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.
At first glance, Epstein’s story reads like a typical case of two-tiered justice in America, where the wealthy and powerful are rarely held accountable for their crimes. In many ways it was.
A deeper examination of the case suggests a cadre of sleazy operatives led by Alan Dershowitz deployed gangster-style intimidation tactics that averted a deeper probe that might have implicated enormously powerful individuals, including Dershowitz.
The federal government had mountains of evidence to put Epstein behind bars for decades for child sex-trafficking and serial molestation.
Epstein procured and molested no fewer than forty underage girls, some from other continents and as young as twelve, in a trafficking ring that involved some of the most powerful people in America and around the world, including “numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known Prime Minister, and other world leaders,” according to the court filing.
While none of the power players are named, Epstein’s private plane pilot, Larry Visoski, identified former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, former Colombian President Andrés Pastrana Arango and former US President Bill Clinton as regular passengers who likely witnessed Epstein with underage girls on his private planes.
In the end Epstein landed an unprecedented sweetheart deal that saw him plead guilty to solicitation of prostitution from minors while receiving blanket immunity for him and his co-conspirators from other federal charges. When all was said and done, Epstein served just thirteen of his eighteen-month prison sentence in the private wing of a Palm Beach Jail, where he was given a pass that allowed him to leave the prison grounds for up to sixteen hours per day for work.
Bullying rape victims
With the police investigation heating up in 2006, Epstein’s team went on the offensive, bullying and harassing witnesses, victims and their families into silence.
Going far beyond the typical role of a lawyer, Dershowitz mobilized a pre-emptive smear campaign against the 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 raping her. 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.”
While Dershowitz schemed against Epstein’s victims, witnesses and the victims’ families complained of being followed, photographed, harassed, threatened and offered money in exchange for their refusal to cooperate with the police investigation.
Former Palm Beach police chief Michael Reiter, who grew increasingly frustrated with the escalating campaign of intimidation by Epstein’s lawyers, went on to testify that he was told by private investigators that Dershowitz ordered background checks on him and Detective Joe Recarey. Reiter added that he later discovered he and Recarey had been placed under surveillance but he was unable to determine who was behind it.
Dershowitz and Epstein censor an Israel critic
For those familiar with Dershowitz, his bullying tactics are not new. Indeed they bear a striking resemblance to the tactics he typically deploys against Palestinians and their supporters when defending Israeli criminality, most notably blaming and smearing the victim.
As a Harvard University emeritus professor of law and celebrity defense attorney, Dershowitz wields enormous power, which he frequently deploys against opponents of Israel’s occupation. On at least one notable occasion, Dershowitz called on his friend, Epstein, to muzzle a prominent Israel critic.
In 2007, Martin Nowak, a mathematics and biology professor and director of Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, rescinded a speaking invitation to award-winning evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers just hours before his event. Nowak said he was instructed to cancel the speech but would not say by whom—only that he had no choice but to comply. Trivers later learned that the order to cancel was delivered by Jeffrey Epstein, on whose donations the program relied for its continued existence. (Nowak had also relied on Epstein to secure his position at Harvard).
Epstein, it turned out, was acting on the request of his attorney Dershowitz.
Dershowitz was still furious at Trivers for writing a letter in which he condemned Israel’s 2006 “butchery” of Lebanese civilians and called Dershowitz a “Nazi-like apologist” and “rancid defender of Israeli fascism” for rationalizing the killing. In the end, Dershowitz leveraged Epstein’s financial influence to mete out revenge on Trivers.
Dershowitz knew about the girls
Long before the rape allegation against Dershowitz surfaced, there was overwhelming evidence to suggest he at least knew what Epstein was up to.
The two were very close friends. Speaking to Vanity Fair in 2003 (before the sex ring was exposed) Dershowitz boasted, “I’m on my 20th book…. The only person outside of my immediate family that I send drafts to is Jeffrey.”
According to an Undisputed Statement of Fact filed by the victims’ lawyers in April of 2011, “Epstein’s housekeeper Alfredo Rodriguez testified that Dershowitz stayed at Epstein’s house during the years when Epstein was assaulting minor females on a daily basis” and “Dershowitz was at Epstein’s house at times when underage females where there being molested by Epstein.”
When Epstein was asked during his deposition, “’Have you ever socialized with Alan Dershowitz in the presence of females under the age of 18?” he invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to answer in order to avoid self-incrimination.
Epstein also pled the Fifth when asked the same question regarding celebrity property developer Donald Trump, illusionist David Copperfield, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and music industry magnate Tommy Mottola.
The pro-Israel billionaire that made Jeffrey Epstein
Although it remains a mystery just how Epstein acquired his wealth, his special relationship with billionaire Leslie “Les” Wexner, CEO and founder of the women’s clothing chain Limited Brands Inc., played a pivotal role.
Epstein bragged about having several unnamed billionaire clients at the height of his success, however, Wexner was his only publicly known patron, leading to speculation that Wexner, who bought Epstein a lavish eight-story Manhattan mansion for $13 million, was bankrolling him.
Wexner, who became a client and mentor of Epstein’s in the late 1980s, facilitated Epstein’s entrance into elite American circles, as a 2003 Vanity Fair profile of Epstein reveals:
Since Leslie Wexner appeared in his life—Epstein has said this was in 1986; others say it was in 1989, at the earliest—he has gradually, in a way that has not generally made headlines, come to be accepted by the Establishment. He’s a member of various commissions and councils: he is on the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the New York Academy of Sciences and the Institute of International Education.
His current fan club extends to [Bear Stearns CEO James] Cayne, Henry Rosovsky, the former dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Larry Summers, Harvard’s current president.
Wexner and Epstein were so close that Epstein told Vanity Fair “it’s like we have one brain between two of us: each has a side.”
Wexner also shares Epstein’s love for Israel with generous financial support through his philanthropic arm, The Wexner Foundation, which Epstein once managed.
According to Vanity Fair:
Wexner trusts Epstein so completely that he has assigned him the power of fiduciary over all of his private trusts and foundations, says a source close to Wexner. In 1992, Epstein even persuaded Wexner to put him on the board of the Wexner Foundation in place of Wexner’s ailing mother. Bella Wexner recovered and demanded to be reinstated. Epstein has said they settled by splitting the foundation in two.
The Wexner Foundation is deeply involved in Israel advocacy mostly through its Israel Fellowship Program, which brings ten Israeli public officials to Harvard for a fully funded Master’s degree program in public administration at the Kennedy School of Government.
With the participation of The Wexner Foundation, Republican pollster and rightwing propaganda consultant Frank Luntz produced the “Wexner Analysis: Israeli Communications Priorities 2003,” a “road map” for linking the US’ so-called war on terror in Iraq to Israel’s war on Palestinians.
The foundation also funds a number of pro-Israel organizations, including Birthright Israel, a sectarian indoctrination program that sends young American Jews on a free ten-day trip to Israel to lure them into immigrating to bolster a Jewish majority and participate in the dispossession and ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians.
Wexner himself is a key supporter and sits on the board of governors of Hillel International, the national network of campus organizations devoted to policing criticism of Israel and attacking the increasingly popular boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement under the guise of “enriching the lives of Jewish students.” In 2008, Hillel awarded its annual Renaissance Award to Wexner for giving “critical support and counsel to Hillel.”
Though Wexner has reportedly replaced Epstein with a new money manager, he will always be the mentor who made Epstein the man he is today.
Fleeing to Israel
As the police investigation into Epstein’s underage sex trafficking ring intensified in 2006, Epstein reportedly told friends that the child molestation allegations were an anti-Semitic conspiracy, echoing a tactic commonly deployed by people like Dershowitz against critics of Israel.
It was no surprise, then, when celebrity publicist and Epstein confidante Peggy Siegal told Philip Weiss that Epstein’s two largest philanthropic causes were science and Israel.
Prior to taking a plea deal in 2008, it was rumored that Epstein was considering emigrating to Israel to avoid facing trial in Florida.
Israel’s openly discriminatory Law of Return—which affords citizenship rights to those Israel defines as Jews from anywhere in the world, while actively blocking indigenous Palestinians from returning to the lands from which they were expelled—has long served as an asset for criminals who qualify.
After the 1985 assassination of Palestinian American civil rights leader Alex Odeh allegedly by members of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a group the FBI has defined as ”terrorist,” the suspects fled to the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba in the occupied West Bank, where they have remained in hiding.
But in a supremely ironic twist, Epstein, the mega rich pro-Israel patron, decided he would rather face prosecution and possible jail time than live in a fortified Sparta-like state. In the end, it was a good bet: Epstein got off lightly.
Dershowitz himself has tried to rally support by claiming that he’s been targeted by his accusers because he’s Jewish and an advocate for Israel, a tactic that has generated strong pushback from at least one ardent supporter of Israel.
The Times of Israel plans to honor Dershowitz with its “Advocate for Israel Award” at a ritzy gala next month. Dershowitz will be recognized alongside Shimon Peres, professional American basketball player Omri Casspi, supermodel Bar Refaeli and billionaire owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft, to name just a few.