This article deals with two different sets of laws: the laws currently in force in the State of Israel, and the laws enforced by local jurisprudence. In order to understand the message, it will be necessary to read until the end.
Who would you call a coward? Who would be an unscrupulous coward?
Let’s say, you are walking down the street and you see an unarmed terrorist, (imagine such an image is possible), attacking an unarmed citizen. Suppose the terrorist is a slight person and you are quite robust and could easily neutralize him. You are the only one on the street at that moment who could easily help and even save that victim’s life. But you choose to do absolutely nothing.
Now, the issues under the laws:
“It is mandatory for one person to help another person who is in front of their eyes in danger due to an unexpected, serious and immediate danger to their life and health. It is mandatory to assist, without risking or without putting the lives of other people at risk (including the person who intends to help) ”- free translation of paragraph 1 of the 1998 law -“ lo Taamod Al Dam Reecha ”לֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל דַּם רֵעֶךָ Deuteronomy , chapter 19 or: The Law of the Good Samaritan.
Under the Law of the Good Samaritan, would you be considered a coward or even an unscrupulous coward? Could you be charged and convicted under this law?
Changing the narrative, what would you say if it was not you passing on the street, but an Israeli Arab passing on the streets? Or an Israeli Arab who knows this terrorist? Would the law now consider this Israeli Arab to be a co-conspirator or an accessory? Or, would he be judged as any other citizen who simply chose not to take action or “froze in the moment”?
The questions are legitimate and very difficult to answer. This exact scenario has not been addressed by the high courts in Israel yet.
Personally, I would not want to be on the panel having to rule on such a case, nor the lawyer for either side in such a case.
The Defamation Act – 1965 – חוק איסור לשון הרע
The translation of the title of this law is: “The law that prohibits defamation – 1965.”
Unlike the previously discussed law, this law is used in abundance in the Israeli courts. In recent years, judgments awarded by the courts have varied, depending on the specific case, and some have been upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Why this discrepancy and why this difference in the use of laws?
There are two main differences when applying these laws. There are great challenges when judging a person according to the law of the Good Samaritan as opposed to an individual accused of defamation.
In the first case, objectively speaking, it would be impossible to know with certainty, what the thoughts and reasons were of the person who decided not to take the initiative to save the life of another. In the second case, we can conclude with certainty, what the intention was of the person who defamed the other. Therefore, when we can “get into a person’s head” and figure out their intentions, it is much easier to analyze a case.
One of the very few and limited defenses to defamation is that the defamer spoke the truth or reported a fact. Therefore, it could not be defamation which, according to the law, would necessarily be the report of a falsehood. I would emphasize that the obligation to present evidence, concrete evidence that “the truth has been told” is the obligation of the defamer and the defamer alone.
The criminal intent (Mens Rea) of the slanderer is, among other things, to harm the good name of the victim. When the slanderer “hides behind a curtain” using secrecy with his identity or appearing incognito, he becomes an unscrupulous cowardly slanderer.
This is the type of crime in which the victim cannot even defend himself in time! It is only after his name is ruined, that he discovers that he has been defamed. For that reason, the law is strict with this type of unscrupulous coward.
The modern media, judiciaries, and lawmakers around the globe, are unable to reach a simple conclusion, as to whether and which citizens’ valuable rights should be “protected” (given preference).
The right to a “clean and decent” name or the “right to free expression”. The Israeli judiciary has repeatedly stated that the right to freedom of expression does not include the right to defame (חופש הביטוי אינו חופש השיסוי). However, only the religious law (Halacha) has reached a final and practical conclusion. In the words of King Solomon: טוֹב שֵׁם, מִשֶּׁמֶן טוֹב (קהלת) that is: “A clean name, an honorable name is worth more than anything material.”
Many have interpreted the technology of the modern world, as permission to destroy the lives of others. I believe that the internet with its platforms of bloggers, social media, Facebook, Instagram etc., has become public enemy number one to the good names of others. These unscrupulous cowardly slanders hide behind falsehoods and identity disguises, preventing their victim from seeing the true source of the slanderer.
The judiciary is not deceived in these cases. Criminal intentions are revealed through defamatory messages, even when they are indirect or appear to be subliminal.
Just because a person does not “like someone” or agree with his ideas or religion, this will not be accepted as an “excuse” or permission to defame any human being.
Remember what our sages in the Talmud (Brachot) said: “Just as their faces are different, so are their opinions” (“כשם שפרצופיהם שונים כך דעותיהם שונות”).
You don’t have to agree with, but you should respect the ideas of others and the good name of each and every human being.
Defamation is not only an act of cowardice and un-scrupulousness; it is an evil that has claimed the lives of many good people and destroyed the lives of many others.