Timna Valley’s Sasgon Valley 390.
(photo credit: Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel)
OMETZ and over 30 nongovernmental organizations on Monday sent a letter of
protest to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein over a civil lawsuit against the
environmental group Adam Teva V’Din for holding up a hotel development project
in the Sasgon Valley near Timna.
According to OMETZ, the Movement for
Quality of Government in Israel, the Southern District-Attorney’s Office filed a
third party complaint against Adam Teva V’Din-Israel Union for Environmental
Defense and another NGO for their participation in litigation that held up the
The NGO asked Weinstein to order the state to withdraw from the
OMETZ said that it was important for NGOs to feel safe defending
the general public and average citizens’ rights from potential illegal actions
and trampling on their rights. For example, the NGOs need to be able to support
public environmental rights, without having to worry about facing civil damages
The NGO criticized the original plaintiff, developer, Yoav
Igra, for suing Adam Teva V’Din on “frivolous grounds,” but said it was even
more disturbed that the state had gotten involved, essentially on Igra’s
The place of a third-party plaintiff in a case can be complex, but
in this case, OMETZ said that the state’s involvement would aid Igra and direct
greater pressure on the NGO, discouraging it from defending of the public’s
The cases against Adam Teva V’Din arose from
objections that the NGO made against building hotels in the Sasgon Valley,
causing the project delays that Igra has indicated were not reasonable, by
OMETZ called the lawsuit and the state’s involvement a “grave
threat to the basic right of average citizens and organizations to turn to the
courts on issues connected to the public good” and called on Weinstein to order
the state to withdraw from the case.
An Association for Civil Rights in
Israel report called “The Silencer,” published in February, alleges a phenomenon
in which strategic lawsuits are used against public participation (“SLAPP
suits”) and activism on local and national issues.
The report said the
phenomenon has been growing steadily over the past decade, and OMETZ said the
case against Adam Teva V’Din is part of that worrying phenomenon.
Justice Ministry acknowledged receipt of the letter and said that the arguments
raised by the NGOs were being reviewed.