This week, a member of the Protect the Protest task force, the National Lawyers Guild, settled a case with the Lawfare Project, an organization that has aggressively used the courts in an attempt to silence groups and individuals in the Justice for Palestine movement.
We’ve talked about Lawfare’s bullying legal tactics here, and shared the stories of professors at Kingsborough Community College in New York City who have been targeted by the Lawfare Project for organizing progressive faculty on campus.
The Lawfare Project’s mission is to use strategic litigation to defend Pro-Israel and Zionist communities from discrimination. In some cases, however, the Lawfare Project has crossed the line, using inappropriate and harmful tactics to advance their mission.
We are concerned that several of the Lawfare Project’s efforts to label individuals and organizations as discriminatory and anti-Semitic have gone too far, and are infringing on the Constitutional rights of others.
A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (or SLAPP) is a tactic used to intimidate activists, journalists, and civil society organizations that criticize powerful political and economic interests. We are concerned that the Lawfare Project and its partner organizations are using SLAPP-like tactics to repeatedly target the Constitutionally protected free speech rights of activists who are part of the Justice for Palestine movement. The Lawfare Project’s intimidation tactics have led to the silencing of human rights defenders from pursuing allegations of human rights violations and abuses against Palestinians.
SLAPP bullies succeed by using the threat of litigation to force their critics into silence. Many of these cases ultimately get dismissed for being meritless. But many defendants also agree to settle the cases and restrict their free speech rights, because they are not able to endure years of expensive and psychologically draining litigation against a well-resourced plaintiff. Similar tactics have been used against the civil rights movement in the United States and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, as well as against numerous other activists in the United States who challenge powerful interests.
To fight injustice, we all need the freedom to speak out. We all need to be able to contribute to the “marketplace of ideas” and engage in rigorous debate on sensitive issues. The powerful would like to see their critics silenced, but we cannot let that happen.
Members of the Protect the Protest task force work on a wide variety of social justice, environmental, and racial justice issues. We have joined together to fight back against the use of SLAPPs and other legal bullying tactics, because we understand that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.
If you are being threatened with a SLAPP, reach out to us for help.
For more information about the attack against the National Lawyers Guild, please read the NLG’s statement here.