In a libel suit against the chareidi Yated Neeman newspaper, a Jerusalem court ordered the newspaper to pay Rabbi Yisrael Rosen of Tzomet Institute NIS 70,000.
The case deals with an article written about four years ago, in which terrible adjectives were used in describing Rav Rosen, including “fool, ignoramus, worthless rat and simpleton”.
In his suit, the rabbi alleged the newspaper portrayed him as one who bends halacha when convenient for profit and one whose halachic rulings are influenced by profit. The article stated his ‘appetite for money” blind his halachic judgment. Two weeks later, a second defamatory article appeared against the rabbi along the same lines as the first.
In its defense, the newspaper argued the rabbi is a controversial figure in the religious world. The newspaper also cited an article by the rabbi, who harshly criticized the chareidi world, admorim and others, when Yahadut HaTorah joined the coalition after the National Religious Party broke away surrounding the 2005 Disengagement Plan, that resulted in the uprooting of Gaza’s Jewish community.
The court ruled the harsh terms used to describe the rabbi are not the problem, covered under free speech.
Yated argued that in an article published by Rav Rosen, in his reference to members of the Agudah Council of Torah Sages, he referred to them as “blinded by bribery…” Rav Rosen also lashed out at Rav Elyashiv Shlita in his writings.
The court ruled that his writings and actions represent Rabbi Rosen’s decision to place himself in the center of controversy.
Justice Shirley Rand however drew the line when the rabbi was accused of selling his halachic rulings for profit, stating the newspaper has no proof to back up the statement. The journalists stated they were compelled to write the articles, explaining this is the operational reality of the newspaper, explaining they are assigned what to write, and therefore, they should not be held liable. They explained they are not responsible for content of the paper. The court however did hold Yisrael Wertzel, Yitzchak Roth and Nathan Grossman responsible for their words.
The court stated nevertheless, despite the instructions and direction of the newspaper’s vaad rabbonim, the authors were “shlichim” responsible for this unacceptable journalism and therefore, they and the newspaper must make payment in the amount of NIS 70,000.
(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)