Lawfare in retreat as Israeli colonel drops case against union

Moty Cristal explains “the language of power.” (Screenshot)

Israel’s strategy of using lawyers and courts around the world to harass Palestine solidarity activists appears to be coming totally unstuck. Two such high-profile “lawfare” cases hit the rocks this week.

An Israeli army colonel yesterday dropped his suit against a local National Health Service (NHS) trust and against Unison, the UK’s second-largest union.

Lt. Colonel (res.) Moty Cristal went to a London court in September seeking tens of thousands of pounds in damages, in an Israeli “lawfare” case against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

The case has been running since April 2012, when a workshop at which he had been due to speak was canceled by Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust. Union members had threatened to boycott the session because of Cristal’s links to the Israeli army.

Unison and the trust say the event was canceled because Cristal was once an official for the Israeli government. Unison has fairly strong policies in favor of BDS against Israel.

As I reported in September, Cristal’s “operational experience” in the Israeli army is no secret.

A Unison spokesperson told The Electronic Intifada today: “Unison is pleased that Professor Moty Cristal has decided to discontinue all of his claims against Unison and against Manchester Mental Health and Social Care NHS Trust. Unison has throughout the proceedings denied it has acted unlawfully and is glad the claimant has decided to drop his case.”

A spokesperson for the trust had no immediate comment, but said they would look to issue a statement soon. This post will updated when they do.

Via Twitter, Moty Cristal declined to comment.

Lawfare meltdown

Cristal claimed to the Jewish Chronicle yesterday that “he had received a letter from the health trust’s chief executive apologising for cancelling the lecture.”

A spokesperson for the trust told The Electronic Intifada he had no immediate comment on this claim.

Strangely, he also said that the goals of his suit had been broadly met: “following my case … Leaders of all the main political parties in the UK have expressed their clear opposition” to BDS.

But the leaders of the UK’s three main political parties have always been opposed to BDS, so this is all fairly unconvincing face-saving.

A hint towards the real reasons appears towards the end of the Jewish Chronicle article which states: “the JLC [Jewish Leadership Council] and other [pro-Israel] organisations will take a new approach to countering boycotters and groups opposed to Israel, using discourse rather than legal process.”

As I wrote here in April, the failure of the Ronnie Fraser case against the University and College Union was a watershed.

All the UK’s main Zionist groups backed the case against UCU (for merely discussing BDS), as did high-profile lawyer Anthony Julius, who took the case on pro bono.

It not only failed, but backfired spectacularly. A judge ruled it was “an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means.” The ripples of that defeat are still being felt now.

First, Julius was apparently kicked off the Cristal case after his incompetent showing for Fraser in court. Then, when Cristal reached court in September, his case soon ran into trouble.

The judge reportedly said he was “ ‘concerned’ by the number of legal issues the sides were debating and feared the case would ‘simply mushroom into a huge series of issues.’”

Farcical

This latest defeat for the “lawfare” strategy comes as another such case ran into trouble in Australia.

Two supporters of the academic boycott of Israel at Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies were being sued under Australian law designed to combat racist discrimination.

But in April the court struck out most of the case. And this week, the group of Israeli lawyers suing academic Jake Lynch ran into further difficulties.

The Australian reported that Israeli lawfare organization Shurat Hadin had “abandoned its ambitious bid to have the Federal Court ­declare the entire boycott, divestment, sanctions campaign against Israel discriminatory.”

The group was also ordered to put up an bond of 100,000 Australian dollars ($92,980) for Lynch’s costs should he win.

According to a leaked document, Shurat Hadin is a Mossad proxy, as I have previously reported.

Their case against Lynch at one point struck a farcical note, as they tried to argue that the Sydney University academic’s support for BDS had help deny Israelis the chance to see boycotting artists such as Santana, Elvis Costello and Snoop Dogg.

The Guardian Australia reported that this caused laughter in court.

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Comments

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Well I see that the ZIONIST do not believe in freedom of speech . And we see that if you stand up to these bullies that they will run and hide . They are cowards and bullies . A victory for the PALESTINE and the PALESTINIANS !! Together we can beat these bullies . Keep up the struggle !!

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Yes John, bullies are always cowards. Hunting in packs on a daily basis, in the occupied Palestinian territories, armed to the teeth, preferably hidden inside their monster tanks and backed up by warships, helicopters and drones, to a large extent paid for by the American taxpayer, is their usual cowardly modus operandi. God speed the tide which has slowly but surely begun to turn.

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

An associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He has been visiting Palestine regularly since 2004.