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UCLA Magazine Winter 2003
The Rising
Honorable Intentions
The Cardinal of Westwood
The Littlest Bruin
Sensing the Future
Dershowitz, For the Defense
Bruin Walk

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Winter 2003
Dershowitz, For the Defense
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Dershowitz: There were several events that led me to drop my other writing projects to defend this pro bono client, Israel. One of them was the rejection by the Palestinian leadership of Israel's peace offer in 2000 and 2001 — an offer that included something around 95 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of Gaza for a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, Islamic control of the holy places, $35 billion dollars for refugees — and the subsequent escalation of violence that spiraled out of control. And when Israel, as any democracy would, overreacted to the murdering of its own civilians, so much of the world turned against Israel. It was as if no peace offer had ever been made, as if Israel alone was responsible for the ensuing bloodshed.

Then two other things happened. One was the divestiture campaign, the effort to get universities to stop investing in companies that do business with Israel. Israel was being singled out for economic capital punishment. Not other countries that are far worse; not Libya, not Syria, not Iran, not China, which was rewarded with the Olympics even though it has had an occupation of Tibet with more settlers that is much more brutal and has gone on for a far longer period of time. And then it occurred to me that the campaign for divestiture wasn't intended actually to produce divestiture; nobody thought that UCLA would divest or that Harvard would divest. All the major university presidents immediately indicated it was off the table. The goal was much more subtle. It was to miseducate a generation of American college students so that when they become leaders 10 or 15 years from now, they will have the kind of knee-jerk opposition to Israel that is now pervasive in Europe. And I decided I had to respond to that. The final reason was somewhat more personal. A student approached me about a year ago and told me he was embarrassed and ashamed because he had not spoken up in response to what he was hearing on campus and in his classrooms about Israel. Because, he said, it was "uncool" on campus to be supportive of Israel.

So I decided I had to do whatever I could to help make it again "cool" to support Israel. Not to support every one of Israel's policies. I don't believe The Case for Israel is necessarily the case for the current Israeli government or the policies of the current government. I am very critical of some of the policies of the Sharon government. I am critical of Israel's occupation policies. I'm critical of the settlements. I believe very strongly in criticizing any policy of any government, including Israel, as long as the criticism is comparative, contextual, constructive and reasonable. But that is not what we are hearing on campuses today. What we are hearing is criticism and condemnation designed to delegitimate Israel, to demonize Israel and eventually to create a generation of students who believe that Israel has no right to exist. These attacks are based on lies, exaggerations and distortions.

That is why I wrote the book.

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