Judicial jihad: Engaging a new battlefront

Judicial jihad Engaging

On December 6, 2001, three months after the Durban hatefest, I attended the last meeting of its NGO Forum International Steering Committee in Geneva. Though I had been successively elected and expelled, I now became privy to an eight-point plan attacking Israel as the last bastion of apartheid. It included educational, economic, cultural, diplomatic and legal campaigns to demonize, boycott, embargo and isolate the Jewish state. Legal measures began with sporadic and - so far unsuccessful - attempts to arrest IDF reserve officers in countries of universal jurisprudence. In 2005, I was charged with criminal defamation by a Franco-Palestinian charity, designated by the US as a terrorist organization. My sentence was one symbolic euro, which was politically too expensive. I won on appeal, and was taken to the French Supreme Court, where, this July, I was finally acquitted. This long, agonizing and costly experience was emblematic of an epidemic of such suits designed to intimidate and silence pro-Jewish/Zionist activity. The charges against me were replicated against seven other targets - journalists, authors and a Christian Website. Parallel were the suits and countersuits relating to Muhammad al-Dura - the Palestinian child presented by French television as an IDF victim, in terms redolent of ritual murder. Some denote such cases as "lawfare." Perhaps more appropriate would be "juridical jihad," due to the clearly Islamist context of the most litigious plaintiffs. Recent allegations of the IDF harvesting body organs have upped the ante on defamation to the language of medieval blood libel, now powered by Internet embellishment - an eternal reference point in cyberspace for infinite global regurgitation. Indeed, I was sued for a report that appeared on a Web site. AS THE Goldstone Report opens the floodgates for "politico-juridical jihad" in national courts, UN agencies and, perhaps, the International Criminal Court, it is time to plan a strategy of legal counterengagement. Propagators of deliberate slurs targeting Israel and by, association, world Jewry, must realize that they may incur a price. Announcement of litigation by a group of IDF officers against the French left-wing weekly, Le Nouvel Observateur, in 2001, led to an apology for calling the IDF "an army of rapists." Legal suits are costly; I was fortunate to have loyal supporters who raised a war chest. The other side's attorneys are often pro bono member ideologues. A consortium of the best Jewish and pro-Israel legal brains should be on call, to judge the ramifications and the most appropriate jurisdictions, to use the courts in ad hominem defamation, group libel and even cases of anti-Semitic terrorism. In 1997, the US reportedly suggested that Israel's laws on the trial of Nazi war criminals endowed it with appropriate universal jurisprudence to prosecute the recently captured Cambodian genocidist, Pol Pot. Jerusalem apparently declined. Yet, these very legal tools led the Simon Wiesenthal Center to propose that Israel indicate to Argentina that it might consider prosecuting the six Iranians indicted in the Buenos Aires Jewish Center bombing - especially in view of Interpol's agreement last month that these fugitives could be tried in third-nation tribunals. Conspiracy theories on British radio and television, body organs slander in the Swedish and Ukrainian press - and other libels wherever - must be countered, not mischievously, but selectively and judiciously. "Justice, justice shall you seek" is an important weapon to push back "judicial jihad." The writer is director for international relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and chairman of the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism. He is participating in the Jerusalem Global Forum on Antisemitism and can be reached at csweurope@gmail.com.