Is Dershowitz a Suspect in ‘Brooklyn Melee’? He Says No

To the Editor:

In “A Melee Grows in Brooklyn” (The Chronicle, February 5), Paisley Currah misrepresents the facts and my position. By associating me with the politicians who are trying to cancel the boycott, divestment, and sanctions event, he implies that I too favor such a ban. But as I have written over and over again, I would be opposed to banning this event. It should go forward. But it should not have the co-sponsorship of the political-science or any other department. Moreover, the poster for the event explicitly says that the political-science department has “endorsed” the BDS movement. I believe it has endorsed the movement and so do many students in the department who fear retaliation for their opposition to this immoral movement that would blacklist Israeli professors who are Jewish. (Arab and Muslim professors are excluded from the blacklist proposal.)

Mr. Currah accuses me of hypocrisy because I spoke at Brooklyn College in 2008 and there was nobody opposing my view that torture warrants would actually reduce the amount of torture and subject its users to accountability. (By the way, I am categorically opposed to all torture.) What he mendaciously fails to mention is that my 2008 talk was not sponsored by the political-science department or any other department. Nor was I aware, as he claims, that my talk at the University of Pennsylvania “was officially hosted by the political-science department there.” I was invited to speak by the Penn Hillel, and as far as I know, that was the only organization that sponsored my talk. Had I been aware, as Mr. Currah claims, that a department was sponsoring my event, I would have opposed such sponsorship.

Finally, Mr. Currah implies that his political-science department would pass my “shoe-on-the-other-foot test” and that if Brooklyn College Hillel were to sponsor an anti-BDS talk by me, his department would cosponsor that event as well. I doubt it, but let’s wait and see, and let’s see if the vote is as one-sided as it was to support the BDS event. Moreover, I am not a good test on this issue because I support the two-state solution and oppose Israeli settlement policy. Would the political-science department cosponsor an event advocating a position as extreme on the right as BDS is on the left: namely, a pro-settler, anti-Palestinian state extremist? I think my “shoe-on-the-other-foot test” is causing blisters among many in the political-science department of Brooklyn College.

Alan Dershowitz
Professor
Harvard Law School
Cambridge, Mass.

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