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October 3, 2013 8:07 pm

American Analyst ‘Grateful’ for Dismissal of Libel Case Brought by Son of Mahmoud Abbas

avatar by Zach Pontz

PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: wiki commons.

American political analyst Jonathan Schanzer said he was “grateful” a judge had dismissed a libel case brought against him by Yasser Abbas, the son of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Schanzer, a political analyst and vice president of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, was sued for libel after he wrote an online opinion post for Foreign Policy magazine in June 2012 that called into question the legitimacy of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s two sons’ wealth.

Schanzer told The Algemeiner that he welcomed the decision—but wished it had not become a matter for the courts in the first place.

“To fight a lawsuit – even one without merit – requires considerable money, energy and time.  It is unfortunate that it takes such efforts to defend an unambiguous constitutional right.  But I am certainly grateful for the judge’s strong and principled opinion,” Schanzer wrote in an email.

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In his Foreign Policy post, Schanzer detailed the business empire of both brothers, keying in on Yasser.

“Yasser now owns Falcon Tobacco, which reportedly enjoys a monopoly on the sale of U.S.-made cigarettes in the Palestinian territories. According to the Toronto Star, Yasser also chairs Falcon Holding Group, a Palestinian corporate conglomerate that owns Falcon Electrical Mechanical Contracting Company (also called Falcon Electro Mechanical Contracting Company, or FEMC), an engineering interest that was established in 2000 and boasts offices in Gaza, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and the West Bank. This business success has come with a helping hand from Uncle Sam: According to a Reuters report, Abbas’s company received $1.89 million from USAID in 2005 to build a sewage system in the West Bank town of Hebron.”

Schanzer then posited: “Have they enriched themselves at the expense of regular Palestinians—and even U.S. taxpayers?”

Following Schanzer’s post, Yasser Abbas filed the suit in a federal court in the District of Columbia, where Judge Emmet Sullivan finally tossed out the case, concluding that Schanzer’s statements in the article “are either not capable of defamatory meaning or are protected statements of opinion” under the First Amendment, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. According to the paper, Judge Sullivan applied the District of Columbia’s anti-SLAPP statute, which aims to curb “strategic lawsuits against public participation”—in other words, suits intended to silence critics.

According to The Wall Street Journal,  Yasser Abbas accused Schanzer and Foreign Policy of “posing libelous questions and printing innuendos.” Yasser Abbas claimed in the suit that the questions posed by  Schanzer didn’t constitute opinions but false assertions of fact.

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