Skip Navigation

 

Dershowitz Shifts Focus to World Outside Israel

In talk co-sponsored by CNES, the Harvard professor and author argues "obsessive" focus on Israel takes time and energy away from the protest of other more serious human rights violations perpetrated by other countries.

I condemn Israel for its use of cluster bombs in the last days of the [Lebanese-Israeli war].

This article was first published in The Daily Bruin. The online Bruin article is accompanied by a Daily Bruin Video report on the event.

By Jennifer Mishory, Daily Bruin reporter

WELL OVER 100 students gathered on campus Wednesday to see Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law professor well known for his strong support of Israel and work on the defense teams of several famous clients.

Dershowitz spoke on campus Wednesday about world condemnation of human rights violations perpetrated by Israel, saying that such "obsessive" focus on Israel takes time and energy away from the protest of other more serious human rights violations perpetrated by other countries.

It is rare to see students protesting any human rights issue outside of issues surrounding Israel, he said.

"College students ought to look at human rights priority-wise," he said. "Campuses ignore first-grade human rights violations."

Dershowitz used places such as Sudan and China as examples – there are far fewer demonstrations against the Chinese for their actions toward Tibet, for example, although the violations are far greater, he said.

"It is being treated as the Jew among nations," Dershowitz said.

At the beginning of the event, UCLA law professor and moderator Jonathan Zasloff questioned Dershowitz based on the title of his lecture, "How the World's Obsessive Focus on Israel's Imperfection Takes Away from Real Genocide."

Zasloff opened the discussion by asking if not being as bad as others is good enough.

Dershowitz responded that there is "disporportionate energy" given to condemning Israeli actions, and that "comparative criticism" should be given.

Later, Zasloff brought up another question, implying that as a liberal democracy, Israel is held to a higher moral standard than the countries used in Dershowitz's earlier comparisons.

But because Israel is a democracy, Dershowitz responded, they have an extensive court system and free press that already allows internal criticism.

No other country faced with the same threats have acted with such restraint, he added.

Dershowitz did not, however, voice support for all Israeli policy.

"I condemn Israel for its use of cluster bombs in the last days of the (Lebanese-Israeli war)," he said.

Dershowitz published controversial articles after the Lebanese-Israel war last summer, discussing the need to change the definition of combatants or civilians during a war.

When combatants no longer wear uniforms, or women volunteer to be human shields, the old distinctions are no longer applicable, he said.

Bruins for Israel President Leeron Morad agreed with Dershowitz.

"Israel isn't perfect, but it's done an amazing job given its situation," he said.

Though the majority of the crowd was vocal in their support for what Dershowitz had to say, several students expressed dissatisfaction with Dershowitz's views during the question-and-answer period at the end of the event.

Norah Sarsour, a member of the Muslim Student Association, called Dershowitz's book, "The Case for Israel," fiction. She cited charges of plagiarism made by DePaul political science Professor Norman Finkelstein

Dershowitz responded by saying that all charges of plagiarism made by Finkelstein were cleared by Harvard University.

But Sabiha Ameen, president of the Muslim Student Association, was not convinced.

"He still didn't discredit Norman Finkelstein's sources," she said.

Some students also voiced discontent with Dershowitz's prioritization of other violations.

Sarsour said that by reducing the priority placed on the lives of Palestinians, "he doesn't value human life."

Center for Near Eastern Studies

Related articles