United States District Court, Southern District of New York.

Mohammed Radi ABDULLAH
SHERIDAN SQUARE PRESS, INC., Ari Ben Menashe, Zachary Sklar, Ellen Ray, Bill Schaap, Danny Mintz and National Book Network.

1994 WL 419847 (S.D.N.Y.)

No. 93 Civ. 2515 (LLS).

DATE: May 4, 1994.

JUDGE:  STANTON, District Judge.


[*1] The issues raised by defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint and alternatively for partial summary judgment, and plaintiff’s request that the court simultaneously consider the record as on a motion for summary judgment in his favor on the issue of liability as to certain defendants, are disposed of as follows.

1. Defendants’ motion to dismiss, as a challenge to the “themes which pervade plaintiff’s theory or theories of injury” (D.br. 8) as defective because they charge only anti-terrorist assistance (“which is laudatory, not defamatory” D.br. 10) or associations between plaintiff and Israel (which is “repugnant to basic principles of tolerance and non-discrimination that are part of the bedrock of our legal system,” D.br. 14) is denied. The argument is summarized at D.br. 26:

“The only cognizable ‘community’ within which plaintiff has conceivably been defamed by this statement is that comprised of terrorists or haters of Israel. Assuming that his reputation has been impaired in those communities, their “standards are so clearly anti-social that the court may not properly consider them.” Prosser, supra at P. 778.”

That stretches too far.

A forum may be neutral between two contending powers, and yet recognize that falsely charging an officer of one of them with foolishly or venally aiding the other defames him.

The complaint alleges that plaintiff, a private individual and former highly-decorated Jordanian army officer, was maliciously and falsely accused by defendants of being an informant for the Mossad, of participation in activities of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, of involvement in the Achille Lauro incident in 1985 and of participation in a plot to blow up a civilian aircraft (among other misdeeds), with the result that he is now viewed as a traitor in his native land and has been forced to seek political asylum in the United Kingdom where, his business destroyed by defendants’ falsehoods, he lives in poverty.

2. Since establishment of a claim under the British law of defamation would be antithetical to the First Amendment protections accorded the defendants, Bachchan v. India Abroad Publications, 154 M2d 228, 585 NYS2d 661 (NY Co 1992), the second cause of action alleged in the complaint is dismissed. Plaintiff can offer proof of publication in the United Kingdom, as alleged in paragraph 38 of the complaint, in support of his claim for damages under the first cause of action. c

3. Defendant Sklar’s motion for dismissal of the complaint as against him is granted. It sufficiently appears that he played no part in the decision to publish the book, was responsible only for its line editing, and has no responsibility for its substance, veracity or accuracy. Plaintiff proffers no genuine issue of material fact on which Mr. Sklar’s personal liability could be based.

4. Defendant Mintz’s motion for dismissal of the complaint as against him is denied. His status as major source of financing for Sheridan Square Press, involvement in the selection of the manuscript, professed lack of concern with possible libel problems because of his belief in the author’s credibility, and the praise the author gives him for his “courage” which was “especially needed” in bringing the book to fruition (the book’s “Acknowledgments” p. vii) leave the facts respecting Mr. Mintz’s responsibility sufficiently in doubt that summary judgment in his favor is inappropriate.

[*2] 5. Defendant National Book Network’s motion for dismissal of the complaint as against it is denied. Whatever the facts with respect to initial distribution, there is a sufficient showing that it has recently distributed copies of the book in England, with knowledge from this lawsuit of its allegedly libelous contents.

6. Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment in his favor is denied. There are factual issues as to both liability and damages.


The second cause of action, and all claims against defendant Sklar, are dismissed. The balance of the motions are denied.