Israel sues citizens for slander and apologies to Turkey

“The Sixth Commandment says ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ so why you [the municipality] are killing us here?”
Privacy and Libel Law: The Clash with Press Freedom

Israel sues citizens for slander and apologies to Turkey

every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgmentMatthew 12:36

By for VT

Few newspaper editors have the capability to see the large picture; buried in their tactical manipulation of information they often miss the odd links created by their uncoordinated decisions, sometimes to the extent of hitting their own masters.

On February 23, 2013, Israeli newspaper Haaretz did just that. Its Hebrew version grouped two strangely complementing pieces.

Israel – real complaints are not slander

One reported on an expected apology of Israel to Turkey due to the Freedom Flotilla crimes committed by Israel. A few days ago, Turkey and Israel became friends again after Israel agreed to supply spying equipment that had been frozen since 2011. In parallel, the two former allies are holding negotiations to end the rupture between them. Apparently, Israel would apologize for its crimes and would indemnify the hurt Turkish citizens while Turkey would drop its demand of Israel to end the siege on Gaza. If an agreement would be reached, it would be announced soon after a new government is formed in Israel.

The last time Israel surrendered to such pressure was after it attacked Khaled Mashal. As often reported here, Israel understands only brute force as a negotiation tactic; after Turkey became a serious contestant to the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Fields, Israel accepted a compromise. Israeli citizens seldom have a similar power; thus, Israel decided to sue those criticizing the State. This was the topic of the article placed next to the one on Turkey. This odd mix portrayed Israel’s real face, a bigot seeking to take advantage of the weak but subservient of those holding the real power.

Suing State

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel published these days a report on an unusual topic, it was titled Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. It deals with a new trend, the State, its various organizations, corporations and large companies are systematically suing citizens criticizing them. The process is designed to maximize the harassment of the citizens, including trials for comments placed on innocuous internet forums.

David Perl is a real-estate consultant; in 2011, he published several warnings in Tapuz (“orange fruit” in Hebrew), a popular Israeli portal, against the Eisenberg Group. The latter was selling agricultural terrains claiming that they will be “thawed” for urban construction shortly afterwards. The claim was a lie; buyers had no protection against it. The company sued Perl in two different courts (Nazareth and Hertzeliya) both far from his residence, so that he would be forced to move between these two cities.

The company demanded him to pay a combined sum of roughly $500,000. In February 2013, following a complex saga, the President of the Supreme Court declared Perl innocent and sentenced the company to pay him roughly $500 for the harassment. The sum allotted won’t pay even for the costs caused by the judicial process. Following the sentence, Mr. Perl apologized for his use of words like “charlatans” in the forum but did not retract the facts.

David Perl

Mr. Perl’s case is just one of the many analyzed by the report. One of the lawyers who authored it said, “the main effect of these trials is not legal but social: it silences the complaints and hurts those making them.” This terror system is backed by the State. In the former Knesset, relevant legislation was fixed by the work of Meir Shitrit (then from party Kadima, now from HaTnua) and Yariv Levin (Likud). According to the new version, the suing party doesn’t need to show any proofs of damage if it is requesting less than NIS300,000 as damages.

This is not a law, but State Terror. The trials are usually carried out against social organizations, activists, and regular citizens who complain on their violation by the State or its cherished corporations. A good example is the case of Avi Tamir, the man in the window at the top picture. He lives in Rehovot with his wife in a humble apartment; both are over 70 and retired. A few years ago the municipality decided to build a tower over his home. He placed the protests signs seen in the picture, which are not offensive in the Israeli context.

He got a threatening letter from the municipality saying the signs are not allowed as per local regulations and that he would be sued for NIS50,000, well below the sum that requires providing proofs, but a fortune for the couple. The municipality is now waiting to begin the process after the next local elections; Mr. Tamir left the signs. This is State Terror.

The lawyers analyzed also the typical letters sent by the companies. The Byzantyne, colorful text doesn’t translate well into English, but the trend was clear. Lawyers send accusation letters in which they define the crime, namely slander, but don’t provide details how it was committed. A citizen dared to answer them, asking the blaming lawyer in a florid style to please, please describe his offense so that he would be able to avoid committing it again. The corporate lawyer sent again the blaming letter, without providing any details. He can sue without proofs. This is State Terror.

There is a Hebrew saying that translates as “to be smart on the weak;” it is used against those who attack the weak just because they can, while they refrain from even looking in the direction of those with power. It describes a state of cowardice, a state of violence, a society of ignorant lawlessness. It describes the State of Israel.

 Addendum: The People’s Right to tell Unpleasant Truths

Slander, also known as defamation, calumny, vilification, traducement, and libel, is defined as a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation a negative or inferior image. Obviously, the claim must be false and communicated to someone other than the person defamed to create liability. The main international law dealing with people’s rights on the issue is the International Covenant on of Civil and Political Rights, which deals with the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial.. In certain countries, slander is dealt with as a crime rather than a civil wrong. Yet, in 2012, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights ruled that the criminalization of libel violates Freedom of expression and is inconsistent with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


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