Lee Kaplan vs Yaman Salahi: Small claims court muzzling, how Kaplan makes up ‘facts’

with Cecilie Surasky

Yaman Salahi, a student at UC Berkeley, has the temerity to watch the right-wing “watchers.” In particular, this enterprising student has created a web blog that examines the accuracy and underlying motivations of the writings of Lee Kaplan.

Lee Kaplan calls himself a journalist, but seems to specialize in making up facts out of whole cloth to suit his agenda, which is silencing and at worst, destroying human rights groups that criticize Israel’s human rights record. For an example of his technique, read about his “reporting” on Jewish Voice for Peace, further down in this post. The primary vehicle for Kaplan’s attacks is the notorious, right wing version of the National Inquirer, David Horowitz’s FrontPage Magazine.

After kicking a disguised Kaplan out of a student conference in 2004, a vice-president at Duke University wrote:

I have worked with many journalists over the years, but never have I experienced one whose behavior has been so outside the norms of recognized ethical and journalistic standards as Mr. Kaplan.

Recently, Salahi lost a small claims court decision brought by Kaplan that was substantially based on false charges. The reader can find out more about this case and its import for squelching free speech here.

Instead of slowing down his efforts, Salahi has courageously come back even stronger with his new blog, FrontPage Magazine Watch, which deserves the support of Muzzlewatch readers.The two main charges against Salahi were that his comments caused Kaplan to lose income/employment and that he was defamed by posts Salahi made. The only problem with these claims is that Kaplan claimed lost income from a defunct/non-existent company and the alleged defaming materials were not created or posted or linked to by Salahi.

We, at Muzzlewatch strongly encourage readers to help support efforts such as Salahi’s by both reading what has transpired and donating to not just help defray his legal costs (he’s a student) but to help fight against future such muzzling efforts.

In this regard, Salahi has written of the lawsuit:

What does this mean? It means that this lawsuit is not only about me, and is not only about Lee Kaplan. It is about the real danger that underhanded legal tactics like these pose to all bloggers and those without the resources to protect themselves from abusive litigation that is aimed at silencing them. For now, it looks like small claims court is a convenient and reliable route for anybody who can dish out $75, the cost of filing a claim, to harass and intimidate those they disagree with. Real evidence and a credible story might not even be necessary to make a hefty return on that small investment. At least, that is what I have learned with this experience.

Salahi has written about Lee Kaplan:

While Kaplan is a pariah on the anti-Palestinian scene (most mainstream organizations who support Israeli domination over the Palestinians will have nothing to do with him), and a marginal figure in general, he is in fact emblematic of an extremist political subculture known as the far right in America. While their numbers may be small, their words, diluted to sound more acceptable and less fanatical, provide the backbone for the powers that be in this country today. By understanding and critiquing what they believe and preach, we also come away learning more about their “mainstream” counterparts, not to mention ourselves.

Why does Lee Kaplan need to be watched?
Attacks on Jewish Voice for Peace provide a perfect example of the Lee Kaplan methodology. Kaplan repeatedly rehashes falsehoods in the guise of reporting, often making up information that can be corrected with 1 or 2 minutes research on a website. Further, these falsehoods then populate the net, showing up in places ranging from Wikipedia to Masada2000.
For example: Kaplan repeatedly and inexplicably calls JVP “The ISM’s “Jewish Voice for Peace”, a statement so strange its hardly worth addressing. ( Here, presumably, he is referring to the International Solidarity Movement.) Kaplan also has repeatedly described JVP this way:

JVP was founded by Mitchell Plitnick, a former 60’s Berkeley radical who emerged on the activist scene as the Palestine Solidarity Movement grew after its creation in 2001.

That Mitchell Plitnick founded JVP would certainly be news to the three UC students, Julia Caplan, Julie Iny, and Rachel Eisner, who did found it in 1996. Kaplan’s description would be a greater surprise to Mitchell Plitnick’s mother, since “former 60’s radical” Mitchell was barely walking in 1969. While Mitchell was certainly precocious, calling him a radical activist 2 year old might be over-stating it.

Kaplan goes on to attack JVP policy director Plitnick in a more substantive way:

Plitnick even went so far as to write that it is doubtful that Jews ever lived in the Holy Land at all and that they were probably from Khazaria in Russia, thus not indigenous to the region like their Arab cousins. He has written that the exodus and the First Temple were just myths, designed to legitimize a Jewish state in the region, and now used as a publicity ploy by modern Jews to steal a state from the Arabs.

The response from Plitnick, one of the peace movement’s most insightful analysts?

These are blatant and willful distortions. Yes, i called the exodus a myth and I mentioned that archaeological evidence has failed to prove the existence of Solomon’s Temple, but never did I allege that these were falsehoods to legitimize a Jewish state, nor did I ever imply such a thing. It’s simply an acknowledgment that religious scriptures are not history books. Similarly, I certainly never said that Jews might never have lived in the Holy Land, but rather that today’s Jews, particularly Ashkenazi Jews, cannot for the most part be certain that they can trace their ancestry back to someone who lived there, just as many descendants of Jews of 2,000 years ago are not today Jewish.

Remarkably, Kaplan says that JVP believes,“ the main hindrance to any peace because of its “occupation” of Arab lands. This means all of Israel, not just lands taken in 1967.”

In fact, our mission statement says quite clearly we support “An end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.” Ten seconds of research would have revealed the truth, if the truth mattered.

Kaplan is linked with a shadowy group and at least one illegal action. As SF Weekly wrote about Ehud Appel, who started Lee Kaplan Watch with Salahi:

Appel, who will be a senior next year, is a Jewish member of Students for Justice in Palestine, majoring in Middle Eastern studies. He says he’s not worried about the consequences of taking Kaplan on, but professes to be creeped out by his zealotry. “There’s something odd about what is fueling him,” he says. A few days after Appel posted his first critical piece about Kaplan (and informed him of it via e-mail), Appel checked a Web site dedicated to Kahanism, an aggressive Jewish movement that has been banned in Israel. The American site includes an extensive list of Jewish people it calls “Self-Hating and/or Israel-Threatening” — a SHIT list. Appel found a recent, lengthy write-up on himself, which included his photo and e-mail address and called him a “boot-licking kike,” among other slurs.

Appel believes that Kaplan either wrote the entry or submitted Appel’s name to those who run the SHIT list, a charge that Kaplan refutes. However, Kaplan does admit that he posted a nearly identical write-up in the “rogues’ gallery” on one of his own Web sites, StopTheISM.com, soon after Lee Kaplan Watch launched. Only a few words were different: “Kike” became “kapo,” and a coda was added at the end: “If anyone reading this Web site knows any members of Ehud Moshe Appel’s family in Israel, we would like to talk to them and find out what they think of a guy who works for the likes of Hamas that declares no Jews may live anywhere in Israel at all and that it is OK to kill them.”

Kaplan and his colleague have long advocated IRS investigations into groups like JVP and others (it’s likely he has succeeded in generating such investigations), and Rebuilding Alliance reports

Mr. Kaplan fraudulently and illegally identified himself as a member of Congresswoman Eshoo’s staff during the Contact Congress Teleconference organized by the Rebuilding Alliance. Congresswoman Eshoo’s chief of staff, Mr. Jason Mahler, confirmed that Counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives notified him by mail that his actions were illegal.

Larger implications of Kaplan and FrontPageMag world view
Yaman concludes:

To that end it is important to realize the trends which are common to the work of Kaplan and his colleagues at FrontPageMag. In no particular order, a few of these are:

1) advocacy for increased violence and militarism throughout the world, with America and its allies playing the central role;

2) a virulently anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias and tone;

3) an amnesiac attitude which has forgotten that the Soviet Union has fallen and there is no “communist threat” on campuses or in libraries, and persists to pin everything unfavorable or distasteful on a left-wing conspiracy to destroy America;

4) an abuse of the language of “terrorism” and “anti-terrorism” to support measures that curtail our rights and liberties and to justify American hegemony over other parts of the world;

5) an anti-democratic effort to politically and socially dis-empower anybody and everybody who disagrees with them;

6) an irrational disdain for immigrants and a desire to homogenize them by imposing a narrow conception of “American culture” on them;

7) fanatical support for Israel as a state that favors one ethnicity and religion over all others (many of their writers even support evicting the naturalized Arab-Israeli population which is 20% of the total);

and, 8) a severe misrepresentation of the Arab and Muslim worlds, not to mention of Islam, and a flawed mode of analysis that is applied uniquely to them and not to ourselves or others.

Go on over to FrontPage Magazine Watch now and make your donation. Salahi deserves your support.

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