The (not so) surprising revelations of the Epstein list

The list is just another reminder that lots of horrifying behaviour is being conducted by the powers that be in a system where elite domination remains above the law.

Jefferey Epstein
About 950 pages of court documents identifying associates of financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein were made public on Wednesday [File: Bloomberg]

What do former United States presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump have in common with Hyatt Hotels executive chairman Thomas Pritzker and celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz?

In addition to being white American men who have usurped a disproportionate share of the planet’s wealth, they were among the first names recently exposed in previously sealed court documents identifying associates of paedophile financier and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who died by suicide in a US prison in 2019.

Assorted other members of the international elite were also named, including Britain’s Prince Andrew and the late Michael Jackson. More than 150 identities in total are expected to be released. Of course, the naming of names in itself does not constitute a criminal accusation and while media outlets have raced with orgasmic fervour to exploit the tabloidesque potential of the news story, we are not actually talking about any shocking revelations here.

After all, in a world defined by US-led patriarchal capitalism – in which women suffer a particular sort of objectification and commodification – it’s no surprise that those at the top of the hierarchy would fully endorse the whole brutal arrangement.

Take Donald Trump, for example, who has faced all manner of rape and sexual harassment allegations while also intermittently emitting lewd comments about his own daughter, among them: “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” Is it so astounding, in the end, that he would hobnob with the likes of Epstein?

Meanwhile, Bill Clinton’s name appears no fewer than 73 times in the documents released thus far, including in Epstein victim Johanna Sjoberg’s testimony, according to which Epstein once informed her that Clinton ”’likes them young’, referring to girls”.

Tell us something we didn’t know.

Anyway, ethics have never been the strong point of any head of state of a global superpower that has long been dedicated to, well, slaughtering and otherwise making life hell for folks worldwide.

For his part, billionaire Thomas Pritzker of the Hyatt Hotels empire comes up in the unsealed court documents as one of the men whom Epstein victim Virginia Roberts Giuffre was allegedly forced to service. He is also an “amateur scholar of Chinese history,” as per his bio on the website of the Washington, DC-based Aspen Institute – just another charmingly cultured super-capitalist whose existence is predicated on crippling inequality and other nice things.

And then, of course, there’s criminal lawyer and former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, who appears in the documents as someone Epstein “required” an underage woman to have sex with various times, according to the woman’s allegations. As Al Jazeera reported on January 4, Dershowitz furthermore “played a significant role in negotiating an agreement that provided immunity from federal prosecution in the Southern District of Florida not only for Epstein but also for ‘any potential co-conspirators of Epstein’, the documents say”.

Of all the contenders on the so-called “Epstein list” to date, the Dershowitz case is perhaps the most deserving of consideration at the present moment, given that he has potentially been tapped by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to defend Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. Israel will appear before said court to contest the accusation, made by South Africa, that it is committing genocide in the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli military has killed more than 22,000 Palestinians in less than three months.

In other words, the “genocide” case is a no-brainer in theory. But Dershowitz happens to specialise in that brand of “criminal law” that defends criminals against fact and logic.

He has already brandished his beyond-fanatically Zionist credentials on numerous occasions – like during the summer 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon that killed 1,200 people in 34 days, the vast majority of them civilians. One week into the assault, Dershowitz took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal in an appeal titled “Arithmetic of Pain”, where he proposed a “continuum of civilianality” to basically argue that, contrary to international opinion, there simply weren’t that many bona fide “civilians” in places like Lebanon.

On the Dershowitzian “continuum”, not even women and children could “always be counted as civilians, as some organisations do”. Such notions will no doubt come in handy in the event that Dershowitz does indeed become the face of Israel at the ICJ.

In 2012, during Israel’s brief “Pillar of Defence” offensive in the Gaza Strip, Dershowitz took media outlets to task for their failure to specify that Israel only commits “lawful actions” while Hamas only commits war crimes. In this particular offensive, Israel killed 87 Palestinian civilians in eight days, among them 35 children and 14 women – at least in the view of those of us who continue to subscribe to the concept of “civilians”.

Fast forward to the current genocide, and Dershowitz has predictably slammed “radical feminists” for obsessing over the Epstein stuff rather than “condemning Hamas”.

To be sure, the Epstein list comes not so much as a shock as a reminder that lots of horrifying behaviour is being conducted by the powers that be in a nasty system where elite domination remains above the law. But as the tabloidesque coverage rolls on, remember that this is not really news at all.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.