Monday, March 03, 2008

The Denoument

Subject: The Denoument

Nazareth Court Overturns Anti-Democratic Judgment by Radical Arab Judge

Dismisses attempt by Extremist Lecturer to Suppress Criticism through

Appeals Court Reverses Earlier Ruling, defends Freedom of Speech

An appeals court in Nazareth overturned an earlier lower court ruling
that had awarded a legal victory to a radical leftist anti-Israel lecturer,
who had filed a SLAPP suit in that court in order to suppress the freedom of
expression of one of his academic critics. The case has become widely known
in the media as the "David Irving Court Case of Israel." At its height,
Professor of Law Alan Dershowitz became involved in the suit and denounced
the plaintiff as an anti-Semite trying to suppress freedom of speech through
misuse of the Israeli courts. A SLAPP suit is an anti-democratic harassment
tactic used to silence critics. SLAPP stands for "Strategic Lawsuit against
Public Participation." In many parts of the United States there are serious
penalties for filing SLAPP suits, but to date none in Israel.

The case involved Neve Gordon, a radical anti-Israel leftist lecturer in
political science at Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheba, currently on leave
at the University of Michigan. Gordon filed a SLAPP libel suit in Nazareth
court against Professor Steven Plaut, a prominent columnist and academic
economist, on the basis of a series of articles Plaut had published
denouncing Gordon's political opinions and public political activities. In
particular, Plaut had denounced Gordon for his repeated endorsements of the
views and writings of the notorious anti-Semitic ex-professor Norman
Finkelstein, recently fired by DePaul University in Chicago. Gordon
strongly supports Finkelstein, who is (according to the appeals court) a
Holocaust Denier, a Neo-Nazi and a pro-terror anti-Semite, and compared him
ethically to the Prophets in the Bible. Plaut had also denounced Gordon for
illegally entering Ramallah for the purpose of interfering with Israeli
Defense Force anti-terror operations, as a "human shield," to protect
terrorists being hidden there by the PLO. Plaut described the "human
shield" group to which Gordon belonged as "judenrat wannabes." Plaut is a
well known critic of "Post-Zionists" and of radical leftist anti-Israel
academics, and is associated with several web sites that monitor and expose
such people, including <>

In his suit Gordon claimed, falsely - according to the appeals
decision, that Plaut had called him a "Jew for Hitler" and a Holocaust
Denier, and even brought a false affidavit from his colleague Prof. Renee
Poznanski, also from Ben Gurion University to support this claim. The
appeals court ruled that Plaut had merely described Finkelstein (correctly)
as a Neo-Nazi and had denounced Gordon for endorsing and praising
Finkelstein. Gordon also claimed that a series of other pieces written by
Plaut about him were libelous. Gordon demanded that Plaut should be forced
to compensate him for having written that Gordon's "academic record"
consisted largely of anti-Israel political propaganda misrepresented as
research and scholarship.

Gordon had won the first round in June 2006, when the Arab woman judge
in the lower court, Reem Naddaf, found in his favor. But the judgment
issued by Naddaf was replete with errors, writes the Appeals panel, which
repeatedly criticizes her for gross errors throughout its ruling. Moreover,
Naddaf made no attempt in her verdict to hide her own radical anti-Israel
political opinions, which happen to coincide largely with those of Gordon,
and she inserted outright political declarations into her ruling, including
her upholding the legitimacy of Holocaust revisionism, her describing
terrorist leaders as "militants," and her declaring that all of Israel is
land "stolen from another people."

On November 8, 2006, Professor Alan Dershowitz from Harvard University
denounced the ruling by Naddaf in the Jerusalem
PArticle%2FShowFull> Post. He attacked the verdict as a gross violation of
Plaut's freedom of speech, and then went on to describe Gordon thus: "It is
my opinion that Neve Gordon has gotten into bed with neo-Nazis, Holocaust
justice deniers, and anti-Semites. He is a despicable example of a
self-hating Jew and a self-hating Israeli." Dershowitz also invited Gordon
to file a libel suit against him - Dershowitz - similar to what he had filed
against Plaut. Gordon never did.

The ruling by Naddaf was strongly
20Judiciary> denounced as biased and anti-democratic in articles all over
the world. Plaut's lawyer suggested that Gordon had filed his SLAPP suit in
Nazareth court for the soul reason that he knew many Arab judges sat on the
bench there and was hoping to get a radical anti-Israel Arab to hear the
case. Naddaf awarded Gordon nearly 100,000 NIS in compensation and costs
for what she considered to be "libelous" in Plaut's criticisms of Gordon's
extremist political activities.

Plaut filed an appeal against the ruling, which under Israeli law must
be filed in the same district court as the first legal round (Nazareth). At
the same time Gordon also filed his own appeal. In Gordon's appeal, he
demanded far greater compensation for his supposed "injury" by Plaut's
writings, even though he had never demonstrated any material damages from
Plaut's criticisms of him. Gordon demanded damages four times greater than
what the earlier court had awarded him, plus much larger legal costs
compensation, plus he demanded that the court coerce Plaut into publishing a
public apology for what he had written about Gordon.

The appeals court completely rejected every single demand made by
Gordon and his lawyer, Fareed Ghanam, in their appeal. It accepted every
single point except one made by Plaut in his appeal, overturning the Naddaf
ruling, but ruled by a two-to-one majority that Plaut's description of
Gordon and his comrades as "Judenrat wannabes" was not permissible speech,
even though Plaut was criticizing criminal behavior on the part of Gordon.
It ruled that Gordon had lied when he claimed Plaut had called him a "Jew
for Hitler" and a "Holocaust Denier," and the appeals judges repeatedly
criticized the judge Reem Naddaf for erroneously ignoring the fact that
Gordon lied in those statements. It ruled that Plaut's descriptions of
Gordon's academic record as consisting largely of anti-Israel hate
propaganda misrepresented as scholarship were entirely legitimate. It ruled
that sarcastic and harsh criticism of leftist anti-Israel radicals is
protected speech, thus defeating the entire purpose for Gordon's SLAPP suit.
It ordered Gordon to return 90% of the "damages" the lower court had awarded
him, but allowed him to retain 10,000 NIS as compensation, because two of
the three appeals judges thought this would effectively deter use of
Holocaust era imagery in public political debate in Israel.

Throughout the appeals verdict, the panel of three judges luridly
described Gordon's venomous anti-Israel and anti-Jewish writings, including
his articles describing Israel as a fascist, Nazi-like, apartheid state.
(Gordon recently
20Palestinian%20awareness%20week.htm> publicly called for Israel to be
annihilated altogether as part of a 'One-State Solution,' in which Israel
would cease to exist, although did so too late to be included in the judges'
ruling.) While Plaut had repeatedly described Gordon, in the media and in
his court defense, as an open anti-Semite, the judges saw nothing
objectional or incorrect in that. One judge, Avraham Avraham, ruled that
even if Plaut had indeed described Gordon as a "Jew for Hitler," there would
have been nothing unsound in Plaut's having done so.

The decision to reverse only 90% of the damages, rather than 100%, was
based entirely on an Israeli Supreme Court decision last year in which the
editor of Maariv, Amnon Denkner, was ordered to pay a single shekel in
damages to a Kahanist extremist, Itamar Ben Gvir, because Denkner had called
Ben Gvir "a little Nazi" on television. That ruling, written by the
controversial Judge Ayala Procaccia, a radical proponent of "judicial
activism," claimed that the courts should attempt to suppress "impolite"
public rhetoric that makes use of Holocaust era imagery. The appeals court
in Nazareth overturned the damages award to Gordon only by 90%, claiming it
was leaving 10% for the same reason.

"The judicial system in Israel has been very weak in defending freedom
of speech for those who do not belong to the Far Left," said Plaut in
response. "Political dissidents who are not from the Left have rarely had
their freedom of speech defended by the courts or by the Prosecution in
Israel. Moreover, the filing of malicious SLAPP suits to harass and silence
political opponents and critics has not been reined in at all, acutely
endangering Israeli democracy. In my court case, we saw a
politically-biased extremist Arab judge in a lower court attempt to inject
her political support for a radical anti-Semite into Israeli case law and
muzzle freedom of speech in Israel. The next item on the country's judicial
agenda must be the removal of Judge Reem Naddaf from the bench before she
can do any more harm."

Plaut went on: "This is a near-complete victory for those who think that
all in Israel, and not only the seditious far Left, should be entitled to
freedom of speech. It is unfortunate that the appeals court balked from
going the extra few centimeters needed and failed to rule that the criminal
seditious pro-terror political activities of an anti-Semite may be
legitimately denounced even using Holocaust era terminology. The greatest
hypocrisy in Israel is that Jewish radical leftists and Arab fascists
denounce Israel and Zionism every day as Nazism and as genocidal, and this
is always protected speech, but denunciations of those same extremists is
not. The appeals court was too cowardly to rule that critics of leftist
extremists, traitors, and radical anti-Semites should enjoy the same legal

Regarding the small residual payment the court declined to refund to
him, Plaut quipped, "First, I find it infinitely amusing that henceforth
Neve Gordon will be intimately linked in Israel's legal system with Kahanist
Itamar Ben Gvir as the two comrades who legally snipped the margins of free
speech in israel. In the Procaccia-Ben Gvir ruling the Supreme Court
ordered Denkner to pay a single shekel in compensation when calling someone
a 'Little Nazi.' I am thinking of raising a few hundred thousand shekels
to encourage harsh denunciations of anti-Zionist extremists and leftist
traitors using all terminology, and to pay the legal costs of anyone
henceforth denouncing such people. Meanwhile, we may be appealing to
Israel's Supreme Court to overturn the ludicrous and anti-democratic 10,000
NIS residual."

"Another loser in all this is Ben Gurion University," adds Plaut. "It
is now obvious to all that parts of Ben Gurion University have followed a
policy by which anti-Israel radicals get hired and promoted on the basis of
turning out anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate propaganda, and then
misrepresenting it as scholarship. Academic standards have been trashed in
some departments at Ben Gurion University, in the campaign by the officials
there to fill the campus with Post-Zionists and leftist extremist
pseudo-scholars. My near-complete court victory will only produce escalated
exposure and criticism of Israel's Academic Fifth Column and of the failure
of Israeli universities to enforce academic standards when it comes to
anti-Israel extremists."

Afterword: the fact that the appeals court still could not bring itself
to declare that referring to criminals engaged in illegal activity in
order to aid terrorists and prevent Israel from capturing them as
"Judenrat wannabes" is protected speech shows how far Israel still has to
go to become a real democracy with real freedom of speech.

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