Sheldon Adelson: A Shande Fur de Goyim

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.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

20 thoughts on “Sheldon Adelson: A Shande Fur de Goyim”

  1. What is it with the Republicans and their endless appetite for ugly little pimps with orange fake hair? Wasn’t Donald Trump enough for them?

  2. I think that it is distinctly unreasonable for someone who doesn’t favor a Jewish state in mandatory Palestine to claim that someone who does is anti-Zionist.

    1. True. But that has nothing to do with me. The Israeli Declaration of Independence defines Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.” I believe in that. Adelson does not. He’s an anti-Zionist.

      1. I disagree: Zionism starts well before the state of Israel, and it’s entirely plausible to say that the current state of Israel is only part of what Zionism historically (Basel Declaration) demanded.

  3. I don’t think that the Supreme Court will buy it. Sheldon Adelson is a public figure, with respect to his business practices, under almost any reading of current First Amendment law. This Supreme Court is admittedly capable of spitting on its own precedent (Bush v. Gore, Citizens United, Alden), but only does so when the stakes are high enough. Sheldon Adelson isn’t worth it to them. Furthermore, I think that Scalia is not cynical in his First Amendment jurisprudence, and actually believes that Adelson is a public figure and should be open to slanging.

    1. As my mother z”l would say: from your mouth to God’s ears. But this Court has seen fit to defend important Republican interests.

    2. “Furthermore, I think that Scalia is not cynical in his First Amendment jurisprudence”
      Hah. Scalia not cynical?
      This is the guy who, in the same interview, said that the Supreme Court should not be taped because the public would misinterpret the sound bites it saw, but that Citizens United was fine because the public is smart enough to understand hyperbole and rhetoric in political ads.
      If that’s not “one law for me, and another for thee” I don’t know what is.

      1. Whether judicial proceedings should be tape recorded is not a First Amendment question. (Whether such proceedings should be open to the public, however, does have substantial First Amendment implications.) While much of Scalia’s jurisprudence is execrable, parts of it are not bad.

        First Amendment law (at least in decisions not involving sexual or drug related subject matter) is one of Scalia’s better areas.

        1. No, it’s not a first amendment question. It is a question of open government, though.

          As to parts of Scalia’s jurisprudence being “not bad”, please remember that a stopped watch is correct twice a day.

        2. Scalia is a hack, not incompetent. If he can reach his desired conclusion by means of good jurisprudence, he doesn’t mind doing so. If he can’t, either the desired conclusion or the good jurisprudence has got to go – and it’s not going to be the former.

    3. Whether a defamation plaintiff is or is not a public figure is a matter of law. I suspect that a court would find Mr. Adelson to be at least a limited purpose public figure.

      1. That’s what I would think, too, if the Supreme Court had any integrity. I wouldn’t have expected the Supreme Court in the health care cases to overturn nearly 200 years of precedent (McCulloch, on necessary and proper). But it did. On the First Amendment, I wouldn’t have expected the Court to overturn 100 years of permissible limitations on corporate spending. But it did. I hope you are right and I am wrong.

        1. Oh yes, but he doesn’t really care about that, I don’t think. He just wants to bankrupt an organization in legal fees, although I hope that there might be law firms willing to do this pro bono.

  4. Are you calling him an Uncle Tom or something? You frame him as anti-zionist and cite Abbie Hoffman’s linking his Jewish judge to Hitler. But “elections matter”, you tell us.

    Who are you going to turn on this argument? All those Jews in Palm Beach who inexplicably floated like a butterfly toward Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore?

    Probably Eric Alterman has a better tact, speaking purely Machiavellian here.

    If a Jew-hater somewhere, inspired perhaps by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, sought to invent an individual who symbolizes almost all the anti-Semitic clichés that have dogged the Jewish people throughout history, he could hardly come up with a character more perfect than Sheldon Adelson.

    I don’t know if that’s enough of a dogwhistle to take MS, Al, or GA, but I’m sure Jimmy Carter could shed some light.

    1. I’m trying to attack the idea that someone who supports destroying Israeli democracy is pro-Israel. By promoting Jewish settlements on the West Bank, that’s what Adelson is doing. He’s not pro-Israel; he is pro-Likud and pro-Republican.

      1. He’s not pro-Israel; he is pro-Likud and pro-Republican.

        The organs of the State exist to serve the Party, and not the other way round, for it is the Party that is the Vanguard of the Revolution, not the State, and in any event come the Revolution, the State is destined to wither away .

  5. Zasloff is embarrassed by Adelson. I’m embarrassed by Soros.

    Why is it necessary to bring talk of Zionism and goyim (a hateful appellation, btw) into this? So you can parade your shlocky Yiddish shtick? It’s dreck.

    If it matters, President Obama is unpopular in Israel. If you’re going to modestly champion yourself as a defender of Israeli interests, you should start by explaining that fact.

    Zasloff’s posts are consistently more partisan than others on the RBC. I would call it disappointing but it’s sadly routine and predictable.

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