THE SHECHITA CASE
In 2017, the Flanders and Wallonia regional councils in Belgium adopted legislation which stipulated that from 2019, any slaughter that has not been preceded by animal stunning will be banned. The reason given for this ban was based on considerations of “animal welfare,” but the implications are grave for Jewish ritual slaughter according to the rules of kashrut. The Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium (CCOJB) filed a lawsuit in response to this legislation.
Belgium’s Constitutional Court decided that it needs to determine whether the ban on religious slaughter is compatible with European law. European legislation allows for religious slaughter as an exception to the rule of prior stunning, provided that religious slaughter is carried out in an approved slaughterhouse. Accordingly, Belgium’s Constitutional Court referred the appeal against the kosher slaughter ban for additional review by the European Court of Justice (CJEU).
In light of this development, the Association believes that this is a legal case with significant implications that may affect all European Jews. We are therefore considering joining this legal case and are consulting an Israeli lawyer specializing in EU law before deciding how to proceed.
Prof. Bilewicz Case
On April 9, 2021, the Court of Appeal in Warsaw dismissed all claims in the lawsuit initiated by Cezary Krysztopa against Prof. Michał Bilewicz. The Court shared in full the position of the Warsaw Regional Court taken in its judgment of November 19, 2020, in which the Regional Court found the lawsuit baseless. The judgment is final.
The Court of Appeal stressed in particular that in his comments Prof. Bilewicz did not go beyond the limits of free speech and was raising a matter of antisemitism which should be considered an issue of great public importance.
Professor Michał Bilewicz is the Head of the Center for Research on Prejudice at the University of Warsaw, an interdisciplinary research unit where social psychologists and sociologists collaborate on topics related to prejudice, antisemitism, racism, and discrimination. He is one of the world’s top experts on psychological and social aspects of antisemitism. Professor Bilewicz is a public figure and actively participates in public debates on the Holocaust, Polish antisemitism and Polish-Jewish relations.
In March 2018, during a public lecture at the POLIN Museum in Warsaw, Professor Bilewicz presented a drawing by Cezary Krysztopa, a well-known caricaturist closely linked to national and right-wing circles in Poland. He called Krysztopa a “notorious antisemite” and indicated that his drawings provoke a wave of vicious antisemitism on-line. These statements were based on the entire series of Krysztopa’s earlier drawings and public statements. Krysztopa sued Professor Bilewicz for defamation and copyright infringement.
The case was managed by Adv. Michal Jabłoński from the Warsaw office of the Dentons Law Firm, and coordinated by Dr. Aleksandra Gliszczyńska-Grabias, who co-leads Dentons’ Warsaw public interest strategic litigation program, and also serves as a member of the IJL’s Board of Governors.
The IJL supported the case and has also joined the proceedings as amicus curiae.
PROF. GRABOWSKI AND PROF. ENGELKING CASE
On January 12, 2021, the last hearing in the court case of Prof. Jan Grabowski and Prof. Engelking ‒ well-known researchers of the Holocaust ‒ took place. Prof. Grabowski and Prof. Barbara Engelking were sued for their academic publication, “Dalej jest noc. Losy Żydów w wybranych powiatach okupowanej Polski” (“Beyond Is the Night ‒ the Fate of Jews in Selected Local Government Districts in Occupied Poland”), published in 2018 by the Centre for Holocaust Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The suit was brought by Mrs. Filomena Leszczyńska. The case proved to be one of the most broadly discussed court cases by the public and by the media in Poland and abroad, as the explosive issue involves an attempt to legally determine historical memory. The judgment of the Warsaw Regional Court is expected on February 9, 2021.
In her lawsuit, Filomena Leszczyńska claims that her late uncle (Edward Malinowski ‒ the mayor of the village of Malinowo in the Bielsk Podlaski district during WWII) was described in the book in a negative and false way. She claims that this portrayal constituted a violation of her personal rights.
In the written response of the defendants (submitted in July 2019), the Court was presented evidence – a recording – of which the plaintiff’s lawyers had not been aware. This recording includes an extensive interview given by Estera Drogicka, recorded and archived as part of the Visual History Archive Shoah Foundation. In this recording, Drogicka speaks about the plaintiff’s uncle – Edward Malinowski – stating that he participated in denouncing to the Germans the Jews who were hiding in the forest. In Dalej jest noc, Prof. Grabowski and Prof. Engelking refer to this statement.
The main line of defense in the case was as follows:
– the plaintiff is in fact suing Holocaust scholars for their claims on issues that are, and should continue to be, subject to historical . Within the field of science and research, including social and historical sciences, disputes over historical truth are the driving force of scientific progress. Research results help eliminate unreliable statements and theses, but – it needs to be emphasized – it cannot be denied, in principle, that particular results may prove to be incorrect as indicated by further research. At the same time, the whole conversation and polemic should take place in fora appropriate to science and the methodology of scientific research (conferences, symposia, articles, and reviews) and not through defamation lawsuits.
– the defendants do not deny the plaintiff’s right to seek judicial protection for her legal claims, even if the claims are dubious. However, the court is not the proper forum for resolving contentious issues, in particular since it threatens to limit the freedom of scientific research, causing the so-called chilling effect. It should be remembered that the plaintiff demands payment of compensation in the amount of PLN 100,000 (ca. EUR 25,000) and publication of an apology in the national media (which in itself would be a very severe financial sanction for the defendants). This obviously translates into direct violation of freedom of speech and of scientific debate.
The case is managed by Adv. Michal Jabłoński from the Warsaw office of the Dentons Law Firm, and coordinated by Dr. Aleksandra Gliszczyńska-Grabias, who co-manages Dentons’ Warsaw public interest strategic litigation program and also serves as an IJL Board member. The IJL supports this case.
University of Turin Case
Starting in 2015, the University of Turin hosted a series of openly anti-Israel and antisemitic seminars and conferences on Israel and the Arab-Israel conflict. These were organized by “Progetto Palestina” (Palestine Project), an anonymous student movement that is very popular on Facebook. The University granted University Credits (CFU) to the students who participated in the seminars.
Adv. Barbara Pontecorvo, who is an Association member and also heads the Solomon-Observatory of Discriminations based in Rome, last year took legal action against the University of Turin. As a result, the Court explicitly confirmed the illegitimacy of the recognition of credits. This year, the Center assisted Adv. Pontecorvo, at her request, including financially, to continue her legal action against the University. Adv. Pontecorvo filed a special legal action asking for an administrative remedy with the office of the President of the Republic and the Ministry of Education
On May 31, 2019, Adv. Pontecorvo filed an additional brief with the Office of the President of the Republic and the Ministry of Education, stressing the illegitimacy of the academic credits granted by the University of Turin. She also demanded the cancellation of the credits already granted.
On July 9, 2019, Adv. Pontecorvo and her Association filed a brief with the Office of the President of the Republic, asking that Project Palestine Association be removed from the Registrar of the student associations of the University.
The Castle Hill Publishers Case
Castle Hill Publishers is a company that specializes in publishing and disseminating literature on Holocaust denial. The company was originally registered in England, but today it operates through a website that originates from a server that is probably located in the United States. Castle Hill founder Germar Rudolf, who in the past was imprisoned in Germany for Holocaust denial, now lives in the United States where he is married to an American citizen. He continues to distribute Holocaust denial literature.
To address this issue, the Center contacted, with the help of attorney Alan Sachs, two English lawyers, Anthony Julius and Trevor Asserson, who specialize in criminal law in England in general, and the Holocaust in particular. Anthony Julius informed us that in the absence of Holocaust denial as a criminal offense in English law, we would have difficulty moving forward in legal proceedings. He believes it would be more effective and relevant to work with the ISPs and social media companies to prevent the spreading of the Holocaust denial materials through their Internet platforms. A similar approach was advocated in Adv. Yishai’s conversation with Trevor Asserson and several other lawyers from his office.
The Center continues to be in touch with them and is exploring options for action, especially regarding the prevention of Holocaust content distribution through the Internet.
The decision to take action against Twitter in Germany is related to
Germany’s strong legal basis for dealing with this issue, with the help of a law that came into effect in October 2017 requiring companies like Twitter to remove antisemitic content within 24 hours of being brought to their attention or face possible fines. The Association hired a lawyer in Germany specializing in Internet law to assist with this matter.
Since August 2019, the Center sent the lawyer more than 20 sets of files that contained antisemitic tweets, and in accordance with the procedure laid down in German law, he forwarded them to Twitter for removal. About 30 percent were removed immediately, and the plan is to follow the German law procedure regarding the remaining files. In general, the continuation of the process entails an appeal to the relevant German authorities arguing that Twitter has refused to remove antisemitic tweets. German law imposes heavy fines on such violations.
The Center is continuing, through professional data mining, to find additional materials that we will send the lawyer for further legal action against Twitter.
The Enforcement Authorities Project
Many Antisemitic incidents do not receive proper attention from enforcement agencies. This Association project is designed to create a conglomerate of lawyers who act on our behalf in various countries. The idea is that following the occurrence of an Antisemitic event, the lawyers will petition the relevant authorities and ask them to fulfill their duty to investigate and prosecute those who committed the Antisemitic acts. We have recruited lawyers in Germany and in France, and we expect to engage a lawyer in Hungary in the near future. In Germany we are working with Senior Prosecutor Claudia Vanoni, who was appointed as antisemitism commissioner of the prosecution of the Federal State of Berlin and we have already submitted five requests to open criminal investigations. We want to expand this project to additional countries and hope to secure funding for this purpose in the near future.
The Lukov Parade
Extremist right-wingers hold an annual parade in Sofia, Bulgaria in memory of General Hristo Lukov, who led the pro-Nazi Union of Bulgarian National Legions in the 1930s and early 1940s. Attempts have been made to prevent the parade from being held, but without success. The cancellation of the parade by the Mayor of Sofia in 2017 was also rejected by the Bulgarian court.
At the request of the Community Security Department, the Center led discussions with a local lawyer working with the Jewish community in Sofia, Adv. Magdalena Valova, as well as with other relevant parties, and examined the full range of options available for action. Although we were unable to prevent the parade in 2019, we did formulate a legal course of action that will prevent the parade in 2020 if the W.J.C. decides to implement the plan with us.
Neo-Nazi NS Wrestling Club
The NS Fight Club is associated with the “National Resistance” group—a Bulgarian neo-Nazi organization. We are working with Adv. Valova on legal action to shut down this club. The W.J.C. is currently exploring a political way to handle the matter and we expect them to contact us if needed.
The VK Social Media Network
VK is a Russian online social media and social networking service based in St. Petersburg that is available in numerous languages. Social network research showed that antisemitic activists who were blocked on mainstream social networks were using VK in various European countries. Accordingly, the W.J.C. asked us to use the mechanism we set up in Germany (described earlier) to file complaints about the use of VK.
Our attorney filed complaints about antisemitism and Holocaust denial in August 2019, and we are awaiting the outcome of these proceeding.
Thc case against dr. Ewa Kurek
Legal representation of members of the Jewish Religious Community in Poland in civil case against dr. Ewa Kurek, a notorius antisemite, for her negationist public speeches (also on youtube) and publications, also spreading antisemitic prejudice and hatred.
Dr. Kurek is a Polish Holocaust historian. In 2016, she circulated a petition calling for exhumation of the victims of the Jedwabne pogrom. In 2018, she received an award from a private U.S.-based Polish organization that was to have been presented to her at a Polish consulate in New York. Following media criticism, the presentation ceremony was cancelled. Some of her public lectures and interviews are titled „How the Jews created a fairytale of Holocaust”.
In November 2019 her new book Powrót do Jedwabnego (“The Comeback to Jedwabne”) was published, with dozens of public places refusing her and other two co-authors to organize promotion events at their premises. The book includes direct questioning of the official Institute of National Remembrance Prosecutor’s investigation results that proved Polish perpetration of the Jedwabne Pogrom.
In 2006, her habilitation dissertation titled Poza granicą solidarności: Stosunki polsko-żydowskie, 1939–1945 (“Beyond the Border of Solidarity: Polish-Jewish relations, 1939-1945”) was rejected by John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. It had nonetheless been published as a book, and attracted some notoriety and criticism in media, as Kurek wrote that in the first years of the war Jews “had fun in the ghettos”, in which they enjoyed autonomy negotiated from the Germans.
IJL to the Polish government: Poland’s Holocaust Law should not prohibit “historical expression and research on all aspects of the Holocaust”
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Morawiecki and Minister Ziobro, the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (IJL) is appealing for implementation of guidelines on the enforcement of the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance by the civil division of the prosecutor’s office in accordance with the declaration of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
Today, on September 4, 2018, the IJL, a global organization committed to combating anti-Semitism and protecting human rights, in a letter to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and the Minister of Justice and Prosecutor General Zbigniew Ziobro, has appealed for the issuance of guidelines on enforcement by the civil division of the prosecutor’s office of the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance in accordance with the Joint Declaration of the Prime Ministers of Poland and Israel of June 27, 2018.
IJL has been involved in the issue of the Amendment of the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance from the outset of the controversy and discussions surrounding it. Two months ago, when the Act caused an understandable uproar around the world, in addition to speeches by Department of State of the United States and the US Ambassador to the United Nations, the IJL acted as a “friend of the court” and submitted an amicus curiae opinion. In it, it appealed for removal of the most problematic and unconstitutional provisions of the Act. The association welcomed the repeal of the criminal provisions of the Act.
The joint declaration of the Prime Ministers of Poland and Israel, issued on June 27, 2018, was to guarantee “freedom of expression regarding history and academic freedom to research all aspects of the Holocaust.” The IJL emphasizes that the political guarantees of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki from June 2018 should be followed by specific legal guidelines ensuring the same guarantees in the practical enforcement of the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance. In the absence of implementation of the Morawiecki Declaration of June 2018, researchers dealing with the Holocaust or people who publish memoirs, which place responsibility on certain Poles, may still be unreasonably sued for damages in civil courts by the Institute of National Remembrance or non-governmental organizations. Such suits may be filed in contravention of the public declaration of Prime Minister Morawiecki. Meanwhile, the Joint Declaration of the Prime Ministers of Poland and Israel clearly states that the above scenario shall not occur.
Adv. Meir Linzen, President of the IJL said:We believe that further steps are necessary to ensure that no civil action will be commenced in Poland with respect to historic statements concerning the Holocaust. In its current form, provisions of the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance provide for civil liability for defamation of the good name of the Polish state and nation. Hence, we are concered that it may be used in a way which will limit the freed of speech and freedom of research regarding the Holocaust.. Although the provisions of the Act do not provide for criminal sanctions, the threat of high civil damages may result in a chilling effect. With this in mind, we are obliged to ask Polish authorities, to have the Polish government do everything to prevent such a scenario from occurring. That’s why we turn to the Prime Minister of Poland and its Minister of Justice who have specific tools available to avoid it”.
“For the entire world, September, a month marked by remembrance of the outbreak of World War II, is a symbolic moment of important reflection. This is a time when we should particularly consider what we can do today, here and now, to focus all our strength and prevent any risks of new anti- Semitic sentiments. We would like the joint declaration of the governments of the Republic of Poland and of the State of Israel to constitute clear confirmation of the intention to enforce political promises to counteract any anti-Semitism in practice,” adds Meir Linzen, president of the IJL. In the letter addressed to the Minister of Justice, among others, members of the association emphasize that it is within the competence of the Prosecutor General, who also acts as the Minister of Justice, to issue orders, guidelines and instructions, which has taken place in a number of other cases.