26 thoughts on “Dersh and Plaut: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. I don’t understand why you think the judgment against Plaut was a good thing. Do you, as an American and a Jew think stifling free speech is a good thing? Calling people names is not a crime. Also, you can not extrapolate calling someone a name into that being a call for violence to be done to that person. That was the excuse that Stalin used for shooting or exiling to Siberia his critics…he claimed anyone who criticized him wanted him dead. Fortunately, among Jews political violence is quite rare (although not non-existent) and so we should be extra lenient before silencing anyone.
    BTW-regarding Gordon’s case against Plaut, there was a similar case in Israel where someone accused a biology researcher who did experiments on animals either a “Nazi” or that he was carrying out a “Shoah” against animals. He sued the one who called him that, and the case was thrown out. Thus, we see a double-standard regarding Plaut. He was convicted for political reasons. I think that on appeal, the conviction against him will be thrown out as well. People like Gordon, Michael Lerner and others are very free with making lawsuits against those who are critical of them, and I would think that people who call themselves “progressives” should be the FIRST to defend free speech, like the ACLU did in the 1970’s with the infamous Skokie March of Neo-Nazis, as abhorrent as their philosophy may be. The ACLU held that princples must be adhered to at all costs.

  2. You & Dershowitz both make the same mistake of confusing U.S. free speech protections with Israeli law. You’ll recall that Israel has no constitution unfortunately. If it did & free speech were protected then you would be right in yr claim. But as it doesn’t you are not. I’m not an expert in Israeli law as you appear to believe to be. So I can’t tell you what laws apply to this case. But to claim that Plaut has the same free speech rights that I have here in the U.S. betrays willful ignorance of yr own legal system (as I assume you are either Israeli or Anglo-Israeli).

    As to whether or not the appeal overturns the lower court ruling, we shall see. I’m not prepared to substitute yr legal expertise for that of the appeals court so I won’t make any silly predictions as you have. But I certainly hope Plaut receives the punishment he so richly deserves.

    Fortunately, among Jews political violence is quite rare

    Is your judgment about what constitutes acceptable behavior or speech merely that they not kill others & everything else is fair game??? BTW, there has been intra-Jewish political violence throughout our history from the Biblical period up to the present day.

    there was a similar case in Israel where someone accused a biology researcher who did experiments on animals either a “Nazi” or that he was carrying out a “Shoah” against animals.

    I’m sorry but people who support Kahanists at this site don’t get a free ride when they make such claims. You’ll have to provide evidence of this incident before I’ll even consider it as something worth dealing with.

  3. Why are you defending Neve Gordon and Norman Finkelstein? They are not critics of the occupation, they are critics of the existence of Israel. How can you reconcile that with your support of Israel? Also, I would rather be in Yigal Arens position of being disinvited from a conference than in Steve Plaut’s position, where he may have to cough up 18 grand

  4. Can you present any evidence that either deny Israel’s right to exist?

    It’s easy for you to say that you’d be prepared to be banned fr. an Israeli academic conference if you were in Yigal’s shoes. This is his career. He is a distinguished researcher in his field. For him to be blackballed in his native country is injurious to his reputation & career. That’s a big deal though perhaps not to you.

    If Plaut wanted to avoid getting penalized he shouldn’t act like such a shit. If you want to be a shit you’ll have to pay the price.

  5. I am still unclear what you mean that “Plaut has to pay the price”. So he called Gordon names. How exactly is calling someone names a crime? And why do you say “I support
    Kahanists?” I don’t even know who Plaut is. I am discussing freedom of speech. Either it applies to everyone or it applies to no one.

  6. A judge in Israel has determined that Plaut broke Israeli law and has to pay Gordon money. That’s what I meant by Plaut has to pay a price for his behavior. The judge determined that the invective used by Plaut was false and defamatory and that Plaut made these false charges publicly & thereby damaged Gordon’s reputation. If you’re Israeli & don’t acknowledge a crime was committed when an Israeli judge does then perhaps you don’t believe in yr own legal system.

    And if you “don’t know who Plaut is” why are you supporting him? I usually like to know something about someone before I defend them in a public forum.

    If you want to talk about freedom of speech you’re going to have to talk about it in an Israeli context. Is there even such a concept in Israeli law? If so, you ought to study what the parameters are. The judge clearly weighed them herself & found Plaut’s defense lacking.

    And if you wish to import U.S. constitutional law to Israel you’ll have to start lobbying for that. I’d welcome it myself. But given the views you express here, I wonder whether you’d welcome guaranteeing freedom of speech, assembly, press, & guaranteeing religious rights to the Israeli Arab minority. Not to mention guaranteeing them equality & political rights much like our constitution guarantees U.S. minorities.

  7. “Even if one is troubled by the idea that one could be invited or disinvited because of their politics, it’s very different than saying that someone should be barred because they’re Israeli,” said Kenneth Stern, the American Jewish Committee’s director on antisemitism and extremism. “One thing is an error of judgment,” he said, “and the other is tarring a whole society.”

    Mr Stern, I’m pretty sure it’s the criminal occupation of Palestine that is tarring Israeli society, not the boycott.

  8. Yes, that Stern comment struck me too. Pls. tell me what is the diff. between being boycotted for one’s political views and being boycotted because your nation oppresses another people? There are a lot more similarities than differences to my mind. And is it merely an ‘error in judgment’ to blackball Arens? Or is it something more injurious and sinister? I think the latter.

  9. Finkelstein explicitly supports Hexbollah-see quote from his website. If one supports Hexbollah, then one must support the elimination of Israel, “I did make a point of publicly honoring the heroic resistance of Hezbollah to foreign occupation .Their historic contributions are undeniable.” He appeared on the official Hezbollah television network al-Manar, because, he said, “If I’m willing to appear on CNN – the main propaganda organ for America’s terrorist wars–why shouldn’t I appear on al-Manar?”

  10. No, you don’t get off so easily. He supports Hezbollah’s resistance to Israel’s occupation of Lebanese & Syrian territory. That does not at all mean he supports wiping Israel off the face of the map. You’ll have to do better.

    I have never said Finkelstein is my favorite personality or even that I agree w. everything or even much of what he says. In many ways, he reminds me of Dershowitz, his evil twin. But I’ll be damned if I’ll allow you to make him into an exterminationist.

  11. I am not “defending Plaut”, I am defending freedom of speech. You certainly have heard the famous comment attributed to Voltaire “I may disagree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. Israel is famous for verbal violence. Prof. Moshe Zimmerman said “the Jewish children of Hevron remind my of the Hitler Youth”. Sculpter Yigal Tumarkin said “when I see the Haredim and their children I can understand the Nazis”. In both cases, attemtps were made to have the prosecuted for “racist incitement” which is officially against the law, just like you claim what Plaut said is “against the law”. In both cases the state prosecutor said he would not prosecute because of “freedom of speech”. What I see here is a selective application of law on political lines.
    I am not sure how libel is defined. I know in the US it is very difficult to get on conviction on those grounds. I think if Plaut had said “Gordon, you are a wife beater”, and the Gordon could show that he wasn’t, then Plaut would ,as you say “have to pay the price”. He did say that Gordon, by serving as a self-professed “human shield” for Arafat while Arafat was conducting his suicide bomber war in his Mukata, was serving the enemies of the Jewish people. That is his opinion. If Zimmerman and Tumarkin’s remarks are “freedom of speech”, then so are Plauts (regardless of who he is or what he thinks, which I don’t know).

  12. I am not “defending Plaut”

    You condoned his speech by saying it was “merely” calling people names. And let me ask you a question, if you were a survivor with a number tatooed on yr skin would you continue to rationalize Plaut’s speech calling you a “neo-Nazi” and “Judenrat??” And I would point out to you that Professor Gordon, who Plaut defamed is an IDF veteran severely wounded (& now largely disabled) in a battle fighting in defense of Israel. As far as I know, Steven Plaut hasn’t fired a weapon once in defense of Israel. What right does that little pipsqueak have to slime Neve Gordon??

    In both cases, attemtps were made to have the prosecuted for “racist incitement” which is officially against the law

    There is one very serious diff. bet. Neve Gordon and the settler children who spit in the face of Palestinian old men & women 10 times their age. Gordon has never in his life done a single thing that could justify calling him a Nazi. While it is indeed arguable that settler children are indeed deeply hateful & racist. How far removed do you think Kahanism or extreme settler ideology is from Nazi racism?

    In both cases the state prosecutor said he would not prosecute because of “freedom of speech”.

    There appears to be another major diff. bet. these cases & the Gordon-Plaut case. Hate speech is a criminal, and not a civil offense. The bar for prosection for a criminal case is much higher than for a civil case (which Gordon’s is).

    You’ve had your last word on the subject. Trust me, there’s little more than can be said that is new. And you’ve repeated yr arguments multiple times. So let it go. If you don’t, I won’t publish any future comments on this.

  13. You’ll recall that Israel has no constitution unfortunately. If it did & free speech were protected then you would be right in yr claim. But as it doesn’t you are not. I’m not an expert in Israeli law as you appear to believe to be. So I can’t tell you what laws apply to this case. But to claim that Plaut has the same free speech rights that I have here in the U.S. betrays willful ignorance of yr own legal system

    I have never heard of Plaut or Gordon so I will not express an opinion on the case, but i’d like to comment on freedom of speech in Israel. It’s true that israel doesn’t have a constitution but Israel has laws and has laws based on judicial precedent. I belive that Plaut’s freedom of speech in Israel is not much different than in the US. From wikipedia in Hebrew – In a decision from 1953 Judge Agranat affirmed freedom of speech based on Israel’s declaration of independance and this freedom has been reafirmed in other cases brought before the court. It is true that there are restrictions to free speech as there are in the United States. For example, there was a case in the US where a man was put in jail for calling on Americans not to be drafted at the time of WWI.

  14. Amir: My understanding is that Plaut was found guilty of libel &/or defamation. So I don’t know how those Israeli laws intersect w. free speech provisions. But clearly in this case the judge felt that libel trumped free speech. It is possible that such a case might be harder to win here in the States. It’s also possible that Plaut might’ve had a decent defense under Israeli law & simply has a bad lawyer.

    However, as a human being Plaut is a load of swill. Can you imagine telling an Israeli professor disabled from a war wound suffered during the battle of Rosh Hanikra that he is a Nazi & Judenrat? All this because the victim wrote a favorable review of a Norman Finkelstein book in Haaretz?

  15. I just read the 42 page decision of the case (http://www.law.co.il/computer-law/nivgordon.pdf) – in Hebrew of course. “this is a classic case of a conflict between one person’s freedom of speech to another right to their reputation – two essential rights” Plaut labelled Gordon a Jew for Hitler (though Plaut claimed he was referring to Finklestein) after the favorable review, and Judenratt after he acted as a human shield for Arafat when he was holed up in the Mukata. The judge concluded that a reasonable reader would conclude that Gordon was a Jew for Hitler and a Judenrat while it has not been proven that he is, therefore Plaut slandered Gordon. Plaut’s defence was lame (at least the way the judge presented it in her dicision). “It wasn’t me, I wasn’t referring to him etc.” I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me his defence should have that every reasonable reader would understand these statements were hyperbole. Just like Larry Flint didn’t really mean to say tha

  16. that falwell had sex with his mother. (sorry about the cut post, I have keyboard problems.)

    In 2002 Gordon wrote an open letter to an senior officer concerning an action taken in the refugee camp balata which was printed in an Israeli paper. He ends the letter with the question “how does it feel to be war criminal?” Needless to say this officer is not a convicted war criminal. It shows the hypocricy in Gordon’s attitude to free speech.

  17. Correction. Not -“how does it feel to be war criminal?” but “how did you become a war criminal?”

  18. The UN ruled that when Barak unilaterally pulled Israeli forces out of southern Lebanon that the withdrawal had been complete to the recognized international border. Then please explain how Finkelstein can support “Hizbullah’s fight against Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory”, as you put it? You also mention “Syrian territory”, but Hizbullah does not
    operate on Syrian territory, nor does it represent Syria, so how can Finkelstein support Hizbullah aggression against Israel?

  19. Plaut’s defence was lame

    Someone quite involved with this case also told me that Plaut’s defense was extremely poor.

    Compare the 2 cases of which you speak: in one case Gordon wrote a review of a book & was called a Judenrat for his troubles. In the case you mention, an Israeli officer committed a human rights violation possibly involving death (you don’t provide the particulars so I can’t say precisely what happened) which Gordon judged worthy of being considered a war crime. Admittedly, no court has yet found the officer guilty of such a crime. But is it your contention that such a charge and conviction are so beyond the realm of possibility that no reasonable person or court could ever draw such a conclusion? In the Plaut case, no reasonable person could ever construe Gordon as a Judenrat or Jew for Nazis. Only a lunatic like Plaut could believe such a thing.

  20. The UN ruled that when Barak unilaterally pulled Israeli forces out of southern Lebanon that the withdrawal had been complete to the recognized international border.

    You are forgetting Shebaa Farms, which even Israel concedes it has no claim to. The territory is either Lebanese or Syrian (depending who you speak to) & the conflict can only be fully resolved when this territory is returned.

  21. Israel has NOT conceded Shabaa Farms, the newspaper Ha’aretz has. In any event is kidnapping, murder and rocket attacks the best way to resolve the matter?

  22. You are misinformed & yr gratuitous attack on Haaretz is silly. Israel has conceded that the territory will eventually be returned to either Lebanon or Syria. It is waiting for a decision bet. the 2 as to who to return it to. Pls. provide any credible source that supports yr view that Israel has not conceded Shebaa Farms.

    In any event is kidnapping, murder and rocket attacks the best way to resolve the matter?

    Don’t get on yr high horse. Do a little reading on this site & you will discover my views of Hezbollah’s tactics. Just because Finkelstein is enamored of Hezbollah doesn’t mean I am. Pls. don’t make the mistake that most right-wingers make here of lumping my views in w. whoever you happen to dislike most among progressive Jews.

  23. Comment deleted.

    [ed., The purpose of my blog is not to promote groups like the Free Muslim Coalition. My blog is not a free billboard for yr political views. I urge you to promote this group on sites more conducive to yr views. If you’d used a valid e mail address in publishing this comment I could’ve communicated personally my reasons for deleting this comment to you.]

  24. Please give me a source that says Israel no longer claims the Shaaba farms.
    Ha’aretz stated that Israel should give it up, but the government has
    refused to. If it belonged to Lebanon, then the UN would have stated that. They didn’t, which means it is part of the Golan Heights.

  25. Hello Spyros,

    You make a number of very valid observations.

    All of the world’s major religions, at one time or another, have each been suborned by those seeking to promote their own and very often violent agenda. God’s allegiance has all too frequently been claimed by clergy, politicians and combatants alike in the quest for some final ‘victory.’ Quite why God should favour one section of His children over another is a question rarely asked. In God’s own interaction with Man, the relationship has always been based more on the individual rather than the group.

    Attempts to polarise Christianity, Islam and Judaism have hardly helped matters in the Middle East. Whether such polarisation can be reversed is a moot point. That it exists is certainly evident. To counteract the situation, a depolarisation might be the only remedy, heralding a less sanguine, more human dimension in the outcome of events there.

    I’m reminded of that old sci-fi film ‘The day the Earth stood still.’ This is the one where, at the very end, the choice for mankind comes down to an abandonment of all major conflict on Earth or face the wrath of ‘Gort,’ an eight foot tall robot capable of dealing out death and destruction on a planetary scale. Though it’s well over fifty years since his first appearance, ‘Gort’ still sends a chill into my bones whenever the film is shown, even on the small screen. It could be that we need something just as cold and impersonal – and as devastating – to control what’s going on in so many theatres of war. Since it’s most unlikely some passing alien will shortly oblige us with anything like the original, we may have to create our very own version of ‘Gort.’

    In this context, all of us get to become ‘Gort, ‘ who might then be considered the first truly global policeman. I think there is a pressing need for such a creature.

    http://yorketowers.blogspot.com

    JY

  26. Please give me a source that says Israel no longer claims the Shaaba farms.

    Israel never “claimed” Shebaa Farms. It acknowledges it conquered this territory from Syria:

    Israel is of the view that the land was Syrian at the time that Israel conquered it during the Six Day War.

    & recognizes that it will be transferred back to Syria when a peace agreement is finalized:

    The status of these territories can ultimately be finalized in direct peace negotiations between Israel and Syria.

    Syria however has at times acknowledged that the territory should not be considered Syrian, but rather Lebanese. The question isn’t whether the territory is Israeli or not, but whether, when there is peace Israel will return it to one country or the other.

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