|Born||September 1, 1938
Brooklyn, New York, United States
|Ethnicity||Jewish (see Ethnoreligious group)|
|Institutions||Harvard Law School|
|Alma mater||Brooklyn College
Yale Law School
|Doctoral students||Eliot Spitzer|
Alan Morton Dershowitz (born September 1, 1938) is an American lawyer, jurist, and political commentator. He is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Dershowitz is known for his career as an attorney in several high-profile law cases and as a commentator on the Arab-Israeli conflict. He has spent most of his career at Harvard, where, at the age of 28, he became the youngest full professor of law in its history.
As a criminal appellate lawyer, Dershowitz has won thirteen out of the fifteen murder and attempted murder cases he has handled. Notable cases include his successful argument that overturned the conviction of Claus von Bülow for the attempted murder of Bülow's wife, and his role as the appellate advisor for the defense in the criminal trial of O.J. Simpson.
Dershowitz was born to Orthodox Jewish parents, in the Williamsburg neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, and grew up in Borough Park. His mother, Claire, died on August 12, 2008. His father, Harry Dershowitz (May 8, 1909–April 26, 1984) was a founder and president of the Young Israel Synagogue in the 1960s, served on the board of directors of the Etz Chaim School in Borough Park, and in retirement was co-owner of the Manhattan-based Merit Sales Company. His paternal grandfather, Louis Dershowitz, was an immigrant from Pilzno, Poland. His brother Nathan, was counsel for the American Jewish Congress when their father died, and is a partner in the New York City law firm Dershowitz, Eiger & Adelson.
Dershowitz attended Yeshiva University High School, where he played on the basketball team. He was a rebellious student, often criticized by his teachers. The school's career placement center, however, told him that he had talent and was capable of becoming an advertising executive, funeral director, or salesman. In a video interview on Leadel.NET, a Jewish media portal, Dershowitz later said that his "teachers said I should do something that requires a big mouth and no brain ... so I became a lawyer." In another interview, when asked what he considered to be his "big breaks," Dershowitz said that he "had never been very good in school," so they included being told by a camp counselor at age 14 or 15 that "I was smart but my mind operated a little differently."
After graduation from high school, he attended Brooklyn College and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1959. Next he attended Yale Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. He graduated first in his class with a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) in 1962.
After being admitted to the bar, Dershowitz served as a law clerk for David L. Bazelon, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Dershowitz has said that "Bazelon was my best and worst boss at once...He worked me to the bone; he didn't hesitate to call at 2 a.m. He taught me everything–how to be a civil libertarian, a Jewish activist, a mensch. He was halfway between a slave master and a father figure"
During the 1963-1964 term, Dershowitz served as law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Arthur Goldberg. Dershowitz has said that "getting a Supreme Court clerkship" was "probably" his second "big break".
He joined the faculty of Harvard Law School as an assistant professor of law in 1964. He was made a full professor in 1967 at the age of 28, at that time the youngest full professor of law in the school's history. He was appointed the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law in 1993, succeeding Abram Chayes.
Much of Dershowitz's legal career has focused on criminal law, and his clients have included high-profile figures such as Patricia Hearst, Harry Reems, Leona Helmsley, Jim Bakker, Mike Tyson, Michael Milken, O.J. Simpson and Kirtanananda Swami. While representing Claus von Bülow he had the conviction overturned on appeal; in a retrial, von Bülow was acquitted. Dershowitz told the story of the case in his book, Reversal of Fortune. In the movie version, Dershowitz was played by actor/activist Ron Silver, and Dershowitz himself had a cameo as a judge. Regarding the O.J. Simpson murder case, about which he wrote the book Reasonable Doubts (which includes "an extensive discussion of both the glove and the sock and the forensic evidence"), Dershowitz evaluates the importance of that case for jurisprudence and for his own overall career: "the Simpson case will not be remembered in the next century. It will not rank as one of the trials of the century. It will not rank with the Nuremberg trials, the Rosenberg trial, Sacco and Vanzetti. It is on par with Leopold and Loeb and the Lindbergh case, all involving celebrities. It is also not one of the most important cases of my own career. I would rank it somewhere in the middle in terms of interest and importance." 
Dershowitz comments regularly on issues related to Judaism, Israel, civil liberties, the War on Terror, and the First Amendment, and appears frequently in the mainstream media as a guest commentator. Dershowitz is an outspoken commentator on the history and politics of Israel. He has engaged in highly publicized media confrontations regarding torture and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict with Rabbi Meir Kahane, Norman Finkelstein, and former President Jimmy Carter, among others.
In spring 2002, as reported later by the Harvard Crimson, a "petition, which calls for Harvard and MIT to divest from Israel and from American companies that sell arms to Israel, [and which] also calls for the U.S. government to stop supplying weapons until four specific conditions are met by the Israeli government," gathered over 600 signatures, including 74 from the Harvard faculty and 56 from MIT faculty members. Among the signatures was that of Harvard's Winthrop House Master Paul D. Hanson, who "signed the petition as a professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations" and whom Dershowitz "publicly challenged...to a debate over the Israel divestment petition." But "saying Hanson had turned down his offer, Dershowitz staged a solo debate in the Winthrop Junior Common Room [at Harvard]. Standing beside a chair with a copy of the petition taped to it, he said students and professors who had signed the petition were antisemitic and knew 'basically nothing about the Middle East.'" According to Adams, "'Your House master is a bigot and you ought to know that,' he told the crowd of about 200 students. 'Everyone else who signed that petition is also a bigot.'" In his presentation to the students,
Dershowitz reviewed the four conditions demanded by the petition and argued Israel was already in compliance," saying "It’s a little bit strange that there should be such a huge debate about four issues which have already been resolved".... He said he personally supports a Palestinian state but argued that, compared with other groups seeking statehood, Palestinians hold a lower "moral priority" because they rejected a U.N. proposal for dividing the Middle East after the Second World War that included the creation of a Palestinian state. Dershowitz also said Israel should not be singled out as a violator of human rights. He said Israel stands among the top ten most rights-conscious nations in the world.... "By any criteria, Israel’s record on human rights is better than any country in the Middle East," he said.... He cited examples of human rights violations in countries that the U.S. supports, such as the execution of homosexuals in Egypt and the repression of women in Saudi Arabia.... Dershowitz said he distinguishes between criticizing the Israeli government and signing the divestment petition. He said criticism of the government, which he said he participates in, is not inherently anti-semitic, while signing the petition is.... He also threatened to sue any professor who votes against the tenure of another based on the candidate’s ties to Israel, calling them "ignoramuses with Ph.D.’s."
According to Adams, "Many members of the audience, which generally supported Dershowitz and applauded for him several times, said they appreciated the presentation.... 'I thought it was great,' said Rachel S. Weinerman ’03, a student in Dunster House. 'This type of honest sentiment about the divestment petition has long been warranted.'" However, many other students thought the attacks were simply offensive and without academic merit, 'It’s an offensive thing for a professor to say about a House master for a large number of Harvard students,' ... adding Dershowitz's agenda 'clearly overstepped his bounds as a professor."
On March 11, 2002 Dershowitz published an article in The Jerusalem Post entitled "New Response to Palestinian Terrorism." In it, he says that "to succeed [in deterrence and retaliation], Israel must turn the Palestinian leadership and people against the use of terrorism and the terrorists themselves." He proposed that "Israel should announce an immediate unilateral cessation in retaliation," which would be a short moratorium "to give the Palestinian leadership an opportunity to respond to the new policy." Further:
Following the end of the moratorium, Israel would institute the following new policy if Palestinian terrorism were to resume. It will announce precisely what it will do in response to the next act of terrorism. For example, it could announce the first act of terrorism following the moratorium will result in the destruction of a small village which has been used as a base for terrorist operations. The residents would be given 24 hours to leave, and then troops will come in and bulldoze all of the buildings.
The response will be automatic. The order will have been given in advance of the terrorist attacks and there will be no discretion. The point is to make the automatic destruction of the village the fault of the Palestinian terrorists who had advance warnings of the specific consequences of their action.
He goes on to add that "[f]urther acts of terrorism would trigger further destruction of specifically named locations. The 'waiting list' targets would be made public and circulated throughout the Palestinian-controlled areas."
Dershowitz's proposal stimulated much criticism at Harvard University and beyond. James Bamford, a columnist with The Washington Post, argued that "demolishing the homes of innocent relatives of those involved in suicide bombing," which Dershowitz "analyzed" in that book, is "a practice outlawed under international law." Norman Finkelstein, in his book Beyond Chutzpah, went even further, commenting that "it is hard to make out any difference between the policy Dershowitz advocates and the Nazi destruction of Lidice, for which he expresses abhorrence-except that Jews, not Germans, would be implementing it."
In 1972, according to his critics, Dershowitz attempted to discredit Israel Shahak (1933–2001), then president of the Israel League for Human and Civil Rights, who had sharply criticized Israeli treatment of Palestinians. Shahak was in the process of challenging contested election results for the chairmanship of the Israel League in a legal civil action. Dershowitz claimed that Judge Lovenburg, the judge presiding in Shahak's civil suit, had ruled that Shahak was properly unseated, and Dershowitz challenged anyone to provide evidence to the contrary. In response, Noam Chomsky argued that the court had opined that the elections had not been held properly, that no conclusions or actions were to be drawn from it, and that Shahak and his colleagues were to continue to function as "those who now direct" the Israel League for Human and Civil Rights. The controversy initiated by this dispute has fuelled ongoing personal animosity between Dershowitz and Chomsky, both known as outspoken academics holding opposite positions on issues pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, for over 35 years. An exchange concerning a letter about the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon signed by Chomsky and others was published in Z Magazine on September 6, 2006. (See References: Alan Dershowitz and Noam Chomsky.)
Shortly after the publication of Dershowitz's 2003 book The Case for Israel a debate was broadcast by Democracy Now!, a news radio and television program, where Norman Finkelstein, in what he called a "scholarly judgment," said that the book is "a collection of fraud, falsification, plagiarism and nonsense." To demonstrate his point, Finkelstein gave series of examples throughout the show, one of which was pointing out a long quote from Mark Twain appearing on pages 23–24 of The Case for Israel which was "an identical quote...With the ellipsis at the same places" directly taken from pages 159-160 of From Time Immemorial written by Joan Peters without making any reference to Joan Peters. Dershowitz argued that the quote was a correct quote by Mark Twain to whom he gave credit.
Since then, there have been number of reactions by various figures, such as Harvard University President Derek Bok who investigated the charges at the request of the Law School's dean, Elena Kagan. Bok determined that no plagiarism had occurred. Dershowitz and some of his prominent supporters assert that what Finkelstein calls plagiarism is in fact standard scholarly practice.
In an April 3, 2007 interview with the Harvard Crimson, "Dershowitz confirmed that he had sent a letter last September to DePaul faculty members lobbying against Finkelstein's tenure." The De Paul University Liberal Arts and Sciences' Faculty Governance Council voted unanimously to send a letter to Harvard University expressing "the council's dismay at Professor Dershowitz's interference in Finkelstein's tenure and promotion case." In June 2007, DePaul University denied Finkelstein tenure.
In March 2006, John Mearsheimer, Wendell Harrison Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and author of The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, and Stephen Walt, Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and author of Taming American Power: The Global Response to US Primacy, co-authored a controversial working paper entitled "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," about which an extensive debate was subsequently published in The London Review of Books. In their working paper, Professors Mearsheimer and Walt criticize what they describe as "the Israel Lobby" for influencing U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East in a direction away from U.S. interests and toward Israel's interests. They refer to Dershowitz specifically as an “apologist” for the Israel lobby. In an interview conducted on March 20, 2006, cited in The Harvard Crimson, Dershowitz "vehemently disputed the article’s assertions, repeatedly calling it 'one-sided' and its authors 'liars' and 'bigots.'” In an appearance on MSNBC's Scarborough Country televised the next day, Dershowitz suggested that the working paper was plagiarized from various hate sites: "every paragraph virtually is copied from a neo-Nazi Web site, from a radical Islamic Web site, from David Duke’s Web site." Subsequently, Dershowitz wrote an extensive report challenging the factual basis of their essay, calling into question the motivations of the authors and their scholarship. His report claims that the "paper contains three types of major errors: quotations are wrenched out of context, important facts are misstated or omitted, and embarrassingly weak logic is employed."
In a letter published in the London Review of Books in May 2006, Mearsheimer and Walt responded to Dershowitz's contention that they used racist sources for their article, stating that "Dershowitz offers no evidence to support this false claim."
In July 2006, Dershowitz wrote a series of articles defending the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict against the international outcry regarding escalating Lebanese civilian deaths and the destruction of Lebanese civilian infrastructure resulting from Israel's stated attempt to weaken or to destroy Hezbollah which wields considerable political power and influence in Lebanon. After the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour indicated that Israeli officials might be investigated and indicted for possible war crimes, Dershowitz labeled Arbour's statement "bizarre" in an editorial, calling specifically for her dismissal and inveighing more generally against the "absurdity and counterproductive nature of current international law."
In an editorial published in The Boston Globe several days later, Dershowitz argues that "the international community, the anti-Israel segment of the media, and human rights organizations" should not blame Israel for any dead civilians. "Israel has every self-interest in minimizing civilian casualties, whereas the terrorists have every self-interest in maximizing them– on both sides. Israel should not be condemned for doing what every democracy would and should do: taking every reasonable military step to stop the killing of their own civilians."
In his appearance at the Truth, Light and Freedom Rally at Beth Tzedec Synagogue in Toronto, Canada, "a rally...organized by the UJA [United Jewish Agency] Federation of Greater Toronto, Canadian Jewish Congress Ontario Region and the Holocaust Centre of Toronto," on December 21, 2006, Dershowitz spoke "about the danger Iran poses to Israel and the rest of the world" at this "held at the Beth Tzedec Synogogue in Toronto, Canada, Alan Dershowitz accused "Iran...of incitement to genocide," according to Sheri Shefa, a staff reporter for The Canadian Jewish News:
Speaking in response to the recent Holocaust denial conference in Iran and Iran’s goal to develop nuclear weapons, Dershowitz, an outspoken defender of Israel, said that although Holocaust denial is about the past, it is used to influence the present and the future.... “The purpose of Holocaust denial is to delegitimate Israel, to demonize Jews and to legitimate attacks on Israel and attacks on Jews,” Dershowitz said.... He added that because of the world’s obsession with Israel, Jews are not the only victims, as other issues in the world, such as the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and the current genocide in Darfur, have been largely ignored by the international community.... “Six million additional people have died since the end of the Second World War because of this obsessive focus on Israel,” Dershowitz said....
In his 2006 book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States and winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, argues that "Israel's continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land." Carter states in Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid that Israel's current policies in the Palestinian territories constitute "a system of apartheid, with two peoples occupying the same land but completely separated from each other, with Israelis totally dominant and suppressing violence by depriving Palestinians of their basic human rights." Carter's self-defined purpose in writing the book is to "present facts about the Middle East that are largely unknown in America, to precipitate discussion and to help restart peace talks (now absent for six years) that can lead to permanent peace for Israel and its neighbors."
In an op-ed, some newspaper articles, media appearances, and blog posts at The Huffington Post, Dershowitz has taken issue with President Carter's points of view and has challenged him to debate the matters in public at Brandeis University. Carter has publicly declined to visit Brandeis to discuss the book due to the request that he debate Dershowitz as a condition of the visit:
"I don't want to have a conversation even indirectly with Dershowitz," Carter said in Friday's [December 15, 2006] Boston Globe. "There is no need . . . to debate somebody who, in my opinion, knows nothing about the situation in Palestine."
The school's debate request, Carter said, is proof that many in the United States are unwilling to hear an alternative view on the nation's most taboo foreign policy issue, Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory. . . . "There is no debate in America about anything that would be critical of Israel," he said.
"President Carter said he wrote the book because he wanted to encourage more debate; then why won't he debate?" said Dershowitz. . . .
Carter’s refusal to debate wouldn’t be so strange if it weren’t for the fact that he claims that he wrote the book precisely so as to start debate over the issue of the Israel-Palestine peace process. If that were really true, Carter would be thrilled to have the opportunity to debate.... When Jimmy Carter's ready to speak at Brandeis, or anywhere else, I'll be there. If he refuses to debate, I will still be there––ready and willing to answer falsity with truth in the court of public opinion."
Subsequently, Brandeis University and President Carter came to an agreement about his visit, which they said would have no pre-conditions. The event, which occurred on January 23, 2007, was open only to Brandeis students, faculty, and staff, and the university refused to make an exception allowing Dershowitz to attend the speech, although he was invited to present a response after Carter's speech concluded. The day after the speech, on January 24, 2007, The New York Times reported on Carter's speech in "At Brandeis, Jimmy Carter Responds to Critics":
Questions were preselected by the committee that invited Mr. Carter, and the questioners included an Israeli student and a Palestinian student... After Mr. Carter left, Mr. Dershowitz spoke in the same gymnasium, saying that the former president oversimplified the situation and that his conciliatory and sensible-sounding speech at Brandeis belied his words in some other interviews.... “There are two different Jimmy Carters,” Mr. Dershowitz said. “You heard the Brandeis Jimmy Carter today, and he was terrific. I support almost everything he said. But if you listen to the Al Jazeera Jimmy Carter, you’ll hear a very different perspective.”
During his response, Dershowitz stated that, "if" he had "been allowed to be in the audience" of Carter's speech to ask a question or offer a rebuttal, he would have asked one question of Carter: "...were you ever asked to give your advice to Arafat as whether to accept or reject an offer [of a separate state for the Palestinians] at Camp David?" Dershowitz went on to assert that, had President Carter done so, and had Arafat rejected such an offer on Carter's advice, Carter himself would have been "responsible" for the situation of the Palestinians today.
The Doha Debates
In April 2009, Dershowitz participated in the Doha Debates at Georgetown University in Washington DC, where he debated against the motion "this house believes that it is time for the USA to get tough on Israel" with fellow speaker Dore Gold, President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Speakers for the motion were Avraham Burg, former Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and former Speaker of the Knesset and Michael Scheuer, former Chief of the CIA Bin Laden Issue Station. He lost the debate, with 63% of the audience voting for the motion.
Dershowitz was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 1979, and was in 1983 a recipient of the William O. Douglas First Amendment Award from the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai Brith for his work in civil rights. He has been awarded honorary doctorates in law from Yeshiva University, the Hebrew Union College, Monmouth College, University of Haifa, Syracuse University, Fitchburg State College, Bar-Ilan University, and Brooklyn College.
He has been described by Newsweek as America's "most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer and one of its most distinguished defenders of individual rights" and by Corriere della Sera as "America's most famous progressive lawyer."
In June 2005 he was among an "elite group" of twenty guests invited to participate in a "brain-storming session" on "Alternate Futures for the Jewish People," held at the Aspen Institute Wye River Conference Center (formerly "Wye Plantation"), near Washington, D.C.
On November 18, 2007, Alan Dershowitz was awarded The Soviet Jewry Freedom Award by the Russian Jewish Community Foundation.
In 1976, Dershowitz handled the successful appeal of Harry Reems, who had been convicted of distribution of obscenity resulting from his acting in the pornographic movie Deep Throat. In public debates, Dershowitz commonly argues against censorship of pornography on First Amendment grounds and maintains that consumption of pornography is not harmful. For several years, Dershowitz has written the monthly column "Justice" and related articles in the pages of Penthouse magazine and testified on legal issues pertaining to pornography. Dershowitz wrote around 75 articles published in various issues of Penthouse Magazine between 1977-1991, mainly between 1985-1988.
In 1990, Dershowitz sued The Boston Globe over an alleged quotation that Mike Barnicle had attributed to him in that newspaper. Dershowitz allegedly said he preferred Oriental women because they are deferential to men. Dershowitz and the Globe settled the suit out of court, and, reportedly, Dershowitz was awarded $75,000 as a result of the out-of-court settlement. Barnicle wrote his essay in response to Dershowitz's public feud with Massachusetts Senate President William M. Bulger (see below).
In a 1994 The New York Times article, "Accomplices to Perjury," he said:
Dershowitz is one of a number of scholars at Harvard Law School who have expressed their support for limited animal rights. In his Rights from Wrongs: A Secular Theory of the Origins of Rights, he writes that, in order to avoid human beings treating each other the way we treat animals, we have made what he calls the "somewhat arbitrary decision" to single out our own species for different and better treatment. "Does this subject us to the charge of speciesism? Of course it does, and we cannot justify it, except by the fact that in the world in which we live, humans make the rules. That reality imposes on us a special responsibility to be fair and compassionate to those on whom we impose our rules. Hence the argument for animal rights."
Dershowitz is strongly opposed to firearms ownership and the Second Amendment, saying that it is "an anachronistic drafting disaster that does not belong in any constitution or bill of rights." However, he is opposed to repealing the amendment because he feels doing so would open the way for further revisions to the Bill of Rights and Constitution. In a telephone interview with reporter Dan Gifford, he stated that:
"Foolish liberals who are trying to read the Second Amendment out of the Constitution by claiming it's not an individual right or that it's too much of a public safety hazard don't see the danger in the big picture. They're courting disaster by encouraging others to use the same means to eliminate portions of the Constitution they don't like."
While William ("Bill") M. Bulger served as Massachusetts Senate President (and afterwards), Alan Dershowitz was a prominent critic. Dershowitz and fellow attorney Harvey Silverglate attended a Governor’s Council hearing on a Bulger associate, Paul Mahoney, who was nominated for a District Court judicial appointment. Bulger appeared at the meeting and questioned the integrity and motives of Dershowitz and Silverglate."
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Dershowitz published an essay in the San Francisco Chronicle entitled "Want to Torture? Get a Warrant," in which he advocates the issuance of warrants permitting the torture of terrorism suspects if there were an "absolute need to obtain immediate information in order to save lives coupled with probable cause that the suspect had such information and is unwilling to reveal it."
Dershowitz says that he is personally against the use of torture, yet he argues that authorities should be permitted to use non-lethal torture in a "ticking bomb" scenario, regardless of international legal prohibitions; that it would be less destructive to the rule of law to regulate the process than to leave such permission to the discretion of individual law-enforcement agents. He favors preventing the government from prosecuting the subject of such torture based upon information revealed during such an interrogation. Moreover, he argues: "If torture is going to be administered as a last resort in the ticking-bomb case, to save enormous numbers of lives, [then] it ought to be done openly, with accountability, with approval by the president of the United States or by a Supreme Court justice."
Some other civil libertarians are not persuaded by Dershowitz's rationalization for the sanctioning of torture to extract information from uncooperative captured suspected terrorists in such a hypothetical "ticking bomb" scenario. For example, Harvey A. Silverglate, co-founder (with Alan Charles Kors) of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), asserts that because, in such cases, jury nullification and executive clemency could protect law enforcement, "our legal system is perfectly capable of dealing with the exceptional hard case without enshrining the notion that it is okay to torture a fellow human being."
William F. Schulz, the Executive Director of the U.S. section of Amnesty International, finds Dershowitz's hypothetical ticking-bomb scenario unrealistic because, Schulz counters, it would require that "the authorities know that a bomb has been planted somewhere; know it is about to go off; know that the suspect in their custody has the information they need to stop it; know that the suspect will yield that information accurately in a matter of minutes if subjected to torture; and know that there is no other way to obtain it." Bill Goodman of the Center for Constitutional Rights, debating Dershowitz on CNN, argues that Dershowitz's proposal would create a "very slippery slope" and that torture would "happen under more than those exceptional circumstances. It's going to start becoming the regular, rather than the unusual."
James Bamford, in his column for The Washington Post of September 8, 2002, reviews Dershowitz's "idea of torture" and describes "[o]ne form of torture recommended by Dershowitz --'the sterilized needle being shoved under the fingernails'" as "chillingly Nazi-like."
In a debate with David D. Cole, professor at Georgetown University Law Center, Dershowitz stated: "I want to make sure that if my government ever does this horrible, terrible, extraordinary thing, that somebody takes responsibility for it and that it be out there in the open and subject to accountability,” ... “Though I understand the danger of legitimating something that should not be legitimated, on balance in a democracy, I prefer accountability".
The "ticking time bomb scenario" is subject of the drama The Dershowitz Protocol by Canadian author Robert Fothergill. In that play, the American government has established a protocol of "intensified interrogation" for terrorist suspects which requires participation of the FBI, CIA and the Department of Justice. The drama deals with the psychological pressure and the tense triangle of competences under the overriding importance that each participant has to negotiate the actions with his conscience. The play is directly linked to the debate caused by Dershowitz' article.
Professor Dershowitz spoke on the television news regarding New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's alleged use of a prostitute, saying on CNN that reaction to the charges was "overblown" and that he saw no reason for Governor Spitzer to resign. On MSNBC, Dershowitz said, "You know, big deal ... In Europe this wouldn't even make the back pages of the newspaper." Spitzer previously served as a research assistant to Dershowitz.
Dershowitz suggested that any alleged offense by Spitzer would be only a "minor misdemeanor." CNN noted that Spitzer had been accused of transporting a woman across state lines for the purposes of prostitution, a felony punishable by ten years in federal prison under the Mann Act.
Cardinal Józef Glemp has been accused of antisemitism, most notably by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz. "Cardinal Glemp has made a career out of blaming the Jews for all of Poland's ills, including 'spreading communism,' 'plying [Polish] peasants with alcohol' and even anti-Semitism," Dershowitz wrote in an article for the Jerusalem Post in 2007.
In the late 1980s, Dershowitz filed a defamation suit against Glemp, then the Archbishop of Warsaw, on behalf of Rabbi Avi Weiss. Glemp had accused Weiss and six other New York Jews of attacking nuns at a much-disputed convent on the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Cardinal Glemp's statement about Rabbi Weiss, made in July 1989, was coupled with suggestions that Jews control the world's news media and was widely viewed as anti-semitic in tone. A full account of the lawsuit appears in Dershowitz's 1991 bestseller, Chutzpah.
As he already knew the details of the Shahak affair, Chomsky wasted no time in replying to Dershowitz's letter to the Globe, which, in turn, incited Dershowitz to denounce Chomsky and ask for proof in the form of court records. Chomsky happened to be in possession of these:
- I . . . wrote a letter quoting them, which showed that he was a complete liar, as well as a Stalinist-style thug (that was implicit; I didn't bother saying it). He continued to try to brazen his way out, and was finally told by the Globe ombudsman that they would publish no more of his lies on the matter (that was after I'd sent the original Court records and a translation to English to the Globe, who had requested documentation so they could assess Dershowitz's increasingly hysterical charges). Ever since then, Dershowitz has been on a crazed jihad, dedicating much of his life to trying to destroy my reputation. (March 31, 1995)
Dershowitz sent letters, which he declined to provide to the Globe, to a variety of University of California Press officials, and even to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is an ex officio member of the University of California's board of regents. "I told the UC press, 'If you say I didn't write the book or plagiarized it, I will own your company,'" said Dershowitz, who argued that Finkelstein's accusations are a ploy for publicity. "The First Amendment protects mistakes that are inadvertent, but it doesn't prevent willful lies." Finkelstein, who teaches at DePaul University in Chicago, wrote in an e-mail to Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan last year that his book would document that Dershowitz plagiarized The Case for Israel, and that Dershowitz "almost certainly didn't write the book, and perhaps didn't even read it prior to publication." Last year, Kagan asked former Harvard president Derek Bok to examine Finkelstein's plagiarism allegation. Bok determined no plagiarism had occurred, law school spokesman Michael Armini said yesterday. Dershowitz also said that he refutes Finkelstein's allegations in his own forthcoming book, The Case for Peace. Although advance copies of Finkelstein's book, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, have already distributed to some critics, the book has undergone further changes since then.
For more than 20 years the terrible triumvirate of Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, and Alexander Cockburn have been falsely accusing pro-Israel writers of plagiarism and related academic offenses.[(embedded note) 2] I have been the most recent target of the selective vitriol. They have accused me of plagiarism for quoting Mark Twain and other well-known figures whose quotes appear in my book within quotation marks and properly cited to their original source. Their absurd accusation is that I should have cited these quotes not to their original source but rather to the secondary source in which they erroneously claim I first came across them. No one but anti-Israel zealots takes these biased charges seriously, as evidenced by the fact that not only was I cleared of all such charges by Harvard (after I brought them to the attention of the dean and president), but recently the dean awarded me a prize for “exceptional scholarship” for my current book Rights from Wrongs. [Italics added.]
Alan Dershowitz (born 1938-09-01) is a leading legal scholar in the United States. He has spent most of his career at Harvard Law School, where at the age of 28 he became the youngest full professor in the law school's history, and is now the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law. In addition to his teaching, Dershowitz is a prolific author, has made frequent media and public speaking appearances, and has worked on a number of high-profile legal cases.