Alan Dershowitz (right) in conversation with Jack London

By MYRON LOVE
Alan Dershowitz, the evening’s keynote speaker at the CABGU Gala that honoured Hope and Howard Morry, has received numerous accolades during a 50-year career in law and advocacy.  The tenured Harvard University professor and prolific writer has been called “the world’s best known criminal lawyer”, “the top lawyer of last resort”, “America’s most public Jewish defender” and “Israel’s lead attorney in the court of public opinion”.

 

 

 


Throughout his career, Dershowitz has shown himself to be a man of integrity and strong principles who, although a lifelong liberal, does not hesitate to call out those on “his side”, such as former President Obama, when his administration abstained on a United Nations vote in December 2016, condemning Israel for its “settlements” - nor hesitate to praise those on the other side – such as Donald Trump – when he – in this case – relocated the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. 
Dershowitz began his presentation with fulsome praise for Canada:  “You have an incredible country,” he told his audience.  “America has so much to learn from Canada, especially in the respect you show for your Indigenous People.”
He also praised the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Dershowitz’s remarks were presented in the form of a conversation with noted Winnipeg lawyer Jack London, with London asking questions and Dershowitz responding in what sometimes turned into testy exchanges.
London first asked Dershowitz to comment on his belief that every accused is entitled to legal counsel and that it is more important that nine guilty individuals go free than one innocent should be convicted.
Dershowitz responded that the only cases he will not take are Holocaust deniers.  “I have never met a Holocaust denier who honestly believed what he was saying,” Dershowitz said.  “I will not defend anyone’s right to distort or change history. Holocaust denial is anti-Semitism.”
He does uphold the right of a Holocaust denier’s to freedom of speech under the American First Amendment though. In Canadian terms, he explained, he would have supported the firing of Jewish conspiracy hatemonger Jim Keegstra because he was in a position to influence students, but would have upheld the right of Ernst Zundel to spread anti-Semitic hate publicly.
It’s the difference between advocacy and incitement, Dershowitz said.  Advocacy would be going on radio or television to propound anti-Semitic or racist views, whereas incitement would be going to a KKK rally and exhorting those in the audience to attack or kill Jews or members of other minority groups.
The only other case that Dershowitz turned down was the defense of Yigal Amir, the man who murdered Yitzhak Rabin. He turned down the case because Amir’s defense was that he was entitled under Jewish law to kill someone who posed a danger to the Jewish people.

London brought up Democratic Party efforts to impeach President Trump.  In response, Dershowitz produced one of his new books, “The Case Against Impeaching Trump”.   He spoke about the intentions of the authors of the American Constitution, who intended to make it very difficult to remove a president from office simply because the party holding power in Congress may not like him.
Asked by London why he would support Donald Trump, Dershowitz said that he actually supported Hilary Clinton, campaigned for her and donated to her campaign.  “There is much I don’t like about Donald Trump or his policies,” he said.  “But he hasn’t done anything to serve as a reason for impeachment and should only be removed by the ballot.  Impeachment should not become normalized. It should only be undertaken in the most extreme cases.”

In response to a question by London about allegations of sexual impropriety involving Dershowitz in relation to the Jeffrey Epstein case – “the elephant in the room”, the legal counsel vehemently denied knowing anything about Epstein’s sexual escapades with underage girls, nor having had any kind of social interaction with him outside of their shared interaction at Harvard University - where Epstein was a major donor – and later when Dershowitz served as Epstein’s lawyer.
Dershowitz strongly denied ever meeting the young woman who claimed to have had sex with him several times in different locations.  He reported that he hired a former director of the FBI to investigate her claims, which, he said, proved to be lies. He also noted that he is suing her and possibly her lawyers for defamation.
As to the report in the New Yorker on the woman’s claims, he alleges that the story was an attempt to smear him and ruin his reputation because he has spoken on occasion in defense of Donald Trump, which has made Dershowitz a pariah to many of his former liberal associates.

Turning to the subject of Israel, Dershowitz noted that, while he doesn’t defend everything the Government of Israel does, Israel does have a right to defend itself, and that the democratically-elected Government of Israel has to do what it considers is best for the people of Israel - no matter what others outside of Israel may think about the decisions.
Much of the anti-Israel sentiment on the American left, he suggested, is tied in to the left’s hatred of Donald Trump.  “When Obama was President, 70% of American Jews supported moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem,” he reported.  “When Trump moved the embassy, 70% of American Jews opposed the move.”
He noted that American Jewry is facing a dilemma in 2020.  What happens if – as seems likely – the Democrats chooses a candidate – such as Bernie Sanders (the example Dershowitz gave) – who is vehemently anti-Israel?  Do the majority of American Jews who support the Democrats hold their noses and vote for Trump as the lesser evil?  

In response to another question from London , Dershowitz described the BDS campaign as “deceptive at its core”.
Dershowitz also reiterated his support for a two-state solution modeled on the by-now familiar formula of having the large Israeli settlement blocs on the West Bank remain part of Israel, in return for Israel ceding some portions of the present State of Israel to the Palestinian entity.  His view is that Israel would retain a presence in the Jordan Valley and the Palestinian capital would shift to an area of East Jerusalem.
Dershowitz expressed optimism about Israel’s future.  “Israel is economically and militarily strong,” he noted.  “The state has never been more admired by world leaders.”
On the other hand, he emphasized the great importance of Israel maintaining military superiority over all of its enemies combined.  “Israel can’t afford to depend for its defense on any other country, including the United States.
“Israel has an incredible ability to help the world in so many ways.  While Israel is the ‘start-up nation’, Ben-Gurion University is the start-up university.”
“I am proud to be here helping to support Ben-Gurion University”, Dershowitz said as he and London concluded their conversation.