Photo: Merav Yudilovitch
Jenin Jenin director Mohammed Bakri
Photo: Merav Yudilovitch
MK Chetboun
Photo: Yaron Brenner

Reservists to PM: Allow soldiers to sue IDF slanderers

After AG blocks Jenin Jenin Bill which allows soldiers to file class actions for libel of IDF in general, 40 IDF officers send letter to PM, AG requesting they push law through, give soldiers chance to have day in court

Two weeks ago Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein opposed the Jenin Jenin Bill – a bill allowing IDF soldiers to file class actions against those defaming the IDF even if no specific soldier was harmed –claiming it infringed on the balance between libel and freedom of speech.


Sunday, his decision was met with a fierce response, prompting some 40 IDF officers to send a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him to work to advance the bill. A copy of the letter was also sent to MK Yoni Chetboun (Habayit Hayehudi), who initiated the bill, and to Weinstein himself.


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"We, combatants and commanders in the IDF's reserves wish to express our astonishment at your opinion in regards to the law criminalizing defamation of IDF soldiers," the group wrote to Weinstein in their letter.


According to them, "the current formulation of libel laws does not allow a person a chance to take his slanderer to court to examine the validity of his or her claims, because the law focuses only on personal individuals or corporations."


The IDF is considered neither an individual nor a corporation and hence cannot sue under the law's current formulation.


"This small but meaningful loophole leaves us exposed; it allows anyone to spread lies about us and the IDF as his heart desires; these can range from claims of perpetrating a massacre or of raping civilian populations."


In his decision regarding the bill, the attorney general claimed that it infringes on freedom of speech in an excessive manner and is hence unfitting – specifically because the law was formulated in an attempt to overcome a High Court ruling which came in response to a petition filed against Jenin Jenin director Mohammed Bakri.


At the time, the High Court shot down the petition, claiming that libel laws do not allow lawsuits for the defamation of the "public" (the IDF) but only corporations and individuals.


In their letter, the officers responded to the claim that the law infringes on freedom of speech, the reason cited by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni for her objection to the law.


"We wish to point out that libel is not enshrined in freedom of speech and the current amendment will not change that. All this law will do is allow us to take assistance from the courts in clarifying slanderous claims made against us."


Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On said: "There is no doubt that soldiers have the right to a good reputation, but this law does the exact opposite. It sullies the IDF's name, branding it as an army that needs to shut mouths and make threats to prevent criticism… The strongest army in the Mideast is too weak to deal with an op-ed? Or with a movie? Or a play? I think not."


MK Chetboun saw the officers' letter as proof that "the law influences every single soldier; this issue should be resolved quickly.



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פרסום ראשון: 07.15.13, 00:16
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