And Speaking of Free Speech…

One of its most principled defenders and most effective practitioners is Alan Dershowitz. Over the years, I have disagreed with Dershowitz about most things, but his unwavering commitment to free speech–even in an academic environment–and his tireless unraveling of the endlies calumnies thrown at the state of Israel are far more important than those disagreements. Currently, he is taking on the execrable Jimmy Carter, and it is, as you would expect, a mismatch. Dershowitz writes in the Boston Globe:

The next week Carter wrote a series of op-eds bemoaning the reception his book had received. He wrote that his “most troubling experience” had been “the rejection of [his] offers to speak” at “university campuses with high Jewish enrollment.” The fact is that Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz had invited Carter to come to Brandeis to debate me, and Carter refused. The reason Carter gave was this: “There is no need to for me to debate somebody who, in my opinion, knows nothing about the situation in Palestine.”
As Carter knows, I’ve been to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, many times — certainly more times than Carter has been there — and I’ve written three books dealing with the subject of Middle Eastern history, politics, and the peace process. The real reason Carter won’t debate me is that I would correct his factual errors. It’s not that I know too little; it’s that I know too much.
Carter’s refusal to debate wouldn’t be so strange if it weren’t for the fact that he claims that he wrote the book precisely so as to start debate over the issue of the Israel-Palestine peace process. If that were really true, Carter would be thrilled to have the opportunity to debate. Authors should be accountable for their ideas and their facts. Books shouldn’t be like chapel, delivered from on high and believed on faith.
Jimmy Carter isn’t brave for beating up on Israel. He’s a bully. And like all school-yard bullies, underneath the tough talk and bravado, there’s a nagging insecurity and a fear that one day he’ll have to answer for himself in a fair fight.
When Jimmy Carter’s ready to speak at Brandeis, or anywhere else, I’ll be there. If he refuses to debate, I will still be there — ready and willing to answer falsity with truth in the court of public opinion.

No doubt it will never happen, but if it does, I want a front-row seat.


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