Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Arab American Institute President James Zogby went head-to-head Friday in a live debate on the escalating violence between Israel and Hamas, with Dershowitz insisting that Hamas is "100 percent at fault."
Appearing exclusively on Newsmax TV
's "America's Forum," the two men vehemently disagreed about which party was to blame for the latest round of violence that erupted in the aftermath of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers
, followed by a retaliation kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teenager.
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The debate was moderated by J.D. Hayworth, the host of "America's Forum." Each man was given one minute to respond to Hayworth's questions.
Dershowitz blamed Hamas for the recent conflict. "The fault is 100 percent with Hamas for starting a fight they cannot win," Dershowitz said. "Violence in the name of protecting civilians is 100 percent justified."
He said that every democracy would behave in the same way if its civilians were being attacked.
In recent weeks, Israel has launched airstrikes on at least 100 sites in the Gaza Strip in an effort to halt the attacks by Palestinian militants, using some 300 rockets and mortars.
Dershowitz accused Hamas of perpetrating a "double war crime," pointing out that Hamas not only sends rockets into crowded civilian centers, including hospitals and schools, but then uses Palestinians as human shields, hoping Israel will respond and kill them.
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Zogby acknowledged the rocket fire by Hamas was "inexcusable," but said the response of both sides was "stupid."
"We've done this now five times in the last nine years and every time it ends up the same way. No winners and a lot of losers — in particular, Palestinians who die by the hundreds by the time it's over. It's a disaster, and frankly it never should have started," Zogby said.
At the same time, Zogby insisted the real cause for the latest outbreak of violence is due to Israel "oppressing brutally" the Palestinians, and its "horrific blockade" of Gaza.
Dershowitz shot back, saying Zogby's argument of an occupation is entirely false.
"Israel abandoned Gaza and gave up all the settlements in the hope of really achieving peace," he said. "Israel left it. There was no siege; it completely abandoned it."
The two men did agree on a few issues. Israel and Hamas both have subcultures of extremism that devalue human life, and they agreed a third party should intervene to end the conflict.
Dershowitz insisted the United States is best placed to help resolve the problems, and applauded the Obama administration for already making great strides toward that end. He said he has long believed that the two-state solution is ultimately the "only answer," but if Israel is attacked, it will always be forced to respond.
"I would hope that the United States would continue to play an active role in trying to create the two-state solution, but I do have to go back and say that if rockets, whatever the reason, are being sent at our cities, then we have to respond. We have to stop the rockets and Hamas has to stop using human shields," Dershowitz said.
But Zogby disagreed about the United States as arbitrator in the dispute because, he said, America supports the Israeli cause. He suggested the United Nations would be best placed to help push negotiations forward.
The Newsmax TV debate came about after Dershowitz challenged Zogby,
saying the debate would allow the American public to determine "whether they're prepared to defend rocket attacks or whether they're prepared to defend the right of a democracy like Israel to defend itself by proportional and reasonable means."
Earlier this week, Dershowitz condemned the retaliatory killing of the Muslim teenager, describing it as "completely inconsistent with the values of the Israeli government." He added, however, that the killings are "not inconsistent with the values of Hamas."
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