Dershowitz petition lacks validity

BY THEODORE KUPFER

A circulating petition paints Alan Dershowitz as a representative of “ideals which run counter to the philosophy of our university.” The petition claims that not only does he trivialize sexual assault and plagiarize the work of others but he also might actually be a rapist himself. Weird that a celebrated defense attorney, legal scholar and policy advocate hid this from his clients, Harvard University and the entire political media. Even weirder that a coalition of five student groups at Hopkins would be the ones to break the news. Their research methods aren’t even a secret since the original complaint lodged with the MSE Symposium just days ago claimed to have found these ‘facts’ after “a quick Google search.” Now the petition declares that these ‘facts’ are “not a matter of opinion, and cannot be debated.” What a turnaround!

It is not surprising that the petitioners limited their research to “a quick Google search” because anyone who had bothered to do the requisite research would have found something far more disturbing than any of these ‘facts.’ Signees and authors of the petition might not recognize it, but the actual fact of the matter is that the protest receives its force and support from an anti-Semitic crusade against prominent Jewish and pro-Israel advocates. Given the apparent spuriousness of the allegations, anti-Semitism is the reason they persist. It is the reason people like Dershowitz are targeted. And it is the reason that petitions like the one now making the rounds — superficially legitimate but upon examination nothing more than specious camouflage — are so dangerous.

Firstly, the petition takes issue with Dershowitz’s occupational practice. As a criminal defense attorney Dershowitz axiomatically dedicates his life to defending criminals. Enshrined in our Constitution — as it is enshrined in the Constitutions of 152 other countries — is the right to legal counsel. He has made his living providing the best possible counsel to his clients because that is what the legal system demands. The petition claims that by doing this he somehow “trivializes sexual assault.” While it is true that Dershowitz has defended people who are morally repugnant, that some of those people are rapists and that his counsel is effective because he pursues all possible avenues for his clients, these truths do not suddenly render the legal system’s basic tenets subservient to sensitivity. In the case which canonized the right to legal counsel, Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court said: “Even the intelligent and educated layman has small and sometimes no skill in the science of law.” This is evident from the petition.

Secondly, the petition accuses him of plagiarizing his book The Case For Israel. Amusingly it claims that no one has defended Dershowitz except himself and his colleagues at Harvard University and that “multiple independent parties” corroborate the plagiarism. This confuses some foundational principles of academic freedom. The petitioners appear not to know that academics receive independence from both their colleagues and their institution and that those at Harvard do not speak for anyone but themselves. The book in question was originally criticized for plagiarism by Norman Finkelstein as part of a long-standing feud between the two authors. In Finkelstein’s subsequent book Beyond Chutzpah, he was barred by his publisher from both including the claim that Dershowitz did not write The Case For Israel and simply using the word “plagiarize” to refer to the improper citation Finkelstein originally pointed out. Here the publisher was responding to the independent review by former Harvard president Derek Bok — who the petitioners will probably say was somehow in Dershowitz’s pocket — which found no evidence of plagiarism. Asked to produce evidence corroborating the accusation, Finkelstein demurred and published his book in the modified form. Wading into this ongoing high-profile feud between the two opposing authors, the petition quickly declares something eminently uncertain as true.

Thirdly, the petition levels its final allegation, that Dershowitz committed statutory rape, only once. In 2008 Jeffrey Epstein, one of Dershowitz’s clients, pled guilty to a state charge of “solicitation of prostitution involving a minor.” Victims filed a civil lawsuit against federal prosecutors for deciding to keep the case at the state level without consulting them. As part of that lawsuit, one victim accused Dershowitz of engaging in sexual conduct with her when she was underage. The petition ignores three things: Firstly Dershowitz denied the allegation and made specific reference to the spatiotemporal circumstances which make the allegation’s truth impossible; Secondly Dershowitz declared his willingness to waive the statute of limitations and invited the accuser to file criminal charges against him because he was certain of his own innocence; Thirdly Judge Kenneth Marra wasted little time striking the allegation from the record. An isolated, unsubstantiated allegation does not typically garner this type of reaction from college students. Compare Dershowitz’s impending appearance at Johns Hopkins to Bill Clinton’s appearances at institutions like Michigan, Portland State, Middlebury, Harvard, NYU, Walden and Howard, since Clinton was also accused of sexual assault in 1998 by Juanita Broaddrick. One would be hard-pressed to find any instances of protest at those schools much less the type seen here. What’s going on?

The petitioners make their argument under the color of a legitimate concern for sexual assault victims. Even though their premises rest on false information, the skeleton of the argument, that purveyors of rape culture should not be given welcome on a college campus, seems plausible. This editorial is neither a cry for ‘free speech’ nor is it a defense of Dershowitz’s politics. It is instead an argument that the engine driving the Dershowitz protest train — perhaps the sources used in the petition, perhaps the petitioners themselves or perhaps a combination — is fueled by anti-Semitism.

Figuring this out requires as much effort as the petitioners took to source their allegations. Go ahead and comb through a website like The Electronic Intifada (EI) which according to “a quick Google search” has published a whopping 185 articles on Dershowitz, each of them negative. It does not boggle the mind that an anti-Israel website like EI or anti-Israel polemicists like Finkelstein would have a vested interest in discrediting Dershowitz given his status as a prominent pro-Israel advocate. What does boggle the mind is the willingness of the petitioners to endorse the screeds of an unconscionably biased outlet’s hack jobs or a rival academic’s slander in order to prevent Dershowitz from coming to campus. Their eagerness to see Dershowitz as an enemy of their cause unwittingly gives life to the latent anti-Semitism that inspires these attacks on those who support the Jewish state. It is too bad that the coalition of Hopkins Feminists, the Sexual Assault Response Unit, the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance, Voice For Choice and the Black Student Union have given anti-Semitism a disguise, a megaphone and an audience.

Theodore Kupfer is a junior philosophy major from Austin, Texas.

Editor’s Note: This article formerly did not disclose the author’s role on the MSE Symposium. He is a member of the organization’s Programming committee.

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31 responses to “Dershowitz petition lacks validity

  1. The real question is why do you accuse these groups of anti-Semitism? You have no evidence for it. It makes perfect sense that a sexual assault resource group and a feminist group would ask that someone who defends rapists and has been accused of sexual assault not speak.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hereby (off the record, as a joke, to prove a point) accuse you of rape. I am sure you will cooperate with my request that you cannot speak on campus anymore.
      1. anti-Semitism: “prejudicial hatred toward a person because of his/her religion”
      2. prejudice: “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience”

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  2. Glad someone finally called out that factually incorrect petition for the complete bull that it is. Hopefully this campus can return to a more moderate state and avoid such blatant censorship.

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  3. The argument isn’t that the groups authoring and endorsing the petition are themselves antisemitic. It is instead that they are carrying water for an antisemitic cause. By endorsing the utterly unsupported allegations that only sworn enemies of Dershowitz and the state of Israel trumpet, they are keeping the spirit of antisemitism alive, however unwittingly.

    Bringing the antisemitic origin of these allegations to light was my motivation for this article. Taken at face value, the allegations give groups like Hopkins Feminists ample reason to protest. But anyone who does adequate research – which the petitioners clearly did not – will find that the allegations fit a large pattern of disparagement of prominent pro-Israel advocates.

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  4. I really liked the exposition of the faulty arguments in the petition, but I’m pretty sketpical about the claim that these student groups are trying to prevent him from coming due to antisemitism, but they may be playing into the hands of those who are attacking him for antisemitic reasons

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  5. Erasing the many Jewish critics of Dershowitz both in general and at JHU, and using this accusation to arbitrate the boundaries of loyal, authentically representative Jewishness: seems pretty anti-Semitic to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anyone who honestly thinks Dershowitz is a rapist, after doing more than “a quick Google search”, is anti-Semitic.
      Some definitions:
      1. anti-Semitism: “prejudicial hatred toward a person because of his/her religion”
      2. prejudice: “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience”

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    • Why Jews can’t endorse policies that in the end tie into larger trends of anti-semitism? Just because someone is Jewish doesn’t make them a more fitting arbiter, in this case or any other. The point is not that non-Jews are attacking Dershowitz (so that a Jew attacking Dershowitz would justify the attacks against him), but that the attacks on Dershowitz are unfounded — and by endorsing them, those who want to act morally are playing into the hands of those who want to attack Dershowitz for reasons other than the sexual assault allegations (i.e. anti-semitism).

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  6. You’re so trapped in a bubble that it’s so hard for you to believe that Dershowitz’s presence is being protested because it’s disrespectful to survivors of sexual assault and makes their campus unsafe for them. Why would you make this about anti-semitism when it is clearly not? It’s like you just aren’t able to process that survivors are important.

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    • The author is an extremely caring and sensitive person, (if it wasn’t abundantly clear from this article).
      Your implication that he “cannot process that [rape] survivors are important” is almost as disgusting as the demonizing of Dershowitz.

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    • He might be a really caring and sensitive person but his argument doesn’t make it seem that way. By promoting Dershowitz’s presence he is basically stating that he doesn’t believe that survivors deserve to feel safe on their own campus. He is saying the petition is anti-semitic, well his counter argument is anti-survivors.

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    • On the contrary, it’s disrespectful of survivors of sexual assault to trivialize the heinous crime through pinning the label of “sexual assaulter” to every person who is accused, regardless of an individual accusation’s merit. The author makes it clear that the accusations are unfounded. It is knee-jerk attempts to censor subjects of social contention that result in these issues never really being fleshed out.

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        • No, I don’t think PCBro was doing that at all. They were not presuming that those who make these accusations are themselves survivors of sexual assault – rather, they are defenders of survivors/their interests. Which is obviously admirable, but in this case misguided. If those making the accusations ARE survivors, doesn’t that seem a bit biased due to their past trauma? That kind of thing would not fly with other crimes and their victims – at that point, you are censoring widespread discussion to prevent the “triggering” of a chosen few.

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  7. Your claims of antisemitism are as unfounded as can be. The linking of antisemitism to the criticism of the private actions of a pro-Israel advocate merely serve to expose the monolithic hive-mind of the stark pro-Israel camp.
    Please try to fathom that this petition was signed by groups like DSAGA and the Black Student Union, not the Palestinian Student Union.

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    • He’s not saying that the individuals signing the petitions are anti-semetic, but that they are unknowingly playing into the hands of anti-semites.

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    • “Palestine Student Union”? I think you meant “Hopkins Students for Justice in Palestine.” Also, show one shred of evidence that Hopkins SJP is anti-Semitic. In fact, SJP has been speaking out against anti-Semitism and sees it as a way of silencing criticism of the policies of the Israeli state. SJP supports the right of Hopkins Feminists to protest and also exercises our right to call for Dershowitz to be removed as an MSE honored speaker.

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  8. This kid is smart.
    If a handful of nut-jobs sharing a anti-Israel FB post was actually newsworthy, this article would be an editorial in the WSJ.
    – I hope MSE and the Newsletter appreciate what a stud they have.
    You represent a bedrock of professionalism and credibility in both.
    Student respect points +1 for both
    – Can’t wait to attend

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think it’s a stretch to say that anything against prominent Jewish figures as antisemitic. The main reason why I and other student groups don’t want Dershowitz presenting is because of his history of defending sexual predators. Dershowitz has been known to belittle rape victims and get guilty perpetrators off with a minimal charge. It has nothing to do with the fact that he is pro-Israel or any other religious affiliations, it’s his chosen career path and the fact we’re celebrating someone who defends rapists and rich ones at that. Yes he is very good lawyer, but I’d rather we have Marilyn Mosby or anyone else to present because I cannot respect someone who profits from others’ traumas.

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    • —Evidently, you disrespect “the chosen career path” of all SVU criminal defense attorneys, or is it just the Jewish ones who “PROFIT from other’s traumas”.
      Or just the ones that support Israel.
      Or just the ones that have “RICH ones [clients], at that.”
      —I hope it’s a coincidence, but try not to slander someone for immoral money-pandering in the same comment that you try to explain that anti-Semitism is not relevant to the conversation. The revenue of his clients and himself is, for most people, NOT relevant. Moving on.
      —If we could put your arguments on trial, I would hope that you PAY Dershowitz as your defense to boost your odds, with such immaterial content.

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    • “…his history of defending sexual predators” — isn’t that his job? Dershowitz seems to do his job effectively, and that should not be looked down upon. If he exhibited a pattern of cruelty or animosity to rape victims, that would be fair grounds to protest his presence on campus. However, it is not for us to decide whether his actions in the past have constituted that – it is up to the presiding judge of each individual case. Seeing as how Dershowitz has yet to be pronounced by a judge as guilty of such behavior, it seems ungrounded for us to levy such accusations with gravity.
      This whole debate reeks of a general misunderstanding of criminal law.

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    • “The main reason why I and other student groups don’t want Dershowitz presenting is because of his history of defending sexual predators. Dershowitz has been known to belittle rape victims and get guilty perpetrators off with a minimal charge.”

      Honestly, this is pretty ridiculous, and might be one of the worst arguments I’ve ever heard. He’s a Defense Attorney, it’s his job to defend his clients and get them off with the most favorable verdict and sentence as possible. When someone is accused of a crime, they are constitutionally guaranteed the right to a defense lawyer, as they should in a civil society. Barring someone from speaking for being good at their job is asinine and I’m truly ashamed of Hopkins students for trying to do that.

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  10. The OJ Simpson case was 20 years ago this week.
    How the [expletive] does any African American student group slander Dershowitz, a man who won the most important race matter case in decades? There’s probably a dumb answer somewhere, but who cares anyway…

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  11. KUPFER ARTICLE LACKS VALIDITY
    October 8, 2015 · by The New-Letter · in Onion. ·
    BY DAVID ANGELES
    A circulating article paints Theodore Kupfer as a representative of “ideals which run counter to the philosophy of our university.” The article claims that not only does he trivialize sexual assault and produce a left-field argument but he also might be supporting giving money to a rapist. Weird that a bright college student and the Programming Director who INVITED Dershowitz to Hopkins wouldn’t research his background, leaving that to a coalition of five student groups at Hopkins. Even weirder that this student would be surprised that someone used Google, a SEARCH engine, to SEARCH for such available info. Now the article sarcastically declares these REAL accusations are apostrophe facts un-apostrophe. What a !
    It is surprising the article’s author did not even bother to take a quick step back and realize that while there may even be an “anti-Semitic crusade” against Dershowitz, it is unrelated to the petition which spawned in the belly of the Hopkins Feminist and SARU online groups. Given the apparent spuriousness of the defense of Dershowitz, fear of losing face as Program Director of the MSE Symposium must be the reason Kupfer makes such leaps in logic. It is okay Kupfer; everyone makes mistakes, like the men whose mistreatment of women has prompted such a deeply legitimate concern by the students of Hopkins that has materialized in a petition that is not camouflaged but of one true purpose.
    Firstly, the article makes good points about the nature of a lawyer’s work defending true and alleged criminals, however it totally ignores the point that Dershowitz has belittled rape victims, going so far as to describe one who was a confirmed underage sex-slave as “still a prostitute.” This is evident from doing one of those quick google searches (http://www.local10.com/news/alan-dershowitz-sex-slave-accuser-is-serial-liar-prostitute/30868668) [NOT AN ANTI-SEMITIC SOURCE], but what you won’t get from a google search is the common sense to know this is the type of attitude the Petition-Makers are against bringing to campus: the anti-survivor attitude.
    Secondly, the article’s author failed to use his own eyes in the determination of plagiarism: if not word for word then definitively in essence and regardless of proper citation. I have listed two examples Finkelstein listed on his website for the author to see now:
    [
    The Case for Israel p. 17, “In the sixteenth century, according to British reports, ‘as many as 15,000 Jews’ lived in Safad, which was a ‘center of rabbinical learning.'” (Source cited: Palestine Royal Commission Report, pp. 11-12.)
    From Time Immemorial p. 178, “Safad at that time, according to the British investigation by Lord Peel’s committee, ‘contained as many as 15,000 Jews in the 16th century,’ and was ‘a centre of Rabbinical learning.'” (Source cited: Palestine Royal Commission Report, pp. 11-12.)
    Both excerpts are somewhat misleading and commit the same error:
    Palestine Royal Commission Report (i.e. the document that both books cite), “Safad, which according to Jewish tradition contained as many as 15,000 Jews in the sixteenth century, became a centre of Rabbinical learning…” [emphasis added] (Occurs on p.11, not pp.11-12 as cited.)
    [edit]Similarity 2
    The Case for Israel p. 20, “Several years later, the same consul attributed the plight of the Jew in Jerusalem to ‘the blind hatred and ignorant prejudice of a fanatical populace,’ coupled with an inability of the poverty-stricken Jewish community to defend itself either politically or physically.” (Source cited: Wm. T. Young to Viscount Canning, January 13, 1842.)
    From Time Immemorial p. 188, “In Palestine, [it] was reported: ‘It is a fact that the Jewish Subjects… do not enjoy the privileges granted to them. This Evil may in general be traced…: I. To the absence of an adequate protection whereby they are more exposed to cruel and tyrannical treatment. II. To the blind hatred and ignorant prejudices of a fanatical populace….IV. To the starving state of numerous Jewish population.'” [emphasis in original] (Source cited: Wm. T. Young to Viscount Canning, January 13, 1842.)
    ]
    THIRDLY, the petition CONTINUES to ignore the anti-survivor attitude of Dershowitz who implies that an underaged sex slave had power over her situation with “she was not victimized, she made her own decisions in life” that led her to that position as if she were an informed adult capable of giving consent. This I will leave for you to hear from Dershowitz in this video from the local news source I listed earlier http://www.local10.com/news/alan-dershowitz-sex-slave-accuser-is-serial-liar-prostitute/30868668 .
    Finally, the comparison the article makes between our campus reaction to Dershowitz’s attitude and other campus’s lack of reactions to Bill Clinton’s appearance is essentially saying “it is okay to have an attitude that ignores sexual assault, abuse of power, and silencing survivors.” Just because other campuses have not reacted to another speaker’s past does not mean Hopkins—pioneering and frontier-breaking Hopkins—should not make it known that we in 2015 DO care about the attitudes of our speakers in regards to sexual abuse victims—especially those who have been accused of rape.
    The author makes his argument under the color of an argument okay I’m tired of reusing the original verbose language. He says that his opinion piece is not a defense of “Dershowitz’s politics” which is just as true as saying that ALL the POSSIBLE sources used in the petition ‘s creation were fueled by anti-semitism. I again leave it to you to determine what attitude Dershowitz takes against victims from the neutral source provided.
    It’s not just what you say but how you say it and in this case Dershowitz is in the wrong on both accounts. I would also advise you to use a less condescending tone when addressing your peers because they are your PEERS and doing so invites the same against you.
    It is too bad that the coalition of Hopkins Feminists, the Sexual Assault Response Unit, the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance, Voice For Choice, and the Black Student Union have risen in defense of modern perspectives on sexual assault, survivors, and rape victims. Oh wait. No it isn’t.
    David Angeles is a senior biomedical engineering major (really a comedian) from New Orleans, Louisiana. He runs the BnBJ Hour Radioshow/Podcast every Wednesday at 4PM on wjhuradio.org.
    Author’s Note: This article presently has not disclosed the author’s witnessing of sexual assault victims as a Firefighter/EMT. Now it has.

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    • I’m somewhat confused by your stance here. You seem to disparage Kupfer for the tone of his article, but then readily take the same — if not more — snarky tone yourself. Do you actually expect anyone to take you seriously, regardless of the validity of your points, when using such rhetoric as “It is too bad that …[content]… Oh wait. No it isn’t.”?

      Now, I don’t plan on arguing all of your points here. However, I take issue with the way you quote the news article you provide as support for your claims. Taken in its full context, Dershowitz’s statements are not inflammatory or hateful.

      First, you say “Dershowitz has belittled rape victims, going so far as to describe one who was a confirmed underage sex-slave as “still a prostitute.” “. However, Dershowitz did not make that statement as an off-the-cuff insult with intent to degrade the victim. He was referring to the victim’s accusations against Dershowitz, and what he claims to be her lying for the sake of media attention. Quoting the article: “”She’s now an admitted prostitute,” said Dershowitz. “I can tell you she is still a prostitute: she is selling these false stories now for money about me. That is a form of prostitution.””

      Furthermore, you claim Dershowitz “implies that an underaged sex slave had power over her situation with “she was not victimized, she made her own decisions in life” that led her to that position as if she were an informed adult capable of giving consent.” However, Dershowitz is not referring to the victim making her own decisions in life with reference to her being manipulated and sold for sex at age 15. He is referring to her making her own decisions at age 31, when she decided to present false accusations against Dershowitz.

      So you see, at least from the one article you provided, both pieces of textual evidence do not support the image of Dershowitz as a callous belittler of assault victims.

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  12. I agree with Mr Kupfer that the allegations against Dershowitz raised in the petition are trivial and baseless. What Mr Kupfer does not seem to understand is that there are 100 ways of being “pro-Israel.” Plenty of Israelis and plenty of Jewish people take issue with Dershowitz’s hard line defense of the actions of the IDF, for instance. To claim, as Dershowitz does, that the Israeli military is the most ethically scrupulous in the world, that it seeks to avoid civilian casualties more than any other army does, is simply false. You don’t get an 80% civilian casualty rate by going out of your way to avoid killing women and children. Similarly, Dershowitz is dishonest when it comes to his defense of torture. Of course he claims to be against torture. His argument is that we should legalize it because it’s going to happen anyway in the ticking bomb case. But he also claims that the essence of democracy is that citizens have a “choice.” You can’t say that torture is inevitable and also say that we have a choice. Or if you do say both things in the course of an argument for legalizing torture then you are defending torture. Dershowitz deserves to be attacked for the substance of his positions, not for the clients he takes on or for a couple instances of low-grade plagiarism. Neither Mr Kupfer or the petitioners seem to grasp this. The charge of antisemitism only confuses the issue further and is an attempt to shut down debate, which is precisely why it is hurled about at the first opportunity.

    Like

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