Benayahu sues ‘Haaretz’ and ‘Yediot Aharonot’ for libel

IDF spokesman says newspapers published advertisement accusing him of treason.

By RON FRIEDMAN
February 28, 2011 03:30
2 minute read.
Former IDF spokesman Avi Benayahu

avi benayahu 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu filed a NIS 2.5 million libel lawsuit against the Haaretz and Yediot Aharonot newspapers and the McCann-Erickson advertising company on Sunday for their publication last month of an anonymous ad accusing Benayahu and other senior army officers of conducting a coup d’etat against then-prospective IDF commander Maj.-Gen Yoav Galant.

The full-page ad – which sharply criticized Benayahu, as well as then-General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Lt.-Col. Boaz Harpaz, for their perceived role in torpedoing the appointment of Galant to succeed Ashkenazi – was published in the two widely read dailies last month and signed by “Citizens who do not personally know Galant and are concerned over the putsch in the Kirya [military headquarters].”

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The ad stated that “the Gabi Ashkenazi, Avi Benayahu and Boaz Harpaz gang, together with their court reporters, are about to be victorious and torpedo the democratic selection of Galant to chief of general staff.”

The ad went on to blame the three men, driven by unworthy intentions, for destroying Galant’s 30-year military career.

Benayahu’s lawyers claim in the lawsuit that the ad accused Benayahu of the most severe crime an officer can be charged with – namely acts tantamount to treason – and that it was a clear case of libel.

“The accusations that the plaintiff [Benayahu] is accused of in the ad are baseless lies. This is an extremely severe publication. Its clear aim is to humiliate the plaintiff, injure him and cause him harm.”

Benayahu’s lawyers stated that he was not the lone subject of the attack, which, aside from the accusations against the officers, also criticized the actions of the state comptroller and the attorney-general.

The lawyers said that the advertising agency had designed the ad and the newspapers had published them, knowing that their content amounted to libel.

According to the lawsuit, three weeks ago, Benayahu’s lawyers wrote a letter to the defendants asking them to announce their willingness to publish an apology and disclose the identity of the person behind the ad. In response, the defendants wrote back that “your client, who has much experience in the field, surely knows that it is unusual to expect the media to respond to such requests.”

Benayahu’s lawyers wrote in the lawsuit that the persons who paid for the ad chose to remain anonymous in order to avoid legal and public accountability and requested that the court disclose the identity of the people behind it, so that Benayahu can sue them personally. They argued that unlike in the case of a news story, where publications have the right to protect their confidential sources, in the case of a paid ad, the publications do not have similar rights or obligations to clients.

The lawyers requested the court order the defendants to pay NIS 2.5m. to compensate for the damages done to Benayahu’s reputation, loss of future income and personal anguish.

The defendants’ lawyers were not available for comment.


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