Alan Dershowitz, a high-profile American lawyer and political commentator, spoke at a pro-Israel rally in Great Neck offering some advice to the State of Israel in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks and war with Hamas: denuclearize Iran.
Dershowitz is a former Harvard constitutional law professor with notable celebrity clients, including Jeffrey Epstein, Donald Trump for his first impeachment trial, Harvey Weinstein, O.J. Simpson and Julian Assange.
In tandem with his legal career, Dershowitz is also a legal analyst who has written numerous books about politics, law and the State of Israel.
He spoke at the event against the backdrop of Israel’s war with Hamas where he was joined by human rights attorney Brooke Goldstein, diplomat Shahar Azani and an Israel Defense special force reservist.
It was hosted by the Iranian American Jewish Federation of New York, a nonprofit based in Great Neck to address matters concerning the Iranian Jewish community and the State of Israel, at Temple Israel of Great Neck on Tuesday night.
Videos of Dershowitz’s speech were provided to Blank Slate Media.
Dershowitz outlined four goals for Israel: completely destroy Hamas, eliminate Iran’s nuclear capacity, liberate hostages taken by Hamas and make peace with the Saudis.
The crowd erupted in cheers after Dershowitz called for the denuclearization of Iran, with individuals clapping, whistling and shouting in support.
“The world cannot survive a nuclear Iran,” Dershowitz said.
A series of attacks at Iranian nuclear development sites have been attributed to Israel over the past decade, with Israel making plans to combat Iran’s nuclear hardening as recently as earlier this summer.
Dershowitz’s calls to destroy Iran’s nuclear power were attributed to what he said is the Persian Gulf nation’s contention that “death is no big deal,” supposedly referring to the Shia belief in martyrdom.
Iran is a Muslim-majority country, with the U.S. Department of State reporting Muslims constituted approximately 99.4% of the population of about 86.8 million people in 2022. Of the Muslim-majority population, Iran is comprised of about 90-95% Shia Muslims and 5- 10% Sunni Muslims, according to the State Department.
Shia Islam is the second-largest Islamic branch, with Iran being the country with the most Shia Muslims in number and in the percentage of its total population.
Martyrdom is at the foundation of Shia Islam and its pursuit of power and succession after the death of Mohammed has also expanded to socio-political issues in the nation. Today the Iranian revolutionaries of 1979, Iranian soldiers in the Iran-Iraq War and political protestors who were killed are considered to be martyrs in Iran.
Dershowitz condemned the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas, quoting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that the state is in a time of war, saying that Israel is “fighting for its life” against genocide. He denounced claims that Israel has enacted genocide against the Palestinian people in its campaign to eliminate Hamas, touting Israel’s compliance with human rights, civil liberties and enemy civilian laws.
In 2022 the State Department found that Israel had “significant human rights issues,” including violence or threats of violence against Palestinians as well as other racial and ethnic minority groups, and labor rights violations against Palestinians and foreign workers.
“Israel wants nothing more than to live in peace,” Dershowitz said. “As an Israeli prime minister once put it, ‘If our enemies put down their weapons, there would be peace and if we put down our weapons, there would be genocide.’”
Dershowitz blamed Palestinian civilian casualties in the war on Hamas, saying that they are the ones putting civilians in the line of fire for their political advantage. He denied that high rates of Palestinian civilian casualties have actually occurred, questioning how casualties are reported.
Gaza’s Health Ministry has reported more than 15,000 Palestinian casualties in the war without differentiating between civilians and combatants. It said about 70% of deaths were of women and children.
Dershowitz compared the displacement of Palestinians due to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 to the plight of Iranian Jews.
“You were displaced, you were exiled, not from lands that you were in from 20 or 30 years ago, but from lands that you were in 2,000 years ago,” Dershowitz said, with attendees erupting in applause.
“You were displaced. Nobody put you in refugee camps. You built some of the greatest communities in America today: In Los Angeles, in Great Neck, in Israel. It’s a remarkable story that every Palestinian should know about so maybe they would leave their refugee camps and start to make a damn living and work instead of being terrorists.”
Iranian, or Persian, Jews are one of the oldest communities in the Jewish diaspora with a presence in Iran pre-dating the common era by hundreds of years.
While Iran’s constitution protects the rights of non-Muslims, the exodus of Iranian Jews began in the 1950s and continued through the Iranian Revolution and into the 1990s, influenced in part by fear of religious persecution and Iran’s anti-Zionist stance.
The Persian Jewish population in Iran dropped from 150,000 to 100,000 in 1948 and again fell to 80,000 before the Iranian Revolution, mostly attributed to immigration to Israel. Today, approximately 200,000-250,000 Iranian Jews are estimated to live in Israel – the largest population followed by the United States with 60,000-80,000.
Fewer than 10,000 Persian Jews are estimated to still live in Iran, making up a small fraction of its population today.
Persian Jews in Iran faced persecution, including forced conversion to Islam and social restrictions. Tensions arose from 1892 to 1910 through anti-Jewish programs, culminating in an event that resulted in the deaths of 13 Jewish people and the near-starvation of 6,000 Jews in the city of Shiraz.
Anti-Jewish sentiments have continued in the country, despite their minority rights being protected.
Dershowitz said he would never negotiate with terrorists over hostages. He said this would pose risks to hostages, but weighed them against the risks of negotiations.
Dershowitz expressed his support of Israel, saying that its military is what provides Jewish people with the strength to survive.
“We need all the accoutrements of power, otherwise we will be relegated to the dustbins of history,” Dershowitz said.