April 20, 2005

More lies from Dershowitz

This is an article by a Regan Boychuk on Electronic Intifada. Like Finkelstein in interviews, articles and, forthcoming, a book, Boychuk exposes Dershowitz, beyond question, as a liar. In an earlier post I linked to a download of a recording of Dershowitz "debating" with Norman Finkelstein. Well actually, Dershowitz was shouting Finkelstein down while Finkelstein totally exposed him as a liar and a plagiarist. Well, among the many lies told by Dershowitz, most of which Finkelstein didn't have time (or volume) to deal with, he said that Israel doesn't use torture and that the Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PACTI) admitted to him that they only used the word "torture" in their name because it got them media attention. He didn't explain why they needed attention or what the basis of their campaign was if it wasn't against torture. But Boychuk reports that Dershowitz was still telling the same lie as recently as March this year:
In the course of arguing that Israeli authorities no longer torture Palestinians, Dershowitz claimed he had a long conversation with the Israeli human rights organization, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), in which PCATI not only conceded that there was no longer any torture for them to investigate, but that they had decided not to change their name because it "helped them attract media attention"
Now I would have immediately smelled a rat here because torture by Israel doesn't get any media attention and of course only an idiot would believe anything that Dershowitz says. But Boychuk's intrepid and he decided to check his claim, first on the PACTI website - www.stoptorture.org.il - and then by phoning the group itself. Then reverting to Dershowitz and then back to PACTI. The exchanges are worth quoting at length.
"Dershowitz's claim that he had long conversations with PCATI and that we reported that there is no longer any torture in Israel," I was told by PCATI's Orah Maggen, "is totally false. We never met with him or spoke with him directly. I did meet him at the Knesset (Israel's parliament) when he spoke at the Law and Constitution Committee [but] I, and representatives of other human rights NGOs challenged most of what he said about torture, the role of human rights NGOs and other issues."

When I reported PCATI's denial to Professor Dershowitz, he replied: "During my conversation at the Knesset I asked the representative of the committee [Orah Maggen] why they kept their name, despite their acknowledgement that torture was no longer a significant issue? She responded - I remember clear as day - as follows: 'You have no idea how difficult it is to get attention to any human rights issues in this country. Maintaining our organizational name, with the word torture, is essential to getting needed attention.' I had an extensive argument with her about that tactic, focusing especially on the international implications and the misleading nature of the name outside of the country. I am certain she remembers the conversation because it was quite heated. It also took place in front of numerous witnesses."

When I emailed PCATI Dershowitz's "clear as day" recollection, Ms. Maggen replied that it is true that there was a heated exchange with others present, but "All other statements made by Professor Dershowitz are blatantly false and utterly preposterous. Neither I nor any other representative of PCATI acknowledged, claimed or in any way stated that torture is no longer a significant issue. On the contrary, it is our claim that the systematic and large-scale torture and ill treatment of Palestinian detainees and prisoners continues to this day."

She further stated that, "Neither I nor any other representative of PCATI ever stated that we kept our name to 'get attention' for any reason whatsoever. Considering the fact that torture is still widespread and that PCATI has its hands full struggling against the torture and ill treatment of Palestinian detainees (and others) by Israeli authorities, the claim regarding statements we supposedly made about our organization's name is totally absurd."
Sometimes it's demoralising seeing an outrageous liar in the public eye time and again trotting out the same old lies but then when an articulate challenger exposes those lies its very satisfying. Personally, I'm looking forward to Finkelstein's Beyond Chuztpah, which I imagine will have a thing or two to say about Dershowitz.


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