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Israel defender Alan Dershowitz has long history of attacking sex abuse victims

Originally published at The Electronic Intifada

There are two groups of people Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz has spent his career resolutely defending. The first is Israeli war criminals. And the second is accused and convicted rapists.

As rape allegations against Dershowitz intensify, his increasingly bellicose denials, steeped in brazen hostility towards child victims of sexual abuse, are raising eyebrows.

With smear tactics that closely resemble the manner in which he attacks Palestinian victims of Israeli violence, Dershowitz rejected the latest allegations as fabrications, telling Local 10 News that his accuser, Virginia Roberts, is a “serial liar” and “prostitute.”

At the age of fifteen Roberts was groomed into sexual slavery by Dershowitz’s close friend and client, billionaire hedge fund financier and convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.  Just one of dozens of underage girls Epstein procured, Roberts was lent out to Epstein’s powerful associates for sexual exploitation and blackmail.

She recently named two of those associates as Alan Dershowitz and Britain’s Prince Andrew in an ongoing lawsuit against the federal government for its scandalous handling of the case.

In a sworn affidavit filed in a Florida court on 21 January, Jane Doe #3, who has identified herself in media reports as Virginia Roberts, provided new details about Dershowitz’s alleged role in sexually abusing her when she was a minor.

“Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz was around Epstein frequently,” declares Roberts in the filing. “Dershowitz was so comfortable with the sex that was going on that he would even come and chat with Epstein while I was giving oral sex to Epstein.” Roberts added that she had sex with Dershowitz “at least six times,” specifying where and when the encounters took place.

When Local 10 News reporter Bob Norman pushed backed against Dershowitz’s characterization of a child molestation victim of Jeffrey Epstein as a “prostitute,” Dershowitz responded, “She was not victimized … she made her own decisions in life.” He also questioned whether the now 31-year-old Roberts is fit to be a mother.

Weeks earlier Dershowitz labeled Roberts a “serial prostitute” whose testimony could not be trusted “against somebody with an unscathed reputation like me.”

While Dershowitz’s hysterical misogyny may seem puzzling, it is hardly out of character.

Pattern of hatred

For decades Dershowitz has positioned himself as a strong advocate for accused and convicted rapists, child molesters and wife killers under the guise of protecting the civil liberties of the accused. However, a deeper examination of his work reveals a pathological pattern of hatred against victims of rape that appears to have been overshadowed by his advocacy for torture and Israel.

In August 1994, Dershowitz shamelessly capitalized on the notorious rape allegations against three Duke University basketball players, which turned out to be fabricated.

“The problem of false rape reports is a serious one,” wrote Dershowitz in The Washington Times, characterizing the rare episode as emblematic of false flag rape reports by spiteful, selfish women coddled by a society that privileges alleged victims of rape to the detriment of innocent men across the country. “The time has come to stop patronizing calculating women who use rape accusations to serve their own selfish interests,” Dershowitz proclaimed.

Dershowitz went on to cite as proof a highly questionable study carried by out by Purdue University sociologist Eugene Kanin, which found that 41 percent of rape allegations were false. Kanin’s finding was based on police records of rape reports over a nine-year period (1978 to 1987) from a police department in an unidentified small midwestern town. Despite the shady methodology, lack of transparency on source material and criticism from several scholars, Kanin’s study has long been invoked by “men’s rights activists” (MRAs) as evidence that women often lie about rape in a system rigged in their favor.

In reality, false rape reports are extremely rare. That’s not to say that false allegations are unimportant or that they should be ignored. But Dershowitz’s proposed solution in his Washington Times column was to criminally prosecute women suspected of filing false rape charges, a practice that has exacted a disastrous toll in the UK.

That same year, Dershowitz published a little known book titled, The Abuse Excuse: And Other Cop-outs, Sob Stories, and Evasions of Responsibility, a collection of short essays warning of a trend in violent criminals, particularly women, blaming their actions on past victimization.

Throughout the book Dershowitz conjures up a cartoonish image of “radical feminists” as a scourge on equality, free speech and the civil liberties of innocent men. He portrays radical feminist leaders as a combination of anti-pornography campaigners Catharine Mackinnon and Andrea Dworkin coupled with Lorena Bobbitt, the woman who notoriously severed her husband’s penis while he was sleeping in 1993.

Naturally, The Abuse Excuse has been embraced by MRAs for its hostility towards women. In a glowing review of that book published at the MRA website A Voice for Men, the author implores his fellow MRAs to “go to your local library and pick up a copy,” adding, “I think it should be required reading for all MRAs.”

Flipping through the book, one can see why.

In a chapter titled, “Wives Also Kill Husbands — Quite Often,” Dershowitz rails against “radical feminists” for concealing the deadly spousal violence wives (especially Black wives) inflict on their husbands across America.

There is no question that men can be and are victims of domestic violence (as well as sexual violence) at the hands of female perpetrators; this problem is, of course, much less common than violence by men against women. But Dershowitz’s tall tale of a feminist conspiracy to disappear male victims doesn’t square with reality.

In a chapter titled “Censorship from the Left,” Dershowitz warns his readers that “Several feminist groups recently persuaded the New York Court of Appeals to create a new crime — marital rape.” He followed up, as he often does after declaring something awful, with the disclaimer, “there is nothing wrong with making it a crime for a husband to rape his wife,” but he insisted that it must be enacted by popular vote through the legislature.

In another chapter, Dershowitz blasts female university students for “intimidating professors into teaching only what their most radical feminist students want to hear.” He warns of an all-powerful campus movement of radical feminists imposing a “new tyranny of censorship” so extreme, “even many tenured professors do not want to incur the wrath of organized feminists on campus.”

Dershowitz later whined that his female students at Harvard were “trivializing real sexual harassment” after some complained that he devoted a disproportionate amount of his rape law lectures to false rape allegations. “They found the atmosphere of my classroom hostile because I spent two days discussing false reports of rape and because I made arguments in favor of disclosing the names of complaining witnesses in rape cases,” he said.

Dershowitz claimed that the angry feminist students even threatened to press “hostile-environment sexual harassment charges.” Even though the supposed charges were never filed, he warned that feminists were infringing on free speech by expanding the definition of sexual harassment.

Defending church cover-up

In 2002 — a time when, according to Jeffrey Epstein’s housekeeper, Dershowitz frequently stayed at Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion where the rape of children was taking place daily and in his presence — Dershowitz took up the cause of child pornography viewers. In his column for the magazine Penthouse, Dershowitz invoked the language of individual rights to argue that watching “kiddie porn” doesn’t make one a bad person and therefore should not be a punishable offense.

In 2005, after three teenage boys were convicted of statutory rape for receiving oral sex from a 15-year-old girl at the Milton Academy, a ritzy Massachusetts boarding school attended by Dershowitz’s daughter, Dershowitz slammed Massachusetts’s statutory rape laws, a fair argument considering the close ages between the boys and the girl (the boys were between the ages of sixteen and seventeen and the sex was consensual). But that wasn’t all. Dershowitz went even further, agitating for the state to “considerably” lower the age of consent, which was sixteen years, The Boston Globe reported at the time.

Dershowitz went on to defend the Catholic Church’s inaction and cover-up of child molestation in 2010. Writing in FrontPage Magazine, a far-right outlet published by slavery apologist David Horowitz, Dershowitz told readers that children sometimes lie about rape. “It’s easy to forget, in the face of real victims with real complaints, that there have also been false accusations as well,” said Dershowitz.

Smearing a whistle-blower to protect a child molester

In the weeks leading up to the 30 December 2014 court filing that named him as a rapist in Jeffrey Epstein’s sex slave scheme, Dershowitz was trying to overturn the guilty verdict of convicted child rapist and award-winning Hollywood director Roman Polanski. It was one of the few times he failed.

Before that, Dershowitz was busy protecting Hasidic Brooklyn cantor and child molester Baruch Lebovits from punishment by defaming the father of one of Lebovits’s victims.

Lebovits was convicted in 2010 on eight of ten counts of child molestation and faced up to 32 years in prison. That conviction was overturned on a technicality after Alan Dershowitz joined his legal team. Dershowitz declared at the time, “our client was a victim of an extortion plot,” a foreshadowing of his response to rape allegations against himself. “I’m an innocent victim of an extortion conspiracy,” Dershowitz has insisted.

In Lebovits’ case, the extortion claims advanced by Dershowitz turned out to be a lie. Nevertheless, Lebovits was released back into the community last October after a short sixteen-month stint at Rikers Island on incredibly reduced charges.

Sam Kellner, the father of one of Lebovits’ many victims who brought the child sex abuse scandal to the attention of the authorities, was viciously slandered by the Lebovits family. Using fabricated evidence, the Lebovits family accused Kellner of trying to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from Baruch Lebovits in exchange for recanting his son’s testimony. Kellner was eventually indicted.

Alan Dershowitz played a central role in spreading the smear against Kellner, which was crucial to Lebovits’ defense. Though the charges against Kellner were eventually dismissed after it was determined that the accusation was fabricated, Dershowitz has continued to promote the wild falsehood against Kellner, whose reputation and family life were nearly destroyed by the episode.

For Dershowitz, this thuggish manipulation was par for the course.

Smear campaign

During his time as lead attorney on Jeffrey Epstein’s defense team, Dershowitz mobilized a pre-emptive smear campaign against Epstein’s underage victims, mining their pages on the social network MySpace for comments relating to marijuana and alcohol use, which he printed out and compiled into dossiers for the police and state attorney’s office in a salacious attempt to tarnish the credibility of Epstein’s accusers.

Dershowitz hired private investigators to track and dig up dirt on at least one of the underage girls who accused Epstein of rape. The girl, a high school student, reported that one of the private investigators had impersonated a police officer while asking her questions. In a letter from Dershowitz to the Palm Beach police chief, obtained by The Guardian, Dershowitz attached a copy of the girl’s MySpace page, noting “her apparent fascination with marijuana,” and expressed fears “that she, an accomplished drama student, might try to mislead [the private investigators] as successfully as she had misled others.”

In light of his penchant for bullying, harassing, intimidating and smearing rape victims and their advocates with mafia-like precision, it should come as no surprise that Dershowitz has also been a leading voice against rape shield laws, which restrict defendants from using the past sexual behavior of an alleged rape victim to discredit them.

In 2011, Dershowitz was enamored as former head of the International Monetary Fund and accused rapist Dominique Strauss-Kahn successfully impugned the character of his accuser (an immigrant hotel maid) by publicizing inconsistencies in her background that had no connection to whether or not he raped her. Commenting on the Strauss-Kahn case, Dershowitz argued that the press was “dead wrong” not to name alleged rape victims.

“It is absolutely critical” for media outlets to publish names, argued Dershowitz, “so that people who know the victim or know her reputation can come forward to provide relevant information.”

Persecuted by “vindictive feminists”?

Dershowitz does not extend his appeal for transparency to people who pay for sex.

In a column published in The Gainesville Sun in January 1985, Dershowitz held “vindictive feminists” responsible for the arrest of track and field Olympic Gold medalist Edwin Moses in a Los Angeles police sting on Sunset Boulevard that had swept up dozens of people for allegedly soliciting sex workers. Dershowitz reasoned that feminists were so angry over the punishment dished out to sex workers, they were using their omnipotence over the criminal justice system to coerce police departments into punishing male customers.

While portraying middle and upper class men who solicit sex as the true victims of prohibition, Dershowitz disparaged sex workers as practically subhuman criminals. “There really is an enormous difference in impact between the arrest of a professional prostitute and the arrest of an otherwise law-abiding citizen who occasionally seeks to taste the forbidden fruit of sex for hire,” argued Dershowitz.

“For the prostitute, an occasional arrest is an expected occupation hazard. The quick arraignment, bail and fine are regarded as a cost of doing business. She is back on the street hustling her next john within hours. Certainly there is little stigma or embarrassment in being arrested; the street-walker publicly advertises what she’s doing every time she puts on her ‘uniform’ and takes to the sidewalks,” he continued.

“For the john, the public arrest can be a catastrophic event. It can ruin a marriage, destroy a reputation, scar his children, terminate a career.”

“American Sniper” spawns death threats against Arabs and Muslims

Originally published at The Electronic Intifada

Following the release of the film American Sniper in theaters across the US, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has warned of a “significant rise in violent hate rhetoric targeting the Arab and Muslim-American communities.”

While the ADC believes the threats “are directly linked to the negative media coverage and hateful propaganda launched against the Arab and Muslim communities following the attacks on the Charlie Hedbo offices in France” earlier this month, the civil rights organization notes that racist threats have intensified in the wake of American Sniper, with moviegoers taking to social media to express their desire to murder Arabs and Muslims after leaving the theater.

Having both watched the movie and read the book on which it is based, I am not the least bit surprised by the incitement it has spawned. American Sniper is brilliant propaganda that valorizes American military aggression while delivering Hollywood’s most racist depiction of Arabs in recent memory, effectively legitimizing America’s ongoing bombing campaigns across the Middle East.

Unrepentant mass killer

American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood, is based on the autobiography of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, reputedly the deadliest sniper in American history.

Replete with hatred, bigotry and unrepentant bloodlust, Kyle’s book boasts of killing 160 Iraqi “savages” during his four deployments in Iraq following the illegal US invasion and occupation in 2003.

“Savage, despicable evil. That’s what we were fighting in Iraq,” Kyle writes in his book.

“I only wish I had killed more,” he writes, adding, “I loved what I did…It was fun. I had the time of my life.”

“They hated us because we weren’t Muslim. They wanted to kill us, even though we just booted out their dictator, because we practiced a different religion than they did,” adds Kyle, who goes on to confess, “I don’t shoot people with Korans – I’d like to, but I don’t.” In Kyle’s mind, all Iraqis who resisted the invading US soldiers were irrationally violent religious fanatics.

In stark contrast, Hollywood sanitizes Kyle, humanizing him as a complex, likable and anguished hero.

Hateful

Following the movie’s debut in select theaters on Christmas Day, author and journalist Max Blumenthal and I were deluged with death and rape threats for tweeting our disgust with Hollywood’s glorification of a mass killer and exposing the racism and lies espoused by Kyle. Although Kyle’s most ardent supporters claim to hate ISIS and al-Qaeda, they often call on these terrorist groups to behead critics of US military aggression.

The movie has since broken box office records, grossing $105 million during its nationwide opening and garnered accolades from across the political spectrum (Vice-President Joe Biden said he wept at the Washington, DC premier). In addition, the movie scored six Academy Award nominations.

Frustrated by the glorification and whitewash of a racist mass killer, I posted passages from Kyle’s book on Twitter, highlighting his hateful and homicidal statements and drew attention to the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim threats the movie was inspiring, all of which I compiled into a Storify that went viral.

Image by Rania Khalek

The reaction to the movie has since snowballed into a partisan bickering match, with celebrities chiming in.

Actor Seth Rogen compared American Sniper to Stolz der Nation (Nation’s Pride), a fictitious Nazi propaganda film about a glorified Nazi sniper that appears at the end of the Quentin Tarantino movie Inglorious Basterds (the Nazi sniper is shown mowing down American and British soldiers with great efficiency and apparent moral superiority). Documentary maker Michael Moore also stirred controversy when he tweeted that snipers “aren’t heroes,” though he later clarified he was not referring to American Sniper, which he liked. Nevertheless, a who’s who of rightwing celebrities, pundits, politicians and worshippers of US military aggression have whipped up a blindly patriotic frenzy, firing back against the movie’s critics.

Meanwhile, growing criticism of American Sniper appears to be damaging its chances of winning at the Oscars, with Academy members expressing concern that the film glorifies a “sociopath.”

Racist atrocity porn

While the canonization of Kyle on the big screen is appalling, the movie’s whitewash of the US destruction of Iraq and its racist portrayal of Arabs has proven to be far more dangerous.

The US destruction of Iraq left an estimated one million Iraqis dead, 4.5 million displaced, five million orphaned, some two million widowed and birth defects and cancer rates significantly worse than those seen in the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Japan at the end of the Second World War. The US war on Iraq also fueled the rise of ISIS. This immeasurable suffering is completely erased from the narrative presented in American Sniper.

In the opening scene of the film a conflicted Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) is perched on a rooftop with an Iraqi mother and child in the crosshairs of his sniper scope. He watches the mother give the child a grenade to throw at a US marine convoy. He reluctantly seeks permission to shoot.

Suddenly the screen cuts to Kyle as a child hunting with his father in Texas. Another scene shows him at church. Next he’s at the dinner table.

“There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs,” saysKyle’s father. “Now, some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world…those are the sheep. And then you got predators who use violence to prey on the weak. They’re the wolves. And then there are those who have been blessed with the gift of aggression, and the overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed that live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.”

For the rest of the movie Kyle is the sheepdog, the protector, the hero. And Iraqis are the evil wolves he must put down to protect the lives of his fellow “sheepdogs.”

Next we see Kyle as an adult. We watch him fall in love, get married and join the SEALs. Then the Twin Towers fall and he is deployed to Iraq, a narrative that leaves the poorly informed with the impression that Iraq was involved in the 11 September 2001 attacks, the very lie that the Iraq war was predicated on. This false narrative is reaffirmed when al-Qaeda appears in Iraq on Kyle’s first tour in 2003, a revisionist history that conflates indigenous armed resistance to a foreign occupier with a terrorist group that attacked the United States. In a country where 43 percent of Americans still believe that Iraq was connected to the 11 September 2001 attacks, perpetuating this falsehood, even if unintentional, is reckless.

Eventually, we return to the scene in the movie’s opening. Kyle shoots the child to save the Marine convoy. The mother runs towards the felled child, collects the grenade and prepares to launch it in the direction of the soldiers. Kyle shoots the woman dead at mid-launch. The grenade explodes before it reaches the soldiers.

“There was a kid who barely had any hair on his balls, his mother gives him a grenade and sends him out there to kill Marines,” says an agonized Kyle. “That was evil like I’d never seen before.”

This black and white, good versus evil theme continues throughout the movie’s entirety. US soldiers are humanized. They have names and families, fiancés and children. And they return home with deep physical and psychological wounds, whereas the local Arab population, including the women and children, are depicted as terrorists. The only time Arab women and children are innocent victims is when they are being brutalized by scary Arab men, but even they are nameless figures.

Marlow Stern at The Daily Beast provides a cogent summary of the movie’s depiction of Arab characters:

The “savages” consist of [Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi, who’s introduced via the infamous clip of him decapitating [American radio-tower repairman] Nick Berg; his No. 2, “The Butcher,” who brutally executes an informant’s young son by drilling his head with a power tool, and stores people’s heads on shelves; and Mustafa, a Syrian Olympic sharpshooter who videotapes his kills and hawks bootlegs of them on the street. Mustafa is, like all classic villains, dressed in black, doesn’t utter in a word, and is single-minded in his pursuit of Kyle – he has a poster of Kyle’s bounty, $180,000, on his wall, and spends his spare time spinning an armor-piercing bullet on a table.

In the end, it wasn’t Iraqi “savages” that killed Kyle. A fellow soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder shot Kyle dead at a Texas gun range in 2013, a fact the film glosses over before cutting to footage from Kyle’s real-life funeral. Some may have even left the theater with the impression that Kyle was killed in Iraq.

Where are the moderates?

As the threats against Arab and Muslim-Americans and critics of American Sniperescalate in their ferocity, one is left wondering: Where are the American moderates? Why haven’t the movie’s director, producers and actors condemned the violent extremism their film is inciting?

(Jim DeFelice, one of the co-authors of the book American Sniper, condemned the threats of violence unleashed after I implored him to in a debate on Uprising Radio.)

Under the threatening circumstances, the ADC is encouraging Arab, Muslim, South Asian and Sikh-American communities to be on alert and report any hate crimes to the authorities.

“If you are placed in physical danger because of your ethnicity, religion or national origin: Call the police (dial 911 in most communities), and/or click here to contact your local FBI office. It is the FBI’s job to investigate hate-motivated crimes and specific threats of violence. You can also report a hate crime to the FBI online using this form,” says the ADC advisory.

“If you feel you have been a victim of a hate crime, of if any individual or place of worship needs any assistance with any of the above, including dealing with law enforcement, please contact the ADC Pro-Bono Legal Department at 202-244-2990 or legal AT adc DOT org.”

Podcast: Journalist Dan Cohen on What He Saw as Gaza Endured Deadly Winter Storm

On this year’s first episode of Unauthorized Disclosure Kevin Gosztola and I speak with journalist Dan Cohen about his experience reporting from the besieged and devastated Gaza Strip following Israel’s summertime assault, which killed over 2,200 people, including more than 500 children, and damaged and destroyed over 100,000 homes. (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here).

More from Kevin: Read more

How Alan Dershowitz bullied rape victims to protect a serial child molester

Originally published at The Electronic Intifada

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz always felt children were fair game for Israeli missiles. Now the question is whether he thinks they are fair game for the sexual exploits of his powerful associates and himself.

Dershowitz and the UK’s Prince Andrew were accused in a recent court filing of raping a teenage girl who was forced into sexual slavery by Dershowitz’s close friend and client, billionaire hedge fund financier and convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. The court filing is part of an ongoing civil lawsuit by four of Epstein’s victims accusing the federal government of violating the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA) when it made a secret 2008 plea deal with Epstein without informing them.

Dershowitz played a key role in negotiating a secret provision in Epstein’s plea deal that immunized “any potential co-conspirators” from federal prosecution. In other words, Dershowitz negotiated an agreement that (if the allegations against him are true) shields him from prosecution for participating in a child sex-trafficking ring.

Since there has been no trial to determine whether Dershowitz and Prince Andrew are liable for the allegations against them, which they categorically deny, they should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

That said, while the mainstream press revives its interest in Epstein and reproduces strongly worded denials from Dershowitz and representatives of Prince Andrew, it has overlooked the role of Epstein’s social network in building up his influence and shielding him from accountability. Media coverage of Epstein has been particularly derelict in failing to note the pivotal role of Alan Dershowitz, Israel’s most aggressive defender, in securing near impunity for a sexual predator and his accomplices by bullying, harassing, intimidating and smearing child victims of rape. Read more

Killing 40 civilians in one go is “reasonable,” says Israel army ethicist

Originally published at The Electronic Intifada 

Since the Israeli army killed more than 2,200 Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip last summer, including more than 500 children, a dedicated army of official and unofficial whitewashers has been mobilized on a mission to rescue Israel’s bloodstained public image.

Such was the case on 4 December, when dozens of people, including this writer, filed into the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Manhattan’s Upper West Side for a panel discussion titled, “Defense with a conscience: Exploring military ethics in Israel.”

Convened by the liberal Zionist New Israel Fund and moderated by Jane Eisner, editor-in-chief of the liberal The Jewish Daily Forward, the event was advertised as a discussion about “‘moral armies’ and the challenges of defensive wars in today’s new Middle East.”

Among the panelists were Israeli military “ethicists” Asa Kasher and Moshe Halbertal, as well as retired US Air Force Major-General Robert Latiff.

Kasher and Halbertal co-authored the Israeli military code of ethics, which has guided the army’s conduct during Israel’s increasingly ferocious military assaults against the Palestinians it occupies as well as its neighbors over the last two decades.

The atmosphere was cozy and intimate, with randomly assigned dinner table seating. Each table was decorated with wine bottles and elegant food platters that aimed to foster “a new kind of conversation about Israel,” according to the program.

As the generally Israel-friendly crowd of mostly older New Yorkers sipped on Merlot and munched on pita chips from the comfort and safety of the JCC, they listened to the ethicists doing what they do best: twisting international law to sanctify Israel’s “right” to inflict limitless suffering on the 1.8 million Palestinians, the vast majority refugees, confined to the Gaza Strip solely because they are not Jews.

The ethicists

Appealing to right-wing Zionist sensibilities, Kasher dominated the discussion, arguing that Palestinian civilians—or as he calls them, “the neighbors of the terrorists”— had to die to protect the lives of Israeli combatants.

In an exclusive interview following the panel, Kasher’s extremism reached new heights. He told me that Givati Brigade commander Ofer Winter was right to carpet bomb the southern Gaza City of Rafah to prevent the capture of an Israeli soldier, an order that killed the soldier and 190 Palestinians in a matter of hours, though Kasher insisted that “only forty” were killed.

“Killing forty civilians” is “reasonable,” he told me.

Moshe Halbertal, a law professor at Hebrew University and visiting professor of law at New York University, was less extreme in his rhetoric and allowed for some criticism of Israel’s behavior in Gaza. But he chalked up Israeli atrocities, like the wiping out of dozens of families in Gaza, to “sporadic” mistakes. “War is messy,” he said.

Despite the pretense of ideological disagreement, Kasher and Halbertal were advancing the same agenda. For two hours, they explained why and how the massacre of defenseless Palestinians who have nowhere to flee is ethical, and in Kasher’s case, a moral imperative. Read more

“Liberation for all”: Why Palestine is a key issue on the streets of Ferguson

Originally published at The Electronic Intifada

“As a person who supports Israel I was glad to see that there were no signs and conversation about Gaza at all,” said St. Louis-area rabbi Ari Kaiman after participating in a clergy-led protest outside the Ferguson Police Department on 13 October.

It was the final day of the “weekend of resistance” — four days of direct actions organized by Ferguson protesters who asked people of conscience from around the country to join them in St. Louis to demand justice for Michael Brown, the unarmed Black teenager gunned down by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

Kaiman was right to worry and he is not alone. Israel’s apologists are desperate to neutralize the growing bond between Palestinians and African Americans spurred by the uprising in the small Missouri town in the northern outskirts of St. Louis.

But they are failing miserably.

While Palestine advocacy has traditionally been excluded from progressive and social justice circles in the United States, incredible displays of mutual solidarity between Ferguson and Palestine have been featured regularly in the streets of St. Louis and beyond since Brown’s grisly slaying on 9 August. And the “weekend of resistance” was no exception.

Among the hundreds of people who answered Ferguson’s call that weekend were dozens of Palestine solidarity activists who came as part of the Palestine Contingent.

Progressive except for Palestine

Delivering a statement of solidarity on behalf of the Palestine Contingent at a massive rally in downtown St. Louis on 11 October, Suhad Khatib of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee said to the crowd, “We recognize that none of us is free until all of us are free. We know Black liberation in this country will lead to liberation for all.”

Ashley Yates, co-founder of Millennial Activists United, a social justice organization created after Brown’s killing, responded, “Palestinians were the first people to reach out in support while we were getting tear gassed. We stand with y’all.”

The crowd thundered with applause.

Powerful moments such as these place liberal and progressive Israel apologists who support Ferguson in the awkward position of having to reconcile their opposition to racist militarized policing in the US with their unbridled support for the Israeli apartheidregime that rules over Palestinians.

Susan Talve, described to me by several activists as “the most progressive rabbi in St. Louis,” embodies this dissonance. Read more

Podcast: Deconstructing the Torture Report & Its Possible Ramifications with Reprieve Attorney Alka Pradhan

On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure Kevin Gosztola and I spoke with Reprieve’s Alka Pradhan about the Senate intelligence committee’s explosive report on the CIA’s worldwide network of torture dungeons. (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here).

Here’s Kevin with the details:

The Senate intelligence committee finally released the summary of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program this past week. It detailed a criminal conspiracy involving the torture the CIA used against detainees in the global “war on terrorism” and the lengths to which CIA officials and interrogators had gone to cover up and conceal their actions from the Justice Department, Congress, the press and citizens.

Senate intelligence committee staff, which put together the report over a period of three and a half years, reviewed the detention and treatment of at least 119 individuals. At least thirty-nine of them were subjected to what the CIA termed “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

This week’s episode of “Unauthorized Disclosure” features an interview with Alka Pradhan, who is a DC counsel for Reprieve US and primarily represents prisoners who remain in indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay. The organization has represented a number of detainees who were once in CIA custody and tortured.

Pradhan shares her reactions to reading the torture report summary and what details stunned her. She breaks down some of the broader aspects of the report and outlines what effect the new information might have on new efforts to achieve justice for torture victims. She also describes how President Barack Obama’s administration still tortures, especially because he issued an executive order in his first year as president that included a loophole permitting rendition.

The interview is counter-programming to the torture defenders who appeared on all the Sunday morning news programs today—like former Vice President Dick Cheney; former Director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service Jose Rodriguez, former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, who crafted “legal” arguments so the Bush administration could argue torture was permissible, CIA Director John Brennan, and former CIA Director Michael Hayden.

Later in the podcast, Rania Khalek and I continue to dig into what was learned about CIA torture this past week. We confront the grotesque use of “rectal rehydration” on detainees.

We also recorded an additional twenty minutes of material to talk about a USAID contractor trying to help the US government topple the Cuban government by co-opting the hip-hop underground scene. Palestinian American organizer Rasmea Odeh’s release from jail until her sentencing is highlighted as well.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode.

Also, below is a player for listening to the podcast. You can listen to the podcast this way or you can go to iTunes and find the podcast listed there.

“I’ve been working on these issues of rendition and CIA treatment of detainees for a long time,” Pradhan shared. “My colleagues and I thought we had a pretty good handle on how the program worked, how organized it was, etc. But I think what really jumps out when you start to read the summary is how chaotic it actually was. You get a picture of a CIA that has no idea what it is doing,” which was essentially confirmed by CIA director John Brennan in his press conference on December 11.

“The CIA has never been an interrogation or detention agency. It’s not trained to do those things. For them to suddenly setup from scratch prisons in those countries, what you see is them really making it up as they go along.”

Pradhan also asserted that the question for the CIA was not getting permission to torture detainees. “It was really the CIA beginning to use torture and then saying, you know what, we should use these techniques on everyone we detain. Let’s go get legal cover. And then they went to the Department of Justice to get legal authorization for the techniques. It wasn’t the other way around.”

“I was surprised really by a lot of those details. I knew the bare bones, but I was shocked at how disorganized it was, how few people even within the CIA were adequately briefed on it and when you get down to it the brutality of the techniques,” she said.

“People like Dick Cheney, his deputy, David Addington, Michael Hayden, George Tenet, they knew. They knew everything that was going on. They knew that there were secret prisons. Dick Cheney was apparently not briefed on where those prisons were, but they knew that we had prisons and they knew that we were using torture and they approved us using torture,” Pradhan stated.

It is very difficult to believe President George W. Bush didn’t ask the CIA to come into the Oval Office and explain what was happening when rumors started to swirl from 2003-2005.

If it is really true that Bush did not know anything about what the CIA was doing, Pradhan added, “I find that [to be] just a shocking abdication of responsibility for him to now stand up, now that the CIA has admitted that it use these techniques and that at least some members of the White House knew about it” and suggest he knew nothing.

On the CIA’s propaganda campaign to sell the public torture by manipulating media and avoiding Congress, “I think the media is hesitant to use this word, but there’s no other word for it. They lied over and over again.”

President Barack Obama has not ended torture. The practices, according to Pradhan, have just “changed shape.” They have not “changed substance.”

“The administration continues rendition, and it’s actually expanded the tools in their belt through these series of executive orders and through their expanded use of secrecy, both at Guantanamo Bay and with the drones program.”

“This administration, in the past six years, has continued to pick up people abroad and render them to secret prisons that are not administered by the CIA but rather by allies in say Kenya, Somalia, on US naval ships and we find out weeks or months later when they show up in New York City and say guess what? We’re gonna prosecute these guys,” Pradhan said.

Pradhan also explained, “If you look at the procedures for force-feeding today at Guantanamo Bay and what they describe as rectal rehydration in those documents, the only difference is—and I am sorry to be crass about it—the only difference is where that nutrition is going, like which place it is being administered.”

“It is forcibly done, it is extremely painful and it is predicated, preceded by a number of techniques that are absolutely not sanctioned by any medical practice.”

Pradhan said she felt most sorry for men like Maher Arar and Binyam Mohamed, a former Reprieve client, who were victims of the rendition program but not held in CIA-run secret prisons.

Reacting to the roles James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, architects of the torture program who are now indemnified to the tune of tens of millions of dollars by the CIA, Pradhan argued, “You expect bad behavior from the CIA at this point. You really do. You don’t expect this level of criminality from medical providers.

“These were two psychologists who had no knowledge of interrogation, no knowledge of al Qaeda, literally no subject matter knowledge whatsoever. They were the only two people with any bearing, any medical training whatsoever who the CIA could find to sort of sign off so that they could say this is doctor-approved.”

According to Pradhan, the public should expect new lawsuits in the United States and more lawsuits in Europe, particularly with regard to secret prisons that were setup in Eastern Europe. The public should also expect some effects on the military commissions proceedings at Guantanamo because of what was revealed about how Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other high-profile detainees were tortured.

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