World-renowned lawyer and vehement defender of Israel Alan Dershowitz spoke to an enthusiastic crowd in an “informal conversation” held on Wednesday in the University of Miami School of Law student lounge.
Sponsored by the Jewish Collegiate Learning Exchange, the event was moderated by Rabbi Shlomo Sprung, who estimated that around 150 students and interested community members attended.
Dershowitz, one of Israel’s most passionate and high-profile supporters, is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and served as an appellate advisor to O.J. Simpson’s defense team. He is also a respected political commentator and authority on the Arab-Israeli conflict, which was the overarching topic of Wednesday’s appearance.
Encouraging “belligerent” questions from audience members, Dershowitz was funny, candid and well-informed, even playfully imploring one attendee not to “hide behind [his] yarmulke” during a debate over Jewish narrative. He attributed Israel’s status as the perennial underdog to his defense of Israel, which he supports “not in spite of, but because of his commitment to human rights.” He slammed Hamas’s double standard of claiming victim status yet still utilizing Palestinian civilians as human shields, citing a Hamas legislator who bragged of that tactic.
“Hamas is the same organization that has strapped bombs on 12-year-old children,” said Dershowitz, who referred to that controversial tactic as its “dead baby strategy.”
He was also highly critical of “lefty radicals,” whose recent high-profile protests against Israel in major world cities were likened to the Nuremburg rallies.
“[They] never marched when Russia killed 30,000 civilians in Chechnya… No one cried ‘war crime,’” Dershowitz said. “The concept of ‘war crime’ is reserved solely for Israel” and the worst tragedies, such as Rwanda, he continued. Dershowitz also condemned former president Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu – who he called a “bigot and anti-Semite” – and the United Nations, which he accused of “holding Israel to a higher standard.”
Formerly an advisor for President Bill Clinton and former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Dershowitz has high hopes for President Obama, who, prior to his inauguration, stated that the United States’ support of Israel will not falter. However, despite his criticism of Israel’s occupation and settlement of the Palestinian, Dershowitz strongly believes in Israel’s right to defend itself against attack.
“One of the things we learned from the Holocaust is that Israel’s going to have to do it on its own,” he said.
Dershowitz urged the audience to continue making the case for Israel.
“Do not be embarrassed about defending Israel,” he said. “Israel is in the right.”