Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Neal Sher, an attorney practicing in New York City. Along with Ed Morgan, a prominent Toronto barrister and law professor, he is presently representing Cherna Rosenberg, who has been subjected to the mortar attacks from Gaza into Sderot.
Previously, Sher was the Director the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, which investigated and prosecuted Nazi criminals in the U.S. In that capacity, he was responsible for bringing many dozens of prosecutions and for barring former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim from coming to this country. He also served as the National Executive Director of AIPAC and was the President of the American Section of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.
Recently, Sher has initiated two lawsuits on behalf of Jewish students at U of C, Berkeley and York University in Toronto who had been subjected to anti-Semitic harassment and bullying groups seeking to denigrate Israel and her supporters. It has been charged that the administrations at these schools failed to take adequate measure to prevent these incidents and to protect the students.
FP: Neal Sher, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Tell us about this suit that you are filing on behalf of Cherna Rosenberg. What is going on?
Sher: Nice to be back with Frontpage Magazine.
Cherna Rosenberg, a citizen of both Canada and Israel, filed this ground-breaking case in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto against the Canadian Boat to Gaza and Alternatives International. These groups raise funds for and provide material support to Hamas, which governs and controls Gaza and which has been declared to be a terrorist group by the government of Canada, as well as the U.S.
Ms. Rosenberg, along with the other residents of Sderot, has been subjected to and has suffered from the indiscriminate shelling of that Israeli city by Hamas.
The Canadian Boat to Gaza is part of the “Freedom Flotilla II” group, an assortment of coalitions from various countries which are attempting to organize, fund, and supply ships to breach the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and directly provide support to Gaza. It is committed to breaking the Israeli naval blockade and supporting the Hamas rulers of Gaza. The Canadian Boat’s raison d’être is to aid and abet the terrorist organization that rules Gaza. Alternatives International is a self-professed fundraiser and trustee for the Canadian Boat. It provides financial management for the enterprise and assists in the financing of the terrorist-supporting Canadian Boat project.
Ms. Rosenberg has lived in Sderot, Israel and endured the constant and relentless mortar attacks emanating from Gaza. The Hamas terror group brazenly has taken responsibility for these shillings. During these terrifying attacks, Ms. Rosenberg was forced to seek shelter, along with members of her family and, like other victims of these wanton attacks, has been traumatized and shocked, suffering from the serious symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The complaint explains how the village of Sderot has been the target of Qassam rocket attacks from Hamas terrorists on the Gaza side of the border since 2001. The height of these attacks was between 2007-2008 when rockets and mortars fell on Sderot on a daily basis. Attacks are typically accompanied by red alert sirens provided by Israeli civil defenses, which give residents a signal to stop what they are doing immediately and seek cover. These attacks have resulted in the deaths of numerous Israeli civilians and have caused enormous trauma and property damage in Sderot and surrounding region.
Under Canadian law, it is illegal to provide assistance or support to a designated terror group.
FP: Share with us the importance that you see in this suit.
Sher: We believe it is of the utmost importance to hold accountable those who provide support, services, money and assistance to the unrepentant terror group Hamas. Such groups and individuals surely know the terrorist designs and tactics of Hamas – they cannot plead ignorance. The aim of the flotilla is not to bring humanitarian aid to the residents. It has been widely reported that there is no humanitarian crises in Gaza; the opening of the border with Egypt underscores that point.
The real aim of the flotilla is to support Hamas’s oft stated goal of de-legitimizing and ultimately destroying Israel. Those who participate in the farce which is the flotilla are willing enablers of and accomplices to Hamas.
Moreover, under U.S. federal law it is a crime to provide material support or resources to designated terrorist groups such as Hamas. The Obama administration has stated publicly that individuals and groups who try to break Israel’s Naval blockade are taking “irresponsible and provocative actions”. The Administration should go much further and put these people on notice that they run the very real risk of being prosecuted for violating our anti-terrorism laws.
FP: Can you speak a bit about your other cases of the same vein?
Sher: As to the Berkeley case: as your readers may remember, last March a first of its kind federal civil rights case was filed in United States District Court in Oakland, California, against the University of California at Berkeley, the Regents of the University of California and their ranking officials, by a Jewish student who had been assaulted on campus last year by a leader of a Muslim student organization during a pro-Israel event.
On March 5th of last year, Jessica Felber, a twenty year old Jewish student at Berkeley, was attacked and injured on campus because of her Jewish ancestry and religious affiliation. At the time she was holding a sign stating “Israel wants Peace.” Her assailant, Husam Zakharia, also a UC Berkeley student, was the leader of Students for Justice in Palestine (“SJP”) at Berkeley.
The University and its officials were fully aware that Zakharia, the SJP and similar student groups had been involved in other incidents on campus to incite violence against and intimidate Jewish and other students. Nevertheless, in clear dereliction of their legal responsibilities, Defendants took no reasonable steps to protect Ms. Felber and others.
The Complaint further describes how the SJP conspires and coordinates with the Muslim Student Association (“MSA”), which has a publicly documented history of affiliation with and support of organizations deemed “terror organizations” by the United States Department of State. That they have resorted to intimidation and harassment is evidenced most recently by the fact that the District Attorney of Orange County, California, has indicted eleven students from these groups for inciting and disrupting a speech given by the Israeli Ambassador to the United States at the University of California, Irvine.
The Complaint charged that the assault was the result of the university having: (1) fostered and encouraged campus terrorist incitements by the SJP and the MSA) ; (2) turned a blind eye to the perpetrators of illegal activities; (3) failed to effectively discipline the MSA and SJP for their pro-terrorist programs, goals and conduct; despite having ample notice that such violence was foreseeable; and (4) failed to provide adequate security to prevent the violence, harassment and intimidation which occurred on March 5, 2010.
Ignoring complaints from students about the poisonous climate on campus, defendants condoned, allowed and enabled groups such as the MSA and the SJP to threaten, harass and intimidate Jewish students and to endanger their health and safety. Their tolerance of the growing cancer of a dangerous anti-Semitic climate on its campuses, and their failure to take adequate measures to quell it, violated the rights of Ms. Felber’s and other students to enjoy a peaceful campus environment free from threats and intimidation.
We noted that the on-campus activities of the SJP and MSA against plaintiff and other students of Jewish religion and ancestry – and the university’s failure to confront them – present a disturbing echo of the darkest period in history: the incitement, intimidation, harassment and violence carried out under the Nazi regime and those of its allies in Europe against Jewish students and scholars in the leading universities of those countries during the turbulent years leading up to and including the Holocaust.
Moreover, we have recently filed an Amended Complaint, adding as an additional plaintiff, Brian Maissey, who currently is a student on Campus. We have included in the Amended Complaint a Declaration from Brian in which he expresses his fears about Apartheid Week and sets out some very disturbing facts:
– As part of “Apartheid Week,” each year for the past three years members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) create barriers on campus in an effort to simulate what, in their view, security checkpoints are like in Israel.
– Many of the members of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and SJP wear Israeli flags, which contain the Jewish star, and they have signs with Hebrew writing on them; and many carry mock semiautomatic weapons that look real. They pretend to be Jewish Israelis. They set up a checkpoint at Sather Gate, where they interrogate students to determine whether they should be allowed to pass through the checkpoint, and they “act out” the supposed harassment of Palestinians on each other.
– the “interrogators” ― those pretending to be Jewish Israelis ― are rude, obnoxious, overbearing, aggressive and violent.
Brian also reveals how on March 17, 2011, he saw the students from MSA and SJP (dressed like Israeli Jews) block most of the central part of Sather Gate. They put down a material which looked like barbed wire or at least was supposed to simulate barbed wire at the checkpoint at Sather Gate. Moreover, he observed the simulated “barbed wire” get caught and entangled in an individual’s wheelchair. His independence and ability to move around campus was blocked and inhibited by persons who were wearing Israeli flags.
All of this goes well beyond any activities which deserve free speech protection. On the contrary, such conduct is terrifying, especially to young students, and it certainly endangers the health and safety of Jewish students.
Such activities have no place on campus and students have every right to expect that the school officials will take all reasonable measure to prevent such intimidating and harassing activities. The defendants in this case have failed miserably to do so.
As for the case against York University: in March we filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario by Sammy Katz, a student at York University, has charged York with legitimizing an anti-Jewish environment on campus. As part of the complaint, York is accused of having failed to take measures required to counter activities which have created a poisonous atmosphere for identifiably Jewish students.
The complaint stems from a February 2010 incident at a pro-Israel “tabling event” held in York’s Vari Hall. The complaint describes how Katz was subjected to verbal abuse and a physical assault by persons vehemently hostile to students who support the Jewish state, while campus security failed to intervene or control the volatile situation.
Katz also contends that York made public statements about the assault aimed at discrediting Katz, and convened meetings of the media and Jewish organizational leaders at which it spun its own inaccurate version of the episode. In fact, a university review of the incident concluded that the Jewish students had been swarmed and that Katz had, in fact, been assaulted.
FP: What moves and inspires you personally to represent clients like these?
Sher: Pursuing these types of cases is, in many ways, a natural progression from the work I have been engaged in, and have cared deeply about, for decades: as the head of the Nazi prosecution office at the U.S. Justice Department; the national Executive Director of AIPAC; adviser on war crimes prosecutions to the Canadian Minister of Justice; and faculty members at various universities.
Many people have spoken about “lawfare’ – the abuse of our legal system to attempt to delegitimize Israel and those who support her – but we believe that it’s high time to take the initiative and use our laws to protect and advance the causes which are so important to us. It’s not enough just to talk, debate and wring our hands. We must take action and that is what we are doing with the filing of these cases. And, you can be certain that there will be more of them.
FP: Is there any way readers who would like to help can help?
Sher: The outpouring of support for the courageous plaintiffs in these cases is greatly appreciated. Whenever the opportunity arises readers should voice their opinions – in the press and to your elected officials. If history has taught us anything, it is that we must be ever vigilant and be prepared to stand up for our rights and beliefs.
FP: If you succeed helping Cherna Rosenberg win this suit, what will some of the ramifications be? It will be an important landmark watershed to a certain degree, no? Tell us what this suit can help achieve not just for Rosenberg but for the future victims of Islamic terror everywhere.
Sher: Those who are organizing, supporting and participating in these flotillas are perpetrating nothing short of a scam. There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and they surely know it.ire objective is to further the worldwide campaign to denigrate the Jewish State by generating artificial confrontations. They must be exposed and lawsuits such as the one Cherna Rosenberg has initiated sheds light on the true motives of these provocateurs.
And, I would add that Americans who participate and organize the flotilla – the American boat is named “The Audacity of Hope”, after the book written by President Obama – run the serious risk of violating federal criminal law which prohibits giving any material support or services to a designated terror organization. Hamas, which controls everything in Gaza, including anything from the flotilla, is a formally designated terrorist organization.
FP: Neal Sher, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.