The phrase is Yiddish, and it means “a disgrace in front of the Gentiles.” Abbie Hoffman famously used it in the Chicago Seven trial to describe the (Jewish) judge. Whether it was true for the judge is open to question, but right-wing anti-Zionist Sheldon Adelson is working hard to make it apply to him.
Not content with making the Republican Party his wholly-owned subsidiary, Adelson is now trying to prohibit anyone from criticizing him. He has brought a lawsuit against the National Jewish Democratic Council for defamation: NJDC repeated a public claim, made by a plaintiff against Adelson, that Adelson approved of prostitution in his gambling properties in Macau, China. NJDC has struck back, and is not intimidated:
“Referencing mainstream press accounts examining the conduct of a public figure and his business ventures — as we did — is wholly appropriate,” NJDC said in a statement. “Indeed, it is both an American and a Jewish obligation to ask hard questions of powerful individuals like Mr. Adelson, just as it is incumbent upon us to praise his wonderful philanthropic endeavors.”
The statement called Adelson’s lawsuit a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” or SLAPP, a term used for legal maneuvers aimed not at obtaining justice but silence.
“We know that we were well within our rights, and we will defend ourselves against this SLAPP suit as far and as long as necessary,” NJDC said. “We simply will not be bullied, and we will not be silenced.”
It seems quite absurd that repeating a claim made in a public lawsuit is actionable. Adelson’s strategy appears to be just to wear down his opponents with litigation fees — a strategy perfected by, among others, the Church of Scientology.
Here’s what will really be interesting — and potentially disgusting. If a “public figure” sues someone for defamation, then he has to prove that a statement was made with “reckless disregard” for the truth. While I haven’t seen the complaint, however, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Adelson claim that he is private figure: he’s just a businessman minding his own business, and these terrible awful people have defamed him. Yes, he has made campaign contributions, and set up his own SuperPAC, but so what? He is just exercising his First Amendment rights as a citizen. Surely that can’t make him a public figure.
In other words, someone who has vowed to spend “whatever it takes” to defeat President Obama, has personally bankrolled much of the Gingrich Campaign, and is now spending tens of millions for Mitt Romney (and has personally lobbied Romney to free Jonathan Pollard), in now trying to intimidate and bankrupt his political opponents. And he will use the First Amendment to avoid all public accountability. And the Supreme Court will probably buy it.
So yes: that is being a shande fur de goyim. There are some other Yiddish phrases I could also use to describe Adelson. But maybe the commenters can come up with them.
By the way: elections matter.