Supreme Court Dismisses Fascism Ruling Against Im Tirzu

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Im Tirzu activists rallying in Tel Aviv, February 2013. Credit: Moti Milrod

In a ruling agreed to by both sides, the Supreme Court Wednesday dismissed a Jerusalem District Court ruling that found similarities between the right-wing movement Im Tirzu and fascism.

The earlier ruling was in a libel case brought by Im Tirzu against seven left-wing activists for creating a Facebook page entitled “Im Tirzu a fascist movement,” in which the judge threw out the bulk of the suit.

In Wednesday’s decision, the court criticized the fact that Im Tirzu had brought a libel suit at all and ordered the organization to contribute 30,000 shekels (about $7,890) to an animal rights group.

“On the recommendation of the court, the parties reached an agreement by which the court is not the appropriate arena for ideological-political wrestling, and that the legal process is not a remedy for every ill,” Justices Isaac Amit, Menahem Mazuz and Anat Baron wrote in their decision.

District Court Judge Refael Yacobi based his ruling two years ago on the testimony of expert witnesses for the defense, who established that there were similarities between Im Tirzu and fascist movements. However, the judge ruled that Im Tirzu should not pay the defendants’ court costs. Their appeal for costs was the subject of Wednesday's Supreme Court hearing.

In their appeal, the attorneys for the defendants argued that by not ordering Im Tirzu to pay costs the court had created an incentive to bring more such suits with a “serious, deep cumulative effect, which pushes defendants to give in, be silent and withdraw or compromise.”

Im Tirzu submitted a counter appeal seeking both the nullification of the district court ruling and that the defendants be required to pay damages.

The court said that it would instruct the lower courts to consider throwing out such cases in the future and to award court costs to the defendants.

However, in the case under discussion, the parties agreed to the court’s proposal that the district court ruling be voided and that Im Tirzu would contribute a sum of money, set by the court, to the animal rights group “Let the Animals Live.”

Matan Peleg, director general of Im Tirzu, welcomed the ruling, saying: “I thank the Supreme Court for clearing our name. We will continue to fight to strengthen the values of Zionism in Israeli society.”

Roi Yellin, one of the defendants, also welcomed the ruling. “We agreed to a compromise because the court accepted our opinion that this suit should have been immediately thrown out. We said from the beginning that we would donate the money we would receive from Im Tirzu and the bottom line is that Im Tirzu paid. There was no point in continuing the process to reach the same outcome.”

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