The following op-ed by Professor Alan Dershowitz, A painful absence of balance, originally appeared in The Times (UK) on Septeber 21, 2005.
On the Day of Simon Wiesenthal’s death, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain, could be found in The Guardian proposing the abolition of Holocaust Memorial Day because it is offensive to Muslims.
Sacranie and his allies propose Genocide Day, a holiday devoted to recognising, among other genocides, the “mass murder of Muslims in Palestine”.
The double bigotry reflected in this proposal should be evident to all people of good will. First, I can understand why commemoration of the Holocaust should be offensive to those Muslims and others who supported Nazi victory over Britain and Nazi genocide against the Jews and others.
And there were many such Muslims, led by the leader then of the Palestinian people Haj Amin al-Husseini, who urged Hitler to extend the final solution beyond Europe’s borders to Jewish refugees who had reached Palestine.
Secondly, there has been no genocide against the Palestinian people. When Palestinian bombers target Israeli civilians, Israel refrains from targeting Palestinian civilians in turn. Many Palestinian civilians have died during the many Arab-Israeli wars and intifadas of the past several decades. But that number is dwarfed by the number of Palestinians and Arabs killed by Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Iran during the same period.
During its occupation Israel provided social security, built and supported schools, and maintained vehicle, water and electrical infrastructures for residents of the West Bank and Gaza. The Egyptian and Jordanian occupations that preceded Israel were far less benign, but of course no one accused those Arab countries of genocide.
This is not to justify Israel’s occupation. Even though it was the Arab offensive in 1967 that created the Israeli occupation, when the Six-day War ended I argued in favour of Muslim self-determination and partition of Israel and Palestine. Opposition, though, should be grounded in facts and tempered by fair-mindedness.
The Israeli occupation is not a genocide, and those who would conflate the two are more interested in demonising the Jewish state than in achieving Palestinian statehood and a just peace, based on compromise, between the two nations.
Alan Dershowitz is a professor of law at Harvard.