:

"The oft-reported mantra that "occupation causes terrorism" has been disproved over and over again by history and contemporary experience."

"Just this week, the old myth was once again uncut by the arrests in Britain of two-dozen suspects in a plot to blow up ten commercial airliners. There is no British occupation about which the suspects care."

"Britain, of course, is one of the freest countries on Earth. The suspects do not live--and apparently have not lived--under occupation (unless they consider the entire Christian world to be occupied by "crusaders." And yet the same slogan--that occupation causes terrorism--will persist."


There is no occupation about which they care? Are you sure? You've talked to them about it? Isn't the entire world aflame right now over the debacle in Iraq? Doesn't Britain, at this very moment, have the second largest military force in Iraq as part of George Bush's "coalition of the willing"? Haven't they aligned themselves firmly alongside the US in this disastrous Iraq war and occupation policy? Isn't Britain also involved in the current occupation of Afghanistan and supportive of the military dictatorship in neighboring PAKISTAN, the country these suspects' families come from? Doesn't that count for something?

What's even more stunning about this passage is the fact that the plot to which he refers was to be directed against the United States, not Britain. The airlines in question are American companies. The explosions were to take place over the United States. How'd he miss that one?

Oh, but wait. It gets worse. He continues by listing a litany of what he calls examples that supposedly refute the "occupation causes terrorism" thesis:

"First, Palestinian terrorism began well before there was any occupation. It began in 1929 when the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem ordered a terrorist attack against Jewish residents of Hebron, whose families had lived in that Jewish holy city for generations."


I don't know whether to laugh or cry over such stupidity. The British occupation of Palestine began near the end of World War I when it defeated the Ottoman Empire and established control of the territory in 1917. Its mandate of over Palestine and what was then called TransJordan lasted from then until after WWII. Dershowitz is so well-trained in his acceptance of western imperialism that he forgot to regard the British mandate over Palestine as an occupation at all (or perhaps he just simply refuses to). The jaw drops reading this stuff.

Also, I think the hostility to the Jews living there had at least a little bit to do with the effort to make the land and its holy sites theirs exclusively. I could be wrong but it makes sense to me. It also made sense to Rabbi Baruch Kaplan, survivor of the 1929 Hebron massacre to which Dershowitz alludes. Rabbi Kaplan believed the massacre was a direct result of provocation from the local zionists. His account of that incident is worth reading.

But that's not all, oh no. Dershowitz goes on:

Second, other occupied people, for example the Tibetans, have never resorted to terrorism against innocent Chinese civilians, though their occupation has been longer and more brutal than anything experienced by the Palestinians.

I'm only going to say this once. The Tibetan resistance is largely pacifist. Their leader is the Dali Lama. What did he think they'd do? Dershowitz seems to think he's caught lightening in a bottle with the revelation that pacifists might eschew terrorism. Stop the presses! I'm surprised his next line didn't cite Jesus of Nazareth's refusal to blow up any civilian chariots. Also, a small portion of those Tibetens who did not resort to terrorism are muslims. Is Dershowitz extolling the virtue of pacifism for others while promoting aggressive militarism for Israel?

Here are some alternative examples from history that Dershowitz notably omitted from his article:

  • Afghanistan was occupied by the USSR which led directly to armed resistance from the mujahadeen there, the forerunner of Al Qaeda. Remember them, Mr. Dershowitz? Usama bin Laden cut his terrorist teeth in that occupation.
  • Hezbollah, the very group we are told Israel so desperately needs to destroy, did not exist until Israel did exactly the same thing it's doing today. That is to bomb, invade and occupy Lebanon. Expelling the Israeli occupation was the whole reason that group came into existence. The suicide attacks they staged as a response to that occupation are widely cited as the first ever instances of Islamic suicide bombings. How convenient it is that Dershowitz never mentioned them in his article. We can't let a glaringly contradictory fact that like get in the way of defending any and everything Israel's government does, can we?
  • Terrorism in Iraq before the US-led occupation? Almost nil. Terrorism afterwards? What do you think?

I could go on for volumes but the point is clear. I would actually like to stop but Dershowitz didn't. He kept this foolishness up for several more merciless paragraphs so, although my fingers may grow tired, I press forward:

Third, terrorism against Israel got worse after Israel ended its occupation of southern Lebanon and Gaza, as these unoccupied lands became launching pads for rockets, missiles and kidnappings.


That is, after having successfully created Hezbollah and Hamas out of thin air with their actions, Israel withdrew and found themselves worse off than they were before. My point exactly. Does this prove the failure of the withdrawal or of the occupation to begin with?

At this point it seems that Dershowitz surely must have begun to recognize the unsupportable nature of his argument. He would have done well to abandon it right then and there. Sadly, he didn't:

Fourth, while it may be that a brutal occupation may increase the number of people willing to become suicide bombers, it is also true that no suicide bomber ever sent himself. They are sent by well educated, affluent leaders like Usama bin Laden, who do not live in occupied areas but who have terrorized the U.S., Australia, Great Britain and Spain, which do not occupy any Arab lands.

Instead he tried to mitigate the weakness of his point by acknowledging only that occupations increase the number of suicide bombers but pawning that fact off on other factors, like affluent leaders from the outside. But to lay all the blame there one would have to assume that there are people who, absent any actual grievance, are willing to blow themselves up for money (???). Equally unfortunate is his decision to cite as his example Usama bin Laden, scion of a fairly conservative Saudi family, who only became radicalized by what he saw in the illegal occupation (there's that word again) of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. By the sight of this occupation he was moved to go to there and to fight alongside the resistance that had already started. It hardly matters that bin Laden wasn't not a native of Afghanistan. The rest is well-documented history. Unwittingly, Dershowitz has just disproved the whole point of his ill-conceived 2nd and 3rd paragraphs. Doh!

Also, did he just say the US, Britain and Australia do not occupy any Arab lands? Has he even heard of Iraq? "Coalition of the Willing"? Does that ring a bell? The distinction between Arabs and Chaldeans not withstanding, Iraq has a large Arab population and is clearly a muslim nation. What is this man talking about? (Sigh)

On he goes still:

Fifth, Islamic terrorists have sworn to continue terrorism even if Israel were to end its occupation of the West Bank, as it did of the Gaza Strip and Southern Lebanon. They regard all of Israel as occupied. Even if there were no Israel, terrorism would persist as long as any part of the world is not under Islamic control.


Citation, please. Which Islamic terrorists are you talking about? Do you think they're all the same? A quote would have been nice here.

It should be noted that shortly after the electoral victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections its leader, Khaled Mishal, offered to end Hamas' armed resistance if Israel would withdraw from all Palestinian territories it occupied after the 6-day war of 1967. But Israel has no intention of ever leaving those lands so there is no disarmament of Hamas either. It could easily be argued that Hamas' willingness to accept the 1967 borders carries with it a clear acceptance of Isreals sovereignty within those borders, ergo its "right to exist". But what did Israel do in response? It unilaterally annexed 1/3 of the West Bank, intensifying its occupation. So who really doesn't want peace? Whose "right to exist" is really being threatened here? For a glimpse of what the Palestinians are seeing, take a look at this map of Israeli usupations of their territory since 1967. What's left for Palestine?

By the way, if they want all the world under Islamic control why aren't they bombing Mexico or Sweden?

Those points aside, to test his theory Dershowitz should let us all know how many Islamic terrorist attacks had taken place before the creation of Israel and compare that to the number of attacks afterwards. I wonder what that would reveal. Furthermore,in light of his main point, if it is true that they consider all of Israel as occupied, isnt' that good news? Occupation doesn't cause terrorism, right? So why would that belief matter at all? It follows logically that it shouldn't, doesn't it? I have an idea. Relying on Dershowitz' logic, let's convince the entire Muslim world that all the world is occupied and maybe they'll chill out completely!

The illogical onslaught continues without remorse or pity:

Accordingly, occupation does not cause terrorism. Terrorism is caused by the culture of death preached by radical Islamic clerics and by the world's reaction to it--namely making concessions and blaming the victims of terrorism who fight back. Terrorism persists because it is rewarded--because it works. Occupation does not cause terrorism, but terrorism does cause occupation and reoccupation. Israel would have left Gaza and much of the West Bank long ago if not for the fear of terrorism from that area. It never would have gone into southern Lebanon in 1982 were that area not being used as a base for terrorism. Now Israel has once again entered southern Lebanon to stop rocket attacks and try to retrieve its kidnapped soldiers.


This passage is riddled with a dizzying array of misinformation. Radical Islamic clerics are portrayed here as having been created in a vacuum, absent any cause of their radicalism, since occupation has already been dismissed out of hand. We are left to assume they are just nameless, faceless, blood-drenched Arabs who can only be dealt with violently by Dershowitz' estimation. He describes Israel’s actions in Gaza and Lebanon as necessary to stop terrorist attacks launched from there before it was occupied. But he fails to note that the terrorists to whom Israel was responding were (guess who?) the Palestinians whose lands had been.. yes... occupied by Israel. What part of this is so hard to understand?

At this point I'd like to take a break from deconstructing Dershowitz' attacks on the "occupation causes terrorism" theme. It also needs to be pointed out that this thesis itself is a straw man of his own creation. No one to my knowledge has ever postulated that only occupation causes terrorism. It's clearly one factor that has led to much of the terrorism we've seen throughout history and it's completely absurd for him to argue otherwise. But it was never seen by anyone with good sense as the only cause terrorist activity and anyone who might have thought so is clearly mistaken. Some terrorism is home grown in response to domestic discontent absent any physical presence of a foreign force. Any revolutionary guerilla movement is labeled terrorist by the existing government it aims to overthrow and many do engage in terrorist activity to further their agendas. Still, there's no denying the many instances, some of which I've touched upon here, where occupation has clearly led directly to terrorism.

So the core premise of Dershowitz' rant fails completely. The mere existence of terrorists who currently hail from unoccupied territory is not mutually exclusive of the fact that occupations can and do lead to terrorism. Furthermore, the mere existence of occupied peoples who did not resort to terrorism is equally irrelevant. No one has ever claimed that occupation always the results in terrorism either. But the correlation is self-evident. Dershowitz has grossly overreached by claiming flatly that occupation absolutely does not cause terrorism. I seriously wonder if he was awake when he typed this article.

Lastly, I would like to apologize for the prohibitive length of this post. I started this blog knowing full well of my tendency for wordiness and have made a point of editing myself for brevity (believe it or not). However, there are times when I am forced to make concessions to the positive, exponential relationship between the stupidity of a given argument and the amount of typing required transmit an adequate response, lest any sublevel of the idiocy slip by unlamented. I have tried to deal with this as succinctly as possible but the man is simply so dead wrong on so many levels that it took this much writing just to get halfway through what he wrote. So, I will return tomorrow finish this off in another post. If you've lasted long enough to read this far you've earned my thanks.

UPDATE: Here's a Reuters photograph of protesters in PAKISTAN burning the Israeli, US and British flags.

What was that about "no occupation about which they care"?

2 comments:

Brian said...

Boy, that was long. I agree with you in the thinking that "Occupation does cause Terrorism" but only to a certain extent. Radical Muslims (and who knows which other ones) believe it is in their right to occupy lands from "Indonesia to Morocco". This will never change. Israel is in the way, the U.S. is in the way, and possibly Britain to a certain extent.

These radical muslims are such isolationists... this is why the whole Al Qaeda thing started first (U.S. in Saudi Arabia). The problem is that they do not understand that the world exists as a global society now... so when countries like Kuwait call for help, and then the coalition must base in Saudi Arabia, there is nothing that can be done.

I have seen quite a few "literal translations" of the internal Al Qaeda memos that spoke of 9/11 and such, and there are talking about something other than occupation... It is about killing all of the zionists that work in the WTC. They even had questions about killing babies and such, but the justification was that they were zionists, so it is ok.

In my mind, what defines a terrorist group, is one that "deliberately" targets civilians, without any intention to kill/hurt the entity they are after. For example, suicide bombing a bus stop. Going into a cafe a blowing it up. Terrorism and cowardice is using retarded children as suicide bombers because they are too weak to blow themselves up. Or, kidnapping young girls and forcing them into public places to blow themselves up.

Was there terrorism in Iraq before the U.S. invaded? The answer is a HUGE yes!!! The raping of brides, the murdering of athletes if they did not perform well. Not only this, the murdering of the family members of the people targeted. Did Saddam have to fight uprising? Yes... But, the way he qwelled the situation was by threatening and killing all of the immediate family of the insurgents. This in and of itself is not justification for the current Iraq war, but is there to show why things "seemed better off" before the war, when most likely (due to a lack of free press) this was not the case in Iraq.

In summary of that point, Saddam was able to calm his own people by killing the insurgents (and the immediate 15 members of the family involved). The U.S. is not able (or wanting) to do this, nor is Israel able (or wanting) to do this in the Pales. territories or with Hezbollah.

Even if the first Iraq war never happened... Al Qaeda would still be a nuisance... Radical muslims would still claim that France and Spain is "their" land... and there would always be reason to fight. This has gone on for 1000+ years, it will continue to move on with the result of babies and little girls being targeted for the killing.

I have no sympathy for "Radical Islam", like some people do for Hezbollah and other such terrorist entities. Iranian arming a political party
(Hezbollah) of a separate country is as absurd sounding as the Soviet Union arming a small socialist organization in the United States. This has never happened, but it would never have been tolerated and it should not be tolerated now.

good talk! thx

FearItself said...

Yeah, I thought the length was a bit much myself. The really scary part is that I only dealt with half of his article. There's more! LOL!

Thank you for your comments.