Over the last month, Alan Dershowitz and Norman Finkelstein have been going at one another over Finkelstein’s charge that Dershowitz plagiarized passages of his book, The Case for Israel. I’ll spare my readers the details. Israelis and Palestinians lurch from crisis to crisis, while two professors debate the finer points of the Chicago Manual of Style. I find it difficult to take the whole business seriously, but if you do want to track the controversy, here is a link that will take you to Finkelstein’s charges, subsequently amplified by Alexander Cockburn; Dershowitz’s rejoinder; Finkelstein again; Dershowitz again….
So why even mention it here? The controversy provides me with a perfect opportunity to post my review of the book that Dershowitz allegedly plagiarized: From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine, by Joan Peters. I wrote the review more than nineteen years ago, when I was young and obscure, and it appeared in a journal that isn’t exactly a must-read: The New Leader. I have no recollection of why I agreed to review the book, but I did, and in retrospect I managed to identify both its strong points and its weaknesses. Finkelstein, with his taste for hyperbole, has called the book a hoax, which it wasn’t. It raised an important question about Palestinian demography, but it did so in ways that left it vulnerable to attacks by serious people. Nevertheless, other serious people have substantiated aspects of her argument, at least for certain periods.
These days, the demographic argument is not so much about what was but what will be. Until Sandstorm approaches it, content yourself with my resurrected review of From Time Immemorial.