I don’t know much about Alan Dershowitz, except that he’s a famous and conservative attorney who is an avid supporter of Israel. He’s written a book called Why Terrorism Works. His basic premise is apparently ‘that the European community, the United Nations and the Vatican have rendered terrorism successful by rewarding terrorist leaders.’ Despite being something of a right-wing nutter, he does make a couple of compelling points in this recent article in Salon. Consider this anecdote:
I gave a speech the other night in front of 500 people. I asked the people how many of them favored a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel. I think every person in the audience raised their hand. Then I asked how many people favor a Kurdish state. People looked at me like I was crazy. Then I asked how many people favored an Armenian state inside of Turkey. Same thing. Then I asked how many people favor an independent Tibet? A few hands went up. How many people favor an independent Basque state? How many people favor a Chechen state? People didn’t know what I was talking about. Everybody knows of the plight of the Palestinian people. And yet when you put the Palestinian situation in comparison to, say, the Kurds, the Tibetans and the Armenians, those claims are certainly no greater. In fact, they’re probably considerably lower; the Tibetans have been under occupation for a far longer time period, there are many, many more of them, and they’ve never been offered a state. The Palestinians were offered a state in 1948 and they turned it down. They could have had a state between 1948 and 1967 and they turned it down. They were offered a state at Camp David and they turned it down.
So when you do any kind of a moral comparison, you ask yourself, why has the Palestinian cause leapfrogged over all other causes? Why has the pope met with Arafat seven times and never met with a Kurdish leader or an Armenian leader?
He makes a good point here. Terrorism is an absurd but effective kind of PR. Terrorists generally want to be recognized for what they’ve done. Whenever a bomb goes off in Northern Ireland or Spain, somebody’s always calling the police to claim responsibility. As the saying goes, any press is good press. Dershowitz proposes this antidote to terrorism:
You have to reward the ending of terrorism, rather than terrorism itself. That’s what’s going on in Northern Ireland. Gerry Adams has now said that they’ve ended terrorism. He’s being rewarded for that. That’s what happened in South Africa; Mandela ended terrorism. The Palestinian state has to be created as a reward for the end of terrorism. The United States, Israel and the European community should announce a Palestinian state in the year 2005 but [on the condition that] there has to be two consecutive years of no Palestinian Authority-sanctioned or sponsored terrorism.
In this article, I also learned the term ‘asynchronous warfare’, which Dershowitz describes as a euphemism for killing innocent civilians. It’s an interesting notion, though, that terrorism is a war fought when there aren’t any enemy soldiers around.