By: Jenny Jacoby and Caroline Val
The University of Miami became a platform for free-speech and Israel when Alan Dershowitz took the stage on Wednesday night at the Shalala Student Center to lead students in a “Conversation about Israel.”
The prominent and controversial Harvard Law professor emeritus, best-selling author and pro-Israel advocate was invited to campus by Students Supporting Israel (SSI). While the crowd was mostly supportive, some protestors disrupted the event with shouts of genocide and demands for a ceasefire.
As the 150 evening attendees trickled in, they found on each seat a printed copy of an op-ed written by Dershowitz the day before. Dershowitz requested the op-ed, titled “To Stop My Pro-Israel Speech, I’m Falsely Accused Again,” to be placed on every chair.
It was written in response to an article published by The Miami Hurricane on Feb. 4 that previewed Wednesday’s event and referenced the allegations raised in an Instagram post by Canes for Palestine, an unofficial student group, calling Dershowitz a “known pedophile.”
The post included references to Dershowitz’s time as the defense lawyer for convicted sex offender Jeffery Epstein, his Los Angeles Times 1997 op-ed that supported the lowering of the age of sexual consent to 15 and his recent inclusion in the Epstein list. The list included accusations that a woman was required to have sex with Dershowitz.
Dershowitz has not faced any criminal charges of sexual misconduct or pedophilia and forcefully denied the allegations of pedophilia brought about by ‘Canes for Palestine, adding that he would sue whoever posted the claims for defamation.
“Let’s be absolutely clear about one conclusion,” Dershowitz wrote in the article. “Were I not invited to speak in defense of Israel, none of these issues would have been raised.”
Dershowitz became a household name for his career as a criminal lawyer for high-profile clients including OJ Simpson, Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein in addition to Epstein.
He has also been a significant pro-Israel voice in the media, advocating for Israel and commenting on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ongoing military operation against the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza, following the Oct. 7, 2024 attack on Israel. Dershowitz was even mentioned as a candidate to represent Israel in South Africa’s 2024 International Court of Justice case against the country. During the event, he promoted his most recent book on the subject entitled “War Against the Jews: How to End Hamas Barbarism.”
Despite the controversy ahead of his arrival on campus, Dershowitz began the conversation by emphasizing his desire to still discuss varying viewpoints on the Israel-Palestine conflict, telling the audience: “I even appreciate ‘Canes for Palestine for asking me hard questions.”
He went on to offer his views on the Israel-Hamas war, whether there would be a future for the Netanyahu administration and the potential for a two-state solution.
“The only two-state solution that’s possible is to have a state without an army, without an air force and with security controlled by Israel for maybe 50 years, maybe 100 years,” he said.
“You can have a full blown [Palestinian] state, but the idea of allowing the state – which would have elements of Hamas in it – to have an air force, an army, to be able to be armed by Iran, would be a suicide pact.”
Most of the audience nodded and clapped in agreement.
He later addressed antisemitism on college campuses – which has risen significantly according to a report by the FBI since the war between Israel and Hamas began in October – and praised the leadership of UM President Julio Frenk throughout the conflict as an aspirational model for other universities.
“Miami seems to have a policy of equality, not a double standard, and that’s why I was willing and anxious to speak here and to lend support to President Frenk’s administration and his policies of allowing free speech on an equal basis for everybody – not picking and choosing,” Dershowitz explained in a later interview with The Hurricane.
Antisemitism, he continued to explain, is “the new McCarthyism.”
“The new McCarthyism is if you’re a Jew, people won’t listen to you,” Dershowitz said to The Hurricane. “It lumps people together based on identity politics, and it divides the world into two: the oppressors and the oppressed.”
But Dershowitz gave the primarily pro-Israel crowd encouragement that evening to continue advocating for Israel.
“We have nothing to fear,” he said. “We are on the right side of these issues morally, historically, in every possible way.”
About half-an-hour into the evening, two student protestors affiliated with ‘Canes for Palestine stood and disrupted the event, shouting that “genocide” is unfolding in Gaza.
“Thousands of parents and children are dead in the West Bank,” they added amid boos from the crowd, before being quickly escorted out by Dean Steven Priepke, who oversees student conduct, as well as several officers.
The pair faced no legal punishment after showing their ‘Cane Cards that identified them as students. The Hurricane does not know if the University took any other disciplinary action against the students.
Outside the venue, a few students affiliated with ‘Canes for Palestine, such as junior Miranda Rodriguez, came to morally support those who caused the event’s disruption.
“Coming out here is very important, for me especially as I know many people who are in SSI who are boldly proud of their stance, so I will be proud of my stance that I think that we need an immediate ceasefire in Gaza,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez also addressed Dershowitz’s op-ed written in response to ‘Canes for Palestine’s inflammatory Instagram post.
“It’s off-putting and kind of scary to have someone of such a high position call out our group without any understanding of what we’re truly for and no compassion for the fight we’re trying to fight.”
Other attendees arrived with some hesitance. When sophomore political science major and chair for Jewish Life at Hillel Jonathan Amaral first heard about the SSI event he asked himself, “Why him?”
“I could name 50 people off the top of my head that could have said relatively similar things,” Amaral said. Just the week before, Amaral attended an event with the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization dedicated to combating antisemitism, Jonathan Greenblatt.
However, Amaral walked away “pleasantly surprised,” noting that he did not think Dershowitz crossed any major lines, was “fair” and agreed, for the most part, with Dershowitz’s description of Israel.
Towards the end of the conversation, Dershowitz shifted his focus to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives on college campuses, a pillar of higher education he believes needs to be “completely dismantled and abolished.”
“DEI is a disaster,” Dershowitz said at the event. “Diversity explicitly excludes Jews, no matter how diversified you are, no matter how different you are. Diversity means only more people of color, more people of minorities. That’s what it means. It’s nothing to do with intellectual academic diversity, or even ethnic diversity. It’s only more blacks and more people of color.”
Dershowitz further explained in the interview with The Hurricane that colleges “should go back to meritocracy, equality and real inclusion.” Instead, he argues universities should uphold affirmative action on “an individual basis” and have specialized offices that combat discrimination.
He also made the point that universities should not have specialized departments (including Judaic studies) and alternatively incorporate subjects like indigenous, women’s and African history into all curriculums.
In a statement to The Hurricane, SSI organizers said they were thankful to attendees and police who were on hand to deal with any possible security threats. “Supporters and opposition alike, we believe that this was a very productive evening in which free speech and ideals were respectfully exchanged between both parties,” SSI said, adding, “Whether or not we as a club or as a campus community agree with everything Dershowitz said, we cherish the exchange of ideals.”