Alan Dershowitz

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Alan Dershowitz (born 1938) is a Harvard law professor, author, jurist and political pundit. He is most well known for being part of the "Dream Team" of defense lawyers for O.J. Simpson.

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.[1]

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,[2] 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."[3] 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.[4]

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[5] 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's W.svg and William BinneyWikipedia's W.svg 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]

Deshowitz 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 is currently engaged in jihad against the infidel Norman Finkelstein (going so far as to falsely claim that Finkelstein's mother was a Nazi collaborator[6]) 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.[7] 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.”[8]

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.[9] 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.[10] DWB quickly issued a statement denouncing what it described as "a war crime."[11]

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".[12] 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.[13] 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."[14]

Dershowitz has also been accused of sexual assault by two of Epstein's victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre and Sarah Ransome.[13] Giuffre claimed that while she was part of Epstein's underage sex trafficking operation, she had sex with Dershowitz, although Dershowitz denies this.[15]

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".[13]

Other issues[edit]

Deshowitz has stated the Second Amendment has "no place in modern society."[16]

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." Granted that the Hitler analogy came from somewhere, as he was responding to students at Johns Hopkins University who had put Hitler mustaches on posters with his face on them.[17]


  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 minor, 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.