Antisemitism activists crowdfunding to fight lawsuit after Twitter argument

Edward Cantor and James Mendelsohn say they will need to fundraise around £150,000 to fight the case


Jewish antisemitism campaigners Edward Cantor and James Mendelsohn have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to fight a lawsuit brought following a social media argument two years ago. 

James Wilson, a qualified solicitor, is suing the pair after a Twitter dispute about the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism in which the defendants shared a Facebook post referencing Mr Wilson, which he says amounts to libel, harassment, breach of data protection and invasion of privacy. 

Mr Cantor and Mr Mendelsohn are currently crowdfunding £8,000 to fight the case at trial, although they are anticipating needing more than £150,000 in total. 

The case centres on a Facebook post shared by a woman in December 2018, named in court as Ms K (a false name to protect her identity). She wrote that Mr Wilson was a “weirdo” and a “freak” after he allegedly banged on her car window and took photos of her and her daughter for leaving her car running. 

According to court documents, the post was deleted, but it had been screenshotted by Mr Mendelsohn and was shared on Twitter by the defendants in the course of their online debate. 

At a Trial of Preliminary Issue in March last year, Richard Spearman KC, sitting as a deputy High Court Judge, ruled that “the use of the words ‘weirdo’ and ‘freak’ do not connote an allegation of paedophilia,” as had been alleged by Mr Wilson. 

He found that the tweets also meant that, in their opinion, he was a “weirdo” and a “freak”, which therefore could be defamatory, and ordered that the case continue on that basis. 

Last month, Mr Cantor and Mr Mendelsohn applied to High Court for the case to be struck out or for summary judgement in their favour to avoid the huge costs of going to a full trial. However, the Master ruled that the case should proceed to trial, aside from the harassment claim against Mr Cantor. 

In the crowdfunding description, Mr Cantor wrote: “My solicitor, Mark Lewis, and my barrister have asked me to Crowdfund because it is unlikely that Wilson will have any money after the case to pay my legal fees and after two years, they cannot just bear the financial burden on their own. 

“Mark Lewis, as some of you may know, has a history of successfully fighting cases on behalf of campaigners against antisemitism. He has so far defended me and many others without charge, alongside favours from generous barristers. He should not however, have to fight all the battles that he takes on for the Jewish community and others alone. He and I need your help. The money raised will be used to defend the case.” 

Mr Lewis explained to the JC why his clients are fundraising so little money given the expected cost of fighting the case in court: “The way that the CrowdJustice site works is that it doesn’t pay out to you until you reach the target. So, if you set your target at £200k, but you only raise £199k, you don’t get anything. So, you set it lower at £8,000, and when you reach the target, you keep increasing it.”  

“We will probably need to get up to £150k, or even a bit more,” he added. 

Mr Wilson also sued the late antisemitism campaigner Dr Peter Newbon, who had been part of the Twitter conversation. After Dr Newbon’s sudden death last year, Mr Wilson reached a financial settlement with his widow, as well as an agreement allowing access to documents, according to court papers.

In a statement to the pro-Corbyn website ‘Skwawkbox’, Mr Wilson said: “All claims could have settled in August 2020 for zero damages, zero costs and with undertakings to delete and not to re-publish the information. It is both inexplicable and deeply regrettable that matters were not settled and High Court claims for defamation, harassment and misuse of private information had to be issued in July 2021.”

He added: “Dr Newbon tragically died in January 2022. His widow and I reached an agreement resolving all claims against Dr Newbon’s estate. The other defendants chose not to engage in realistic negotiations to settle all the claims at the same time.”

“The costs of the case are likely now over £250,000 for a claim which could have settled for zero costs. My understanding is that the defendants’ strategy has been to use the threat of bankruptcy or actual bankruptcy to get me to abandon my claim.

“I have no other comment except to urge people to respect Dr Newbon’s family by avoiding speculating about this case.”

You can find the crowdfunding campaign here.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive