Even as the world cries for equal rights for all minorities, women especially those abused by men are still left fighting to even be heard or never mind believed. Women victims of abuse, be it sexual abuse, rape, sexual harassment, even mental abuse are still treated by men and society as if we all still living in the dark ages where men always turn around make it the woman’s fault. When privileged men in positions of power, authority and influence deny inappropriate behavior and malign their accuser, people usually have a tendency to side with the man, and then the accuser and victim becomes the one bearing the brunt of the blame. The latest case of this character assassination defense involves retired Harvard Law professor, famed defense attorney and Israel supporter Alan Dershowitz, who was named by a plaintiff in the Jeffrey Epstein sex slave ring lawsuit, filed in December 2014. The problem there is more public sympathy for Dershowitz than for the victim, especially among the Jewish community, because of his public profile and advocacy work he is the one believed. His case and others similar is epidemic in society, and shows just how little equality women have in reality, and it has to stop.
There is a tendency to always blame the victims, to defend themselves men find a reason to justify and attack the women’s reputation, making her morals or her background questionable, meaning she deserve whatever she got or discredit her story to the public. The same is now happening with Alan Dershowitz, 76 and his accused involvement in financier, and sex offender billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s sex slave ring. When he worked for Epstein’s defense as he is doing now, he looked to discredit the victims blaming them using their backgrounds, past behavior to justify his client’s behavior, although there is never a justification to use minors, teenage girls as sex slaves and in prostitution.
The federal lawsuit was first filed in Florida in 2008 against Jeffrey Epstein, 61 by two plaintiffs, two new plaintiffs have been allowed by a Florida judge to join the lawsuit; they are referred to as Jane Doe #3 and #4. Jane Doe #3 is Virginia Roberts now 30 claimed he forced her to have sex with Prince Andrew when she was only 17 years-old, and claims she was Epstein sex slave from time she was 15 years-old. The two named in Roberts’s filing include Prince Andrew, but also former Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz has vehemently denied the accusations, and has since filed a “sworn statement in Miami federal court” asking the court “to protect his reputation” against what he calls “outrageously false” and “contemptible” allegations in the court documents. Dershowitz has been vehemently denying any involvement and working hard to discredit the plaintiff at the same time. Dershowitz also threatened to file disciplinary complaints against Robert’s lawyers Paul Cassell and Bradley Edwards. Dershowitz was also planning to sue them until he was beaten to the punch and they filed a defamation suit against him in Florida circuit court on Tuesday, Jan. 5.
There are some men in the Jewish community automatically believe Dershowitz without looking at any of the case facts, court documents or evidence. They are claiming Dershowitz has been such a staunch defender of Israel, a Zionism there is no question, that the famed defense attorney could not possibly have been involved, Dershowitz himself is claiming it is some great anti-Israel, anti-Zionist conspiracy. In an article in the Jerusalem Post from Jan. 4, he claims the “Anti-Semites and anti-Israel “zealots” are having a field day,” over the accusations, repeating that the “The anti-Semites are crawling out from under their rocks, they are loving this. And the anti-Israel zealots are loving this.” He also let it be known he was “beginning to get all kinds of emails [from] anti-Israel and anti-Semitic groups, the most recent one saying ‘see Jews have always been in charge of the sex trade.'”
One of Dershowitz’s staunch defenders is Rabbi Shmuely Boteach whose Jerusalem Post op-ed “No Holds Barred: Where are the Jews to defend Alan Dershowitz?” from Jan. 8, 2015 was an over the top, zealous defense of Dershowitz that makes one squeamish. Boteach with his failed attempt at being diplomatic implies throughout his article that the victim lied, by writing, “it would seem that if any of this happened, the woman in question would seek criminal charges against Mr. Dershowitz, or at the very least civil damages.” Boteach and Dershowitz are clearly ignoring that this woman was burnt once by the criminal justice she might not feel justice would be done if she goes back, especially against a legal insider, and there were better odds in an established lawsuit that includes three other women.
Instead, Boteach blindly highly praised Dershowitz writing, “my purpose is to ask – where are the Jewish leaders to rise to Mr. Dershowitz’s defense? Here is a man of sterling character who has been a champion of the Jewish people and Israel his entire life. He is America’s best-known defender of Israel.” Boteach in his op-ed depicted Dershowitz as a martyr, despite the threats he faced Dershowitz is hardly one. He has profited from his role as Israel advocate, he has the adoration of the Jewish community, gets to be commended with g-d like adoration, something he never could achieve in his legal career, you do not get public adulation of any sort for getting murderers a free pass. Powerful influential men in positions of authority thrive and live for the attention; the old PR cliché is true there is no such thing as bad publicity especially when it feeds their ego. Botech “believe[s] that, at the very least, what Alan Dershowitz deserves is the gratitude of his community. And that means that you stand up for a man when he is down, especially when not a shred of evidence has been brought against him,”….”He deserves our support. He deserves our solidarity. And he deserves our voice.” The rabbi wants the Jewish community to blindly believe in Dershowitz, it is his prerogative, nobody else has to, but his malign the victim thesis, offends every woman.
As I staunch supporter of Israel, I can say one has nothing to do with the other, it is about the way powerful men abuse women and then end up blameless for their actions. Dershowitz has redeemed himself in the eyes of the Jewish community with his staunch support for Israel, his crusading, charity and community involvement may as it is for many a way to ease their conscious, request forgiveness from G-d for letting so many criminals go free, because he was exceptional at his job. Dershowitz himself questioned whether one’s personal life and affairs have anything with their job. Dershowitz did so in defending Former President Bill Clinton in his book looking at the legalities of Clinton sex scandal of the time, “Sexual McCarthyism: Clinton, Starr, And The Emerging Constitutional Crisis” published in November 1998 in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the president’s subsequent impeachment. He asked the American to separate the two, well so can the Jewish community when it comes to him, and they do not have to defend his personal actions.
I have no bleary eyed view of Dershowitz despite his defense of Israel, my first impressions of him was his involvement in OJ Simpson’s defense. Dershowitz’s defense of Simpson, was enough for me to never to be enamored of him even after his pro-Israel posturing. Neither do I share his version of supporting Israel, as Ronn Torossian in his article “Defending Alan Dershowitz Is Not a Jewish Issue” written for the New York Observer noted Dershowitz is both “Pro-Israel and Pro-Palestinian” and “advocates for discrimination against Jews” by saying they should not be living in Hebron, and his positions on Judaism are no less controversial. His support for Obama, who has repeatedly compromised the close Israel-US alliance, even puts to question his so-called staunch support of Israel.
Many Israel advocates especially the high profile ones, writing books, going on the speaking tours are making a career out of their crusading more than anything. The way they to look to make money off their love for Israel, seems more like a strategized career move rather than done out of the pure Zionist spirit or conviction, it is a way to gain fame. It is the quiet unassuming, the anonymous donors, and the everyday Israeli citizens living the normal and unpublicized life, those are the true representative of what it means to a Zionist. Torossian pointed out that the way Dershowitz has created this anti-Zionist conspiracy was just another career move, an attempt to gain “sympathy,” and play for the support of the Jewish community.
I speak from experience; I myself was the victim of years of abuse from a man in an authoritarian position that was older than I was who intimated, traumatized me and left me scared for my safety. When I finally spoke out told someone about him, and told him I wanted him permanently out of my life, he could not take it, instead he lashed out at me, maligned me and tried everything possible to ruin my life and reputation to make himself blameless for his actions. He was ruthless in his acts to discredit and silence me, whether it was legal or illegal on his part was irrelevant, he had to ensure his career remained intact even though I was telling the truth. Women need to speak out when they are abused, they need to not stop when they are threatened, they need to not cower and hide. Virginia Roberts needs to continue and stand firm on her position and what she expressed when she was deposed especially if she was telling the truth.
Boteach and others who blindly defend Dershowitz, saying it all the accusations must be a lie because of his esteemed career, ignore that fact that professors, teachers and even Jewish community leaders have been be known to violate the vulnerable and under-age. There is almost not a day that goes by when I review the news that I do not find a high school teacher charged, on trial or sentenced for their inappropriate relationships and sexually taking advantage of their students. Teaching is supposed to be a noble selfless profession, where parents entrust their children to teachers to mold their minds not corrupt their morals.
Then there is the case of the former Quebec regional director for B’nai Brith, Bill Surkis who plead guilty to one charge of a possession of child pornography in May 2010 and was sentenced in December of that year to 45 days in jail and three years of probation. Here was a man with also a stellar professional career the former Academic Dean of John Abbott College, he too was dedicated to the Jewish community, the former director of B’nai Brith and on the board of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, but he had a deep dark secret his love of porn, including child pornography. When brought his computer in for repairs on it was found according to CTV News that there were “86 videos totaling more than eight hours of video files, and 153 photos of children between the ages of six and 14 being sexually abused.” Should the Jewish community have blindly supported him because he dedicated so much of his career to the community, the answer is no.
Although not the same situation, nobody knows if underneath Dershowitz’s glossed veneer there is a secret, but instead the Jewish community is asked to blindly defend him, while the victim gets dragged through the mud. I agree with Torossian’s assessment “that defending [Dershowitz] is not and should not be a Jewish issue.” And “As a proud Jew, I [too] find the argument that he should be protected because of his Jewishness to be despicable.” To add to that as I woman I find it just as despicable maybe even more so that privileged powerful men can continue to walk all over women and abuse them. Then the men malign and blame the victims and get off with no consequences for their actions, while society stands by abetting their getaway by turning a blind eye supporting these men no matter what.
Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS is a journalist, librarian, editor, & historian. She writes regularly about American, Israeli and Canadian politics, universities and education, and Judaism and Jewish issues for Examiner.com. She is the editor of Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are the North American Jewish community, US, Canadian & Israeli politics, Jewish history, religion and cultural issues.