Tel Aviv University professors vs. Alan Dershowitz

Posted: May 11th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, the US and us | Tags: , , | 5 Comments »

Last Saturday, law Prof. Alan Dershowitz of Harvard received an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University. In his speech (which can be seen here, starting from 50:00. full text here), Derhsowitz, who is not an Israeli, attacked “Israeli academics” for being too anti-Israeli, aiding the international campaign against Israel, teaching their students political and historical theories similar “to the earth being flat”, and imposing their views on students in a way which reminds sexual harassment.

In response, members of the History faculty sent the following letter to Joseph Klafter, President of TAU, demanding the university renounce the words of Mr. Dershowitz. Dozens of other university members added their signature to the letter once it got circulated.

Here is the letter, as it appeared on the Israeli-Academia-Monitor, a rightwing watchdog group whose stated mission is to expose “the people working to support the enemies of their own country during a time of war”.

To Professor Joseph Klafter, President of Tel Aviv University

Dear Professor Klafter,

We the undersigned, are members of the General History Dept at Tel Aviv University, heard in full the speech of Mr. Alan Dershowitz in the name of the Honorary Doctorate recipients as broadcasted live on video.

As Historians who know very well the periods of the past where the  enlightened democracy declined into a dark regime, we are very concerned with some of the things said. Mr. Dershowitz viciously attacked academic members of the university criticizing the policy of the government, he specifically named some members of staff and accused them for leading narrow-minded thinking as they impose their opinions on students (and he compared it to sexual harassment).

As you know there is no single proof that member of staff imposed his/her political opinions on students.

Mr. Dershowitz is allowed, of course, to enjoy the freedom of speech and to express his opinions, but the fact he named lecturers and accused them of hurting students and of hurting the strength of the State of Israel – These words are on the verge of defamation and may put those members of staff at risk.

We ask you, as the university administration to renounce the words of Mr. Dershowitz and to announce it will continue to protect the freedom of speech of all members of our academic community in any way. As you wrote in your article in the Jerusalem Post in 15th of February 2010 – The university must protect the freedom of thinking and freedom of expression of members of staff and students.

Bad winds blow these days in Israel and in the West in general, which are anti-Intellectual and anti-Democratic. The universities are – as you said – the beacons protecting from them. Negation of some views or others and the attack on those expressing them, from the podium of the university destabilize such protective walls.

We are sure you will find a way for the university administration to renounce those words of Mr. Alan Dershowitz.

(13 names)

Update: Haaretz reports that TAU has released the following statement:

“Prof. Dershowitz enjoyed the right to freedom of speech and to express his views. Klafter emphasizes that the university will continue to unequivocally defend freedom of expression of all the members of the academic community.”

Read also what Harvard Jstreet students had to say to Dershowitz.

5 Comments on “Tel Aviv University professors vs. Alan Dershowitz”

  1. 1 Confused said at 10:49 pm on May 11th, 2010:

    What happened to that student who complained that he couldn’t speak his mind in class because the leftist professor was intimidating to those whose political views were different?

    Also, have these professors written letters to protest the boycott of Israel and Israel’s academia that some of their own students are advocating?

    And finally, the ill winds running on campuses around the world are those of all those professors who regularly attack Israel using half-truths, while avoiding many facts about the conflict that undermine their case. Their students don’t know how to challenge these “facts” or didn’t know anything before and now know lies. These are the anti-intellectual winds blowing today, when Israel is the bete noir of academia and some of the leaders of this movement are found in Israeli universities, with not a few at TAU.

  2. 2 Hernan Tasies said at 6:22 pm on May 12th, 2010:

    The only half truths written and divulged about Israel is the softening of the outrageous and callous barbarity that Israel engages in. The manipulative, cynical, and baseless defense of Israeli right wing barbarity should bring shame to anyone who indulges in it. Mr. Dershowitz is an apologist for murder, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and dishonesty. He is amongst the lowest of the low.

  3. 3 noam said at 7:03 am on May 13th, 2010:

    Confused: as it happens, I studied in TAU, and never witnessed any “half-truths and lies” imposed on helpless students. what I did see, and very rarely, is the healthy criticism we lack so much in Israel these days.

  4. 4 Confused said at 9:35 pm on May 13th, 2010:

    Noam, there is SO MUCH criticism of Israel from within and without, that you are simply being ridiculous when you complain about a lack of healthy criticism. Or maybe you are right, there is so much criticism that it is unhealthy. Israel is criticized endlessly while other countries that do much worse are not. While that isn’t justification for the bad things Israel does, it is simply absurd to see how much criticism it does get. You are part of it, Noam. You are so critical of the state that you are hurting the possibility of getting to peace. The Palestinians aren’t stupid. They’re watching and reading and driving much of the criticism. Except that their objective isn’t to be Israel’s friends, or they could have made peace already.

    Think about it, Noam. The severe, endless criticism that always depicts Israel in a horrendous light only strengthens those who don’t want peace, Israeli and Palestinian. They can point to what you do and tell their constituents why they should continue to obstruct.

  5. 5 Ari said at 12:35 pm on May 18th, 2010:

    Apparently, many people didn’t listen to or read Dershowitz’s comments.
    1) He ~defended~ any professor’s right to say whatever they wanted to, whether they were correct or not, even during their classes.
    2) He defended a student’s right to say what they wanted to (although not necessarily in the classroom).
    3) He encouraged professors to stand up for positions that they believe in.
    4) He defended students from retribution from professors due to their beliefs.

    These are arguments of an advanced democracy. I’m surprised that this kind of speech was met with such a negative response from the press and others. He said: “professors can say whatever they want and no one should stop them from saying it”. Although he singled out three professors with views he did not agree with, he explicitly defended their rights to say whatever they wanted.

    Why is this controversial?