Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
In your article about Angela Davis, you mistakenly describe her as an advocate of rights and liberties. She is anything but that. As a longtime leader of the American Communist Party, she has adamantly refused to speak up on behalf of the civil rights or civil liberties of those oppressed by Soviet Communism and others on the left. Let me recount an experience I had with her, which I reported in my book Chutzpah.
““I worked as an unpaid consultant on an aspect of the Angela Davis case in California. Davis, who was one of the leaders of the American Communist party, was charged with murder in connection with a 1970 shoot-out at the Marin County courthouse. She claimed that as a black, a woman and a Communist, she could not receive a fair trial in any American court. She was acquitted, so maybe she was right! After her acquittal, she announced that she would be devoting the remainder of her life to defending political prisoners like herself. A short time later, I read that she was going to Moscow to receive some human rights prize from the Soviet Union. I called her office and gave them a list of Jewish prisoners of conscience in the Soviet Union — Jews who had been imprisoned because they wanted to emigrate to Israel or to learn about their heritage. I asked if she would be willing to speak up on behalf of those political prisoners. Several days later, I received a call back from Mrs. Davis’ secretary informing me that Davis had looked into the people on my list and none of them were political prisoners. ‘They are all Zionist fascists and opponents of socialism.’ Davis would urge that they be kept in prison where they belonged.”
I will believe Ms. Davis’s alleged commitment to human rights when she goes to Tibet and speaks up on behalf of Tibetans who are oppressed by China, when she goes to Gaza and speaks up on behalf of Palestinian Christians whose rights are denied by Hamas, and when she stands up against Castro’s repression of Cuban dissidents and Zimbabwe’s pogroms against white farmers. Angela Davis is a hypocrite and a phony when it comes to the rights of those with whom she disagrees, or when it comes to criticizing governments of which she approves. Don’t hold your breath. I’ve been waiting for 40 years.
The reason I did not go to her event and speak up is because she brooks no dissent. As you reported, she selected the questions that she would answer from written cards. When I spoke at the Hebrew Center, I gave everyone in the audience a chance to speak — not only by asking me questions but by making critical comments about my talk. Mine was an open meeting. Hers was a controlled event with her deciding whose views would be allowed. The audience was denied any opportunity to hear dissenting views — which is Angela Davis’s way.
I challenge Angela Davis to debate me on the issue of Israel-Palestine in an open forum with a fair moderator and an opportunity for real input from interested Vineyarders. I doubt she will accept that challenge.
Alan M. Dershowitz