Richard Silverstein takes David Yerushalmi to task. Yerushalmi threatened him with a lawsuit, it didn’t work out for old Yeru.
by Richard Silverstein (TikkunOlam)
NOTE: I originally published this post in reply to a threat of a defamation lawsuit from David Yerushalmi. I temporarily withdrew it in order to consult with counsel. I post this now.
But before I do, since I wrote this, the Anti Defamation League, a group with whom I often disagree, has published a strong denunciation of Yerushalmi’s views under the headline “Extremism,” which is worth noting:
One of the driving forces behind Shari’a-related conspiracy theories and growing efforts to ban or restrict the use of Shari’a law in American courts is David Yerushalmi, an Arizona attorney with a record of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry.
…Yerushalmi has not only actively promoted his conspiratorial vision of Shari’a law, but has also sought to portray all Muslims as a threat. In one March 2006 article, for example, Yerushalmi even went so far as to claim that “Muslim civilization is at war with Judeo-Christian civilization…The Muslim peoples, those committed to Islam as we know it today, are our enemies.”
That same year, Yerushalmi founded the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE), a “think tank” that has published anti-Muslim, anti-immigration and anti-black materials, as well as New World Order-style conspiracy theories.
…Yerushalmi’s main instrument, SANE, is also openly hostile to undocumented migrants in the United States. It advocates somehow sealing all American borders and building “special criminal camps” to house undocumented migrants…
…Yerushalmi [has] defend[ed] people accused of anti-Semitism such as Mel Gibson and Pat Buchanan because they “have the potential to save the West from itself and from Islam.”
The statement doesn’t at all deal with Yerushalmi’s Kahane-like pro-settler views about Israel, which is understandable since the ADL’s difference with him on this subject might be more nuanced. But such as it is, the statement should gain broad visibility and further reinforce Yerushalmi’s reputation as a far-right anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim bigot.
My original post follows:
A short time ago I published a post about David Yerushalmi’s leadership of various state campaigns to ban Sharia law. If you’ve been reading this blog for a few years you’ll remember back to 2007 when I wrote several posts about Yerushalmi’s leadership role in the campaign against New York’s Khalil Gibran Academy and the accompanying demonization and forced removal of principal Debbie Almontaser (which was later found wrongful by an EEOC ruling). I reviewed his then publicly-accessible website, Saneworks, for the overtly racist rhetoric it contained. I called him then a “Jewish white supremacist.”
Mother Jones recently published its own profile of Yerushalmi’s efforts to ban Sharia law and called him simply a “white supremacist.” Apparently, he didn’t like that. Didn’t like it one bit. As a result he sent Mother Jones a message saying that he was compiling a record of the magazine’s coverage of him as part of a legal brief. Not exactly a threat of a lawsuit, but not far from one.
To me he was far more explicit. He sent this to a lawyer representing me in my current libel suit which will be heard in Los Angeles in the coming days:
I am reluctantly forced to revisit the statements your client, Richard Silverstein, has made about me on his blog. When he first attacked me personally and stated that I was a fascist, racist, and Kahanist, I ignored them, even as others of his ilk provided these baseless statements “legs” allowing countless more “eyes” the opportunity to read what your client understood and represented to be carefully calculated factual statements about me. These statements are demonstrably false and your client made them knowing they were false or acting recklessly in this regard. This recklessness I believe was established in his deposition testimony in the Neuwirth case.
I ignored these publications because your client uses this kind of ad hominem invective on a regular basis and I was just one of many people he attacked personally without any real factual basis.
Unfortunately, your client has republished the original articles via links in a most recent piece stating that I am a white supremacist. I might still have ignored this except for the fact that it has now concretely and specifically injured me in my legal profession in Arizona. I have now lost an African American client who was prepared to retain my firm but for your clients defamatory publications, because he could not afford to be associated with someone accused of such beliefs even though he knows I do not hold these beliefs. Much of his business is in public relations and this charge by your client was for him too much to sustain.
My staff and family have prevailed upon me to sue your client for defamation. Again, I am reluctant given the First Amendment issues, but I believe there is a strong basis to assert that his wholly unfounded, false, and defamatory statements, which have now led to concrete damages that I can measure minimally in excess of $100,000 suggests to me that my staff and family have the better argument.
The suit will be brought in Arizona. An interesting and related case is Yetman v. English, 168 Ariz. 71, 811 P.2d 323 (1991).
I certainly understand your client will raise the standard First Amendment defenses: opinion, hyperbole, no actual malice. If we get past these, your client will have the opportunity to test “truth” as a defense. It is to that end and to that purpose I am now drafting my complaint.
Your client may avoid the suit by deleting all articles published on his blog or other forum that refer to me in the defamatory ways described.
I am providing this to you confidentially. If you client chooses to make this public, and he certainly may, this settlement offer is rescinded.
Law Offices of David Yerushalmi, P.C.:
Washington, D.C., New York, California & Arizona
I’ve debated how to address this threat and of course I’ve engaged pro bono legal case in the event he follows through on it. But I will not be cowed by a bully. I stand by the posts I’ve written by him. I will not remove them. I will gladly meet him in court or anywhere in defense of both my right to speak and publish, and the truth of the statements I’ve written about him.
David Yerushalmi is a fraud. His claims about Islam are false, as anyone with any real knowledge of the religion will tell you. His game is political opportunism to advance a strident right-wing anti-Muslim agenda. An earlier iteration of his anti-jihad campaign involved a colleague, Dave Gaubatz, who did a “James O’Keefe” and infiltrated Virginia mosques posing as a new member. They published their supposedly shocking accounts of radical jihadist activity which turned out to be “sky is falling” nonsense. Gaubatz, for those of you who may not remember, was recently successfully sued for arranging for his son to pose as a CAIR intern, whereupon he stole internal organization documents for the purposes of discrediting CAIR. The court ordered Gaubatz to return the documents.
Even Yerushalmi’s name is fake. His family birth name is Beychok, born of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants to America. To be clear, I’m not saying that Yerushalmi’s legal name isn’t that. I’m talking about the underlying motivations regarding Jewish nationalist identity that are involved in such a name change. Yerushalmi means “from Jerusalem.” Yerushalmi is as much a resident of Jerusalem as I am. He doesn’t live in Jerusalem nor do I. Let me make clear that I have no problem with Jewisholim changing their name once they move to Israel, taking Hebrew names such as Yerushalmi. But to do so when you live in America is pure preciousness. He wants to tell you that he supports the settler concept of the eternal inviolability of Jerusalem as a Jewish city and capital. He wants to tell you he believes in the whole nine yards of ultra-Orthodox extremism regarding God’s sacred gift of all of the Land of Israel to the entire Jewish people in perpetuity.
Yerushalmi denies he is a white Jewish supermacist, yet writes in his website and other online venues nonsense like this:
…Our constitutional republic was specifically designed to insulate our national leaders from the masses,democracy has seeped up through the cracks and corroded everything we once deemed sacred about our political order. Prior to the Civil War, the electorate, essentially white Christian men, had access to local government. It was here, where men shared an intimacy born of family ties, shared religious beliefs, and common cultural signposts, that representative government was meant to touch our daily lives. With the social and cultural revolution which followed the emancipation, man’s relationship to political order was radically nationalized and democratized.
And believe me, Yerushalmi doesn’t use the term “democratized” in a flattering way. Here he clarifies that he isn’t opposed to the paternalistic democracy of the Founding Fathers in which selection of senators and even the president was not given directly to the people (or as he calls them, “the masses”):
The founding fathers themselves of course opposed “democracy” in its simple form and created a wonderfully elaborate system to shield government from mass democracy…
Here he expounds on the perniciousness of:
…Raw or radical democracy where all men and all ideas and all cultures are deemed equal and given equal voice. That is of course the agenda of the Left…
Yerushalmi of course opposes Israeli democracy as well, or at least the current version which accords rights to Israeli Palestinian citizens. Larry Cohler Esses, in a series he wrote for Jewish Week on the Stop the Madrassa campaign led by Yerushalmi, noted that the latter called for Israel to “cast off the yoke of liberal democracy.”
It should be noted that Meir Kahane maintained precisely the same dismissive attitude toward Israeli democracy, saying that if given a choice between the latter and a Jewish state he would choose the latter. In fact, Kahane was perfectly comfortable with a Jewish state that was not democratic. It should come as no surprise that during a session in which he deposed me for the libel lawsuit I mentioned above, he revealingly referred to Kahane with the honorific, “the Rov” (or “Rabbi”), a traditional Jewish way by which yeshiva students refer to an honored teacher.
Cohler Esses also notes that Yerushalmi believes that left-wing Jews:
…Destroy their host nations like a fatal parasite…One must admit readily that the radical liberal Jew is a fact of the West and a destructive one. Indeed, Jews in the main have turned their backs on the belief in G-d and His commandments as a book of laws for a particular and chosen people.
Most Israelis are raging Leftists, and this includes the so-called nationalists who found a home in the ‘right-wing’ Likud political bloc or one of the other smaller and more marginal right wing parties.
What’s extraordinary here is that even the far-right secular nationalists of Likud come under withering condemnation. The only true Jews and true Zionists can be the ultra-Orthodox like himself.
In a recent NPR interview, he either dissembles regarding his true views or he has radically reversed himself since he published earlier statements I’ve quoted previously in this blog. Here are some of his earlier legislative proposals regarding Islam in American life:
…Islam requires all Muslims to actively and passively support the replacement of America’s constitutional republic with a political system based upon Shari’a.
…Adherence to Islam as a Muslim is prima facie evidence of an act in support of the overthrow of the US Government through the abrogation, destruction, or violation of the US Constitution and the imposition of Shari’a on the American People.
HEREFORE, IT IS RESOLVED THAT: It shall be a felony punishable by 20 years in prison to knowingly act in furtherance of, or to support the, adherence to Shari’a.
The Congress of the United States of America shall declare the US at war with the Muslim Nation.
He has clearly soft-pedaled such extremist views in order to win acceptance for them in the context of this current anti-Muslim national legislative campaign. But compare the following claim about his legislation (from the NPR interview) with the above views and judge for yourself whether this leopard has changed its spots:
The law does not even criminalize the absolute practice of Shariah. In fact, you could go to Times Square and you could print out: I advocate Shariah, I even advocate, in theory, jihad against America and my statute does not touch you. The statute says the attorney general simply designates someone who practices a Shariah with terrorism component.
Given what I quoted above, you tell me whether or not the following statement from the interview is a lie:
Q:…Is your view of the measure [the anti-Sharia law bill] motivated in part by a view that Islam is inherently violent and that its adherents are inherently predisposed to violence because of their commitment to religious Islam?
Mr. YERUSHALMI: No.
And in this statement, he doesn’t exactly lie, but he deliberately deceives the listener into believing in his pro-Muslim altruism, which is in truth anything but:
I have represented pro bono Muslim-Americans.
He is indeed representing, as far as I know, three Muslim-Americans who were allegedly legal clients of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. They are suing CAIR. David Yerushalmi is on a political jihad against CAIR, which he views inaccurately as a pro-jihadi Muslim extremist organizations. So yes, he’s representing a grand total of three Muslim-Americans in a single case, but only because he believes it will advance his own anti-Muslim political agenda.
Let’s examine this statement too in light of what I quoted above:
I have stated on the record, the pietistic worship of the divine through Islamic worship, Jewish worship, Christian worship, atheistic worship or humanistic, is protected and absolutely sacrosanct in our system.
How can you claim the above, when you’ve also called for the U.S. Congress to declare war “on the Muslim nation?” There may be a poorly drawn distinction he is trying to make here between Islam as a religion and what he considers radical Islam which professes, again according to him, Islam as a political system. But you’d have to forgive most lay people for missing that distinction and believing he’s at war with all Islam.
In the interview he also makes the statement:
I…certainly can’t be a white supremacist, only because I’m an orthodox Jew…
That’s why I called him a “Jewish white supremacist” since that conveys that he isn’t the same as Richard Butler or the Aryan Nation. Nevertheless, his views, especially those regarding Islam, are not that dissimilar. Yes, he’s dressed up his ideology (or should I say, theology) with a certain level of intellectual rigor lacking in most white supremacists. But the fact that he is a racist cannot be denied without doing violence to the truth.
Of course a Jew can be a white supremacist if he denounces “liberal democracy,” disdains minorities, and believes in waging “war against Islam,” as he has said.
Let me also make absolutely clear, my quarrel with David Yerushalmi is purely political. It is a quarrel among Jews about the meaning of Jewish identity and the role of Israel in Jewish life. It is a battle over ideas. If he wants to have such a battle in a courtroom or any other venue, I’m prepared. Of course, Yerushalmi prefers to hold the battle in the courtroom because he doesn’t trust the rude democracy of the blogs and internet. He knows his ideas will lose in a free and fair debate as our founding fathers envisioned. So he resorts to legal threats. It’s really a reverse form of the term beloved by far-right pro-Israel advocates like Alan Dershowitz, lawfare. That is, it’s a form of political harrassment through abuse of the legal system to bring purely political arguments which should be resolved in the traditional American way such things are resolved; and instead attempting to bankrupt or otherwise intimidate the victim into silence.
Some people also call these legal actions SLAPP (Strategic Limitation Against Public Participation) suits which are often used by companies and other well-heeled individuals to limit discussion of issues sensitive to them.
The anti-jihadi lawyer’s claim of damage or losing business is a twisted version of what he attempts to do to his enemies. He knows how difficult it is for an individual blogger to retain pro bono legal counsel and take the years that such cases can involve. So he holds this over one’s head as a cudgel to stifle free speech and debate. Well, not this blogger. Not now. Not ever.
Finally, I have no personal malice whatsoever against Yerushalmi. I don’t know him personally. I don’t want to know him personally.
NOTE: Yerushalmi has withdrawn his lawsuit threat in a note he sent to my counsel.