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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Crisis PR: Alan Dershowitz

As a young person I thought about becoming a lawyer. One of the reasons was Alan Dershowitz. He was a textbook example of a smart Jewish kid who made a difference with his brilliant mind. My mother knew him as "Dershy," and though I'd never met him, it was almost like he was a part of our larger family.

As time went on, I chose another path and stopped following Dershowitz's career. But on the periphery I was always aware that he was a staunch defender of Israel. I was glad to have someone that smart on Israel's side, given the amount of anti-Zionism out there both among non-Jews and the Jewish community, frankly.

At some point I found out that Dershowitz defended a number of men who victimized women of many ages. Claus von Bulow, OJ Simpson, the Hasidic rabbi-pedophile Boruch Lebovitz, and more recently the pedophile pimp Jeffrey Epstein.

That sort of made me sick. The pattern of it.

Everyone is entitled to a defense in this country. That's what makes this country free. But there is something that bothers me about Dershowitz, who also wrote a book called "The Abuse Excuse." It's more than just the arrogance he clearly displays.

Somewhere, there is a line between doing your job and personally sympathizing for clients who are actually evil people. There is a line between not indulging victim behavior and insensitivity or even brutality towards those who have been victimized. I could be wrong, but I feel like Dershowitz crosses that line. Maybe in his mind.

Today he stands accused of sex with a minor, one of the victims of his client Jeffrey Epstein. As a Jew I do not want these accusations to be true. Forget that it will fuel the already raging anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism out there. It has to do with the fact that we are all one people, and what hurts one of us hurts everyone.

Did he do it? I don't know. I think he likes his station in life, and wouldn't do anything to threaten that. It seems unlikely that he would be so stupid. But well-respected people have been known to do stupid things that jeopardize their careers.

Arrogant people in particular are tripped up by their fantasies of infallibility.

If he is guilty, there is a videotape somewhere in Epstein's house, and legal wranglings aside, I believe that it will come out. The accuser is also writing a book; I don't know why she would pick Dershowitz to accuse, and I don't believe that sexual assault victims tend to fabricate accusations.

So...there we are.

Many have come to Dershowitz's defense, because of his efforts to support Israel. To me, the one has nothing to do with the other and in fact Dershowitz is harming Israel's cause right now by leaning on those loyalties.

Until he is cleared, his brand tarnishes the Israel brand and he really ought to step away from the whole Middle East fray.

In fact, from a personal branding point of view, it was probably not a good move to spend his career defending horrible people and then try to take on Israel's cause. Pedophiles and wife-beaters don't mix with the Holy Land.

Looking back on the past few days, because it's only been a couple of days since the story broke, I do think Dershowitz could have avoided this entire whirlwind. Most people would be predisposed to think him innocent. He could have acted normal - expressed sympathy for the victim, which she deserves, and let competent professionals advise him as to the right course of action.

But he acted arrogant, like a jackass, frankly. Threatening the accuser's attorneys, lambasting her as a liar, hastily scribbling an affidavit, and generally going over the top.

Here are two cents from from someone who cares about victim's rights, the reputation of Jewish people, the unity of the Jewish community, and the welfare of Israel. My personal opinion only.

Mr. Dershowitz, you seem like a bully. Rather than using your many contacts and legal knowledge to blanket the system with an attack on the victim and all who have represented her, back off. File whatever affidavits you need to file, but show some respect, too. This girl has suffered - your client took away her childhood. He probably destroyed her life.

Forget that you're a great lawyer. Now is the time to be a mensch.

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All opinions my own.