The Bintel Brief

Bintel Brief: Alan Dershowitz Examines Whether Hamas Opinion Articles Are Fit To Print

By Alan Dershowitz

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Alan Dershowitz

Professor Dershowitz,

Do you think that the publishing of opinion articles by Hamas officials in The New York Times and The Washington Post constitutes material support to terrorists as defined in the Patriot Act?

Thank you for all of your great and inspiring work on behalf of Israel.


Alan Dershowitz replies:

I do not believe that the publication of Hamas opinion articles constitutes material support to terrorists as defined in the Patriot Act. More than 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson wrote that the expression of an opinion, even an immoral and dangerous one, cannot constitute the kind of overt act that would make it a crime.

A more fundamental question is whether great newspapers should exercise their First Amendment rights by publishing or by refusing to publish Hamas propaganda. The decision should be made on the basis of a consistent principle. Would they have published a pro-Nazi article in the 1930s, after the Nazis won the German election? Would they have published an article by David Duke after he won his primary election? Can they distinguish Hamas? The decision might also turn on the content of the particular opinion article. Is it simple propaganda, or does it make an interesting point? Does it contain any hint of a peace overture?

A newspaper is not obligated to present all points of view. It may choose to do so, but if it does, it should have a consistent policy.

Alan Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He is the author of numerous books, including “Chutzpah,” “The Vanishing American Jew,” “The Genesis of Justice,” “The Case for Israel,” “The Case for Peace” and, most recently, “Blasphemy: How the Religious Right is Hijacking the Declaration of Independence.”

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David Jacobs Thu. Jul 19, 2007

It has been said that if more people had read Mein Kampf in the 1930's, they would have understood Hitler's intentions. Alan Cranston translated and published an unabridged edition of Mein Kampf in 1939 to make clear Hitler's real goals.

nomorelies Thu. Jul 19, 2007

There has never been a "Palestinian" identity because Palestinians don't exist. There has never been a Palestinian country, language, people or culture. Israel was re-named Palestine by the Romans and has no Arab connection whatsoever. Jews were the first to be called Palstinians because Israle is there homeland. Arabs stole the name several decades ago for propaganda purposes. These Arabs are from Arabia and are occupyig Jewish land. The only "ethocentric" countries in the world are the ones run by Arabs and Muslims where bigotry, hatred of Jews, sexism and racism are the norm. Long live Israel!

Dave Sabatene Wed. Jul 18, 2007

Of course articles written by Hamas are forbidden. Anything daring to bring up the rights denied to the Palestinians by the Zionist regime should be prohibited. There must only be one standard for anything written in the world's media: whether or not it worships the ethnocratic regime that has worked to wipe out Palestinian identity.

Andrew Thu. Jul 19, 2007

Hamas is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States Government. It is against US law to provide material support and resources to terrorist organizations. The law says: “The term “material support or resources” means any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel (1 or more individuals who may be or include oneself), and transportation, except medicine or religious materials;” The New York Times, Washington Post and LA Times knew that Hamas has been designated as is a terrorist organization. The Patriot Act does not specify exclusions or exceptions, such as providing the resources, communications equipment and facilities of a newspaper to enable the free speech of a terrorist organization, to the law. Hamas is not denied freedom of speech in the US. If it was their web sites would be blocked. However, doesn’t the Patriot Act prohibit Americans, including American newspapers, from aiding a terrorist organization in spreading its message?

Peter Gaffney Thu. Jul 19, 2007

I absolutely condemn Hamas for its terrorist acts, but one can't ignore the number of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians killed -- albeit "inadvertently" -- by Israeli forces. Yes, there's a moral distinction, but the victims are just as dead. One also must bear in mind the terrorist acts committed by some of Israel's founders. Ultimately it's more important to end the cycle of violence than it is to assign blame.

David L Nilsson Fri. Jul 20, 2007

How to prove that Zionists don't control the mainstream media? Forbid Hamas to express opinions that might upset that oh-so-popular PM Ehud Olmert! And then say that the law of GW Bush and Dick Cheney REQUIRES such censorship! Which friend of the First Amendment and opponent of the Protocols came up with this brilliant suggestion? Give that man a bagel with love from David Duke.

marvin p. cohen Fri. Jul 20, 2007

if the nytimes cant print anything bad about israel it doesn't print anything at all.

Andrew Fri. Jul 20, 2007

This has nothing to do with preventing the NY Times from “printing anything bad about Israel”. They do that all of the time. Nor does it a call to “forbid Hamas to express opinions” or to censor them. We all certainly knew Hamas’ positions before these “editorials” were printed. And we are all free to visit their web site to learn more about them. It has nothing to do with Zionists, Bush, Cheney, Olmert, bagels, lox, protocols, proctologists or David Duke. And it has nothing to do with the fact that civilians who stay in areas controlled by terrorists, who support terrorists, or who allocate rooms in their homes to missiles fired by terrorists, will be killed when those attacked by terrorists defend themselves. There are Arabs who want to kill every Israeli and Jew possible and wipe Israel off of the face of the earth. And there are Jews who are trying to prevent that. This is not a “cycle of violence”. The issue is, as a matter of law, did American newspapers violate the letter and spirit of the law by allowing their print and web publishing facilities, and all of the resources and systems that support those, to function as platforms for the communication of a terrorist organization.

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