Posted in: Culture Wars & Censorship
Published on Dec 23, 2007 by Phyllis Chesler
For Whom The Bell Tolls: Ehrenfeld vs Bin Mahfouz
“The Saudis are Coming, the Saudis are Coming”–and this time they mean to tax and silence us via lawsuit not via military action. Paul Revere’s pre-Revolutionary alarm about “The British are Coming” might still apply since British Law is now actively aiding and abetting the Saudi Crusade against Freedom of Speech in the West.
Where are all the First Ammendment fanatics when we need them? Actually–they are all here. (See below for the incredible line-up of organizations that submitted an Amicus Curiae brief).
First, for our hero. Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld wrote a book “Funding Evil. How Terrorism Is Financed–and How to Stop It.” One of the funders whom she named is Khalid Salim Bin Mahfouz–who sued Ehrenfeld in London because, although Ehrenfeld does not live, work, or publish in England, 23 people based in the UK bought her book on the Internet.
This means that if anyone writes a book in America or in Europe which tells the truth about Islamic terrorism, that both author and publisher can be sued in London for “libel” where libel laws favor the accuser. However, if an author is not a multi-millionnaire and cannot afford to defend herself or to risk being ordered to pay for both her own and for the plaintiff’s barrister–she is royally screwed. She might as well give up telling the truth about Islam and publishers might restrict their titles to gardening and the occult. (See a short film about Ehrenfeld’s struggle with Libel Tourism produced by Rob Pfaltzgraff. HERE: http://www.thelibeltourist.com/cgi-local/content.cgi )
The brave and determined Ehrenfeld, whom no philanthropist, corporation, government entity or defense fund supported, chose not to defend herself in London. It was too expensive, and also too dangerous, given how often the London courts find for plaintiffs in such matters. Thus, Bin Mahfouz won in London but only by default; however, the interest continues to accrue. Ehrenfeld instead sued for a declaratory judgement in New York State. She and her lawyer, Daniel J. Kornstein, wanted the Court to determine that the London-based default judgement against her is un-enforceable in New York–just in case Mahfouz decided to come after her here to enforce the London judgement.
Every major publisher and bookseller, including Amazon. Com, signed onto Ehrenfeld’s lawsuit in an Amicus Brief. The signatories include Advance Publications, The American Society of Newspaper Editors, The Association of American Publishers, The Author’s Guild, The European Publisher’s Council, Forbes, Gannett Co., The Newspaper Association of America, The Online News Association, The Radio-Television News Directors Association, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, The World Press Freedom Committee.
On December 20, 2007,Judge Carmen Ciparik, writing for a unanimous Court, determined that “there is no personal jurisdiction yet over Mahfouz in New York State.”The court’s decision may be read HERE http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2007/2007_09961.htm Lawyers assure me that the ruling is along technical, jurisdictional grounds and responds narrowly to the question put to it by the Second Circuit of whether New York State has jurisdiction over Mahfouz.
We do not know how the New York Courts would rule if Mahfouz actually came here and tried to enforce his London judgement. Also, the Federal Appeals Court, Second Circuit, did not ask the New York State Court of Appeals to “opine upon the propriety of English libel law or its differences from United States and particularly New York State counterparts.” Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld said: “This is a sad day for all Americans. Failing to protect my rights for freedom of speech under the Constitution’s First Ammendment laws, the New York Court of Appeals opened the door to those wishing to curtail the U.S. press and media willingness and ability to freely investigate and report on matters important to our survival as a free nation.”
Dr. Ehrenfeld's lawyer, Daniel Kornstein of Manhattan, said: “The chill continues. That’s the danger and the risk and the problem that we tried to stress. It creates a sword of Damocles that inhibits authors and publishers, and readers can’t read about it.”
Ehrenfeld, (Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer, the David Project) yesterday, Mark Steyn today; which author will be sued tommorrow?
Paradoxically, the same internet which allows for more freedom of speech is now also responsible for chilling that very speech. We have got to put our money where our principles are. The West will have to start funding authors like Ehrenfeld just as if she were a prize fighter or football player–or a national resource. Until or unless this happens, ever fewer authors and publishers will be willing to take the enormous risk of speaking truth to power.
Dr. Ehrenfeld may be contacted at www.acdemocracy.org , through Audrey Mullen at firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 703-548-1160, or through her website: email@example.com
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