Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School was described by Newsweek as “The nation’s most peripatetic civil rights lawyer and one of its most distinguished defenders of individual rights. The Forward named him “Israel’s single most visible defender, the Jewish state’s lead attorney in the court of public opinion.”
His new book, “Terror Tunnels: The Case For Israel’s Just War Against Hamas,” pulls no punches, including the pivotal roles of Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu and President Jimmy Carter in the ongoing conflict.
Born in Brooklyn, he was appointed to the Harvard Law School faculty at age 25 and became a full professor at age 28, the youngest in the school’s history. He has been a consultant to several presidential commissions, and has advised presidents, United Nation officials, prime ministers, governors, senators and members of Congress. He is currently the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard.
Dershowitz has written 27-non-fiction works and two novels. His recent titles include the bestseller “The Case For Israel,” “Rights From Wrong,” “The Case For Peace” and “The Case For Moral Clarity; Israel, Hamas and Gaza.”
A hit movie was made in 1990 about his celebrated defense of Claus Von Bulow in the murder trial of his socialite wife Sunny, which won Jeremy Irons an Oscar for his betrayal of Dershowitz in “Reversal of Fortune.” He also served on the “dream team” defense of O.J. Simpson in the now infamous double-murder trial in 1995.
Dwight L. Schwab, Jr.: Why is there such an upsurge in terrorism? How does the world become more incentivtizing; a more hands-together approach with the problem.
Professor Alan Dershowitz: The reason we’re seeing more terrorism is that terrorism works. Tonight I am going to participate in a protest at the Metropolitan Opera concerning their opera called “Klinghoffer” which glorifies the brutal assassination of a Jewish man. He was an old Jewish man in a wheel chair killed by terrorists aboard a cruise ship just because he was Jewish. It’s not called “The murder of Leon Kinghoffer,” but rather “The Death of Leon Kinghoffer.” It creates a moral equivalent between Kinghoffer and the terrorists who murdered him. The music glorifying the terrorist’s is better than the music pertaining to the victim’s family. We see this new reality from the UN, Bishop Tutu and Jimmy Carter. We see it on university campuses. It’s a glorification of terrorism. Then we’re surprised to see the rise of ISIS and people wanting to join them.
Schwab: Previously you argued the case for Israel on numerous occasions. Now you argue the war on Hamas is just. That’s interesting considering the amount of Palestinian casualties in the latest conflict.
Dershowitz: First of all, Israel has the lowest ratio of causalities in a war of this kind. Israel goes to great lengths to avoid this. If it weren’t for the “Iron Dome” defense system, the causalities would be 10,000 or more. Hamas fires rockets indiscriminately. Many would have landed and killed many, many people. They have blown up schools, hospitals and high rise buildings. The death rate has been low, considering that Hamas uses civilians as human shields. You look at the reason so many civilians are killed. If Hamas would stop using human shields, using tunnels to infiltrate Israel and bomb indiscriminately, you’d see far less causalities in the Gaza conflict. Let civilians go into the shelters along with the fighters. It’s all the fault of Hamas.
Schwab: Is Hamas a legitimate organization as Bishop Desmond Tutu and former President Jimmy Carter claim?
Dershowitz: We probably would have said the same thing about the Nazi movement. It had some of the same elements. It had social welfare programs, political base, but the bottom line was they were murdering people. No, Hamas is not a legitimate movement no more than the Mafia. You know the Mafia fed hungry people; the Ku Klux Klan was a big social network. None of these organizations have legitimacy. Hamas is just like the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazi Party and just like the Mafia.
Schwab: Where do Tutu and Carter come up with these statements?
Dershowitz: Tutu comes out with the exact opposite statements of his fellow countrymen. With Carter, you only have to follow the money. Saudi Arabia began contributing an enormous amount of money to the Carter Center. Thus, Carter quit evaluating human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. They have been bought and paid for by Saudi and other Emirate money.
Schwab: Is there any way the Israelis can win the war of PR with the “Dead Baby Strategy” so effective against them? Do you fear for your own life?
Dershowitz: Yeah. I only have one weapon and that is my words. That’s why I won’t stop writing, I won’t stop public appearances, I will speak in Toronto this week, Houston next week and continue to speak on college campuses. People have to make the case for moral clarity and for recognizing evil where it exists and Hamas is evil.
Schwab: I am a moderate conservative and I scratch my head at how many Jewish people vote for Obama.
Dershowitz: Many Jews support gay rights, oppose capital punishment and do not support his foreign policies, specially the Middle East, but his domestic policies. We may see a change this time around. I think the Democrats will have to fight hard for Jewish votes this time around, but also pro-Israel votes in the upcoming presidential election. They cannot take Jewish votes for granted anymore.
Schwab: Do you think Carter will be at any of your book signings?
Dershowitz: (laughing) No, publicly he doesn’t read my books. A blurb in the back of my autobiography, at the top in the book says, “I don’t read Dershowitz,” from Carter and there is a quote from former President Bill Clinton that says, “Hopeful and wise.” An interesting juxtaposes.
Schwab: What is Israel’s most sensible path to peace? Is it negotiations, a settlement freeze, what?
Dershowitz: There has been a settlement freeze and the media refuses to acknowledge it. There will be no settlements outside the area Israel already claims, that even the Palestinians have agreed will remain part of Israel. The building has occurred in towns that are already considered a part of the country. No building around Jericho and other areas. There is no case that Israel is expanding its territory and destroying any idea of a two-state region.
Schwab: Are average Americans getting any of this from the mainstream media?
Dershowitz: The New York Times has really turned against Israel. If you look at the last 55 op-eds, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 53 of 55 are opposed to Israel.
Schwab: There are a lot of people that work for the New York Times.
Dershowitz: The paper was established by a Jewish family that refused to report on the Holocaust. Just because they’re Jewish doesn’t mean they have common sense or morality. It also doesn’t mean they’ll support Jewish values. The New York Times has certainly not been a friend of Israel. It has become the most anti-Israel paper published in the United States.
Schwab: What do they expect to achieve from doing this?
Dershowitz: I think they’re appealing to the left for readership. The editorial writers they have selected believe this. I have probably published more op-eds in the New York Times than any other law professor, and they adamantly refuse to publish anything I write about Israel. They’ll publish me on any other subject, but not Israel. I have not had an op-ed piece published on Israel in years and years and years.
Schwab: What is their mindset? There has to be a goal.
Dershowitz: It’s to put pressure on Israel to make peace, but it has the opposite effect.
Schwab: Your articles in David Horowitz’s “Front Page Magazine.” You warn of a new wave of anti-Semitism in the Middle East and Europe. Why should we as Americans care and do something about it?
Dershowitz: First of all, there are three separate ways, not just one way. There’s the old-fashioned fascist way we see in Hungary and Greece. You know, David Duke-type Fascism. Then there’s radical Islamic Fascism in places like France and Holland, other places in Europe with large Islamic populations and then the anti-hard-left that can morph the former two. Those three segments can sometimes merge and cause a tidal wave of anti-Semitism. There are these three types that have to be fought differently.
Schwab: They all join forces and we become the 1930’s again?
Dershowitz: Today Jews have many ways to protect themselves. Jews today have a very strong army and ways to effect elections. They can influence the media and are in a much better way to defend their fate. No, there is no return to the 30’s. One has to be vigilant.
Schwab: The kids coming out of colleges. Are the professors teaching this sort of thing?
Dershowitz: Absolutely. The professors of the hard-left are abusing their lectern and threatening grades to those students who do not accept it. We see it at Columbia University, at Fordham – we’re seeing it in many parts of the country. We saw it at the University of California at Davis. I have never, in 50-years of teaching ever taught that in a classroom. It is not my role as a teacher. I am there to explain complex issues, teach them to analyze problems. My role is not to propagandize. Those on the hard-left do not agree with that. They use their views to get their point across.
Schwab: I graduated out of the School of Journalism at the University of Oregon 40-years-ago and I don’t remember this kind of leftist teaching.
Dershowitz: It wasn’t this way 40-years-ago. Let me tell you what happened at Brooklyn College recently. With all due modesty, I am the most distinguished graduate of the Brooklyn College Political Science Department. And yet, they refuse to invite me to speak there even though they sponsored Judith Butler, and other far-left speakers refusing to hear the other side at all. That’s Brooklyn College, one of the New York City colleges. There are many Jewish students, pro-Israel advocates. That’s my college. I’m a centrist, a liberal and advocate of a two-state solution in the Israeli conflict. They will sponsor calls for boycotts of Israel and never allow an opposing view to be heard.
Schwab: How does that make you feel?
Dershowitz: It has made me cut off my funding and support. I have recommended that students not study political science at Brooklyn College. You cannot find a course that studies how all the governments work. They are way, way out there teaching something that will not allow a graduate to navigate the political system today.
Schwab: Does your anti-Hamas speeches and your overall beliefs put you at personal risk? Do you fear for your life?
Dershowitz: I have been denied admission to honor societies due to my support of Israel, I have had students lower my teaching evaluations due to my Israeli support. It doesn’t affect my high ratings, but for a young professor, it can have a huge impact on their career. We are seeing a heavy skewing of Israel and America also. If you are pro-America, if you are in favor of allowing ROTC on campus, if you are patriotic, you will not get a job in many universities. You have to be anti-American, anti-western, anti-colonialist, anti-Israel, anti whatever most of us stand for, to get a job teaching at a university today.
(Final installment in Sunday’s column)
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