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FRIEDMAN v. ISRAEL LABOUR PARTY

March 25, 1997

HOWARD FRIEDMAN, Plaintiff
v.
ISRAEL LABOUR PARTY, HAIM RAMON, DAVID LIBAI, MOSHE SHAHAL, TOVA ELINSON, GLOBE NEWSPAPER COMPANY, JERUSALEM POST PUBLICATIONS, LTD., and JOHN DOES I-XV, jointly and severally, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: YOHN

 Yohn, J.

 March 25, 1997

 Plaintiff, a resident of Pennsylvania, has filed this defamation claim against the Israel Labour Party ("ILP"), four of its members individually, the Globe Newspaper Company ("Globe"), Jerusalem Post Publications ("Post"), and assorted John Does. Plaintiff alleges that the Labour Party and its members defamed him when they issued a press release which announced that the Israeli Government had barred plaintiff and six other Americans from entering the state of Israel ("Count II"). Plaintiff also alleges that Globe and Post defamed him when they published in their respective newspapers news reports discussing the Israeli press release and plaintiff's suspension by the Israeli Government ("Count I").

 Globe and Post ("defendants") now seek dismissal of plaintiff's Count I claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or, in the alternative, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 for summary judgment claiming that the suit is barred by Pennsylvania's fair report privilege. Globe also claims that the suit is barred by the "wire service" defense and by lack of personal jurisdiction. The court agrees with Globe and Post and believes that Pennsylvania's fair report privilege protects defendants' news reports of the Israeli press release. For this reason, the court will GRANT defendants' motions for summary judgment.

 I. BACKGROUND1

 Jerusalem Post Publications, Ltd., ("Post") is a New York corporation which publishes The Jerusalem Post, International Edition, the English-language international edition of The Jerusalem Post, a newspaper in Israel. Complaint P8. Globe Newspaper Corporation ("Globe") is a Massachusetts corporation which publishes the newspaper, The Boston Globe. Complaint P7. Plaintiff Howard Friedman is a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania resident. Complaint P1.

 On approximately December 20, 1995, shortly after Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, and in conjunction with the Minister of Justice, defendant David Libai, and the Minister of Public Security, defendant Moshe Shahal, the Interior Minister of the Israeli Government, defendant Chaim Ramon, through his spokesperson, Tova Elinson, issued the following press release:

 
Interior Minister Chaim Ramon decided to act on his authority according to the Law of Return and Law of Entry Into Israel, to prevent entry into Israel and/or immigration approval to
 
Mark Blaustein- U.S. citizen . . .
 
Howard Friedman- U.S. citizen . . .
 
Hal Blaustein, U.S. citizen, resident of Philadelphia
 
Michell Benvenisti- U.S. citizen . . .
 
The four are associated with planning illegal activities in Israel.
 
George Mostanza-U.S. citizen . . ., resident of New York State. He is an activist in the J.D.L. organization which supports illegal and violent activity.
 
Rabbi Abraham Hecht-rabbi of the Halav congregation in New York, U.S. citizen. . . . He made a proposal to declare Prime Minister Rabin z"l a "moser" whom one is permitted to kill. After the murder of Rabin he repeated his opinion in an interview with the press.
 
Bizad Cohen-U.S. citizen, Los Angeles resident. He supports extremist organizations, outlawed in Israel.
 
Minister Ramon's decision was taken when it became known that the above persons either have a criminal background which might endanger public peace or are liable to endanger state security.
 
The Interior Minister sent an announcement of his decision to Foreign Minister Ehud Barak, and to Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Avraham Burg, and requested that they be prepared accordingly.

 Kovner Aff. Exh. B (emphasis added).

 On December 30, 1995, The Jerusalem Post, International Edition published an article entitled 7 US Extremists Denied Entry. The Post's article reads as follows:

 
Interior Minister Haim Ramon. . . issued an order barring the entry into Israel of seven US citizens involved in extreme right-wing activity. . . .
 
This is the second time since Rabin's assassination that such an order has been issued. Ehud Barok, when he served as interior minister, barred entry to a right-wing activist whose name was not released. Ramon was acting under authority granted him by [the laws of Israel], ministry spokesman Tova Elinson said. None of the persons barred has requested a visa.
 
Some of the persons barred have criminal records and pose a threat to the public . . . . Others are considered a threat to Israel's security. Ramon informed Foreign Minister Barak and Jewish Agency Chairman Avraham Burg of the decision, Elinson said. But Burg last week requested a clarification from Ramon, describing the step as unusual. . . .
 
Four other persons were barred for "being involved in planning illegal activities in Israel." They were identified as Mark Blaustein, 27, and his brother, Hal, a resident of Philadelphia,; Howard Friedman, 37, and Michell Benvenisti, 48. Elinson said all had been members of the Jewish Defense League.

 7 US Extremists Denied Entry, The Jerusalem Post, International Edition, Dec. 30, 1995.

 The Boston Globe published a similar article on December 21, 1995. It was entitled Israel, In Crackdown, Bars Entry to 7 US Jews as Security Risks. That article reads as follows:

 
Israel barred entry yesterday to seven American Jews including a New York rabbi who were considered a security risk by officials still reeling from the assassination last month of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. . . .
 
The ministry said the six others [including plaintiff] had been linked to illegal activities in Israel, had backed extremist groups outlawed in Israel or been active in the Jewish Defense League founded by Meir Kahane, the slain anti-Arab New York rabbi . . . .
 
"All of these people have a criminal past, could endanger the public order or endanger national security," Interior Minister Haim Ramon said. As a result they would be barred from entering or receiving immigrant status, he said.
 
Accused of planning illegal activities in Israel were Mark Blustein, born 1968, Howard Friedman, born 1958, Hall Blustein of Philadelphia, Pa., and Michael or Michelle Benvenisti, born 1947. . . .
 
Named as a supporter of extremist organizations outlawed by Israel was Cohen Bizad of Los Angeles.
 
"The files of these people were considered over a long period by security officials and the state prosecutor who unanimously recommended I exercise my authority," Ramon told Israeli Radio.
 
Israeli officials pledged to crack down on Jewish extremists following the Nov. 4 assassination of Rabin by Yigal Amir, a religious Jew opposed to Israel's handing over control of West Bank land to Palestinians.
 
Within days of the assassination the Interior Minister put into effect a policy banning Jews identifying with Jewish terrorist groups, announcing it would prevent the entry of an activist in ...

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