A Jerusalem District Court judge on Thursday denied MK Taleb a-Sanaa (United
Arab List- Ta’al) and others’ petition for a temporary injunction blocking an
anti-Islam video ridiculing the prophet Muhammad on Google and
The two sides started the battle over the petition’s main
argument seeking a permanent injunction, but no final decision was
Sanaa frequently compared the Innocence of Muslims trailer to a
movie making fun of the Holocaust, claiming that the courts would be quick to
force YouTube and Google to take down any movie deemed offensive to
He pleaded with Jerusalem District Judge Miriam Mizrahi to approve
the temporary injunction, but was unsuccessful.
Outside the courtroom,
Sanaa slammed the courts.
“They are forcing people to go out and have
violent demonstrations,” he said. “Freedom of expression is not expression
without limits, and it’s not that whoever doesn’t want to hear it won’t pay
attention. The fact is that people were actively hurt by this. It can’t be that
because [the courts] are not Muslim [they] won’t worry about the feelings of
Muslims,” he said.
Google presented a spirited defense of free speech,
the limits of a search engine and other arguments.
Wading into the
conflict between freedom of speech and offending public sentiments, Google
invoked the inability to truly block access to a Webvideo in the digital
But Google did not limit itself to freedom of speech
In an attempt to sidestep the entire petition, Google said it
was not a “publisher” of movies or anything else, but an engine for searching
for all kinds of items.
If it is not a publisher, it cannot be ordered
not to publish anything, said Google. In other words, it is useless to order a
company to stop doing something it does not do in the first
Emphasizing the point, Google lawyer Hagit Blaiberg stressed that
viewers had to take action in order to see the offensive video, unlike a
billboard or other publication in the public sphere. “It’s a choice, they have
to go to it,” she said.
“Someone who doesn’t look for the video won’t
find it, so the public that could be offended by the video can avoid watching
the clip for now,” Mizrahi said, possibly revealing the judge’s position on the
On that note, Google lawyer Blaiberg noted that the
Knesset had thoroughly debated the issue of holding search engines liable for
various postings and had declined to do so to date.
Google’s role in the
case was further complicated by the confusion over its relationship with YouTube
and Google Israel. “All I know about Google is that it’s a search engine,”
Mizrahi quipped at one point.
Mizrahi also said she had not seen the
trailer for Innocence of Muslims.
“We can watch it right here, it will
just take 10 minutes,” responded Kais Nasser, the lawyer representing Sanaa and
Google also managed to take the side of the
petitioners, as if to say that there was a villain here, but that the
petitioners were going after the wrong party.
If the petitioners want to
hold someone accountable for the video, said Google, they should be suing the
In terms of actually stopping the harm itself, Google
noted that even if the petitioners got all of the relief they asked for,
Israelis would be able to view the movie on other search engines.
was no way to stop people from viewing the video, unless the entire world
blocked off the Internet everywhere, which was not possible, Google
In that light it would also be unfair to make Google suffer for its
success as a top-search engine and to help its competitors by arbitrarily
preventing Google from allowing access to certain items while its competition
could continue to allow access.
Next Google attacked procedural aspects
of the petition.
Google said it was improperly filed as it mixed together
criminal counts with civil ones.
The claims needed to be separated, said
Google, and the criminal ones must first go to the police and follow the regular
process before they found themselves in court.
defamation, Google said it was impossible to sue for defamation on behalf of
someone, Muhammad, who died so long ago.
Finally, several times Google
hammered home the point that Google Israel did not control YouTube and that even
if the petitioners won the case, they would not get what they wanted, since
Google would not have the power to force YouTube to block the video.
petitioners rejected Google’s technical argument about lack of control of
YouTube, noting that in several other countries the video was blocked on YouTube
when objecting parties turned to Google.
The petitioners’ full demands
had been that Google take down the video, prevent future publicizing of the film
and block all access to the film in Israel.
In their petition, they had
characterized the film as abusing freedom of speech, saying it violated the
image of the prophet in a racist manner while trampling his sanctity and
desecrating his name.
Among other things, the petition had noted that the
video characterized Muhammad as a pedophile who encouraged his followers to have
sexual relations with minors.
According to the petitioners, the
publication constituted incitement to racism against Muslims in violation of
Article 144 of the Penal Code, violated the religious feelings of Muslims in
contravention of the code’s Article 173, and was defamatory according to the
1965 Defamation Law.
About 20 political and religious leaders accompanied
a- Sanaa to the courtroom.
“Islam is a religion of love, living together
like brothers, and good livelihood. It’s lies what they said, and anyone who
said anything bad about Muhammad needs to have their tongue cut out,” said Zatmi
Ali, one of the supporters of the ban.
Zeidan Badran, the head of the
Basma village local council in Wadi Ara and one of the petitioners named in the
court document, said that he was worried about violence from Egypt and Libya
spreading to Israel and the Palestinian territories as a result of the movie. He
said he would urge the entire Arab world to boycott Google for 30 days to show
the power of their numbers.
Both sides asked to respond further to the
arguments made in court.
The court gave Google until September 30 to
respond, the petitioners until October 9 to respond, and scheduled the next
hearing for October 15.