Dershowitz presents new book amid protests

Lawyer and academic advocates for two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

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Updated 12:30 pm

Alan Dershowitz presented his new book at a packed West Tisbury library amid protests condemning him for his association with his past client, Jeffrey Epstein. Dershowitz, a high-profile lawyer and academic, spoke on his new book “Defending Israel: The Story of My Relationship with My Most Challenging Client.”

He was met at the library steps by protestors holding signs saying “Brilliant lawyers defend the victims, not the rapists,” and “14 or 15 is not the age of consent anywhere or anytime.”

A larger sign read “We stand for Jane Doe.” representing Epstein’s victims.

As Dershowitz entered, the protesters began to shout “shame.”

One woman asked Dershowitz if he thought Epstein was a terrible man, to which he replied “yes.” Dershowitz then said he supports the right to free speech, and would defend the protesters even for protesting at his own event. “If the police tried to remove you I would defend your right to free speech, unlike you not defending my right to free speech,” Dershowitz said.

Inside the library conference room, the environment was antithetical to the demonstration going on out front. Dershowitz said the central topic of his new book “closely relates” to the protests being held against him in that “defending Israel today, particularly on college and university campuses, has become very challenging.” “Whenever I speak on school campuses, even before I represented Jeffrey Epstein, I was protested,” Dershowitz said. “I was protested in New Zealand, I was protested in Germany, I was protested in Israel.” 

He said the Israel-Palestine debate is inherently controversial, and the divisiveness of opinions is a “microcosm of what’s going on in the country.” “We have become a terribly divided and polarized country. And I have to tell you, without getting too political, the current president of the United States is largely responsible for that,” Dershowitz said.

According to Dershowitz, he is pro-Palestine and pro-Israel. He said the last time he chose sides “was when [he] was a kid playing stick ball,” apart from when he is required to defend a client. “Ok, when I represent defendants I choose sides. I obviously have to defend them zealously and to the best of my ability,” Dershowitz said. 

He said Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and in the Declaration of Independence of Israel, it calls for equal rights for all. “Has that promise been kept in reality? No. Has our promise been kept in reality? No,” Dershowitz said. 

The two-state solution, according to Dershowitz, is the best solution for both Israel and the Palestineans. 

Before starting the question and answer part of the discussion, moderator Judy Crawford asked the audience to be respectful and think carefully about the questions they would ask. “Some of you may be asking questions like, why does he defend this person or that person, but I want to say up front, that everyone in our system deserves a good defense, otherwise the system breaks down,” Crawford said. “Remember that we are here on the Vineyard, in the Vineyard culture. Please be your best self, I ask that of Alan, as well as the audience. I trust we can agree to disagree, without being disagreeable.”

Dershowitz said his general policy is to take critical questions first. “If you want to say something nice about me, tell me afterward. If you want to say something really negative or critical, raise your hand,” Dershowitz. 

Audience member Stewart Simms asked about justice within the legal system in Israel and how that relates to Palestineans. Dershowitz said the Israeli legal system is “far from perfect.” He said he has been a “gentle critic” of the Israeli justice system and preventive detention. But he said no justice system is perfect. “Look what we did in Guantanamo, look what we did after 9/11 — we were not a model of perfect justice,” Dershowitz said. 

Despite calling himself a “great patriot” in America, Dershowitz said he is critical of many aspects of the American legal system.

One audience member switched the conversation to America, and asked if, under President Donald Trump, anti-democractic ideals are being proliferated in order to suppress minorities.

“In this country, under our current president, there is a group of people who support him who I believe are afraid of minorities becoming the majority, and that they will lose power in this country,” he said.

He wondered whether Trump’s affinity for dictators and recent actions, like diverting funding for the border wall despite the wishes of Congress, is catering to anti-democratic ideals shared by power holders. “I am very concerned about that, but I don’t see the parallels between Israel and the United States. Israel is struggling for its survival, while the United States fortunately has no such existential threats,” Dershowitz said. 

11 COMMENTS

  1. Last year Al couldn’t get a drink from a garden hose at a cocktail party. All because he saw the J Edgar inspired coup to give Trump the boot. This year he’s greeted by protesters. All because he defended Epstein. Why not just pin a scarlet letter on the octogenarian Jew? That’ll satisfy this crowd. The PC crowd should leave him alone… or at least identify PC for whatever crime they feel he committed.

  2. It’s hilarious to watch people who wave the flag around and sound their patriotic fervor, bristle at free speech and the right to protest. Cognitive dissonance. To label Citizens who find it abhorrent that a man who has aligned himself with a child sex trafficker, then goes on Twitter to make a constitutional argument for lowering the age of sexual consent as the “PC Crowd”, is more a statement about your character than ours.

  3. Ok– let me remind people that most of the people reading this live in the Untied States of America .
    We have a thing called the “constitution” which governs most of our laws and rights.
    The first amendment allows us to gather and criticize a person like Alan Dershowitz.
    I applaud the people who take the time to confront him.
    But the 6 th amendment of that same constitution guarantees everyone a right to a trial, and a public defender . Let me remind the protesters here that someone defended the central park 5 — young black men who admitted to raping a white woman. Mr Dershowitz is a defense lawyer– his job is to defend people in a court of law. He apparently does it well.
    Yes, you can confront him, that is your right, as he clearly states. But it is also not only his right but his duty to defend people who are not yet proven guilty. That includes Epstein.
    I did not support the Nazi’s march in Skokie Illinois in 1977, but they had the right to do it, Just as I have the right to put a colander on my head for my drivers license photo.
    Yes , i know–my liberal colleagues here will criticize me for that, but they will also not demand that the president of the United States be incarcerated for falsifying a National Hurricane Center map of a deadly hurricane. Should trum pee go to trial for that offense, and about a hundred other criminal violations , I would hope some lawyer would defend him .

  4. Dershowitz is a man of integrity. I am not with him politically but he always uses the “” if the shoe were on the other foot “” logic. It is a shame that a man so embedded on MV for years now gets slandered. What does that reflect on the character of some of his past friends.?

    • People of integrity don’t lie as easily as they breathe– about big things and small– whether it is about being banned from speaking at the Chilmark library, which Dershowitz was not, or about the loads of untrue blather put forth about what Democrats want. It’s not slander if it’s true, but “alternative facts”, a term that could only be coined by a Trumpee, are, indeed, lies.