"If I were 25, I'd be in Gaza with a gun in the IDF"

Prof. Alan Dershowitz credit: Reuters Amir Cohen
Prof. Alan Dershowitz credit: Reuters Amir Cohen

Prof. Alan Dershowitz tells "Globes" about growing antisemitism in the US and warns Israel to prepare for the day when it no longer has US support.

International jurist and veteran and highly esteemed law professor Alan Dershowitz has already seen some tough cases in his life. As an expert in criminal law, he has acted for the defense in some of the most high profile cases, including the trials of O.J. Simpson, Jeffrey Epstein, Jonathan Pollard, and Mike Tyson. But nothing even approaches his feeling as a Jew over what is currently happening in the US. In a special interview with "Globes," he expresses his genuine concern for the welfare of US Jewry, criticizes the Biden Administration over its relations with Israel and warns that US public support for Israel could change in another decade or so.

Five months from October 7th, and everybody in Israel is on edge and we look at the US and we see these huge mass protests against Israel, sometimes even pro-Hamas. Have you ever felt such extreme antisemitism and anti-Israel hostility?

"Not even close. The closest this comes is to Nazi Germany in the 1930s, with demonstrations at the University of Munich, the University of Berlin and other universities, in which Jews were attacked, in which classes were broken into and lectures disrupted. Nothing in America has come close to this. Remember, I was a lawyer for many of the protesters during the 1960s and the 1970s, and many of them were very radical but nothing comes close to this. This is essentially equivalent to Nazi youth. The protesters are mostly ignorant. They know nothing about Israel. They know nothing about Hamas. All they know is that they're joining a demonstration based on intersectionality between oppressors and oppressed, and Jews are the oppressors and Palestinians are the oppressed. These are not pro-Palestine demonstrations. These are anti-Israel, anti-American and anti-Jewish demonstrations. And they're getting worse and they're spreading beyond the campus. There were demonstrations the other day at a film festival and people were asked what river, what sea? They had no idea and they were asked about Hamas, and one of them said, well, Hamas is not in Gaza, only Jews are in Gaza. They were asked about the hostages and they express ignorance about that. These are emotional anti-Israel and anti-American demonstrations. Scratch an anti-Israel person and you will get an anti-American person, scratch a little deeper and you will generally get an anti-Jewish person as well."

You served for many years in key positions at Harvard until you retired in 2013. The university has become the poster child for what is happening in the academic world in the west. We have seen Jewish students scared to go on campus and we saw what happened to Harvard President Claudine Gay who was forced to resign after not responding at all to the situation. How do you see what is happening in academia?

"Well, first of all, I wish it were true that Harvard was the poster child. Believe it or not, Harvard is better than many other schools. Harvard is much better than Berkeley. Harvard is much better than Columbia. Harvard is much better than many universities around the country. The acting president of Harvard is Jewish and Zionist. Somebody who goes to shul, goes to a conservative shul. I don't know how long he'll be President. But there are at least some efforts, and I'm not here to defend Harvard. I was strongly opposed to the appointment of Gay, and I strongly favored her forced resignation. But other universities are much worse and other institutions are almost as bad as universities.

"Now the universities are the worst because they tell us about the future. Let's remember and put this in context. Nazism started at universities and Hitler was bolstered largely by young university students. Stalinism was supported by universities. Castro was supported by universities and more and more. Students can be the most dangerous people in the world and so don't make excuses for them and don't try to make them look good on this matter."

"The American Jewish leadership are cowards"

Prof. Dershowitz is a long-time supporter of Israel and regularly defends it in news studios throughout the US. He has written several books that try to explain why Israel is justified in its stance on the conflict and in the past he has said that if he was Israeli, he would have voted for parties on the left. He has been surprised to discover another group that has not been playing its part in the current struggle - the heads of the Jewish community.

"Another group that is deeply at fault here is Jewish leadership in the US. They are cowards. They refuse to speak up. I have been canceled myself because my views on Israel are regarded as too strident. Temple Emanu-El in New York, the largest reform temple and at Cardoza Law School, which is Yeshiva University's law school, the Dean said we're not ready for Dershowitz yet. I've been canceled by the 92nd St. Y and by groups from the Jewish Federations.

Many Jewish leaders today are behaving so much like the Jewish leaders behaved in the 1930s and early 1940s because they want to preserve their own status. They're comfortable, they're happy. Sure, their children may be being mis-educated, but they're still doing very, very well socially, economically, politically, and they don't want to rock the boat.

When I was a kid in Brooklyn and you spoke about anti-Semitism, usually you thought about neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Today it is another story. It is on the academic left, the progressive movement and you have this weird alliance with radical Islamists. It is like a red-green alliance and it is not clear how they get along. Do you think that many Jews are reluctant to criticize this phenomenon because they think of themselves as part of the progressive left?

"That's part of the case. Look, you left out one major group. There is incredibly growing anti-Semitism within the black community, particularly with young people and within Christian churches. Two of the leading Christian churches representing perhaps millions today of African American worshippers have come out unequivocally against Israel calling for a unilateral ceasefire. There was no mention of the hostages, some of them even denying Israel's right to defend itself and therefore essentially to exist.

"So we're seeing a large combination of elements against Israel, and we're not prepared for it. Some of it started with the Black Lives movement. You have the Me Too movement and other feminist movements, which refused to recognize that there were massive rapes and that the rapes were part of the war plan of Hamas. Many refused to recognize the mutilations. I had dinner the other night, with the father of the young Israeli soldier who was beheaded and whose head was put up for sale for $10,000 and even despite that, people say no, no, no, there's no evidence of rape. There's no evidence of mutilation. What Israel did was what? What Hamas did was self-defense. Look, let's remember that although October 7th was terrible, October 8th may have been even worse because after October 7th, before a single Israeli soldier went into Gaza, we saw the anti-Semitism bubble up from organizations like the National Lawyers Guild, the second largest Bar Association in America, which said that what Hamas did was perfectly acceptable and a military act. We saw 33 groups at Harvard, including Amnesty International, blame October 7th on the Jews.

"The ICJ has become Israel's biggest enemy"

South Africa has sued Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague and asked for the fighting to stop in Gaza and was rejected. Because this is your area of expertise, what do you think about the lawsuit?

"It's not a real court and that has nothing to do with justice. It's not international. It doesn't include all countries. It's not a court because the judges are appointed by the government and often are responsive to the government. For example, Lebanon's judge, obviously, is a Hezbollah judge, and it has nothing to do with justice. Recall the decision, the horrible decision it rendered about the security fence that protected the lives of so many Israelis and Palestinians.

So I have nothing but contempt for the International Court of Justice. It's not a court, and it shouldn't be recognized and nobody should pay any moral attention, or legal attention to it.

Do you think that Israel made a mistake by sending representatives there?

"Well, as you know, I was asked about that and asked whether I would be willing to participate in that event. I think Israel probably should not have recognized the court's jurisdiction over it, but once it did, it did put together a good team of lawyers and it got a surprisingly moderate response to the first case, but I assure you that as it goes further and further, the International Court of Justice will become a major enemy of Israel. The real issue is what will happen with the International Criminal Court. That is not necessarily a UN court. The judges there are not appointed by governments and are not answerable to governments, and we'll wait and see whether or not they can administer anything that resembles justice. But believe me, the courts in Israel are much more professional and more capable of doing justice than any international court."

There were rumors that you had been asked to be the judge on behalf of Israel in the trial and ultimately they chose Aharon Barak. Did anybody talk to you about that?

No. There never was anything presented to me on the matter. Aharon Barak was a brilliant choice and a courageous choice because remember that at the time he was chosen, he and the Prime Minister were disagreeing about judicial reform, but it took courage for the Israeli government to appoint Aharon Barak, who is probably the most brilliant living judge in Israel today, and he rendered a good concurring opinion, and I hope he'll continue to serve on the court and push it and nudge it closer to justice. So I'm not optimistic that this court is capable of doing justice for Israel.

Aharon Barak and the prime minister represent the two sides in the dispute we have been through over the past year. What is your opinion on all the social tension in Israel?

"I've known Aharon since 1966. We're very close friends. My views on him are not objective. I've also known Benjamin Netanyahu since 1970 and you know, today it's very hard for people to talk to each other and I hope they will talk to each other. Both Netanyahu and Barak are among the most brilliant people in leadership positions in the world today. You can agree or you can disagree with what they've done. You can disagree with how far they've gone both of them. We're not asking for a complete agreement. You know, two Jews and three opinions, 2 Israelis, 15 newspapers and twelve parties. So don't expect agreement, but at least expect some degree of mutual respect, and I think we have that between Barak and Netanyahu.

There are claims that the judicial reform struggle gave Hamas the motivation and the feeling that it could attack.

Yeah, I don't think that for a minute. I think that they acted well before the judicial reform. They used judicial reform as an excuse and in my new book (War against the Jews: How to End Hamas Barbarism), I have a long chapter on the judicial reform. Look, I was opposed to much of the judicial reform. I was in favor of some of it, in a limited way. But Israel was conducting itself in a completely democratic fashion every Saturday night. There were demonstrations, there were peaceful demonstrations. People weren't hurt. Oh people didn't like each other and people were cursing each other. But it was a paradigm of democratic free speech and, you know, it proved, along with Israel's multiple elections, that Israel is one of the most vibrant democracies in the world. And that democracy includes Israeli Arabs.

"In a tragic way, Israel cannot ignore the US"

What does Dershowitz think Israel must do going forward? "It's the time for Israel to win the war. It's the time for Israel to ignore world public opinion, to thumb its nose, and ignore the Red Cross and Physicians Without Borders and the UN. Israel has to make its own decision. Tragically, Israel cannot completely ignore the US, but it cannot be dictated to by the US. We in the US have to take responsibility for assuring American support. Recent polls show that among older Americans, support for Israel is very, very high. It's not so among younger Americans, and that's why we have a problem. I don't want to generalize but most of the Jewish leadership is failing to recognize that we have a deep problem about our future because the college students today who are marching are tomorrow's leaders. And we can only wonder what the leadership will be like when people who are marching are in Congress. Most elected members of legislatures across the country today are supportive of Israel. That won't necessarily be the case 10 years from now."

There are many reports that the US wants to use the war to force a diplomatic arrangement on Israel that would lead to a two-state solution.

There cannot be a two state solution that's based on October 7th. It just cannot happen based on October 7th. October 7th requires a complete dismantling and destruction of Hamas. Once that's done, we can go back and talk about various possible solutions, but nothing will ever be the same. For example, there needs to be a barrier between Gaza and Israel. It cannot be that Hamas can come right up to the border and dig tunnels underneath. There has to be security done only by Israel, because that's the only country you can trust to do security. The same thing is true on the West Bank, but the key point is Hamas cannot be rewarded right now. Hamas, I hate to say this is winning the war. They are winning October 7th. Oh yeah, sure they're losing people. They're losing, but they don't care about civilian Gazans who are lost. But what they're gaining is opinion in countries around the world."

He continues, "President Biden accurately recognized that if Putin is allowed to have a victory in Ukraine, he will move into other countries, including perhaps NATO countries. Why doesn't he understand the same thing is true of Hamas? Why doesn't he understand that Hamas and Putin have to be put in the same category? If Hamas is allowed victory, it's going to expand. Hezbollah is going to expand. Islamic Jihad is going to expand and the radicals in Yemen are going to expand, and of course Iran too.

The bad news is Israel has to prepare, not now, not five years from now, but for perhaps 10 years from now. Israel has to be prepared for the day when America will no longer support it. It is possible that in 10 years young people who today want to see all aid to Israel, cut off will control the US. It is not likely, but possible that that will occur in the next 10 years. Israel has to have a Plan B and a mechanism for its own survival, without the support of any single country in the world. People like me will do everything in our power to prevent it from happening. But I'm 85 years old. If I were 25 years old. I wouldn't be talking to you today, I'd be in Gaza with a gun joining the IDF, but I'm not 25 years old and my pen is mightier than my sword, and so I continue to write and speak, but there are not too many of us in America, and we have to be prepared. The eventuality that someday. Israel may have to go to it alone. If it does, it has to survive. It has to thrive and it has to become a light unto the nations.

Towards the end of the interview Prof. Dershowitz asks to stress one more point. "Israel has not done a good enough job in rebutting the claim that 30,000 civilians have been killed. The numbers are much, much lower than that. In fact, Israel has killed fewer innocent civilians than any country in the history of urban warfare. Let's assume 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza. Hamas doesn't even distinguish between civilians and combatants. Israel claims 10,000 of them are combatants. Hamas says many of them are children, but children are 19 and 18 and 17, and Hamas uses child soldiers. They claim some are women. Well, of course. But women can be terrorists as well.

"And if people who allow their homes to be used to build tunnels and to store rockets. They're crazy combatants. If you look at the figures realistically, there are probably no more than 10,000 really innocent, totally innocent civilians who have been killed. And if 10,000 combatants have been killed and 10,000 civilians, purely innocent civilians have been killed. It's a one to one ratio. Which is much better than the ratio of any country in the history of warfare. And so look, Israel should always do everything in its power to avoid civilian casualties. And it does. But it should also do everything in its power to reveal the truth about how few actually fully innocent civilians were really killed."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 11, 2024.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2024.

Prof. Alan Dershowitz credit: Reuters Amir Cohen
Prof. Alan Dershowitz credit: Reuters Amir Cohen
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