Pictured: Alan Dershowitz in the US Senate Reception Room on January 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Peter Beinart's New York Times op-ed advocating the end of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is a study in historical ignorance, willful deception and arrogant rejection of democracy.
Beinart proposed that a single binational, bi-religious state in what is now Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip replace current Israel, whose Jewish population would then be given a "homeland" within the new nation. But Beinart is woefully ignorant of previous attempts to create or maintain binational or bi-religious states.
Beinart ignores the lessons of history surrounding the former Yugoslavia — Tito's failed effort to create a single artificial nation from different ethnicities and religions — which ended in genocide, tragedy and its breakup into several states now living in relative peace. He omits any mention of Lebanon — a failed experiment in sharing power between Muslims and Christians. He writes as if Hindu India still included Muslim Pakistan, instead of having been divided after considerable bloodshed and divisiveness. He focuses instead on two countries, Northern Ireland and South Africa, which bear little relationship to current-day Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Northern Ireland is a country whose population is ethnically similar, with only religious differences at a time when religion is playing a far less important role in the life of many secular Northern Irish. South Africa was a country in which a tiny minority of whites dominated a large majority of Blacks, and is now a dominantly Black nation.
Israel and the Palestinian territories are totally different. The population of Israel is a mixture of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, Muslims and Christians. The West Bank and Gaza are comprised almost exclusively of Muslim Arabs.
There used to be a mixture of Muslim and Christians, but most Christians have been forced out. The combined Muslim Arab population of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza is close in number to the Jewish population of Israel. If Israel were to end its existence as the nation-state of the Jewish people — as Beinart advocates — and become a Jewish "homeland" in a single binational, bi-religious state, a demographic war would become inevitable, in which Jews and Muslims would compete to become a majority. As soon as a Muslim majority materialized, the Jewish "homeland" would become precisely the kind of "Bantustan" that Beinart has railed against in the context of South Africa. The Jewish minority would be ruled by the Muslim majority, even if it were given some degree of autonomy. Their protection would be largely in the hands of the Muslim majority, many of whom believe there is no place for a Jewish entity anywhere in the region.
It was precisely this fear that led to the creation of political Zionism in the 19th century. Theodor Herzl and others experienced the anti-Semitism of Europe and the inability of the Jewish minority there to protect itself against pogroms and discrimination. Placing the safety of Israel's Jewish population in the hands of a potentially hostile Muslim majority would be an invitation to possible genocide.
Beinart is insistent that today's Israelis and Jews must ignore the lessons of the Holocaust. But those who ignore history are destined to repeat it. And Jews cannot afford to see a repetition of their tragic past.
Beinart never discusses the issue of who would control the armed forces and, most particular, Israel's nuclear arsenal, under a binational and bi-religious state. Recall that the current Hamas constitution demands that a Palestinian state be an Islamic nation bound by Sharia law. Even if the Palestinian majority state would allow the Jewish minority homeland to have its own domestic laws, the state itself, with its Muslim majority, would presumably control the armed forces. This would create yet another Islamic state, among the many that currently exist — but this one would have a nuclear arsenal. A Palestinian majority would also not allow persecuted Jews from around the world to seek asylum, as they can today under Israel's Law of Return. Instead, the Palestinian state would enact its own law of return that would allow millions of exiles to "return" and assure a permanent Muslim supermajority.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of the book, Guilt by Accusation: The Challenge of Proving Innocence in the Age of #MeToo, Skyhorse Publishing, November 2019. He is the Jack Roth Charitable Foundation Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
This article was originally published by Newsweek and is reprinted by kind permission of the author.