by Jenni Frazer
Britain’s 1917 decision to support the establishment of a Jewish homeland was effectively a “legal birth certificate” held by almost no other nation, declared Professor Alan Dershowitz this week.
In a wide-ranging discussion with fellow lawyer Baroness Deech, the American lawyer and academic spoke of his recent success in an Oxford Union debate about the boycott movement. Maintaining that the BDS campaign “was not an alternative to violence, but a supplement to violence”, Professor Dershowitz suggested that the overall effect of BDS was as a disincentive for the Palestinian leadership to sit down and negotiate with Israel.
The discussion, which took place in front of a packed audience at the British Library, was a change in format for the annual Balfour Day lecture, hosted by the Zionist Federation. Instead of a speech, the two lawyers – each of whom are feisty activists on behalf of Israel – engaged in at times brilliant conversation about academic boycott, making the case for Israel, and even – unexpectedly – making the case for Palestine.
Professor Dershowitz, who also addressed a breakfast hosted by the JNF on Wednesday, was scathing about “Jews who are only Jews when it comes to Israel,” noting, acidly: “There are a lot of really stupid Jews out there. And when we are stupid, we are really stupid.”
He was equally dismissive about the planned “Balfour Project” in which anti-Israel campaigners are said to be pushing the British government for an apology for issuing the Balfour Declaration. Britain, he said, had had a spotted record when it came to Israel and its closing of the doors of Palestine during the Mandate years remained “a scandal”. Nevertheless, he felt that the centenary of the Balfour Declaration in November 2017 should be celebrated as “an educational event – and we have the advantage of having truth on our side.”
The event was chaired by ZF chairman Paul Charney.