Elad sues activists for libel

In suit, Elad accuses the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement of libel for distributing false information during demonstrations outside park over Pessah.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
May 19, 2011 05:57
2 minute read.
Main artery of Jlem City of David

second temple. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The Elad organization, which runs the City of David Archeological Park outside the Old City walls, filed a lawsuit against an East Jerusalem activist organization for almost half a million shekels last week.

In the suit, Elad accuses the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement (SJSM) of libel for distributing false information during its demonstrations outside the park over Pessah.

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The Sheikh Jarrah group handed out informational flyers and sat outside the park with blindfolds for three of the four intermediate days of Pessah.

“Our protest did not discourage people from coming to the park, it encouraged people to understand the political context of the park,” said Hillel Ben-Sasson, an activist with the group who was named in the lawsuit.

SJSM accused the City of David park of acting as a front for “a group of radical settlers who uses the site to promote the highly controversial Jewish settlement project in east Jerusalem and to fund their political agenda,” according to their website.

The dispute, which names 15 central activists in SJSM, requested NIS 476,364 for libelous statements, and requested that the organization correct and remove claims about the City of David Archeological Park and Elad.

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Elad is suing SJSM for statements in flyers like, “Their (Elad’s) private security guards terrorize the local population.”

“We won’t accept it for people to tell the world things that simply aren’t true,” said Udi Ragones, the spokesman for Elad.

“If they want to talk about ideology, no problem. We live in a democratic state where it’s important to talk and discuss, but within the boundaries of the law. The moment people cross [those boundaries] it damages us,” he said.

“We are ready to take this path every time we see someone spreading lies,” Ragones added.

Orly Noy, a spokeswoman for Ir Amim, said the case is a typical tactic of Elad.

“They are suing everyone around, everyone they consider somehow an ideological threat they sue, and they very clearly use it in order to bully their ideological opponents,” Noy said.

Elad sued Ir Amim after the nonprofit released a report called “Shady Dealings in Silwan.” The court case is still ongoing.

Noy said Elad also sued Emek Shaveh, a group of archeologists that advocates for the rights of Silwan residents.

Ben-Sasson said the group was still deciding how to respond to the lawsuit, which was filed in the Jerusalem Magistrate Court last Wednesday.

Over 8,000 tourists and Israelis visited the City of David archeological park during the four intermediate days of Pessah. The site hosts approximately 450,000 visitors a year.

Elad and SJSM recently started countercampaigns with the popular Lonely Planet guidebook, after SJSM activists petitioned the guide to include more information about the Arab history of Silwan, which is not discussed in the book or in the park.

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