LectureHop: America, Israel, and the Palestinians In Pursuit of Peace

Written by

Rennert Hall was filled to the brim for last night’s lecture by Alan Dershowitz, famed Harvard Law professor, criminal attorney and  author of The Case for Israel, an ardent defense of the state of Israel’s right to exist. The Kraft Center auditorium was so packed, people had to be turned away! Luckily, Bwog’s Briana Last scored a seat.

“Our collective antenna went up,” Michael P. Lustig, Co-President of the Hillel Board of Directors, explained his reaction to the news that Noam Chomsky was coming to speak at Columbia. “But, unfortunately [Chomsky] wasn’t speaking within his area of expertise, linguistics,” Lustig added, “he was speaking on the topic of America and Israel/Palestine.” So for the sake of “countering the makings of a potentially ugly situation,” LionPAC, Columbia University’s pro-Israel public affairs committee, decided to invite Dershowitz, “Israel’s single most visible defender,” to share his view. Flyers for the Dershowitz event even mimicked those for Chomsky to communicate that there was another side to Chomsky’s perspective.

“I was a little uncomfortable being asked simply to come here as the result of Chomsky being invited,” Dershowitz admitted. “But, then I thought about it. It’s the right response. I would have much rather debated Chomsky. I have debated in every decade since 1970. But not this one.” Dershowitz urged everyone to go Chomsky’s talk on October 17th to “ask him hard questions and to check his facts.” If Dershowitz couldn’t challenge Chomsky in person, at least they could have a “virtual debate.”

Regardless of the reason behind his invitation, Dershowitz seemed pleased to be here. “Thank you for welcoming me to Columbia. Columbia hasn’t always been so welcome to me.” he joked. “In 1955, I was put on the waitlist and I didn’t make it off the waitlist and went to Brooklyn College.”

Next, David Fine, CC ’13 and the editor-in-chief of The Current sat down with Dershowitz to discuss the Federal Investigation of the Columbia advisor, the release of Gilad Shalit, and how American Jewry can better speak out in support of Israel. Dershowitz explained how vilified Israel has emerged from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and why American Jews should reclaim the discussion. He repeated several times that we must be simultaneously proud and critical of Israel. “There’s a lot to criticize about Israel’s policies,” he conceded.

Still, Dershowitz argued, “the debates on university campuses today for the most part have ceased to be models of clarity, models of moderation, models of intellectual coherence. They have become extremist name-calling. When you see professors analogizing Israel to Nazi Germany, when you see professors saying that Israel has the worst human rights record in the world. Those are just lies.” Convincing people like Chomsky or anyone on the extreme is fruitless, he insisted: “It’s like you put your dollar in the soda machine. And the dollar doesn’t come out. And the soda doesn’t come out…You’re tempted to kick the machine. Don’t do it!”

Instead, Dershowitz encouraged a more reasonable approach to the conflict, which he devised with a fellow professor at Harvard, Chibli Mallat, a staunch advocate of Palestinian sovereignty. The proposal he shared with the audience, which the two plan to send to newspapers and the UN Security Council, had never been discussed in public until this talk. To put it simply, Dershowitz calls for a two-state solution with borders as recognized by the previous Resolution 242. “Mmm,” several audience members nodded in agreement. Others, not so much.

Overall, the talk, which catered to its audience (mostly Hillel regulars and Jews) pressed people to be proud, but not necessarily shout louder than Chomsky.

Tags: , ,


  1. Anonymous

    Good article, but the last phrase "Overall, the talk, which catered to its audience (Hillel regulars, and perhaps, more significantly, Jews)" is a bit off-putting...

    • Anonymous

      "Dershowitz explained how vilified Israel has emerged from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and why American Jews should reclaim the discussion..."

      Is that what all jews do? reclaim things?

      • Anonymous  

        isn't that what all PEOPLE do, reclaim things that are theirs, you anti-Semite

        • Broken Record

          Are you like, by law, supposed to repeat that same fucking response? Stop calling people anti-semites.

        • Anonymous

          semites include arabs you uneducated zionist trash

          • Zionist "trash"  

            Let's say "anti-Semitic" does connote Arabs, as well as Jews (I don't think you'd disagree that the word includes Jews, or we'd have another problem on our hands). How is his comment any less anti-Semitic? Or did you just feel like calling me trash? In that case, thank you. I will continue to support the nation state of my people in it's historic homeland, despite greedy efforts to appropriate its history.

          • Anonymous

            i don't really care about that person's comment, i was arguing semantics: jew =/= semite. this is an important distinction because misuse magically turns any religious prejudice into a racist one, two completely different beasts. to be honest i think it speaks to your own inherent racism that you use the term 'semite' synonymously with 'jew' because during the process of transforming the religiously charged argument into a racist one, you're excluding an entire racial subgroup (arabs)

          • Anonymous  

            Incorrect one two accounts

            My comment said nothing about Arabs. If someone is racist against Asian people, and other person calls them out for being racist, a third party saying "you didn't mention Arabs" is inappropriate and completely

            Furthermore, your semantics themselves are wrong. "Semite" includes Arabs, "anti-Semite" has come to connote only Jews. look it up if you want.

          • Anonymous

            nah, it's more like saying 'buddhists are stupid' and then someone going on a rant about how that's racist against asians. your analogy is pretty terrible and you missed the point completely...also i don't define my words by colloquial convention, call me a pedantic

            i suggest you stop responding, you're making yourself look even more ignorant

          • Anonymous  

            You want me to stop responding because you are scared of another perspective. I, on the other hand, encourage you to keep responding so this campus can see the social challenges Jews still face.

            You're entire premise, hidden under your bizarre presentation (well, what do you expect if you don't trust "colloquial convention," of which language in its entirety is one), is bigoted. You keep referring back to the idea that Jews should be considered an ethnic group, but who are you to decide that if the members of the group self-identify as such? I can easily say that Palestinians are a contrived people built in opposition to Israel - and that was my impulse when first getting involved in this topic - but I have long ago accepted that Palestinian people-hood is wholly legitimate because that is how Palestinians view themselves.

            Eventually, you'll learn.

          • I would say

            The fact that you proclaim it "bigoted" to call out your bigotry against a group of people on the grounds that you don't like the term that is used to describe those who hate them-- incidentally because it would imply a linkage with another ethnic group that currently hates them, and that you coincidentally happen to identify with-- speaks only to the height of your arrogance and hatred.

          • King  

            Pray tell what "social challenges" they face? You realize that they comprise the wealthiest demographic in the nation and that almost everyone is afraid of criticizing them and their favorite nation?

          • Anonymous

            If you haven't read Jeffrey Goldberg's blog today, you ought to.

          • Anonymous  


  2. Mmm

    "Overall, the talk, which catered to its audience (Hillel regulars, and perhaps, more significantly, Jews)..." I think there are a few problem with the way you end this article:
    1). It implies that there weren't any non-Jews in attendance, something which was likely difficult for the author to ascertain.
    2). It implies that all Jews somehow share the same outlook.
    3). It suggests that Dershowitz's points were somehow lacking in substance and that instead he was merely preaching to "the choir" ("Jews").

  3. Anonymous  

    In the talk, Dershowitz kept telling the crowd to be "proud, but also critical of Israel." Non-Jews don't have that type of emotional connection or tie to the country. So, whether or not Jews share the same outlook, they seemed to be the ones being addressed when he made those sorts of statements. There were of course non-Jews in the audience--there was an Arab Israeli who asked a question at the tail end of the discussion--but the fact that the talk was hosted by LionPac and registration was through Hillel made the crowd a bit more self-selecting. And anyone who looked out onto the crowd could clearly see that the majority of people were, in fact, practicing Jews as evidenced by yarmulkes and the characteristic long skirts worn by Modern Orthodox women.

    But both commenters bring up a good points. Not all Jews share the same outlook, and Dershowitz certainly acknowledges that. I don't think Professor Dershowitz's argument lacked substance--far from it--but he did seem to rely on the fact that his audience was on the same page as him or, at the very least, was equipped with the same set of facts about Israel and Palestine's history. I think the arena in which he spoke affected what he did decide to say.

    The author should have treaded more carefully in her wording, but I think she's right. His speech would have been entirely different if he were addressing a crowd far more skeptical of Israel's diplomacy, less knowledgable about the issue, and one that didn't have many internal conflicts to cope with. Dershowitz spoke to that crowd. Others were welcome to listen and criticize. More than welcome.

  4. Anonymous


  5. well  

    Brooklyn College is a great school.

  6. renato mentira

    gil eyal ftw

  7. Anonymous  

    My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!

  8. hmm

    I don't like Kurds. But I'm not a racist, you see. They're mountain Turks. And you can't say I don't like Turks-- don't you even dare. I just don't like Turks, you sniveling bigot. The fact that you would accuse me of bigotry speaks to the complexity of language and the ephemerality of time-- longstanding philosophical questions indeed. Read more Foucault, Fanon, Said. Speak truth to power. Down with racism.

  9. wtf Bwog

    Bwog is sooooooo bad at moderating comments.

© 2006-2015 Blue and White Publishing Inc.