Court: Haaretz Report on Group's Efforts to Judaize East Jerusalem Violated Gag Order

Judge dismisses Ateret Cohanim's request that Haaretz be harshly penalized, only fines newspaper $1,900 in legal fees.

Olivier Fitoussi

The Jerusalem District Court ruled this week that a Haaretz report about a right-wing group's activity in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan violated a gag order. 

The group, Ateret Cohanim, argued that Haaretz should pay a fine, or alternatively that the reporter in question should be jailed, for publishing numerous protected details. Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman rejected the bulk of the claim but accepted that some details were in violation of a gag order. She ordered the newspaper to pay 7,500 shekels ($1,900) in legal fees. 

Earlier this month, Haaretz reported on the methods the organization employs to evict Palestinian families from their homes in the Batn al-Hawa area in Silwan. The evictions were conducted on the basis of a lawsuit asserting the land on which the homes were built was consecrated over a century earlier. 

The exposé profiled a figure identified only as M., one of the land's executors, who pressured the Palestinian families to leave while also offering them generous sums of money. Before the report was published, M. and several other executors of the land turned to the regional court, and later to the Supreme Court, demanding that Haaretz be barred from releasing the names and personal details of M. and other figures involved in real estate deals in the neighborhood. They claimed that their exposure would put their lives at risk.

Supreme Court Justice Yitzchak Amit accepted M.'s request, backed by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. 

Following the report's publication, the executors petitioned the court, claiming that numerous details in the article were in violation of the court's order. Judge Friedman-Feldman dismissed the bulk of the claim, seeing as most of the details listed by the group were published in other reports and in responses posted on the reporter's Facebook page.