You Can't Have It Both Ways...Dershowitz vs. Phillips

                                            by Gerald A. Honigman




  always has interesting stuff--whether you agree with it or not.


     Friday July 24th's Symposium featured a debate between two respected defenders of Israel, Melanie Phillips and Alan Dershowitz.


     Back in the '70s, I recall a major event at Ohio State University at which Harvard's Professor Dershowitz was invited to debate a fellow National Lawyers Guild (NLG) colleague at OSU's law school, Professor John Quigley.


     Quigley was/is a well-known anti-Israel (as in its very existence) spokesman who made the rounds spouting such wisdom as "if Jews can have a state, why not Catholics?" I know...I followed him several times to nail his derriere in public.


     Now let's understand something...


     The NLG is universally described as a "Progressive/Leftist" organization. Today, that translates into blatantly anti-Israel as well. So, members like Dershowitz have a very hard time dealing with such membership. "Liberal" today isn't what our grandparents' "Liberal" was. But, it's still hard for some to digest that, for too many, today's "Liberal" is too often also an extreme Leftist, minimally anti-Zionist, and often a closet or open anti-Semite as well.


       Before going any further, I don't need anyone explaining to me the need to care for others. I get that from my own Judaic roots (the Torah, Hebrew Prophets, and so forth) and my own sense of justice G_d thankfully instilled in me. So, I don't require lectures from the likes of NLG folks.


     Now,  Dershowitz did not debate Quigly. I seem to recall that the latter refused to engage him. So, someone else was called in for the debate instead. The audience was huge, and the substitute was mediocre.


     Okay--enough of a background...


     Dershowitz makes some good points as does Phillips in their writings and in their debate; however, there is no doubt that the esteemed Lady has a greater grasp of the realities which Israel faces.


     Yet both--Dershowitz far more than Phillips--seem to miss perhaps the key point related to their debate over settlements' issue and President Obama's opposition to them.


     Paying mere lip service to UNSC Resolution 242 without acknowledging the link between the settlements issue and it is useless.  And that's exactly what Dershowitz routinely does.


     I don't know for sure, but I'd guess that the good professor may have to travel farther to go from his nice, safe home to work than the state of Israel is in width according to the '49 armistice lines imposed upon it in 1949. Most of those lines were merely the points at which the hostilities stopped after about a half dozen Arab armies attacked the nascent Israeli state in 1948. As would become the pattern, the U.N. did nothing to stop the initial Arab aggression, but stepped in only after the Jews had turned the tide to minimize Arab losses.


    As has been repeated often, after the Arabs' renewed attempt at Israel's destruction backfired badly in June 1967, the much-debated final draft of UNSC Resolution 242 was worded in such a deliberate, precise way as to permit Israel to finally gain secure, defensible, and real borders instead of what has been called the "Auschwitz"/armistice lines which made it nine to sixteen miles wide at its strategic waist, where most of its population and industry are located, that it had prior to then. The latter were just a constant invitation to Arabs to cut the country in half in some future combined assault.


     The quotes below have also been presented frequently to make the point. Nevertheless, they have to be resurrected time and again to answer those who demand that the sole, miniscule state of the Jews ignore its own minimal, vital security interests for the sake of creating a twenty-second state for Arabs (and  second one in the original 1920 borders of the Palestine Mandate-- Jordan having been created from almost 80% of the total land in 1922).

       A reading of Lord Caradon, Eugene Rostow, Arthur Goldberg, and other architects of 242 clearly shows that after the June '67 war Israel was not expected to return to the deadly and absurd status quo ante.

     Britain's Lord Caradon...

"It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial. After all, they were just the places where the soldiers of each side happened to be on the day the fighting stopped in 1948. They were just armistice lines. That's why we didn't demand that the Israelis return to them."

      President Lyndon Johnson summarized the situation this way on June 19, 1967:

     " A return to the situation on June 4 (the day before outbreak of war) was not a prescription for peace but for renewed hostilities." He then called for "new recognized boundaries that would provide security against terror, destruction, and war."

     Johnson was then backed up by General Earle Wheeler of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and many others as well. Here's a brief excerpt from Wheeler's Pentagon document prepared for Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara on June 29, 1967:

"...Israel would require retention of some captured Arab territory to provide militarily defensible borders."

     Keep in mind that on the West Bank, Israel took these lands in a defensive war from an illegal occupant--Transjordan--which subsequently renamed itself Jordan as a result of its 1949 illegal acquisition of non-apportioned lands of the original 1920 Mandate west of the Jordan River that Jews as well as Arabs were legally entitled to live on. Indeed, Jews have thousands of years of history connecting them to these lands and owned property and lived there up until their massacres by Arabs in the 1920s and 1930s. Additionally, many, if not most, of the Arabs themselves were also relative newcomers, pouring in--as the Records of the Permanent Mandates Commission and other documentation show--from Syria, Egypt, and elsewhere in the region.

     Once again utilizing Ambassador Dore Gold's useful summary, here's what President Ronald Reagan had to say about all of this on September 1, 1982:

     "In the pre-1967 borders, Israel was barely 10-miles wide...the bulk of Israel's population within artillery range of hostile armies. I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again."

     In 1988, Secretary of State George Shultz declared, "Israel will never negotiate from or return to the 1967 borders."

     And even in the 1990s, during the Clinton years (and despite the later pressure brought to bear on Prime Minister Ehud Barak to sweetin' the pot by offering Arafat far more than 242 called for at Camp David and Taba in 2000), official policy, as expressed by Secretary of State Warren Christopher in 1997, was still that, "Israel is entitled to secure and defensible borders," a la 242.

     The point, of course, is that to take a brush under the rug approach to this crucial issue as Dershowtiz and other "Progressive" supporters of Israel do (other nations have acquired territories far away from home in the name of their own national security interests, let alone Israel, which has historic claims itself to the lands in question and which has been repeatedly attacked from those lands) is to not understand the fundamental importance of the settlements issue now on center stage.

     Regardless of the religious argument for Judea and Samaria (i.e., the West Bank),  if that didn't exist, the vision of an Israel finally seeing the travesty of the '49 armistice lines rectified demands  the creation of those very settlements which are at issue now.

     Most, if not all, of the settlements are built on the very high ground areas envisioned and permitted by 242 to create the buffer to give Israel those relatively secure, defensible borders to help protect the heartland of the Jewish State.

     Will Arabs "recognize" this--as is also stated in 242?

     Of course not...They don't recognize a Jewish State that is nine-miles wide, let alone anything bigger.

     But Israel can't wait for Arab recognition from either an Arafatian Abbas or Hamas that will never come before it acts. It must draw its final lines which represent a reasonable territorial compromise a la 242 and progress and set policy from there--regardless of the flack that it will surely catch from the assorted worldwide hypocrites and practitioners of the double standard.



Gerald A. Honigman is a Florida educator who has done extensive doctoral studies in Middle Eastern Affairs. He has created and conducted counter-propaganda programs for college youth, has lectured on numerous university campuses and other platforms, and has publicly debated many anti-Israel spokesmen. His articles and op-eds have been published in hundreds of newspapers, magazines, academic journals and websites around the world. His official website is:

Our special thanks to the author for submitting this article. A. G. S.