Anyone attending Alan Dershowitz’s Conversation with Rabbi Elie Spitz at Congregation B’nai Israel who expected to find out if President Barack Obama is good for Israel might have been scratching his or her head for the answer. Quite possibly, Dershowitz is still making up his own mind and will have the answer later after holding all candidates’ feet to the fire.
What the program did provide is some interesting insight about how Jews should relate to anti-Semites, politicians, Israel and each other. In about two hours peppered with humor and logic, the renowned lawyer, Harvard professor and formerly “the worst yeshiva student in history” covered such diverse topics as the problems on college campuses, the Iran situation and the elections in America and Israel.
Dershowitz believes that it is a national and international problem that pro-Israel speakers are prevented from speaking on campus and blames the problem largely on faculty. “The essence of freedom and democracy is hearing all sides of every issue,” he said. It is the right of the speaker to speak without being interrupted. You can heckle, boo and show signs but never prevent a speaker from making a speech.”
He explained that the role of a defense lawyer is complicated, because one represents bad people, most of whom are guilty. He has taken on such high-profile cases as that of O.J. Simpson.
Dershowitz doesn’t have any heroes, he said, “because they will disappoint you. The essence of humanity is to overcome mistakes. It’s a lesson of Torah, where all the characters are flawed in
Dershowitz thinks that it’s “crucially important that Israel remain a nonpartisan issue.” He believes “every candidate for every issue should earn your vote every day” and that “whoever wins the next election, Israel won’t suffer.” He thinks that no President is perfect for the Jews and that Obama has made mistakes in that Cairo is not Jerusalem and that negotiations can’t be made from the 1967 border. While he believes that Israel’s relationship “with the US defense department couldn’t be better, he wants a stronger commitment from the President about not letting Iran develop nuclear weapons. There should be no acceptance of a nuclear Iran, he said.
He added that the State of Israel must not leave its fate in anyone’s hands but its own. “Nobody knows what will happen in 2 years, so Israel must rely on itself and not leave its fate in the hands of friends,” he said. “I don’t get to vote on Israeli actions, so I will accept decisions that are legal and moral.”
He explained, “American Jews should be able to criticize Israel but not on existential grounds. We can debate who can go to the Kotel or whether settlements should be built.”
Dershowitz hopes peace can be made based on Israel’s best interests. While he acknowledges that it is virtually impossible to reconcile Israel’s differences with Hamas, he believes that “the West Bank has to become a showcase for what can happen if there is peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”
He concluded with a prayer for Israel: that God will give the people strength and then peace in a military, economic and intellectual sense; that Israel will thrive on its successes and that Israel will use its power in the interests of morality and justice.