Dershowitz’s attack on boycott Israel campaign smacks of desperation

The campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions is modeled off of the South African anti-apartheid movement.

Mamoun Wazwaz APA images

On 30 January, the New York Daily News published an op-ed piece by the lawyer and Zionist firebrand Alan Dershowitz called “Brooklyn College’s anti-Israel hatefest.”

The title refers to a 7 February lecture on the Palestinian campaign for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel lecture featuring prominent activist Omar Barghouti and Jewish academic Judith Butler, sponsored by the college’s political science department and Students for Justice in Palestine.

The same day as Dershowitz’s piece appeared, New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind condemned the event as a “racist, anti-Semitic lecture,” and the BDS movement as “a racist group” with a “racist agenda” (“Hikand calls for Brooklyn College president’s resignation,” Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s blog, 30 January 2013). Hikind, a former leader of the Jewish Defense League, has been a supporter of the late Meir Kahane, an openly-racist Israeli settler activist who called for the “slaughter” of Palestinians.


Other local politicians soon jumped on the bandwagon. Former New York City comptroller Bill Thompson denounced the event as a “forum of hate,” and city Councilman David Greenfield comprehensively indicted BDS as a “hate-filled, antisemitic, pro-terrorist movement” (“Officials Rally Against ‘Antisemitic, Pro-Terrorist’ Event at Brooklyn College,” Politicker, 31 January 2013).

Although this is not the first time such accusations have been made, it is revealing that none of the accusers offered any evidence to support their attacks. No embarrassing quotes, no shameful excerpts, no inflammatory platform points — nothing beyond the accusations themselves.

That’s because the accusation is completely false. BDS is an equal rights movement based on the South African anti-apartheid and US Civil Rights models. It is explicitly opposed to discrimination of any kind, including anti-Semitism.

This is no secret to anyone who has viewed the Palestinian BDS National Committee website (, attended any of the many BDS events mushrooming around the country, or bothered to read Barghouti’s book, BDS: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights.

It is certainly no secret to anyone who has examined the three BDS demands: an end to Israeli occupation of Arab land and the dismantling of the apartheid wall, full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees forcibly dispossessed by Zionists beginning in 1947.


Without question these goals are incompatible with the existence of a racist “Jewish state.” While that doesn’t sit well with many Jews, it is difficult to see how anyone could honestly characterize them as either anti-Semitic or “hateful.”

Then why do Dershowitz and others continue to pursue this fiction?

Because, by advocating full equality for Palestinians throughout historic Palestine, including those parts on which now sits the Israeli state, and by calling for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to that same land, BDS is exposing Israel for the apartheid state it is and, indeed, has been since its inception.

The obvious chasm between the democratic rhetoric and the racist reality of the “Jewish state” is widening so fast, revealing a hypocrisy so stark, so deeply embedded, and so discordant with modern notions of universal human rights, that the Dershowitzs, Hikinds, and Thompsons of the world have nothing left in their hands but the anti-Semitism card.

As a Jewish BDS activist, I reject that accusation. But I also recognize it for what it is: a desperate self-delusion that signals a world no longer willing to give Zionism’s distorted narrative the free pass it has enjoyed for so long.

That, in turn, holds out the promise of a future democratic Palestine with equal rights for all throughout both the 1948 and 1967 territories; the promise that the arc of history, as Martin Luther King Jr. put it, is indeed bending toward justice.

David Letwin is an activist in New York City with Jews for Palestinian Right of Return.




Good piece. One question. Please explain once and for all. In the end you write: "As a Jewish BDS activist I ...". Why does Jewishness matter? Would it not be more precise to write "as an anti-Zionist BDS activist"? Or simply "as a BDS activist"? Why do I always have to think twice when I read: "Jews for Palestinian Right of Return"? (here too: why not "anti-Zionists for ..."?). It itches. It reads like: Palestinians have wait for others to gain independence. Well you can say now "'Jews', as any one other group can claim so". Then, I say, one can write (e.g.): "as a Vancouverian BDS activist ...". But how would Vancouver be saying something in this? It must have to do with the 'As a ...' part.


We all have multiple identities. I might write a pro-BDS piece "as a " Jew", "American", "American Jew", "anti-Zionist", "American jewish anti-Zionist", etc., as well as some possibly off-point ones ("American fan of Midori's violin playing and teaching"). I suppose we choose an "as a" group-identity (in this context) to suggest that the group named is NOT uniformly pro-hardline-Israel.

What harm does the "as a" part of the writing do, anyway?


I like to state that I am Jewish, especially here in NYC, when fighting the neo-con zionists because Israel claims to be acting in the name of all Jews everywhere. Not in my name.

Truly, it shouldn't matter .... but it does.

Mitchel Cohen
Brooklyn Greens/Green Party


I did not like this piece. Not because I did not feel a bit more informed by it about the Dershowitz Affair, but because of its apologetic, defensive tone.

Please stay away from apology of any kind when discussing Zionists and Zionism. Don't use the word anti-Semitic seriously--one is either racist or one is not, or somewhere in between; one may be anti-Portuguese, anti-Irish, anti-Jewish, but there is no such thing as Anti-Semitism in caps.

Just keep the emotions out altogether, if you can. Zionists have their own apologists, not to mention armies of sobbing poets of death. Take Elie Wiesel and his Agony Train, for instance. he makes me sweat every time I hear him, it's so touching! He had the moral audacity to egg the government of "Israel" on--that Zionist race colony with no borders--as it murdered, kidnapped and pillaged Lebanon for a fifth time.

These are the people you are being apologetic to, at bottom. But we don't want to be apologizing all the way down. Their reward, believe me, is at hand. The end game has begun, I am afraid.

But I did not say "grovel." Because I realize the tone of your article may not have been completely intentional.


just to say well said anthony, but at times it is best to be a little diplomatic, for good of the whole.


Neither you, Colin, nor I am very important in the grand scheme of things. All I can tell you, what I have learned through four decades of following the Zionist opera, is that the object of any possible diplomacy with respect to this historic outrage is this: Zionism being now doomed, the Zonists must evacuate.

Or, they shall be removed.

You may think I am kidding, but I am not the one talking here. The Zionists themselves have dictated every term of the outcome. I am sorry, but case closed as far as they are concerned. Their choice.

The sooner the world wakes to this grim fact, the better "for all of us," as you say.


Other Jews around the world are also against the racist / apartheid policies of Netanyahu's Israel.

Issued by Alan Horwitz for StopTheJNF, a campaign initiated by a group of Jewish South Africans committed to justice and rights for the Palestinian people.

As Jews, with our own painful history of oppression, we are compelled to speak out against human rights violations being committed by the State of Israel – in our name – against the Palestinian people.

The Jewish community is neither homogeneous nor monolithic. There is a growing number of Jews, in South Africa and around the world, who are organising to form alternative spaces and who unconditionally oppose Israeli policies and practices that shamefully privilege Jews over the indigenous Palestinian people. In this vein, we support the non-violent campaign of applying Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it abides by international law and respects basic human rights

We are encouraged that our South African government is joining those countries that are taking a clear stance against Israel’s violations of international law and its acts of violence against the Palestinian people

We hope that the ANC and the SA Government goes further and completely bans Israeli settlement products. Israeli settlements are in clear violation of international law and seriously undermine any chance of negotiations and a just peace.

Our individual consciences, our Jewish tradition and our painful history compel us to declare to the SAJBD, SAZF and to the Israeli government that we will continue to speak out and take a stand for justice and human rights. Taking such a stand is in the very interests of being Jewish. For when we proclaim “Never Again”, we should mean “Never Again”, unconditionally, and to any human being – including the Palestinians.


Thank you. You are writing the future of Palestine with your decision and choices, which show that you care about that future.


hi, yes many jewish people do not like the government of israel, or the people who support it. good for them.we are all climbing the same mountain in religion, but by different paths.


Of course Dershowitz and other Zionist extremists would add the modifier "self-hating" before your identification.....


Bravo! Please, please let us all continue to work for peace and justice for all .
Let us work toward ending the senseless bloodshed, hatred and assured mutual destruction.
I am willing to contribute to work toward justice and peace. No more bloodshed.
No more violence.


If you think that the fascists currently running Israel are interested in peace you are sadly deluded my friend, they will stop at nothing to achieve their objective which is greater Israel.......... assassination, murder, lies, intimidation, control of media, corruption of governments by bribery and manipulation of he political election process, while liberals wring their hands believing they can be defeated by the rule of law.


I think most of the American people are totally ignorant of the human rights atrocities that Israel commits every day. Do you think they realize that a postage stamp sized country of approx 5800000 people gets well over $3billion /year from us? All these settlements wouldn't be possible without US tax dollars.
The actions of Israel are crimes against humanity. They should be treated as such. They should face severe sanctions until they stop .
The average American is bombarded with zionist propaganda everyday. They still send out those myths like how they took an empty desert and made it bloom. I used to believe this myself. It wasn't until later on that I found out that if the desert was empty it was because the Israeli government murdered everyone or forced them to flee for their lives so that they could steal their land.
Certainly the full story needs to be told and retold until the average American truly understands the horror of it all. I don't believe that if they knew they would want to support such actions.
I hope your web site gets many visitors


Dershowitz is a Harvard professor of law and, as such, feels entitled to set rationality, formal logic and common sense out of force, whenever it suits him. Examples abound. Always entering through the back-door, stiletto firmly gripped, getting Finkelstein fired, etc., etc., like that member of the NY Legislature calling for the resignation of the BC president.

Has anyone noticed the similarity between Dershowitz and Woody Allen ? Woody at least admits to comedic aspirations !


I would suggest that the 'success' of the Israeli economy is owed in no small part to the size of US aid. Having worked on a kibbutz during the 60's, the signs of that aid were everywhere, especially in the agricultural machinery sector which I had day to day experience of. However, that aid is now coming under scrutiny from every direction due to the apartheid and land stealing policies and activities of the current far right Israeli government towards Palestinians;

Religious leaders call on Congress to reevaluate military aid to Israel
October 9, 2012

Fifteen leaders of U.S. churches and other faith-based organizations have asked Congress to reevaluate U.S. military aid to Israel.

The religious leaders sent a letter to Congress members on Monday, calling for an investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, which would make Israel ineligible for U.S. military aid.

"As Christian leaders in the United States, it is our moral responsibility to question the continuation of unconditional U.S. financial assistance to the government of Israel. Realizing a just and lasting peace will require this accountability, as continued U.S. military assistance to Israel -- offered without conditions or accountability -- will only serve to sustain the status quo and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories," the letter, signed by leaders of the Lutheran, Methodist, UCC churches, and the National Council of Churches, said.

"We request, therefore, that Congress hold Israel accountable to these standards by making the disbursement of U.S. military assistance to Israel contingent on the Israeli government’s compliance with applicable U.S. laws and policies."

The liberation of South Africa did not happen overnight but, without doubt, religious opposition and boycotts all played their part in spite of South Africa having a 'successful' economy. 'Our day will come'