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Dershowitz, Never One for Reticence, Blasts Away at Ohev Shalom Event

December 20, 2007 By:
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Professor Alan Dershowitz (center) is flanked by (from left) Ohev Shalom congregation president Arlene Rosenbaum, Rabbi Eliott N. Perlstein, Lynne Poritsky, chairperson of the event, and Hal Barrow, moderator of the discussion. Photo by Michelle Mostovy-Eisenberg
Renowned attorney, Harvard Law School professor and best-selling author Alan M. Dershowitz said he gets asked about many subjects, ranging from the well-known legal cases he's worked on to politics and, of course, Israel.

But when asked during a recent local visit if there's one subject he would like to discuss, but is never asked about in interviews or during lectures, he said that yes, such a subject exists.

And that was sports.

Though a native of Brooklyn, Dershowitz turns out to be an avid Boston sports fan. He even wears a Red Sox cap displaying the team's name in Hebrew during games. He also has a collection of assorted baseball mementos and is especially eager to talk about his Jackie Robinson memorabilia.

It was during a search for additions to his various collections that he stumbled across a little-known letter by Thomas Jefferson in a New York antiquarian bookstore. Jefferson, said Dershowitz, apparently was the first president to deal with an Islamic threat. The letter also outlines Jefferson's views on the freedom of speech in the battle against enemies of the United States.

It was "bashert that I would find it," said Dershowitz.

During a presentation last Saturday evening, the professor discussed the letter's relevance to today, especially the role freedom of speech plays in the struggle against terrorism, which also happens to be the theme of his recent book, Finding Jefferson: A Lost Letter, a Remarkable Discovery, and the First Amendment in an Age of Terrorism.

About 800 people gathered at Ohev Shalom of Bucks County in Richboro to hear what Dershowitz had to say.

The event started as a question-and-answer session with moderator Hal Barrow before the discussion was opened up to the audience. Topics included Dershowitz's famous legal cases, the lack of affiliation with Israel among college-age students, the upcoming presidential election (and his not-so-subtle support for a certain female candidate), the threat from Iran and prospects for peace in the Middle East.

Dershowitz, never shy with his thoughts, was particularly vehement about his feelings regarding former President Jimmy Carter.

The Southerner's comments concerning Israel, as well as the publication of his now-infamous -- at least, in Jewish circles -- book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, in which he questioned Israel's legitimacy, angered the attorney. Dershowitz, once a big supporter of Carter, said that the ex-president's comments on Israel -- said to be based on his religious principles -- were faulty at best.

"His whole approach to the Middle East is deeply flawed and one-sided," said Dershowitz.

Echoing famous words by former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who said that the Arabs will have peace when they start loving their children more than they hate Jewish children, Dershowitz said that the Palestinians won't get a state until they want one more than they want to see the destruction of another state -- Israel.

Peace between the two parties might be difficult, acknowledged Dershowitz, "but not impossible."

A Reversal of Fortune

A session with Dershowitz wouldn't be complete without at least one question regarding a certain double-murder case involving a former football player -- O.J. Simpson.

Dershowitz, who was part of the defense team that helped get Simpson acquitted of the murders of his ex-wife and her friend, was asked why the defendant had been found innocent.

"I am sure many of you think he did it," stated Dershowitz.

Indeed, the end result of the case may have sprung from just one piece of evidence -- a sock.

The main problem, he said, was that blood on the sock was found to have chemicals in it -- showing it had probably come from a test tube, and not from Simpson directly.

When jury members learned that, at the very least, one piece of evidence was tampered with, then they had to consider the possibility that other materials were as well, creating reasonable doubt, explained Dershowitz, who wrote his account of the trial in a book titled Reasonable Doubts.

The attorney/author closed out the evening by outlining his thoughts on anti-Semitism and the status of the worldwide Jewish community.

"Anti-Semitism is not a serious problem in the United States today," said the Harvard law professor, adding that the term is overused. Criticizing America or Israel is not anti-Semitism; what is a problem is when other nations "single out Israel."

He encouraged the audience to speak up and support Israel by calling in to talk shows and writing letters to the editors of both large and small papers.

"Challenges will always be there" for the Jewish community, affirmed Dershowitz. "Jews always live in interesting times -- just by being Jews."

 

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