Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
On August 24, at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs, Angela Davis and her colleague Gina Dent reported to a packed room on a trip they took to the Occupied Territories of Palestine last year. Their articulate description of what everyday life is like for Palestinians under the 45-year long Israeli occupation, and among the illegal settlers who have moved to Palestine after the 1967 war, was an eye opener to many in the room, but reinforced what many others with direct experiences of the Palestinian situation already knew. In both tone and intention it was meant to be, and essentially was, about Palestinians and Palestine, not Israelis and Israel, although one can hardly avoid discussing all four in such a program.
So it is with a considerable amount of astonishment that one reads Alan Dershowitz’s obfuscatory and blistering attack, in his letter to the Gazette (August 31), on Angela Davis for not being a savior to the world’s other oppressed peoples, of which admittedly there are many. Whatever past, and obviously lingering, problems Mr. Dershowitz has with Ms. Davis are beside the point. The program on August 24, Reports From Palestine, was about Palestinians and Palestine, a subject not covered well, if at all, by the American media. It was not about Ms. Davis’s past or her politics.
Moreover, the gathering at Union Chapel was not a forum, nor meant as an open-ended debate platform. Neither Ms. Davis nor Ms. Dent dictated the post-presentation question format, contrary to Mr. Dershowitz’s assertion. Jewish Voice for Peace Boston, the sponsor of the event and the local host committee, of which I was a member, decided to ask for written questions submitted after the formal presentation. Mr. Dershowitz, had he attended, could have written out a question along with all the others who did so, and in any case could not have known in advance what the format was going to be. Nor did Ms. Davis. That not every question submitted would get answered is always a given at such events mostly for reasons of time constraints and audience patience. That was no doubt also true when Mr. Dershowitz spoke at the Hebrew Center.
Mr. Dershowitz’s views on Israel are well known. He has many opportunities to express them, and does so with considerable regularity. Rarely, however, does he acknowledge that there is a Palestine or Palestinians, or that their oppression by the occupation is similar to the experience of Tibetans and others he mentions in his letter. If, as he states, “Angela Davis is a hypocrite and a phony . . . when it comes to criticizing governments of which she approves,” then how is that any different from his treatment of the Israeli government?