I was recently invited to present the liberal case for Israel at Berkeley. In my remarks I advocated the establishment of a Palestinian state and a negotiated end of the conflict. I encouraged hostile questions from protestors and answered all of them. The audience responded positively to the dialogue. Then immediately after my address, a poster was plastered outside Berkeley Law School with a swastika drawn on my face.
The Dean of Berkeley Law School, Erwin Cherwinsky, sent a letter to the law school community condemning the swastika: “Several of our students expressed their disagreement with him [Dershowitz] and did so in a completely appropriate way that led to discussion and dialogue. I was pleased to hear of how this went, but then shocked to learn of the swastika drawn on a flyer that someone had posted about him.”
Shortly after, The Daily Californian – Berkeley’s student newspaper – published an anti-Semitic cartoon, depicting an ugly caricature of me sticking my head through a cardboard cutout. Behind the cardboard I am portrayed stomping on a Palestinian child with my foot, while holding in my hand an Israeli soldier who is shooting an unarmed Palestinian youth. Above the cardboard cutout the title of my speech – The Liberal Case for Israel – is scrawled in capital letters.
In a Letter to the Editor, the university’s Chancellor, Carol Christ, wrote the following:
This sequence of events – by hard-left students who originally protested my right to speak at Berkeley– confirmed what I’ve long believed: that there is very little difference between the Nazis of the hard right and the anti-Semites of the hard left.
“Your recent editorial cartoon targeting Alan Dershowitz was offensive, appalling and deeply disappointing. I condemn its publication. Are you aware that its anti-Semitic imagery connects directly to the centuries-old “blood libel” that falsely accused Jews of engaging in ritual murder? I cannot recall anything similar in the Daily Cal, and I call on the paper’s editors to reflect on whether they would sanction a similar assault on other ethnic or religious groups. We cannot build a campus community where everyone feels safe, respected and welcome if hatred and the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes become an acceptable part of our discourse.”
It is shocking that this vile caricature – which would fit comfortably in a Nazi publication – was published in “the official paper of record of the City of Berkeley” (according to the Editor). The cartoon resembles the grotesque anti-Semitic blood libel propaganda splashed across Der Sturmer in the 1930’s, which depicted Jews drinking the blood of gentile children. Canards about Jews as predators – prominently promulgated by the Tzarist forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion – were anti-Semitic back then and are still anti-Semitic today, whether espoused by the extreme left or the extreme right.
This sequence of events – by hard-left students who originally protested my right to speak at Berkeley– confirmed what I’ve long believed: that there is very little difference between the Nazis of the hard right and the anti-Semites of the hard left. There is little doubt that this abhorrent caricature was a hard-left Neo-Nazi expression.
These anti-Semitic displays against me were in reaction to a speech in which I advocated a Palestinian state, an end to the occupation and opposition to Israeli settlement policies. Many on the hard-left refuse to acknowledge this sort of nuanced positioning. That is because their hostility towards Israel does not stem from any particular Israeli actions or policies. Even if Israel were to withdraw from the West Bank, destroy the security barrier, and recognize Hamas as a legitimate political organization, it would still not be enough. For these radicals, it is not about what Israel does; it is about what Israel is: the nation state of the Jewish people. To many on the hard left, Israel is an imperialistic, apartheid, genocidal, and colonialist enterprise that must be destroyed.
Nonetheless, just as I defended the rights of Nazis to march in Skokie, I defend the right of hard-left bigots to produce this sort of anti-Semitic material, despite it being hate speech. Those who condemn hate speech when it comes from the right should also speak up when hate speech comes from the left. The silence from those on the left is steeped in hypocrisy. It reflects the old adage: free speech for me but not for thee.
To be sure, the students had the right to publish this cartoon, but they also had the right not to publish it. I am confident that if the shoe were on the other foot – if a cartoon of comparable hate directed against women, gays, blacks or Muslims were proposed – they would not have published it. There is one word for this double standard. It’s called bigotry.
The best response to bigotry is the opposite of censorship: it is exposure and shaming in the court of public opinion. The offensive cartoon should not be removed, as some have suggested. It should be widely circulated along with the names prominently displayed of the anti-Semite who drew it and the bigoted editors who decided to publish it. Every potential employer or admissions officer should ask them to justify their bigotry.
Joel Mayorga is the anti-Semitic cartoonist. Karim Doumar (Editor in Chief and President), Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks (Managing Editor) and Suhauna Hussain (Opinion Editor) head the editorial board that oversaw the decision to publish it. They must be held accountable for their reprehensible actions. I challenge them to justify their bigotry. It will not be enough to hide behind the shield of freedom of speech, because that freedom also entails the right not to publish anti-Semitic expression, if they would refuse to publish other bigoted expression.
After I submitted a draft of this op-ed to the Daily Cal, the paper tried to censor my piece in a self-serving way by omitting my characterization of the cartoonist as an anti-Semite. As far as I know they did not edit the offending cartoon. Also, the editor claimed that the intent of the cartoon was to expose the “hypocrisy” of my talk. Yet, the newspaper never even reported on the content of my talk and I don’t know whether the cartoonist was even at my talk. The cartoon was clearly based on a stereotype not on the content of my talk.