Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Abby Martin

Judge Rejects Application of Israeli Law in Landmark Defamation Case Against Palestinian Activist

by Alan Macleod March 10th, 2021

SANTA ANA, CALIFORNIA — A Palestinian-American activist has vowed to continue fighting Apartheid after winning a court case brought against her in the U.S. by a former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldier.

Suhair Nafal was facing a defamation suit over a 2018 Facebook post condemning the murder that summer of Palestinian nurse Razan al-Najjar during the Great March of Return.

The case was brought by Israeli-American Rebecca Rumshiskaya, who was seeking $6 million in damages after Nafal described her as “evil” for joining the Israeli military.

Rumshiskaya was also attempting to convince the California court to try Nafal under Israeli law.

The attempt backfired as Orange County Superior Court Judge Craig Griffin rejected the suit, even ordering Rumshisky to pay Nafal legal costs under anti-SLAPP laws, effectively deeming it an attempt to intimidate Nafal into silence.

Nafal moved to the U.S. as an 8 year-old and was relatively apolitical until she saw images of the destruction caused by Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza that killed more than 2,000 people. (and thousands of injured and handicapped Palestinians)

Since then, she has gained an online following and joined a number of pro-Palestinian organizations, including New Generation for Palestine. The post that triggered the lawsuit can be seen below.Suhair Nafal Facebook Post

Nafal’s Facebook post and the impetus for the lawsuit against her

While the post makes no connection between Rumshiskaya and al-Najjar’s murder, other, copycat posts did, explicitly claiming Rumshiskaya was the nurse’s killer. Rumshiskaya’s complaint states that she was inundated with hateful and violent messages as a result.

But it remains unclear why she sued Nafal and not others who did make demonstrably false accusations. 

“Not going to let them silence me”

Rumshiskaya is a Jewish American from Brookline, Massachusetts.

In 2012, she decided to emigrate to Israel and join the IDF. Not content with a non-combat role she had been assigned, she transferred to a combat intelligence unit.

The IDF used images of her in its promotions, which is how she came to Nafal attention. Rumshiskaya left the military in 2015, long before al-Najjar was killed. Her lawsuit describes Nafal as an “extremist” who “viciously defamed” her, and the Great March of Return as a Hamas-sponsored riot filled with terrorists using civilians as human shields.Rumshiskaya V Nafal

An IDF Facebook post featuring Rumshiskaya, left, and a photo of Nafal provided to MintPress, right

This conflicts with reports from human rights organizations, which describe the events as a demonstration, pinning the blame for the deaths on Israeli forces and noting that 70 of the 183 Palestinians killed were shot in the head. (snipers targets. Later, the snipers were ordered to aim at the legs of demonstrators, so that they will Not return to join the marches)

78 journalists and medics were also shot. No Israelis were killed.

“Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed,” the IDF stated. There was no evidence of human shields being used, although the IDF have used Palestinian children as such in the past.

“To be honest, I was in disbelief,” Nafal said, when first learning about the accusations.

“I was stunned by their audacity… But truth be told, I sort of saw it coming. I knew the day would come where I was going to be pursued by them, based on my visibility on social media.”

Nafal rejects the characterization of her as an extremist, telling MintPress, “If extremist political ideology means advocating on behalf of people who are occupied, oppressed, starved, and killed with impunity by colonialist occupiers who justify their violence based on a claim of their own religious supremacy then yes. I’m a extremist.”

I had no choice but to continue what I was doing. I was not going to let them silence me. I continue to post like I’d always posted. I did not shy away, for one minute. And I will continue to share news of what is happening. And I am going to continue doing what I am doing. If anything, I am going to do more of it.”

No Israeli First Amendment

Perhaps the strangest thing about the case was that the plaintiff’s team attempted to convince the Orange County court to apply Israeli law to the case between a Bostonian and a Californian.

“The pleadings they filed make it clear this was all about Israeli interests, although they used Rebecca as the anchor for the lawsuit,” said Haytham Faraj, Nafal attorney.

Faraj told MintPress that any future attempts to silence criticism of Israel have been dealt a serious blow by the ruling, noting the fundamental disconnect between Israeli law and the First Amendment:

What this judge brilliantly uncovered is that Israeli law is inherently inconsistent with American values. The truth is always a defense to defamation virtually the world over in democracies — except in Israel, where it is not a defense unless it is in the state’s interests… So if they do try to [pursue] other challenges, they will be unsuccessful.”

MintPress spoke via email to Rumshiskaya’s attorney, Michael Weiser, who expressed his disappointment with the decision. Weiser disputes Faraj’s reading of events, stating that the case was “dismissed on procedural grounds and the merits of what happened were never addressed.”

Attempts to chill

If Nafal had lost the case, she would have been required to pay the plaintiff $6 million in damages, which she does not have.

Because of this, all her property and possessions and even future earnings could be taken or garnished. Furthermore, interest in these cases accrues in California at 10% per year, meaning that she would have been destined for a life of poverty.

Fortunately for her, Judge Griffin dismissed the case, even ordering Rumshiskaya to pay her defense costs. Faraj saw this case as much larger than just Nafal:

This is a lawsuit that attempted to establish precedent in the U.S. for exercising Israeli law against criticism of Israel and Israeli agents. It is nothing but that.

She could have sued Suhair under U.S. law within the few weeks that followed the post when there was the most amount of activity and she was, presumably, most affected by it. But this is not just a lawsuit by Rebecca, this is a lawsuit by an enterprise that seeks to silence anyone who would dare criticize Israel.”

The legal nature of criticism of Israel in the United States is in limbo. “Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism” outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flatly stated in January, adding that BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions,) the practice of refusing to economically cooperate with Israel until it retreats from the Occupied Territories is a manifestation of anti-Jewish racism.

Targeting BDS

Currently, the majority of American states require those receiving public funds (such as state employees) to sign pledges not to practice BDS on pain of termination.

A number of Texas employees have lost their jobs after refusing to sign. Last year, a Georgia university also shut down a media literacy conference after journalist Abby Martin refused to sign the pledge. Martin is currently suing the state.https://cdn.iframe.ly/0o9tGba?iframe=card-small&v=1&app=1

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Education ordered both Duke and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to alter their joint Middle Eastern Studies programs, as it had determined they were presenting Israel in too negative a light. Henry Reichman, chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure described the Trump administration’s interference as a “chillingly inappropriate political intrusion into curricular decisions best made by faculty.”

On BDS, Nafal categorically rejects the Trump position:

BDS is one of the most important non-violent tools of resistance we have. And it is working. And that is precisely why they are investing and rallying around to try to shut it down. It is probably their biggest threat, in my opinion, along with social media. They are being exposed.”

The Biden administration has, so far, shown little break with its predecessor when it comes to Israel and Palestine.

The president has decided to keep the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, a controversial Trump-era decision that effectively rubber-stamps the occupation. Last week, Vice-President Kamala Harris met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reaffirm the administration’s “unwavering commitment” to Israeli security.

For Nafal, however, change comes from below:

It is not about the administration. It is going to take the efforts of everybody in the United States and internationally to push the truth. And in time, justice will prevail.”

Feature photo | Pictured left is a photo of Rumshiskaya taken for an IDF promotional campaign, and right, a photo of Nafal provided to MintPress.

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News.

After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles

He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

Empire’s Election Extravaganza

Noam Chomsky & Abby Martin

World renowned linguist and philosopher, Noam Chomsky, joins Abby Martin to discuss the so-called War on Terror, the warped political spectrum in the United States, and how power functions in the Empire.

Chomsky argues that both the Democratic and Republican party have shifted to the right, with Republicans going “off the spectrum”, dedicating themselves to the interests of the extremely wealthy and powerful, and today’s Democrats becoming what used to be called moderate Republicans.

“What right do we have to kill somebody in another country we don’t like?”

ICYMI ‪#‎NoamChomsky‬ debunks the absurd logic of the “War on Terror” and dissects The Empire’s fascist shift on Media Roots: http://bit.ly/1IbUSlR

Media Roots is a citizen journalism project that reports the news from outside of party lines while providing a collaborative forum for conscious citizens, artists and…
mediaroots.org

Delving into libertarianism and the role of predatory capitalism, Chomsky discusses the institution of neoliberal policies, which have pushed for things like major financial institution bailouts, and government subsidies to energy corporations.

The contention that markets provide choices is farcical, argues Chomsky, as the market focuses you on individual consumption of consumer goods.

“New libertarians”, according to Chomsky, are deeply confused as to the meaning and history behind classical libertarianism, and what they propose would lead to society collapsing,

Describing the Iraq war as of one of the last century’s greatest atrocities, Chomsky asks what right the United States has in bombing or invading a country, for whatever reason. (And encouraging Israel to launch successive pre-emptive wars since 1956)

While there is a lot of criticism in regards to the US killing civilians inside Kunduz hospital, “what about killing [Taliban members]”, asks Chomsky. “What right do we have to kill somebody in some other country?”

Abby Martin once again takes up beyond the headlines and brings us to the very heart of the issues in this episode of The Empire Files.

posted on November 7, 2009

‘US foreign policy is straight out of the mafia’

Noam Chomsky is the closest thing in the English-speaking world to an intellectual superstar. A philosopher of language and political campaigner of towering academic reputation, who as good as invented modern linguistics, he is entertained by presidents, addresses the UN general assembly and commands a mass international audience.

When he spoke in London last week, thousands of young people battled for tickets to attend his lectures, followed live on the internet across the globe, as the 80-year-old American linguist fielded questions from as far away as besieged Gaza.

But the bulk of the mainstream western media doesn’t seem to have noticed.

His books sell in their hundreds of thousands, he is mobbed by students as a celebrity, but he is rarely reported or interviewed in the US outside radical journals and websites. The explanation, of course, isn’t hard to find. Chomsky is America’s most prominent critic of the US imperial role in the world, which he has used his erudition and standing to expose and excoriate since Vietnam.

Like the English philosopher Bertrand Russell, who spoke out against western-backed wars until his death at the age of 97, Chomsky has lent his academic prestige to a relentless campaign against his own country’s barbarities abroad – though in contrast to the aristocratic Russell, Chomsky is the child of working class Jewish refugees from Tsarist pogroms.

Not surprisingly, he has been repaid with either denunciation or, far more typically, silence. Whereas a much slighter figure such as the Atlanticist French philosopher Bernard Henri-Lévy is lionised at home and abroad, Chomsky and his genuine popularity are ignored.

Indeed, his books have been banned from the US prison library in Guantánamo. You’d hardly need a clearer example of his model of how dissenting views are filtered out of the western media, set out in his 1990’s book Manufacturing Consent, than his own case. But as Chomsky is the first to point out, the marginalisation of opponents of western state policy is as nothing compared to the brutalities suffered by those who challenge states backed by the US and its allies in the Middle East.

We meet in a break between a schedule of lectures and talks that would be punishing for a man half his age. At the podium, Chomsky’s style is dry and low-key, as he ranges without pausing for breath from one region and historical conflict to another, always buttressed with a barrage of sources and quotations, often from US government archives and leaders themselves.

But in discussion he is warm and engaged, only hampered by slight deafness. He has only recently started travelling again, he explains, after a three-year hiatus while he was caring for his wife and fellow linguist, Carol, who died from cancer last December.

Despite their privilege, his concentrated exposure to the continuing injustices and exorbitant expense of the US health system has clearly left him angry. Public emergency rooms are “uncivilised, there is no health care”, he says, and the same kind of corporate interests that drive US foreign policy are also setting the limits of domestic social reform.

All three schemes now being considered for Barack Obama’s health care reform are “to the right of the public, which is two to one in favour of a public option. But the New York Times says that has no political support, by which they mean from the insurance and pharmaceutical companies.”

Now the American Petroleum Institute is determined to “follow the success of the insurance industry in killing off health reform,” Chomsky says, and do the same to hopes of genuine international action at next month’s Copenhagen climate change summit.

Only the forms of power have changed since the foundation of the republic, he says, when James Madison insisted that the new state should “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority”.

Chomsky supported Obama’s election campaign in swing states, but regards his presidency as representing little more than a “shift back towards the centre” and a striking foreign policy continuity with George Bush’s second administration.

“The first Bush administration was way off the spectrum, America’s prestige sank to a historic low and the people who run the country didn’t like that.” But he is surprised so many people abroad, especially in the third world, are disappointed at how little Obama has changed. “His campaign rhetoric, hope and change, was entirely vacuous. There was no principled criticism of the Iraq war: he called it a strategic blunder. And Condoleezza Rice was black – does that mean she was sympathetic to third world problems?”

 The veteran activist has described the US invasion of Afghanistan as “one of the most immoral acts in modern history”, which united the jihadist movement around al-Qaida, sharply increased the level of terrorism and was “perfectly irrational – unless the security of the population is not the main priority”.
Which, of course, Chomsky believes, it is not. “States are not moral agents,” he says, and believes that now that Obama is escalating the war, it has become even clearer that the occupation is about the credibility of Nato and US global power.

This is a recurrent theme in Chomsky’s thinking about the American empire. He argues that since government officials first formulated plans for a “grand area” strategy for US global domination in the early 1940s, successive administrations have been guided by a “godfather principle, straight out of the mafia: that defiance cannot be tolerated. It’s a major feature of state policy.” “Successful defiance” has to be punished, even where it damages business interests, as in the economic blockade of Cuba – in case “the contagion spreads”.

The gap between the interests of those who control American foreign policy and the public is also borne out, in Chomsky’s view, by the US’s unwavering support for Israel and “rejectionism” of the two-state solution effectively on offer for 30 years. That’s not because of the overweening power of the Israel lobby in the US, but because Israel is a strategic and commercial asset which underpins rather than undermines US domination of the Middle East.

“Even in the 1950s, President Eisenhower was concerned about what he called a campaign of hatred of the US in the Arab world, because of the perception on the Arab street that it supported harsh and oppressive regimes to take their oil.”

Half a century later, corporations like Lockheed Martin and Exxon Mobil are doing fine, he says: America’s one-sided role in the Middle East isn’t harming their interests, whatever risks it might bring for anyone else.

Chomsky is sometimes criticised on the left for encouraging pessimism or inaction by emphasising the overwhelming weight of US power – or for failing to connect his own activism with labour or social movements on the ground. He is certainly his own man, holds some idiosyncratic views (I was startled, for instance, to hear him say that Vietnam was a strategic victory for the US in southeast Asia, despite its humiliating 1975 withdrawal) and has drawn flak for defending freedom of speech for Holocaust deniers.

He describes himself as an anarchist or libertarian socialist, but often sounds more like a radical liberal – which is perhaps why he enrages more middle-of-the-road American liberals who don’t appreciate their views being taken to the logical conclusion.

But for an octogenarian who has been active on the left since the 1930s, Chomsky sounds strikingly upbeat. He’s a keen supporter of the wave of progressive change that has swept South America in the past decade (“one of the liberal criticisms of Bush is that he didn’t pay enough attention to Latin America – it was the best thing that ever happened to Latin America”).

He also believes there are now constraints on imperial power which didn’t exist in the past: “They couldn’t get away with the kind of chemical warfare and blanket B52 bombing that Kennedy did,” in the 1960s. He even has some qualified hopes for the internet as a way around the monopoly of the corporate-dominated media.

But what of the charge so often made that he’s an “anti-American” figure who can only see the crimes of his own government while ignoring the crimes of others around the world? “Anti-Americanism is a pure totalitarian concept,” he retorts. “The very notion is idiotic. Of course you don’t deny other crimes, but your primary moral responsibility is for your own actions, which you can do something about. It’s the same charge which was made in the Bible by King Ahab, the epitome of evil, when he demanded of the prophet Elijah: why are you a hater of Israel? He was identifying himself with society and criticism of the state with criticism of society.”

It’s a telling analogy. Chomsky is a studiedly modest man who would balk at any such comparison. But in the Biblical tradition of the conflict between prophets and kings, there’s not the slightest doubt which side he represents


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