Monday afternoon was payback time for Alan Dershowitz at Cardozo Law School, the scene of a recent award by students to former President Jimmy Carter for conflict resolution.
Asserting that “mistakes should be turned into honorable moments,” the Harvard Law professor and vociferous advocate for Israel used the occasion to accuse Carter of “crossing the line” from anti-Zionist to even worse behavior, asserting that Carter “loves Hamas,” advised Yasir Arafat not to sign a peace agreement with Israel in 2000, and has hurt more than helped the cause of Mideast peace.
A decision by the editors of a Cardozo journal on conflict resolution to honor Carter for his peace efforts, including the Israel-Egypt treaty of 1979, attracted protests last month. Some criticized Yeshiva University, Cardozo’s parent school, for allowing the event, which was closed to the press, to take place.
Yeshiva University President Richard Joel, who attended Monday’s event (and not the Carter program), stated at the time that the decision was the students’ right but that he objected to Carter’s views on Israel. Part of an agreement reached with students was to invite Dershowitz to come and explain why he opposed the honor for Carter.
That he did, with gusto, and with a litany of accusations issued in rapid-fire style during a discussion with Cardozo’s dean, Matthew Miller, a former student of Dershowitz at Harvard.
Dershowitz noted with pride that he is a liberal Democrat, civil libertarian and human rights advocate who publicly supported Carter’s presidential campaign, adding that he was on the president’s “short list” to become a Supreme Court justice. (Carter had no picks during his one term as president). Dershowitz said Carter played “a constructive but not central or crucial role” during the 1978 Camp David Peace talks, with which he was widely credited for its success.
By the 2000 peace talks between Arafat’s PLO and Israel, Carter was “a major supporter and adviser” to Arafat and helped write his speeches, according to Dershowitz, who said the former president “scuttled” the talks by telling Arafat “that no Arab leader could survive the deal.”
Further, he called Carter’s controversial 2006 best-seller on the Mideast, titled “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” a “disgraceful book filled with errors,” most notably using the word “apartheid” in the title even though it did not apply to Israel today. In interviews after the book’s publication, Carter emphasized that he used “apartheid” to refer to the West Bank and not to Israel itself.
“The Middle East is complicated,” Dershowitz told the audience of about 200 students, “but Carter doesn’t make it complicated. For him it’s about right or wrong, and Israel is always wrong.”
Ken Stein, director of the Emory Institute for the Study of Modern Israel in Atlanta and former director of the Carter Center there, agrees that the former president “is not afraid the change the meaning of words to make his point.”
He told The Jewish Week that Carter “conflates accuracy with his perception of the truth to make his point, even if it’s historically inaccurate.”
Stein resigned his post as a Mideast fellow at the Center after Carter published his “Apartheid” book. He maintains the former president was “deeply passionate in favor of the Palestinians” and “anti-Israeli policy,” very angry at
then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin for not withdrawing from the West Bank.
Dershowitz insisted there is no logical explanation for why Israel is “most condemned of all nations” despite the fact that it does more to protect enemy civilians than does any other country.
“The world doesn’t give a damn about the Palestinians,” he said. “They’re just lucky they are the perceived enemy of the Jews.” He said the Tibetans and Kurds have far more moral right to statehood than the Palestinians, who repeatedly refused peace efforts that required compromise.
“I am hated,” he said, noting with a sense of pride that he has been reviled by Jews on the right for opposing Israel’s settlement policy, and “lefties” for supporting Israel’s fight for equality among the nations of the world.
Just the day before his Cardozo appearance, speaking at the Jerusalem Post conference here, Dershowitz was jeered after he described his own plan to restart peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel — one which called for some construction to continue in the settlement blocs but not where there is “reasonable disagreement.”
When audience members first laughed at his proposal, he accused them of being “part of the problem,” unhelpful in dealing with complex issues. This drew loud boos, to which he responded: “You’re proving my point. You are part of the problem, not the solution.”
Recounting the episode the next day he said he was astonished when hawkish Jerusalem Post reporter Caroline Glick said she had the two-word answer to Israel’s Iran problem. “She said, ‘Bombs away,’ and they gave her a standing ovation.”