A Legal Victory for Freedom of Speech, and “Chained Wives”

Until at least the 18th century, Jewish communities and rabbinic courts could impose consequences on a husband who refused to give his wife a get, or bill of divorce, and thus prevented her from remarrying. Outside of Israel, Orthodox communities today must instead rely on coordinated social pressure. Earlier this month, a New Jersey court overturned a previous ruling that effectively outlawed some of these remedies. Michael A. Helfand explains:

[At present], there are Jewish organizations dedicated to remedying these cases of agunot [wives “chained” to their husbands] who use well-attended rallies, among other tactics, to pressure husbands to give the get and thereby release their wives from the marriage. And in more recent years, a growing number of (largely female) social-media influencers have sought to use their online presence to further encourage husbands to end marriages that, but for the get, have for all intents and purposes ended long ago.

But in the case of S.B.B. v. L.B.B., an initial New Jersey trial court decision held that for a woman to encourage this sort of coordinated pressure could constitute legally prohibited harassment. The defendant in the case had disseminated a video asking members of the Jewish community to “press” her husband to give her a get. . . . In turn, the judge granted the husband a final restraining order because this sort of coordinated campaign could “incite violence.” She also awarded the husband attorney’s fees and monetary damages.

The appeals court, however, reversed the decision, concluding that the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech protected the dissemination of such videos. . . .  Essential to the appellate court’s decision was the fact that the video was not “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action [nor] likely to incite or produce such action.” If it had been, then the protections of the First Amendment might very well have fallen to the wayside. But the video, in the assessment of the appellate court, did no such thing.

Attempts to quash such efforts under the guise of harassment will not withstand constitutional scrutiny.

Read more at Forward

More about: Agunot, American law, Freedom of Speech, Orthodoxy

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security