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Itamar Loses Libel Suit against Haaretz Journalist

Judge finds that Neri Livneh did not libel the Samaria community when she said it produced murderers every two years.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 8/31/2014, 7:01 PM

Neri Livneh
Neri Livneh
Flash 90

Jerusalem Magistrates Court Judge Tamar Bar-Asher Tzaban has ruled against the community of Itamar, in Samaria, in a libel suit it filed against Haaretz journalist Neri Livneh, reports The Seventh Eye.

Speaking on TV Channel 1 news interview show Politika in 2012, Livneh said that her impression of Itamar is that of “a settlement populated by particularly violent people,” and claimed, “Someone there commits murder roughly once every two years.” She said this after she was asked if she has sympathy for the pain and anger in Itamar, where the Fogel family had been slaughtered a year earlier, and where numerous other terror murders have occurred over the years.

Itamar decided to hit back with a 200,000 shekel lawsuit targeting Livneh for her remarks. It initially won the lawsuit, for technical reasons: Registrar Uri Poni of the Jerusalem Magistrates Court ruled that Livneh must pay 225,000 shekels plus court costs and attorney fees to Itamar and three of its residents after she did not respond in time to their defamation suit and did not seek an extension to file a response.

However, Livneh appealed this decision and claimed that she had never received notification that she had been sued. The court found that notifications regarding the lawsuit, supposedly delivered to Livneh's home and to Haaretz's offices, were indeed delivered to the wrong addresses.

Judge Bar-Asher Tzaban found that the plaintiffs misrepresented what Livneh said. She explained in her ruling that “what the defendant meant to say was that according to her impression, on the basis of the facts in her possession, there are aggressive people in Itamar. Because several murderers have emerged from there and those are the aggressive people in her eyes, not all of the residents of Itamar. It is hard to see how the impression of a person who was invited to express his personal positions, which -- it was clear from the program -- were from the leftist side of the map, constitute libel.”

The judge noted that Livneh used the words “my impression is” before she called the residents of Itamar aggressive, and that the plaintiffs appeared to intentionally leave out those words when they quoted her in their lawsuit.

She ruled that Itamar must pay relatively high court expenses to Livneh, totalling 24,000 shekels.

Judge Bar-Asher Tzaban Courts website