Columnist tears into “criminal” gov’t before new law makes it illegal

The Knesset yesterday passed in first reading a bill which has been described by most of the Israeli media as “The silencing law”. Under the bill, which is an amendment to the existing defamation law, the maximum compensation in a libel suit will increase exponentially from NIS 50,000 (~$13,000) to NIS 300,000, a whopping $80,000. Most journalists I know in Israel make between $2,000 and $3,000 a month, tops.

But the bill’s real traps isn’t the sum of the fine. It carries a clause that says such lawsuits might be won without proof of damages; and another clause that stipulates a reporter must publish the comment of his subject in full. In other words, I can get sued for writing that the author of the bill is more dangerous to Israel’s future than Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah combined; and, if a newspaper wants to run a 300-words report suggesting a certain company is engaging in malpractice, it must also run the full comment of the company – even if it’s 5,000 words long. With the likely result the report will not run at all.

As damaging as the bill is, it’s not yet law and is still to go through a committee and at least one more vote in the assembly. Haaretz columnist and author Neri Livneh took advantage of it this morning in a Facebook status:

“Before the amendment to the defamation law enters the books, I’d just like to declare that this government, as a whole, is racist, Tzipi Livni, whose party tabled the bill, is a cowardly hypocrite, Barak is an even worse liar than Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman is a violent fascist, David Rotem (chair of the parliamentary Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which will review the bill) is a piece of shit, and every politician who supported the bill has excellent reasons for doing so – deep inside they know they’re either criminals, liars or shits, and that only bad things will ever be written about them by honest reporters; that Israel is becoming a place no longer deserving decent, democratic and human rights supporting human beings, and that, like my father said in his latter years, “Herzl was wrong.” While we’re at it, the IDF is an occupying army and Israel routinely commits war crimes in the Occupied Territories.”

Enjoy such venting while it lasts.