Israel at 60: So vilified, yet so deserving of praise

By Alan M. Dershowitz

Cambridge, Mass. - As Israel celebrates 60 years of nationhood this Thursday, and looks ahead to the next 60 years, the world should appreciate what the Jewish state has accomplished.

Built on the ashes of the Holocaust, Israel's birth was followed by a massive attack from all sides by the surrounding Arab nations. Threatening another genocide, they managed to kill 1 percent of Israel's population, but Israel survived – and even thrived.

Alan, where's the mention of the terrorism upon which Israel was also built? There was terrorism against the British, Arabs, and fellow Jews inside and outside Palestine.

The Haganah blew up the ship "Patria" in Haifa harbor. They killed 260 people. Weren't they mostly Jews? Was it just an accident? It certainly shocked the British. How could a people do that to their own? How much further would a desperate people go?

Of course, the Jews shouldn't have been treated so inhumanely by the British. No people should treat any other people inhumanely. The Israelis shouldn't treat the Palestinians inhumanely.

Many events that show a lack of care in the quest for firmly establishing Israel are well documented. There is the King David Hotel bombing. There's also Sabra and Shatila later. That was designed to throw the fear into them. I won't list all the events here though. It would turn this post into a book.

Of course, many Israeli apologists take every event and work as hard as possible to excuse every aspect. I wonder what those same apologists such as Jonah Goldberg have to say about the Israel massacre of Shalem.

"And Jacob [Israel] said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house." (Genesis 34: 30).

What happened? Israel was driven into 400 years of slavery. Then the Assyrians took away ten tribes and the Northern kingdom. Then the Babylonians finished off the Southern kingdom. The temple was destroyed. Then there was war with the Greeks. Then the Romans repeated what the Assyrians and Babylonians had done. The second temple was leveled, just as Jesus said it would be. Then Pogroms happened. Exiles happened. Then the Nazis repeated what the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans had done but this time in Europe. Then what happened? We shall see. Have the Jews learned not to do what precipitated the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and Germans to do what they did? Have they dropped the militant Zealotry? It's more complicated than that and there are many smaller wars that could be mentioned, but that's the main issue.

If they drop the militancy and adopt much of what Jesus said before the Roman invasion, it will go a very long way toward establishing peace in the world. If they go all the way to real Judaism that is real Christianity, then real peace will definitely come to the world. Then the Jews will be held up as the epitome of righteousness. Then you won't just argue for Israel in relative terms, Alan. Israel will be the absolute shining example.

It's all accepted and settled history. None of the terrorism was justified. It was evil, just as terrorism is evil now. You don't think that terrorism by Jews is somehow okay while it isn't okay when done by Arabs or others do you? Actually, I know the answer is that, in fact, you do.

In the years since, the Jewish nation has turned deserts into gardens, swamps into orchards, sand dunes into cities. Lacking the natural resources of its neighbors, Israel made the best of what it had. It became a high-tech giant, specializing in life-saving medical technology. Indeed, it ranks second only to the United States in NASDAQ listings.

Where's the mention about the open sewers pouring cess into Palestine? Where's the data on all the pollution? Can you swim in the Jordan? You can if you want to risk getting sick.

Faced with barren land, Israel has also developed agricultural technologies that maximize food production, and exported these life-saving and life-enhancing technologies to the rest of the world.

Mr. Dershowitz, a land the size of Palestine with over 700,000 Arabs on it can hardly be called barren. How many thousands of fully mature olive trees that belonged to the Palestinians did Israel bulldoze? Are we to suppose that those trees planted themselves? Who planted them? Who pruned them and cared for them? Who once harvested those olives for their living? The answer is People the Jews drove off out of their own homes they had built with their own hands with their own money they had worked to save. You don't care about them though.

This young nation has also produced more art, literature, music, academic articles, and books than most countries triple its size. As Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in an otherwise critical article in The Atlantic:

"Israel is, by almost any measure, an astonishing success. It has a large, sophisticated, and growing economy ... the finest universities and medical centers in the Middle East; and a main city, Tel Aviv, that is a center of art, fashion, cuisine, and high culture spread along a beautiful Mediterranean beach. Israel has shown itself, with notable exceptions, to be adept at self-defense, and capable (albeit imperfectly) of protecting civil liberties during wartime.... Zionism may actually be the most successful national liberation movement of the 20th century."

Tel Aviv is also a city of great moral decadence. It is loaded with excessive drinking. There are sex slaves. Homosexuality is relatively high. Where's that side of your analysis of what we ought to appreciate about Israel?

Israel's Arab citizens, numbering 1.2 million, live longer, healthier lives, and have lower infant mortality, better educational opportunities, and more basic liberties than the Arab population of neighboring states.

That's not saying much, as the saying goes. In addition, where's the historical mention about the U.S. involvement in holding down those other nations? The U.S. is well known for toppling regimes and setting up dictatorships. Do you really expect the rest of us to believe that all those nations would not have been light years ahead of where they are had the U.S. not forced its greedy will upon them? Oh, to be sure, the U.S. isn't entirely to blame, but along with Israel, it sure is to blame for much of the regions woes.

In addition, why didn't Israel extend all those benefits to the occupied territories? Also, why aren't Israel's Arab citizens treated as well as Israel's Jewish citizens? Why are many Israeli Arab's homes continually demolished? Why are they systematically denied building permits? The answers are obvious.

Even in its efforts to defend itself from aggression – it was attacked by Arab states in 1948, 1967, and 1973 – Israel has exemplified restraint and high ethical standards.

What about the U.S.S. Liberty? Israel repeatedly attacked a helpless U.S. ship wounding and killing many and nearly sinking it. What was that about? Of course, we know people who heard President Johnson recall U.S. air support for that ship. Now why did he do that when it was his solemn duty to defend the U.S. against all enemies?

Also, who started the original fight with Nasser? It's my understanding that Israel was doing a bit of British Prime Minister Anthony Eden's dirty work to keep control of the Suez Canal. That was in 1956. You conveniently leave out blatant Israeli aggression. Israel was against the Egyptians having control over their own territory that was desired by the flagging, hugely militant, highly greedy British Empire.

You might at this point want to term me some stupid expression such as a self-hating Anglo-Saxon for calling a spade a spade. However, I'll keep the label Christian if it's all right with you. I follow Jesus (who was a Jew, in case you've forgotten) who taught truth over everything: Truth as love and real peace.

What about the millions of cluster bomblets your Israel dropped on Lebanon right before the ceasefire in Israel's latest, wildly disproportionate aggression? Do you call what Israel did proportional, measured, restrained, or of high ethical standards? If those are your "high ethical standards," your moral compass is totally shattered.

What about all the bombing of buildings in Beirut? That was designed to kill people but also to cripple Lebanon financially for years to come. What was that over, Lebanon retaliating by taking a few soldiers who had crossed into Lebanon? Well, next time you sneeze in someone's direction, be sure to forgive him after he takes a wrecking ball to your house because that's just about parallel.

Don't you think that Israel could have negotiated a reasonable settlement with the Lebanese? Don't you think the Lebanese were retaliating for earlier acts by Israel, including against Palestinians (their fellow Muslims even if Sunni)?

Let's not forget who started the conflict. Who horned into Palestine to take over houses they didn't build and orchards they didn't plant while using the Holy Spirit as a lame excuse? You can't get away with hiding evil behind God. Only the gullible and naive fall for it. Jesus didn't fall for it.

Although Tel Aviv was bombed by the Egyptian Air Force in 1948, Jerusalem was rocketed by Jordan in 1967, and several Israeli cities were threatened by Syria in 1967, Israel never bombed Cairo, Amman, or Damascus. (It did attack terrorist bases in the suburbs of Beirut in 2006.)

Please, Israel didn't bomb those cities because it was the Cold War era and Israel would have triggered war between Russia and the U.S.

Israel would have received one of Russia's targeted nuclear weapons dead center in Tel Aviv.

Also, what do you mean "suburbs"? Israel bombed much more than terrorist bases in suburbs. Parts of Beirut looked like cities bombed out during WWII. It was designed to ruin Lebanon's booming tourist trade.

In its efforts to protect against terrorists, it has also complied with a high standard of human rights, even while its enemies have targeted Israeli civilians while deliberately hiding behind human shields in densely populated civilian areas.

High standard of human rights my eye, Israel has held tens of thousands without any due process. It has held mere children. It also routinely bombs family sleeping in their homes. That's not a high standard of human rights, Alan. That's disregard for human rights.

Human rights is not having your land stolen out from under you by a people who hadn't been in the area for 1,800 years or so and who originally took the land by naked aggression under a spirit they called God, who truly could be confused with Mars.

Well Alan Dershowitz, thank God that Jesus came along to set things straight. Jesus showed where righteousness and justice are. They don't lie in horning in and driving people out of their homes and off their lands, which is exactly what Israelis have done (something not admirable but rather condemnable).

When I speak at university campuses, I issue the following challenge: Name a country, faced with comparable threats to its own citizens, that has ever tried harder to comply with the rule of law or human rights than Israel.

India under Mahatma Gandhi is a prime example of a nation that faced the full might of the British Empire that could have turn to all out wrath but didn't in the face of Gandhi's appeal to the better angels of the British people. Many were slaughtered in cold blood, yet the Indians didn't break with Gandhi.

Also, stop acting as if Israel wasn't constrained by the bigger fish. Israel could only do so much before the big powers would have become fed up and turn their backs with Israel facing being overrun by Arabs who could have done it but were afraid of U.S. attacks.

Nothing happens in a vacuum, contrary to how you have presented your piece here.

No one has ever named such a country, nor could they.

I just did. Not only that but upon the White ceding total control, the Black Africans in South Africa acted with much greater restraint and much higher ethical standards.

Oh, they haven't been perfect. They've turned their back on many of the promises for a more egalitarian society (just as Israel has done), but their reconciliation model is a true model for the world and would definitely work in Palestine/Israel, which by the way could easily be the new name of the new unified nation guaranteeing equal rights for Arabs, Muslims, Jews, and all others. You don't like that idea though, do you?

Certainly not the United States, which repeatedly bombed enemy cities (Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, Tokyo, Cologne). Certainly not Britain, which in addition to bombing cities fought one of the dirtiest colonial wars in Kenya. Certainly not France, which also fought a brutal colonial war in Algeria. Not Russia. Not China.

Also, before you go comparing all the other nations of the world going back to the beginning of time, remember that Israel has a many thousand year history. It wiped out whole nations (men, women, and children). Also, it did recently once again steal all the land upon which it sits.

This is not to say that Israel's actions have always been commendable. They have not. Israel deserves perhaps a grade of B-minus, but in a world where 'C,' 'D,' and 'F' is common, that's pretty good.

Well, well, you give a tiny bit. You still give your tribe the highest grade in the world though, do you? You haven't though done as well as the Black South Africans. That's a fact. Also, with all the changes going on in Central and South America, we will be able to see how the indigenous peoples there turn around and treat the imperialists who invaded their lands and have held power for hundreds of years. I dare say that those indigenous peoples won't do to those imperialist what those imperialist did to them.

Regardless, you're only grading in relative terms. It is much better to have the highest standard and just think about how well you're living up to it than it is to just compare yourself against the average.

Also, you can't view the standard without taking into account that of all people, the Jews should know better, since they are constantly striving to remind people of the low standards they suffered at the hands of the Nazis, who claimed to be doing human kind a service. If you complain about having been mistreated, you are all the more responsible and accountable for avoiding mistreating others. Don't you agree? Why then turn around and steal land and expect that not to stick out like a hugely swollen, red, nasty, sore thumb (infected)?

You are expected to live up to a higher standard by virtue of your knowing about suffering. Only those who don't overcome and don't rise then act out on others the abuses that were done to them. What is Israel? Is it the abused being the abuser? Yes, in many respects that's exactly what it is. The more it calls for sympathy for itself on account of the Nazis, the more that is expected of it.

Let me let you in on something, people had more sympathy for Israel before what happen ever received a capital H by the victims. If you're astute, you will connect that the more Jews have striven to remind others while horning in on Palestinians, the more it is working against them.

Yet, despite this remarkable history of achievement, not only for its own people, but for the world in general, Israel remains a pariah nation.

Israel is simply in the same situation South Africa was in, only worse since Israel is being more stubborn and ought to know even better, since the Afrikaners didn't suffer under Nazis. There are other differences, but generally it's about human rights for Palestinians just as it was about human rights for Zulus and other tribes.

It is reviled by the United Nations, which helped create it, and by a large number of the world's countries and people. It has been condemned by the General Assembly more than all the other nations of the world combined – a world that includes such tyrannies as North Korea, Iran, Cuba, China, Syria, Libya, Belarus, and Saudi Arabia. It has been subject to calls for academic boycotts, despite having one of the highest levels of academic freedom in the world. It has been threatened with divestment, though it exports more life-saving technology per capita than any nation on earth.

You've pointed to the proof of exactly what I'm saying. You hold Israel way up, but then you say why is more expected of Israel. How you miss something that is so plain and clear to the rest of the world is just to live on another planet.

Look, all those other nations aren't getting a pass. The pressure to do right is everywhere. But Israel is smack dab in the middle of the two oldest civilizations on Earth and has a record that says they should know better and act better: The Bible.

North Korea has been as a hermit. It doesn't have a set of people comparable to the Palestinians. The North Koreans didn't horn in anywhere. They are where they've been through history.

Iran is being lied about daily for the sake of naked Empire building by the U.S. and Israel (with overlapping reasons). Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon to do a first strike on Israel. It isn't suicidal. Although it escapes me why they haven't been bright enough to just get passed the George W. Bush second term before pursuing even "peaceful" nuclear energy. Why they feel the need to risk a stupid act by George W. Bush makes no sense.

Cuba is struggling not to be swallowed again by gangsters, Alan. Haven't you ever read about Cuba before the revolution?

I not saying Fidel did everything right, but he could have been worked with. He was willing. It was the U.S. that slammed the door. Castro probably would have made a pretty good social democrat and might have gone for Scandinavian-style multi-party social democracy long ago had the U.S. not shown itself covetous.

That's a good word: Covetous. That's what the Jews have been toward the Palestinians. Remember, it was the Mosaic Law that condemned covetousness. However, it was under Moses that the wars to take what was coveted began. The kids say, "Go figure." It wasn't lost on Jesus though. He did his best to show the way to move beyond hypocrisy, but his fellow Jews screamed for his extermination.

China has been erratic at best. Mao's perpetual revolution, always keeping everyone off balance, was crazy. Now China says it's under the Communist Party that isn't communist at all, but fickle. However, look at all the heat they're taking over Tibet. Even still, they haven't driven out Tibetans to take over the vast majority of Tibet. There are Han Chinese who have moved into the area, but they are far from a majority. Other than that, the Chinese are in China where they've always been. They have done what the Jews have done in Palestine.

Syria has been for the Syrians too. What are they doing that is comparable to what the Jews have done against the Palestinians? Are Syrian hands clean? I'm not saying that.

Libya has backed way off its bellicosity. It was bombed by Reagan. It also confessed to the Lockerbie airliner downing.

Belarus, is keeping to Belarus. There aren't many ultra rich people in Belarus, but no one is starving or homeless either. The capitalists hate Belarus for that. Well, I'm not for coercion from either end of the spectrum: Socialist or capitalist.

Saudi Arabia is rightly harshly judged for its Wahhabism and monarchical dictatorship. However, Israel lacks the moral standing to move the U.N. to focus against such dictatorships. Until the Israeli-Palestinian issue is solved, how can the U.N. General Assembly turn its attention toward the Saudis in a way that would satisfy you?

Of course, it's also foolish not to factor in that there are 800 million or more Muslims in the world. Also, many of the voting nations have suffered at the hands of imperialism with the U.S. still actively engaged in militant Empire building. Israel has worked itself under the wings of the U.S. That's not lost on the other nations of the world who struggle to keep the U.S. off their backs and out of expropriating all their natural resources without paying the people even a living wage.

What explains this vast disparity between Israel's accomplishments and the near-universal condemnation it has received? When one of the world's best nations is condemned as the worst, we must consider the motives of those who are condemning.

Israel is not right now "one of the world's best nations." It is on par with South Africa during Apartheid.

What's the matter with you? You're defending the indefensible? When the Jews in Israel universally turn to the Palestinians and say, "We're sorry for horning in and turning you out of your homes. Please forgive us." and when those Jews then treat the Palestinians as brothers and sisters and good neighbors, all the fighting and fussing will end.

If you don't like that idea, you have a heart problem. It's too small, hard, and cold. Get some compassion. Realize how self-centered you've been. Realize the pain and suffering your lust has caused. If you can't do that, get some help for being a sociopath.

Let me be crystal clear: I am not suggesting that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. To the contrary, criticism of Israeli policies and actions is healthy. I have been on the forefront of criticizing Israel for establishing civilian settlements on the West Bank. Within Israel itself, criticisms of Israeli policies and actions are pervasive. Just read the Israeli press. Or attend the numerous antigovernment demonstrations in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. What I am talking about is not criticism of Israel but rather demonization, delegitimization, and disproportionate attacks that go to the very essence of the legitimacy of the Jewish state.

Hurray for you about something! You actually wrote that you aren't saying, "[C]riticism of Israel is anti-Semitic." There may be hope for you yet, Alan. Good for you for being against the so-called settlements in the West Bank too.

Now, you need to define your terms, Alan. Do you know what demonization means? What's a demon, Alan? A wrong-doer is the answer. That's all, but that's more than enough. Every single time you or I do something wrong and we know it, we're being demonic. Sinning is demonic. Building in the West Bank or calling people anti-Semites when all they are doing is constructively critiquing Israel's policies and practices is demonic. Therefore, demonizing Israel is not wrong. It's just telling it as it is. All those other nations you criticized above are demonic (to a degree). It doesn't mean they never do anything right. It means they are all mixed bags. They all suffer from half-truth syndrome. They are all, as is Israel, hypocritical.

What does delegitimization mean? Well, first one has to be legitimate before he can be delegitimized. Was it legit to horn into Palestine and drive people out such as what happen with Deir Yassin where Jews went around in the night door-to-door slitting throats to finish the job? No it was not. That's what the Jews need to apologize for to the Palestinians. Jews need to be as the Libyans have been in admitting wrong-doing rather than making excuses and spinning everything in an attempt to lessen the appearance of wrong-doing.

What is disproportionality? Well, you haven't before understood how to look at how the rest of the world views Israelis holding up what the Nazis did for sympathy but then shoving the Palestinians around and shooting and bombing their children saying little more then "oops" or "the kid just got in the way" or even offering up no reason at all.

What about running over Rachel Corrie, who was trying to get a bulldozer operator not to knock down yet another Arab home in the occupied territory? The world knows the kind of state that crushes the life out of a young woman who just believed that the Palestinians should be treated as full human beings rather than less than rabid dogs.

Consider the following question: Would any other country that struggles so hard for its survival, while at the same time trying so hard to remain within the rule of law, be subject to the kind of irrational hatred to which the Jewish nation is exposed? Is the Jewish nation now being treated with the same irrationality with which "the Jews" have been treated for centuries? This is the daunting question that must be faced by those who single out Israel for unique condemnation as it celebrates 60 years of unequaled accomplishments.

It isn't irrational to be against what has been done to the Palestinians, Alan. Stop doing it, apologize, atone, and watch the rest of the world raise up Israel higher then any Jew can ever do it himself. Why do you think so many people love Jesus so much? He was a Jew.

They love him, because he was the exact opposite of what's going on in Israel/Palestine. They love him, because if people would be like him, there wouldn't be any problems. They love him, because he's right. Now why don't the people feel that way about the current nation-state of Israel? Well, that current nation-state isn't even remotely Christlike.

Imagine how much more Israel could contribute to the welfare of the world during the next 60 years if it were blessed with peace and were allowed to turn its swords into plowshares!

Allowed? You don't need anyone else permission to do that, Alan. The Jews never should have used the sword to gain the land, Alan. It was evil. It's always been evil. It was evil when Hitler tried it. It was evil when the U.S. did it across the American continent and elsewhere. No one is saying the Jews are worse in wielding the sword; however, why did you not accept Jesus when he was right there saying to turn the other cheek? The Romans would never have attacked. It was the Zealots who brought on the wrath (the evil of the Roman Empire).

• Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter professor of law at Harvard Law School. His latest book is "Is There a Right to Remain Silent?"

Alan, use more of the portion of your brain that came up with that you aren't saying, "[C]riticism of Israel is anti-Semitic." Use the part that informed you that the settlements in the West Bank were a stupid idea. If you do more of that kind of thinking, maybe you'll also see how dumb (really demonic) your idea for torture warrants is. Maybe you'll apologize to Professor Norman Finkelstein and to former president Jimmy Carter. Perhaps you'll even come to understand why pornography is unhealthy, harmful, addicting, and leads to greater sins for so many who would not otherwise be tempted and overdose. Again, that is not to say that we ought to coerce others.

May God bless you, Alan, with the truth.

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    About Tom Usher

    Employment: 2008 - present, website developer and writer. 2015 - present, insurance broker. Education: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Science in Political Science. City University of Seattle, graduate studies in Public Administration. Volunteerism: 2007 - present, president of the Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project.
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