Professor Alan Dershowitz's appearance on campus might have been necessary. Particularly in the wake of Norman Finkelstein's well-publicized speech titled the "Israel and Palestine: Misuse of Anti-Semitism, Abuse of History," a main highlight of which was his scathing indictment of Dershowitz's "blatant plagiarism" in his New York Times bestseller, The Case for Israel. Finkelstein and Dershowitz are total opposites. The polarization between the two men is indicative of the polarization between the pro-Palestinians and pro-Israelis on campus. Dershowitz's speech is an example of this detrimental tendency among our student body.
I eagerly anticipated Dershowitz's speech. I have the greatest respect for his world-class pedigree, and his reputation for boldness and unbridled passion was truly exciting. So he's a Zionist? Don't I associate that term with so many negative connotations? Sure, but Jihad arouses comparable emotions in many. As a Muslim, I can sympathize with unfair stereotypes. Both terms have been unfairly tainted and made taboo by prejudice and irrationality. With this in mind, I went to Dershowitz's presentation looking forward to being shown new insight into Zionism. Unfortunately, I left with extreme disappointment and disgust at how a man of such intellectual rigor and accomplishment could speak so offensively and insensitively about any religion.
The beginning of Dershowitz's speech was tasteful and eloquent, and made me empathetic toward the Pro-Israel Progressives' point of view. He expressed solidarity with various progressive values, such as gay rights and universal civil liberties, and classified Zionism on the same plane as these values, even mentioning the affiliation of many respected historical figures with the Zionist movement, including Winston Churchill and Woodrow Wilson. He broached the subject with the inviting air of pride in righteousness. As the speech continued, however, it revealed a more sinister point of view, bordering on odious hate and disregard.
Dershowitz claimed that terrorism began when a "Muslim imam" fought against the Jews over the territories of Hebron, explicitly correlating Islam and terrorism. I would hope that most Columbia students know by now that Islam does not promote violence, yet Dershowitz fudges this point. As a Muslim, I would freely admit that some Muslims commit acts of terrorism, and even that many do-but these people are only a small subset of a very large and peaceful Muslim population! Do I, or anyone I've met in my life for that matter, condone terrorism? Hell no! Granted, Dershowitz is not an expert on religion, but even he should recognize that a fringe minority does not reflect the ideology of an entire society.
Mr. Dershowitz's geographical ignorance, coupled with his religious insensitivity, makes his impassioned cries for a two-state solution ever more distant. He himself stated that this is a territorial dispute, yet he went on to refer to Hamas' current regime as an "Islamic radical Hamasistan," I understand the "Islamic radical" part. Yes, Hamas is a radical group. But, "Hamasistan"? Grow up, Mr. Dershowitz. Realize that by this statement you have offended my South Asian, not Middle Eastern, culture. Your line simply made your supporters more riled up and ready to completely shun Islam as a radical religion. You, the self-appointed author of the two-state solution, need to realize that you undermine your own solution by increasing the feelings of malcontent between Muslims and Jews. Despite the borders you have made on graphs of the Middle East, Muslims and Jews cannot live together if you continue to promote religious intolerance. Is it important, for the sake of peace, to convert this issue into one of religious warfare?
Mr. Dershowitz, you need to realize that most people have nothing against Judaism or "the Jews." Jews and Muslims have both faced many injustices for centuries. Israel has made mistakes, Palestine has made mistakes, so chill. On this campus especially, we need to foster open discussion between pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinians. Out of all universities in the country, Columbia has become the center of this controversy. We need to stop holding grudges and riling our supporters by degrading "rival" groups. We will permanently polarize Columbia's campus, possibly jeopardizing any credibility held by the student political community. Furthermore, given current ideological tensions, Dershowitz's two-state solution will never be able to exist because of the religious debate, even in Columbia's educated community.
The author is a Columbia College first-year.