On November 27th of last year, a Los Angeles Superior Court dismissed a defamation suit by Rachel Neuwirth against Richard Silverstein, a well know blogger on the politics of the middle east, and professor Joel Beinin, Director of Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo.
The suit was dismissed pursuant to California Civil Code 425.16, the state's anti-SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) statute. According to the statute's text, the 1992 law was enacted in response to a "disturbing increase in lawsuits brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech." Whether through Neuwirth's many articles on the subject or through Silverstein's online postings, the parties to this case have each been outspoken commentators on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Due to the highly divisive nature of this topic, heated rhetoric among pundits is far from uncommon, with each side leveling criticism at one another as frequently as they do governments and policy makers. The court ultimately found Silverstein's comments, although expressed within the context of his personal blog, to be protected free speech in a public forum.