Netanyahu's Coalition Whip Demands Protesters in Front of His House Pay Him or Be Sued

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Likud lawmaker Miki Zohar during a Knesset committee meeting, Jerusalem, January 13, 2020.
Likud lawmaker Miki Zohar during a Knesset committee meeting, Jerusalem, January 13, 2020.
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Knesset coalition whip Miki Zohar is threatening to sue two demonstrators who protested in front of his house, as well as another woman who posted a video of the protest to social media. The three recently received warning letters from Zohar’s lawyer demanding 100,000 shekels ($29,800) from each of them, along with an apology “for purposes of a settlement alone.” It threatened to sue them for 140,00 shekels each if they do not comply.

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The protest was held last month in front of the Likud lawmaker’s house in the southern town of Kiryat Gat. Among the demonstrators were Sadi Ben-Shitrit and Yael Gaon, who have also participated in demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a regular basis.

Gaon tweeted the video of the demonstration near Zohar’s house along with the comment “Miki Zohar is a criminal.” Ben-Shitrit is heard in part in the video clip telling Zohar, “You’re a soldier in a crime family. You’re Netanyahu’s dishrag.”

The demand letters sent by Zohar’s lawyer to Ben-Shitrit and Gaon called their actions defamatory and alleged that they had no basis in fact and were carried out “with the aim of besmirching my client’s name and doing critical harm to his good name.”

Gaon said that a Likud activist called her relatives in order to get more information about her, and said that the Prime Minister's Office is looking for her. "It looks like Zohar sent people to find average citizens who protested against him, it's scary," she said. “I have no intention to pay or apologize. Harm was done to your reputation? You want to sue me? Lift your [parliamentary] immunity and go at it with me one-on-one.”

Ben-Shitrit said that he has no intention to respond to the letter and will not apologize or pay compensation. “It’s a disgrace that a man like Miki Zohar is a member of the Knesset,” he added. "But come on, let him go to court…he's unable to take criticism so he sues, but we're not afraid."

Liri Burak Shavit, who films anti-Netanyahu demonstrations, was not at that protest, but she disseminated video footage of Ben-Shitrit at the protest and also received a demand letter. She noted that Zohar retweeted her tweet of the video, thereby giving it a wider audience. "I thought about apologizing for a moment," she said. "The demand for the ridiculous sum looks like bullying and protection money. It's an ugly attempt at silencing. It's a very dangerous precedent that a person can't put up a video from a protest on Twitter because it embarrasses him."

In response for this article, a statement on Zohar’s behalf said the demand was issued against demonstrators who had defamed Zohar, “calling him a criminal, corrupt, a Mafioso and a range of remarks that it is not appropriate to repeat. The improper phenomenon of people demonstrating in front of a person’s house while making use of such expressions against him and his children must stop. Elected officials also have the right to defend their good names, and freedom of expression isn’t freedom of incitement.”

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