The Case For Israel

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Cover of The Case For Israel
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The Case For Israel (ISBN 047146502X) is a 2003 book by Alan Dershowitz which makes — well, the case for Israel. Specifically, Dershowitz says he's making these arguments "based on liberal and civil libertarian considerations."[1]:12

In the book, Dershowitz goes through various negative claims about Israel, phrased in the form of a question, and attempts to provide the Zionist response. Given the nature of the book, it is no surprise that the answers to all of these questions happen to be "no, and Israel is actually in the right in all situations." However, the issue is not merely Dershowitz's conclusion, but how he was constantly found to be dishonest while attempting to make that case.


See the main article on this topic: Plagiarism

Norman Finkelstein has accused Dershowitz of plagiarizing large amounts of this book from a 1984 book called From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab–Jewish Conflict over Palestine by Joan Peters,[2] which was also found to be a total fraud.

Finkelstein first made this claim in a 2003 debate with Dershowitz on Democracy Now!,[3] but has since compiled various examples of this in his blog posts[4] and a book on Dershowitz (which Dershowitz tried to stop the publication of[5]).[6]:232-242

Various neutral observers have backed up Finkelstein's claims. For example, the political scientist Michael Desch wrote that not only did Dershowitz take claim from Joan Peters, but he badly represented these arguments and might not have even bothered to read the book he took from.[7] Avi Shlaim, an academic from Oxford, has said Dershowitz's claims have been "proved in a manner that would stand up in court."[8]

What's especially notable is how out of his way Dershowitz seems to have gone to remove any reference to Peters from his book. On two separate occasions, Dershowitz makes reference to "George Orwell's turnspeak,"[1]:57 and later "Orwellian turnspeak."[1]:153 However, Orwell never once used the phrase, it actually came from the same book book that Dershowitz was later accused of plagiarizing.[2]:173 (To make things even more confusing, while defending this, Dershowitz claimed that he "did, mistakenly believe the word 'turnspeak' had come from Huxley."[6]:254 I.e., additionally confusing Aldous Huxley with Orwell.)

Earlier drafts of the book, along with communications that Dershowitz had with those who work on it also help back up these accusations. Dershowitz told one research assistant to "cite sources" followed by a list of pages that match perfectly with sections of From Time Immemorial that many already suspected of being plagiarized.[6]:243

Of course, there's nothing wrong with using information from other books — even books that have been proven to be factually inaccurate, on the condition that the facts being lifted are true — as long as one properly credits the book in question. The fact that Dershowitz failed to do this shows that he is inherently dishonest, and should cause any reasonable person to question how seriously people can take his claims.


Even ignoring the sheer amounts of plagiarism in the book — which one shouldn't — it is also important to note that the book is filled with factual inaccuracies. In one chapter, Dershowitz attempted to argue that Israel does not engage in torture of Palestinians,[1]:134-139 with his evidence being the prohibition of torture by Israel's Supreme Court. However, he left out that these rulings "held that ISA agents who exceed their authority and use 'physical pressure' may not necessarily bear criminal responsibility for their actions, if they are later found to have used these methods in a 'ticking bomb' case, based on the 'necessity defense,'" and that "ISA agents continued to use interrogation methods that constitute abuse and even torture."[9]

This is not even getting into the fact that before these rulings, Israel "routinely employ[ed] methods which amount to torture and ill-treatment."[9]

It should also be noted that Dershowitz said beforehand that Israel did engage in torture. For example, in his 2002 book, Why Terrorism Works: Understand the Threat, Responding to the Challenge Dershowitz wrote "In Israel, the use of torture to prevent terrorism was not hypothetical; it was very real and recurring."[10]:140 Furthermore, he wrote on the Supreme Court rulings he now says ended torture in Israel, "The Supreme Court of Israel left the security services a tiny window of opportunity in extreme cases. Citing the traditional common-law defense of necessity, the Supreme Court left open the possibility that a member of the security service who honestly believed that rough interrogation was the only means available to save lives in imminent danger could raise this defense."[10]:251-252


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 The Case For Israel by Alan Dershowitz (2003) John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 047146502X
  2. 2.0 2.1 From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab–Jewish Conflict over Palestine by Joan Peters (1984) Harper & Row. ISBN 0060152656.
  3. Norman Finkelstein VS Alan Dershowitz - A Lively Debate on Democracy Now (Jan 12, 2020) YouTube.
  4. Alan Dershowitz Exposed: What if a Harvard Student Did This? (February 8, 2003) Norman Finkelstein.
  5. Chutzpah and free speech by Jon Wiener (July 11, 2005 12 AM PT) Los Angeles Times.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History by Norman G. Finkelstein (2005) University of California Press. ISBN 0520245989.
  7. The Chutzpah of Alan Dershowitz by Michael C. Desch (December 5, 2005) The American Conservative via Norman Finkelstein's blog (archived from June 5, 2011).
  8. The good Jewish boys go into battle by Mandy Garner (12.16.2005) Times Higher Education Supplement via Norman Finkelstein's blog (archived from September 29, 2007).
  9. 9.0 9.1 Do Not Listen To Israel’s Lawyer: Alan Dershowitz continues to defend the indefensible… by Nathan J. Robinson (20 September 2019) Current Affairs.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Why Terrorism Works: Understanding the Threat, Responding to the Challenge by Alan M. Dershowitz (2002) Yale University Press. ISBN 0300097662.