Big Tent Ideas

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Something Very Dangerous Is Brewing On America’s College Campuses

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Alan M. Dershowitz Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard Law School, and the author most recently of The Price of Principle: Why Integrity Is Worth The Consequences. He is the Jack Roth Charitable Foundation Fellow at Gatestone Institute, and is also the host of "The Dershow" podcast.
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The First Amendment protects the right to say idiotic things, but the marketplace of ideas also requires that speakers be held accountable for the words they speak, especially if they are hateful ones.

The demonstrations currently taking place on many Ivy League campuses are not only about Palestinians, Gaza, or even Israel. The war in Gaza is providing an excuse for anti-American and anti-Western radicals and anarchists to try to damage and weaken our government and those of other Western democracies.

None of the slogans call for a two-state solution or for release of the hostages. At a minimum they call for the end of Israel “from the river to the sea” and its replacement by either an Islamic caliphate or a radical left-wing tyrannical state. Few protesters are seeking democracy, civil liberties, equality or decency.

They want to destroy Israel. They want to destroy America and they want to destroy Western values. Some among them are simply demonstrating because their peers asked them to. There have always been “useful idiots” that go along with any radical protest.

The protesters are comprised of four major groups: First, Arab and Muslim Israel haters and anti-semites who want to see the end of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and the end of any Jewish presence in the Middle East. These are the spiritual descendants of the grand mufti of Jerusalem who aligned himself with Hitler in the 1940s in an effort to eradicate the Jewish presence in what is now Israel.

Second, radical anarchists who use all conflicts as recruiting tools in their efforts to undercut American democracy, Judeo-Christian values and the free market economy. Third, professional organizers who raise and earn money orchestrating these demonstrations, and fourth, useful idiots who think it’s fun to join radical demonstrations, even at the expense of intimidating vulnerable minorities and fellow students.

Let there be no mistake about the fact that January 6 was extremely dangerous to democracy, even though it represented only a relatively small number of people trying to interfere with the congressional role and confirming the results of the 2020 election. So, too, was the Charlottesville March in which several handfuls of people were shouting “We will not be replaced by Jews.”

The current anti-Israel and anti-American demonstrations are different. They involve tens of thousands of elite students, many from wealthy and influential families. They are our future. Some of these bigoted demonstrators will soon be seeking jobs in the most influential and elite institutions.

Before long they will run for Congress. These future leaders, by supporting Hamas are supporting the murder, beheadings, and kidnappings of Jews, Americans and others. That’s what Hamas did October 7. Some of the protesters promised a repetition of October 7 “every day for 1,000 days.”

Some of these useful idiots have no idea what Hamas did on October 7 and what they are implicitly supporting. They have simply been told what to say, what to chant and they follow their pro-Palestinian pied pipers from the river to the sea without knowing which river or what sea are being referred to.

Useful idiots, though, must be held responsible when they promote the evils of Hamas. They were useful idiots who marched with Hitler’s youths in the 1930s and with Castro’s revolutionaries in the 1950s.

Those who chant hateful and bigoted slogans should be identified and their names and school affiliations publicized. Potential employers have a right to know whether job applicants support the rape of Jewish women or are willing to march with those who do.

The First Amendment protects the right to say idiotic things, but the marketplace of ideas — which is the foundation of the First Amendment — also requires that speakers be held accountable for the words they speak, especially if they are hateful ones.

Imagine if the shoe were on the other foot. Imagine if a group of white supremacists were to occupy an Ivy League campus demanding the lynching and rapes of African Americans, or imagine if a group of white former Apartheid leaders of South Africa were to demonstrate in favor of the return to white rule in South Africa: “From the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, South Africa will be free of all blacks and returned to exclusively white rule.”

Would Columbia University tolerate such bigotry in the name of academic freedom? Most of the students and professors who are defending these student bigots are essentially saying “Free speech for me but not for thee.” That is not how the First Amendment works.

There must be one standard for all, but no Ivy League university would apply a single standard. They are part of the “intersectionalist” mentality that supports free speech for those favored by the diversity, equity, and inclusion bureaucracy but this opposes free speech for those who are disfavored.

Universities are supposed to educate our future leaders. They are failing abysmally in that task. And we will pay a heavy price if the current one-sidedness continues to be encouraged by university leaders.

Alan Dershowitz is professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and the author of “Get Trump,” “Guilt by Accusation,” and “The Price of Principle.” This piece is republished from the Alan Dershowitz Newsletter.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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