Breaking: California Judge Rules Against Attempts to Silence Palestinian Activist
Washington, D.C. | www.adc.org | March 3, 2021 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) welcomes the decision by a California court to reject and dismiss a lawsuit which attempted to silence and intimidate Ms. Suhair Nafal, a Palestinian community member and activist. In September of 2020, Ms. Nafal contacted ADC for assistance after being served with a defamation lawsuit brought forward by a former IDF Solider, Rebecca Rumshiskaya. Attorney Haytham Faraj, an ADC National Board Member, agreed to represent Ms. Nafal, and worked aggressively to get this victory.
The judge ruled against the former IDF solider, and in favor of Ms. Nafal. The judge also granted Ms. Nafal’s Anti-SLAPP Motion, awarding her legal fees, which must be paid by the plaintiff. Anti-SLAPP laws are intended to prevent people from using courts, and potential threats of a lawsuit, to intimidate people who are exercising their First Amendment rights. The judge’s opinion in the case of Rumshiskaya vs. Nafal can be read here. The Judge’s decision and opinion is a categorical rejection of the attempt by Israelis and their American agents to silence American citizens rights to free speech, particularly political speech.
Ms. Suhair Nafal expressed, “As an activist for Palestine I’m very pleased with this decision. As an American, I’m appalled that foreign Israeli interests attempted to uproot the First amendment. I’m sure this won’t be their last attempt, but we must all stand strong. Thanks to Attorney Haytham Faraj and ADC for their unwavering support.”
ADC National President Samer Khalaf states, “We take any attempt at silencing our community members seriously. We will do our part to uphold the First Amendment rights of all our community members, including supporting BDS. We will not tolerate any entities, foreign or domestic, who aim at silencing our voices. We commend Ms. Nafal for her resilience during this case, and we thank Attorney Haytham Faraj for his steadfast commitment to ensuring justice.”
Attorney Haytham Faraj explained, “This is an important victory in preserving our communities’ First Amendment rights to free speech, including political speech. The judge made it abundantly clear that these attempts to silence and intimidate activists will be rejected. By granting Ms. Nafal the Anti-SLAPP , the judge sent a clear message that America is a country that tolerates and values diversity of opinions and political views, and those that seek to improperly silence political criticism will have a price to pay. America is not Israel. The former Israeli soldier who sued Ms. Nafal sought to have the court apply Israeli law which punishes criticism of Israel by up to one year in prison. The judge rejected the lawsuit and the attempt to apply Israeli law. The Judge stated in his opinion:
“… California law of defamation is shaped in large part by this country’s strong First Amendment right to free speech… “he First Amendment ‘ordinarily’ denies a State ‘the power to prohibit dissemination of social, economic and political doctrine which a vast majority of its citizens believes to be false and fraught with evil consequence.’ …” Thus, the laws of both California and the United States reflect a careful balancing between the “First Amendment’s vital guarantee of free and uninhibited discussion of public issues with the important social values that underlie defamation law and society’s pervasive and strong interest in preventing and redressing attacks upon reputation.”
California, unlike Israel, does not provide criminal penalties for defamation. (Israel Defamation Law, 1965 (IDL), Chapter B., para. 6: “Those who publish defamation, with harmful intent, to two persons or more except the victim, will be sentenced to one year of jail.”) Also, under California law, truth is an absolute defense to defamation. Under Israel law, truth is a defense only if its publication was in the public interest. (IDL, Chap. C, ¶ 14.)
The former IDF solider was represented by a California law firm, and an Israeli/Zionist law firm, whose primary work is focused on silencing and intimidating BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) activists, critics of Israeli human rights violations, and violations of International Humanitarian Law. The plaintiff claimed that Ms. Nafal’s Facebook posts defamed and slandered her. Further, the plaintiff asked the California court to apply Israeli defamation law, a request rejected by the court.
ADC will continue to fight against any and all attempts to silence our community members and activists. As an organization which supports BDS we will do our part to push back against such lawsuits, and any anti-BDS measures happening legislatively, or on college campuses. If you need assistance from ADC with a similar matter, please email the ADC Legal Department to email@example.com.
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