Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
If Alan Dershowitz, the self-appointed avatar of the new political correctness in America, could have brought himself to attend a meeting at which he was not a featured speaker, he would have heard Angela Davis and Gina Dent give a moving presentation on the apartheid-like conditions under which 2.3 million Palestinians in the West Bank have lived for the past 45 years. Their talks and the slides which they showed the audience in Union Chapel last Friday evening showed very clearly the draconian restrictions on all Palestinian life in the Occupied Territories, both political and economic. The current Israeli treatment of Arabs, whether in what is left of Palestine or in Israel itself, immediately brings to mind the treatment of blacks in the South in the United States in the first half of the 20th century.
Israel has imposed this truly appalling regimen on the Palestinians and, at the same time is implementing a massive land grab, in contravention of international law, with its illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Successive Israeli governments have been aided by Americans like Mr. Dershowitz, who feel that they are somehow helping Israel survive by stifling all criticism of Israeli actions within the United States, no matter how self-destructive they are.
Don’t wave your sword around, Mr. Dershowitz, challenging Angela Davis to a debate. It may indeed be too much to ask you to urge the Israel government to treat the West Bank Palestinians as human beings with the same rights and freedoms as Israelis enjoy — freedom from economic restrictions, checkpoints, walls, seizure of lands, etc., but you could at least do so on behalf of the Arab population within Israel. And equally important, you could use your persuasive powers and ample opportunities to urge the Israeli government to abandon its land grab through illegal settlements in the West Bank.
Nancy A. Huntington West Tisbury • Blistering, Unwarranted Attack 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?
Richard Knabel, West Tisbury