Yale Press Prevails In Suit

by Paul Bass | August 15, 2007 2:33 PM |

book%20cover%20hamas.jpgYale Press fought back against a SLAPP by an alleged terror front group — and won.

A group called KinderUSA had sued the Press for a book that accuses the group of being a front to raise money for the terrorist group Hamas in order to skirt U.S. laws.

KinderUSA filed suit against the Press in L.A. on April 26 over the publication of Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad. The suit also targeted the book’s author, Matthew Levitt; and the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, where Levitt works. The suit claimed that Levitt fabricated facts about the charity’s role in funding money to terrorist groups abroad.

Yale Press struck back, filing a so-called anti-“SLAPP” motion. SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.” The term refers to a tactic, often employed by corporations, to muzzle public criticism by filing libel or slander suits against critics that have no legal basis, but that can cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to defend. California has an anti-SLAPP law designed to counter such lawsuits. Click here to read a summary of the law; it enables targets of SLAPP suits to file motions to require SLAPPers to prove they have a viable case. If not, the SLAPPers have to pay the target’s legal costs.

Yale Press — along with Levitt and his foundation — filed such a motion in this case. And they hired a top-tier First Amendment lawyer, Floyd Abrams, signaling their intention to fight back.

After that motion was filed, Kinder withdrew its suit.

Click here to read Yale’s press release about its victory in the case.

KinderUSA’s suit focused on pages 151-2 “and the respective footnotes” in Levitt’s book. The section of the book describes how the U.S. shut down American-based charities accused of funneling funds to terrorist groups like Hamas and al-Qaeda, charities such as the Holy Land Foundation.

The complaint quoted from the pages in question: “Even after the closure of the Holy Land Foundation in 2001, other U.S.-based charities continued to fund Hamas. One of the organizations that has appeared to rise out of the ashes of the HLFRD is KinderUSA.” The group claims that the accusation is false.

In the book, in a subsequent part not mentioned in the lawsuit, Levitt states that two leaders of KinderUSA were also involved with HLFRD: KinderUSA Executive Director Dalell Mohmed served as a project director at the previous organization, and KinderUSA founder Riad Abdelkarim as a governing board member. Both people were deported from Israel on suspicions of ties to Hamas, Levitt’s book reports.

ff_levitt_matthew2.jpgLevitt (pictured) writes and speaks widely, including on national TV, about terrorism and front groups for organizations that carry out suicide attacks, like Hamas and al-Qaed. A former U.S. Treasury official, he worked on shutting down American funding pipelines to foreign groups identified by the government as sponsors of terrorism.

The KinderUSA complaint also deemed as false Levitt’s statement that “the formation of KinderUSA highlights an increasingly common trend: banned charities continuing to operate by incorporating under new names in response to designation as terrorist entities or in an effort to evade attention. This trend is also seen with groups raising money for al-Qaeda.” The complaint charges that a related footnote falsely ties two KinderUSA officers to a discussion of al-Qaeda “without informing the reader that there is no allegation that KinderUSA is tied to al-Qaeda.”

Click here to read the original complaint filed by the group’s attorney.

KinderUSA describes itself on its website as “a group of physicians and humanitarian relief workers… believing that all children are born with fundamental freedoms and are entitled to the rights of survival, health, and education. KinderUSA puts into action programs to ensure these rights are not forgotten.” The site cites relief work with children in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.

In a press release, KINDER Board Chairwoman Laila Al-Marayati claimed the book “will take food out of the mouths of hungry children in Palestine that so urgently need our help.”

Her group’s complaint sought $500,000 in compensatory damages, plus unspecific punitive damages and legal expenses.

It also claimed that “Yale University Press did not conduct any fact-checking” in connection with the book.

“Of course, the book was vetted,” Yale Press chief John Donatich responded at the time the suit was filed. “We took it through peer review, as with all our books.”

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