Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Jimmy Carter at Brandeis--one report

At Brandeis, a dialogue - The Boston Globe: "Carter's appearance turned out to be everything that the controversy roiling around his book is not: thoughtful and respectful. The hundreds of students and faculty who filled the folding chairs in the gym might have disagreed with Carter, but they listened to him and he to them when they challenged his assertion that Israel's security would be enhanced, not threatened, by withdrawal from the Palestinian territories.

"No such civility would have prevailed if Carter had shared the stage with Alan Dershowitz, whose low opinion of Carter is matched only by his high opinion of himself. The Harvard Law professor wrote an op-ed piece in this newspaper last month calling the former president a hypocrite and a coward and a bully. Carter's sin was not so much writing a book that Dershowitz didn't like. It was Carter's refusal to debate him about the merits of that book that rankled the smartest man in Cambridge. Dershowitz delivered a rebuttal after Carter left the building last night.

" 'You can always tell when a public figure has written an indefensible book: when he refuses to debate it in the court of public opinion,' Dershowitz wrote. 'And you can always tell when he's a hypocrite to boot: when he says he wrote a book in order to stimulate a debate and then he refuses to participate in any such debate.""

A second but discursive view, and, like the first, from a Brandeis faculty member:

"In late December, Reinharz published a somewhat disjointed attack on Carter in the Jewish Advocate, mocking his 1976 Playboy interview about "lust in his heart," in which Carter invokes the Christian doctrine of forgiveness. Reinharz describes Carter as "good, weak, forgiven, governed by his notions of Christ, a confessor and predictable sinner. And Christ is partly to blame for this mess, because Christ's standards are impossibly high." Reinharz further taunts Carter about his remarks: "Jimmy, when Playboy published your 'lust' article, what did Rosalynn say to you? . . . Did she automatically forgive you, too? Like Christ did?"

"I find it hard to believe that anyone who flippantly dismissed a core tenet of the Jewish religion wouldn't be branded an anti-Semite. Reinharz says I've misread her column. "I have no objection to the tenet of that religion," she says. "I was not mocking the tenet, but how he used that tenet."

"Just prior to the Carter column, Reinharz attacked "anti-Semitic Jews," including poet Adrienne Rich, Noam Chomsky, Tony Kushner (recipient of an honorary degree from Brandeis, by the way), and Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen. "Most would say that they are simply anti-Zionist, not anti-Semites," Reinharz writes. "But I disagree, because in a world where there is only one Jewish state, to oppose it vehemently is to endanger Jews." Reinharz goes on to say, "Let all Jews who are truly progressive, liberal, not self-hating, and not anti-Zionist develop a clear set of ideas to address these individuals specifically. Address the books and lecture head on. . . . Sue for libel.""

1 comment:

willtotruth said...

Norman Finkelstein offered the obvious response to Dershowitz's posing in a Counter Punch article back during the first canceled Carter talk at Brandeis.

Basically, he pointed out how Dershowitz was a hypocrite unwilling to debate his "The Case for Israel" with the author who had spent so much time writing a book (Beyond Chutzpah) showing how "The Case for Israel" was a plagiarized, unscholarly, one sided advocacy job.

Carter was right to refuse to debate with Dershowitz. It appears he was also right not to do so on the basis that Dershowitz doesn't know what he is talking about.