Alan Dershowitz

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Life is the farce which everyone has to perform.
Arthur Rimbaud
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Alan Dershowitz (born 1938-09-01) is a leading legal scholar in the United States. He has spent most of his career at Harvard Law School, where at the age of 28 he became the youngest full professor in the law school's history, and is now the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law. In addition to his teaching, Dershowitz is a prolific author, has made frequent media and public speaking appearances, and has worked on a number of high-profile legal cases.


  • Judges are the weakest link in our system of justice and they are also the most protected.
  • The courtroom oath—to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth—is applicable only to witnesses...because the American justice system is built on a foundation of not telling the whole truth.
    • The Best Defense
  • All sides in a trial want to hide at least some of the truth.
  • The defendant wants to hide the truth because he's generally guilty. The defense attorney's job is to make sure the jury does not arrive at that truth.
    • ibid.
  • The prosecution...wants to make sure the process by which the evidence was obtained is not truthfully presented, because, as often as not, that process will raise questions.
    • ibid.
  • The judge also has a truth he wants to hide: He often hasn’t been completely candid in describing the facts or the law.
    • ibid.
  • I am a skeptic about everything, including God and atheism. I am not certain about issues of cosmology.… I am more certain that the miraculous stories that form the basis of most religious beliefs are myths. Yet I respect the Bible and enjoy reading and teaching it. Indeed, I find it even more fascinating as a human creation than as a divine revelation. I consider myself a committed Jew, but I do not believe that being a Jew requires belief in the supernatural.… Indeed, it is while praying that I experience my greatest doubts about God, and it is while looking at the stars that I make the leap of faith.… If there is a governing force, He (or She or It) is certainly not in touch with those who purport to be speaking on His behalf.
    • "Taking Disbelief Out of the Closet", Free Inquiry, 19(3), p. 7, Summer 1999.
  • Here is my proposal. Israel should announce an immediate unilateral cessation in retaliation against terrorist attacks. This moratorium would be in effect for a short period, say four or five days, to give the Palestinian leadership an opportunity to respond to the new policy. It would also make it clear to the world that Israel is taking an important step in ending what has become a cycle of violence. Following the end of the moratorium, Israel would institute the following new policy if Palestinian terrorism were to resume. It will announce precisely what it will do in response to the next act of terrorism. For example, it could announce the first act of terrorism following the moratorium will result in the destruction of a small village which has been used as a base for terrorist operations. The residents would be given 24 hours to leave, and then troops will come in and bulldoze all of the buildings.
    • "New response to Palestinian terrorism", The Jerusalem Post, 2002-03-11
  • I have no doubt that if an actual ticking bomb situation were to arise, our law enforcement authorities would torture. The real debate is whether such torture should take place outside of our legal system or within it. The answer to this seems clear: If we are to have torture, it should be authorized by the law.
    • "Is There a Torturous Road to Justice?", The Los Angles Times, 2001-11-08
  • Dershowitz: The Israeli military then did an analysis, and they discovered, of course, that when they dropped that bomb and killed those people, they had no idea that those people were in the building, and the people who made the decision to drop the bomb were criticized and disciplined for it. The point I make is, when they knew, for sure, that family members were there, they withheld doing it. That doesn't deny the fact that on occasion they will accidentally make a decision that's wrong. The difference is deliberateness, willfulness…
    Norman Finkelstein: …That was a nice fairy tale, dropping a 1 ton bomb on a densely populated civilian neighborhood in Gaza, and they had no idea that civilians would be there. And then he goes on to fantasy #2, that those who did it were disciplined. Really, Mr. Dershowitz? I'd love the evidence for that. I mean, if I could get $10,000 for every one of your fraudulent statements…
    • [1]
    • This citation is too vague. If complete source details are not provided, the quotation may be deleted.
  • The threat of mutually assured destruction worked for the United States during the Cold War because it had proved its willingness to drop nuclear bombs on enemy cities at the end of World War II. It might work less well for Israel, because the Israeli Air Force has never deliberately targeted a large civilian population center, and its leaders have said its morality would not permit it do so.
    • Preemption: A knife that cuts both ways, p. 100
    • This citation is too vague. If complete source details are not provided, the quotation may be deleted.


  • I have been defending Israel's right to exist, and to defend itself against terrorism, for many years-on college campuses, in television appearances and in debate.
  • Israel and the Palestinians must resolve their own differences. The United States can play an important role as facilitator and guarantor.
  • It simply cannot be disputed that for decades the Palestinian leadership was more interested in there not being a Jewish state than in there being a Palestinian state.
  • Not only I am not a cheerleader for Israel, I am extremely critical of certain Israeli policies, as I am of certain American, British, and French policies. As a strong supporter of the right to criticize, I encourage reasonable comparative and contextual criticism of all countries.
  • The court of last resort is no longer the Supreme Court. It's "Nightline."

About Alan Dershowitz

  • Elaine Kendall of the Los Angeles Times calls Dershowitz "the attorney of last resort for the desperate and despised, counselor for lost causes and forlorn hopes."

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