Former IDF spokesman slams ad agency over libel defense

Ad had accused Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avi Benayahu of mounting a "coup" against prospective IDF chief Galant.

avi benayahu 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
avi benayahu 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Former IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avi Benayahu’s lawyer on Thursday attacked McCann-Erickson’s defense arguments over its publication of an anonymous ad accusing Benayahu of conducting a “coup d’etat” against then-prospective IDF chief Maj.-Gen Yoav Galant.
The advertisement that triggered the NIS 2.5 million libel suit filed by Benayahu against the ad company, Haaretz and Yediot Aharonot, also accused other senior IDF officers of participating in the “coup.”
In an interview with Army Radio, Benayahu’s lawyer, Eyal Rosovsky, said that McCann- Erickson in its defense statement, submitted on Wednesday to the court, continued its reckless attacks on senior officers, while hiding behind the privilege offered by the court document.
“The defense statements can say what they like, but eventually someone will have to back up the statements in court,” Rosovsky said.
The full-page ads, which sharply criticized Benayahu, as well as former chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi and Lt.-Col (res.) Boaz Harpaz, for their perceived roles in torpedoing the appointment of Galant to lead the IDF, was published in the two dailies in January and signed by “Citizens who do not personally know Galant and are concerned over the putsch in the Kirya [military headquarters].”
The ad stated that “The Gabi Ashkenzi, Avi Benayahu and Boaz Harpaz gang, together with their court reporters, are about to be victorious and torpedo the democratic selection of Galant to be chief of staff.”
The ad then blamed the three for destroying Galant’s 30-year military career, driven by unworthy intentions. The ad referred to the publication of the “Galant Document,” outlining the candidate’s negative PR campaign strategy, which was subsequently discovered to be a forgery produced by Harpaz, an officer associated with Ashkenazi.
In its defense, McCann-Erickson said that the sole motive behind the lawsuit was to determine the identity of the ad’s sponsor, but argued that the company was obligated to preserve client confidentiality.
“It is a shame McCann-Erickson, which was a tool in the hands of this unidentified person, whom even Galant publicly denounced, is continuing to cover for him and attempting to prevent his being brought to justice,” Rosovsky said.

Benayahu’s lawyer 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 asked that the court disclose the identity of the people behind it so that Benayahu could sue them personally.
McCann-Erickson argued that unlike in the case of a news story, where publications have the right to protect confidential sources, in the case of a paid ad, the publications do not have similar rights or obligations to clients.