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Noam Chomsky v. Alan Dershowitz: A Debate on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

StoryDecember 23, 2005
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We bring you a debate between Noam Chomsky and Alan Dershowtiz on the question, “Israel and Palestine After Disengagement: Where Do We Go From Here?” Dershowitz argued for a political solution based on an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian towns and a mobile security fence to protect Israel’s borders, while Chomsky insisted that the main obstacle to peace in the region is U.S.-Israeli insistence on maintaining settlements and rejecting minimal Palestinian rights. They faced off at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government last month. [includes rush transcript]

  • Noam Chomsky, Professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His books include “Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest For Global Dominance”, “Power and Terror,” and “Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians.”
  • Alan Dershowitz, Professor of Law at Harvard University. He is the author of “The Case for Israel” and “The Case for Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can Be Resolved.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The debate was held on November 29 in front of a packed house at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. It was entitled “Israel and Palestine After Disengagement: Where Do We Go From Here?” We will start with Alan Dershowitz’s opening remarks.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: It’s a great honor for me to be participating in a debate with a man who has been called the world’s top public intellectual. My connections to Noam Chomsky go back a long time. In the 1940s, I was a camper, and he a counselor in a Hebrew-speaking Zionist camp in the Pocono Mountains called Camp Massad. In the 1960s we both worked against the Vietnam War. In the 1970s, we had the first of our many debates about the Arab-Israeli conflict. I advocated ending the Israeli occupation in exchange for peace and recognition of Israel; he advocated a one-state solution, modeled on Lebanon and Yugoslavia. We debated again in the 1980s and the 1990s. I have the text. I hope that our once-a-decade encounter will continue for many decades to come, though I doubt we will agree with each other.

The debate today occurs at a time of real potential for peace. Shimon Peres, Israel’s elder statesman in the peace camp, today quit the Labour Party and announced his support for Ariel Sharon in the upcoming election. Quote: “In my eyes, it is not a problem of parties, but a problem of peace, how to create a strong coalition for peace. The elements are now in place for a real peace.” As I wrote in The Case for Peace, when the Palestinian leadership wants a Palestinian state more than it wants to see the destruction of Israel, there will finally be a two-state solution.

The untimely death of Yasser Arafat makes the two-state solution a real possibility. I call Arafat’s death untimely, because if it had occurred five years earlier, we might now be celebrating the anniversary of Palestinian statehood. Arafat’s decision to turn down the Clinton-Barak plan for Palestinian statehood was characterized by Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia as, quote, “a crime against the Palestinians, in fact against the entire region.” The crime and the death that it needlessly caused can never be undone, but this is a time to move forward and to assure that the crime is not repeated.

The time has come for compromise. My friend, Amos Oz, the great novelist and leader of the Israeli peace movement, has said there are two possible resolutions to a conflict of this kind: the Shakespearian and the Chekhovian. In a Shakespearian drama, every right is wronged, every act is revenged, every injustice is made right, and perfect justice prevails, but at the end of the play, everybody lies dead on the stage. In a Chekhov play, everybody is disillusioned, embittered, heart-broken, disappointed, but they remain alive. We need a Chekhovian resolution for the Arab-Israeli tragedy.

This will require the elevation of pragmatism over ideology. It will require that both sides give up rights. Rights. Giving up rights is a hard thing to do. It will require that each side recognizes and acknowledges the pain and the suffering of the other. And it will require an end to the hateful attitudes and speech that some on each side direct against the other.

Sometimes it’s better to start at the end. The ultimate solution is not as much in dispute these days as is the means for getting there. I believe that even Professor Chomsky and I have the same basic agreement about a number of very important elements of what a pragmatic resolution might look like. Professor Chomsky now acknowledges that the two-state solution may be, quote, “the best of the rotten ideas around.” I’ll settle for that. He also seems to acknowledge that those who advocate the so-called Palestinian right of return are pandering to their people and misleading them into believing that there is yet another weapon, a demographic weapon, that can destroy Israel. I think we both agree that Jerusalem should be divided essentially along demographic lines with the Palestinians controlling the Palestinian population and Israel controlling the Jewish population, that the borders between Israel and the Palestinian state should be based roughly on the U.N. Resolution 242, that Israel properly ended its occupation of the Gaza, and that it should end its occupation of all Palestinian cities and population centers on the West Bank, that terrorism must stop, and that the Palestinian state that results from this peace must be as contiguous as possible, and economically and politically viable.

There remain considerable differences between us and, more importantly, between the Israeli government and the Palestinian authority that must resolve these issues and actually sit down and make peace. Some of these differences are attitudinal. I believe that peace is a realistic possibility, whereas Professor Chomsky apparently believes there is no chance for peace, at least as reflected by the German title of his new book, Keine Chance für Frieden, which translates as No Chance for Peace: Why a Palestinian State is Not Possible to be Established with Israel and the United States. I hope you’re wrong.

Other differences are quite specific, relating to precise boundaries and considerations that are quite important, the devil always being in the details. I strongly believe, however, that there is a genuine will for peace on both sides now and that the pragmatic differences can and will be resolved. And here, I think the academy can play a very important and positive role in fostering peace. At the moment, I’m sad to report that many academics around the world are contributing to an atmosphere that makes peace more difficult to achieve. They are encouraging those Palestinians who see the end of Israel as their ultimate goal to persist in their ideological and terrorist campaign.

By demonizing and de-legitimating Israel in the international community and on university campuses throughout the world, they send a doubly destructive message to those who must make peace on the ground. To the Palestinians, the message is don’t compromise. If you hold out long enough, the next generation of leaders will buy into your efforts to de-legitimate Israel and will give you the total victory you seek. To the Israelis, the message is: Whatever you do in the name of compromise, you will continue to be attacked, demonized, divested from, boycotted and de-legitimated, so why make the compromise efforts?

As I travel around college campuses in the United States, I notice a stark difference. Many of those who support the Palestinian cause tend to be virulently opposed to Israel, comparing the Jewish state to Nazism and apartheid, comparing Shimon Peres to Hitler and Idi Amin, calling Israel the world’s worst human rights violators, and suggesting that Israel should be flattered by a comparison with the Gestapo. These are all quotes, the Amin/Hitler quote from Professor Chomsky, the comparison with Gestapo from Norman Finkelstein. Whereas most of those on the Israeli side tend to be supportive of a peaceful Palestinian state. Put another way, pro-Palestinians tend to be anti-Israel, whereas pro-Israelis are often pro-Palestinian, as well.

It was not the Israelis who scuttled the United Nations’ two-state solution in 1948 and themselves originally occupied Gaza and the West Bank with little or no objection from the international community. That was Egypt and Jordan. It was not the Israelis who turned down Resolution 242 in 1967 with the famous three no’s: no negotiation, no peace and no recognition. As Abba Eban put it, this is the first time in history that the side who won the war sued for peace, and the side that lost the war demanded unconditional surrender. It was not Israel that turned down the generous offer at Camp David in Taba. The Palestinian leadership has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, but it is not too late for peace now.

I wish to end my opening remarks today by making a specific proposal directed to my distinguished opponent. I propose here today a peace treaty among academics who purport to favor peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I believe that by agreeing to this peace treaty and by implementing it, academics can actually contribute to encouraging a pragmatic peace. I call today for those who have supported the Palestinian cause to stop demonizing Israel, to stop de-legitimating Israel, to stop defaming Israel, to stop applying a double standard to Israel, to stop divestiture and boycotts of Israel, and most importantly, to stop being more Palestinian than the Palestinians themselves.

I call on academics who support Israel not to call for a greater Israel, nor to call for a continuation of the occupation of Palestinian cities, to stop being more Israeli than the Israelis themselves, and to join the vast majority of Israeli and American supporters of Israel who favor the two-state solution. If the two elder statesmen of Israel, Sharon and Peres, can place pragmatism before ideology and peace before party and come together toward the center in the interest of a pragmatic peace, then surely two elder statesmen of the American academic debate over Israel, who share this platform tonight, can also make our contribution to the peace process by encouraging those who respect us and sometimes follow our guidance to move closer to the center and closer to accepting a pragmatic, non-ideological resolution of this bitter conflict. Ecclesiastes many years ago said, “To everything there is a season, a time to throw stones, a time to gather stones, a time for war and a time for peace.” This is the season of peace. Let us not let it pass us by. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Alan Dershowitz giving his opening remarks in his debate with Noam Chomsky at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. When we come back from break, Noam Chomsky.


AMY GOODMAN: We return now to the debate between Noam Chomsky and Alan Dershowitz held last month at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The debate was entitled “Israel and Palestine After Disengagement: Where Do We Go From Here?” It was moderated by Professor Brian Mandell of the Kennedy School. These are Noam Chomsky’s opening remarks.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Mr. Mandell will confirm, there was an explicit condition for this debate. That is, that neither participant try to evade the issue by deceitful allegations about the other. So, I, therefore, congratulate Mr. Dershowitz on having made a true statement. I was a counselor at Massad. About the rest, there happens to be an ample record in print, or if you like, you can ask a question, but I’ll keep to the topic and the rules.

The topic is: Where do we go from here? The answer to that is largely up to us. Evidently, it requires some understanding of how we got here. The question of where we’re going now has a clear answer. It’s given accurately by the leading academic specialist on the occupation, Harvard’s Sara Roy, as she writes that under the terms of disengagement, Gazans are virtually sealed within the Strip, while West Bankers, their lands dismembered by relentless Israeli settlement, will continue to be penned into fragmented geographic spaces, isolated behind and between walls and barriers.

Her judgment is affirmed by Israel’s leading specialist on the West Bank, Meron Benvenisti, who writes that 'the separation walls snaking through the West Bank will create three Bantustans' (his words): north, central and south, all virtually separated from East Jerusalem, the center of Palestinian commercial, cultural and political life. And he adds that this, what he calls the soft transfer from Jerusalem, that is an unavoidable result of the separation wall, might achieve its goal. Quoting still, 'the goal of disintegration of the Palestinian community, after many earlier attempts, have failed.' 'The human disaster being planned,' he continues, 'will turn hundreds of thousands of people into a sullen community, hostile, and nurturing a desire for revenge.' So, another example of the sacrifice of security through expansion that’s been going on for a long time.

A European Union report concludes that U.S.-backed Israeli programs will virtually end the prospects for a viable Palestinian state by the cantonization and by breaking the organic links between East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Human Rights Watch, in a recent statement, concurs.

There was no effort to conceal the fact that Gaza disengagement was in reality West Bank expansion. The official plan for disengagement stated that Israel will permanently take over major population centers, cities, towns and villages, security areas and other places of special interest to Israel in the West Bank. That was endorsed by the U.S. ambassador, as it had been by the President, breaking sharply with U.S. policy.

Along with the disengagement plan, Israel announced investment of tens of millions of dollars in West Bank settlements. Prime Minister Sharon immediately approved new housing units in the town of Maale Adumim that’s to the east of Jerusalem, the core of the salient that divides the southern from the central Bantustan, to use Benvenisti’s term, and also announced other expansion plans.

There is near unanimity that all of this violates international law. The consensus was expressed by U.S. Judge Buergenthal in his separate declaration attached to the World Court judgment, ruling that the separation wall is illegal. In Buergenthal’s words, “The Fourth Geneva Convention and International Human Rights Law are applicable to the occupied Palestinian territory and must therefore be fully complied with by Israel. Accordingly, the segments of the wall being built by Israel to protect the settlements are ipso facto in violation of international humanitarian law,” which happens to mean about 80% of the wall.

Two months later, Israel’s high court rejected that judgment, ruling that the separation wall, quoting, “must take into account the need to provide security for Israelis living in the West Bank, including their property rights.” This is consistent with Chief Justice’s Barak’s doctrine that Israeli law supersedes international law, particularly in East Jerusalem, annexed in violation of Security Council orders. And practically speaking, he is correct, as long as the United States continues to provide the required economic, military and diplomatic support, as it has been doing for 30 years, in violation of the international consensus on a two-state settlement.

You can find detailed documentation about all of this in work of mine and others who have supported the international consensus for 30 years in print, explicitly. In Israeli literature, like Benny Morris’s histories, you can find ample evidence about the nature of the occupation. In Morris’s words, “founded on brute force, repression and fear, collaboration and treachery, beatings and torture chambers and daily intimidation, humiliation and manipulation, along with stealing of valuable land and resources.” Like other Israeli political and legal commentators, Morris reserves special criticism for the Supreme Court, whose record, he writes, “will surely go down as a dark day in the annals of Israel’s judicial system.”

Keeping to the diplomatic record, the first — both sides, of course, rejected 242. The first important step forward was in 1971, when president Sadat of Egypt offered a full peace treaty to Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. That would have ended the international conflict. Israel rejected the offer, choosing expansion over security. In this case, expansion into the Egyptian Sinai, where General Sharon’s forces had driven thousands of farmers into the desert to clear the land for the all-Jewish city of Yamit. The U.S. backed Israel’s stand.

Those decisions led to the 1973 war, a near disaster for Israel. The U.S. and Israel then recognized that Egypt could not be dismissed and finally accepted Sadat’s 1971 offer at Camp David in 1979. But by then, the agreement included the demand for a Palestinian state, which had reached the international agenda.

In 1976, the major Arab states introduced a resolution to the U.N. Security Council calling for a peace settlement on the international border, based on U.N. 242, but now adding a Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories. That’s Syria, Egypt, Jordan and every other relevant state. The U.S. vetoed the resolution again in 1980. The General Assembly passed similar resolutions year after year with the United States and Israel opposed.

The matter reached a head in 1988, when the PLO moved from tacit approval to formal acceptance of the two-state consensus. Israel responded with a declaration that there can be no, as they put it, “additional Palestinian state between Jordan and the sea,” Jordan already being a Palestinian state — that’s Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir — and also that the status of the territories must be settled according to Israeli guidelines. The U.S. endorsed Israel’s stand. I can only add what I wrote at the time: “It’s as if someone were to argue the Jews don’t need a second homeland in Israel, because they already have New York.”

In May 1997, for the first time, Peres’s Labour Party agreed not to rule out the establishment of a Palestinian state with limited sovereignty in areas excluding major Jewish settlement blocks, that is, the three cantons that were being constructed with U.S. support. The highest rate of post-Oslo settlement was in 2000, the final year of Clinton’s term and Prime Minister Barak’s.

Maps of the U.S.-Israel proposals at Camp David show a salient, east of Jerusalem, bisecting the West Bank, and a northern salient virtually dividing the northern from the central canton. I have the maps if you want them. The current map considerably extends these salients and the isolation of East Jerusalem. My maps are from the leading Israeli scholars, Ron Pundak, the Director of the Shimon Peres Center. The crucial issue at Camp David was territorial, not the refugee issue, for which Arafat agreed to a pragmatic solution, as Pundak, the leading scholar, reveals. No Palestinian could accept the cantonization, including the U.S. favorite, Mahmoud Abbas.

Clinton — we don’t have to debate it, because Clinton recognized that Palestinian objections had validity, and in December 2000 proposed his parameters, which went some way toward satisfying Palestinian rights. In Clinton’s words, “Barak and Arafat had both accepted these parameters as the basis for further efforts. Both have expressed some reservations.”

The reservations were addressed at a high level meeting in Taba, which made considerable progress and might have led to a settlement, but Israel called them off. That one-week at Taba is the only break in 30 years of U.S.-Israeli rejectionism. High-level informal negotiations continued, leading to the Geneva Accord of December of 2002, welcomed by virtually the entire world, rejected by Israel, dismissed by Washington. That could have been the basis for a just peace. It still can. By then, however, Bush-Sharon bulldozers were demolishing any basis for it.

Every sane Israeli hawk understood that it was absurd for Israel to leave 8,000 settlers in Gaza, protected by a large part of the army, while taking over scarce water resources and arable land. The same conclusion was to withdraw from Gaza while expanding through the West Bank, and that will continue as long as Washington insists on marching on the road to catastrophe by rejecting minimal Palestinian rights. I’m quoting the warning of the four former heads of Israel’s Shin Bet Security Service. “There are clear alternatives, and if that march to catastrophe continues, we will have only ourselves to blame.”

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, speaking at the debate last month with Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz at the Harvard Kennedy School. After both of them gave opening remarks on the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the remaining time was spent taking questions from the audience. This question is to Professor Chomsky.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: It seems to me that you left out, in your analysis, the element of violence, psychological and physical, against Israel, against Jews, and it seems to me also that the history that Professor Dershowitz described, a lot of that is dictated by what happened, the terrorism, the wars against Jews, especially considering the immediate history right before the establishment of the state of Israel, the Holocaust and everything that has happened since. So I would like you to address the effect of — the psychological effect and the physical effect of war and terrorism on Israel.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah. That’s half of a very important question. The other half of it is: What’s the effect of war and terrorism on the Palestinians?

Now, if you take a look at — We’re not supposed to talk about that question here, but if you look at them both, you will find that what Benny Morris described is, in fact, correct. The balance of terror and violence is overwhelmingly against the Palestinians, not surprisingly, given the balance of forces, and that’s even true — that’s true right to the present. I mean, for — you know, for decades, Israel was able to run the West Bank virtually with no forces, as Morris and others point out, because the population was so passive, while they were being humiliated, beaten, tortured, land stolen and so on, just as I quoted.

Finally, there was a reaction, and it’s interesting to see the U.S. reaction to it. In the first month of the Intifada — this one, October 2000 — in the first month of the Intifada, seventy-four Palestinians were killed, four Israelis were killed. This was all in the Occupied Territories. The Israeli army, according to its own records, fired a million bullets in the first day, which disgusted the generals when they learned about it.

Israel, in the first few days of the Intifada, was using U.S. helicopters — they don’t make them — U.S. helicopters to attack civilian complexes, apartment houses and so on, killing and wounding dozens of people. And the U.S. did respond to that. Clinton responded by sending the biggest shipment of military helicopters in a decade to Israel. The press responded, too, by not publishing it, I should add, refusing to publish it, because it was repeatedly brought to their attention. Well, while the ratio was 20 to 1, which is pretty much what it has been for a long time, there was no concern here. Then, over the next two, three years, the ratio reduced to closer to 3 to 1, and then came enormous concern. About the one, not the three. And this goes back for a long time. What I quoted from Morris is accurate.

BRIAN MANDELL: No follow-ups; a very brief response.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Well, you know, the idea there is this vast conspiracy between the American media and both Democrats like Clinton and Republicans like Bush to hide the truth from the American public just does not bear reality. Israel is an open society. Any newspaper can come and cover it. Why would not the newspapers cover these stories? For one reason, they are figments of Chomsky’s imagination and they just never happened.

Now, I want to talk about another figment of his imagination. Chomsky constantly quotes Benny Morris, as if Benny Morris supports his position. What happened is: Benny Morris was asked whether or not I accurately quote him in my book, The Case For Peace, and Benny Morris responded as follows: he still holds the views that I attributed to him, that I am right about his views, and that someone could read Morris’s books — this is a quote from Morris — “and arrive at exactly the same conclusions.”

And yet, Professor Chomsky, by selectively quoting and by picking tidbits out of context, knowing that you’re not going to check up on him, tells you essentially that what you believe in the American media, whether it be the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, or the New York Times, is not true. In order to get the true meaning of the world, you have to move to Planet Chomsky, where the news reflects his perspective on reality. Well, I urge you to move to the real world. Read the real news. Don’t read the selective Israeli journalists that he talks about. Listen to Dennis Ross. Dennis Ross actually helped to draw the maps.

BRIAN MANDELL: Professor Dershowitz

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: He was there when I —


ALAN DERSHOWITZ: I have to finish. I haven’t done my two minutes. When he said —- when I asked Dennis Ross at lunch today -—

BRIAN MANDELL: Okay. It’s a long two minutes.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: — about these maps and what apparently Chomsky would say in response, Ross said, “Ask Professor Chomsky one thing: Were you there?” Dennis Ross was there. He knows what maps were presented to the Palestinians and what they rejected.

BRIAN MANDELL: Thank you. If we could just go —

NOAM CHOMSKY: The head of the Shimon Peres Peace Center, Ron Pundak, who is the leading scholar on this and doesn’t cut it off right before —

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Whoever you quote is the leading scholar. How do we know that?

NOAM CHOMSKY: — right before he is refuted, the way Dennis Ross did, presents — he was involved in negotiations since before Oslo, right through Camp David up to the present, got a long historical account of it. You can read it, if you can read Hebrew; some of it’s in English. The one — all this smoke that was blown had to do with one fact that I mentioned, one, and you can check it, and please do.

In the first month of the Intifada — I’m now using Israeli sources — seventy-four Palestinians were killed, four Jews in the Occupied Territories. The first few days, this is reported in the press here, Boston Globe, Israel was using U.S. helicopters to attack apartment complexes. Clinton reacted with the biggest deal in a decade — check it out. It’s in the public record, not questioned by anyone — to send military helicopters to Israel. There has been a database search of the U.S. — it was reported in Europe. It was reported by Amnesty International. It’s reported in Jane’s Defence Weekly, the main military magazine in the world. There was a database search of the U.S. press, and they found nothing. I know of explicit cases, and I will be glad to tell them to you, where the press was approached and asked just to report the facts.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Why didn’t they? Chomsky, why didn’t they report it? Are they bad reporters? What’s their motive? Explain why the Times or the Post wouldn’t report this great story from Planet Chomsky?

BRIAN MANDELL: Gentlemen, if I could, as —

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s from Jane’s Defence Weekly, from the international press, and so on. Yeah. They wouldn’t — you have to ask them why they didn’t report it.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky and Alan Dershowitz, debating “Israel and Palestine After Disengagement: Where Do We Go from Here?” The moderator, Professor Brian Mandell of the Kennedy School of Government. We’ll go back to this debate in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We return again to the debate between Professors Noam Chomsky and Alan Dershowitz at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, the debate entitled, “Israel and Palestine After Disengagement: Where Do We Go From Here?” After Chomsky and Dershowitz each gave their opening remarks, the floor was opened to questions from the audience. One member of the audience asked Professor Dershowitz about his plan for a Palestinian state.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: My proposal is, and I think it’s a proposal that is today widely supported within Israel, that is, that the ultimate security fence — I have been through not only the terminals, but the most recent high-tech terminal that was just built. I proposed, actually, that the security fence be placed on wheels and constantly be able to be moved consistent with Israeli security needs.

The Israeli Supreme Court ruled last year, and Chomsky misstated it, no Israeli Justice has ever said, and I challenge you to find a statement that Barak has ever said that Israeli law trumps international law. That is simply not true. What he said is that Israeli law enforces international law, but international law is not determined by a body, the International Court of Justice, which excludes Israelis from serving on it, and which will not allow an Israeli ever to be a member of that court. It would be as if a Southern black in the 1930s accepted, as the correct statement of American constitutional law, a decision by an all-white court in a case involving a black and a white man.

No, Israel accepts international law, enforces international law, and the goal, of course, of my peace proposal is that the security fence will eventually be dismantled when terrorism ends, but before that, it would be on the border, the way the Gaza fence is now on the border, and that water rights would be respected. There would be complete and total freedom of movement within the contiguous West Bank and between the West Bank and Gaza.

Even today, Israel has given up control over the Rafah crossing. It now has a video, which it can watch to see as Palestinians, monitor exit and entry through the Rafah gateway. That’s going to be the future. And if there is a will to peace, if there is a desire to make sure that there are two states, not simply one state, a Palestinian state, then all of these issues can be resolved and will be resolved. Israel has shown the will to resolve these issues. Certainly, I support a resolution that gives dignity, gives economic viability, gives political freedom and freedom of movement to the Palestinian people. Yes.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: And sovereignty over East Jerusalem?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: And sovereignty over East Jerusalem.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Let me quote, once again — I purposely quoted Justice Buergenthal, because I know of Mr. Dershowitz’s opposition to the World Court. I therefore quoted the U.S. Justice, not the World Court, who stated that the segments of the wall being built to protect the settlements are ipso facto in violation of international humanitarian law. That’s 80% of the wall. Two months later, Israel’s high court stated, in contrast, that the separation wall must take into account the need to provide security for Israelis living in the West Bank, including their property rights. That’s in direct contradiction to Justice Buergenthal’s separate declaration, unanimously by the World Court.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: That’s right.

NOAM CHOMSKY: And if you would like his comment about how international law — Israeli law supersedes international law in East Jerusalem, because it was annexed to Israel illegally, I’ll be happy to provide it to you. Just send me an email.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: But that’s not what you said.

AMY GOODMAN: Alan Dershowitz and Noam Chomsky debating the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Later in the evening Chomsky and Dershowitz were asked how they see young people dealing with the conflict in the future. First, Professor Chomsky.

NOAM CHOMSKY: You should approach it as an American. As for an American, it is one of the lead issues in the world. Israel is able to do these things, to dismantle and destroy the West Bank, to disintegrate the community, because the United States gives it massive aid, unparalleled in international affairs, not only military and economic, but also diplomatic by, as I mentioned, for the last 30 years, unilaterally blocking the two-state settlement, which Israel also totally rejected, alone, the two of them, and as long as you, the American taxpayer, goes on supporting this, yes, it will continue, and it’ll lead to exactly what the Bantustan-style solution that Benvenisti and others describe, right on the ground and, yes, so therefore, it’s of enormous importance to Americans.

As for solutions, pretty straightforward. They were coming close to a solution at Taba until Israel called it off. Negotiations continued, leading to several proposals of which the most detailed were the Geneva Accords. You can find out what I thought about all of those in print. You can ask Mr. Dershowitz where he supported them in print. The Geneva Accords in December 2002 were accepted by essentially the whole world. Israel rejected them. The U.S. refused even to send a message to the Geneva meetings. But they’re still potentially alive, and American citizens can compel our own government to reverse its program, to accept the international consensus for the first time, and then we’ll be on the way to a solution.

BRIAN MANDELL: Thank you. Briefly, Professor Dershowitz.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: I, too, have written about the Geneva Accords in chapter six of my book, and I generally support many elements of the Geneva Accords. I do not support the right of return, that is, the idea that 700,000 or now 4 million Palestinians can demographically destroy Israel.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Which is rejected in the Geneva Accords.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: It is not rejected in the Geneva Accords. It is not accepted or rejected. It is left for future negotiations.

NOAM CHOMSKY: It is left open, because the Palestinians already —

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Now, see how you change your view. First it’s accepted, then it’s left open. What is your next position?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Fine. Let’s be precise. They did not say anything about that, because the Palestinians had already at Camp David and at Taba accepted the so-called pragmatic settlement, which would not affect the demographic character of Israel.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: That is simply false.

NOAM CHOMSKY: If you want to learn about that, read the serious scholarship, like Ron Pundak, head of the Shimon Perez Peace —

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: That is simply false. I can tell you that President Clinton told me directly and personally that what caused the failure of the Camp David-Taba accords was the refusal of the Palestinians and Arafat to give up the right of return. That was the sticking point. It wasn’t Jerusalem. It wasn’t borders. It was the right of return. Now if you believe —

BRIAN MANDELL: Can we move on from there?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: If you believe that the United States has unilaterally rejected the two-state solution — that’s what we heard from Professor Chomsky — that it’s the United States that has rejected the two-state solution, when every modern American president has favored the two-state solution, I say, welcome to Planet Chomsky.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Now, here’s a simple exercise. You can believe one of two things: the extensive published diplomatic record, which I gave you a sample of and you can find in detail in books of mine and others, or what Mr. Dershowitz says he heard from somebody

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: No, or — and check the diplomatic record.

AMY GOODMAN: Alan Dershowitz debating Noam Chomsky. The next question went to Professor Dershowitz.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Professor Dershowitz, in your book, you said you hoped to have a win-win situation, where everyone had to give something up. And what’s clear to me after this debate and just looking at history, that no one is able to come to a resolution where they’re willing to give up enough to the other person. So, it seems to me that the only way to win is to have everybody lose. So I’d like you to comment on a proposal where maybe, if you all lost, we’d actually come out winning?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Well, I think there is a win-win possible situation. Israel has been giving up much. It gave up the Gaza. It, by the way, offered to give up the Gaza to Egypt way back in the early 1980s. Egypt wouldn’t take it back. There was no international outcry over the occupation of the Gaza by Egypt for 20 years, nor was there any international — and I’m sure there must be a long record. Check Chomsky’s writing. He must have in print large opposition to the occupation of Gaza by Egypt and strong opposition to the occupation of the West Bank by Jordan. Funny, I never came across it in my research, but I’m sure it must be there, if you check at least the Czechoslovakian version of one of his writings, and — so, I do think there’s a win-win solution.

The win-win solution is the one I proposed, starting in 1967, and that is, Israel make territorial adjustments necessary to secure its boundary and securities, consistent with Palestinian rights, no occupation of Palestinian cities, a two-state solution. That is a win-win situation.

And let me tell you why I consider myself pro-Palestinian. I am pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian, because I favor a viable, healthy, economically strong, politically democratic Palestinian state. That will be good for Palestine. It will be good for Israel. It will be good for the world.

Israel has a major stake in the success of Palestine, whereas the Palestinians have never had a major stake in the success of Israel. And so, I see a successful Palestinian state, a viable, largely contiguous Palestinian state as a win-win situation, not only for Israel and the Palestinians, but for the United States and the rest of the world. I only hope that Professor Chomsky can join me in agreeing that we’re not going to get a perfect solution. And let’s just advocate a solution that’s acceptable.

The question that was asked before was to me the key question. If the Palestinians accept the solution that Professor Chomsky finds unacceptable, will he use his enormous resources as the most influential intellectual in the world today to turn the Palestinians against this peace proposal, or will he lend his great prestige to urging the Palestinians and his academic supporters all over the world to accept a pragmatic compromise solution. Professor Chomsky, a lot turns on you. You are a very important and influential person. And therefore, you would understand your power and use it in the interests of peace.

BRIAN MANDELL: Okay. Just before I ask one of the most influential intellectuals today to respond to Lori’s question, just to tell you where we’re headed, Professor Chomsky will respond. Then, in accordance with our rule of the procedure and decorum for this evening, I will ask Professor Chomsky to offer a two-minute summary for the evening, to be followed by Professor Dershowitz. Professor Chomsky.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Yes. Well, with regard to my opposition to the Jordanian-Egyptian occupation, there is ample material in print, and there has been for 35 years, ever since I publicly and openly and very prominently supported the two-state settlement, which Mr. Dershowitz says he now supports. I’m glad to hear that. I don’t have the background evidence. Let’s return — and that means, of course, opposing Jordanian-Egyptian occupation.

Let’s turn to the question we were asked to address: Where do we go from here? Well, we actually have two fundamental choices. One choice is to support Washington’s continued dedication to the road to catastrophe that’s outlined by Israel’s four former security chiefs, namely watching in silence as Washington funds the cantonization of the West Bank, the breaking of its organic links to Jerusalem, and the disintegration of the remnants of Palestinian society. That choice adopts the advice of Moshe Dayan to his cabinet colleagues in the early 1970s. Dayan was in charge of the occupation. He advised them that we must tell the Palestinians, that we have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes, may leave. That’s the solution that is now being implemented. Don’t take my word for it. Go check the sources I cited, very easy, all English.

There’s an alternative. The alternative is to return to the spirit of the one break in U.S.-Israeli rejectionism. That is, the week in Taba in January 2001, before Israel called it off, and to take seriously the follow-up proposals from high-level negotiators on both sides, of which the Geneva Accords are the most detailed. There is overwhelming international support for taking them as the basis for a political settlement. It does come close to the long-standing international consensus that the United States and Israel have barred, and that I have personally been supporting for the last over 30 years. That’s the road away from catastrophe, towards an end to violence and towards eventual reconciliation. Either choice is within our reach. From that point on, it’s up to us.

BRIAN MANDELL: Professor Dershowitz.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: We do seem to have a remarkable point of agreement. I think we both do agree that the proposals made at Taba do provide a useful basis for a peace process. Now, Taba didn’t end because Israel left. Taba ended because Arafat rejected Camp David, thereby causing the election of Sharon over Barak. There was no government, essentially, that could carry out the Taba proposals, which were favored by a very, very large number of Israelis. That’s why Prince Bandar said to Arafat at Camp David and at Taba, 'If you reject the proposals at Camp David, you are going to get Sharon instead of Barak. You're never, ever going to get a better deal.’

Thankfully, he was wrong. Sharon emerged as a man of courage and a man of vision. And I, myself, although I never did support Sharon in the past, strongly support the efforts made by Sharon and Peres, a great, great man of peace, a man who has vision, a man who imagines the future, a man who can bring about peace in the world and peace in the Middle East. And I think the prospects for peace based on the Taba proposals are quite realistic. I think that if this party wins the election and invites the Palestinians to the table, and the Palestinians don’t again miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, there will be a real prospect for negotiation, a real prospect for peace based on pragmatism.

One final word about the sources. Please, the other area where Professor Chomsky and I agree, check his sources. Take him at his word. Go back tonight and google and read the sources. Read them in English. Read them in whatever language you can, and then email us both as to what the sources show.

And finally, in a constructive and positive way, I urge you: Imagine peace. Imagine the peace dividend that will come to the world if finally a pragmatic solution based on peace comes to the Palestinian people and the Israeli people. I’m hoping for shalom, for salaam, and for peace. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, debating the question “Israel and Palestinian After Disengagement: Where Do We Go From Here?” It was moderated by Havard Professor Brian Mandell. The debate took place at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

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