Dershowitz's Demagogy: Thoughts on Alan Dershowitz at Columbia University

by Dr. Victor Sasson

On February 7th, 05 I arrived at Lerner Hall, Columbia University, where Alan Dershowitz was giving a talk about the controversy surrounding the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures department (MEALAC). Although I arrived about ten minutes late, I heard most, if not all, of his talk. I should mention that I had never before seen Dershowitz in person, and I doubt if I have read anything by him. But I knew he is a well-known law professor and has published a number of books.

The auditorium was almost full (with about 400 people, mostly students). Only holders of the University ID card were admitted. There were about fifteen vacant seats at the back. For about twenty minutes after my arrival, people kept coming in twos and threes.

Dershowitz complained that he could not get someone from Columbia to introduce him.They considered him, he said, to be too divisive. I think Columbia made a wise decision on that point, as my reader will soon discover.

Since the talk was interrupted by occasional boisterous and unnecessary applause, I realized I was inside enemy territory, so to speak, and that I should be on my guard (speaking of intimidation!). An estimated three quarters of the audience appeared to be fanatic Arab or Palestinian haters. When one student objected briefly to a statement by Dershowitz, she was silenced. A couple of students raised a poster that said "Dershowitz Defender of Torture - Not Welcome!" Dershowitz referred to that, saying his views about torture were misunderstood and that those particular students did not themselves believe in freedom of speech.

Dershowitz made a repeated point of his being pro-rights, pro-freedom of speech, even pro-Palestinian. He claimed he had always been a pro-Palestinian and believed in a two-state solution. He dwelt so much on these points that I got the impression that Dershowitz was actually a born and bred Palestinian himself! But of course that was mere camouflage, disguising his hatred of Palestinians and of Arabs.

His response about the Defender of Torture poster was that he was against torture, UNLESS it was sanctioned or authorized by a court of law (that was the way I understood it). I simply couldn't believe my ears. I was shocked to hear a Harvard professor of law, claiming to be "Jewish", make such a statement. For accepting this standard would legitimize a Nazi officer's claim that he had legal authorization to torture and murder prisoners.

Regarding the Middle Eastern department (or MEALAC) at Columbia, Dershowitz stated that he did not have the facts first hand but that he was basing his statements on allegations he had heard and that those allegations required investigation. He avoided any reference to the normal academic procedure of filing a grievance, considering that students nowadays wield immense power. Incredibly as it may sound, he passionately incited Columbia students to rise and fight back! At times, Dershowitz seemed to me nothing more than a cheer-leader. At other times I visualized him as a Fidel Castro, in the manner he made his fiery speech. He even insisted that if the current investigation did not bring the right result (what was meant by that? I wondered), students should insist on an outside committee to investigate the matter. But would Harvard and Dershowitz himself entertain such a preposterous proposal, were he and Harvard the issue, instead of Columbia? I suspect there must be hundreds of adjunct, untenured professors being laid off nation-wide each year, often unjustly, without outside committees to investigate the duplicity of a department chair or the administration. Why give such a privilege to a student group that has recruited outside political help and is intent on a witch-hunt?

Dershowitz claimed that Columbia students in the MEALAC department were not getting the whole picture. From what I witnessed, I could see that those students who repeatedly applauded him knew only ONE side of the story - their side of the story. They have been so brain-washed over and over again to the point they cannot see a professor like J. Massad (whom I have never met or spoken to) present the Palestinian narrative, to balance it with the Israeli narrative, which his students already knew exceedingly well. Secular Zionism has plundered our cherished Hebrew Bible and prostituted the religious concept of true Zionism in its war of disinformation. The aim of the lies seem to be to protect the Ashkenazi kith and kin in Israel.

Dershowitz went so far to say that those of us who side with the professors in the Middle East (MEALAC) department are aiding terrorists with their statements. Thus, it follows that those of us who can see both sides of the story turn out to be collaborators. In the opinion of this legal pundit, we are worthy of detention without trial, in the prisons of Guantanamo Bay. In other words, he would defend those who would torture us!

Dershowitz's views are dangerous and are nothing but a menace to freedom and freedom of speech. I can only visualize him as a trial lawyer, defending hard-core criminals and torturers - and getting them acquitted. It takes a legal wizard to work such legal acrobatics - and get the required results.

Dershowitz insists on getting the 'right' result from the current investigation. This is blackmail of the worst kind - legal blackmail, backed by political power. His aim can not be academic freedom but the promotion of a certain kind of propaganda. To promote this propaganda, Dershowitz and his likes aim to silence legitimate criticism, stifle freedom of inquiry, and poison opponents - all along Communist, totalitarian lines.

Dr. Victor Sasson is a biblical scholar with publications on Biblical Hebrew texts and Hebrew and Aramaic inscriptions. He recently published DESTINED TO DIE, A Novel About Palestinian Youth As Fighters and Suicide Bombers (iUniverse)
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