The state does not believe that a “leftists are traitors” campaign initiated by supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu constitutes incitement to violence and will not open a criminal investigation into it, Haaretz has learned.
Deputy State Attorney Nurit Litman gave the state prosecution’s opinion in response to a request calling for a criminal investigation of the instigators and organizers behind the slogan, which appeared on signs and stickers used by protesters during pro-Netanyahu demonstrations.
The activists who made the request also submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice calling on it to order the attorney general to open an investigation into those behind the “leftists are traitors” campaign.
Last week, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit told the High Court that the petition should be rejected as the petitioners had not appealed a decision on the matter by the State Prosecutor’s Office, meaning that all legal efforts had not been exhausted before the petition was submitted. He attached a letter by Litman written in late February stating that “[a]n examination of the campaign you describe in your petition showed that it included serious statements, but not a direct appeal to resorting to violent acts, nor any glorification of or identification with violent acts.”
The petition was filed last February by 35 social activists and cultural figures who were requesting an examination of whether the campaign constituted an incitement to violence and defamation. This was based on the slogan “leftists are traitors,” which appeared on signs and stickers during demonstrations in support of Netanyahu. The court must now decide whether to hold a hearing or reject the petition.
The petitioners pointed to a number of incidents of violence and threats against protesters, as well as graffiti sprayed near the homes of demonstrators. None of the cases described in the petition were solved by police.
Moshe Miron, a right-wing activist who is among those behind the campaign, was employed at the campaign headquarters for Netanyahu’s Likud party ahead of last month’s election. The party said Miron was a junior staffer and that it was not aware of his campaign. Last December, Haaretz reported that the police would not investigate the use of signs carrying the “leftists are traitors” slogan, given the State Prosecutor’s Office opinion that this did not constitute incitement.
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According to the law, in order for a statement to be deemed incitement to violence, it must be proven that it calls for committing an act of violence or praises, glorifies, encourages or supports an act of violence, and that there is a real possibility of it leading to violence. Litman wrote that the campaign was “insufficient to be considered as incitement under the law. I thereby did not see reason to launch a criminal investigation,” wrote Litman.
Regarding the issue of defamation, Litman clarified that the policy of the State Prosecutor’s Office regarding the freedom of expression is one of “restrained caution” and that she did not find this case to be exceptional enough to justify the launching of an investigation or the indictment of anyone for defamation.
Attorney Yair Nehorai, who represented the plaintiffs, told Haaretz that the fact that Mendelblit’s failure to act was unreasonable, contradicted the public interest, and that it amounted to a concession to bullying. “Even if the attorney general’s intentions were good, he did not consider the damage to the public interest and to people who hold different opinions from ones held by the government in particular. His conduct suggests that he’s ignoring the issue or at least striking a wrong balance between the different considerations and interests pertaining to this issue.”