Review of The Case for Israel by Alan Dershowitz, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 2003, 264 pages, $19.95.
If you were going to hire someone to defend Israel, who better than one of America’s most prominent defense lawyers, Alan Dershowitz? The Harvard professor has taken on this new client in his new book, The Case for Israel, in which he examines 32 specific questions related to the Arab-Israeli conflict and offers factual responses along with some pugnacious opinions in the style that has helped make him famous.
Replacing the myth/fact format, Dershowitz presents an accusation such as, “Have the Jews Exploited the Holocaust? and then provides examples of some of the people who make the accusation. He then provides “the reality” and “the proof” to dispute the allegations.
My quibbles are relatively minor. Dershowitz probably could have chosen accusations that are more salient to the debate today. For example, the question of whether the Balfour Declaration is binding international law is not really an issue that arises in debate and his answer that it is binding doesn’t really help make the case for Israel today. Some of his arguments, such as those refuting the notion that settlements are an obstacle to peace could be stronger. Also, rather than stick to the facts, Dershowitz also throws in his own opinions, but this makes the book more interesting and puts the author’s stamp on the arguments.
The book duplicates much of what can already be found in Myths And Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict., and is far more limited in scope, but it has the benefit of a big name author who has the chance to reach a huge audience not only through sales of the book, but through his appearances in the media and on the lecture circuit. The book is also written in a lively style that makes it a quick read and accessible to younger readers who most desperately need the information.
The Case for Israel is indicative of a basic problem that Israel faces; namely, that it is so often on the defensive. Rather than an attorney defending Israel as Dershowitz does here, it would be preferable to see a prosecutor make the case for Israel. Until someone accepts that challenge, Dershowitz’s book will remain one of the essential works for anyone interested in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Sources: Mitchel Bard is the Executive Director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise