Berkeley Blocks Pro-Israel Talk By Alan Dershowitz
(JTA) SAN FRANCISCO (J. The Jewish News of Northern California via JTA) — A speech by Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz at the University of California, Berkeley, may be blocked because organizers did not give campus police the required eight-week notice for the event.
Dershowitz’s lecture, tentatively titled “The Liberal Case for Israel,” is planned for Oct. 10. But Rabbi Gil Yosef Leeds, director of the Chabad Jewish Student Center, which is sponsoring the lecture along with the pro-Israel student club Tikvah, said Thursday that an initially approved 500-seat classroom was pulled because of the advance notice requirement.
“As of last night, Berkeley had reserved a large campus lecture hall for us, but because of a newly instituted policy requiring [giving] UCPD 8 weeks advance notice, so far they have denied on-campus space,” Leeds said in an email. “The semester isn’t even eight weeks old.”
Dershowitz, who could not be reached for comment, said on TV’s “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning that he was being deprived of his free speech rights and accused UC Berkeley of being unfair to pro-Israel speakers.
UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof pointed to the school’s Major Events Hosted by Non-Departmental Users interim policy statement announced on Aug. 14, which states that a request form must be submitted to campus police “at least eight weeks prior to the event” for audiences of more than 200 people.
“If they wish to host Mr. Dershowitz 12 days from now on Oct. 10, we have offered the students a number of venues that can accommodate an audience of 199 people,” Mogulof said in an email. “If, however, having a larger audience is more important to the hosting student organization than holding the event on the date they initially proposed, we would be happy to work with them to reschedule the event for a day at least eight weeks from now so that we can maintain compliance with policy.”
Mogulof said the policy applies only to nondepartmental applicants. That means a speaker hosted by a UC Berkeley department would not have to follow the guidelines. Leeds said among his follow-up strategies is to seek a UC Berkeley department to sponsor the lecture.
Dershowitz, an emeritus professor of law at Harvard, wrote “The Case for Israel” in 2003 and often addresses the issue on college campuses, including an event on Wednesday night at Columbia University in New York.
His bid to speak at UC Berkeley is the latest in a series of recent free-speech disputes on campus. Several right-wing speakers, including Ben Shapiro, editor of DailyWire.com, have visited the campus amid high security, student protests and accusations that the campus was shutting out right-leaning speakers.
Leeds is confident the Dershowitz lecture will take place.
“I’m sure it’s on,” he said. “It’s just a matter of how this will play out.”