Alan Dershowitz on Waterboarding

An Expansion of State Power

Alan Dershowitz is a skillful debater, a capable attorney, and and a ferocious defender of Israel. He is also a Harvard professor and a former member of OJ Simpson’s legal defense called the Dream Team.

An article by Dershowitz appeared on op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal on Novemeber 7, 2007, titled “Democrats and Waterboarding”. In that article Dershowitz makes a spirited defense of waterboarding, going so far as to say that (he believes) the Democrats “will lose the presidential race if it defines itself as soft on terror.” Dershowitz thinks the Democrats are headed for trouble if they assume the “pacifistic stance” that he identifies with Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore. By using Moore and Sheehan as examples; it is clear that Dershowitz accepts the media’s attempts to dismiss them as part of an imaginary “leftist fringe”.

Instead, Dershowitz holds up ex-New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as an example of a candidate whose popularity has steadily grown because of his “tough” stance on national security issues. Dershowitz uses the “national security” hobgoblin in the same way as Bush; to justify government activities that conflict with our existing laws and basic principles. It is a neat bit of lawyerly footwork, but unconvincing.

In Dershowitz’s defense, it is true that he does not approve of “the routine use of torture”, but only in the rare situation when it might be useful in gaining “ preventive intelligence information about imminent acts of terrorism–the so-called “ticking bomb” scenario.” But, who decides? Do we bestow this authority on men who have already proven to be untrustworthy—on men who have already created an industrial scale system of torture in black sites around the world? Who do we trust with these new powers?

And how do we know when a so-called “terrorist suspect” is a terrorist at all? Are we being asked to forgo due process and the presumption of innocence along with our revulsion to cruel and inhuman treatment?

Dershowitz’s loves to use the “ticking time-bomb” scenario and trots it out at every opportunity. It is a very persuasive argument, until one really examines the implications. Jose Padilla was supposedly a “ticking time-bomb”, wasn’t he? According to the earliest public statements by the Bush administration, Padilla had smuggled a nuclear device or “dirty bomb” into the country and was planning to use it in a terrorist attack against American civilians. But it wasn’t true. The government had fabricated the entire story and kept him in prison without charges for over 4 years on claims that were manifestly false. The Bush administration has never offered an explanation for their lies.

Padilla’s attorney has produced convincing evidence that he was repeatedly tortured in prison and was, thus, driven insane. And for what? The government knew that he was not involved in a terrorist plot to kill Americans. Under Dershowitz’s regime, Padilla’s treatment would be entirely justified. Is that what we want?

The “ticking time-bomb” argument is a way of challenging our core values. It’s a test. It’s like asking, “How much are we really willing to sacrifice for the sake of our beliefs? Are we willing to risk our lives and the lives of the people we love ?” Or are we ready to “throw in the towel” and hand the government even greater and more lethal powers hoping that they’ll keep us safe?

Dershowitz says, “I am personally opposed to the use of torture.” But that is not true. If he is opposed to torture then how does he explain his support for “torture warrants”? The two are mutually exclusive.

In Dershowitz’s book, “Shouting Fire: Civil Liberties in a Turbulent Age,” he says:

“No torture would be permitted without a “torture warrant” being issued by a judge….An application for a torture warrant would have to be based on the absolute need to obtain immediate information in order to save lives coupled with probable cause that the suspect had such information and is unwilling to reveal it….The warrant would limit the torture to nonlethal means, such as sterile needles, being inserted beneath the nails to cause excruciating pain without endangering life.”

It’s shocking that a respected author and attorney would actually qualify the type of needles (“sterile”) that can be used while conducting torture. Can we see how outrageous this is?

The excerpt proves that Dershowitz advocates torture. The support for “torture warrants” is support torture. Period. It doesn’t matter if the torture is limited to extreme cases or not. It’s barbarism. More importantly, it is barbarism that is vindicated by the state.
Dershowitz has been defending his position on torture for more than 4 years. Here are his comments in 2002 from the op-ed page of the SF Chronicle :

“If American law enforcement officers were ever to confront the law school hypothetical case of the captured terrorist who knew about an imminent attack but refused to provide the information necessary to prevent it, I have absolutely no doubt that they would try to torture the terrorists into providing the information.

Moreover, the vast majority of Americans would expect the officers to engage in that time-tested technique for loosening tongues, notwithstanding our unequivocal treaty obligation never to employ torture, no matter how exigent the circumstances.” (“Want to Torture; Get a Warrant”, SF Chronicle 2002)

Dershowitz is mistaken. According to every survey conducted in the last 5 years, the majority of American people are overwhelming opposed to torture and-–I dare say—they are equally opposed to cops who take the law into their own hands and “engage in that time-tested technique for loosening tongues.” What Dershowitz is suggesting here is deadly serious and paves the way for routine abuses of power and police brutality. It is a wonder that the Bar hasn’t stepped in and chastised him for his public stance on this issue.

Dershowitz’s logic is also flawed. His argument can be reduced to this: “The cops are going to torture anyway, so let’s give them the green light by providing them with “torture warrants”? Isn’t that what he is saying?

This is from the same article:

“Every democracy, including our own, has employed torture outside of the law….Throughout the years, police officers have tortured murder and rape suspects into confessing — sometimes truthfully, sometimes not truthfully.”

Again, this is poorly argued. Dershowitz is using the same feeble defense that schoolchildren use when they’re caught breaking the rules: “Everyone else was doing it.” That is not an acceptable defense for torture.

Finally, Dershowitz offers this threadbare excuse for waterboarding:

“There are some who claim that torture is a nonissue because it never works—it only produces false information. This is simply not true,as evidenced by the many decent members of the French Resistance who, under Nazi torture, disclosed the locations of their closest friends and relatives.”

Dershowitz is invoking the classic “ends justifies the means” defense, but not very cogently. What difference does it make if the information that is extracted through “physical coercion” is of some utility or not if the system you are trying to defend has been obliterated by your actions? It doesn’t require a finger-wagging patriot or a moralizing scold to see that state-sanctioned torture means the end of the republic. There is no such thing as “legal torture”. It is a contradiction in terms. Torture is an assault on the fundamental rights of man and the rule of law. It is one of “red lines” that we don’t cross because on the other side is tyranny.

There are certain basic assumptions upon which our country was founded and the entire legal and political system rests. These are our core beliefs; they are not facts. That’s why the preamble of the Constitution reads: “We hold these truths to be SELF EVIDENT” because the founders posited that these beliefs did not require proof among civilized people. Among those “assumptions” is the idea of “inalienable rights” and the intrinsic value of man. Inalienable rights can’t be casually swept away by a presidential signing statement or a congressional edict legalizing “torture warrants” any more than the Congress can haphazardly repeal habeas corpus by passing the Military Commissions Act. That’s beyond their “pay grade”. These officials weren’t elected to rewrite the Constitution, but “ to preserve, protect and defend” it to the best of their ability. These core principles cannot be changed without destroying the country itself.

Is that the hidden agenda here; to reshape the nation according to an ethos that is more disposed to autocratic government?

The Constitution isn’t a security blanket. If we want to minimize the number of terrorist attacks on American citizens or US institutions; we should stop using war as an implement of foreign policy. As Noam Chomsky says, “The best way to stop terrorism; is stop committing it.” That’s good advice. We ought to put that on a billboard in front of the White House so the occupants can mull it over every day on their way to work.

Dershowitz’s ruminations on waterboarding offer nothing constructive as far as national security is concerned. It just more demagoguery.

I agree with Dershowitz that “waterboarding cannot be decided in the abstract.” Nor has it been. It has been thoroughly researched and condemned under the Geneva Conventions, the US military, and every human rights organization on earth. The issue has already been decided. It is torture, pure and simple, and no amount of legalistic gibberish changes a thing.

There’s another reason for rejecting torture besides the fact that it is morally abhorrent, or because it conflicts with our reading of the Constitution, or even because it abrogates the presumption of innocence, due process, the right to attorney, habeas corpus and every other principle to which we claim to adhere.

The real reason that torture should be rejected is because it confers more authority on the state than is prudent for the safety and welfare of “We the people”. The state is now—and has always been—the greatest threat to human rights and civil liberties. That’s truer today–in our post 9-11 world–than ever before. The state is the natural enemy of personal freedom.

Dershowitz’s polemic has nothing to do with his alleged interest in the security of the American people. That’s hogwash. It is an attempt to expand the authority of the state by softening public attitudes towards torture. It’s a blatant power-grab, pure and simple; and should be repudiated by anyone who grasps its true meaning.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com. Read other articles by Mike.

20 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. gerald spezio said on December 14th, 2007 at 7:01am #

    Mad-Dog-Dershowitz is the perfect combination – a mad dog Zionist & a trained champion of advocacy and lawyering (put all your passions on one side and oppose all others).

    Dershie shoots himself in both feet with his basic argument that torture/no torture is so convoluted that it cannot be decided “in the abstract.”

    The entire point of Dershie’s unbridled advocacy – usually for money but Zionism is even more unbridled than money – is to decide every issue in the abstract.

    And go forth as Zionist soldiers into combat … against the enemies of Zion.

    Mad-dog-Dershie can be best understood as a selfish narcissistic child.

    Dershie displays his unbridled passion and advocacy for Zionism’s murdering with vengeance and vitriol as he posta.

    “Torture warrants” issued by a judge – a politically connected lawyer in a black robe – will protect you!

    What is the only vicious beast worse than a lawyer?
    A lawyer who becomes a judge.

    A judge is a advocacy whore become a Madam!

  2. Deadbeat said on December 14th, 2007 at 9:08am #

    The U.S. is a nation that still has the death penalty. In a country with the death penalty it is not surprising that the discussion of torture can be framed as an abstraction. Maintaining the death penalty and having an overall punitive culture is why Zionism has been able to find a home in the U.S. Obscuring Zionism, like many on the “left” has done, only permits voices like Dershowitz to continue to move the U.S. in an authoritarian and fascist direction. Confronting Zionism yields analysis of why this abhorrent ideology was able to root itself in the U.S. by highlighting its long culture in the U.S. of racism, militarism, inequality and injustice.

  3. Don said on December 14th, 2007 at 6:48pm #

    Mike hits another grand slam.
    The Jewish Bar Assoc. won’t chastise Dershowitz for having the same Isreali agenda. It’s unfortunate that agenda has permeated every level of our government, banking, media, legal, and medical system just to mention a few.
    Support jbs.org.

  4. hp said on December 15th, 2007 at 12:50pm #

    Dershowitz should be prosecuted for impersonating a Semite.

  5. greybeard said on December 15th, 2007 at 4:55pm #

    Absolutely key–permitting state torture grants to the state more power than is healthy for the people. Interestingly, Hollywood has been promoting this ethic much longer than Dershowitz (in a 1994 movie, “Protecting Tess”, torture was used in just such a “ticking bomb” scenario, to justify its “unpleasant use” by the hero of the movie. Jack Valenti said that Hollywood and Washington arise from the same DNA! Are we in fact being primed for an authoritarian state in the “name of democracy”?

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain said on December 15th, 2007 at 5:13pm #

    There are a number of groups around the world who attempt to aid the victims of torture recover from their ordeal. Often this is impossible, and the victims are permanently disabled, psychologically, physically and spiritually. These organisations all, it seems to me, agree that torture is very rarely utilised to provide information. The lurid lie of the ‘ticking-bomb’, a fairly good example of the Israeli talent for self-exculpating and cynical bull-dust, is simply humbug. Torture is most often utilised as a means to terrorise a population. Throughout the Yankee Empire in the Western Hemisphere there has been an unholy Trinity of death-squads, ‘disappearances’ and torture, enacted by local militaries trained in the US, to suppress local political agitation for social justice, for over fifty years, if not longer. The victims number in the hundreds of thousands. In the Holy State of Israel, the population to be terrorised is the indigenous Palestinian population that has got in the way of Israel’s Messianic colonial enterprise of establishing Eretz Yisrael. Torture, and Israel has tortured tens of thousands over decades, destroys resistance leadership, provides platoons of collaborators and Quislings and generally re-inforces the Israeli ethos of racial supremacism, so pithily encapsulated by the patron state of the settler movement, Rabbi Kook the Elder in his immortal words, ‘There is a greater difference between the soul of a Jew and a non-Jew, than there is between the soul of a non-Jew and an animal’. With attitudes such as this rife, if by no means universal, within Israeli society, finding willing, even enthusiastic, torturers has proved no problem. Israel has perfected techniques of psychological torture for use against Arabs, specialising in sexual humiliation, that they have freely transmitted to their great comrades in arms in the ‘Clash of Civilizations’ the US, for use in Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo. Of course it takes a special type of individual to torture, and as the leaked pictures from Abu Ghraib showed, once found these creatures really enjoy their work. The US tradition of torture goes back, far, far into its history. Water-boarding was extensively used during the colonial war of mass extermination in the Philippines at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, introduced by veterans of the 7th Cavalry, who had used it, and other savoury tactics, against the remains of the Plains Indians as that great extermination reached its end-stages in the late 19th century. As for the ‘ticking-bomb’ lie, if indeed hundreds, thousands or trillions of valuable white, Judeo-Christian, Western lives are at stake, why stop at torturing the ‘suspect’? Why not, if the end of saving thousands of ‘precious souls’ justifies the means, torture the suspect’s mother, wife, siblings, children, neighbours etc . The pressure so inflicted in witnessing the torture of others may induce a change of heart. But then again, that is already what Israel practices in the Occupied Territories and at the moment, particularly in Gaza. Group punishment, torture through starvation, isolation and deprivation of all the means to live a decent life. While all the time demanding not just that the world turn a blind eye, but that we join with our Israeli betters in singing their praises and spitting on their victims.

  7. greybeard said on December 15th, 2007 at 5:59pm #

    P.S. Curiously, exactly the reverse philosohy–the rule of law over might–is expressed in the 60’s film, “A Man for All Seasons”. Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield) vows to give the devil the benefit of law–“for my own safety’s sake”!

  8. Valued Customer said on December 16th, 2007 at 12:16am #

    Mike, you have hit the nail on the head, repeatedly. But there is so much more that should also be said that definitely refutes torture. Mulga Mumblebrain touched on one such point. John Yoo, of course, another lawyer, stated that there was no law that prevented the President from ordering the crushing of a child’s testicles in order to compel his mother or father to cant, or confess.

    Every argument Dershowitz claims supports ‘torture warrants’ also applies to that torture of an innocent child.

    Here’s one more: just government derives it’s power from the people whom delegate their sovereign authority to that government by their consent. They can only delegate to government such powers as they may possess, and no one has any such right to torture another.

    If you claim such a right to torture me, then you claim we are not equal. We are, in fact, equal, so you cannot justly claim such a right, nor delegate it to government. None of us can, nor all of us.

    Torture is the very definition of tyranny, and it has been demonstrated, and established as the precedent for the standard of treatment American citizens are subject to, by the Padilla case, as you have pointed out.

    Every person that has not utterly disavowed coercive or inhumane treatment of the prisoners of our government has not disavowed that treatment from being delivered to their own children, mother, father, and themselves.

    Furthermore, there is no limit to the kind and type of torture per Dershowitz’ arguments; no need for sterile needles, you could use the rib splinters of a dying child. The US doesn’t stop at waterboarding today, many, many corpses in Iraq have turned up with telltale wounds from electric drills, a favorite means of torturing to death there.

    If you accept Dershowitz’ arguments necessitating ‘torture warrants’ then you accept the legality of a common practice of the Avars, sewing live cats into the bellies of pregnant mothers. It’s all torture, and none of it is any more or less justifiable per those arguments than the rest of it.

    For 6 long years now Dershowitz and the terrorists have won. The USA has been degraded into just another despotism, where thugs get to beat citizens to death, rape little girls, and get paid to do it by the government.

    It’s about time we went back to being a free country, ruled by laws, and purge the thugs and criminals from our payrolls. It’s about time America wins, and free Americans win, this war over evil.

    Torture is evil, and those that would permit it are too. Next time you, dear reader, consider permitting the government to torture, consider them torturing the child most dear to you, because that’s who such law will apply to, and affect their lives.

  9. gerald spezio said on December 16th, 2007 at 9:12am #

    Some Israelis don’t want to murder anybody.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtRLtm507tQ

  10. jaime said on December 16th, 2007 at 2:24pm #

    Zionist Colossus? That’s funny, but thanks.

  11. gerald spezio said on December 16th, 2007 at 2:59pm #

    You mean for my money contribution to the Apartheid Wall and the Zionist murder machine in Gaza?

  12. gerald spezio said on December 16th, 2007 at 3:09pm #

    Supernation in its wisdom “gives” more than 800 dollars per year to every Israeli as foreign aid.

  13. jaime said on December 16th, 2007 at 4:33pm #

    Well GS, maybe you should convert to Judaism, move to Israel and catch some of this great action for yourself. Then you won’t have to feel so jealous and miss out on some really great empire building.

    Just contact me at moc.oohaynull@locetnaj and we can discuss it. So happens you’re lucky. In addition to working at a Steam bath in Newark, I just also happen to be a certified “mohe,” qualify to perform ritual circumcisions.
    Don’t worry, it won’t hurt…much.

    I’ve got friends in Sderot who’d be happy to put you up for a while.

  14. Mike McNiven said on December 16th, 2007 at 9:34pm #

    How interestingly the power holders decided the agenda again: waterboarding!
    So, if there is no waterboarding, then there is no torture?
    Aren’t profiling, grabbing, handcuffing, dragging, detaining innocent people torture? Waterboarding comes after many tortureous steps which should not have been there in the first place!

    DV should invite the torture victims to tell the world what IS torture.

    Also, a list of corpotations which make “torture tools” would help a torture prevention campaign. US, Germany and Israel are the leaders in this field too!

  15. George Jacobs said on December 17th, 2007 at 9:22am #

    Hey Gerald,

    I like the way you write and I totally agree with most of what present, but I have a word of advice with regard to jaime – probably not his real name, it’s probably a Spanish derivative of “hymie”. Anyhow – my advice is don’t get in a “farting contest” with a skunk – you are outclassed. Hymie is probably queer working in a steam bath.

    Keep up the good work, Gerald.

    Jake

  16. gerald spezio said on December 17th, 2007 at 1:42pm #

    Could I hire Alan Dershowitz to represent my interests in a defamation lawsuit against Jaime alleging anti-non-Semitism.

    Or unclean wopism.

    Anti-foreskinism is hurtful and hateful, as in anti-Semitism.

    Or anti-Semitism in reverse.

    I do declare the seriousness of being threatened with ritual weenie slashing for my political opinions.

    OFF WITH THEIR …?

  17. jaime said on December 18th, 2007 at 12:03am #

    Oooooh! Boys!!!!

    “Hymie is probably queer working in a steam bath.”

    Yeah, and what about it?

    “Anti-foreskinism is hurtful and hateful, as in anti-Semitism.”

    Most sensible thing you’ve posted yet GS.

  18. jaime said on December 18th, 2007 at 12:47am #

    hmmmmm…

    “Hymie is probably queer working in a steam bath.”

    Is this really THE place for homophobia too? Poor choice, I think, because so many of us posting here ARE Queer anyway.

    …And don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. Nothing like a good stiffie up yer pooper lads…

  19. Mulga Mumblebrain said on December 19th, 2007 at 4:33pm #

    George Jacobs ought, in my opinion, to attack the repulsive Jaime for his faults- his racist contempt for Palestinians, his fawning adulation of the Zionist racist state and his cavalier attitude to the truth, rather than his sexual orientation. It only invites Jaime and his fanatic colleagues to launch a smear campaign against Dissident Voice as a haunt of homophobes. Most gays I know regard racism and violent dispossession as crimes against humanity, and hence hold the Zionist racist state in contempt. Please do not fall for Jaime’s transparent, and as evidenced by his 12.47 am post, vulgar, provocations.

  20. jaime said on December 20th, 2007 at 8:44pm #

    “Most Gays I know …hold the Zionist state in contempt.”

    I guess they’re not sexual refugees like these people:

    The New Republic Magazine, August 20, 2002
    Tel Aviv Dispatch

    By Yossi Klein Halevi

    Tayseer, as we�ll call him, a 21-year-old Gazan whose constant smile tries to conceal watchfulness, learned early on that to be gay in Palestine is to be a criminal. Three years ago his older brother caught him in bed with a boyfriend. He was beaten by his family, then warned by his father that he�d strangle Tayseer if it ever happened again.

    It happened again a few months later. Word gets around a refugee camp, and a young man he didn�t know invited Tayseer into an orange grove. The next day he received a police summons. At the station Tayseer was told that his sex partner was in fact a police agent whose job is to ferret out homosexuals. If Tayseer wanted to avoid prison, he too would have to become an undercover sex agent, luring gays into orchards and turning them over to the police.

    Tayseer refused to implicate others. He was arrested and hung by his arms from the ceiling. A high-ranking officer he didn�t know arranged for his release and then demanded sex as payback. Tayseer fled Gaza to Tulkarem on the West Bank, but there too he was eventually arrested. He was forced to stand in sewage water up to his neck, his head covered by a sack filled with feces, and then he was thrown into a dark cell infested with insects and other creatures he could feel but not see. (�You slap one part of your body, and then you have to slap another,� he recounts.) During one interrogation, police stripped him and forced him to sit on a Coke bottle. Through the entire ordeal he was taunted by interrogators, jailers, and fellow prisoners for being a homosexual.

    When he was released a few months later, Tayseer crossed into Israel. He now lives illegally in an Arab Israeli village and works in a restaurant. His dream is to move to Tel Aviv. �No one there cares if you�re gay,� he says. These days, though, he knows that an illegal Gazan in Tel Aviv risks being deported and that he�s safest staying where he is.

    And if he were sent back to Gaza? �The police will kill me,� he says. �Unless my father gets to me first.�

    With bombs once again exploding all over Israel, and the Palestinian territories under seemingly permanent curfew, the woes of Palestinian homosexuals haven�t exactly grabbed international attention. But after spending two days with gay Palestinian refugees in Israel, I began to wonder why the liberal world has never taken interest in their plight.

    Perhaps it�s because that might mean acknowledging that the pathology of the nascent Palestinian polity extends well beyond Yasir Arafat and won�t be uprooted by one free election. Indeed, the torment of gays is very nearly official Palestinian policy. �The persecution of gays in the Palestinian Authority [P.A.] doesn�t just come from the families or the Islamic groups but from the P.A. itself,� says Shaul Ganon of the Tel Aviv-based Agudah-Association of Gay Men, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgender in Israel. �The P.A.�s usual excuse for persecuting gays is to label them collaborators�though I know of two cases in the last three years where people were tried explicitly for being homosexuals.� Since the intifada, Ganon tells me, Palestinian police have increasingly enforced Islamic law: �It�s now impossible to be an open gay in the P.A.�

    A gardener we�ll call Samir, who has fled the territories for Israel, told me of a gay friend who was a member of the Palestinian police and ran away to Tel Aviv: �After a while he returned to Nablus, where he was arrested by the Palestinian police and accused of being a collaborator. They put him in a pit. It was the fast of Ramadan, and they decided to make him fast the whole month but without any break at night. They denied him food and water until he died in that hole.�

    International human rights monitors have all but ignored gay Palestinians� plight. The U.S. State Department�s recently released human rights report for 2001, for instance, blandly notes, �In the Palestinian territories homosexuals generally are socially marginalized, and occasionally receive physical threats.� As Ganon explains it, �The Palestinian human rights groups are afraid to deal with the problem. One Palestinian activist told me that Israelis need to raise the issue because they�ll be shut down if they try to. Amnesty Israel is sympathetic but their mandate is limited to Israeli human rights violations. And the international human rights groups say they�ve got a long list of pressing issues. When Israeli police harass Arab Israeli homosexuals, I send out reports, and then�oh, you should see how quickly the human rights organizations get in touch with me to investigate. The hypocrisy is unbelievable.�

    Because the world hasn�t forced the P.A. to tolerate gays, Palestinian homosexuals are increasingly seeking refuge in the only regional territory that does: Israel. In the last few years hundreds of gay Palestinians, mostly from the West Bank, have slipped into Israel. Most live illegally in Tel Aviv, the center of Israel�s gay community; many are desperately poor and work as prostitutes. But at least they�re beyond the reach of their families and the P.A.

    Still, for these refugees life in Israel means subsisting on the margins. Ganon, my guide to the community, heads the Association�s outreach to Palestinian gays. He is a big man with a goatee who spends his nights on the Tel Aviv streets where Palestinian gay prostitutes gather, providing food and clothes and trying to keep them off drugs and out of jail. Over the last four years Ganon has waged essentially a one-man campaign to try to interest human rights groups in Israel and elsewhere in their plight. He�s helped about 300 Palestinian gays in Israel and estimates that probably twice that many currently live here illegally without access to legal employment or health care and under constant threat of deportation. �No one here cares about us,� says Samir, the gardener, who lives with his Israeli boyfriend. �I�ve written to all the government ministries, to all the newspapers, asking for my status to be recognized. No one even bothers answering.�

    According to Ganon, during the last year police have generally stopped arresting and deporting Palestinian gays because of his efforts. He has even worked out a quiet arrangement with Tel Aviv police, providing them a list of Palestinian gays under his sponsorship and providing those gays with Association membership cards to show their affiliation. The goal is to reassure local police, who are primarily on the lookout for Palestinian terrorists, that these Palestinians pose no threat. (The exceptions to this arrangement are Palestinian gays with security records and those from Gaza, whom the Israelis see as inherent security risks because of Hamas�s popularity there.) Some Palestinian gays, though, say they see no recent change in police policy and still feel hunted.

    An American we�ll call William finds himself in the Palestinian gays� no-man�s-land. Last year he and his Palestinian boyfriend, whom we�ll call Ahmad, moved into Ahmad�s West Bank village�a move that in retrospect seems mad. �We told the people in the village that we were friends, and for a while it worked,� says William. �But then one day we found a letter under our door from the Islamic court. It listed the five forms of death prescribed by Islam for homosexuality, including stoning and burning. We fled to Israel that same day.�

    Now they live in hiding�mostly from Ahmad�s brothers, who have searched for the couple in Tel Aviv and threatened to kill Ahmad. Though William has appealed to human rights groups around the world, and to the U.S. Embassy for an American visa for Ahmad, he�s gotten little response. One American gay-advocacy group offered to help Ahmad get asylum after he arrives in the United States. But getting him there is precisely the problem, and William refuses to leave without Ahmad. And so here they are, an American Christian and a Palestinian Muslim stranded in the Jewish state, with no money and no work, living off the charity of friends, dreading the reappearance of Ahmad�s brothers, and waiting for help they know will almost certainly not come.

    On a recent humid Tel Aviv night, in an area of shabby cafes for foreign workers and neon-lit sex shops, a half-dozen Palestinian teenage boys with gelled hair and sleeveless shirts sit on a railing, waiting for pickups. Ganon is here, as he is most nights, checking on �my children.� �Does anyone need condoms?� he asks. �How about clothes? Who hasn�t eaten today, sweethearts?�

    A police car slows down, and the boys call out, �Identity cards!� and laugh. The police ignore them and drive away.

    The teenage prostitutes, refugees from the West Bank, live in an abandoned building. They tell me that sometimes a client will offer them a meal and a shower instead of payment; sometimes a client will simply refuse to pay in any form, taunting them to complain to police. And sometimes police will beat them before releasing them back to the streets.

    A 17-year-old refugee from Nablus named Salah (a pseudonym), who spent months in a P.A. prison where interrogators cut him with glass and poured toilet cleaner into his wounds, tells Ganon that he has been stopped by Israeli police no fewer than four times that day. He recites the names of the different police units who stopped him by their acronyms. �Try not to do anything stupid,� Ganon says.

    �I�ve tried to kill myself six times already,� says Salah. �Each time the ambulance came too quickly. But now I think I know how to do it. Next time, with God�s help, it will work before the ambulance comes.�

    Yossi Klein Halevi is a contributing editor at TNR.