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The Oxford Union's Destructive “Debate” By: Alan M. Dershowitz
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, January 15, 2008


In October of 2007 I wrote an obituary for the Oxford Union. This student-run group purports to be one of the most distinguished debating societies in the world. Yet its debates have become more one-sided, more absurd, and more trivial than most bar room brawls. 

The scheduled debate that led me to write the October obituary was supposed to be on the following proposition:  “This house believes that one state is the only solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.” Nothing wrong with that (other than that no one would dream of proposing a similar topic with regard to India-Pakistan-Bangladesh or any of the other divided states in the world today).

The problem was with the debaters selected by the Oxford Union to defend the two-state solution, which is synonymous with Israel’s right to exist. 

One of the speakers selected to represent the pro-Israel side was Norman Finkelstein, who was recently fired from DePaul University for his lack of scholarship and his ad hominems against pro-Israel writers (including me).  The other debater selected to represent the pro-Israel side refused to appear with Finkelstein on the same side and so the debate was cancelled. 

Now the Oxford Union has gone even further.  It has scheduled a debate on January 24 on whether Israel has the right to exist.  Both speakers on the supposed pro-Israel side are virulent Israel-haters and strong supporters of Palestinian terrorism. 

One is Norman Finkelstein, who is currently joining hands with the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, whose goal is the military destruction of Israel. Finkelstein supports Hezbollah and says that this terrorist organization “represents the hope.” He has previously regretted not being more supportive of Hezbollah in its military attacks on Israel.  And he was selected to be one of the two pro-Israel advocates.  With friends like these…

The other invited speaker is just as bad.  He is a philosophy professor named Ted Honderich, who believes that the Palestinian terrorists have “a moral right in their terrorism against Israelis.”  He analogizes Israel to Apartheid South Africa, which he of course said did not have a right to exist.  Yet he too has been selected to speak on behalf of Israel. 

The Oxford Union had it within their power to select a genuine advocate of Israel’s right to exist, since even in England there are a few of those.  I know, because I have been getting outraged letters from Oxford students, alumni and ordinary citizens about the forthcoming debate.  For example, one of Great Britain’s most distinguished lawyers and writers is Anthony Julius.  He could make an effective case for Israel’s right to exist, as could many other prominent individuals. 

But at the Oxford Union, the only debate permitted is over the means used to end Israel’s existence; whether Israel should be destroyed by Palestinian suicide bombers, by Hezbollah rockets or by some other means. This is not a public debate. It is a public execution.


Alan M. Dershowitz is a professor of law at Harvard. He is the author of many books, including, most recently, “The Case Against Israel’s Enemies.”


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