Dersh the knife

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Last Saturday Alan Dershowitz gave a speech at Tel Aviv University in which he lashed out at professors who criticize Israel and use their Jewishness to do so. And those who aren’t Jewish, too. Dershowitz apparently told a story about fellow Harvard Law School prof Duncan Kennedy not by name. (The transcript of the speech says only "Tell Joel Pollak story here," a reference to an Israel lobbyist/acolyte of Dershowitz’s who is mentioned in the story). Duncan Kennedy has responded to Dershowitz in a collegial manner. His email is flying around the net; he let us post it. I don’t have the attachments, but you get the story.

Hi Alan,

Congratulations on your honorary degree from Tel Aviv. Here is what I gather you said about me in your speech, from the video:

"Let me tell you a very brief story about a student of mine who was taking a class from a professor at Harvard Law School who was teaching a course on the Israel/Palestine conflict. The course was completely one-sided with all the materials representing an anti-Israel point of view. When Joel asked the professor to add some material to the syllabus that would give the students a balanced point of view, the professor rebuked him and said that this is my class, I teach what I want. Well, Joel didn’t accept that … "

A couple of things. First, I hired Joel as my research assistant during the summer before the course, and got him in off the wait list. He provided many of the materials for the class, all of it strongly pro-Israeli-government material. The attachment has my email invitation to him to work for me, and he accepted. 

Second, I think Joel would confirm that I never rebuked him for proposing materials. As you’ll see from the next email in the attachment, I went on asking him for material, in particular describing Palestinian war crimes, even after he had begun to denounce the course. 

Third, I actually invited him to speak to the class when I taught it the following year, and he accepted — that’s the third email exchange in the attachment. 

As to whether the course was "completely one-sided with all the materials representing an anti-Israel point of view," you may remember that I included a chapter from The Case for Israel [by Dershowitz] in the very first class, and you were kind enough to send your secretary around with a correction to the 2,000/200,000 misprint in the first printing. I’ve attached the syllabus for the second year, which includes the many pieces that Joel recommended and that I included (e.g., Katz and Karsh). I find it hard to believe that anyone who read this syllabus could describe it as you do. In fact, I’m quite proud of its balance. (I’ll send you the first year’s syllabus as well if you’d like me to — it’s just as balanced, but I like the second year’s better because I missed some very good pro-Palestinian pieces the first time around.)

Yours, your colleague,

Duncan Kennedy

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