Monday, September 22, 2008
Special Update - the Israeli Supreme Court and the Plaut-Gordon court case
Plaut-Gordon court case
On to the Supreme Court!
Quite a few people have been asking for updates on the ongoing court battle
in which I am involved, in which the definitions and boundaries of freedom
of speech in Israel are being defined and forged. A detailed update follows.
Feel free to skip/delete if it is too detailed for you or if you are not
interested in it.
First, just to bring everyone up to speed:
Beginning nearly 7 years ago a malicious anti-Zionist lecturer in political
science at Ben Gurion University named Neve Gordon began a process of legal
harassment against me, filing a "SLAPP suit," which is an anti-democratic
"libel" suit designed to silence one's critics. Gordon is essentially the
"other Ilan Pappe," so anti-Israel and anti-Jewish that his materials are
carried on Holocaust Denial and Neo-Nazi web sites. Gordon regularly
denounces Israel as a fascist, apartheid, terrorist entity that needs to be
eliminated as part of a "One-State Solution" (meaning, a Rwanda-style
The suit's main claims were that I had "libeled" Gordon, himself one of the
most venomous libelers of Israel and of individual Israelis, when I
denounced his repeated sycophantic endorsements of Neo-Nazi Norman
Finkelstein. (Gordon also campaigned to support Finkelstein when th elatter
was fired by DePaul University, and publicly blamed the vicious "Zionist
Lobby" for supposedly suppressing freedom of speech in America.)
I had written in an internet commentary that Gordon was behaving as a
"groupie of the world's leading Jewish Holocaust Denier Norman Finkelstein."
I also denounced Gordon and a group of "Solidarity with Terrorism"
protesters to which Gordon belonged as "Judenrat wannabes." These people had
illegally entered Ramallah to interfere with IDF anti-terror operations,
serving there as "human shields" for the terrorists and preventing the
Israeli army from arresting several murderers being hidden in Arafat's
offices at the time, including the two who had assassinated Israeli cabinet
minister Rehavam Ze'evi.
Those two statements of mine were the main bases for Gordon's SLAPP suit
against me. A SLAPP suit is an anti-democratic harassment "libel" suit
designed to silence one's critics; they are illegal in many states in the
Gordon filed his SLAPP suit in Nazareth court (neither he nor I live in the
Nazareth jurisdiction), hoping to get a radical Arab judge (most lower court
judges there are Arabs). The case was assigned to a radical anti-Israel Arab
woman judge named Reem Naddaf, whose husband was a close party associate of
Azmi Bishara (the latter is now in hiding and wanted by Israel for espionage
and for being an accomplice to terrorism). Naddaf eventually found against
me, ruling in effect that all forms of treason are protected speech in
Israel but that criticism of treason is libelous. In her verdict, she
inserted comments justifying Holocaust revisionism and declaring that all of
Israel is on land "stolen from another people." THIS, coming from a sitting
judge in the state of Israel!
Gordon's radical Arab lawyer had attempted to submit Norman Finkelstein's
entire anti-Semitic book, the "Holocaust Industry," into evidence as a
supposedly historically accurate and true document. Judge Naddaf awarded
Gordon approximately 100,000 NIS in "damages" even though Gordon had never
claimed he had suffered any material damages from anything I had written
about him (and even though, under such circumstances, the law allows a judge
to award at most 50,000 NIS). Judge Naddaf ignored all constitutional
defenses of freedom of speech in Israel and ignored the fact that all
comments of mine, about which Gordon was suing, were merely denunciations of
the public political statements and political behavior of a public figure,
things supposedly absolutely protected under freedom of speech
constitutional defenses in Israel.
From there the case went to the Nazareth Appeals (regional) Court. There a
panel of three judges largely overturned the court ruling of Naddaf. They
explicitly criticized Naddaf over and over in their ruling for misreading
and ignoring the evidence in the case. While they did not say so explicitly,
it looks pretty clear that they understood that Naddaf had based her entire
ruling on her radical anti-Israel political biases. The appeals judges
rejected all of Gordon's arguments on appeal and one of the three even
denounced Gordon at length in the verdict for his anti-Israel behavior and
for his attempt to suppress freedom of speech of others while exercising it
himself to promote his extremist agenda.
While finding in my favor on every other point, the Appeals court split two
against one over the question of whether the term "Judenrat wannabe" is
protected speech in Israel, with two arguing that, in light of a Supreme
Court ruling that had come out shortly before the appeals verdict, use of
the term in Israel is prohibited. The third judge (Avraham Avraham)
disagreed and claimed it too is permissible speech and indeed was downright
appropriate under the circumstances. Based on that, the two-judge
appeals-court majority allowed Gordon to retain 10,000 NIS out of the
original 100,000 NIS award, with no other court costs or legal costs awarded
to him, and ordered Gordon to return the rest of what he had effectively
stolen from me using the lower court and Judge Naddaf.
To understand this last twist in the case, it is necessary to explain what
was and is happening in the Israeli Supreme Court concerning freedom of
speech. As bad as the Israeli Supreme Court has been in recent years when it
comes to judicial activism and micro-interference in the executive branch
decision making in Israel, it has by and large been pretty good in defending
freedom of speech. The Israeli Supreme Court ruling that served as the basis
for the Nazareth Appeals court, allowing Gordon to retain 10% of the
"damages" award, was the now-notorious "Dankner vs. Ben-Gvir" case. Since it
is strongly relevant to my case, let me fill you in on it.
In the year 1999 Amnon Dankner, now editor at Maariv and back then a TV
political commentator, participated in a political talk show (more a
shouting match, as these things always are on Israel TV), in which he
denounced Itamar Ben-Gvir, an activist in the fringe Kach (the Israeli
version of the JDL), calling Ben-Gvir a "little Nazi" on national TV.
Ben-Gvir then sued Dankner for libel. As usual, it took years to work its
way through the courts. Last year, shortly before the Nazareth Appeals Court
issued its verdict in my own court case, an Israeli Supreme Court panel, led
by the controversial Ayalla Procaccia, ruled that Dankner had indeed libeled
Ben Gvir by that comment and ordered him to pay Ben Gvir exactly one shekel
That Supreme Court ruling based itself upon its assertion that use of
Holocaust era imagery and rhetoric in political discourse Israel is beyond
the realm of protected speech and should be punished (symbolically in that
case). Never mind that Israeli politicians and public figures use
Holocaust-era imagery and rhetoric in Israel all the time, including calling
one another Nazis and fascists. As one recent example, a cabinet minister
(Vilnai) commented (a bit foolishly) that Palestinian behavior in Gaza could
ultimately create a danger of a "Holocaust" (Shoah) against Palestinians.
Because the Appeals Court panel in Nazareth was reluctant to butt heads with
the Supreme Court over its ruling in Dankner vs. Ben Gvir, it decided (two
against one) to structure its verdict in my case in accordance with it.
Hence it found that my "Judenrat wannabe" comment about the Solidarity with
Terrorism group was not protected speech and was libelous, allowing Gordon
to retain 10% of what the lower court had awarded him. Never mind that my
calling a group of pro-terrorism trouble-makers "Judenrat wannabes" is not
exactly the same as Dankner calling Ben Gvir a little Nazi, and never mind
that the court had awarded Ben Gvir a mere symbolic single shekel, not the
10,000 NIS they were awarding Gordon.
Now in any democracy, use of "Holocaust era imagery and rhetoric in
political discourse" is protected speech, and the ruling in Dankner vs Ben
Gvir would be unconstitutional and overturned peremptorily in any democracy.
Meanwhile, it was in part in order to overturn this that I filed my own
appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court against the Nazareth Appeals Court
verdict, arguing that the one comment over which the Appeals court had ruled
against me was in fact constitutionally protected speech. My goal was to
overturn effectively the Dankner vs Ben Gvir restriction on freedom of
speech in Israel, and of course to argue that describing as "Judenrat
wannabes" people involved in illegal "Solidarity with Terrorism" activities,
including interfering with Israeli anti-terror operations, is not only
permitted speech but an understatement, a comparison possibly insulting to
the members of the Judenrat.
Since filing my appeal with the Supreme Court, two dramatic and critical
developments have taken place. The first is that Dankner vs. Ben-Gvir has
effectively been completely overturned by the same Supreme Court in a
different case, one unrelated to my own. This past June 16, an important
free speech ruling was issued by the Israeli Supreme Court in the case of
Rafael Freij vs. Kol Hazman, et al, and it for all intents and purposes
reverses Dankner vs. Ben Gvir, leaving the way wide open for a total and
complete victory by myself in my own Supreme Court appeal. Let me explain.
Rafael Freij was an apprentice lawyer in the Jerusalem prosecutor's office
when he took umbrage at a malicious article written in the Israeli daily
Yediot Ahronot by the ultra-leftist moonbette Sylvia Keshet. There Keshet
denounced a group of Israeli soldiers in an anti-terror unit ("Duvdivan") as
"inhuman" and "tending to shoot first and ask questions later." Friej was
angered by this and submitted a complaint against Keshet to the Jerusalem
police, claiming Keshet had violated Israeli laws against treason,
incitement and insurrection. (Never mind that every second article in the
Israeli print media is even worse than hers!).
In reporting that story, an obscure Israeli Stalinist named Gideon Spiro (a
cheerleader of Israeli nuclear traitor Mordecai Vanunu) wrote about the
incident in a local Jerusalem weekly owned by Maariv named "Kol Hazman." In
his commentary Spiro denounced Freij for having filed the police report,
claiming that Freij's behavior resembled that of lawyers in the Nazi regime
Freij then filed a libel suit against Spiro, Kol Hazman, and Maariv
publishing house. The Jerusalem court tossed it out. Freij then took it to
the Jerusalem Appeals court, which also refused to hear it.
When the Israeli Supreme Court issued its Dankner vs Ben Gvir ruling, in
which it decreed that use of Holocaust era imagery and rhetoric in political
discourse in Israel is prohibited, Freij figured this was his litigational
golden chance. He appealed the lower court rulings to the Israeli Supreme
Court, petitioning that the Supreme Court rule against Spiro and Kol Hazman
on the basis of the earlier Danker vs Ben Gvir ruling, and of course find
for Freij and award him damages.
A Supreme Court panel, this time headed by Justice Edna Arbel, issued a
ruling this past June, in which they unanimously overturned Dankner vs. Ben
Gvir. In their ruling, they said explicitly that the use of Holocaust era
imagery and rhetoric in political discourse in Israel is NOT prohibited, and
whether its use is justified or protected or libelous depends entirely upon
the CONTEXT in which it is used. The emphasis on the "C" word = "context,"
is critical. They insist that when used in publicist writing in the media
about political activity, it is perfectly permissible. They add that the
plaintiff (Freij) helped make the whole conflict a public media affair by
his own publicity activities.
Well, if you are still with me after all those details, the implication is
clear. The only reason Gordon has gotten as far as he has with his SLAPP
harassment suit against me is that the lower court refused to look at the
CONTEXT in which I denounced as "Judenrat wannabes" the Solidarity with
Terrorism protesters Gordon had joined and led. That CONTEXT is that they
were involved in public illegal treasonous pro-terror activism, and that my
denunciation of their CRIMINAL behavior appeared in the internet after their
own activities had been reported by the media (Maariv later called them
traitors). In addition of course they belonged to a group of public
figures. Ah, that wonderful "C" word!
Translation: Plaut 100, Gordon Squat.
Now, the bizarre side of this was the timing. Had the Nazareth Appeals court
waited a little longer before issuing its own ruling in my court case, it
would have based itself entirely on the NEW Supreme Court ruling, Freij vs
Kol Hazman et al, and found in my favor. In the actual Nazareth appeals
ruling, it based itself on Dankner vs. Ben Gvir, and so the appeals verdict
was only 90% in my favor. (Alternatively, had it been issued faster BEFORE
Dankner vs. Ben Gvir was itself issued last year, the court would have ruled
completely in my favor!)
It is said that in sex and standup comedy, timing is everything, and my
less-than-complete win in the Nazareth Appeals court was due entirely to
timing: the Nazareth Appeals ruling was issued AFTER Dankner vs. Ben Gvir
and BEFORE it was overturned by the Supreme Court in Freij vs. Kol Hazman et
al. (The Freij verdict can be read, in Hebrew only, here:
All of which means that a victory for me in the Supreme Court after the
Freij verdict is pretty much a slam-dunk. Well, all except for one thing:
the Supreme Court has to agree to hear my appeal in order to overturn the
lower court rulings. Which brings me to the second dramatic development in
In Israel the Supreme Court is flooded with appeals, since the cost of
filing them is not terribly high (compared with the US and other court
systems) and the filer gets the filing fee money back if the Court refuses
to review the case. So there is usually no harm in trying to appeal. The
Supreme Court agrees to review less than one percent of the appeals cases
that are filed with it.
A few days ago, the deputy Chief Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court,
Eliezer Rivlin, issued a ruling in which he agreed to hear my own appeal.
(In the same ruling the Court refused to admit/hear a rambling incoherent
appeal that Gordon and his lawyer had also submitted, the thrust of which
was that they wanted the Supreme Court to restore the original ruling by
Naddaf and also award them lots of wampum. As an example of the incompetence
involved in their appeal, in paragraph #8 of Gordon's appeal document he
admits he has called upon Arab countries to use force and violence against
Israel, something he usually denies.)
The fact that Rivlin agreed that the Supreme Court hear my appeal indicates
that he understands the constitutional freedom of speech issues involved in
the case. It will take at least a year, but now that the case is on the
Supreme Court calendar and now that the Supreme Court has ALREADY overturned
Dankner vs Ben-Gvir, it looks like a complete and resounding victory at the
Supreme Court is only a matter of time.
Let me take this opportunity to thank all those who have stood by me and
supported me in various kind and generous ways throughout the struggle so
far. Obviously, the entire case is only to a limited extent about me and
about my pocketbook, and is mainly about whether the neo-fascist Left in
Israel will succeed in suppressing freedom of speech by recruiting the
courts for political purposes against democracy and freedom of speech.
2. A Case where an Eye for an Eye makes perfect sense:
3. Take a look at this:
4. A very interesting article appeared a few days ago on the NFC news web
site, in Hebrew only - alas, by Alon Dahan, a very interesting Israeli
writer. In Hebrew it appears here:
http://www.nfc.co.il/Archive/003-D-32055-00.html?tag=20-57-54 Let me give
you a synopsis in English. Dahan begins by relating how a teacher of his
in Israel from the former Soviet Union told him of a candle lighting
Jewish underground in the darker days of communism, where the students
would gather secretly to light shabbat/sabbath candles. After the fall
of communism his teacher returned for visits to Russia with a yarmulka on
his head and lit candles proudly and openly there without fear.
Dahan then jumps to a scene in Jerusalem. In the mainly secular, well-off
Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hakerem Mrs. M. , who is an active
Chabadnik (in the Lubavitcher Hassidic movement) shows up on Fridays in
front of the local high school and hands out free sabbath candles to any
students or others wishing to take them. The school and neighborhood are
well known for their reputation for being tolerant and pro-pluralism.
Last week the parents of the children in this well-off pluralistic
democratic tolerant school called in the cops to have Mrs. M arrested for
distributing sabbath candles. They feared that some innocent young
student might be duped by her into going home and suggesting to the family
that they light sabbath candles this Friday. The tolerant democratic
parents denounced Mrs. M, as a .missionary. who was ladling our political
and theological indoctrination. They claimed Mrs. M.s activities
threatened the neutral democratic tolerant atmosphere in their tolerant
liberal democratic school. A few days earlier representatives of Nir
Baraket, who is running for Jerusalem mayor on an anti-religious
secularist platform, were welcomed into the same tolerant pluralistic open
The police came and evicted Mrs. M. from her station standing in front of
the open liberal tolerant school. After all, she had been engaged in
incitement to light sabbath candles. Had she been selling hashish it is
doubtful any parents would have called the police or that they would have
showed up (my observation, not Dahan.s).
And the liberal tolerant ultra-secularists of Jerusalem have now come full
circle and are imitating the old Soviet Union is persecuting anyone
suspected of perpetrating a drive-by blessing on a candle.
Blair's Relative Eats Her Words in Gaza 'Concentration Camp'
19 Elul 5768, 19 September 08 07:24by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
(IsraelNN.com) Lauren Booth, sister-in-law of Quartet Middle East envoy
Tony Blair, has been roundly mocked on dozens of blogs that have shown a
copyrighted wire service photograph of her buying Snickers candy bars and
soft drinks in a well-stocked food store in Gaza. She has called the
region a "concentration camp" that is "under siege" by Israel's having
restricted crossings due to continuing terrorist attacks against Israel.
Pro-Arab activists and Hamas leaders have insisted that restricting
shipments into Gaza to trucks with humanitarian supplies have created a
severe food shortage, a situation contradicted by the photograph.
In an interview with an Israeli newspaper last week, Booth said that
conditions in Gaza are worse than those in Darfur and compared the area
with Nazi concentration camps.
Booth is among 10 pro-Arab activists who remain in Gaza after having
sailed to the beach as part of the "Free Gaza' Movement" publicity stunt
that symbolically broke Israel's sovereignty over coastal waters. The
government declared before the withdrawal of the IDF from Gaza three years
ago that it would maintain control over the sea and air space around and
over Gaza until the Palestinian Authority can show it is fighting terror.
Hamas wrested control from the rival Fatah party last year and has
continued to smuggle massive amounts of advanced weapons and explosives.
Meanwhile, Booth has been unable to leave the area because Egyptian and
Israeli authorities have not allowed her to enter their countries. She
probably will leave Gaza if and when the next Free Gaza boats again try to
break Israeli sovereignty next week.
Although Booth is Blair's sister-in-law, the two are barely on speaking
terms. "I am related to Tony Blair--a fact that makes neither of us happy
today, I can tell you that," she said at a rally against the war in Iraq
two years ago.
In an interview with Canadian-born free-lance journalist Lisa Goldman, who
blogs at On the Face and lives in Tel Aviv, Booth claimed that "high up
sources" told her that Israel pressured Egypt not to allow her to cross
the border at Rafiah.
Goldman wrote in her blog that she is against Israel's closing the Gaza
crossing but that she has no respect for Booth. The writer said that when
she identified herself as a reporter from Tel Aviv, Booth "launched into a
tirade that was characterized by a mixture of hectoring,
self-righteousness, drama and the occasional falsehood."
Booth confirmed that she had said that the situation of "concentration
camps" in Gaza received less media attention than the situation in Darfur.
Goldman then wrote, "I did a search on Google news for 'Darfur,' where
400,000 people have been killed over the past five years, and received
13,912 results. A search for 'Gaza,' where, according to B'Tselem, 810
Palestinians were killed in 2006-2007, brought up 17,605 results.
Booth also has claimed that Israeli solders threatened to shoot her when
she tried to cross into Israel. "There were Israeli soldiers on the Gaza
side of Erez?" Goldman asked. "Oh, I don.t know what they were. They were
uniformed men with guns, all right?" Booth replied.
When the reporter replied that the gunmen apparently were Arabs and asked
Booth if they had stopped her, she answered, "The Palestinians advised me
not to cross, but I walked right into the tunnel and started walking. I
was nearly at the Israeli side when a Palestinian man came running up
behind me, holding a mobile phone and shouting that the Israelis had told
him they would shoot me if I took another step."
Goldman pointed out that the likelihood of an IDF soldier shooting at her
is extremely low. "The entrance to Israel via Erez is practically
impenetrable," Goldman explained. "It is a maze of turnstiles that lock
automatically, bulletproof glass, closed circuit cameras and disembodied
voices that issue instructions via the public address system. One does not
see an Israeli soldier until one has passed through security, which is
6. The Manchurian Lemming?
7. Report on The latest batch of Jewish leftist self-hatred and
What is J Street ?