New Israel Fund Sues Adelson-owned Israel Hayom Daily for Libel

The Sheldon Adelson-owned paper said the left-wing NGO took part in financing a party for ex-lawmaker Basel Ghattas, who’s serving two years for smuggling phones to Palestinian security prisoners

The free daily Israel Hayom.
Daniel Tchetchik

The U.S.-based New Israel Fund is suing the daily Israel Hayom for libel over three articles saying the fund “supported” the “festive goodbye party” for former MK Basel Ghattas, who is serving two years in prison for smuggling cellphones and documents to Palestinians convicted of terrorism.

The suit, which seeks 75,000 shekels ($21,200), calls the articles “false, incitement and libelous," saying the stories were published “even though the defendants knew before they were published that they were not true.”

The fund says it has already “forgiven” many Israel Hayom articles as part of a policy of not unnecessarily bringing an issue to the courts, “but there is a limit.”

In the articles involved, Israel Hayom has crossed “every red line of journalistic decency and ethics,” said the fund, which aims for Israel to achieve full equality of social and political rights.

Israel Hayom, which is owned by U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, has yet to respond.

MK Basel Ghattas of the Joint List appears in the Magistrate's Court over suspicions that he smuggled cell phones to Palestinian prisoners, January 5, 2017.
Ilan Assayag

The suit was filed in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court against the newspaper, editor-in-chief Boaz Bismuth and reporter Yair Altman. The fund is asking for the paper, a free daily, to publish a correction as well as provide the monetary compensation.

Israel Hayom had said the fund was involved in the website 50 Sof (50 Out) that seeks an end to the occupation. The site provides information on events related to the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War and the occupation.

The event held for Ghattas mentioned in Israel Hayom was not listed on the fund's website, though the site did advertise another event at the Jaffa Theatre. The fund says it had no connection to the funding of any such event.

The suit adds that not only is the report false and malicious, it “violates any reasonable journalistic standards, in order to discredit the plaintiff’s name; the newspaper attributes to it an act that not only it did not do, but did not even happen.”

The fund noted a number of responses to the articles against the fund, such as that by Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, who said the fund “helped to glorify terrorists.”

Ghattas, a member of the Balad party that is part of the Joint List of Arab parties, was sentenced to two years in prison for smuggling cellphones and documents to convicted terrorists, including one convicted for the murder of an Israeli soldier.