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Neocon ‘Libel Lawfare’ Conference Refutes Own Premise

By Matt Duss

"Neocon ‘Libel Lawfare’ Conference Refutes Own Premise"

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Despite the notable absence of Sen. Arlen Specter — who pulled out due to a “scheduling conflict” — today’s Middle East Forum-sponsored Libel Lawfare conference went on as planned.

In a press release on Sen Specter’s withdrawal, MEF responded to charges from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that the conference was an “anti-Islam” event:

The conference is not an anti-Islam event, but addresses the phenomenon of libel lawfare, being waged by Islamists who seek to censor discussion of Islam, radical Islam, terrorism, and the sources of terrorist funding….CAIR alleges that the conference is based on the premise that “American Muslims are involved in a concerted effort to suppress free speech by misusing the American legal system.” This is CAIR’s fantasy, not a view held by the conference organizers.

CAIR is demonstrating, once again, why such a conference as this one, protecting free speech from Islamists, is necessary.

Did you follow that? The point of the conference is not to say that American Muslims are involved in a concerted effort to suppress free speech, but the fact that American Muslims have expressed anger over the conference proves the need for a conference protecting free speech from Islamists. All doubletalk aside, a brief perusal of conference materials showed that American Muslims being involved in a concerted effort to suppress free speech by misusing the American legal system was, in fact, the intended message of the conference.

In her welcome address, Brooke Goldstein, the director of Middle East Forum’s Legal Project, seemed to be aware of the fact that holding a conference on the creeping threat of Islamists using the legal system to stifle speech critical of Islam amounted to a pretty strong refutation of the idea that Islamists are using the legal system to stifle speech critical of Islam, but she darkly warned that we might not even be able to have such a conference five years from now. (A panelist later responded “Or even one year from now!”)

Interestingly, in her description of various methods of “lawfare” Islamists use, Goldstein included the successful lawsuit brought by Palestinians against Israel for its “separation wall.” In 2004, the International Court of Justice found that the construction of the wall involved “the widespread confiscation and destruction of Palestinian property” violated international law and amounted to an illegal land grab. Whatever one thinks of the merits of the case or the ruling itself, it seems that the Palestinians fighting the occupation through the international legal system, rather than through terrorism, is something that should be applauded rather than condemned. It gives you an idea of the sort of careless conflation of movements and threats in which Middle East Forum specializes.

Speaking of careless conflation, neocon activist Frank Gaffney used his allotted time on the morning’s panel to discuss the threat to America posed by the twin forces of Islamic sharia — his personal obsession — and “secular transnationalists” like Harold Koh, President Obama’s nominee for the State Department’s legal adviser. “Our sovereignty and constitutional freedoms are under assault,” Gaffney said, “from what I think [are] best described as transnationalist forces. They come in two strains: The religious and the secular.”

GAFFNEY: Brooke has already mentioned one of the manifestations of the internationalists of the religious strain, in their effort to constrict free speech elsewhere and around the world, and in the US through sharia blasphemy laws. [...]

This is being made possible, both the sharia blasphemy program and the other aspects of sharia, of course by the secular strain of transnationalism, one that holds that the United States must be subject to international laws, rulings, and even norms. [...]

To put a fine point on it, we have before the United States Senate as we speak a nominee that is a radical adherent to this notion of secular transationalism, Harold Koh, the recently departed dean of the Yale Law School, who President Obama would like to have to be the State Department’s legal adviser, a position from which he would have unprecedented opportunities to promote this form of secular transationalism. And I think we will see much more of this sort of insinuation of this sharia programs, sharia blasphemy laws, and other forms of international norming in our society if indeed people like Harold Koh — who has also been bandied about as a prospective Supreme Court nominee — are given positions of great trust and influence. [...]

This, in other words ladies and gentlemen, constitutes a pincer movement, between the secularists on the one hand and the religious transnationalists on the other. Wielding lawfare as the Lilliputians wielded their tiny strands to secure and immobilize Gulliver, it is aimed at the very heart of our sovereignty and indeed our freedoms as they seek to remake the world in their image.

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