Daily Israel Report

Columnist Forced to Pay for Insulting a Pro Gush Katif Protestor

A former soldier who refused to shake hands with then-COS Dan Halutz wins 12,000 NIS due to insulting article.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 2/23/2009, 6:45 PM

Former soldier Hananel Dayan, who made headlines for his refusal to shake hands with then-Chief of Staff Dan Halutz following the 2005 Disengagement from Gaza, has been awarded 12,000 shekels for insulting statements contained in an article by columnist Yair Lapid in the Hebrew-language daily Yediot Aharonot. However, the presiding judge rejected Dayan's accusation of slander.

The charges against Lapid and Ynet stemmed from a 2006 editorial piece titled, “The (Dis)honorable Sgt. Dayan.” In the piece, Lapid slammed Dayan as an “imbecile,” “jerk,” and “spoiled settler brat.”

Two weeks ago, former IDF General Elazar Stern agreed to pay Dayan 31,500 shekels for leaking private information about him to Lapid.

The Jerusalem Magistrates' Court found Lapid guilty of fabricating several of the charges against Dayan in his article. Lapid's claims that Dayan had demanded an apology from Halutz and had been forced from his unit were found to be false.

In addition, Lapid implied that Dayan was part of a larger trend of anti-Israel behavior in Judea and Samaria, saying “But there are more and more Hananels cropping up... I am referring to the folks who boycott Independence Day when the government doesn’t do what they want. And the ones who refuse compulsory army service, and no longer recite the celebratory Hallel prayer in honor of this country and the guys who threw two lit Molotov cocktails at soldiers and border police in Hebron and the kids who want to establish their independent State of Judah.”

Lapid's references to refusing IDF service, no longer reciting Hallel and attacking soldiers did not refer directly to Dayan and therefore cannot be construed as slander, Judge Oded Shoham ruled.

Judge Shoham also ruled that Dayan could not sue Lapid for slander, as Dayan's own controversial action had transformed him into a public figure subject to public criticism. In addition, Lapid's column was noticeably editorial in nature and did not claim to be purely factual, the judge said.

Many of the insults hurled at Dayan by Lapid “could reasonably be understood to be negative,” Judge Shoham conceded, but added that, “in the context in which they were used, they were not meant to be literal.”

The judge found Yediot Acharonot and Lapid guilty of publishing the article in the paper's popular weekend edition without checking facts, and of publicizing the article without being prepared to defend it. “This may have increased the damage caused” to Dayan, the judge found.

Dayan refused to shake Halutz's hand during an IDF ceremony honoring exemplary soldiers, including Dayan. Dayan strongly opposed the forced removal of Jews from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria under Halutz's leadership, and felt that the expulsion from Gaza was a major factor in the death of his grandfather.

Aside from the NIS 12,000 awarded to Dayan, the defendants were ordered to pay his attorney's fees and the court fees, an additional total of almost 3,000 shekels.