A Libel Suit to Support
Naftali Bennett sues Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi for Libel
Now that Naftali Bennett has retired from the job of Prime Minister, he is seeking retribution from those who slandered him and caused pain to his family.
First was an Israeli rabbi, Ronen Shaulov. He had spread the claim that Bennett is not Jewish because his mother was a “Reform convert.” This was utterly false - she was from a longstanding Jewish family, some of whom were killed in the Holocaust - and, of course, extremely hurtful. Bennett sued Shaulov for libel, to the sum of one million shekels. Shaulov had to pay a considerable amount in compensation - all of which was donated by Bennett to a charity supporting bereaved families of falled soldiers.
Next in line is Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi, who gleefully repeated the slander about Bennett’s mother, along with describing Bennett as a “devil” who should be “impaled with a spear.” Bennett is demanding an apology and 100,000 shekels in compensation, or else he will file a lawsuit and exact even more.
Slander is a very serious crime, and Israel has strict laws about it. The Torah classification of it, motzi shem ra, is rated as analogous to bloodshed. And I can personally attest to how painful it is to be on the receiving end of it.
Over the years I’ve been subject to libel many times. I’m not just talking about people describing my views as heretical - I’m talking about people making false statements about my life. On one of the first such occasions, which was particularly painful, I wanted to sue the rosh yeshivah that had libelled me. Alas, I discovered that there is no way to work around the fact that it just isn’t permissible according to Jewish law. It is a clear prohibition in the Shulchan Aruch, based on a Gemara, to resort to secular law rather than Torah law.
Some are using this to criticize Bennett. But I think that this is misplaced. Bennett is not a rabbi. He doesn’t present himself as a role model of Torah observance. He is on the “lite” side of dati. It’s hardly a big deal that he is not following a particular halacha. There are much more prominently Orthodox figures who sue each other in secular court - such as certain Hassidic rebbes!
Criticizing Bennett for this is especially problematic. The reason for the prohibition against using secular law is that it undermines the Torah system of law. But in this case, the real undermining of Torah was done by these rabbis, not by Bennett.
As I’ve pointed out repeatedly, rabbis such as Yosef Mizrachi and his associate Yaron “Ron” Reuven are a menace to society. (Incidentally, warning the public about dangerous people is neither prohibited lashon hara nor culpable in Israeli law as libel.) With their hateful denunciation of other rabbis and public figures as heretics who deserve to be executed, and their enthusiasm for violent talk, not to mention their minimization or justification of the Holocaust, they present a great danger. And it’s been very difficult to get the Orthodox establishment to do anything about them.
Bearing that in mind, it’s impossible not to be glad that Bennett is taking this action. Let’s hope that it assists in bankrupting the reputation of such people as well as their finances.
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