Former Top Officials, Harvard Program Grads Sue Netanyahu's Son for Libel

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Yair Netanyahu testifying in court after suing an activist for libel, Tel Aviv, October 12, 2018
File photo: Yair Netanyahu testifying in court after suing an activist for libel, Tel Aviv, October 12, 2018Credit: Moti Milrod

Israel graduates of the Wexner Foundation’s Israel Fellowship program filed a libel suit Tuesday against one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s two sons.

The suit, filed in the Herzliya Magistrate’s Court, seeks 1 million shekels ($290,000) in damages from Yair Netanyahu over a series of tweets.

The plaintiffs all received grants from the foundation and participated in a program it runs at Harvard University. They include journalist Alon Ben-David, former State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, Maj. Gen. (res.) Noam Tibon and Uri Carmel, a former head of the Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct.

Netanyahu’s representative replied in a statement, “These delusional, ridiculous SLAPP suits no longer even make Yair yawn.” SLAPP is an acronym for “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” a lawsuit intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition

One of the tweets the suit cited read, “A bill that would solve 97% of Israel’s existential problems: An alumnus of the pedophile’s Wexner Foundation can’t get a job as a civil servant, whose salary is paid by the taxpayer.”

Another, posted two weeks later, said, “Wexner Foundation alumni! This cult of pedophiles has taken over the country and has been perpetrating a governmental coup over the last four years.”

The third tweet cited in the suit was posted in July but later taken down. Netanyahu wrote after removing it, “I want to clarify that when I wrote that the Western Foundation was a cult of pedophiles, I was referring only to Jeffrey Epstein, who was responsible for the foundation in the early 2000s, and not anyone else.”

Jeffrey Epstein's photo from the New York State Sex Offender Registry, March 28, 2017.Credit: ,AP

The suit said these tweets were meant “to promote the defendant’s interests and make the public think of foundation alumni as ‘cult members,’ as an evil affliction, as being unacceptable in public service and as trying to bring about a coup.”

Moreover, it added, “separately and together, these are crude, offensive, humiliating posts that would endanger and severely harm every one of the plaintiffs’ jobs and professional futures. The goal of these false, offensive posts was to cast grave aspersions on all the plaintiffs and undermine their credibility and professional integrity.”

Five other libel suits are also pending against Netanyahu. Those were filed by Avi Alkalay, former editor of the Walla internet news site; the New Contract organization; Nir Hefetz, a former spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; the Molad think tank; and Dana Cassidy, a woman whom Yair Netanyahu insinuated had an affair with Kahol Lavan party chairman Benny Gantz. Together, these suits seek more than 3 million shekels in damages.

Netanyahu also filed a countersuit against Molad, for 140,000 shekels.

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