Anti-assimilation activist sues Haaretz newspaper

Newspaper published article claiming police did not arrest Lehava activists who attacked Arabs. Gopstein denies story, demands NIS 100,000.

Mordechai Sones,

Gopstein (left) and Ben-Gvir (right)
Gopstein (left) and Ben-Gvir (right)
Eliran Aharon

Anti-assimilation activist and chairman of the Lehava organization Bentzi Gopstein will sue Haaretz for allegedly publicizing false news and slander.

The newspaper published an article in which it said that Lehava activists attacked Israeli Arabs and that the police refrained from intervening and arresting the Lehava members. In a letter that Gopstein sent through his lawyer Itamar Ben-Gvir, he demands compensation from Haaretz in the amount of NIS 100,000.

"This morning, an article by Mr. Nir Hasson was published in Haaretz, under the headline: 'Dozens of participants in a Lehava parade in Jerusalem severely beat a young Palestinian.' The article is full of lies and serious distortions while it is clear that there is one goal: To discredit the organization and its activists," writes attorney Ben Gvir on behalf of his client.

"The article is based on the so-called testimonies of extreme left-wingers who were there and presented a picture that was the opposite of what actually happened, distorting reality, and in your extreme negligence, unexpected from a journalist or news team, you did not even ask for my clients' response."

The letter describes the circumstances of the incident described in the article: "Every Thursday night, my clients are in Zion Square and distribute informational material to the public, an activity that is completely legal." Last week a number of Arab youths came to confront the Lehava activists.

"They began to curse the activists with support from the leftists who were there, and the incident reached its climax when one of the Arab youths attacked a Lehava activist with a belt, and only after that a group of Lehava men begin pursuing the attacker in the direction of the Damascus Gate, in order to turn him over to the police."

Attorney Ben-Gvir says that "as you see in the film attached to your article, that same attacker was arrested and continued to curse the activists."

According to Ben Gvir, the Arab attackers were not satisfied with their attack on the Lehava activists. After they were detained, they attacked the detaining policemen and were therefore brought to the police station for interrogation. "Therefore they certainly did not file a complaint, because they were the assailants."

Attorney Ben-Gvir accuses Haaretz: "In the article as usual, you turned the victims into attackers and the Arabs who attacked into the alleged victims. You did not ask for a response as required by the rules of journalistic ethics and try to find out what really happened."

"From all of the above, it appears that what you published is a complete lie, and was published with the intention of blackening my clients in the eyes of the public and writing about them contemptuously. There is no doubt that the publication of these statements constitutes defamation as defined in the Prohibition of Defamation Law. The things you published have hurt my clients, humiliated them, defamed them, damaged their name, falsified reality, and placed my clients as a target for hatred, mockery, and contempt in the eyes of the public, causing them enormous damage."

At the end of the letter, the editorial staff of Haaretz and the journalist are requested "to pay compensation in the amount of NIS 100,000 (in this matter it should be noted that the damage caused to us by the publication of the article is estimated at a much higher sum, but for the sake of compromise we agree to compensation in this amount to settle the dispute outside the Courts), and to publish a retraction and an apology in the same place and in the same manner in which the above statements were published."

Attorney Ben Gvir ended his letter with a statement saying that "as long as you do not act as required above, within 14 days from the date of this letter, we will not hesitate to take all the legal means at our disposal to protect our rights."




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