Alan Dershowitz

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Dershowitz in 2018 on MSNBC
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And a dirty dozen more
Alan Dershowitz is one of the world’s most famous lawyers. He is also probably one of the best. If you’re a billionaire accused of serially raping minors, he’s the guy who can get you a non-prosecution agreement and 13 months of “work release” in your own office. Dershowitz is uncommonly talented as an advocate, which is why famous scumbags so often turn to him for help. If I was accused of a hideous crime, and I was told I could have Alan Dershowitz as my lawyer, I would thank my lucky stars.
—Nathan Robinson[1]

Alan Dershowitz (1938–) is an American Harvard law professor, author, jurist and political pundit. He first became famous for his part in the 1982 murder trial of the European socialite Claus von Bülow.[2] He is most well known for being part of the "Dream Team" of defense lawyers for O.J. Simpson as well as defending President Donald Trump during his impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate.

Views on torture[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Torture

Dershowitz, the civil liberties lawyer, has proposed that the government adopt "torture warrants" akin to search warrants. Sounds inhumane? Don't worry, because

The warrant would limit the torture to nonlethal means, such as sterile needles, being inserted beneath the nails to cause excruciating pain without endangering life.[3]

These warrants could only be issued by a judge in case of a ticking time bomb-scenario, and no information elicited could be used in a criminal trial.[note 1] Ostensibly, this would put torture on the legal radar, thus making the perpetrators of it legally accountable. How exactly the implementation of torture warrants in such situations would not expand to others[note 2] (intelligence-gathering in particular) Dershowitz does not address. Dershowitz also is not known to have addressed how an American judge could issue a warrant for an illegal action, so presumably Dershowitz advocates legalizing torture, which would place the U.S. in violation of international law.

Dershowitz has also long and vehemently denied that Israel commits torture,[4] but there exists overwhelming evidence that Israel does, in fact, torture people, including minors.[note 3] Moreover, Israel's version of the FBI — Shin Bet — admits to using torture, or what Israeli military courts refer to as actions "required by necessity", "exceptional questioning", or information acquired by "special means". Indeed, "[t]he Shin Bet is required to report to the court that torture were used, so that the judges will know what weight to give evidence gathered under such means."[5] Most countries disallow such evidence completely. Alan Dershowitz has to know this reality; his denials constitute lying.

Views on Greenwald and Snowden[edit]

As far as Glenn Greenwald is concerned… he doesn't like America, he doesn't like Western democracy, he never met a terrorist he didn't like.
—Dershowitz on Glenn Greenwald.[6]

Dershowitz has strong opinions on activist journalist Glenn Greenwald and whistleblower Edward Snowden. He attacked the former for publishing the latter's revelations about the NSA. Dershowitz claimed that Greenwald liked terrorists, hated America, and only helped Snowden in order to harm America's national security, presumably on the basis that Greenwald has spent much of the post-9/11 era insisting that allegations of terrorism (or simply the fear of it) should not permit the United States government to deny the right to a fair trial or otherwise violate the Constitution. Dershowitz's hypocrisy is at least two-fold: (1) Dershowitz himself defended alleged Jewish Defense League terrorists in court on the grounds that their Constitutional rights had been violated[7] and (2) Dershowitz bills himself as a civil liberties lawyer.

Dershowitz also jumped on the Edward-Snowden-broke-the-law bandwagon instead of using his role as a civil liberties lawyer to attack the illegalities that Snowden exposed. Though he would certainly know better, Dershowitz repeated the discredited mantra that Snowden should have gone through the proper channels before going public. He brushed off the fact that other whistleblowers such as Thomas DrakeWikipedia and William BinneyWikipedia had already tried that and been persecuted and prosecuted, with much of their information on the NSA's abuses leading neither to reforms nor to being learned of by the citizenry.

Punishing critics of Israel[edit]

Dershowitz writes frequently about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even though Dershowitz is a civil liberties lawyer, his books deny or justify many civil liberties abuses Palestinians have been victims of over the last several decades. He engaged in jihad against the infidel Norman Finkelstein (going so far as to falsely claim that Finkelstein's mother was a Nazi collaborator[8]) because Finkelstein insists that it is crucial to have no illusions about Israel's bad behavior and the plight of the Palestinians, whereas Dershowitz enjoys those illusions and is butthurt that someone is trying to destroy them (and because he enjoys being able to brag that he had dinner with whoever happens to currently be Prime Minister of Israel). Dershowitz led the successful campaign to prevent Finkelstein from receiving tenure at DePaul University.[9] Thus did Dershowitz punish an academic for holding too many unflattering views of Israel.

Dershowitz's justification of Israeli crimes often takes the form of whataboutism:

I am reminded of former Harvard President A. Lawrence Lowell’s attempt to start a debate at Harvard in the 1920s about whether the number of Jews should be restricted because Jews cheat. When a distinguished alumnus pointed out that non-Jews also cheat, Lowell replied that the alumnus was trying to change the subject, because Lowell wanted to talk about Jews. So too with divestment. When the human rights records of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, China and other countries are pointed to, those who favor divestment say, “you’re changing the subject; we’re talking about Israel.”[10]

A lot of facts are being ignored here: for one, Egypt and Jordan are propped up with foreign aid from the United States in exchange for peace with Israel, thus enabling their domestic human rights abuses. China and Saudi Arabia hardly go uncriticized by the left; most people who criticize Israel also find it deeply disturbing that the United States is allied with Saudi Arabia and that it benefits from the exploitation of Chinese workers. Most importantly, criticism of Israel and criticism of other states are not mutually exclusive, and Dershowitz is being intellectually dishonest to claim that Israel is the only state that is ever criticized. Moreover, this ignores the fact that Israel is touted as a modern democracy that respects human rights, in stark contrast with its Arab neighbors (indeed, supporters often call it the "only democracy in the Middle East"). Thus, it might be argued, criticism and possibly sanctions is justifiable even more to hold up the high standards claimed. Israel has more ties with the West too, and thus they may be more influenced than many countries (it also cannot easily ignore sanctions, unlike say China).

Defending bombing of Doctors Without Borders hospital[edit]

On October 3, 2015, for some 30 minutes a U.S.gunship fired on a Doctors Without Borders (DWB) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 12 staff members and at least 10 patients while wounding 37 others.[11] The Pentagon issued ever-changing explanations as to how and why this likely war crime occurred, first arguing it was an "accident" before finally admitting they deliberately bombed a hospital because they believed some of the patients were Taliban members.[12] DWB quickly issued a statement denouncing what it described as "a war crime."[13]

Dershowitz defended this atrocity and demonstrated complete contempt for the brave medical staff of DWB, claiming it is "is a heavily ideological organization that often favors radical groups over Western democracies and is highly politicized." He additionally sniped that this humanitarian organization should be called "Doctors Without Morals".[14] Whether Alan "torture warrants" Dershowitz is fit to opine on anyone else's morality is not a question he addressed.

Sexual allegations[edit]

Dershowitz was an acquaintance of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and acted as part of Epstein's legal team,[15] with their friendship being so strong that Dershowitz allowed Epstein to read the transcripts of his books before they were published.[16] When asked to clarify his relationship with Epstein, Dershowitz said that he knew Epstein "academically", attending seminars, although he didn't deny claims from an NPR reporter who told Dershowitz, "you've been an overnight guest at his homes. You flew with him on his private jet a number of times. You borrowed his Palm Beach house for a family vacation."[17]

Dershowitz has also been accused of sexual assault by two of Epstein's victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre and Sarah Ransome.[15][18] Giuffre claimed that while she was part of Epstein's underage sex trafficking operation, she had sex with Dershowitz, although Dershowitz denies this.[19] Dershowitz admitted to getting a "massage" at Epstein's mansion, but insists it was from an adult woman and that it wasn't sexual because "I kept my underwear on."[20]

In view of his links with Epstein, it's a bit worrying that in 1997 Dershowitz wrote an op-ed claiming that current laws on statutory rape were outdated and the age of consent should be lowered to 15 or 14; he wrote "It is obvious that there must be criminal sanctions against sex with very young children, but it is doubtful whether such sanctions should apply to teenagers above the age of puberty, since voluntary sex is so common in their age group".[15]

Defense of Trump[edit]

Although a Democrat, Dershowitz has his own Trump-like anti-Muslim problems. He threatened to quit the party if Keith Ellison were appointed DNC chair.[21] He campaigned against Trump in the 2016 election and opposed many of his policies.[22][23] Even so, since Trump's presidency Dershowitz has become a Trump defender against criminal allegations and a critic of Trump's impeachment.[24][25] In 2018 he even published a book, The Case Against Impeaching Trump.[26] In 2020 Dershowitz joined Trump's defense team at the impeachment trial, declaring he would accept no pay and saying he'd limit this to constitutional arguments.[27][28] Dershowitz stated proof of crime was required for impeaching a President, contradicting his previous remarks on Bill Clinton.[29] He then retracted the past statement.[30] At Trump's impeachment trial, he drew controversy by arguing that if a President does something that will help them get elected in the public interest, that kind of quid pro quo cannot lead to impeachment.[31] Dershowitz later said he'd been mischaracterized, saying a President can't commit crimes.[32]


See the main article on this topic: The Case For Israel

In the first appendix to his book, Beyond Chutzpah: On The Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (which Dershowitz attempted to stop the publication of because the book was highly critical of him and his work[33]), author Norman Finkelstein shows twenty examples of Dershowitz plagiarizing the book From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab–Jewish Conflict over Palestine in his book The Case for Israel.[34]

Despite Dershowitz's broad and unapologetic use of plagiarism for his 'own'[note 4] book, he nonetheless had the chutzpah to join the right-wing attack on Claudine Gay, who ultimately resigned as president of Harvard in part for plagiarism.[35][36] In contrast, Dershowitz is not known to have suffered any consequences for his plagiarism.

Accusations of Anti-Semitism[edit]

In response to Dershowitz's defense of Steve Bannon against allegations of antisemitism, Nathan Robinson and Oren Nimni made a full list of people Dershowitz has accused of this exact same thing.[37] (Few of them have had their ex-wife say in court they "don't like Jews" and refused to send their daughter to a certain school because of its high Jewish population.[38]) Examples include:

  • Desmond Tutu[39]
  • Stephen Hawking[40]
  • Jimmy Carter[41]
  • Supporters of Keith Ellison[42]
  • Black Lives Matter[43]
  • Doctors Without Borders[44]
  • (Jewish) UN Human Rights jurist Richard Goldstone[45]
  • Media Matters For America[46]
  • Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York[47]
  • (Also Jewish) Alternet journalist Max Blumenthal[48]
  • (Also Jewish) political scientist Norman Finkelstein[49]
  • Slate[50]
  • Harvard students who signed a divestment petition[51]
  • Harvard University President Nathan Pusey[52]
  • Anyone paying attention to the allegations that Dershowitz had sex with an underage girl[53]

Other issues[edit]

Dershowitz has stated the Second Amendment has "no place in modern society."[54]

In 2015, Dershowitz went full-Godwin on Fox News by comparing college students protesting in support of campus diversity with students who "first started burning books during the Nazi regime." In fairness, the Hitler analogy is kind of understandable, as he was responding to students at Johns Hopkins University who had put Hitler mustaches on posters with his face on them.[55]

Dershowitz represented Jeffrey Epstein for many years in the 2000s. He's been accused of rape by a woman whom Epstein allegedly pimped out. Both he and the victim are suing each other for defamation.[56]

Dershowitz is an election denier, having sided with Trump ally and failed Arizona Governatorial candidate Kari Lake over allegations that the 2022 Arizona elections were tainted.[57] The 2022 Arizona Elections are a source of a defamation lawsuit against Kari Lake and her legal team.[58]


  1. We're sure torture victims suspects' greatest concern would be whether a prosecutor would be able to use confessions elicited under torture as evidence against them and that they would be relieved and grateful that Dershowitz proposes these legal safeguards…
  2. Before someone starts crying "Slippery slope fallacy!" here, please keep in mind the multiple examples of how "extraordinary powers" have tended to become nothing more than "standard practice" in both the War on Drugs and War on Terror, such as blanket NSA surveillance. The rights contained in such documents as the Bill of Rights and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights are there for good reasons.
  3. The Committee on the Rights of Children, charged by the UN to monitor the treatment of minors, found that: "[Palestinian children are] systematically subject to physical and verbal violence, humiliation, painful restraints, hooding of the head and face in a sack, threatened with death, physical violence, and sexual assault against themselves or members of their family, restricted access to toilet, food and water. These crimes are perpetrated from the time of arrest, during transfer and interrogation, to obtain a confession but also on an arbitrary basis as testified by several Israeli soldiers as well as during pretrial detention.” The Telegraph.
  4. Dershowitz has been accused by Finkelstein of having neither written nor read the book.[35]


  3. Want to torture? Get a warrant, SFGate, January 22, 2002
  4. Dershowitz, Alan. Chutzpah, pp. 224-226, 1991.
  6. YouTube video in which Dershowitz says Greenwald "never met a terrorist he didn't like"
  7. Dershowitz, Alan. The Case Against Israel's Enemies, pp. 49-50, 2008.
  8. See the Wayback Machine's capture of Dershowitz's perfidy.
  10. The Petitioner's Big Lie, 2002
  13. October 4, 2015 statement from Médecins Sans Frontières, French for Doctors Without Borders.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 "Dershowitz defends ’97 column claiming statutory rape an ‘outdated concept’", Times of Israel, 31 July 2019
  17. Alan Dershowitz Denies Epstein Rape Accusations And Defends Role In Sweetheart Deal, NPR, July 15, 2019
  18. Kylie Cheung, It’s Been Quite the Week for Alan Dershowitz. Jezebel, 4 January 2024.
  19. Alleged victim of Jeffrey Epstein files a defamation lawsuit against Alan Dershowitz, CNN, April 17, 2019
  20. "Alan Dershowitz: Sure I Got a Massage at Jeffrey Epstein’s Mansion, but I Kept My Underwear On", The Root, 12 July 2019
  21. Alan Dershowitz: If Keith Ellison is Appointed DNC Chair, I Will Resign My Membership
  22. When Politics Is Criminalized
  23. Is Alan Dershowitz defending Trump? Not quite, he says
  24. Dershowitz: No Case For Obstruction Of Justice Against Trump, Would Be "Constitutional Crisis"
  25. What’s So Criminal About “Colluding” With Russia Anyway? Dershowitz Says Flynn Indictment “Strangest” He’s Ever Seen
  26. A book about impeachment that Donald Trump likes so much, he tweeted about it
  27. Alan Dershowitz, marred by ties to Jeffrey Epstein, will defend Trump at impeachment trial
  28. Lawyer Alan Dershowitz DRaws Line On His Role In Trump Impeachment Defense
  29. Alan Dershowitz once said you can be impeached without committing a crime. Now he says you can't be.
  30. Alan Dershowitz: 'I retract' 1998 claim no technical crime required for impeachment
  31. Trump lawyer Dershowitz argues President can't be impeached for act he thinks will help his reelection
  32. Dershowitz: Trump pursuing quid pro quo to help re-election is not impeachable
  33. Chutzpah and free speech by Jon Wiener (July 11, 2005 12 AM PT) Los Angeles Times.
  34. Beyond Chutzaph: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History by Norman G. Finkelstein, pages 232-242
  35. 35.0 35.1 Norman Finkelstein BLASTS Alan Dershowitz for Committing Plagiarism And Attacking Claudine Gay by Marc Lamont Hill (Jan 4, 2024) YouTube.
  36. The plagiarism allegations against ex-Harvard president Claudine Gay, explained by Sophia Nguyen (January 4, 2024 at 8:03 p.m. EST) The Washington Post.
  54. Expert Panel Debates Gun Control, The Harvard Crimson, April 9, 2003
  55. Alan Dershowitz on College Protests: "Fog Of Fascism Is Descending," "These Students Are Book-Burners"
  56. Alan Dershowitz talks ties to Jeffrey Epstein after clashing with Whoopi Goldberg on 'The View'
  57. Alan Dershowitz ordered to pay limited sanctions in Arizona election case, Reuters, 17 July 2023.
  58. Defamation case against Kari Lake, filed by Stephen Richer, will go forward, judge says, Arizona Republic, 26 December 2023.