By Richard Edmondson
Alan Dershowitz, former Harvard law professor and pro-Israel to the core, apparently thinks Rep. Betty McCollum has committed a cardinal sin–introducing a bill that calls for monitoring of Israel’s treatment of Palestinian child prisoners.
The bill, entitled “Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian children Act,” or H.R. 4391, would require the U.S. State Department begin certification–on an annual basis–that US funding to Israel is not going “to support the military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment” of Palestinian children.
The bill was introduced by McCollum on November 14. Dershowitz’s hit piece, published on November 23 at the Gatestone Institute, appeared under the headline “How Ten Dem (Dumb) Members of Congress Encourage the Use of Child Terrorists.”
The former trial lawyer and now CNN regular asserts that McCollum’s bill has been co-sponsored “by nine other ‘progressive’ members of Congress,” though in reality the bill has now picked up a total of 12 co-sponsors.
Dershowitz doesn’t exactly accuse its backers of being anti-Semites–although he comes close.
He asserts that McCollum’s “hypocrisy” is “palpable,” and he accuses her and the co-sponsors of giving “terrorist leaders” (the term is used a total of 7 times) an incentive, in effect, to use children to attack Jews. The bill, he insists, “would further incentivize terrorist leaders to keep using children in pursuit of their key objective: wiping Israel off the map,” and he goes on to contend that:
“…rather than condemning the abhorrent and unlawful use of children as pawns in this deadly process, this group chose to single out only the nation-state of the Jewish people for punishment, as it tries to protect its own citizens from indiscriminate terror attacks. People of good faith on both sides of the aisle should call out this double standard for what it really is: an attack on Jewish victims of teenage terrorism and their state. For shame on this group of biased anti-Israel “progressive” Democrats…
The article seems to be a heavy-handed attempt at intimidating other members of Congress from supporting the legislation.
The Harvard legal scholar also informs his readers about the modus operandi of “Palestinian terrorist leaders,” asserting that it is “well established” that “recruiting and using young Palestinians to wage terror on Israeli civilians” is a part of this “modus operandi.”
He further asserts that these “terrorist leaders” (it’s not clear if he means Hamas or if he counts Mahmoud Abbas as a “terrorist leader” as well) “have been stirring up young people to wage war against the Jews and their nation state.” If this is the case, it would seem Israel makes their jobs easy for them. After all, how much external “stirring up” does it require when school kids see their classmates mass arrested, handcuffed, locked in cages, and blindfolded by squadrons of Israeli soldiers?
Suppose the federal government had sent troops to arrest your students at Harvard in this manner, Mr. Dershowitz? How much “stirring up” do you think it would have taken to get the rest of the campus angry about it?
Rep. McCollum’s bill cites a UNICEF report released in 2013 which found that “ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the [Israeli] military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.”
Dershowitz, however, identifies what he believes is a major shortcoming in the bill, namely that it “fails to acknowledge that some of the most barbaric terrorist attacks against Jewish Israelis have been committed by Palestinian teens who have been recruited by terrorist leaders.” Actually, however, this is a bit disingenuous. While it doesn’t use the same inflammatory rhetoric seemingly favored by our Doctor of Jurisprudence (who, really, is “stirring up” whom, Mr. Dershowitz?), the bill does enumerate the problem of children being recruited by armed groups, this in section 2, paragraph 4:
Approximately 2,700,000 Palestinians live in the West Bank, of which around 47 percent are children under the age of 18, who live under military occupation, the constant fear of arrest, detention, and violence by the Israeli military, and the threat of recruitment by armed groups.
Of course, if Mr. Dershowitz insists on bringing up the subject of “barbaric terrorist attacks,” we should not omit to mention Israel’s periodic attacks upon Gaza. Take a good look at the girl in the photo below–she was killed in the Gaza attack of 2008-09 known as “Operation Cast Lead.”
Yes, she definitely looks like she’s had some lead cast at her, Mr. Dershowitz.
Or let’s look at this boy who fell victim to Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” attack of 2014 when he and some friends were playing football on a Gaza beach:
Or these kids who died in the same 2014 conflict:
By the way, Israel investigated itself on the Gaza beach bombing and found that it had acted “legally.”
Barbarism. It is defined as: “1. absence of culture and civilization; 2. extreme cruelty or brutality.”
The attacks on Gaza would seem to meet that definition. This is not to say there haven’t been cruel and brutal attacks on Israelis. In his article, Dershowitz cites two examples:
Consider the terrorists attack that took place over this past summer in Halamish (an hour outside Jerusalem) where a Palestinian in his late teens — from a nearby PA-controlled village — chose a Jewish house at random;, and fatally stabbed three members of a family as they ate Shabbat dinner. The Palestinian “child” murderer also wounded several other family members, while one mother hid her young children in an upstairs room until the terrorist left. This scene of carnage is reminiscent of a similar attack that occurred only six years earlier when two Palestinian teens armed with knives broke into the Fogel family home in Itamar as they slept on Friday night; the teens butchered the mother, father and three of their children — including a three-month-old baby as she slept in her crib.
What he doesn’t mention is that both Halamish and Itamar, where the two attacks occurred, are Israeli settlements in the West Bank and are therefore illegal under international law. This does not excuse the murder of civilians. But it does supply us with some additional context in which to evaluate Mr. Dershowitz and his disingenuous opposition to H.R. 4391.
Moreover, Halamish is designated as a “community settlement,” that is to say it was formed out of a legal construct in Israel whereby residents are organized into a cooperative that “can veto a sale of a house or a business to an undesirable buyer.” Most community settlements in Israel are entirely Jewish, according to Wikipedia: “Some community settlements openly require applicants to be Jews (e.g., by declaring themselves a religious community), while other community settlements find more indirect ways to reject non-Jewish candidates, us usually claiming ‘lack of social compatibility.’ Another problem for non-Jews is that the Jewish National Fund, the owner of the land in many community settlements, views itself as a Jewish organization whose mission is to spread the Jewish population, and therefore refuses to lease to non-Jews.”
Perhaps here we get down to the core of the problem–the illegal settlements and the apartheid, or separation, policies. In his article, Dershowitz tries to apply Israeli standards to America by asking the “what if” question. He writes:
So I ask: what do these members of Congress think Israel should do? If children as young as 13 or 14 were roaming the streets of New York, Los Angeles or Boston stabbing elderly women as they shopped at the supermarket or waited at a bus stop, would they protest the apprehension and prosecution of the perpetrators?
But he is comparing apples to oranges. Discrimination is against the law in the US. There are no neighborhoods or communities–in Boston, New York, Los Angeles or elsewhere in America–where people can be prohibited from purchasing homes or taking up residence on the basis of their race, religion, or ethnicity.
Another thing to consider is that discriminatory policies are applied in Israel not only with regard to home sales but also in the issuance of building permits. Back in August, I put up a post about Israel’s destruction of a Palestinian kindergarten as well as its seizure of mobile classrooms that were to have served as an elementary school. The official reason given in both cases was the lack of a permit. The seizure of the mobile classrooms took place on Tuesday, August 22–one day before the new school year was set to begin. A photo was published at the time of children who showed up on the first day of school only to find their classrooms missing:
It seems rather mean-spirited to come and steal the classrooms one day before school is about to start. By the way, the kindergarten is in the village of Jabal al-Baba, east of Jerusalem; the elementary school in Jubbet al-Dib, near Bethlehem. Both villages are in the West Bank–both under military occupation. Occupation tends, by its very nature, to involve “extreme cruelty or brutality.” Destroying schools would seem to denote as well a certain “absence of culture and civilization.”
In order to maintain its occupation Israel apparently also employs torture–apparently even upon children. This we find in the text of McCollum’s bill, from section 2, paragraph 11:
In 2013, the annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the Occupied Territories (“Annual Report”) published by the Department of State noted that Israeli security services continued to abuse, and in some cases torture, minors, frequently arrested on suspicion of stone-throwing, in order to coerce confessions. The torture tactics used included threats, intimidation, long-term handcuffing, beatings, and solitary confinement.”
Additionally, paragraph 12 notes that the same report discusses “signed confessions by Palestinian minors, written in Hebrew, a language most could not read,” while paragraph 13 cites a later “Annual Report”–issued in 2016–and which noted a “significant increase in dententions of minors” that year. An additional quote from the 2016 report reads: “Israeli authorities continued to use confessions signed by Palestinian minors, written in Hebrew.”
Given that it maintains all of these settlements, and given that they are built illegally on Palestinian land, one must ask the question: how does Israel go on credibly maintaining to the world that it is truly interested in seeking peace with the Palestinians? Perhaps part of the answer is that it gets lots of help from people like Dershowitz.
In essence painting McCollum as a terrorist sympathizer as well as an anti-Semite, Dershowitz accuses the Minnesota Democrat of refusing to “condemn the Palestinian leadership for perpetrating acts of child abuse by recruiting children to commit terror attacks on Jewish women and children.” And he adds that the co-sponsors of her bill “give a bad name to the Democratic Party, to the Progressive Caucus and to Congress.”
Broad brush strokes. Inflammatory rhetoric. Both seem to work like charms in curtailing criticism of Israel. Of course a standard argument we hear from Israelis is that the settlements don’t pose an obstacle to peace, but this is a load of hasbara hooey.
Maybe it all comes down to history and who is on the right or the wrong side of it. As someone once said, the path to peace is by learning to love your enemies. The same person also said that he who lives by the sword will die by the sword. It’s a lesson all of humanity needs to learn, and if Israel were led by truly enlightened people it would teach that lesson to humanity by setting aside its sword and making peace.
In either event, the bottom line is that if Israel wants to be a state for all its people it will build Palestinian schools. If it wants to go on being a state that gives political preference to one group of people only–the definition of apartheid–it will continue to tear them down.
What the rest of us can do in the meantime is to provide our support for those truly seeking to advance the cause of peace. McCollum is such a person. She is, in other words, a peacemaker.
Peacemakers are said to be blessed, Mr. Dershhowitz. It’s a pity you chose to attack this one.