June 28, 2006
Neve Gordon is one of the most openly anti-Zionist leftist extremists in Israeli academia. A lecturer in political science at Ben Gurion University, itself a den of anti-Zionist radicalism, Gordon routinely attacks Israel in his articles as being a fascist, apartheid regime, one engaged in “state terrorism” against innocent Arabs. His articles have been reprinted on pro-terror Islamofascist and neo-Nazi websites.
Gordon has also devoted much of his time and energy in recent years to promoting Norman Finkelstein, an untenured faculty member at DePaul University best known for his vulgar denunciations of Holocaust survivors as cheats and liars. A review in The New York Times compared Finkelstein’s book The Holocaust Industry to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz has lead the campaign to expose Finkelstein as an anti-Semitic fraud and pseudo-scholar. Commentary magazine’s Gabriel Schoenfeld has denounced Finkelstein’s views as “crackpot ideas, some of them mirrored almost verbatim in the propaganda put out by neo-Nazis around the world.”
Gordon endorses Finkelstein’s opinions and theories about the Holocaust and Israel, and his articles praising Finkelstein are featured on countless anti-Semitic websites.
Gordon has a special dislike for Professor Steven Plaut, a professor at the University of Haifa and columnist for The Jewish Press and some other media outlets. Plaut has written many articles exposing the extremism of Israeli leftists, is blunt about what he regards as “Israel’s academic Fifth Column,” and is a contributor to the Israel Academic Monitor watchdog group that exposes political extremism and bias on Israeli campuses.
Several years ago, Plaut published an article denouncing Finkelstein and people like Noam Chomsky as “Jews for Hitler” and criticizing Gordon for his justification of Finkelstein’s attacks on Israel. Gordon was not amused by that.
Shortly thereafter, following some particularly gruesome terrorist attacks, the Israeli army was conducting anti-terror operations in the West Bank. It placed Arafat’s headquarters under siege, demanding that Arafat turn over a number of murderers being hidden in his “offices,” including two who had assassinated Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi.
Gordon then illegally infiltrated the PLO’s Ramallah compound with a group of “anarchists” for the explicit purpose of interfering with Israeli soldiers. As reported in Israeli dailies at the time, they served as “human shields” for Arafat and the hidden murderers. Israel’s daily Maariv labeled the “human shield” group as “traitors.” A photograph of Gordon embracing Arafat was carried in Israeli newspapers.
Less than 24 hours later, Plaut denounced the group to which Gordon belonged in this “human shield” infiltration as “Judenrat Wannabes.” That charge formed the basis for Gordon’s libel suit against Plaut. Gordon hired a radical Arab lawyer to represent him and the two went shopping for a court in which a politically sympathetic judge could be expected to be assigned to the case.
While Gordon lives in Jerusalem and Plaut in Haifa, Gordon filed his suit in Nazareth, a bastion of Arab radicalism. Most of the judges on the Nazareth magistrate’s bench are Arabs. Coincidentally or not, the Gordon suit against Plaut was placed on the docket of one of the most openly political and extremist Arab judges there.
In recent years Israel has introduced a policy of “affirmative action” in its public service in the form of appointing women and Arabs (especially women Arabs) who do not necessarily have top qualifications for the positions in question. Nazareth Magistrate’s Court Judge Reem Naddaf had been the court’s registrar before being promoted to a judgeship.
The verdict Naddaf issued is filled with her own political opinions. Completely ignoring the context in which the “Judenrat wannabe” comment was made – that is, Gordon’s illegal “human shield for terrorists” activities – the judge ruled that Plaut’s comments were slanderous. She went on to sing the praises of Arafat as the “legitimate leader of his people” and defend the illegal activities of the “human shields” as “legitimate protest.” But even more incredibly, a judge sitting on the bench in the Jewish state endorsed Holocaust revisionism in her verdict.
In section 24 of said verdict Judge Naddaf wrote the following, cited here verbatim and with no embellishment:
At times we are witness to the phenomenon in which some people “dare” to re-examine the Holocaust and its dimensions, from various aspects, whether it be the human, historic, scientific, political, etc., and where such people automatically are turned into objects for attack and accusations of being anti-Semites and Holocaust Deniers, deserving of being called Judenrat or Jews for Hitler.
The phenomenon is reinforced when factual data or opinions or theories about the Holocaust are presented that happen to differ from those published about it to date or which deviate from the prevailing consensus.
This phenomenon is not understandable or justified, in my opinion, and contradicts the principles of democracy, which should stand fast, especially in those debates in which stormy public opinion re-examines such sensitive and painful subjects.
The freedom to think, form an opinion, to investigate and re-examine any historic event are basic elements in the world of democracy, and, if we strip them from anyone, we empty them of meaning.
It is impossible and improper to turn the Holocaust into some sort of “taboo” subject, about which people may not comment, think beyond, investigate, or analyze unless it is within the framework of the consensus and the “permissible,” as the defendant claims.
This defense of the right to engage in Holocaust revisionism could have been the closing argument by David Irving’s lawyers, just before he was convicted in Vienna of Holocaust denial. But they appear in a verdict against freedom of speech issued by a judge in Israel. Her tortuous defense of the “freedom to question” regarding the Holocaust is not being used to defend dissident freedom of speech, but rather to justify her denial of it to Plaut.
The judge ordered Plaut to pay Gordon damages; never mind that Gordon had never claimed to have suffered any material damages, nor had the judge found that he had.
The court ruling ignored all previous case law in Israel. Other Israeli courts have defended the right to denounce and criticize public figures as protected speech. Satire is always supposed to be protected. There is even court precedent that says that calling someone a Nazi in Israel is protected speech, especially when it refers to someone with extremist political opinions. (Plaut never called Gordon a Nazi or a Holocaust denier, but if he had, it should have been protected speech.)
The truly frightening thing about all this is that it is the worst in a growing assault against freedom of speech in Israel. Free speech has long been selectively defended by the Israeli courts, prosecutors, and media. The most openly seditious statements of radical Arab militants and leftist Jews is always protected speech, even when they openly endorse terrorism and violence or call for Israel’s destruction. Right-wingers enjoy no such protection. This open bias is possible because Israel has no constitutional guarantee of free speech, no First Amendment(indeed, no formal constitution at all).
But that is not the only threat to Israeli democracy. The very presence on the bench of a judge like Reem Naddaf is the ultimate proof, if any were still needed, that incompetent and biased judges are being appointed with alarming regularity.
Meanwhile, for the sake of the future of Israeli democracy, let us hope this travesty is overturned on the appeal Plaut is filing.
Allyson Rowen Taylor is an activist living in Los Angeles. She was one of the founding members of Standwithus.com and is the mother of two young men, one currently a soldier in the Nachal unit of the IDF.