Dershowitz makes case for Israel here

In a nod to Mother’s Day, attorney/author Alan Dershowitz was introduced to his Jewish Community Center of San Francisco audience as “Claire Dershowitz’s beloved son.” Dershowitz was quick to reassure the crowd that he had already called her that morning with his holiday greetings.

But Dershowitz was in town to speak about the issue for which has become a lightening rod, his vigorous and unapologetic defense of Israel. His May 13 lecture at the JCC and talk at Stanford Hillel was named after his best-selling 2003 book, “The Case for Israel.”

In a sense, his opening remarks could have been subtitled “The Case for Dershowitz,” as he rehashed some of the personal slings and arrows thrown at him since he started speaking out for the Jewish state. In addition to detractors like former president Jimmy Carter and far-left professor Noam Chomsky, Dershowitz cited the virulently anti-Israel professor Norman Finkelstein as the most egregious of his adversaries.

The single graphic he projected onto the Kanbar Hall screen showed a one-panel cartoon, commissioned by Finkelstein, depicting a lurid Dershowitz masturbating to images of dead Lebanese from last summer’s Hezbollah War. “Finkelstein,” he said, “is Chomsky’s hitman.”

As he has repeatedly stressed in his books, Dershowitz is “pro-Palestinian, for a two-state solution and opposed to occupation.” He also decried the “name calling, demonization and real anti-Semitism” he believes adulterates today’s Middle East debate.

But, he quickly added, “if anti-Israel [comments] are deemed anti-Semitic, then Israel is the most anti-Semitic country in the world.”

Carter’s new book, “Peace not Apartheid,” has ratcheted up controversy in this country, and not for the better, Dershowitz said. Thus, the former president is much on his mind.

On the subject, Dershowitz edged toward making an explosive charge — one he said he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt: that during the Camp David negotiations between former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Palestinian Authority president Yassir Arafat and President Bill Clinton, Carter may have advised Arafat to turn down what many feel was a generous offer of Palestinian statehood.

Why does he suspect Carter? Because the historical record shows that Arafat and Carter were in touch at the time on other matters, giving them ample opportunity to discuss the deal. Also, Carter recently refused to answer the question directly when he was asked if he in fact had advised Arafat to decline the statehood offer.

If true, then Carter “has blood on his hands,” Dershowitz said, since “4,000 people have died since” the collapse of those talks and the onset of the second intifada.

Dershowitz called it “bizarre” that he is often perceived as a right-wing neo-con when he is actually a left-leaning liberal Democrat. He even feels Israel should offer “symbolic recognition of the Palestinian narrative and the right of return.

During the question-and-answer period, Dershowitz was asked again about Carter, whom he called a “phony and a fraud” with a “hatred for Jews.” He also said Israel should do everything in its power to avoid a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities but keep the option on the table as a last resort.

One audience member asked him if he felt “in his heart” that his former client Claus von Bulow was guilty of attempting to murder his wife. Dershowitz demurred, offering instead a strong testament to criminal defense in a free society.

“I thought you were going to ask me about O.J.,” he said, referring to the O.J. Simpson murder trial for which he served on the defense team.

“Or,” he added, “as my mother calls it, the ‘oy vay O.J. trial.'”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.