The Jerusalem District Court on Thursday rejected the request by an Israeli-Arab lawmaker and Muslim community leaders to immediately order Google Israel to remove the video “The Innocence of Muslims” from Israel’s YouTube feed.
The court did not dismiss the petition, however. After a brief discussion, Judge Miriam Mizrahi said the hearing on the petition would continue after Sukkot.
The video has been cited as a provocation for violence and rioting in various other countries.
MK Talab al-Sana (UAL-Ta’al) and the Muslim leaders submitted the request, arguing that the video violates Israeli law because it incites to violence and insults Muslim religious sensibilities. In their request the petitioners noted that Google owns YouTube, on which the video can be viewed, and is also the search engine most likely to be used by those wanting to see it.
Google Israel representatives at the hearing asked that the request be rejected. They also noted that Google Israel does not have any influence on YouTube and cannot possible influence what happens on the entire Internet.
Google recommended the petitioners file suit against the maker of the video.
“If you would approach the creator of the video and demand that he remove the video, the moment he would remove the video the content would also be dropped from search engines,” said attorney Hagit Blaiberg, who represents Google.
“Neither YouTube nor Google are investigative authorities,” she said. “They can’t know if what’s published is inciting, racist, anti-religious, or slander; it’s a private company that offers a platform. This request puts YouTube and Google into the shoes of an investigative authority or a court.”
Blaiberg also said that it’s impossible to legally determine that the video slanders the prophet Mohammed and Muslims.
“With all due respect, one cannot file a libel suit on behalf of someone who’s dead or a large population,” she said.
The judge expressed a bit of helplessness when confronting the petitioners’ technical arguments about the video.
“I can’t express an opinion because I don’t understand this,” she admitted.
After a short hearing, she asked both sides to submit their arguments in writing, which will greatly lengthen the legal procedure. The petitioners then requested a temporary restraining order that would block access to the video in Israel, as was done in Egypt and Libya.
But Mizrahi refused, saying, “My common sense tells me that whoever doesn’t want to look for it, won’t find it. The public that’s offended simply shouldn’t watch it.”
But attorney Kais Nasser, representing al-Sana, persisted.
“If someone would make a video belittling the Holocaust, we also wouldn’t do anything?” Nasser asked. “This is a pornographic film of the highest order, and has caused casualties, in the meantime. We want to prevent harm to public safety. There’s no argument that this has gone too far.”
“There haven’t been any riots here yet, so we would prefer that there be riots here to have it blocked?” asked al-Sana. “There were quiet demonstrations that didn’t change anything, the court didn’t change anything, so people are going out into the streets on their own to defend themselves. That’s very dangerous.”
“You can’t do things in one fell swoop,” retorted Mizrahi. “It’s a lengthy process in Israel because of the principle of freedom of expression.”
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