Dershowitz: The Blood Libel Comparing Russia’s Invasion to Israel’s Self Defense

Ukrainian police officers outside a residential building damaged by a missile on February
Pierre Crom/Getty Images

Some bigoted opponents of Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people, will stop at nothing to demean it, destroy it and condemn it. The most recent ploy has been to take advantage of the horrible tragedy in Ukraine to create a false analogy to Israel and the Palestinians.

One prominent example is Jeffrey Shaun King, who fancies himself a civil rights activist, and who tweeted the following: “It appears that it is now publicly acceptable to take up arms, to make and use Molotov Cocktails and to take any measures possible to defend your literal home and homeland to violent occupying forces and invaders,” explicitly referring to Palestinians who murder Israeli civilians.

British Labor MP Julie Elliott also compared the Russian aggression to Israel’s self-defense measures. There have been others as well, including the Syrian government, which voted at the United Nations to support the Russian invasion while comparing it to Israel’s “occupation,” which it condemns.

The mantra of these bigots is to proclaim that the Palestinians are the Ukrainians, and that they have as much right to throw Molotov cocktails at Israeli civilians as Ukrainians have to throw them at Russian soldiers. The analogy is so absurd on so many grounds, that it is hard to know where to begin.

In the first place, Ukraine has never fired rockets into Russian civilian areas, the way terrorists in Gaza, Lebanon, and the West Bank have done. Ukraine in no way threatens the existence of Russia, whereas Hamas, Hezbollah and other Palestinian terrorist groups claim their goal is the total destruction of the nation-state of the Jewish people. Nor is this only rhetoric. In 1967 and 1973, Arab armies posed a significant military threat to Israel’s existence. Israel overcame these aggressive assaults and occupied the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights as defensive measures. Since that time, they have repeatedly offered to exchange land for peace, if the Palestinians would agree to the two-state solution proposed by the United Nations in 1947, President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2001, and Prime Minister Ehud Ohmert in 2008.

There is absolutely no analogy between the Russian military invasion of a peaceful, democratic nation and Israel’s employment of lawful self-defense against efforts to destroy it and to kill its civilians by terrorism and rockets. This false analogy – this modern-day blood libel – is deliberately designed by people who know better to delegitimate Israel and to paint it as a Russian-type aggressor.

This is similar to efforts by the same people who falsely analogize democratic and diverse Israel to apartheid South Africa, in which Blacks were denied the right to vote and engage in other rights of citizenship – rights which every Israeli-Arab enjoys. A far closer analogy is Putin’s lame attempt to justify his unlawful invasion as an effort to de-Nazify a government that overwhelmingly elected a Jewish President.

Even the Palestinian leadership does not seem to accept this analogy. Indeed, it has failed even to condemn Russia’s attempt to occupy Ukraine. While Israel has joined in the General Assembly’s condemnation of Russia and indeed co-sponsored it, the Palestinian leadership has remained silent, thereby joining Iran, Cuba, and other undemocratic nations in essentially abstaining from the world’s near-consensus of condemnation.

Criticizing specific Israeli policies, even including its presence on the West Bank, is certainly legitimate criticism shared by many Israelis, but analyzing Israel’s self-defense actions to Russia’s aggressive criminality, moves the issue from criticism of Israel to antisemitism.

So do not allow the blatant bigotry of those who try to use the Ukrainian tragedy to serve their own agenda-driven hatred of Israel to distract from the unique issues facing the international community in Ukraine. Ukraine is different. Russia is different. And the world’s reaction to that crisis must be different.

The world should unite behind Ukraine’s brave efforts to resist an unjustified aggression. It should also unite behind Israel’s efforts to protect its civilians from terrorism and aggression. Each situation should be judged on its merits and demerits, without false analogies. The focus now must be on Ukraine, as its people bravely try to protect their democracy and resist Russian tyranny.

Alan M. Dershowitz is professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and the author of Guilt by Accusation: The Challenge of Proving Innocence in the Age of #MeTooHe hosts The Dershow on Rumble.


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