Alan M. Dershowitz, a Harvard Law professor and one of the nation's leading commentators on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, told about 1,800 people last night at a program commemorating the Holocaust and celebrating the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence that the world continues to be in denial about the intentions of Islamic fundamentalists, who he said have "opted for a culture of death rather than one of peace."
Dershowitz, 69, spoke for about 45 minutes at the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in front of an audience that included Gov. Martin O'Malley, Mayor Sheila Dixon, other state political leaders and dozens of Holocaust survivors. The attorney is a well-known defender of Israel and was critical of Palestine in his address as he argued for a two-state solution.
"When Palestine leaders want their own state and not the destruction of Israel, there will be real peace," Dershowitz said.
The program was sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and the Baltimore Jewish Council. Thursday is Israel's Independence Day.
Arthur C. Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said combining commemorations of the Holocaust and Israel's independence led to the record crowd.
"I'm not linking them, but clearly these are two seminal events in history," he said.
Abramson said about 200 Holocaust survivors live in the area.
Eddie Smolarz, 88, of Owings Mills said he was held in a prison camp in Austria. Smolarz attended the tribute with his son.
"It's a miracle I'm still alive and can see all the things going on tonight," Smolarz said. "I appreciate all the people here."
The program included a memorial procession for grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, lighting of candles, songs and readings, and remarks from O'Malley and Dixon.
Dixon said she plans to go with the Baltimore Jewish Council to Israel later this year.
"Unlike the dark days of World War II, I say to you as a proud American that we will always stand with Israel in her hour of need," Dixon said. "Never again will you face evil alone."
Dershowitz headlined the program, giving a fiery talk centered on what he says is America's denial surrounding events involving the Holocaust. He said the murder of 6 million people could have been prevented had the world been determined to stop it. He said pockets of America honored the Nazis, including the school where he teaches.
He added that lessons learned from the Holocaust include Jewish people "needing a state. A state with a strong military. A state with a desire to make peace."
Dershowitz, the author of more than 20 books, has represented clients including O.J. Simpson, billionaire hotel operator Leona Helmsley, the Rev. Jim Bakker and boxer Mike Tyson.