Students of Hampshire College are complaining of harassing or intimidating telephone calls. Nothing new there, such calls can be common particularly when the students are leading a political cause. Yet, the alleged caller was Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who they claim was upset over their effort to get the school to divest from Israel. They allege that Dershowitz (who had a child go to Hampshire) has been calling students and threatening to organize a boycott of the school.
The calls were allegedly made last week and involved Hampshire students Brian Van Slyke and Matan Cohen. Cohen became a well-known Israeli activist after he was shot in the face by the Israeli military at a protest in the village of Bil’in.
Hre is Van Slyke’s account:
It was Thursday morning and we had just broken to the press. Already we were terrified, mind you we were about to take on one of the world’s most powerful political machines. What’s more is that we were a little unprepared, as a local newspaper was coming out with the story a day early and so we had to go all out sooner than we expected (lest the media pick up on the story for a full day without our voices out there).
I woke up a little later than I had planned on. I knew we were about to get flooded with phone calls from the media and I didn’t want them to wake me up and not be ready for their questions. Already people were running around the house, pacing with nervousness, on the phone with the media and arguing in Hebrew, or in the bathroom about to lose their breakfast.
Soon, everyone left but Matan and I. I came out of my room after responding to some e-mails from reporters and Matan came up to me:
“Brian, I just got off the phone with Alan Dershowitz.”
I was still a little tired, and I didn’t quite get it. “Wait, who?”
This woke me up. “What did he say?”
Matan smiled, “He said: I should have known you were involved. Then he went on to say he’s going to organize a boycott of me and of the college.”
“Oh.” We knew we might be hearing from Dershowitz, but certainly not only after an hour or so of being out to the press. That was a little intimidating. “How did he get your number?” I asked. Matan didn’t know.
About 20 minutes later I got a call from Andrew, another SJPer. “Listen, Brian, I just got a call from Alan Dershowitz. He’s threatening to organize an international divestment campaign of Hampshire.”
“What does that even mean?” I asked. Andrew didn’t know.
A little bit later, I got a phone call. I thought it was my first reporter. I grabbed the cell phone, started pacing, and answered.
“Hi, this is Professor Alan Dershowitz. I’m calling to find out if Hampshire College divested from Israel.”
My heart sank. I was not ready for this. I stumbled: “I don’t know, you should read our press release. Which I also think says we divested from the Israeli occupation, not Israel.”
“I have read your press release. And I’m asking you.”
“Okay, well look, I don’t think I’m going to talk to you about this.”
“Listen, I’m not going to talk to you. Sorry, bye.” Click. I hung up the phone. I called up the stairs to Matan:
“Matan… I think I just did something bad. I think I just hung up on Alan Dershowitz.”
“Good,” Matan replied.
The students have been blogging about the calls.
Dershowitz demanded that the university stop trying to reach a compromise and stand clearly against critics of Israel: “What they have to do is make it impossible for the students to plausibly be able to declare victory.”
Dershowitz has been attracting controversy for the last year years in his defense of torture and assassination. He led a campaign against the tenure of DePaul University Assistant Professor Norman G. Finkelstein who held views on the Holocaust and Israel that Dershowitz opposed.
He has suggested that Israel should ignore international courts, which he views as biased against the country “Israel should not have sent a legal team to the Hague because when it comes to Israel, that court is a sham, with a predetermined result. Israel should not legitimate such a legal travesty. It’s own Supreme Court is far more capable of rendering a nuanced judgment on the complex issues growing out of the Security Fence.”).
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