Alan Dershowitz at NEP Studios in New York, Feb. 3, 2016 (Photo/JTA-John Lamparski-Getty Images for Hulu)
Alan Dershowitz at NEP Studios in New York, Feb. 3, 2016 (Photo/JTA-John Lamparski-Getty Images for Hulu)

Dershowitz speech finally set for Oct. 11 at Berkeley Law

Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz plans to make “The Liberal Case for Israel” at UC Berkeley next week after an invitation from the university’s law school allowed him to bypass a campus rule requiring eight weeks notice for such a speech.

Dershowitz is scheduled to speak on Wednesday, Oct. 11, thanks to the invitation from Berkeley Law dean Erwin Chemerinsky. The talk, which will be hosted by the Chabad Jewish Student Center and the pro-Israel student club Tikvah, will be held at the law school’s 360-seat Booth Auditorium.

The Harvard professor said last week in an interview that he hoped another UC Berkeley department would sponsor him as well, so he could speak elsewhere on campus during his visit, but Chabad director Rabbi Gil Yosef Leeds said yesterday that the hosts could not find another department willing to make such an offer.

“There’s only going to be one event. We did reach out to other departments, but there were no other departments that were interested in co-sponsoring,” Leeds said. “The process has definitely been more challenging than we expected, but we are grateful to the law school for accommodating us and bringing this speaker to the greater campus.”

Until the law school extended its invitation to Dershowitz, it appeared he might be blocked from speaking at UC Berkeley because Chabad and Tikvah didn’t give campus police the proper notice for the event — a requirement that applies only to nondepartmental applicants. Leeds said an initially approved 500-seat classroom was pulled because of the advance notice requirement.

The school’s “Major Events Hosted by Non-Departmental Users” interim policy statement announced on Aug. 14 states that a request form must be submitted to campus police “at least eight weeks prior to the event” for audiences of more than 200 people.

Dershowitz charged last week that UC Berkeley faced “a serious constitutional question” if he failed to get a department to sponsor him but departments had sponsored “anti-Israel speakers” in the past.

“If a department has a policy of never sponsoring a speaker, that would be one thing,” he said. “But if there’s content discrimination, that would be illegal under the First Amendment.”

Tikvah co-president Adah Forer insisted yesterday that was the case, telling J. in an email, “This double standard is evident on our campus, as multiple departments refused to host Prof. Dershowitz but have hosted anti-Israel speakers in the past. We are glad that the law school has invited him to speak to show its support for dialogue and academic integrity.”

Susan Gluss, a spokesperson for Berkeley Law, said yesterday that Chemerinsky reached out to the Harvard professor after being contacted by the law school’s Jewish Students Association.

“The dean immediately called him and then sent him an email inviting him,” Gluss said. “He has known Mr. Dershowitz for a long time and thinks very highly of him.”

Dershowitz, an emeritus professor of law at Harvard, wrote the book “The Case for Israel” in 2003 and often addresses the issue on college campuses, including an event last week at Columbia University in New York.

Rob Gloster

Rob Gloster z"l was J.'s senior writer from 2016-2019.