Thursday, January 24, 2008

And I ask, "Why don't you speak up?"

Alan Dershowitz

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Voices of Antisemitism

Alan Dershowitz is concerned over what he views as a rising tide of antisemitic speech on American college campuses.


I sure hope that [Jean-Paul] Sartre was not right that the antisemite makes the Jew. When I was growing up, antisemitism determined where we could work, where we could live, where we could go to school, who we could socialize with. None of that's true today. Antisemitism, its not a central phenomenon in the life of Americans. Whereas, of course, assimilation and other ways of Judaism being endangered from within are increasing problems. I think what we need is positive Judaism. We need young Jews to see the strengths, the positive aspects of Judaism, not only as a religion but as a culture, a civilization, as part of one's way of life. Even though antisemitism is not a function of their own lives.


Author, professor, and civil liberties attorney Alan Dershowitz is concerned over what he views as a rising tide of antisemitic speech on American college campuses. Dershowitz calls upon his peers to condemn those who would use such rhetoric to justify hatred of Jews.

Welcome to Voices on Antisemitism, a free podcast series of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I'm Daniel Greene. Every other week, we invite a guest to reflect about the many ways that antisemitism and hatred influence our world today. Here's Harvard Law School professor, Alan Dershowitz.


I never wanted to write the book The Case for Israel. I wanted to write The Case for Peace, which I eventually did. I had to write The Case for Israel, even though nobody has to write The Case for Canada, or The Case for New Zealand, or The Case for France or [The Case for] England, because the case against Israel was being so prominently featured on American university campuses, and it was based on such ignorance that I had to get the liberal case for Israel out there based on facts. And when I did that it was seen immediately as an enormous threat to the hard left presence on campuses.

If you look at some of the cartoons that are being used against Israel, against Israeli leaders and supporters of Israel, most recently against me, the propaganda effort has changed. And instead of a conversation about Israel and the Palestinians, there is an attempt to dehumanize Israel and to demonize Israel. And Holocaust denial is increasing. Holocaust minimization is increasing. Holocaust comparativization is increasing. And education is critically important. When a Holocaust denier speaks on a college or university campus, I see that as an educational moment, as an opportunity to educate students, and instead of trying to ban the speaker, respond and educate.

It's good to be critical of Israeli policies, just like it's good to be critical of American policies. I'm no less a patriot because I'm critical of the Iraq war or other American policies. And I'm no less a Zionist because I'm critical of many Israeli policies. Even criticism of Zionism is perfectly acceptable intellectually. It's the double standard, the hyper-criticism, the unwillingness to find anything decent in Israel, that begins to blur the lines between criticism of Israel the state, and criticism of Israel, the Jew among the states.

When I speak on college campuses, and I speak on many, I get calls the next day always, almost in a whispered voice: "Thank you for speaking up."

And I ask, "Why don't you speak up?"

"Well, you know, we don't want to be unpopular with students. We don't want to get into controversial areas. We don't want to be politically incorrect."

It's appalling how irresponsible most American academics have been in the face of this well-organized campaign to turn our current generation of college students and our future leaders against Israel and against Jewish interests and values. We have the responsibility to stop it. We have the resources to stop it. We have the ability to stop it. And if we fail to respond to hate speech, it's our fault.


Voices on Antisemitism is a free podcast series of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Join us every other week to hear a new perspective on the continuing threat of antisemitism in our world today. To contribute your thoughts to our series, please call 888-70USHMM, or visit our Web site at At that site, you can also listen to Voices on Genocide Prevention, a podcast series on contemporary genocide.
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