Dershowitz Defends Israel in Montreal

Author Says Arabs are Fundamentally Against Two State Solution to Israel-Palestine Conflict

World-renowned lawyer, Harvard professor and author, Alan Dershowitz—who is best known for defending O.J. Simpson in the infamous 1995 murder case—came close to Concordia on Thursday, but seemed to distance himself from what he once called the “bigoted” university.

Dershowitz’s speech at the Congregation Shaar Hashomayim synagogue in Westmount, which was hosted by The Central Address for Jewish Philanthropy and Community Services, was given to a packed house of about 1000 people.

The predominant topic of the night was the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“Deep down, there is a desire [in the Arab world] that there not be a Jewish state,” said Dershowitz. He opined that the conflict continues because an anti-Israel outlook trumps an outlook that is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine.

“Would [Palestinian politicians] Salam Fayyad and Mahmoud Abbas accept a two-state solution today? Yes they would,” said Dershowitz. “Would they give up any claim of ending Israel’s existence as a Jewish state? No, they won’t.”

Dershowitz’s speech comes less than a week before Palestinians are set to ask the United Nations for recognition as a state—something that several countries, including Canada and the United States, oppose.

Despite the serious nature of the discussion, the majority of the lecture was in a strong but light-hearted spirit and was met with several rounds of applause. Dershowitz even joked with the crowd and with special guest ex-Attorney General of Canada and current Minister of Justice, Irwin Cotler, who is also a strong advocate for Israel.

“Everyone regards Alan as not only the best defender of Israel, but the best defender of the most just of causes in the court of public opinion,” said Cotler.

Dershowitz didn’t mince words when dicsussing Reverend Desmond Tutu and ex-American president Jimmy Carter, calling them both bigots.

“You get that type of hatred[, like from Tutu and Carter,] directed towards the Jewish state. You hear terms like war-criminals,” said Dershowitz. “Is any war perfect? No. That’s why we so desperately try to avoid war and engage in it as a last recourse.”

Though never mentioning Concordia University specifically, Dershowitz spoke about what he sees as the rising anti-Semitism in post secondary institutions around the world, and how the Jewish population is unwilling to stand up to it.

“Young people are embarrassed to support Israel,” said Dershowitz. “A lot of young Jews are made ashamed to support Israel, [though] have the voice of Israel in their heart. They are just afraid to tell their friends and colleagues.”

McGill student Kiara Kamimska, who attended the event, said youths and post-secondary students are motivated by human rights issues and feel they are doing the right thing by supporting Palestinian human rights too.

“I feel that they don’t really look at both sides of the situation and they focus their passion on one entity of the problem, and that’s where issues arise,” she said.

One such issue occured at Concordia in 2002, when pro-Palestine protesters halted a speech by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu by smashing windows and demonstrating outside the Sir George Williams campus.

Two years after the riot, Concordia rejected a chance for another former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, to speak at the campus in 2004, prompting Dershowitz to lambast the University in a 2005 Jerusalem Post interview.

“Concordia has lost its status as a real university by its bigoted actions,” he wrote at the time.