Israeli AG: ‘Free Speech’ Protects Haaretz Journalist Over IAF ‘Death Squadron'” Slur
Israeli Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Tuesday threw out a complaint of incitement against Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy, after he slammed IAF pilots for hitting Palestinian terrorists and non-combatants during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza this summer, Israel’s NRG News said.
In July, the left-of-center Ometz Lesarev movement turned to Weinstein to check if Levy could be prosecuted for incitement to refuse military orders in the article, entitled “Lowest deeds from loftiest heights,” in which he claimed, “Israel’s ‘heroic’ pilots push buttons and joysticks, battling the weakest and most helpless of people.”
Levy asked rhetorically: “Do they understand what they are inflicting? Since, after all, it’s harder to wash out of their brains the hate and fear, and more difficult for them to sell all of Gaza as being full of animals. Yet they automatically, blood-chillingly, blindly obey as they press the right button … Is this the way? There is no one who will rescue their dignity? Not one who will refuse to take part in this death squadron?”
The column, which outraged even hardened leftists, came as Hamas and other terror groups fired hundreds of rockets at Israel.
Weinstein, in his response to the group, said, essentially, that a freedom of speech issue was at stake, and not one of incitement.
“After reviewing the issues involved, and even though [Levy’s article] is an outrageous claim, we believe that to open a criminal investigation … for the offense of incitement to disobedience, especially in view of our cautious policy on enforcing prohibitions for offenses connected to freedom of expression [would be wrong],” Weinstein wrote.
Former IAF pilot Kobi Richter wrote in Haaretz on July 23rd in a ripost to Levy’s tirade that, “Reading it was painful and infuriating. Infuriating, because Levy threw mud at people who are doing their utmost in the service of this country, trying to obtain peace and security even if they see things differently from Levy. Painful, because I agree with many of Levy’s positions regarding the need for peace, a resolution to the conflict and an end to the occupation. And so, when he gets worked up and goes off the track, I’m embarrassed as well.
“It is precisely for these reasons, Gideon Levy, that if you want to bring an end to the occupation, whose damage you so admirably describe most of the time, you must accept the fact that withdrawal may force us in the future to fight and attack, whether by land or by air, areas from which we have withdrawn. Such attacks, even if conducted with the greatest care, will cause Palestinian civilian casualties in the event the ruling authority uses them as human shields. Without accepting this as a necessary evil resulting from the limited choices we face, one cannot recommend ending the occupation. Thus, insisting on the right to self-defense, even in densely populated areas, is a condition for ending the occupation.”