"Hezbollah is absolutely brilliant," Alan Dershowitz said to a packed auditorium at the University of Pennsylvania. "Israel has never faced a more clever enemy."
The famed lawyer, Harvard professor and author of more than 25 books also noted that Hezbollah won the public-relations battles during this summer's war in Lebanon, even if it lost the conflict militarily. For instance, Israel's waiting for months to respond to accusations of harming civilians greatly damaged its image on the world stage, he argued; by not responding in real time, Israel was put in a thoroughly disadvantageous situation.
"Wars need to be carefully crafted with an endgame in mind," he continued. "Israel should never go into a battle unless it can win decisively."
Dershowitz was the featured speaker at an event titled "Global Terrorism: The New World War," held at the university's Zellerbach Theatre on March 14, and sponsored by the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Philadelphia, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Aish HaTorah Philadelphia, Penn Hillel and the Akiba Hebrew Academy in Merion.
Malcolm Hoenlein, vice chairman of the Congress of Jewish Presidents, preceded Dershowitz at the podium, and put a fine point on the night's theme: "We are in a watershed period of American history, of world history, of Jewish history."
He said that the decisions made today will have consequences — for good or ill — lasting through decades and generations.
Though Dershowitz noted that he has been advocating for Israel since before the Six-Day War in 1967, he reminded the audience that there will never be 100 percent agreement on issues relating to Israel — he disagrees with the policy of nonmilitary settlements, for example — but that it's key for American and world Jewry to remain united behind Israel.
In addition to the summer's war, Dershowitz added, former president Jimmy Carter's latest book has made an impact on worldwide acceptance of Israel. The professor called Carter's work, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the most significant event in recent years in the perception of Israel. He said that it pushes the thesis that Israel does not want peace, while a terror group like Hamas does.
He added that this treatise gives credence to hard-line left academics whose attitudes help to delegitimize Israel. Nevertheless, that issue must be addressed: "We cannot give up. Our future still lies with the university, with the academy."
'Blood on His Hands'
The attorney then went on to skewer Carter, arguing that he had played a significant role in Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's refusal of the Camp David Accords.
"I believe that Carter encouraged Arafat to turn down the Camp David Accords," said Dershowitz. "If he advised the Palestinian Authority to turn down an offer of statehood, he has blood on his hands."
Dershowitz said that Carter served as an adviser to Arafat during the talks, and noted that the former president would have pointed out that any Arab who signed a peace treaty with Israel would be likely assassinated.
In addition to his repudiation of Carter, the lawyer also took groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to task.
"I have devoted my whole life to human rights," he said. He noted that people whose human rights are being violated regularly — victims of genocide, torture and slavery — are denied advocacy when such groups focus their efforts only on Israeli policies.
The way to change this is to rally both ends of the political spectrum, he argued. He encouraged the winning over of liberals and conservatives alike, and not to abandon any group that could potentially be convinced of Israel's right to exist.
"We cannot put all our eggs in one right-wing basket," emphasized Dershowitz, referring to the support of the evangelical Christian community. "We need to put our eggs in every basket."