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Press Releases
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Australian University Censors Speech Offensive to Islam, Threatens Students
Monday, June 03, 2013

June 3, 2013 - NEW YORK - Australian National University (ANU) administrators have given student board members and authors of the school's newspaper Woroni an ultimatum: retract a recently published infographic satirizing Islam or face disciplinary proceedings that could include expulsion. Not surprisingly, the students responded to the school's threat by removing the image from the Internet, having already published an apology to "any readers who felt victimised, while stressing that the piece was intended to be satirical."

The infographic was the fifth in a student-produced series that satirized aspects of different religions, preceded by installments on Catholicism, Scientology, Mormonism, and Judaism. Only the piece on Islam drew university censorship, following a complaint by the International Students Department. According to ANU vice-chancellor Ian Young, the Chancelry (administration) "felt [the piece] actually breached the rules of the university in terms of student conduct and . . . breached the rules of at least the Australian Press Council principles to which Woroni abides." Young denied that the censorship was an attack on freedom of speech and asserted that previous cartoons on other major religions were permissible because they did not attract formal complaints.

The implications of this are troubling: the Chancelry has effectively endorsed a policy of selectively restricting speech deemed offensive to Islam, and Islam alone.

The school's severe and punitive interference is unprecedented. Woroni editor Gus McCubbing opined, "The problem I had here was never before had the Chancelry taken such an active role in disciplining us and saying what we can and can't publish." The Chancelry's actions included twice summoning the student paper's board members to discuss the issue, individually threatening the board members and authors with disciplinary action, and informing them that Woroni's funding allocation could be compromised if the parody of Islam remained online.

ANU administrators further claimed that the piece threatened the school's reputation and security, stating: "[I]n a world of social media, [there is] potential for material such as the article in question to gain attention and traction in the broader world and potentially harm the interests of the University and the university community." They cited controversy surrounding the Danish Jyllands-Posten cartoon depicting Islam's prophet Mohammed and violent protests in Sydney against the film Innocence of Muslims.

"Free speech died last week at ANU, and the severity of the situation cannot be understated," commented Brooke Goldstein, human rights attorney and director of The Lawfare Project, a nonprofit legal think tank dedicated to monitoring global threats to freedom of speech. "When a university abuses its power to stifle and punish speech offensive to Muslims, singling out Islam for special treatment while allowing other religions to be lampooned, the school is effectively enforcing Sharia (Islamic law) blasphemy codes, which have no place in free society. The ANU Chancelry's policy is more akin to that of speech-repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia or China than that of a Western university, a traditionally important forum for open dialogue and debate. Particularly concerning is that the university's defense of its censorship rests on the false causation argument that violence is caused by satire. Indeed, the type of violence cited by the administrators was caused by an ideology that justifies violence based on militant religious doctrine. When will we stop excusing violent criminal conduct as an expected response to controversial speech?"

The recent incident at ANU is part of a growing pattern of speech suppression in the West stemming from fear of violent reprisal by Islamists. The fear of violence, coupled with the continued threat of lawfare lawsuits designed to silence and punish anything deemed blasphemous of Islam and its prophet Mohammad, has created a detrimental chilling effect on the inalienable human right to speak freely and openly about issues of public concern, including militant Islam. The ANU Chancelry's actions fall in line with principles pushed by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to make unlawful the use of media to criticize Islam.

Unfortunately, Australia's Constitution does not expressly protect freedom of speech or expression, a void ripe for lawfare. Unlike in the United States, where restrictions on speech can be challenged for violating the First Amendment, Australia's lack of free speech protection leaves speakers with little or no recourse when they are silenced (though the High Court in 1992 held that the nation's Constitution impliedly protects the narrowly defined category of speech concerning political issues).

For more information, please contact:

Brooke Goldstein -  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  - (212) 922-1672

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: French Appeals Court Holds Israeli Settlement Activity Does Not Violate International Law
Monday, May 06, 2013

May 3, 2013 - NEW YORK - In a major legal decision that the media has studiously ignored, a French Court of Appeals ruled last week that construction of a light rail system in the Israeli-controlled West Bank by a French company does not violate international law. In doing so, the court sided with many of the arguments Israel has long made in defense of the legality of settlements. Indeed, the decision is a major refutation of the common refrain that "everyone agrees" that construction in the West Bank violates international law.

Lawfare Project Fellow Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law, explained the significance of the decision:
 
The Court held that only the Government of Israel, and not private parties, can violate the relevant provisions of the Geneva Conventions. The arguments that Israeli communities in the West Bank violate international law start with Art. 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which provides that "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." The provision was also relied on heavily by the Palestinian plaintiffs in in the lawsuit. The Court ruled that the Geneva Conventions only speaks to and applies to action by the Israeli government ("the Occupying power"), and does not regulate private parties activities in the occupied territory.
 
This is an extraordinarily important holding in light of the decades old-debate about the meaning of 49(6) in the context of Israeli civilian migration into the West Bank. It is in direct opposition to the political and international law position on settlements. In the standard narrative, any migration of Israeli Jews past the Green Line, or the expansion of their residences and communities once there, is a war crime. Thus, when private citizens decides to buy or build a house across the Green Line, or even expand an existing one, it is a war crime. Moreover, Israeli citizens who migrate to the West Bank are often said to be guilty of war crimes themselves as aiders-and-abettors. The Versailles decision would seem to reject such a position.
 
One clear consequence of the French ruling is that newspapers can no longer say with any pretense of honesty that apart from Israel, "everyone agrees" that settlement construction violates international law.
 
For more information, please contact:
 
Prof. Eugene Kontorovich
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
(609) 610-2066
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Conference call briefing with author Hassan Daioleslam re. victory against NIAC - April 30, 2013 at 12:00 PM ET
Wednesday, April 17, 2013

INVITATION: Conference call briefing with Iranian American author Hassan Daioleslam, Lawfare Project Director Brooke Goldstein, and Legal Project Director Sam Nunberg on Daioleslam's recent victory against National Iranian American Council (NIAC)

April 30, 2013
12:00 PM ET

Conference dial-in number: (805) 399-1200
Participant access code: 108325


Goldstein will conduct a Q&A after the briefing. Questions can be emailed before or during the call with subject heading "HASSAN DAI" to:
 
Questions will be answered in the order received and as time permits.
 

Background:

 On Tuesday, April 9, in a major victory against lawfare proponents, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and its president, Trita Parsi, to pay $183,480.09 to Iranian American Hassan Daioleslam, editor of the website "In Search of Truth: Reports on Mullahs's lobby in US." This follows years of litigation, beginning in 2008 when NIAC and Parsi filed a frivolous libel suit against Daioleslam in response to his reporting of Parsi's and NIAC's linkages with the Iranian regime, a state sponsor of terrorism.

 
In fall 2012, the court granted summary judgment for Daioleslam, dismissing the libel suit. Judge John Bates held that the plaintiffs failed to adduce evidence that Daioleslam "actually harbored any doubts about the correctness of his writings, or willfully blinded himself to the truth," such that their defamation claim must fail. The court also dismissed the plaintiffs' false light claim due to their failure to demonstrate that Daioleslam's statements were made with "actual malice." 
 
Sam Nunberg serves as Director of The Legal Project, an activity of the Middle East Forum which seeks to protect the right in the West to freely discuss Islam and Islamist terrorism. The Legal Project coordinated Mr. Daioleslam's pro bono representation by Sidley Austin LLP during Brooke Goldstein's tenure as Director. Sam has worked on this matter since 2011.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Victory for Free Speech Against Lawfare Proponents - Court Orders National Iranian American Council (NIAC) to Pay $183,480.09 to Iranian American Author Hassan Daioleslam
Friday, April 12, 2013

April 12, 2013 - NEW YORK - This past Tuesday, April 9, in a major victory against lawfare proponents, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and its president, Trita Parsi, to pay $183,480.09 to Iranian American Hassan Daioleslam, editor of the website "In Search of Truth: Reports on Mullahs's lobby in US." This follows years of litigation, beginning in 2008 when NIAC and Parsi filed a frivolous libel suit against Daioleslam in response to his reporting of Parsi's and NIAC's linkages with the Iranian regime, a state sponsor of terrorism.

The conference call briefing with Iranian American author Hassan Daioleslam, originally scheduled for tomorrow, has been postponed.
An email containing the new date and call-in details will be sent soon.

The Lawfare Project is hosting a conference call briefing with Hassan Daioleslam on Tuesday, April 16 at 12:00 PM ET. Members of the press, as well as the public, are welcome to participate.

Conference dial-in number: (805) 399-1200

Participant access code: 108325

In fall 2012, the same court granted summary judgment for Daioleslam, dismissing the libel suit. Judge John Bates held that the plaintiffs failed to adduce evidence that Daioleslam "actually harbored any doubts about the correctness of his writings, or willfully blinded himself to the truth," such that their defamation claim must fail. The court also dismissed the plaintiffs' false light claim due to their failure to demonstrate that Daioleslam's statements were made with "actual malice."

For more information, please contact:

Brooke Goldstein - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Hassan Daioleslam - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it - 602-692-3701

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Abbas Offers Bogus ICC Concession During Kerry's Trip to Israel
Thursday, April 11, 2013

Press Releases | Page-1

April 11, 2013 - NEW YORK - As Sec. State Kerry concludes his trip to Israel to work on restarting negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas claims to have made a goodwill gesture by promising not to pursue charges against Israeli officials before the International Criminal Court (ICC) - for two months starting two weeks ago. Abbas's promise is a gesture of bad faith, not good, and he should receive no credit for it. The ICC simply does not have jurisdiction over Israeli settlements, as Prof. Eugene Kontorovich of Northwestern University, a Lawfare Project Fellow, demonstrates in his new research paper, "Jurisdiction over Israeli Settlement Activity in the International Criminal Court" (available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2230987). Prof. Kontorovich will also be debating issues relating to the legality of Israeli settlements under international law at the following events:

The ICC only has jurisdiction over conduct on the "territory" of nation "states," Prof. Kontorovich explains. Even assuming Palestine will not be treated as a "state" for ICC purposes, its territory is entirely undefined. Last fall's General Assembly resolution did not set borders for Palestine, but rather acknowledged they would need to be determined through negotiations. All settlements fall in the most disputed parts of the potential Israeli-Palestinian frontier. Moreover, the Palestinians in the Oslo Accords gave Israel exclusive criminal jurisdiction over the settlements. They cannot "regive" this jurisdiction to the ICC.  

Moreover, the ICC only has authority to deal with the worst of the world's crimes. It has traditionally understood this as involving mass atrocities with thousands of dead. Civilian home construction may be internationally reviled, but it is not a crime of the highest gravity, compared to the slaughter of innocents.  
"By taking Abbas's noises about the ICC seriously," Prof. Kontorovich says, "Sec. Kerry's diplomatic efforts inadvertently lend credence to the notion that the ICC would have jurisdiction. This undermines America's ability to avoid such charges against its servicemen in the future, and contradicts its longstanding arguments about the limits on the Court. Accepting Abbas's bluff would support an unprecedented, unbounded, and activist vision of the Court's role in international affairs - one that could only come back to haunt the U.S., which like Israel, has not consented to ICC jurisdiction."

For more information, please contact:

Prof. Eugene Kontorovich

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

(609) 610-2066

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