Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Khaled Abu Toameh won a victory in a small Jerusalem courtroom this week when Ted Belman at last agreed that his defamatory articles, social media posts, and newsletters were factually baseless. Belman is now required to make public apology to Abu Toameh within 14 days. If Belman again defames the award-winning Israeli Arab journalist and distinguished senior Gatestone fellow, he will have to pay 5000 shekels per defamatory item published, in compensation to Khaled.

By way of disclaimer, there was a personal victory here as well, as Belman’s countersuit against Abu Toameh, this author and Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks was rejected out of hand by the court. The interesting thing about this is that I was approached by the 86-year-old Belman in court on Monday. “Who are you?” Ted asked me. “Are you the enemy?”

He was suing me, but didn’t even know me.

Here we must go back and explain why Ted was suing me. Ted Belman, you see, asserted that Khaled was running a spy ring in Israel for the Jordanian king, and that I was one of his operatives, the other being Bat-Zion Susskind Sacks. Well goodness I’m relieved. An Israeli court has rejected a lawsuit accusing me of working on behalf of His Majesty, King Abdullah of Jordan. Not guilty! Acquitted.

But I digress. The main thing is that all three of us—me, Batzi, and of course, Khaled—are victorious.

So ends this courtroom saga that began in late 2017, when Abu Toameh had finally had enough of the defamatory campaign of words and memes waged against him since at least 2013. Readers of this column will recall my exposé of self-proclaimed “putative prime minister of Jordan” Mudar Zahran (see for instance, HERE, HERE, and HERE). Zahran, banned from entering Israel as a security risk, tried to enlist me in his smear campaign against Khaled Abu Toameh. I refused, but Ted Belman apparently did not.

What followed was an endless campaign of baseless defamation, an ongoing attack that lasted seven full years. Articles were published in numerous publications, all smearing Khaled. The defamation of Khaled was an ongoing theme in newsletters, Belman's personal website, and on Facebook, too. The worst part of this defamation, of course, is that Khaled Abu Toameh is a fine person: the only Israeli Arab journalist I know of who writes the honest truth about Israel and the Middle East.

Khaled is one of the good guys. And everyone on our side knows this. Which is why Khaled Abu Toameh has won plaudits and numerous awards by distinguished bodies. From Wikipedia:

Recognition and awards

·         Abu Toameh received the 2014 Daniel Pearl Award. Abu Toameh shared Israel Media Watch's 2010 award for media criticism with the satirical Israeli website Latma.

·         On 10 May 2011, Khaled Abu Toameh won the Hudson Institute Award for Courage in Journalism.

·         Canada's Toronto Sun columnist Salim Mansur praised Abu Toameh for his courage and knowledge of the politics of the Arab world.

·         Abu Toameh is the 2013 recipient of the Emet award given by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

·         He was chosen on the Algemeiner Journal's 2013 list of The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life.

All during this trying time, while Khaled was being smeared, important people came to the fore to defend the embattled journalist. People like Caroline Glick, Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Ruthie Blum, and Harold Rhode, couldn’t offer enough praise for Khaled. And still, this creep Zahran spread horrible lies about Khaled to all and sundry through anyone he could rope into his web.

Well, all’s well that ends well, and in that small Jerusalem courtroom on October 26, 2020, justice won out with victory on many counts:

1. Ted Belman finally admitted that he has no evidence to support the libelous publications.

2. Ted Belman agreed to publish an apology and retraction, admitting that what he published was factually baseless.

3. Ted's main witness, the Jordanian fraudster Mudar Zahran, who is banned from Israel for security reasons, never got a chance to testify before the court, not even by video.

4. Ted's counterclaim against Khaled Abu Toameh, Varda Meyers Epstein, and Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks, was rejected.

5. The court ruled that if Ted republishes the same material against Khaled Abu Toameh, he will pay 5000 shekels in compensation per piece.

After three years of refusing to do so, Ted will finally apologize and admit that what he published about Khaled Abu Toameh was factually baseless. Assuming Ted fulfills his promise to the court, he now has 14 days to issue the apology and retraction. This is good because Ted’s own lawyer admitted in court that Belman had no proof to back up any of the nasty things he published about Khaled. It’s icing on the cake that Belman’s counterclaim was rejected. And if he tries to republish the defamatory items, he’s going to get slapped with a fine of 5000 shekels per article. Pretty nifty.

Judge Moriah Cherka, addressing Belman, said that what he did was unethical and against journalistic standards, because Ted never sought Khaled's response before publication. Judge Cherka also noted that Khaled Abu Toameh is a renowned and respected journalist, therefore it is inconceivable that his credibility should be questioned or harmed.

Nadav Haetzni, representative for the plaintiff, Khaled, said, "At long last, this grievous smear campaign against one of Israel's leading journalists is over. This was a campaign aimed at destroying this man's reputation; it caused him great damage and suffering, but in the end, this was a victory and we hope others will learn from it."

“For me,” said Khaled Abu Toameh, “The lawsuit was never about money, but about getting Belman to publicly admit that every bit of what he published about me was factually baseless. I initiated the lawsuit as a matter of principle, to defend ethical standards in journalism, and to serve as a deterrent to others,” said Khaled.

The judge made a point of rebuking Ted Belman in court, for behaving in an unethical manner. Which is as it should be. Journalists, and bloggers like Ted Belman, need to check the facts before they publish, to ascertain the truth, and to seek a response from the person in question, when preparing to publish something that might be defamatory.

Let us hope that this lawsuit will underscore this point for anyone who takes to the blogosphere to randomly and without proof, trash-talk and damage others. This is wrong and should not be countenanced in a country ruled by law. And on Monday, in that small Jerusalem courtroom, a judge did in fact, determine that such baseless defamation would not be countenanced in Israel.

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