Broward News

Broward Public Defender Tried to Apologize for Palestinian Facebook Comment

Last week, a pair of public defenders was fired after it was discovered they called Palestinians "cockroaches" and "swine" on Facebook comments.

On Wednesday, one of the fired public defenders, Gary Sheres, released a statement explaining that he tried to apologize for his comments but was fired by his boss, Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, before he could do so.

See also: Broward Public Defenders Fired For Calling Palestinans "Cockroaches" and "Swine" On Facebook

In a statement released by Sheres' attorney, the explanation was more or less what the fired public defender tried to make when his comments were first made public: that he wasn't saying disparaging things toward those of Arabic of Islamic descent but toward specific individuals who had murdered two Israeli teens.

The controversial comments on Facebook were made when a friend of Sheres' posted a news item of the teens being murdered and the ensuing celebration of some Palestinians. Sheres and fellow public defender Bruce Raticoff were among the first to comment.

"They are filthy swine they don't eat," Sheres wrote. "Their ignorance to the world bewilders the dumbest people I have ever met."

Raticoff then wrote, "That's why the Palestinian people are considered the cockroaches of the world. Reprehensible and despicable with utter disregard for civility and humanity. Burn them to the ground."

Sheres then "liked" Raticoff's comment.

Days later, Finkelstein fired both Sheres and Raticoff.

But the Sheres statement says he was wrongfully terminated and accuses Finkelstein of lying about having given Sheres an opportunity to apologize before being fired.

The statement goes on to say that Sheres had prepared an apology at Finkelstein's suggestion but that Finkelstein never gave him the opportunity to release the statement and instead decided to fire him.

"Mr. Finkelstein embarked on a media campaign amounting to nothing less than a blatant attempt to mischaracterize and misstate the truth and justify his chilling of free speech protected by the First Amendment," the statement reads.

The statement goes on to say that Finkelstein, along with Council on American-Islamic Relations regional director Nezar Hamze, have spent the last week dragging Sheres' name through the mud. Finkelstein also invited Hamze to the news conference announcing the firings of Sheres and Raticoff.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the statement says, has ties with Hamas.

"Hamas, the very same organization responsible for raining rockets down on Israeli citizens, responsible for those specific murders condemned by Mr. Sheres, and classified by the United States and other nations as a terrorist organization." the statement reads. "Not the type of group Mr. Finkelstein's constituents would expect him to align with."

The statement concludes by asking residents of Broward County and Florida to question Finkelstein's motives -- a public defender, the statement says, who likes to "generate controversy."


Several days ago, Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein wrongfully terminated Gary Sheres, a highly-respected Assistant Public Defender.

Mr. Finkelstein terminated Mr. Sheres for exercising his First Amendment right to free speech by expressing outrage and revulsion at the atrocious murder of three Israeli students and the celebration that followed.

In this regard, Mr. Sheres commented from his personal Facebook account on a Facebook "friend's" newsfeed.

The subject article to which Mr. Sheres's comments were directed, depicted people of all ages, including young children, reveling in the Israeli teenagers' deaths with a symbolic three finger salute. The article can be found here: Palestinians Are Celebrating And Praising The Kidnapping Of Three Israeli Teens (Photos).

Mr. Sheres did not disparage people of Arabic or Islamic descent. Rather, he solely expressed disgust at the individuals responsible for the murders and those depicted in the article. The very same disgust shared by millions of Americans, Israelis and conscientious people worldwide over the barbaric acts. In a civilized world, no person can justify these atrocities.

Since wrongfully terminating Mr. Sheres, Mr. Finkelstein has taken this opportunity to inject ethnic discrimination where none existed. A mere 90 minutes after wrongfully terminating Mr. Sheres, Mr. Finkelstein held an office-wide meeting in which he publicly misconstrued Mr. Sheres's comments before television cameras and reporters present at his request.

You can read the full statement here.

Send your story tips to the author, Chris Joseph. Follow Chris Joseph on Twitter

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph