Everything You Need to Know About Alan Dershowitz

From the continuing series “A Terror Tour of Israel” at Slate.com:

[A]t another stop on the tour, we were introduced to Haim Ben Ami, a former head of interrogations at Shin Bet. He strolled across the stage like a movie director explaining a difficult scene to his audience. […]

Ben Ami likes stories and has a flair for drama. Asked by a member of our tour what he would do if his own daughter’s life were at stake, he tapped his prosthetic leg, noting that he had already been a victim of a terror attack (a grenade was thrown at him). But Ben Ami’s best stories are about times when it might be useful to torture terrorists, like in the case of a pair of terrorists captured while crossing into Israel to set off a bomb in Tel Aviv. They were tortured during interrogation and gave up information on their comrades. Then what?

“So, I made a suggestion,” Ben Ami said. “After the interrogation, we should bring these two guys back to the water, we put their head in water—bloop, bloop, bloop!—and let them float to Dead Sea. In the morning, two bodies in the Dead Sea, it happens.”

Ben Ami’s story, it turns out, was made up, a scenario meant to provoke discussion. Like a good TV show, it was often hard to tell where Ben Ami’s stories crossed over into fiction. In his own version of a “ripped from the headlines” story, he recalled giving a lecture to law students at Harvard at the invitation of well-known professor Alan Dershowitz. He recounted to the students Shin Bet’s involvement in delivering a suspected terrorist to the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon in 1983. The Israelis, Ben Ami said, had knowledge of a planned attack on the United States, but they knew no details. As Ben Ami recalled, the Israelis told the Americans: “Take him, make an interrogation, and we wish you success.”

Except the suspect wouldn’t talk. “He said: ‘Look, I wish to talk, but I’m very tired. I’d like to fall asleep for at least two hours.'” The suspect was taken, at his request, to a nearby apartment to sleep. The next day, the embassy was destroyed.

The story is a powerful argument in favor of torture—or at least enhanced interrogations—except for one problem: Like Ben Ami’s other story of the drowned terrorists (and most stories involving a “ticking time bomb”), it’s apocryphal. It never happened. Real life is never that clean-cut. Ben Ami, however, forgot to reveal that to the Harvard law students.

Realizing his mistake later that day, Ben Ami panicked. “I called Alan Dershowitz and said, ‘It’s wrong.'” As Ben Ami recalled, Dershowitz told him not to worry: “He said, ‘No, it’s a good story, leave it.'”

Monday’s entry is also worth a read. More on Dershowitz here, here, and here.

54 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know About Alan Dershowitz”

  1. That’s the Alan Dershowitz I know and condemn, full of stories and lies used to win his sick arguments. Thanks for this report from Matt Barganier.

  2. What a contemptible mountebank. This is more or less representative of the Zionist norm, though.

  3. I cannot believe my west coast campus invited this slimeball to speak last January. Perle referred this guy as the debunker to the Walt and Mearsheimer essay. This guy did a poor job debunking them, but the popular media says otherwise, but I guess his cronies control them as well.

  4. People like Dershowitz seem to have some deep grudge against what used to be the fundamental happiness of American society.

    They seem to have identified our traditional political freedom as a key source of this annoying cheerfulness. Dershowitz has dedicated his life to wiping the smile off our faces, and replacing it with grim fearfulness and mistrust and pessimism. He’s succeeding very nicely.

    We’re all now taking up the “strenuous life” that Dershowitz and friends have wished for us — we’re all to be wonderfully hunkered-down, butched up, and armed to the teeth, in emulation of the Israeli Sparta that is such a light unto the nations.

  5. Saw Dershowitz just the other night on the Glenn Beck show (changing channels, but got stuck, like witnessing a horrible car crash), and aside from competing to see who could be the smarmiest, Dershowitz was explaining how important preemptive strikes on Palestinians are. He went on to say that civilians were unimportant, since they were responsible for being in the wrong place, and that it was basically acceptable to kill them.

    Of course Beck agreed completely with this amoral opinion.

    Anyone suppose an Arab-American could get away with this sort of inhuman punditry?

    1. Concerning torture: It is indeed a horrible thing. But is it categorically wrong? Even in extreme cases? As a very last resort?

      If your son or daughter were kidnapped and buried alive, struggling and gasping for air in some shallow grave, and you caught the guy who did it, what would you do? Suppose he admitted his crime but would not tell you where she was buried. But suppose he did tell you that she only has about 24 hours of air remaining, would you stand by and let your child die? Or would you do anything, including torture, to get the information from the guy?

      I’m not in favor of torture in most cases, but I don’t think the issue is so easy and clear cut as some people make it out to be.

      1. As a matter of fact, torture does not work- you can extract any “confession” you like by way of it, and thus it has immense political value, as Stalin’s kangaroo court showed. Hence US imperialism’s push to legalize it.

      2. Listen, you goddam cretin: the foremost lesson of political history is that the greatest evil that can be done to you is the evil that can be done to you by your own government when you give it the power to declare that some “extraordinary circumstances” require the suspension of the rule of law. Dear God in heaven, preserve us from the Tim R.’s who are trying to turn this beautiful free country into a gigantic Israel, with the rest of the friggin’ world as the Occupied Territories.

        1. This “god” fellow seems like a pretty cool guy. I haven’t seen much of him in the world, though. Where’s he off to?

        2. Oh, I know, I know. There’s no deus ex machina, of course.

          We are so effing effed.

          The Tim R’s are in charge of everything.

      3. Study says torture doesn’t work


        Former FBI agent: ticking bomb scenario is a ‘red herring

        “he has “been hard pressed to find a situation where anybody” can say “that they’ve ever encountered the ticking bomb scenario” when interrogating terrorists. He said it is a “red herring” and “[i]n the real world it doesn’t happen.” Cloonan added that the Israelis, “who have been doing this for a long time,” have “never had a situation where it is quote ‘a ticking bomb.’”

        1. Thank you for this invaluable dossier. I shall make ample use of it in future encounters with those of Tim R’s taxonomy.

      4. Thank you, Tim, for contriving a twisted hypothetical rather than using the Dershowitz method (ie, lying). When you use the word “if” you’re at least showing honesty, which is atypical of your political allies.

        The problem is that you never know with certainty that he was “the guy who did it.” And that is why we have a Bill of Rights — to protect us when you or I are wrongly thought to be “the guy.”

        But to follow through on your impossible hypothetical — of course I’d want to kick the living crap out of the guy, but I wouldn’t want to waste my 24 hours chasing down the false leads that result. I’d say, “Show me where s/he is, and you won’t be punished for this.” Then I’d follow through on the deal, which he has no incentive to turn down. My top priority would be rescuing the victim.

        Better to risk wrongful freedom than to risk wrongful oppression, something our forefathers understood even when our nation was truly under grave attack.

      5. Tim R,
        What if he tells you anything you want to hear just for you to stop torturing him? Would that help your child?

      6. Once again, our friend Tim R. demonstrates that illiteracy and ingorance don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

        One can be a poet and still be abjectly stupid.

  6. I knew Glenn Beck was horrible, but not as horrible as what above opeluboy commented about him with Dershowitz re the Palestinian civilians. His show should be cancelled!

    1. Glenn Beck has never been anywhere near a battlefield in his life, else he’d make liberal use of his military experience. A worthless coward, a pillock, and a purveyor of half-truths, he would not last ten seconds in an academic setting. But that is the topic of another time.

  7. In the preceding eight comments about Alan Dershowitz here are some terms used to describe him:

    ” slimeball”

    “self serving scumbag”

    “first class twit”

    “King of Moral Blackmail”


    “More or less representative of the Zionist norm”

    Do you really think such petty, ad hominem attacks serve you well? If you disagree with Dershowitz why not do so in a dignified manner and put forth your arguements in a logical way?
    Why not leave the puerile name calling where it belongs–in the 2nd grade!

    1. Tim R, this isn’t a matter of disagreement or argument; Dershowitz here has shown himself to be unconcerned with facts when advancing his preferred mythology. Anyone willing to allow a fabrication of this order to persist- indeed, encourage it- displays a degree of duplicity that is quite probably indicative of the caliber of his “academic” work. Frank Menetrez produced a column exposing, among other things, Dershowitz’s various about-faces on issues of some importance: http://www.counterpunch.org/menetrez04302007.html. In particular, he plagiarized passages from From Time Immemorial, a book of considerably disrepute within the scholarly community. Imagine that! Dershowitz filching phrases from a discredited text. That seems more or less an allegory for his entire career.

    2. Maybe, because some people have a life and do not have the time to explain the finite details to “Twits” like you! The guy is a turd, OK!

  8. ‘It’s wrong’… ‘No, it’s a good story, leave it’

    Cute… and very, very creepy. Deshowitz was one of prime advocates of establishing a national security torture apparatus, giving him semi-official wartime status – a regular NGT (sorry, Tim R., that “Non-Governmental Turd”).

    So… if he and his peg-leg martinet buddy lie about the 1983 incident, what else are they lying about?

    1. So… if he and his peg-leg martinet buddy lie about the 1983 incident, what else are they lying about?

      For the record, the article says that Haim Ben Ami is constructing hypothetical situations in order to stimulate discussion. I have no idea what his actual views on torture are, but I think it’s telling that he exposed Dershowitz here.

      1. "For the record, the article says that Haim Ben Ami is constructing hypothetical situations in order to stimulate discussion."

        Well… the article also suggests Ben Ami isn't always prompt revealing the fanciful nature of his hypothetical constructions. Timing can be crucial. For instance, we now know Iraq had no WMD – but that knowledge came too late. Tales that he DID possess them weren't really lies either, I guess. For the Administration, they were convenient untruths.

  9. Alan Dershowitz is the Jewish David Duke.

    To think he used to bill himself as a defender of civil liberties! Dershowitz is clearly a fascist supporter of torture and might-makes-right (except against the precious Jews) and a racist who believes that it is okay for “the Jewish state” to do anything to any non-Jew. Non-Jews simply don’t matter. They are to blame for being in the way.

      1. There’s something the “personal responsibility” types aren’t going to bring up soon…

  10. Sorry Tim R, but I’m going to Dershowitz a name – it is “LIAR”. The story above demonstrates this well. He often misrepresents information and even boldly lies. Then he tries to squirm out of it by changing the subject. He should move to Israel if he loves it so much.

    ps. why is Tim R always on this site? Doesn’t he realise it’s called ANTIwar dot com?!?

    1. We can only speculate about Tim R’s motives. One would initially think he was soliciting replies, however his blithe treatment of them suggests otherwise. He is probably an idiot looking to vindicate himself by deploying stale talking points against those on this site, only to discover to his horror that most of the posters here are a cut (or ten) above him, and thence retreat to his darkened den, to come back again when his confidence returns.

      1. Defenders of Israel often seem blithe in their indifference to opposition. They’re like robots. They really don’t care what we think – we’re not Chosen. They just hope if they keep repeating their talking points, totally deaf to refutation, we’ll get exasperated and stop posting. The Israel lobby wants us all to shut up and go away.

        1. Indeed, there was always something profoundly disingenuous about the Israel-firsters. It’s not remotely about Israel’s putative commitment to human rights, democracy, or secularism- it’s about advancing the Jewish herrenvolk at the general expense of the goyim untermenschen– that is to say, the hapless funders of “American interests” that are you and I. The ceaseless glorification of that modern Sparta better known as Israel suggests that they at least subliminally favour a militarized and racialized society, and some do so much more consciously, as Tim R’s past pontifications reveal. Their near mystical belief in a Jewish Blut und Bloden is a self-affirming one that has inoculated them against all rational argumentation. The best we can hope for at this point is the financial bankruptcy of Israel’s primary benefactor.

        2. Remember when the Columbia, with an Israeli astronaut on board, disintegrated over Palestine, Texas?

          It was a sign from God. An allegory. A harbinger.

  11. And I have been told over and over again that the west has prgrossed beyond the dark ages ! a la Tim R.

  12. To Salem S, Eric, Kenneth, and to the rest of my wonderful fan club:

    Why all the insults? It is so unbecoming, unwarranted and uncivilized. Thankfully, there are some highly intelligent and well intentioned folks on this site, people like Richard Vajs and Geogre Kurian for example. I have actually learned quite a bit from some of their postings. I think it is important to at least think about and try to understand people, even when I strongly disagree with them. So let’s be adults, shall we? These petty insults and the name calling, whether its attacking me or Dershowitz or anyone else, is nothing more than a reflection upon your character, not mine.

    1. Tim R- I concede that my diatribes, at least, carry an element of self-validation- a confused eighteen year old such as myself is occasionally need an ego booster, and you happen to serve as an excellent foil. Nonetheless, the accusations against Dershowitz are merited, and in large part a response to the man’s habit of suppressing conflicting viewpoints and applying the usual grab-bag of neoconservative insults to those who disagree with him: “unpatriotic”, “anti-semitic”, et al as well as attacks of a more personal nature on the likes of Finkelstein and Chomsky. You are, moreover, in the habit of insinuating (or sometimes outright stating) that those who dispute your viewpoint are in some way aligned with, or sympathetic to, Islamic terrorism. This happens to be the type of allegation that, mutadis mutandis, would not have been out of place in Pravda during the 1930s. I do not make this comparison lightly; it indicates defective thought patterns, and I suggest you reconsider your approach to others if you want to be taken seriously. That, and your rather dull prose and repetitive attacks.

      1. I was hoping someone would mention Norman Finkelstein. His books rip Dershowitz so big a new one the wind whistles through unimpeded. After Finkelstein’s detailed expose of Dershowitz’s lies and plagiarisms I’m amazed the latter has the gall to show his face in public.

    2. Tim,
      I wished that you would have followed your suggestion in pervious post:

      Comment by Tim R. on 2008-03-09 11:40:43 Report abuse

      “Salem S,

      You really disgust me. And so do people like yourself”.

      Despite of that i’ll honour your request.

  13. A True Story: In the mid-1980s Dershowitz appeared on the Donahue show with Margo St. James. The issue was the legalization of prostitution, and whether girls or johns should both be arrested. Dershowitz argued only the girls should get it. While blathering out his position he was told “Oh, shut up, Alan” by St. James. He did just that. I later asked Margo how she pulled this one off. She said she sized him up in the Green Room before going on camera, as a moma’s boy.

  14. In 1980 I at on a plane with Dersh from New York to Chicago.We didn’t talk,but he was going to the Phil Donahue show.He appeared with a milwaukee Judge who had similar problems to Spitzer.Dersh hates prosecutors except those who back Israel and its many crimes.

  15. Regarding the argument for torture by Tim R.: surely this is what the current administration would love to hear everyone repeat. But, even if there could conceivably be a situation where a future “James Bond” agent might save the world with information obtained by torture, that still does NOT mean that we should enshrine it in our laws and traditions now or in the meantime. Torture should always be illegal – no ifs, ands or buts about it! And it should be just as illegal to inflict torture on an “enemy combatant” or whatever happens to be the term du jour for treating other human beings in a sub-human way. Do you think a “James Bond” is going to worry about exactly what techniques are legal when the whole world is at stake? And, if he has to break such a law to save the world, is any government going to try and punish him for it?
    In the meantime, with American torture as legal we are just getting our own troops set up for torture when they get labeled as POW’s in a foreign land; and all just to set everything up for a once in a lifetime judgment call by a “James Bond” who can easily be set “above the law” for that one time anyway – assuming the “007” judgment call is right on the mark.

  16. Just heard Dershowitz, on the radio, talking about what a “good and decent man” Spitzer is.

  17. Not to hate on the hate, but… everything I need to know about Dershowitz? I’m not sure that’s right. I might also need to know a little more about the context of the classroom discussion–like, for instance, whether Dershowitz was trying to deceive his students in order to push an ideological agenda, or whether he merely wanted his students to take Ben Ami’s story as a “scenario meant to provoke discussion.” As quoted, it’s even a little hard to tell for sure whether he intended to keep the truth from his students forever or not.

  18. I don’t know Dershowitz, but I instinctively feel that the person who called him basically a “moma’s boy” had it right. That is the kind of man who endorses things like torture – the kind of man who has never bloodied some-else’s nose or even had his own bloodied. They feel no guilt about pain being inflicted upon maybe innocent people because they have no experience with that. They can’t relate. Anyway, Dershowitz’ public persona is that of educated ass. I don’t expect much from him. What really baffles me is that both Maxine Waters and Dennis Kucinich were among the three Democrats who voted to UPHOLD President Bulls–t’s veto of the ban on waterboarding and torture (Jim Marshall a militaristic to the core rep from Georgia was the third). I called Kucinich’s and Waters’ office to ask WTF? The spear carriers at both offices had no clue as to what I was even ranting about. They promised me answers. I won’t hold my breath.
    I believe both acted shamefully to get the LOBBY of their backs.

  19. There was a time when I would see Allen Dershowitz on the street and stop to talk to him about the legal difficulties that one of my friends had with the government……I am grateful for the help he provided on those occasions. I thought of him as a moral paragon, along with others that presented themselves as representatives of the highest moral values like Elie Wiesel. Sadly, they have failed themselves, us and all people by being sucked to the most gruesome outrages practiced by those in power when exercised against those they consider their enemies……No more can they demonize those in the past that traded their humanity for glib assurences of success by the sadists & murderers that we allow to “protect” us from threats, real, imagined and manufactured….It is instructive how tribal loyalties so easily can upend the law and any hint of humane moral decency. John Yoo publicly argued there is no law that could prevent the President from ordering the torture of a child of a suspect in custody – including by crushing that child’s testicles. THIS IS THE EXTENT OF THE MADNESS AFOOT TO WHICH THESE PEOPLE NOW SUBSCRIBE…….How much farther does this MADNESS need to proceed before it has these powers doing wholesale liquidation of people, peoples and entire nations?? But do not worry, it is all for SOMEONE’s good cause. The most worrying aspect for me is:: WHAT IF THE TORTURE IS TO COVER UP A MONSTROUS CRIME?? Why would SO MUCH evidence be destroyed? E.G.– If the 911 conspirators under torture, said what the government contends they said, WHY DESTROY THOSE TAPES?? see http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/07/washington/07intel.html?scp=3&sq=torture+tapes+destroyed&st=nyt Why were the 911 air traffic controllers tapes destroyed?? see http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F03EEDF173CF934A35756C0A9629C8B63 How many LIES did THIS ADMINISTRATION tell to get their wars?? Are you sure that you want THIS ADMINISTRATION to be in the torture business??

  20. Those who advocate torture usually would advocate other measuers besides torture.They would call for the silincing of those who oppose their plans,or critics of certain governments,designating certain groups or indviduals as threats to society ,and like to rule by fear and intmidation.

    H.R.1955 Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007
    To prevent homegrown terrorism, and for other purposes.
    Other Bill Titles
    Official: To prevent homegrown terrorism, and for other purposes. as introduced.
    Short: Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 as passed house.
    Short: Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 as reported to house.
    Short: Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 as introduced.
    10/23/2007–Passed House amended. Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 – Amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to add a new section concerning the prevention of violent radicalization (an extremist belief system for facilitating ideologically based viole more…nce to advance political, religious, or social change) and homegrown terrorism (violence by a group or individual within the United States to coerce the U.S. government, the civilian population, or a segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives). Establishes within the legislative branch the National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism to: (1) examine and report on facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States; and (2) build upon, bring together, and avoid unnecessary duplication of related work done by other entities toward such goal. Requires: (1) interim reports and a final report from the Commission to the President and Congress on its findings and recommendations; (2) the public availability of such reports; and (3) Commission termination 30 days after its final report. Directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish or designate a university-based Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States to assist federal, state, local, and tribal homeland security officials, through training, education, and research, in preventing violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism in the United States. Requires the Secretary to: (1) conduct a survey of methodologies implemented by foreign nations to prevent violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism; and (2) report to Congress on lessons learned from survey results. Prohibits Department of Homeland Security (DHS) efforts to prevent ideologically based violence and homegrown terrorism from violating the constitutional and civil rights or civil liberties of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Directs the: (1) Secretary to ensure that activities and operations are in compliance with DHS's commitment to racial neutrality; and (2) DHS Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Officer to develop and implement an auditing system to ensure that compliance does not violate the constitutional and civil rights or civil liberties of any racial, ethnic, or religious group, and to include audit results in its annual report to Congress.

  21. I would jump in here but it seems that most of you have the situation well in hand. My advice to Tim R. is to declare victory and leave the field.

    You must be some kind of masochist or from the WWE’s Iron Sheik School of Debate.

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