Palestinians have been offered statehood numerous times and have rejected it. As Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, then leader of the Palestinian people, essentially put it when the two-state solution was first proposed in the late 1930s: We want there not to be Jewish state more than we want there to be a Palestinian state. Al-Husseini, allied himself and his people with Nazi Germany during World War II. Pictured: Adolf Hitler meets with al-Husseini, on November 28, 1941. (Image source: German Federal Archive)
The anti-Israel claims of the Palestinians, though deeply flawed, have become a central part of hard left ideology, especially among those who adhere to so-called intersectionality.
Why does the Palestinian cause get so much attention, when there are much more compelling causes around the world such as those of the Kurds, Uyghurs, and other stateless and oppressed people? There are more demonstrations on university campuses against Israel than against Russia, China, Belarus and Iran. Why? The answer has little to do with the Palestinians, and everything to do with Israel, as the nation state of the Jewish people. It is a political manifestation of international antisemitism. It is only because the nation accused of oppressing Palestinians is Israel.
This is not to say that is wrong to support the Palestinian cause. It is to say that it is wrong — and bigoted — to prioritize that deeply flawed cause over other, equally or more deserving, causes. Not only does the hard left prioritize the Palestinians; it largely ignores other causes, just because Israel is on the other side of the Palestinian issue. The reason really is as simple as that. It has little to do with the merits and everything to do with antisemitism. It calls itself anti-Zionism, but it is only a cover for anti-Jewish bigotry.
A recent example is the decision of Ben and Jerry's ice cream to boycott parts of Israel, while continuing to sell to countries in which far greater abuses occur. When asked why Ben and Jerry's limits their boycott only to Israel, its founders admitted they had no idea. Well, I have an idea. In Ben and Jerry's case, their ignorant founders are simply useful idiots, following unquestioningly the crowd of hard left antisemites. To paraphrase an old expression: bigot sees, bigot does.
Who is leading the crowd of antisemitic bigots? The movement to single out the nation state of Israel for boycott, known as BDS, was originated by a Palestinian radical named Omar Barghouti, who does not hide the fact that his goal is the destruction of Israel and the substitution of a Palestinian state "from the river to the sea," meaning the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea — namely all of current Israel. He and others who lead the BDS movement want to see this entire area judenrein, that is, ethnically cleansed of the more than 7 million Jews who now supposedly "occupy" Muslim and Arab land. These supposed "occupiers" include Jews who are Black and Brown; European, Asian, African, and American; many are descendants of people who have lived there since before Islam began, and certainly before many current "Palestinians" moved there from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, the Gulf and North Africa. Jews are as indigenous to Israel as descendants of immigrants are to America.
Do the Palestinians deserve a state? Yes, but no more so than the Kurds and other stateless people. Why no more so? Because the Palestinians have been offered statehood numerous times and have rejected it. As the former leader of the Palestinian people essentially put it when the two-state solution was first proposed in the late 1930s: We want there not to be Jewish state more than we want there to be a Palestinian state.
This leader, Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, allied himself and his people with Nazi Germany during World War II. Al-Husseini spent the war years in Berlin with Hitler, planning to bring the "final solution" to the Jews of what is now Israel. He was declared a Nazi war criminal. Yet his picture was featured in many Palestinian Arab homes, and he was regarded as a hero and leader.
Despite being on the losing side of the war, the Palestinians were offered a state on the vast majority of arable land, as part of a United Nations proposed two state solution; the Jews were offered a state on a far smaller area of arable land. In the area proposed for the Jewish state, the Jews constituted a substantial majority of the population. The Jews accepted the compromise two state solution. The Arabs rejected it and went to war against the new Jewish state seeking to destroy it. It was this act of unlawful military aggression that resulted in the Palestinian refugee situation, which they call the "Nakba" ("catastrophe"). But it was a self-induced catastrophe. And many current Palestinian leaders and followers fault their predecessors for not accepting the two-state solution offered by the United Nations 75 years ago, as several have told me.
Rather than trying to negotiate for a state during the subsequent years, the Palestinian leadership under Yasser Arafat opted for terrorism against Israeli and international civilian targets. The Palestinians could have had a state in 1948, 1967, 2000-2001, 2005 and 2008. They still preferred no Jewish state to a Palestinian state living in peace with Israel. They can have a state now, if they would negotiate a compromise instead of fomenting terrorism.
I wonder how many of those who demonstrate against Israel have any idea of this history. Or are they, too, merely serving as useful idiots to those who know the history but want to undo it because it resulted in a nation state for the Jewish people? It does not really matter. The bottom line is that the hard left's irrational opposition to Israel is a modern manifestation of the world's oldest and most enduring bigotry.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard Law School, and the author most recently of The Price of Principles: Why Integrity Is Worth Its Consequences. He is the Jack Roth Charitable Foundation Fellow at Gatestone Institute, and is also the host of "The Dershow," podcast.