Despite vicious opposition from the Alan Dershowitz conservative wing of the American Jewish community, Cardoza Law School honored former President Jimmy Carter April 10, for his career of work on peace and conflict resolution.
The International Advocate for Peace award was given to Carter by the student-run Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution.
The journal cited “Carter’s brokering of the 1979 peace accord between Israel and Egypt and the SALT II nuclear weapons treaty with the then-Soviet Union.”
The presentation ceremony was held at the Cordoza Law School, a part of New York City’s Yeshiva University.
Since it began as a university more than a century ago, Yeshiva, according to its website, “has been dedicated to melding the ancient traditions of Jewish law and life with the heritage of Western civilization”.
With that tradition, Yeshiva University was hardly an institution the Dershowitz radical wing of American Jewry, expected to honor Jimmy Carter. The Cardoza Law School took its name, at the time of its 1976 founding, in honor of Supreme Court Justice Benjamin N. Cardoza (1870-1938).
The loudest protest voice leading the demand that Cardoza “withdraw” Carter’s award, came from Professor Dershowitz, a law professor at Harvard University since 1967.
Dershowitz seldom misses an opportunity to demand that Carter confront him in a “public debate” on any campus where Carter is invited to appear.
The Wikipedia page on Dershowitz gives some of “that debate that did not happen”, history:
When former U.S. President Jimmy Carter had his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (2006) published—in which he argues that Israel’s control of Palestinian land is the primary obstacle to peace—Dershowitz challenged Carter to a debate at Brandeis University.
Carter declined, saying, “I don’t want to have a conversation, even indirectly, with Dershowitz. There is no need to debate somebody who, in my opinion, knows nothing about the situation in Palestine.”
Dershowitz repeated his demand for a debate when Carter spoke at Brandeis in January 2007. Brandeis refused to invite Dershowitz to debate Carter, but the school did invite him to respond to Carter on the “same stage” after Carter had left.
USA Today reported that the award presentation “has drawn a harsh response from alumni, who called on graduates to withhold donations to the school.”
Confronted with this usual tactic of alumni opposition to a university decision, the Cardozo Law School leaders stood their ground and continued to support the award.
Yeshiva’s president, Richard Joel, and the university’s board of overseers, said in statements that they object to Carter’s views on Israel, but that the university is a “free marketplace of ideas,” as Joel put it, and the students had the right to invite the former president.
Alex Kane reported on the threats and protests against Carter that began the moment the award was announced. The previously loud opposition, however, was quiet on Wednesday, the day Carter received his award.
Cardozo Law School’s decision to honor former President Jimmy Carter generated a lot of bluster and outrage from the reactionary wing of the Jewish community. But after all that, the event with Carter came and went yesterday with a whimper.
There was no protest. Nobody blocked the door, as one alumnus had threatened to do to prevent Carter from entering. The former president strolled in through a side door without many people noticing.
An earlier Cardoza conflict resolution award was given to Dennis Ross, the former US government official who worked on Middle East issues within several presidential administrations, including the Carter administration. Another award was given to Desmond Tutu. Neither of these awards drew the attention and resistance of Carter’s award.
As it turned out, the “bluster and outrage” of the Dershowitz wing exhausted its fury in its losing battle to force the school to withdraw Carter’s award.
Kane described the calm that prevailed on award day:
The activists who did come out were a small group of supporters of Carter, most of them affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild. They sent a radically different message than the one Alan Dershowitz and others disseminated in the days leading up to the event.
“We wanted to make it clear that not all Cardozo alumni are comfortable with bullying,” said Maria Chickedantz, a graduate of the law school and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace who was there to support Carter. “The entire Alan Dershowitz style of bullying—that’s what we’re against.”
The Cardoza Law School’s support of its students is a testimony to the fact that it is also against the Dershowitz style of bullying.
The Jimmy Carter photo at top is from the Carter Center.