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 Forum index » Reviews, Editorials and Commentary » Commentary and Editorials
Bigotry outside Faneuil Hall
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mosc
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 11:49 am    Post subject: Bigotry outside Faneuil Hall Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

[Editor's note: I received this by email. I don't know where it originated. The beat goes on...]

Bigotry outside Faneuil Hall

By Alan Dershowitz March 5, 2004

The other day, I experienced violent anti-Semitism for the first time
in my adult life. It took place in front of Faneuil Hall, the birthplace
of American independence and liberty.

I was receiving a justice award from the Jewish Council on Public
Affairs and delivering a talk on "Civil Liberties in the Age of
Terrorism" from the podium of that historic hall. When I left, award
in hand, I was accosted by a group of screaming, angry young

men and women carrying virulently anti-Israel signs. The protest
was denominated a peace event and was sponsored by a group
calling themselves by the vague name ACT-MA. Their website
describes them as promoting peace and justice and associated
with larger solidarity organizations, but there was nothing peaceful
or just about this protest.

Although the signs they were carrying were not anti-Semitic, the
sign carriers were shouting epithets at me that crossed the line
from civility to bigotry. "Dershowitz and Hitler, just the same, the
only difference is the name." The sin that, in the opinion of the
screamers, warranted this comparison between me and the man
who murdered dozens of my family members was my support for
Israel. It was irrelevant to these chanters that I also support a
Palestinian state, the end of the Israeli occupation and the
dismantling of most of the settlements. They also shouted
"Dershowitz and Gibbels [sic], just the same, the only difference is
the name" - not even knowing how to pronounce the name of the
anti-Semitic Nazi propagandist.

One sign carrier shouted that Jews who support Israel are worse
than Nazis. Another demanded that I be tortured and killed. It
wasn't only their words; it was the hatred in their eyes. If a dozen
Boston police were not protecting me, I have little doubt I would
have been physically attacked. Their eyes were ablaze with
fanatical zeal.

The feminist writer Phyllis Chesler aptly described the hatred often
directed against Israel and supporters of the Jewish state by some
young people as eroticized. That is what I saw: passionate hatred,
ecstatic hatred, orgasmic hatred. It was beyond mere differences of
opinion. When I looked into their faces, I could imagine young
Nazis in the 1930s in Hitler's Germany. They had no doubt that
they were right and that I was pure evil for my support of the
Jewish state, despite my public disagreement with some of Israel's
policies and despite my support for Palestinian statehood. There
was no place for nuance here. It was black and white, good versus
evil, and any Jew who supported Israel was pure evil, deserving of
torture, violence, and whatever fate Hitler and Goebbels deserved.

I do not believe that criticism of Israel, or even of Zionism, is
tantamount to anti-Semitism and I have so written over the years.
But what happened in front of Faneuil Hall went beyond criticism.
To be sure, it was constitutionally protected speech, just as the
Nazi march through Skokie was constitutionally protected speech.
But the shouting was plainly calculated to intimidate. An aura of
violence was in the air, and had the police not been there, I would
not have been able to express any views counter to theirs.

As it turned out, I was not actually able to express any of my
opinions, even in response to their outrageous mischaracterization
of my views or their comparisons of me to the most evil men in the
world. When I turned to answer one of the bigoted chants, the
police officer in charge gently but firmly insisted that I walk directly
to my car and not engage them. It was an order, reasonably
calculated to assure my safety, and it was right. The officer got into
my car with me and only got out a few blocks away. The
intimidation had succeeded. I was silenced, and their horrible
message went unanswered in the plaza near Faneuil Hall.

That is not the way the marketplace of ideas is supposed to work. It
is not the conception of liberty for which Sam and John Adams
spoke so eloquently and controversially in and around Faneuil
Hall more than two hundred years ago. It was far more reminiscent
of rallies conducted by Nazi thugs in Berlin seventy years ago.

I will not be silenced nor intimidated. The shouters know that. Their
goal is to silence and intimidate others, who do not get police
protection and do not have access to the media. Let the debate
about Israel and the Palestinians continue unabated. Let all views
be heard. The shouters in front of Faneuil Hall wanted no views
but their own to be seen and heard. They succeeded that day in
front of Faneuil Hall, as they have on some university campuses,
but the marketplace of ideas is far too vibrant to be shut down by a
bunch of self-righteous thugs shouting ugly and bigoted epithets.
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seraph
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 11:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

for those not familiar with the States: Faneuil Hall is in Boston, MA
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Cyxeris



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 10:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I hate to say it, but welcome to Fortress America, Mr. Dershowitz. Perhaps this, having been the first incident of its kind, will prompt Mr. Dershowitz to help us in correcting what our nation has become, and is becoming. By disallowing him from confronting and meeting these people's challenge, the police sided with the protestors. Silent affirmation.
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