Last night, although having stayed home all weekend because of the darned flu, I decided to attend a campus event with Alan Dershowitz as a speaker. I must admit – this guy has some Woody Allen like humor (partly due to his accent) – but although the title of the talk was “The Case for Peace” (anyone familiar with his book of the same name knows the type of case he makes), he spent an hour making “The case for Israel.” Now, I am not familiar with his academic scholarship, and for sure it must be substantial for him to be the youngest professor to obtain tenure at Harvard Law School, but his arguments on this topic resemble the type of discourse I have heard the last few years on campus (and I’m ingoring a his ten-minute tirade on his fetish with Norman Finkelstein), such as the reasoning that (and i’m paraphrasing) because Israel manufactures and exports a large percentage of the world’s medicine, it thus saves many non-israeli lives, and therefore is a moral democracy that is not capable of anything its opponents accuse it of. The highlight of the night though was this woman who came up to me – obviously not liking the question I had asked – and ecstaticly screamed “Don’t you find him straight?” My face must have been contorted in confusion, so she explained “Don’t you think he believes what he says? It’s amazing. He believes what he says. We need more people like that.” Obviously I still looked confused at what she said, since believing in something doesn’t make that thing right, and she walked off in disappointment.
Anyways, the point of this is to express my disappointment with people like Dershowitz. These people are smart and well-spoken. But watching their speeches always makes me wonder if they are aware of the possible damage they actually inflict on Israel. Any change within Israel will come from inside (with some possible external triggers), but this change will only bloom when an honest critique (including the good and the bad) is possible. However, such critique does not always exist, because people like Dershowitz state that the motivation for this criticism “cannot be understood without realizing that Israel is a Jewish state” (he actually said that line yesterday). This absurd generalization, which is used by students as well, sets tight parameters for discourse, that in effect, stifle any opportunity for dialogue. And without dialogue, there tends to be war.