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Why I ignored the man from Harvard

Published: February 2, 2007
Section: Opinions


Last week, Brandeis welcomed Alan Dershowitz to campus to rebut former President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter, and a minor miracle was performed when facilities were somehow able to fit his ego inside the gym. Many people around campus contend that Dershowitz won the imagined debate and that his visit was somehow productive towards solving the problems in the Middle East. I disagree and I believe that it is absurd to believe that Dershowitzs actions with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are in any way admirable. In short, awarding Dershowitz with a microphone for doing nothing more than following around and irritating Jimmy Carter is a travesty for this university.

First of all I will state here that, unlike the speakers of last week (and Finklestien eventually), I am not an expert in the Israeli-Palestinian situation;

however, I am someone who recognizes when I am being patronized, and that is what Dershowitz was attempting to do last week. Why was Dershowitz so intent on coming here? Simply put, he expected a home crowd to praise him no matter what he said. The response to his presence from the handful of students who challenged Dershowitz and forced him to actually defend his own controversial views is a proud moment in the ongoing discussion on this campus. Dershowitz would never have come here if he did not expect a friendly crowd, and he is a man who has made a career on confrontation and being unafraid of using libel against his enemies. Dershowitz, however, has also proved to be remarkably thin skinned. Dershowitz has accused the mother of his intellectual adversary, Norman G. Finkelstein, of working with Nazis during the Holocaust and has been equally brazen in his condemnations of Noam Chomsky. Why would anybody want to debate this man, when you risk being called an Anti-Semite or a Nazi when you disagree with him? Any of the myriad of people who have opposed his flawed logic and obstinate conclusions have faced direct comparisons to Nazis, a hyperbole that is unacceptable whether it is used by him, Hugo Chavez, George Bush, or anybody else (by the way, he should feel more then free to give me that fifteen grand he promised the crowd, as I believe that he confuses criticism of Israel with Anti-Semitism as a reflex).

Dershowitz has never brokered a peace deal in his life, making his recent condemnations of Jimmy Carter even more ludicrous. His self-assed label as a defender of civil rights and civil libertarian has also recently become questionable. He supports policies that would result in the bulldozing of Palestinian villages and the use of Torture Warrants as methods of preventing deaths from terrorism. His dogged and apologetic support (to borrow a term that he supplies to anyone who disagrees with him) of Israel has even lead him to excuse civilian deaths in the Lebanese war last summer.

What did Dershowitz accomplish in his visit to Brandeis? He succeeded in badgering a crowd of students and browbeating anyone who disagreed with his exact message, and not much else. And while some may find it impressive that a Harvard Law Professor was able to bring a student to tears by implying that she supports Nazis, it was nothing less than disgraceful when Dershowitz told a Palestinian student that she was talking to the wrong people. Like that student, I believe that Brandeis belongs to all of us, regardless of political persuasion or nationality, and that we as a community did not need to be told how to think by the man from Harvard.