Adelson sues Wall Street Journal reporter for libel

Sheldon Adelson sued a Wall Street Journal reporter for libel for calling him “foul-mouthed.”

The lawsuit filed on Feb. 22 seeks “damages, including aggravated, exemplary and special damages,” for a December article co-written by Kate O'Keeffe. Only O’Keefe is named in the suit, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

“We will vigorously defend Ms. O'Keeffe in this lawsuit,” said a Wall Street Journal spokeswoman, declining to comment further.

Last August, Adelson sued the National Jewish Democratic Council for defamation after the organization quoted news reports alleging that he had approved of prostitution at his properties in Macau, China. The suit has not been settled.

Netanyahu announces support for controversial libel law amendment

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come out in support of a libel law amendment a day after Israeli journalists gathered to protest the bill.

The libel law amendment has passed a first reading in the Knesset, and was scheduled for its second and third readings Monday night. The measure relaxes the criteria for slander and libel, and more than triples the maximum damages for such infractions.

“As long as I’m prime minister, Israel will continue to be an exemplary democracy, and no one will tell anyone what to think, what to write, what to investigate and what to broadcast,” Netanyahu said Monday at a party meeting.

“We will preserve democracy, the freedom of expression and the rights of minorities,” he added.

On Sunday, reporters, editors and other Israeli media figures met to discuss their opposition to the libel law amendment as well as the upcoming closing of Israel’s second commercial television channel, Channel 10.

Amendment opponents say the measure will limit freedom of the press and stifle investigative journalism, and that the fines are excessive.

Hungarian court acquits Nazi hunter Zuroff of libel

Nazi hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff was acquitted by a Budapest court of libel charges leveled against him by an accused Hungarian Nazi war criminal.

Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was acquitted Tuesday by Judge Viktor Vadasz two days before his accuser, Dr. Sandor Kepiro, is scheduled to go on trial in Budapest Municipal Court. Kepiro is charged with being involved in the murder of more than1,200 Jews, Serbs and Gypsies during a raid by the wartime Hungarian Gendarmerie at Novi Sad in 1942.

Kepiro, 97, filed suit after Zuroff, the head of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, submitted documents to the Hungarian courts in 2006 regarding Kepiro’s alleged role in the murders of 1,246 civilians in Novi Sad. Most of the victims were taken to the Danube River and shot in January 1943.

Kepiro was found guilty of involvement twice—once by the pre-Nazi Hungarian courts, and again after the war, in 1946. By then he allegedly had fled via Austria to Argentina. He returned to Budapest in 1996, and Zuroff, who has been searching for Nazi war criminals under the Wiesenthal Center’s Operation Last Chance program, located him.

In his verdict, Vadasz noted that Zuroff had acted in good faith by first contacting the Hungarian prosecutors after discovering that Kepiro had returned to Hungary from Argentina before notifying the media.

“Needless to say, I am relieved to have been acquitted, but the most important issue is Kepiro’s guilt, which will be hopefully established by a criminal court in his trial which begins Thursday morning,” Zuroff said in a statement. “This has been a long and frustrating process, which began in the summer of 2006, but I am hopeful that justice will finally be achieved. That is what the victims of the massacre in Novi Sad deserve and that is what I have been fighting for from the very beginning of this process.”

Budapest court tosses Zuroff libel case

A Budapest court tossed a libel case against Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff when the 97-year-old plaintiff, Sandor Kepiro, did not appear for the final court date.

The Central District Court in the Pest district dismissed the case Thursday, having warned Kepiro and his attorney on the first court date, Oct. 8, that the trial would be over if they did not show up on Dec. 16.

Kepiro’s lawyer, Zetenyi Zsolt, is likely to appeal the decision within the required eight days, Zuroff’s attorney, Marton Rosta, told JTA.

Kepiro filed suit after Zuroff, the head of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, submitted documents to the Hungarian courts in 2006 regarding Kepiro’s alleged role in the murders of 1,246 civilians in Novi Sad. Most of the victims, including Jews, Serbs and Roma, were taken to the Danube River and shot in January 1943.

Kepiro reportedly was found guilty twice of involvement—once by the pre-Nazi Hungarian courts and after the war in absentia.

In his suit, Kepiro charged that Zuroff had proclaimed him guilty before a trial.

The dismissal was a relief, Zuroff told JTA in a phone call from Budapest, though he noted the possibility of an appeal.

“I consider this whole thing to be legal harassment and diversion from the issue,” Zuroff said. “The key issue is the prosecution of Kepiro. I will not be satisfied until he is prosecuted.”

Zuroff said he expected to receive news by late January as to whether the prosecutor’s office in Budapest would file war crimes charges against Kepiro.

Swedish paper published modern-day blood libel

With the Palestinian family cited in the Swedish daily Aftonbladet now denying ever claiming that their son’s organs were “stolen” by the Israeli military, maybe the lurid and grotesque accusation published by the newspaper in mid-August will disappear.

Maybe the idea of an international Jewish conspiracy stretching from Israel to New Jersey harvesting the flesh of Palestinian innocents will be forgotten except as a 21st-century footnote to the odious blood libel tradition. It’s a tradition that dates back to Apion of Alexandria, a contemporary of Jesus who accused Jews of kidnapping non-Jewish captives to be fattened and eaten at the Sabbath feast.

But perhaps this screed is only a harbinger of a new epidemic of lies against Jews the likes of which we haven’t seen since the days of Hitler and Stalin.

During the Middle Ages, the libel of Jewish ritual murder was carved into the very stones of Frankfurt’s city wall. In 2009, it’s hard to see a difference between the virulent hostility toward the Jewish state by Sweden’s largest left-leaning paper and the newspaper of the country’s far right, the Svenska Motstandsrorelsen.

Sweden’s ambassador to Israel immediately denounced the obviously phony blood libel, but then had the ground cut out from under her by her own government’s assertion that it had to stand behind “constitutionally protected free speech.”

What a curious time to stand behind freedom of the press. During World War II, Stockholm took a different view when it censored newspapers to prevent publication of stories critical of “neutral” Sweden providing Nazi Germany with iron ore and ball bearings, as well as safe passage for German soldiers posing as Red Cross personnel.

Are the baseless charges splashed across a double spread in the style section of Aftonbladet anti-Semitic? Of course, but that’s not the worst of it.

Sweden’s government, through its defense of the indefensible, has sanctioned Aftonbladet’s trafficking in political anti-Semitism—a very different beast than the everyday kind of prejudice still experienced by Jews or African Americans and other minorities.

Historically, this virulent ideology not only has justified social and economic discrimination against Jews. In Europe, it also opened the door to ghettoization, pogroms, deportations, yellow stars and, ultimately, mass murder.

Make no mistake about it, there is an international conspiracy afoot in the 21st century, but it’s a not a secret Jewish plot out of the pages of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” It’s an open coalition of Palestinian extremists and their collaborators in Europe and North America who don’t even try to hide their coordinated efforts to make Israel into a pariah state—“the Jew among nations”—as a prelude to elimination.

For 20 years, Palestinian extremists and their Mideast allies, including Tehran’s mullah-cracy, have been accusing Israelis and Jews of murdering non-Jewish innocents to profit from their blood. A few years ago, the Iran government’s TV channel Sahara aired a weekly drama titled “Zahra’s Blue Eyes” that portrayed “Zionist” doctors kidnapping little Palestinian children to harvest their organs.

These fantasies, increasingly marketed as fact, are part of a broader Palestinian hate literature claiming that the AIDS virus is an Israeli ethnic bomb designed to selectively murder Africans and Arabs. There is even the new charge in Palestinian media outlets funded by the governments of Denmark and the Netherlands that the swine flu is an Israeli/Jewish conspiracy.

Worthy of winning our new Ignoble Prize for this year’s vilest anti-Jewish libel, Aftonbladet has managed to mainstream a favorite Palestine libel, as well as update it, by accusing New Jersey rabbis arrested for money laundering of involvement with Israeli soldiers in an international Jewish organ harvesting ring.

The revived libel has now made the leap from medieval times, resurfacing in postmodern Europe.

(Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Historian Harold Brackman is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.)