Haaretz Editorial |

Speak Out Against Silencing

The widespread use of libel suits and legal threats, including against ordinary citizens who protest or voice criticism, as documented by the Association for Civil Rights, is a serious blow to the already fragile fabric of democratic life in Israel.

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

A new report published by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel deals with the widespread use of libel suits and legal threats, including against ordinary citizens who protest or voice criticism. It describes a disturbing reality in which a growing number of people are afraid to participate in the public discourse due to fear of being sued and becoming embroiled in lengthy, expensive legal proceedings.

This is a serious blow to the already fragile fabric of democratic life in Israel. The examples cited in Or Kashti's article (which appeared in Haaretz in Hebrew last Friday) show how libel suits, or even just the threat that they might be filed, have turned into a tool for silencing people: a real estate company that didn't like the statements of an expert who posted warnings against it on a website; a contractor from the north who hired and sent a lawyer to threaten a citizen who had complained about him to the Israel Lands Administration; or the leaders of a major city, who used attorneys paid for out of public funds to threaten a resident who had erected a sign saying they had "buried him alive," to protest the construction of high-rise apartment complexes next to his home.

For each such example, it's possible to bring many more - from local governments where mayors sue opposition councillors who bother them, through organizations for social or environmental change that are exposed to delegitimization campaigns, to ordinary consumers who seek to complain about a rotten deal.

People in positions of power and authority have a built-in advantage in any public discourse, as they have the resources to disseminate their views and advance their interests by means of "silencing suits."

The solution to the dangers posed by such silencing suits is, first and foremost, to raise awareness of them, both within the legal system and among legislators. Other countries, such as the United States, have amended their laws to counter the negative influence of these suits. In Israel, however, existing law merely bolsters the deterrent power of such suits. In addition to raising public awareness of these attempts to abolish all criticism, members of the new Knesset, from both right and left, would do well to find a way to restore real substance to the right of freedom of expression.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

The Orion nebula, photographed in 2009 by the Spitzer Telescope.

What if the Big Bang Never Actually Happened?

Relatives mourn during the funeral of four teenage Palestinians from the Nijm family killed by an errant rocket in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip, August 7.

Why Palestinian Islamic Jihad Rockets Kill So Many Palestinians

בן גוריון

'Strangers in My House': Letters Expelled Palestinian Sent Ben-Gurion in 1948, Revealed

AIPAC

AIPAC vs. American Jews: The Toxic Victories of the 'pro-Israel' Lobby

Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic speaks during a press conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia in May.

‘This Is Crazy’: Israeli Embassy Memo Stirs Political Storm in the Balkans

Hamas militants take part in a military parade in Gaza.

Israel Rewards Hamas for Its Restraint During Gaza Op