TORONTO — The Lawfare Project defines “lawfare” as “the use of law as a weapon of war.”
Canadian Brooke Goldstein, director of the New York-based Lawfare Project, says that in distinguishing a legitimate lawsuit from lawfare, you must look at the intention behind the legal action.
“Is it to pursue justice, to apply the law in the interests of freedom and democracy, or is the intent to undermine the very system of laws being manipulated?”
For Goldstein, it’s clearly the latter, and in a recent speaking engagement before 75 people at the Jewish Urban Meeting Place (JUMP), she outlined several instances where lawfare was used to subvert western constitutional principles.
The state of Kentucky, for one, is being sued for considering a law that places the constitutional rights of its citizens above the requirements of foreign law. In another case, the International Court of Justice, in ruling Israel’s security fence is a violation of international law, refused to hear evidence of its effectiveness in preventing terrorist attacks or accept the testimony of victims of terror. And at the United Nations Human Rights Council, a resolution was passed declaring blasphemy of Islam a violation of international law.
Law cases have been launched to chill critics of Islamic extremism, she suggested. Goldstein, 31, along with retired senator Jerry Grafstein, described the dangers of lawfare and outlined steps individuals could take to oppose it.
Grafstein said the practice of lawfare “is all about words,” and he devoted seven years of his time as a senator to see to passage of a private member’s bill that added the words, “suicide bombing,” to the Criminal Code definition of terrorism.
By including the term in Canadian domestic law, it sets “a civic standard” and “it compels police and the justice department to do something.
“If you incited suicide bombing in Canada, it’s a criminal act,” he said.
While a criminal act in Canada, in the Muslim world, it’s something children are encouraged to embrace.
State TV and radio stations, educational authorities and many others are, in effect, practising child abuse, convincing children to relish death and murdering others, Goldstein said.
On Palestinian state TV, she said, kids as young as 10 are interviewed and congratulated for saying their greatest aspiration is to become a martyr.
In Pakistan, thousands of youngsters have been kidnapped by the Taliban and trained to become suicide bombers. One six-year-old, who was told that his belt would explode into flowers, was saved when he approached a coalition patrol and said he’d forgotten how to push the button that would detonate his belt.
Goldstein said she first felt a disconnect between what she was taught in law school about and the reality experienced by Muslim youngsters. She was especially struck by the image of 15-year-old Hussam Abdo, a mentally challenged Palestinian boy wearing explosives, who surrendered to Israeli forces at a checkpoint. He had been recruited by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, given the equivalent of $20, had his “martyrdom” photo taken, and was driven to a checkpoint near Nablus where he was told to blow himself up among Palestinians waiting there.
The Abdo incident led Goldstein and Alistair Leyland to investigate child abuse in the Palestinian territories and produce a film titled The Making of a Martyr.
Why is the human rights community afraid to talk about this, she asked. “If they did so, they’d be called Islamophobic,” she said.
And they may also face a court case that drains them of resources. In the United States, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas funding case, is active in launching lawsuits, she said.
Law cases have been launched to chill critics of Islamic extremism. The Lawfare Project provides pro bono legal services to anyone speaking on issues of national security. It also publicizes the tactic and mobilizes people to oppose it, she added.