The Warped Morality of a Warmonger: Why Alan Dershowitz is Wrong on Israel’s ‘Rights’

Renowned torture enthusiast and perennial Israel apologist Alan Dershowitz was in Tel Aviv this month attending an annual business conference sponsored by Globes and, as usual, took the opportunity to equivocate for Israeli espionage, defend war criminals, and warmonger about Iran.

Alan DershowitzDuring a speech he delivered on Sunday December 11, Dershowitz opined, “Israel has the right morally and legally to strike Iran just as it did on [the Osirak nuclear facility] in Iraq in 1981.”

This is not a new line for the famous attorney who has worked tirelessly to acquit both aspiring and successful murderers and war criminals and defend billionaires who commit – and millionaires who cover-up – child rape. In April 2010, Dershowitz wrote, “I am asserting, in unqualified terms, that Israel has an absolute right — legally, morally, politically — to take such an action if it deems it necessary to protect its citizens from a threatened nuclear attack.” Even as far back as 2005, he told The Jerusalem Post, “Legally and morally both Israel and the United States would have the right to launch preemptive strikes against Iran’s nuclear program. Recall that leading Iranian mullahs have indicated that Iran would use its nuclear capacity to kill three million Jews. I also believe that targeted assassinations of criminals who are illegally building weapons of mass destruction, can, under certain circumstances, be justified morally. I think the legal case would be much harder to make.”

Like everything else The Dersh says, his statements are clearly out of step with the basic tenets of international law and, unsurprisingly, ignore both historical facts and current reality in order to draw his despicable and dubious conclusions. To understand Dershowitz’s warped concepts of morality, one can simply read his justifications for the murder of civilians, as long as they’re Arabs and/or Muslims.

First of all, the premise of Dershowitz’s appalling argument regarding an Israeli attack is the assumption that Iran is, in fact, hellbent on building nuclear weapons and threatening Israel with genocidal annihilation. Of course, neither claim is true. Both the IAEA and the United States government (after years of covert operations and aerial surveillance) continue to agree that Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program. In early 2011, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told both houses of Congress, “We continue to assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.” Dershowitz’s insistence that the summary execution of Iranian scientists can be “justified morally” demonstrates the depths of his depravity.

Furthermore, so-called “preemptive” military attacks are illegal and explicitly forbidden by Chapter I, Article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter. The UN Charter also makes clear that it recognizes the “inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.” (Chapter VII, Article 51) Note that the Charter specifies that an aggressive, military response is allowed onlyif an armed attack occurs…,” which undoubtedly rules out “preemptive,” “precautionary,” or “preventative” military action of one State against another. Dershowitz conveniently ignores this clear fact.

Beyond that, using the example of Israel’s June 7, 1981 airstrike on Osirak to argue for the legality of a similar attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is not only disingenuous at best, it is deliberately deceiving and completely wrong. The Iraqi nuclear program before 1981 was peaceful and subject to intensive safeguards and monitoring. The Osirak reactor was, as Harvard physics professor Richard Wilson has explained, “explicitly designed by the French engineer Yves Girard to be unsuitable for making bombs. That was obvious to me on my 1982 visit.”

What Dershowitz omits from his ridiculous suggestion is that the Israeli attack, code named Operation Opera, took the lives of ten Iraqi soldiers and one French civilian researcher and was widely lambasted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the international community, including the United States.

Writing in The Guardian in 2002, Jonathan Steele reminded readers that “[t]he world was outraged by Israel’s raid” and recalled some reactions:

“Armed attack in such circumstances cannot be justified. It represents a grave breach of international law,” Margaret Thatcher thundered. Jeane Kirkpatrick, the US ambassador to the UN and as stern a lecturer as Britain’s then prime minister, described it as “shocking” and compared it to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. American newspapers were as fulsome. “Israel’s sneak attack… was an act of inexcusable and short-sighted aggression,” said the New York Times. The Los Angeles Times called it “state-sponsored terrorism”.

Within two days of the attack on Osirak, the Reagan administration suspended the shipment of F-16 fighter jets to Israel because of its contention that Israel had “violated its commitment to use the planes only in self-defense.”

Ambassador Kirkpatrick, addressing a June 19, 1981 meeting of the United Nations Security Council, stated the Reagan administration’s official views on the attack by condemning it as an “act of violence” that “gravely jeopardizes the peace and security” in the Middle East, “undermines the stability and well-being of the area,” and “threatens global peace.” Despite noting the “strength of United States ties and commitment to Israel” and insisting that the U.S. government “would approve no decision that harmed Israel’s basic interests, was unfairly punitive or created new obstacles to a just and lasting peace,” Kirkpatrick also told the Council,

Nonetheless, we believe the means Israel chose to quiet its fears about the purposes of Iraq’s nuclear program have hurt, and not helped, the peace and security of the area. In my Government’s view, diplomatic means available to Israel had not been exhausted and the Israeli action has damaged the regional confidence that is essential for the peace process to go forward. All of us with an interest in peace, freedom and national independence have a high stake in that process. Israel’s stake is highest of all.

That very day, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution expressing that the body was “[d]eeply concerned about the danger to international peace and security created by the premeditated Israeli air attack on Iraqi nuclear installations.”

The resolution (S/RES/487) also “[s]trongly condemns the military attack by Israel in clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of international conduct,” “[c]alls upon Israel to refrain in the future from any such acts or threats thereof,” warns that the attack undermined both the IAEA and NPT, calls on Israel to “urgently to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards,” and demands Israel provide Iraq with “appropriate redress for the destruction it has suffered, responsibility for which has been acknowledged by Israel.”

Later that year, after the Reagan White House had caved to Israeli pressure and resumed warplane deliveries, the UN General Assembly passed a similarly critical resolution (36/27) on November 13, 1981 that “strongly condemn[ed] Israel for its premeditated and unprecedented act of aggression in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of international conduct, which constitutes a new and dangerous escalation of the threat to international peace and security.”

The resolution also reaffirmed Iraq’s “inalienable sovereign right” to “develop technological and nuclear programmes for peaceful purposes” and stated that, not only was Iraq a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but had also “satisfactorily applied” the IAEA safeguards required of it. Conversely, it noted “with concern” that “Israel has refused to adhere to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and, in spite of repeated calls, including that of the Security Council, to place its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.”

In addition to condemning “the misuse by Israel, in committing its acts of aggression against Arab countries, of aircraft and weapons supplied by the United States of America,” the resolution reiterated “its call to all States to cease forthwith any provision to Israel of arms and related material of all types which enable it to commit acts of aggression against other States” and requested “the Security Council to investigate Israel’s nuclear activities and the collaboration of other States and parties in those activities” and “institute effective enforcement action to prevent Israel from further endangering international peace and security through its acts of aggression and continued policies of expansion, occupation and annexation.”

Furthermore, the General Assembly demanded that “Israel, in view of its international responsibility for its act of aggression, pay prompt and adequate compensation for the material damage and loss of life suffered” due to the illegal and lethal attack.

Only the United States and Israel voted against the resolution.

In August 2002, Mary Ellen O’Connell, law professor at the Moritz College of Law and Associate of the Mershon Center for International Security and Public Policy at Ohio State University, wrote an extensive analysis entitled “The Myth of Preemptive Self-Defense” for the American Society of International Law (ASIL) Task Force on Terrorism wherein she explicitly addresses the very misconception Dershowitz is attempting to put forward.

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Nima Shirazi

Nima Shirazi is a political commentator from New York City and co-editor of the Iran, Iraq and Turkey pages for the online magazine Muftah. His analysis of United States policy and Middle East issues, particularly with reference to current events in Iran, Israel, and Palestine, can be found in numerous online and print publications, as well as his website,

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  • BuzzK

    The author left off: “prolific racist” “hate-mongering Islamophobe” and “epic hypocrite.”

    A former scholar who has let his obscene passions overwhelm him and out him as a pathetic bigot.

  • hamid

    Dershowitz, is realistic. This article is loaded with misrepresentations, and venom. Dershowitz is not wrong on Israel’s right to defend herself from the evil axis, Iran Ayatollahs, and the Jishadist everywhre. Dershowitz is right on target. See this link and understand what this author,Nima Shirazi, is defending: “Death to America” chants in Iran

    And this recent Dec. 15, 2011 video:

    Jordanian Sheik Nader Tamimi, Mufti of the Palestinian Liberation Army, to the West: We Will Restore the Caliphate and You Will Pay the Jizya “or Else We Will Bring the Sword to Your Necks”

    • Hamid, please illustrate a single “misrepresentation” from Mr. Shirazi’s article.

  • Hamid

    In short Mr. Hammond,

    This article does not have only a slew of misrepresentations and falsehoods but also is out of context and misleading. It also shows a vicious intention to demolish Dershowitz because one of his expertises is criminal defense and criminal defendants thus sought his advice. Dershowitz in all the cases cited by Shirazi was hired as a consultant not as their attorney. And he has never “worked tirelessly” to defend real criminals or child rape. Adolf Eichman too had Robert Servatius as his defense lawyer. All the prosecuted neo-Naziz in Canada found in Doug Christie a very effective defense lawyer. Why doesn’t Shiraz blame Christie and Servatius for defending obvious criminals? By focusing on Dershowitz, Shiraz shows his naked bias, which surely weakens his case, if he ever had one.

    However, this whole false characterization of Dershowitz have nothing to do with the statement of Dershowitz regarding Israel’s legal, moral and political right to defend her citizens from vicious mad men, killers/terrorist Hamas/Hizaballah proxies of Iran who for years openly proclaim statements that their goal is to ‘wipe Israel of the Map’ conveniently omitting the fact that these terrorists hide behind children, old man and women and stoop to barbarism.

    Further this statement “one can simply read his justifications for the murder of civilians, as long as they’re Arabs and/or Muslims.” is false. Check Shirazi’s own citation. And to cite the Dersh, is beyond the pale! And “preemptive attack” is legal, only logical and has always been so. Who is in the right mind would wait for an enemy to attack knowing so? You? On “preemptive strikes” Shiraz doesn’t know what he is talking about. There is a customary right of “anticipatory self-defense” under international law. This goes well beyond Article 51 of the UN Charter and finds its sources in the 17th and 18th century, with the words of Hugo Grotius and Emmerich de Vatel. Article 51 of the UN Charter does not overrise the customary rights of anticipatory self-defense. With the advent of nuclear threats and Islamic terrorism, anticipatory self-defense has a far greater importance now than it had then because, simply stated, “international law is not a suicidal pact” in the words of Louis René Beres.

    In addition, while it is true that the world raised hell when the Israelis erased the Osiraq nuclear reactor in Iraq, the author fails to mention that when the smoke evaporated and a few years later, the world couldn’t have enough good words to thank the Israelis for doing so including rational, kind, informed and peaceful Arabs and or Muslims!

    I would note that one can only deduce that it is apt to call Shirazi’s diatribe and it seems this website too: “The Warped Morality of Warmongers” since what he et al herein do is precisely defend terrorism and hatred. Lumped in the same hornet’s nest with Richard Falk and others, you lose all credibility.

    Anybody who’s walking on clouds is apt to be carried away. — Franklin P. Jones (1906-????)

    AND ONE CAN SAY a lot MORE, BUT THIS WILL SUFFICE. Indeed as long as Shirazi uses fake references about Dershowitz, it is not worth the time and attention of anyone who cares for truth and peace.


    • Hamid, while charging Mr. Shirazi with misrepresentations, you are guilty with quite a lot of your own. Israel has a right to self-defense. It does not have a right to violate international law and international humanitarian law, to commit aggression and war crimes, to collectively punish an entire civilian population, etc. You misrepresent Israel’s criminal actions as “self-defense”. As for Iran, the “wipe Israel off the map” claim is a fabrication of Western media propaganda. Mr. Shirazi’s comments on the so-called “preemptive” warfare are right on, and it’s actually you who doesn’t know what you’re talking about. There is no right to “anticipatory” self-defense. There is a right to self-defense against armed attack, period. This so-called “preemptive” war, actually “preventive” war, is merely a euphemism for “aggression”, “the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within it the accumulated evil of the whole”, as defined at Nuremberg. Applied to the example, Israel has no “right” to bomb Iran, which is not threatening Israel with armed attack. On Osirak, you’re wrong there, too. It was as a direct consequence of that act of aggression that was in violation of international law and undermined the NPT regime that Iraq determined to move its program “underground”, so to speak, and try to develop a nuclear weapon as a deterrent to any further such acts of aggression.

  • Hamid

    Your denial of the evidence [Ahmadinejad calling for “wiping Israel of the map”] and your continued shifting from issue to issue show that you are incapable of sustaining any serious conversation on ANY TOPIC.

    See Associated Press:

    And here:

    See also New York Times:

  • Hamid

    Mr. Hammmond:

    You wrote: “You know, repeating lies over and over doesn’t make them true.”

    Do look deep in the mirror.


  • Farhad

    Mr. Hammmond:

    You wrote: “You know, repeating lies over and over doesn’t make them true.”

    Do look deep in the mirror.


  • Fatima

    Mr. Hammmond:

    You wrote: “You know, repeating lies over and over doesn’t make them true.”

    Do look deep in the mirror.


    • Whoops! Looks like the troll who’s been hitting up multiple sites that have posted this article of mine accidentally revealed himself as a phony by posting the same comment under different Iranian sounding names in short succession (y’know, for “authenticity”). Hilarious.

      Incidentally, I have already responded to this troll’s comments over at <Media With Conscience.

      No need to repeat them here.

      • HamidFatimaFarhad

        Shirazi, the phoney and vacuous person here is you. It is not about the name but the content of you false and hateful article. And get real!

        This is not about the name, Right or Left, but about integrity, reality and facts, that which you severely lack thus resort to triviality and sources that have legs or substance. Worse, you also choose to remain in denial because of the hatred in you that eclipses rationality and become blind, deaf and dumb.

        See these video’s again and again. Use a magnifying glass if you can’t seed. But I am afraid that even if truth hits you in the head, you still will not get it!

        See Videos:

        Nima Shirazi, is defending: “Death to America” chants in Iran

        And this recent Dec. 15, 2011 video:

        Jordanian Sheik Nader Tamimi, Mufti of the Palestinian Liberation Army, to the West: We Will Restore the Caliphate and You Will Pay the Jizya “or Else We Will Bring the Sword to Your Necks”

      • HamidFatimaFarhad

        In addition, let it be known that I give infinitely more credence to a single paragraph written by professor Louis René Beres and any of the listed Board members of MEMRI than to the verbal diarrhea generated by Shirazi. The French have a name for the likes of Shirazi: they use to call them chieurs d’encre, quite appropriately.

        • Hamid, if you would like to challenge Nima’s argument on the basis of fact and logic, you are welcome to do so. I notice you haven’t.

          • HamidFatimaFarhad

            Thank you for your invitation to continue this debate but I am afraid there is no point in doing so as both of you deny the evidence, facts, and lack simple common sense! To say that anyone is “enthusiastic” about torture is reflective of Shirazi sick mind.
            So long,

          • To deny that there are people in America–Dick Cheney, for example–who are enthusiastic about torture is pretty ignorant. I’d observe that once again rather than addressing any facts or logic, you merely employ ad hominem argumentation. I invite you to be reasonable. If you refuse to be, you’re not welcome here.

          • Hamid


            You wrote: “To deny that there are people in America–Dick Cheney, for example–who are enthusiastic about torture is pretty ignorant.”

            Do you hear yourself? How can you say such a thing? Are you for real? might it be that you are ‘enthusiastic’ to defame Americans and any reasonable human being? How can any one be “enthusiastic” about torture? And Dick Cheney is never “enthusiastic” about torture, the ignorant here is you!

          • Hamid, you have got to be kidding.

  • HamidFatimaFarhad

    Correction FOR Shirazi:

    This is not about the name, Right or Left, but about integrity, reality and facts, that which you severely lack thus resort to triviality and sources that have NO legs or substance.

  • Hamid

    Jeremy and Shirazi et al,

    Please, do illustrate to us how anyone who is a “torture enthusiast” according to the second and third words of this mostly false and hateful, poisonous article by Mina Shirazi demonstrate so in Western societies let alone by Dershowitz or Cheney per Jeremy?

    Indeed it does so ‘perennial’[ly] FOR at least the last century in the barbaric, backward despotic regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Syria,Iran and its proxies, Hamas, Salafis, Fatah, Muslim brotherhoods, collectively called islamoemoManiacs?

    Here are just a few examples of “torture enthusiast” in Iran, for the rest of the IslamoManiacs Google YouTube etc, in case you didn’t notice, Jeremy et al and there are plenty such examples:

    But let me repeat, I fear that even if truth hits you [Jeremy, Shirazi et al] in the head, you choose to harbor hatred and denial v. truth, historical facts, reality, love and peace, for some odd reason. Can you et al free your mind of that sever hatred that is inhabited in every cell of your body and soul? Sadly, it seems you chose to keep your mind obtuse and obstinate.

    “There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark” Hamlet, by William Shakespeare.

    – think over

    Reread and see videos above and in the rest of my posting herein, you might get it!

    The following link may refresh and heal your delusional and hateful mind; you may finally be capable of realizing who and what you and Shirazi et al are truly defending when you falsely demonize those who at the end result defend your own freedom:


    • If you’d like a reply, you’ll have to post a coherent comment rather than gibberish.

      • Hamid

        I do not expect a truthful reply from you. You have proven my case that you are nothing short of hateful, and terminally delusional! May you see the light at the end of the day, so long!

  • If anyone wants to know Dershowitz stance on Iran I suggest reading the chapter on Iran in his book “The Case against Israel Enemies”

    One point I disagree with Dershowitz is Osriak strike. He claims only one person died yet i dont think he provides any reference for that claim