Cloud of controversy follows Alan Dershowitz

Attorney says he welcomes protest and criticism at upcoming book event in West Tisbury.

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Alan Dershowitz, shown speaking about his book "The Case Against Impeaching Trump" last summer at the Katharine Cornell Theater in Tisbury, will discuss his new book at the West Tisbury library. — Gabrielle Mannino

Updated August 29

Harvard Law professor and high-profile defense attorney Alan Dershowitz will discuss his new book, “Defending Israel: The Story of My Relationship with My Most Challenging Client,” at the West Tisbury library on Wednesday, Sept. 4.

The talk, which begins at 4 pm, has caused some Islanders to voice their concerns over the controversial author and public figure.

Beth O’Connor told The Times in a phone call that she plans on protesting at the library during the discussion. She said she will be “standing up” for all the women who were victimized by Dershowitz’s past client, Jeffrey Epstein.

O’Connor said that although she supports the right to free speech, she doesn’t agree with the library allowing Dershowitz to sell and promote his book during the event. She said at least a “handful of folks” will be at the library for the protest, and they have the go-ahead from library staff.

“We are in the process of talking with local officials to determine the boundaries of the protest,” O’Connor said. “We want to get as many people to participate as possible.”

Epstein, a convicted sex offender, was recently found dead in his jail cell while awaiting trial for a slew of sex-trafficking charges, according to published reports.

In a phone conversation with The Times on Wednesday, Dershowitz said people are entitled to protest and voice their opinions. “I think protests are good,” Dershowitz said. “They’re a lot better than what the Chilmark library did.”

According to Dershowitz, the Chilmark library recently banned him because of his “purported support” of President Donald Trump.

“I do not support Trump, I support constitutional rights,” Dershowitz said. “I welcome protest, I welcome dissent — I do not support banning or censorship.”

According to Dershowitz, the Chilmark library “found excuses” for banning him, of which he said the latest is, “You are just too popular; you fill up the room beyond its capacity.” 

“Obviously it’s a phony excuse,” he added.

Chilmark library director Ebba Hierta said the library has not banned Dershowitz, and actually attempted to find him another venue to speak at when they could not accommodate him.

“The things that Alan said are slanderous and patently false,” Hierta said. Both this year and last year, Hierta said, Dershowitz contacted the library about a speaking event. 

“Both times, we told him our schedule was fully booked through September,” Hierta said. Last year, Hierta said the library offered Dershowitz a time to speak in October, but he turned it down.

According to Hierta, the library was receiving complaints about Dershowitz’s speaker events disturbing normal operations by being too large.

Hierta said the Chilmark library meeting room holds 60 people at maximum — a policy the library must enforce.

“We have a fire code. We have had to turn other speakers away because of this too, not just Dershowitz,” Hierta said.

“I took great pain in trying to find him another speaking venue. I advocated for him when we said we didn’t have enough space. No banning, no shunning,” Hierta said.

“If people disagree with my views, let them. It is entirely within their rights,” Dershowitz said.

He mentioned that he won’t shy away from any critical questions during the discussion.

Most recently, Dershowitz has been associated in the media with his past client, Epstein. 

According to a report by the Washington Post, Dershowitz was accused of involvement in the American financier and convicted sex offender’s sex-trafficking ring, but denied any involvement.

Other controversial past clients of Dershowitz’ include O.J. Simpson, Claus Von Bulow, and Harvey Weinstein.

Last summer, Dershowitz gained attention when he alleged he was “shunned” by Martha’s Vineyard inner circles after defending President Donald Trump, saying that many of the president’s actions were protected under the U.S. Constitution.

Dershowitz caught some flack after standing his ground on Trump’s constitutional rights at a talk at the Katharine Cornell Theater, where he promoted his 2018 book “The Case Against Impeaching Trump.”

At the talk, he called himself a “quintessential liberal,” and defended Trump from claims that he should be impeached. Dershowitz suggested that if Hillary Clinton had been elected and he was defending her from impeachment, he would be “the hero of Martha’s Vineyard.”

Updated to include comments from Chilmark library director Ebba Hierta. – Ed.

  • I’m hoping mvtimes will write some inspirational editorial about how we should let people speak even if we disagree with them, would go well with their freedom of the press postings.

  • The guy has craved the spotlight as far back as I can remember. He’s basically a lawyer for bad rich people. Von Bulow? OJ? Epstein? Yeah, money and Dersh got them all off. I’m hopeful he won’t get the attention he seeks.

  • No doubt Alan is a scholar, but there is even less doubt he is more motivated by money and notoriety. Alan no longer has my vote after he appeared several times on Hannity’s Fox news program, not to mention supporting other crooks, looking for a way to please Hannity. Alan will freely admit he is a liberal, so finding a way to help Hannity’s Trump propaganda hour was more than any of us can handle. Of course Alan will justify that support by saying he was only there quoting the law, but even a stupid person knows he was there to support his own notoriety.

    • His lifestyle and island home were bought and paid for by defending notorious clients. I gag in disgust when I see him here on our special island, knowing he worked our legal system to get scumballs off the hook.

      • Everyone is entitled to a good defense. He didn’t let anyone off the hook. Juries did, after hearing all of the evidence. I don’t admire the man for some of the clients he has accepted, but it is his job, he does it very well, and he is generously compensated for his efforts.

  • Alan Dershowitz is a fraud and a hypocrite. He claims to value vibrant debate and an open and free marketplace of ideas, but this is the same man who lobbied relentlessly and engaged in the sleaziest of smear campaigns to have respected political science scholar Norman Finkelstein denied tenure from DePaul University because of his criticism of Israel. Dershowitz has no qualms about ruining lives and silencing people who’s views are offensive to him, but whines and cries like a baby that “The New Yorker is trying to silence me!” when it publishes a relatively anodyne profile of him. This from the same man who sent a sixty-page smear document to every faculty member and administrator at DePaul University to derail Norma Finkelstein’s career. IMO he deserves all he opprobrium MV can heap on him for his hypocrisy and McCarthyism, not even taking into whatever sordid activities he and Jeffrey Epstein engaged in, and his vociferous support of Trump (motivated by Trumps generous policies vis Israel). KARMA

    • “his vociferous support of Trump (motivated by Trumps generous policies vis Israel)”
      Could you please elaborate on this?

  • If I may, 99 out of 100 times, there is an association between what you say and the way you behave. Occasionally, being quoted in the public domain is simply an attempt at some form of self-glorification, but the caveat is that scoundrel like behaviors, can negate the spoken word. No better examples of this lie with Dershowitz and Drumpf. There is some terrific irony here. The latter has all the public speaking abilities of a third grader (with apologies to all third grade classes across America) and the man who seems to support has him , envisions himself as the pre-eminent interpreter of United States Law. What drives both engines here is, of course, is an unnatural, highly exaggerated sense of self. History will surely bear this out, when all is said and done, that these two, The Dersh and The Don, were simply Legends in their Own Minds, nothing more/nothing less. The sooner both of these guys are gone from the public eye and a microphone, the better off this country, and the world, will be !

  • Did my last comment not post? The public record makes clear to anyone who has been paying attention that Mr. Dershowitz is guilty of some very creepy behavior at the bare minimum. He deserves no seat at the table of public discourse until he is honest about the things he has done.

      • I say anyone who reads what is out there for all to see can come to their own conclusions or at least understand how others can come to theirs’.Mine included. My opinion is simply that. An opinion. If someone had to bet their last dollar on whether this man committed a crime, I wonder which way they would bet.
        You have a hard job reading these comments. No one is right all the time.I trust you do your best Mr. Brennan

  • “He mentioned that he won’t shy away from any critical questions during the discussion.”

    Here’s one: what really happened to Sue Barlach?

  • Alan Dershowitz in his own words:

    People write a book called the Israel lobby and complain that AIPAC is one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington. My response to that is, that’s not good enough. We [sic] should be the most powerful lobby in Washington….

    We are entitled to use our power. We have contributed disproportionately to the success of this country. We have done so much for this country. When you think of how much better this country has become since our grandparents and great grandparents took the risk of coming, here, we have not only the right we have the obligation to speak out, and use every piece, every bit of power available in support of Israel. – Alan Dershowitz at the Young Israel Synagogue, Scarsdale, May 9, 2017

    Does that sound like someone who encourages free and open debate? I guess Dersh was just “using his Jewish power” when he ruined Norman Finkelstein (who also happens to be Jewish). The book Dersh references – The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy by Walt & Mearsheimer – details compellingly how AIPAC has become a real liability to this country; of course for their premise the scholarly, well respected authors were vilified as anti-Semites for deploying the Jewish “undue influence” trope. But here’s Alan Dershowitz exhorting the Jewish community to make one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, the most powerful lobby in Washington! On behalf of a foreign country! It’s like Dershowitz is a walking, talking anti-Semitic trope.

  • Whale: Nope, protesting what you don’t like is not hypocrisy. That’s a silly statement. Hypocrisy is when you claim to follow the tenets of a religion that teaches compassion, but in reality do things like excuse your country’s President’s policies of racism, misogyny, demeaning human beings, keeping children in cages, and turn a blind eye to separating families, because you “don’t hold political leaders to the same standards as religous leaders.
    It is true that the AD talks at the Chilmark library were always overcrowded and too much for the small room. Been to many of his talks. But he seems to have lied that he was banned from the Chilmark Library, since he was offered a time in October when in fact the crowds would not be so overwhelming.

  • …he’s a man of low morals and no morals. Many summers ago I saw him playing volleyball on Lucy Vincent Beach.

  • …all kidding aside, Mr. Dershowitz is one impressive former Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard. He called it right about the Russian hoax. It was a simple setup and an obvious take-down attempt of an American President. For anyone who really cares about justice, look at the facts without bias of the target. Consider it like a Seinfeld episode…a crime story about nothing. This script didn’t go as planned. I never did trust the FBI. Stay tuned…

  • Ironic that the entity taking down Epstein is the National Center for Victims of Crime founded by the daughter of Sunny Von Bulow.

  • My suggestion for some end-of-summer, Labor Day reading: “Beyond Chutzpah” by Norman Finkelstein; this is the book that Dershowitz, that great 1A champion and Defender of Free Speech, so desperately tried and failed to block through a campaign of harassment and intimidation against the University of California Press (he threatened to bankrupt them if they published it).

    Finkelstein argues that criticism of Israel is routinely branded as anti-Semitism to quash it; the second half of the book is a devastating critique of Dershowitz’s book “The Case For Israel,” in which Finkelstein documents “the falsification of Israel’s human rights record by Dershowitz and his plagiarism of research from Joan Peters’ book From Time Immemorial.”

    Hopefully the Chilmark Library carries this book, as well as the Walt & Mearsheimer book, and Max Blumenthal’s Goliath and The 51 Day War. That is, unless Alan Dershowitz has managed to have them all banned the island.

    • Criticism of Israeli government policy and hating on Israel are too often confused as one. You seem to have that problem. This is now the 4th comment of yours this week, bashing Dershowitz and his defense of Israel. There are plenty of reasons to dislike the man. His pride of being Jewish and his love and support for the Jewish homeland is not one. In fact, Dershowitz is often critical of Israeli policy. Your first comment, where you decide that Dershowitz sticks up for constitutional rights of Trump because he is “motivated by Trump’s generous policies vis Israel” is outrageous. Trump’s anti-Semitism is obvious to any Jew when he also uses a “disloyal” theme to which you allude. You’ve gone further downhill from there, in this thread and in your comment under the West Tisbury librarian’s letter to the editor. The only one conducting a smear campaign here is you. You are free to go to the protest on Wednesday, or the talk, and you are free to ask Dershowitz about his “motivations”. You are also free to avoid it altogether. I do not like Dershowitz even one iota, but ignoring what real anti-Semitic tropes are only promotes the growing anti-Semitism here and around the world. Dershowitz does believe in freedom of speech, so much so, that the old op-ed piece he wrote some years back, saying that the age of consent for sex should be lowered, has new import now. Your Dershowitz bashing has taken a turn that is not okay. There is absolutely nothing wrong in his synagogue talk you quote, no matter how large you make the print, and, for sure, nothing at all wrong with American citizen Jews loving Israel, feeling great pride in their Jewish roots, and actively supporting the Jewish homeland’s right to exist and prosper–which is quite separate from disagreeing wholeheartedly with Netanyahu’s policies. I’m guessing your name is not really Mary.

  • Birds of a feather flock together. On the Chilmark porch the other day, Dershowitz announced very loudly to his drastically reduced audience of two, that he was halfway through his new book called, Guilt by Accusation. No, it should be ‘association’. Defending a sex trafficker is one thing. Socializing with him and getting a massage at his mansion is something else.

  • …just took the time to read the whole article I commented on earlier today. I somehow missed the part where Hierta & Al argued a little too loud about the Chilmark Library. I’m enjoying this story better than any of old Island gossip stuff I heard in the ’70s…

  • Jackie, you have packed a lot of straw men and fallacies into that word salad but you clearly put some effort into it so I will take a minute to respond before wishing you a happy weekend.

    1) No, I don’t confuse hatred of Israel with Israeli government policies. I object to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and Israel’s meddling in US politics, often with disastrous and costly results. Absent those things I have no problem with Israel.
    2) I’m not bashing Dersh because he loves Israel; I’m bashing Dersh because of his attempts to suppress criticism of Israel in this country.
    3) Your noting that Dersh sometimes criticizes Israel is a non-sequitur that proves nothing.
    4) Is the idea that people support politicians who advance their personal causes and interests really so “outrageous” to you? It is an obvious and everyday reality.
    5) Next you make the leap that Trump is an anti-Semite because of his recent loyalty comment. Well, there are plenty of American and Israeli Jews who completely disagree with you. Trump is incredibly popular in Israel, they’re naming a settlement after him (in the illegally occupied Golan Heights.) Miriam Adelson thinks there should be a “Book of Trump” added into the bible. But you are the expert that knows better than all these Jewish people. I’d love to see your credentials.
    6) I’m definitely posting some unflattering facts about Dersh; does my description of him qualify as a “smear campaign” if it’s based on facts? I don’t know & I don’t care.
    7) How gracious of you to invite me to the talk on Wednesday!
    8) You assert that “ignoring real anti-Semitic tropes promotes growing anti-Semitism in the world”. Well, I don’t see where I have ignored these real anti-Semitic tropes, nor do I see where you’ve bothered to define them. I do have a sneaking suspicion tho that false accusations of anti-Semitism produce more anti-Semitism.
    9) You believe that because Dersh once publicly espoused a controversial opinion that proves he cares about free speech? Really?
    10) Now you return to your first straw man, falsely insinuating I criticized Jews for supporting Israel. I don’t. But what I do object to, is a small group of people using their money and power to police commentary about Israel in this country, the ongoing push to criminalize criticism of Israel in this country, and the attempt to change the legal definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel. Even if the Jewish population (not a monolith o/c – many American Jews are critical of Israel) of this country was 85% instead 2.5%, it would still be wrong. I object to the limiting of my constitutional rights to advance the interests of a foreign country, a foreign country supported by my tax dollars to the tune of $10M a day. And I object to bullies like Dershowitz who seek to punish and intimidate people who criticize Israel.
    11)Finally, I did not put that text into a gigantic purple font. That is how the MVTimes software interpreted a basic HTML block quote tag, for whatever reason.

    Have a great weekend Jackie, tho I’m guessing that’s not really your name. Cheers!

    • Yes, your pro-Palestinian-at-all-costs bent is obvious. You forgot to add the “all about the benjamins” part to your rant about the “small group of Jews”. Nice. Of all the legitimate reasons to strongly object to Dershowitz, you rant on for 5 long posts objecting to his love for Israel. Nothing at all tropish about that. Nothing at all. You don’t know what you’re talking about when you assume what Israelis want and how they feel.

      But you did forget to expound on what you were first asked by Bulkington:

      “his vociferous support of Trump (motivated by Trumps generous policies vis Israel)”
      Could you please elaborate on this?

      Why don’t you explain how your assertion of what MOTIVATES Dershowitz (your word in which you imply he has a greater allegience to Israel than to what is good for Ameica) to do something he does NOT do (vociferously support of Trump) is not an anti-Semitic trope? You know, the one that says Jews are disloyal. You have confused Dershowitz’s devil’s advocate, attention-seeking, and yes, obnoxious defense of Trump’s legal and constitutional rights as “support”. Dersh is still a liberal. I do not like having to defend Dershowitz at all, for all kinds of reasons including his history with women, and I am glad to see protests against his library talk, but your pro-Palestianian rant needed to be exposed for exactly what it is. If you don’t like the obvious implications of your own words, that’s too bad.

      • Oh, and Mary, why don’t you explain exactly why you object to the synagogue talk you quoted from Dershowitz? Do you think American Jewish pride and support, even financial support of the Jewish homeland is a bad thing?
        You know, many American Jews are critical of some Israeli government policy, so you really should not be saying how critical they are just of Israel. A lot of people ARE critical of Israel, that it even exists, and these people wish to see it destroyed. When you don’t clarify, it seems on purpose. And some don’t clarify for the simply reason they are, at heart, anti-Semitic. Perhaps if you had responded to the direct question from Bulkington you would not be this defensive.

        “his vociferous support of Trump (motivated by Trumps generous policies vis Israel)” is just wrong on every level, and is, in fact, very tropish.

        • LOL Jackie, I’m moving on. I believe I have answered your questions in the posts above. Feel free to have the last word. Have fun at Dershowitz’s talk. You and “Bulkington” can keep each other company!

    • “But what I do object to, is a small group of people using their money and power to police commentary about Israel in this country, the ongoing push to criminalize criticism of Israel in this country, and the attempt to change the legal definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel.” Please identify the members of the group you claim to have the money and the power.

  • “But what I do object to, is a small group of people using their money and power to…” ~the person commenting as Mary Gamble

    Jewish conspiracy theories are considered forms of antisemitism.

    The Anti-Defamation League: “The notion that wealthy Jews are controlling the government is a longstanding anti-Semitic trope and one of the pillars of modern anti-Semitism.”

  • Here on the island, we’re known for letting celebrities go about their business in peace. Dershowitz’s business is attracting attention to himself. If anyone wishes to protest this insufferable character, the best thing to do is to give his public appearances a pass.

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