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September 28, 2017 7:58 pm

Alan Dershowitz: On Israel, Many Professors ‘Use the Classroom as a Propaganda Podium’

avatar by Shiri Moshe

Alan Dershowitz speaking at Columbia University. (Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld.)

Retired Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz on Wednesday encouraged university students not to back down from difficult discussions surrounding Israel on campus, urging them to make complex, cogent cases rooted in history when faced with propagandistic attacks.

Dershowitz, an advocate of the two-state solution and critic of Israeli settlements, was invited to speak at Columbia University by the local chapter of Students Supporting Israel on the First Amendment and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While organizers expected his talk to be interrupted by groups including Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, it ultimately proceeded without incident.

Touching on some of the tensions leading up to his appearance, Dershowtiz observed that “the one issue that is very hard to have a serious, nuanced discussion on at a university campus today is Israel.” He contended that too many professors “use the classroom as a propaganda podium,” teaching students not how to think, but what to think.

Dershowitz urged students not to answer this “propagandistic, anti-Israel speech” with “propagandistic, pro-Israel speech.”

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“That is an ineffective way of responding to propaganda,” he said. “The appropriate response is calibrated, nuanced, carefully thought through, accurate, historical, and moral statements that acknowledge [Israel’s] faults.”

Dershowitz noted that despite the routine and egregious abuses committed by countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Belarus, Russia, and various others, some polls still suggest that a “significant number” of university students in the United States believe that Israel is the world’s top human rights violator.

Nonetheless, the professor argued that “Israel in 70 years of existence has contributed more to the world than any country in history in so short a period of time.”

“I think Israel has among the best human rights record of any country in the world,” he added, calling on his audience to consider what country faced with threats comparable to Israel’s maintained a better record.

While he noted that Israel’s government was “far” from perfect, and that he has “much criticism of Israel, just like I have much criticism of the United States,” Dershowitz stressed the importance of making a “strong” liberal case for Israel to counter misinformation spread by the “hard left.”

“Some people confuse the hard left with liberals. Liberals support Israel,” Dershowitz said. “They may be critical of Israel, but they support Israel. Every liberal senator in the US Senate today, they are all strong supporters of Israel.

“People say to me all the time, ‘Oh, you’re a Zionist and pro-Israel, you should leave the Democratic Party and become a Republican.’ No way! I’ll never give up the Democratic Party and turn it over to the Keith Ellisons,” he added, referring to the controversial Minnesota congressman who recently ran an unsuccessful campaign to chair the Democratic National Committee.

A full video recording of Dershowitz’s remarks can be seen below:

Students Supporting Israel presents: Alan Dershowitz at Columbia University.

Posted by Students Supporting Israel at Columbia University – SSI Columbia on Wednesday, September 27, 2017

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