Israeli Man Charged With Sabotaging Haaretz Office, Threatening Journalist

41-year-old man suffering from mental issues threatened Haaretz reporter, turned off circuit breakers, causing servers to lose power and flooding

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The Haaretz offices in Tel Aviv in 2019.
The Haaretz offices in Tel Aviv in 2019.Credit: Tomer Applebaum

An indictment was filed on Tuesday against a Ramat Gan resident for sabotaging an electrical cabinet in the Haaretz offices and threatening journalist Gidi Weitz.

Levy, 41, is charged with making threats, trespassing and intentional property damage. Levy, who was arrested last Wednesday, is detained on probation due to his psychological condition. Levy had a forced hospitalization order at the time of the incident and his family demanded that he receive psychiatric treatment.

According to the indictment, Levy came to the Haaretz offices on Schocken Street in Tel Aviv last week and began following investigative reporter Gidi Weitz when he arrived. Levy looked at Weitz as he was at the front door. Weitz, after seeing him, turned and entered the building through the parking lot entrance, with the defendant following him.

Shortly afterwards, Weitz returned to the parking lot and talked on the phone, including about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel's political situation. Levi approached Weitz and got close to his face in menacing manner and shouted at him "what do you want from Bibi?" referring to the prime minister by his nickname.

When Weitz turned toward the door, Levy raised his voice again, asking "do you have a car? Where is your car?" and then fled the area.

After the incident, Levy went to Haaretz's main electrical room and turned off several circuit breakers. Electrical and air conditioning systems stopped working in multiple parts of the building and servers lost power.

The shutdown disrupted the running of the websites of Haaretz and sister publication TheMarker for more than three hours. Levy was arrested a few hours later, not far from the Haaretz building after being caught on the building's security cameras.

In addition, because of the shutdown, an air conditioning system began leaking which caused flooding in some of the offices. Following the incident, Haaretz's management decided to increase security in the building.

Following his arrest last week, Levy was placed under evaluation by Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Ala Masrawa as he was known to police and had psychiatric antecedents.

Masrawa said “it appears that this was a plotted action, and there are many indications that his behavior was due to his disagreement with and criticism of the newspaper owners’ political views.”

Masrawa criticized the police for not having sent Levy for a psychiatric evaluation as soon as he was detained. A police representative at Thursday’s hearing said an order was given to have Levy placed under psychiatric care in the past.

Levy entered the courtroom in handcuffs because he had misbehaved on his way to the court, according to the Israel Prison Service. 

His attorney from the public defender's office, Alon Ben-Ziv, said after last week’s court session on Thursday that Levy “is a man confronting psychological problems. It is regrettable that the Israel Police did not choose to send him for psychiatric evaluation although it was aware of his condition, and that they tried to question him without notifying the public defenders about his arrest in real time.” 

On Wednesday, Levy had refused to answer interrogators’ questions and insisted on his right to remain silent.

The Crime Minister protest movement, which has been leading demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in light of his criminal indictments, released a statement after the incident last week saying that "a red line has now been crossed."

The sabotage, they said, is the product of incitement from the prime minister. "Netanyahu put a target on the media, the left and protesters as enemies of the state, and as a result, bullies are setting out every day to attack these targets. Miraculously, this has not yet cost us human life."

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