Ex-IDF Soldier Suing BDS Activist for Defamation Over Facebook Post Linking Her to Death of Palestinian Nurse
A former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldier is suing a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activist for defamation, alleging that the activist had falsely linked her to the death of a Palestinian nurse.
The Israel-based Shurat HaDin legal center filed the complaint earlier this month on behalf of Rebecca Rum, a dual US-Israeli citizen, in a court in Orange County, California.
According to the complaint, the defendant — identified as Suhair Nafal — juxtaposed a 2014 photo of Rum in her IDF uniform with an image of the nurse, Razan Al-Najar, in a June 2018 Facebook post.
Al-Najar was killed at a “March of Return” demonstration on the Israel-Gaza Strip border, where IDF soldiers were trying to control “thousands of rioters” who were “burning tires” and attempting to breach the security fence, according to the complaint.
“It is in this context that Al-Najar was killed,” the complaint noted.
Nafal listed Rum’s name in her Facebook post, calling Rum an “American Zionist” who immigrated to Israel “to participate in the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people of Palestine.”
Nafal acknowledged that the photo was taken from a 2014 IDF Facebook page. Rum had made aliyah to Israel in 2012 at the age of 18 and served in the IDF until 2015.
Al-Najar was described in Nafal’s post as someone who “was executed by an [I]sraeli sniper while volunteering as a paramedic to save the lives of injured Palestinians peacefully protesting in #Gaza demanding basic human rights after 70 miserable years of brutal colonization.”
A few hours later, Nafal published a photo of a different IDF soldier next to a picture of Al-Najar in a similar post, which did not mention the soldier’s name.
In a subsequent post, Nafal clarified that she was not accusing Rum of murdering Al-Najar; she argued in all capital letters that the post was only meant to serve as a “comparison.”
Nafal proceeded to blame those who “don’t read English very well misunderstood & misinterpreted my post.”
However, she accused Rum of being “complicit” in the killing of Al-Najar, and called Rum “a terrorist who made the choice to leave the US & go to a land to which she has zero ties specifically to murder the indigenous people of that land.”
The complaint alleges that Nafal’s posts caused Rum and her family and friends to be subjected to “hate messages and death threats,” as myriad threats called for “retaliation against [Rum] and her entire family.” Such threats occurred for “months,” as recently as this past July, the complaint stated.
Furthermore, the complaint pointed out that about a week after Nafal’s posts, Rum visited Greece to teach English to refugees. One refugee accused her of being a “traitor” for “killing a Palestinian” and threatened another refugee who was teaching Arabic to Rum.
Rum suffers from fibromyalgia, a condition that can cause muscular pain, lack of sleep, fatigue and depression, among other symptoms. The hate she received following Nafal’s posts exacerbated her fibromyalgia to become “severe,” according to the complaint, as stress is a trigger for fibromyalgia symptoms.
The complaint argued that Nafal’s original post was defamatory because it created the false perception that Rum was responsible for Al-Najar’s death and that Nafal did not make any effort in that initial post to clearly state that Rum did not kill Al-Najar.
Rum had been out of the IDF for three years by then and was nowhere near the Gaza border at the time of Al-Najar’s death, the complaint said.
“[Nafal] could have easily published a disclaimer or caption with the picture saying that [Rum] was not the person responsible for Al-Najar’s death,” the complaint stated. “[Nafal], however, chose instead to not protect [Rum], electing instead to further sensationalize the incident in her aim to attack the state of Israel.”
Because of Nafal’s posts, Rum has suffered “irreparable damage to her reputation” and fears for her life as well as the lives of her friends and family, the complaint added. Consequently, she is seeking $6 million in damages.
The complaint also acknowledged that while California law puts the statute of limitations for defamation at one year, Israeli law has a seven-year statute of limitations. The complaint argued that California should follow Israeli law in this matter given Rum’s dual citizenship.
Nafal is a California resident, according to the complaint.
Watch a video of Rum discussing the case below:
— Shurat HaDin – שורת הדין (@ShuratHaDin) September 24, 2020