Israeli Court Orders Haredi Anti-draft Activists to Compensate Slandered ultra-Orthodox Officer

The officer was awarded hundreds of thousands of shekels after an anti—draft pamphlet claimed he had sold his soul to Satan

Ultra-orthodox protest against the draft. Picture shows what seems to be hundreds of Haredim, all dressed in bblack suits, white shirts and head covers, many brandishing signs against the draft either in Hebrew or English. March 28, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

Three anti-draft activists in a non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox community were ordered by the Israeli courts to pay hundreds of thousands of shekels in compensation to an army officer, who is ultra-Orthodox himself, after writing a series of defamatory articles about him. A fourth defendant was acquitted.

The libel suit was filed two years ago by Yehuda Glickman, the deputy chief of the department for integrating yeshiva students into the Israeli military, after a pamphlet titled “The Hunters” was published by extremists campaigning against drafting the ultra-Orthodox. The case was heard at the Ramle Magistrate’s Court.

The pamphlet listed names, phone numbers and addresses of ultra—Orthodox soldiers and officers involved in recruiting yeshiva students into the army. It accused them of being missionaries and “soul snatchers,” and “a fifth column” that had “sold their souls to Satan.”

Glickman argued that the pamphlet had made him a laughingstock in his community and that his children had been traumatized by telephone harassment — dozens of phone calls made to his home late at night, and sued for 2.4 million shekels ($680,000) in compensation.

Three of the four defendants – Yona Martzbach, Shlomo Fein and Binyamin Chait – denied being behind the pamphlet, but stated that in any case, its content was protected by freedom of expression, The fourth defendant, Yehiel Blau, who was overheard speaking against Glickman over the phone, argued that what was said was legitimate criticism.

Glickman, however, had hired a private investigator who met with one of the defendants, who in turn explained to the detective how the fGlickman and other Haredi officers were being targeted.

Glickman proved that three of the defendants were indeed behind the pamphlet, wrote Ramle Court Judge Menahem Mizrahi in his ruling. “Examining the content of the pamphlet shows that the defendants distributed it to deliberately slander the plaintiff,” he wrote. “This case does not raise questions about freedom of expression, or even approach the margins of freedom of expression, since the whole purpose of the publications were contempt, shame and insult, in a way that is above and beyond reasonable and acceptable within the limits of freedom of expression.”

The judge acquitted Chait, but ruled that Martzbach and Fein would pay Glickman 200,000 shekels each, while Blau would have to pay Glickman 100,000 shekels. Each was slapped with 30,000 shekels in court costs and 62,000 shekels in legal fees.