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Alan Dershowitz and Jack London
Manuel F Sousa photo


by Rhonda Spivak, Nov 4, 2019

Renowned Professor Alan Dershowitz was the keynote speaker at the Canadian Associates of Ben Gurion University event honouring Hope and Howard Morry on October 23 at the Convention Centre.

Dershowitz’s remarks were presented in the form of a conversation with prominent Winnipeg lawyer Jack London, as London asked questions and Dershowitz responded, with the exchange being lively and engaging.

Dershowitz, a tenured Harvard professor has  been called “the world’s best known criminal lawyer,” “the top lawyer of last resort,” “America’s most public Jewish defender” and “the Jewish State's lead attorney in the court of public opinion.”

Dershowitz began by praising Canada:“America has so much to learn from Canada, especially in the respect you show for your Indigenous people.” He also said "what an incredible community this is." He noted he had been to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and praised both its architecture and its content.

On the subject of Israel,  London indicated he had read Dershowitz's new book Defending Israel:The Story of My Relationship With My Most Challenging Client, saying it's the best thing you've ever written."

In his remarks, Dershowitz, a life long liberal,  stated, "I am a big supporter of a two state solution," noting that "I advocated that in 1967." He said he is in favour of the formula of having the large Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank be  part of Israel, in return for land swaps, with Israel giving over some portions of the present state of Israel to a contiguous Palestinian state. Dershowitz referred to the fact that  Israel would retain "a presence in the Jordan Valley" (he didn't say if it would be a military presence only or a civilian one as well) and that a  Palestinian neighborhood (he mentioned the neighborhood of Silwan, for example )  in East Jerusalem would be the Palestinian capital.

He also noted that he has had dinner with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Dershowitz also mentioned that in his estimation West Bank Palestinians would not be so happy to have a link to Hamas run Gaza. He further suggested that the Palestinians are losing support among the Gulf States and Sunni Arabs. He was critical of Trump's decision to withdraw support form the Kurds. He indicated it could result in the Sunni Arabs maybe moving more towards the Iranians, since they can't depend on the United States.

Dershowitz emphasized that  Israel is a democracy, which makes decisions based on the welfare of its citizens. On the subject of criticism of Israel, Dershowitz said that he is critical of some aspects of Israeli policy, such as the nation state law, and that he has opposed the settlement movement since 1973. He said he is comfortable criticizing Israel "but not when it comes to existential issues." He does not believe that people outside of Israel, such as himself, ought to criticize security related decisions that Israel makes based on what it considers is best for the people of Israel.

Dershowitz noted that much of the anti-Israel sentiment on the American left relates to the left’s hatred of Donald Trump. “When Obama was president, 70% of American Jews supported moving the American embassy to Jerusalem,” he stated. “When Trump moved the embassy 70% of American Jews opposed the move.” He suggested that American Jewry is facing a dilemma in 2020. What happens if  the Democrats choose a candidate ,such as Bernie Sanders, who is very anti-Israel? Will American Jews (the majority of whom have traditionally supported the Democrats) vote for him regardless of his views on Israel or will  American Jews vote for Trump instead? While Dershowitz did not vote for Donald Trump, he praised him for relocating the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and for recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights.

In response to a question from London, Dershowitz said "I believe in the right to advocate BDS [as part of free speech] but I don't believe in the right to practice BDS," he said. He noted that the BDS campaign was “deceptive at its core.”

On one hand, Dershowitz expressed optimism about Israel’s future. “Israel is economically and militarily strong,” he said. “The state has never been more admired by world leaders.” On the other hand, "it is losing support on college campuses"and "among young Jews." It also faces an "existential threat from Iran." (Dershowitz added that he thought "the Iran deal was a disaster.") He stressed the importance of Israel maintaining military superiority over all of its enemies. "Israel must always be self sufficient." he said, adding that “Israel can’t afford to depend for its defence on any other country, including the United States.”

He ended the discussion on Israel by saying that “ 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.


In response to a question by London about his relationship with Jeffery Epstein (“the elephant in the room”) Dershowitz  denied that he was ever friends with Epstein and thoroughly denied knowing anything about Epstein’s  sexual activities with  underage girls. He indicated he had social interaction with Epstein as part of  their shared interaction at Harvard University, since Epstein was a major donor to Harvard. "None of us had any idea of the kind of life he [Epstein] was living," Dershowitz stressed. "There was no hint of it whatsoever," he added, emphasizing he had "zero" knowledge of Epstein's interactions with underage girls. Dershowitz noted he was introduced to Epstein by Lady Rothschild.

Later on, Dershowitz served as Epstein’s lawyer, negotiated a plea agreement under which Epstein served 13 months in a county jail, much of it spent on "work release" in an office. (Alexander Acosta, then the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida., agreed to a plea deal, which  Dershowitz helped to negotiate, to grant immunity from all federal criminal charges to Epstein, along with four named co-conspirators and any unnamed “potential co-conspirators”). Dershowitz said "I did nothing improper" and did nothing "unethical." Dershowitz added that he never had any social interaction  with Epstein once he ceased acting as his lawyer.

Nonetheless, Dershowitz did say that he regrets having met Epstein, since Epstein has "destroyed" his life.

Dershowitz vehemently denied ever meeting Virginia Roberts Guiffre, who allegedly was a sexual assault victim of Jeffrey Epstein as a teenager in Florida in the early 2000s. Several years ago, Giuffre began publicly accusing Dershowitz of repeatedly abusing her before Epstein was first arrested in Florida.  She claims to have had sex with Dershowitz a number of  times in different locations. Dershowitz  stated emphatically, "I never laid eyes on this woman period." Dershowitz added "I have nothing to hide," He stressed "I don't have sex with anyone else except my wife." Dershowitz  also said he is suing Guiffre. "I will not rest until my reputation is restored," he stated, noting "I am going to fight back."  He complained bitterly about  the report in the New Yorker about  the woman’s claims against him. Dershowitz claims  that the story was an attempt to smear him because he has spoken out on occasion in defence of Donald Trump, which has made Dershowitz a pariah to the liberal media. He said the editor of the New Yorker hates Trump, Netanyahu and the State of Israel.


There was discussion between London and Dershowitz about the fact that that every accused is entitled to legal counsel and that is more important that nine guilty individuals go free than one innocent be convicted.  Dershowitz  noted that he was asked to defend Yigal Amir, the man who murdered Yitzchak Rabin. "In principle, I could have represented him, but I regarded his defense as immoral." He turned down the case because Amir’s defence was that he was entitled according to Jewish law to kill someone who posed a danger to the Jewish people. "I categorically refused to raise that defence," Dershowitz stated.

Dershowitz said that the only cases he will not take are Holocaust deniers. Dershowitz said. “I will not defend anyone’s right to distort or change history. Holocaust denial is antisemitism.” He did defend the right of neo- Nazis to march in Skokie, which upset his mother. He explained he upholds the right of Holocaust deniers to freedom of speech. But he said Holocaust denial speech should be banned in schools. He noted he would have supported the firing of Jim Keegstra because he was in a position to influence students. But but would have upheld the right of Ernst Zundel to preach his antisemitic lies and hate speech, "but we should be able to show them to be lies.” Dershowitz explained that  this is the difference between advocacy and incitement, . According to Dershowitz, advocacy would be going on the radio or television to espouse antisemitic speech, but incitement would be going to a KKK rally and telling those in the audience to attack or kill Jews. That is not protected speech.

London raised the issue of Democratic Party efforts to impeach president Trump. In response, Dershowitz spoke about one of his new books, “The Case Against Impeaching Trump”.  He said the American Constitution, makes it very difficult to remove a president from office simply because the party holding power in congress may not like him. London asked why Dershowitz would support Donald Trump. Dershowitz replied that he had supported Hillary Clinton, who was a friend of his. He stressed that there are many things he didn’t like about Donald Trump or his policies.But he said, “I don’t want the President impeached because I want the right to vote against him.” He added, “Impeachment should not become normalized. It should only be undertaken in the most extreme cases.”
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.