Today we’ve got an exclusive extract from controversial author Dov Ivry – see what you think.
What is the going price in Australia for someone doing the right thing and calling out an anti-Semite? For this couple from Melbourne it is a million dollars.
Demetrios Vaskas and Lee-Anne Raymond are atheists.
They are also artists.
In July 2009 they opened an exhibit of their art which critiqued five major religions with commentary.
Opening night went well. They went to thank the gallery owner on their way out. Without warning the gallery owner launched into a tirade because he said that they had slandered Islam, which meant that they favored the Jews in their dispute over what he called Palestine.
Vakras and Lee-Anne are not Jewish. They tried to explain that they did not single out Islam, that they did not mention the Palestinian issue, and certainly did not take a position on it one way or the other.
It didn’t help. The gallery owner was absolutely beside himself and continued to berate them for defaming Islam and supporting the Jews.
The artists held no strong opinions on the Palestinian issue. It was not in their interest to become engaged in an argument with the gallery owner over anything. And when he started attacking the Jews and Israel they could have mumbled something half in agreement and walked away. Their exhibit would have gone as before. Their lives would have gone as before. But that’s not what they did.
Demetrios and Lee-Anne defended the Jews and Israel simply because they felt it was the right thing to do. The argument became even more heated. Lee-Anne pinned down the gallery owner in asking, “How would you feel if a busload of Jewish children were blown up?” His response? “So what?” Within a few days he had banned the couple from his gallery and their own exhibit.
Demetrious and Lee-Anne answered the gallery owner on their website. Demetrious has spent years researching ancient cultures and religions and now he went at modern anti-Semitism in the same methodical manner. He pegged the gallery owner as a “left wing Nazi” and anyone who has been around the web knows that this is very common type.
The gallery owner sued. They got a judge who didn’t know his ass from his elbow and didn’t make even a minimal effort to examine the issues at the depth they deserved. He assessed damages against the couple of $450,000 on June 20 this year. When the costs are assessed plus their own lawyer fees, they are going to have to pay out over a million dollars. No one has that kind of money.
But it gets worse. This happened in Australia and I don’t know if this is how they do things down there as a rule. But the judge combined the defamation trial with their small claims court case to recover the money that the gallery owner took from them for an exhibit he essentially cancelled. What it meant was that they were denied due process on the defamation issue because everything became a confused mess in which they were forced to argue the minor issue at the same time, which among other things seriously diluted their resources. There should have been a mistrial.
It gets worse than that. The gallery owner is a nonentity. Virtually no one in the community was aware of the controversy. He suffered no discernible damages of any kind. But here is the scary part. The judge seems to be blaming Vakras and Lee-Anne because Google and Bing referred to the controversy. But no court in the world to my knowledge has blamed anyone for what the search engines publicize from information they lift from obscure sites or social media. The search engines must answer for themselves.
As far as I can determine this award is at least four times higher than any Internet defamation case in Australia not involving search engines. A woman defamed on Twitter who suffered documented medical problems as a result got $105,000. The difference was what her attacker said about her were lies and what Varkas and Lee-Anne said about the gallery owner was true.
This case was hardly reported in Australia even through it was a major event because of the size of the award and it spotlighted two issues of widespread public interest, anti-Semitism and freedom of speech on the Internet.
I’ve written a book on this entitled Injustice Hits Rock Bottom Down Under: The Vakras Case. I am trying to get their situation out to the public. I am a journalist from Canada, now resident in Israel. This is my 24th book, 20th non-fiction.
I am not interested in making money on this book and will send it PDF to anyone who requests it. The book is also available on Kindle and in print at Amazon. My e-mail is ivrydov at gmail.com.
As a Jew I can tell you this from experience. This gallery owner did not become a flagrant anti-Semite yesterday. He must have been doing things this like for years. He happened to run into someone finally who called him out and exposed him to the world for what he is. Demetrios and Lee-Anne are the kind of people who would have responded in the same way if they had run into a bigot of any kind or description.
You can download this work from Amazon on the following link:
And find out more about the Dov Ivry here: