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Letter to the Editor: An open letter to Professor Dershowitz

Published: February 2, 2007
Section: Opinions


Dear Professor Dershowitz,

In your talk at Brandeis University on January 23, 2007, you reiterated the offer of $15,000 to anyone who could cite a single prominent Jewish leader who has equated criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. We are writing to claim that reward.

Our submission is Natan Sharansky and our references include a February 23, 2004 article1 written by Mr. Sharansky in The Jerusalem Post and the recent January 27, 2007 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, by Matthai Chakko Kuruvila. (Further citations available upon request.)

In Sharanskys 2004 article, he states, The new anti-Semitism is far more subtle. Whereas classical anti-Semitism was seen as being aimed at the Jewish religion or the Jewish people, the new anti-Semitism is ostensibly directed against the Jewish state. Since this anti-Semitism can hide behind the veneer of legitimate criticism of Israel, it is much more difficult to expose.

In the more recent article, entitled Bay Area debate flares over 'new anti-Semitism,'2 the author examines an upcoming conference in San Francisco on new anti-Semitism. The article, and the conference it examines, illustrates how Sharanskys redefinition of anti-Semitism has impacted the current political landscape:

An Israeli politician, Natan Sharansky, first set out three general themes many people now propose to define the new term. Known as the “3-D's,” those themes are:

–Demonization of Israel with comparisons to Nazi Germany.

–De-legitimizing Israel by saying it doesn't have a right to exist.

–Double standards that apply one set of moral standards to Israel while ignoring similar failings of other countries.

As you can see, Sharanskys 3-Ds are concerned with criticism of Israel. We trust that you, as a well-known civil libertarian, understand that subjective terms such as demonization and double standards do not excuse such a definition from the charge that it confounds criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

As we are sure you are aware, Natan Sharansky has a long history in global politics and, in particular, within the Jewish and Israeli political spheres. He has served in the Israeli government at various posts on and off since 1996. In 2005, he was number eleven on the list of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people in the “Scientists and Thinkers” category. In 2006, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. He is currently a distinguished fellow at The Shalem Center in Jerusalem, Israel.

We trust you will agree that Sharansky is indeed a prominent Jewish leader.”

As you can see, this is an open letter. We are attaching a personal note with suggestions for ways to redeem your public offer of $15,000.

Sincerely,
Dan Halpern
John Chodacki