Should have seen this coming – Dershowitz defends Paterno

thedersh
The Dersh

In spite of the huge odds against it, I suppose that we should have seen this coming.

While fellow PILPUL-meister David Brooks went after those of us who are attacking Penn State’s football coaches and administrators for acting in clearly immoral ways, here the great Dersh does the unthinkable and defends Joe Paterno. Though he does not defend Jerry Sandusky, he shows a blatant disregard for the moral obligation of those who witness criminal activity, or who know about such activity, and do nothing. Dershowitz says:

The moral question, therefore, is whether Paterno did enough by simply conveying the information one step up in the hierarchy to the athletic director, and doing nothing further. Reasonable people can, and do, disagree over the answer to this question. Some take the view that Penn State is a rigidly hierarchical organization, and that in such an organization, it is sufficient to report to one’s superior. Others point out that the Catholic Church too, is a hierarchical organization, and when priests reported abuse to their bishops and the bishops reported the abuse up the hierarchy, the problem persisted. Yet others take the view that if Penn State is a hierarchy like the Vatican, then Paterno was “the Pope,” and the buck stopped with him. He, not his superiors, was the person responsible for reporting the episode to the police. That seems unfair in light of the fact that popes can’t be fired, and yet Paterno was discarded like a bag of putrid garbage, when it served the interests of the Board of Directors to distance themselves from him. The President, who was also fired, was apparently the highest official to whom the information was transmitted, although it isn’t clear precisely what he was told by the time it got to him through the filter of several others. It was the president who was ultimately responsible for the misguided decision to “resolve” the “problem” internally instead of reporting the crime to the police, as should have been done.

This defense is interesting in light of Dershowitz’s stated position on collective guilt.

Alan Dershowitz, as is well-known, is a proponent of collective punishment for those Palestinians who are related in any way to perpetrators of terrorist actions even if they did not commit such actions.

Here is the full quote of Dershowitz’s position on how Israel should deal with such terrorism from his March, 2002 Jerusalem Post op-ed “New response to Palestinian terrorism”:

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. The response will be automatic. The order will have been given in advance of the terrorist attacks and there will be no discretion. The point is to make the automatic destruction of the village the fault of the Palestinian terrorists who had advance warnings of the specific consequences of their action. The soldiers would simply be acting as the means for carrying out a previously announced policy of retaliation against a designated target.

As we can clearly see from the passage, Dershowitz is not at all timid about laying the blame for criminal actions to those who are not directly connected to those actions. In fact, in the case of Palestinians whose property and land are seen as fair game for Israeli punitive action, there may be no connection whatsoever between the terrorist action and the individual civilian. This tactic has been known throughout history as “imputation of sin”; a Christian concept that promotes collective guilt and denies individual responsibility.

That is why they call it “collective punishment”; it means that the collective is held responsible for the actions of others.

But for Joe Paterno there is no responsibility, collective or otherwise.

That Paterno is alleged to have engineered a massive cover-up allowing this criminal action to continue is of no import to Dershowitz, the same Dershowitz who in November 2001 wrote in the Los Angeles Times in justification of torture:

Any interrogation technique, including the use of truth serum or even torture, is not prohibited. All that is prohibited is the introduction into evidence of the fruits of such techniques in a criminal trial against the person on whom the techniques were used.

Dershowitz approves of torture to get information about criminal activity, but sees Joe Paterno as not culpable for the information he allegedly received from Mike McQueary in 2002.

The Dershowitz legacy will be that of PILPUL run amuck. There is no logical or moral consistency in his positions. He uses his formidable legal intellect and his celebrity status in order to pervert morality and the law. He has no fidelity to truth and no concern at all for the noble Torah of the Jewish tradition. In spite of his frequent assertions of his Jewish beliefs, he is a shameful example of a Jew who professes Judaism when in reality he is working diligently to undermine the most basic principles of God’s Word.

He is a public embarrassment.

About David Shasha

David Shasha is the director of the Center for Sephardic Heritage in Brooklyn, New York. The Center publishes the weekly e-mail newsletter Sephardic Heritage Update as well as promoting lectures and cultural events. His articles have been published in Tikkun magazine, The American Muslim, the Christian Progressive and other publications. To sign up for the newsletter visit the Sephardic Heritage Google Group at http://groups.google.com/group/Davidshasha
Posted in American Jewish Community, Israel/Palestine, Media

{ 26 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Dan Crowther says:

    “discarded like a bag of putrid garbage.”

    Is this the answer to the question, ” where is your humanity, Alan?”

    What a Dersh.

  2. Philip Weiss says:

    i wonder if Dersh is not being driven by pro-Israel hermeneutics here. He wants to valorize a corrupt authority as being Authority we have to respect. And the Israel lobby is just such a thing. The contradictions, as David establishes, are staggering.
    Also: I want to dispute the idea that the university had no idea what was going on. i know enough about people and organizations to know that the horrifying details of Sandusky’s alleged behavior, once communicated, got spread around widely inside that organization. Even if the president was lied to, even if the AD was deceived, there was enough smoke that they should have and could have found out what was going on way back then.

  3. Does Dersh have an opinion on Graham Spanier?

    two new concepts, pilpul, mesirah.

  4. David Samel says:

    I take a different view on this matter. I don’t think it is helpful to compare Dershowitz’s opinions about I/P and Paterno. Dershowitz’s endorsement of collective punishment against Palestinians is reprehensible, as is virtually all of his opinions and his almost infinite number of lies about the Middle East. But to me there is a clear distinction between his punditry on behalf of Israel and his career as a criminal defense attorney and professor. I have seen him criticized for his representation of people like OJ, Leona Helmsley and others, and as a fellow criminal defense attorney, I think much of that criticism is unfair. The fact is, we represent a lot of guilty people and are dutybound to be their professional legal representatives. It would take a much longer essay to explain that fully, but Dersh is clearly wearing his professorial hat in his defense of Paterno, who suffered a quasi-criminal penalty for his sins. That being said, I disagree strongly with his analysis in this particular case, but I just don’t think it offers any insight into the sleaziness and morally repulsive nature of his views on I/P.

    • “Dersh is clearly wearing his professorial hat”

      ANY hat would be preferable to the very bad dye job that makes Dersh look like a clown.

    • David Samel says:

      I should add that the flaw is Dershowitz’s reasoning is plainly apparent where he says:

      The moral question, therefore, is whether Paterno did enough by simply conveying the information one step up in the hierarchy to the athletic director, and doing nothing further. Reasonable people can, and do, disagree over the answer to this question.

      Seriously, Alan? The information Paterno learned from Mike McQueary was that someone he knew was anally raping a child. This wasn’t a case of cheating on taxes or even stealing money from the university. How could any decent person allow this man to run around free when he forces his penis into a child’s anus? And, if McQueary were lying, a possibility though not very likely, he should have been fired and disgraced for this outrageous slander of an innocent man. Either way, Paterno knew that there was not even a minimally appropriate investigation being conducted into a situation that required immediate action. Even if he reported it to his supposed superior(s), he knew that there had been no response. While there may be no criminal charges that could be filed against Paterno, can reasonable minds really differ on whether Paterno’s inaction constituted a colossal moral failure?

      • does either Dershowitz or Sasha have an opinion on the actions of the ‘final authority’ that Paterno DID report to, Graham Spanier, who, presumably, shares the Jewish moral code that Sasha defends?

        Dersh goes out of his way to implicate the Catholic church in this embroglio, and compares Paterno to “the pope,” who is the final authority, but says of final authority at Penn State,

        “The President, who was also fired, was apparently the highest official to whom the information was transmitted, although it isn’t clear precisely what he was told by the time it got to him through the filter of several others.”

        “The President” has no name???

        He’s Jewish, Sasha and Dersh. Why isn’t he held to the same standard as the pope? Why isn’t his name mentioned? Why the pilpul (does that mean ‘weasel’), invoking “filters” and “we don’t know what he was told” when it comes to former president Graham Spanier, but not anybody else?

      • MarkF says:

        Right David. I mean, does this guy have any children?

        People like Alan seem completely void of empathy and emotion, and incapable of knowing right or wrong.

        Litmus test: Let Alan stand in front of the boy who was raped and have him explain his position about Paterno. I’m sure the victim would understand.

      • In response to this case, my university issued a memo reminding all that it is our moral and professional responsibility to report on and follow up with in order that the university fully investigate any allegation of such criminal activity for just the reasons that Mr. Samel elaborated on above.

    • marc b. says:

      david i agree with your ‘apples and oranges’ analysis, but your characterization of paterno’s penalty as ‘quasi-criminal’ is just plain wrong. it might be a breach of his contractual rights, but we’ll see if ‘joepa’ is willing to make that argument.

      • David Samel says:

        marc, I meant “quasi-criminal” in the sense that Dersh viewed the question as an appropriate one for his law school class. In other words, the issue was within the scope of his prof duties and not his political writings. Besides, the issue was whether Paterno should have been “punished” with the loss of his job, which is not as severe as, but is somewhat analogous to, criminal punishment for wrongdoing.

    • maybe it’s my bias; I disagree completely with you attribution of “professorial” or “everybody deserves a defense” motives to Dersh’s defense of Paterno.

      Here’s my bias in simple terms: Dersh is enjoying the opportunity to bash Catholics/Christians. It’s a version of “shoots and cries.”

      About a year ago, Dershowitz defended Pope Benedict’s handling of the child abuse scandal — link to catholicculture.org
      Dersh’s oh so generous “professorial” act gave him the opportunity to get this in the public’s eye:

      I actually sued Cardinal Glemp, the primate of the Polish church for virulent anti-Semitism. He blamed the Russian Revolution and alcoholism on the Jews. And a cardinal from Honduras blamed the sex scandal on the Jews. But the Pope hasn’t done that. He’s blamed the scandal on the Church itself, on bishops, on priests, he’s sought forgiveness, he’s taken steps to change everything. And I think today, being a young Catholic altar boy is a very safe place to be – not in the 1970s and ’80s, but today the Church has taken real responsibility and is looking forward.

      I’m not a lawyer, David Samel, but I’ve watched my share of Perry Mason. The above statement was all about Jews and Catholic guilt for behavior towards Jews. The backhand exoneration of Benedict — “he didn’t do that [blame the Jews]” was genius, a sideways means of planting in the mind of the public (jury) yet another seed of guilt for alleged Catholic oppression of Jews

      THAT is what the Paterno thing is about as well, that and nothing more.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      I strongly disagree with your defense of the Dershbag. Just because he can create an argument to confuse a jury doesn’t mean he has to. And unless he’s on Paterno’s payroll, and we have to assume he isn’t, he CHOSE to make this nonsensical argument here. So all of the vile inhumanity that he’s displayed in defending the diabolical and indefensible in Palestine should be considered in this equally inhuman argument here. Part of evaluating the argument is know the whether the one trying to convince you is a devil. In this case, it is.

      • David Samel says:

        Woody, my defense of Dersh? Actually, I strongly criticized his defense of Paterno (look at my 2:34p.m. comment), and generally think he is utterly despicable. In fact, I once published a post on MW entitled, “How many lies can AD tell in 60 seconds?” – link to mondoweiss.net I suppose I did defend his career as a criminal defense lawyer, but unless you want to live in a country where some criminal defendants have no right to an attorney, we perform a valuable function. There’s not really a legitimate debate about that.

        As for my preference for keeping his criminal defense/professor life and his political punditry separate, you don’t really need to be familiar with one to criticize the other. An excellent example is your concluding sentence. Dersh’s analysis of Paterno would be quite indefensible no matter who authored it, and if Dersh had instead said something quite reasonable, his abysmal record on I/P would not have rendered that same analysis faulty. Even the “devil” can be right about some things.

        • Woody Tanaka says:

          David,

          I was not speaking of a defense of his position (and a badly reasoned one it is. So much for Dersh’s vaunted legal genius…) but of the notion that his ideas should be examined without regard for his vile views on other subjects.

          True, one does not need to be aware of his misdeads in defending Israelis in evaluating his defense of Paterno. But one who is familiar with his bigotry, his advocacy for evil, his logical lapses, etc., as they relate to the Palestinian issues can examine his arguments on other issues to determine if he is bringing that same bigotry, etc. to bear, and can determine if there is an underlying agenda that may be being advanced, sub silento, which may be more impactful than the issue under examination.

          I disagree with the notion that ideas are necessarily separable from those who hold them. The devil sometimes does make a good point. But, more likely, he is trying to advance his agenda through devious means.

      • ToivoS says:

        Woody wrote:
        I strongly disagree with your defense of the Dershbag. Just because he can create an argument to confuse a jury doesn’t mean he has to. And unless he’s on Paterno’s payroll, and we have to assume he isn’t, he CHOSE to make this nonsensical argument here.

        Why do you assume he is not being paid for this? I certainly did. In general I support criminal defense attorneys. Even if their clients are guilty of crime, they do deserve a defense. I would prefer if a major attorney like the Desher comes out and admits he is being paid for his pubic relations that might certainly help. I sort of agree with Samul here but it would be useful if the Desrsh let us know who is paying him.

        • Woody Tanaka says:

          To be honest, I just assumed that he is not being paid, because he is a pathetic media whore and is justing taking this opportunity to get free adversiting for his evil self.

        • ToivoS says:

          Woody, you might be correct. I just assumed that he was being paid. The Dersh does not need any more negative publicity than he deserves. He is likely selling away a little more of his hard earned “reputation”. Just a guess.

  5. marc b. says:

    as far as i know, all states have reporting laws which obligate ‘mandated reporters’ to contact a specified social service agency when he/she learns of suspected child abuse and/or neglect. in most cases, ‘teachers’ are mandated reporters. i don’t know where ‘joepa’ (hasn’t that nickname taken on a positively creepy tone) fits into the PA reporting scheme.

    dershowitz’s moral flexibility is comical. can anyone imagine him arguing that the LAPD would have been within its rights to water board OJ, so long as the prosecution didn’t attempt to enter into evidence his confession? and his writing is just embarassing. ‘like a bag of putrid garbage’. senility posing as cool.

  6. Kathleen says:

    Read the indictment
    link to attorneygeneral.gov

    Paterno knew what was going on. Protected football and his paycheck over young boys well being.

  7. gazacalling says:

    In fact, in the case of Palestinians whose property and land are seen as fair game for Israeli punitive action, there may be no connection whatsoever between the terrorist action and the individual civilian. This tactic has been known throughout history as “imputation of sin”; a Christian concept that promotes collective guilt and denies individual responsibility. That is why they call it “collective punishment”; it means that the collective is held responsible for the actions of others. But for Joe Paterno there is no responsibility, collective or otherwise.

    I think the real contrast is between those who believe in responsibility and those who don’t, as David says at the end of this quote.

    If you do believe in responsibility, then it seems to me that you have to distinguish between an individual element and a collective element. Now, this certainly does not mean that Israel’s justifications for raining down terror on the heads of the Palestinians is justified — that’s an incredible leap that requires a whole other logic, viz. the logic that there is no responsibility. But that the Dersh makes this leap doesn’t have anything to do with the partitioning of responsibility into individual and collective elements.

    There has to be collective responsibility. As an American, I share a form of responsibility for what my government does. Just because it is not me making the decision doesn’t mean that it’s not my government, that I am involved in numerous potential ways, albeit indirectly.

    If Phil didn’t take collective responsibility very seriously, this site wouldn’t exist. He’s the model for what the concept means, not Dersh.

  8. Jelperman says:

    This is the same Alan Dershowitz whose friend/client/benefactor, Jeffrey Epstein was convicted of molesting underage girls in Florida. As part of the failed effort to get Epstein off, Dershowitz cyberstalked his client’s victims: snooping into their sex lives and trying to dig up other dirt on the kids Epstein molested:

    New York Magazine

    Epstein mounted an aggressive counterinvestigation. Epstein’s friend Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor, provided the police and the state attorney’s office with a dossier on a couple of the victims gleaned from their MySpace sites—showing alcohol and drug use and lewd comments. The police complained that private investigators were harassing the family of the 14-year-old girl before she was to appear before the grand jury in spring 2006. The police said that one girl had called another to say, “Those who help [Epstein] will be compensated and those who hurt him will be dealt with.”

    So I’m not the least bit surprised that Dershowitz is defending someone who looked the other way when one of his assistants witnesses a child being raped -he used thug tactics in behalf of a creep who actually raped children himself!

  9. Proton Soup says:

    i don’t know about all this I/P stuff and collective punishment (since when is this a christian concept, isn’t the old testament full of this?), but as for covering up the child abuse, now that is something that may be of direct interest. for you see, there is a huge scandal of unreported/unprosecuted child molestation in the orthodox jewish community. this stuff mostly flies under the radar of the MSM. only a few bloggers like failedmessiah will even touch it. the thing is, they do not believe in turning their fellow brethren over to secular authorities, preferring to handle these issues “internally” in a religious court. now, where this gets sticky is there are often mandatory reporting laws in effect, meaning that rabbis and others working with children may be criminally liable in some cases where they are not only not reporting cases to police, but even taking steps to silence victims and their family in these communities.

    in the past, these communities have been pretty successful in covering up these crimes, with the rabbis enforcing silence, and secular authorities controlled. but since the murder of Leiby Kletzky, attitudes toward avoiding secular courts may be changing. for example, the Forward has been putting pressure on the Brooklyn D.A. to release data.
    link to forward.com

    just how far they will get is anyone’s guess, but the potential criminal and civil liability is huge. bigger still is the delusional fallout of false piety. Dersh has to nip this one in the bud before it spreads. also, the Epstein thing mentioned above… perhaps some are aware that there are rumors that boys were pimped out to big donors at penn state. so there might also be an angle of protecting someone else entirely.

    anyhoo, really strange to see someone as creepy as dersh hired to protect someone whose prior reputation was as good as paterno’s.

  10. I do think there’s something to the deference to authority angle, in addition to the typical meme of “when their side does it, it’s reprehensible, and when ‘our side’ does it (in this case, those whose authority also involves undeserved adulation or respect for whatever reason) it’s either justifiable, excusable, or inconsequential.”

    That’s the sort of sophistry I’ve learned to expect from Dersh and one he uses quite consistently regarding I/P issues. Even with the academic take on the Paterno issue from a criminal defense attorney’s/ law professor’s standpoint, I think it is actually meant to run parallel his “reasoning” on so much of his I/P blather, and as such, use those poorly reasoned bloviations to “support”, however indirectly, his other poorly reasoned bloviations regarding Israel and Palestine.

    Alan’s just that sort of “big picture” kind of guy. Everything for the greater good of Chosanistan.

    (BTW,
    love the “What a Dersh!” exclamation).