Palestinian rights advocate James J. Zogby and Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz engaged in an emotionally charged debate over a controversial Cambridge resolution to cut federal funding to Israel last night.
In a Democratic Club-sposored forum in the Science Center, Zogby, executive director of the Arab-American Institute, told about 250 spectators that they had "an opportunity to make history in Cambridge, an opportunity to make history in America, and an opportunity to make peace in the Middle East" by voting yes to Cambridge referendum "Question 5" on November 8.
Urging the audience to vote against the referendum, Dershowitz characterized an affirmative vote as a vote for "one-sided hypocrisy" and the "dismantling of Israel."
Both participants criticized the College's decision to close the forum to the public. Zogby said that the closed debate inhibited the community's ability "to share ideas, exchange and grow."
Citing security reasons, Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III limited the debate to members of the Harvard community and invited guests. But Harvard University Police Chief Paul E. Johnson said security at the event was "minimal." About five police officers, along with the chief and the deputy chief, were in attendance.
Question 5 calls for the U.S. Representative from this didstrict to vote "in favor of a resolution calling upon Congress to stop all expenditure of U.S. funds for Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza," and demands that Israel end its violations of Palestinian human rights.
The resolution, which was placed on the ballot by the Coalition for Palestinian Rights, also advocates the establishment of an independent Palestinian state "with peace for all states in the region, including Israel."
The debate elicited hisses and shouts frommembers of the audience, as well as repeatedinsults between the participants themselves.
Arguing that the U.S. had a duty to useeconomic leverage to compel Israel to end itshuman rights violations, Zogby said, "Human rightsshould be measured by one yardstick." He calledCongress hypocritical for taking strong stands onhuman rights and at the same time financiallyaiding Israel.
Dershowitz said Zogby's statements "cynicallyexploited [human rights] in the name of politicalexpediency."
"On a list of human rights, Israel would rankin the top 10 percent," Dershowitz told theaudience, urging listeners to " compare Israel'sminimal violation of human rights" to that of thePalestinian states. "There are more human rightsviolations in one day in Jordan than Israel hashad in all of these recent years."
Both experts also clashed on the position ofthe Democratic Party on the issue, with Dershowitzdeclaring that "anybody with responsibility in theDemocratic Party wouldn't support it."
"If you're a good Democrat, oppose thisfringe," Dershowitz said. "Go toward the liberalcenter."
Zogby disagreed, saying that supporters of theresolution were "not out of the mainstream" of theparty and added that "70 percent of the delegatesat the Democratic convention" supported aPalestinian state
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