Q: What is considered defamation in Israel?
A: Israeli law defines defamation as:
“anything the publication of which is likely:
to degrade a person in the eyes of human beings or to make him the object of hatred, contempt or ridicule on their part;
to cause a person to be regarded with contempt for acts, conduct or characteristics imputed to him;
to injure a person in his office, whether a public office or any other office, or in his business, occupation or profession;
to cause a person to be regarded with contempt because of his origin or religion.”
Q: Does Israeli law differentiate between written and oral defamation?
A: No. Israel has only one tort of defamation, and does not distinguish between libel and slander. However, the occurrence of written defamation is obviously easier to prove.
Q: Someone wrote defamatory things about me on Facebook. Does that automatically give me grounds for suing them for defamation?
A: In order for there to be grounds for a lawsuit in Israel, there must be a publication of defamatory matter to one or more persons other than the injured party. Therefore, if, for instance, the defamatory expression was made in a private message between the two of you, there would be no grounds for a lawsuit.
Also, the Israeli defamation law does provides certain defenses and exeptions.
Q: I got fired from my job or lost an important client because someone wrote hateful, wrong, defamatory things about me in a post on Facebook. What should I do?
A: One of the things that either makes or breaks a case in court – is evidence. It is therefore crucial that you immediately document the defamatory post(s), as well as how many people could or have been exposed to it, by capturing a “Print Screen” (look for the PrtScr button on your keyboard).
Make sure that the date and time is visible, as well as the number of Comments/Likes/Shares, etc. Also capture whether or not the Facebook Group or Page is private or public, and how many members there are to the Group or how many “likes” there are to the Page. If the defamation was published on a Post on the person’s private Profile, capture the number of friends the person has, as well as the number of friends of every person who “liked” or “shared” the Post. This should be done immediately and continuously, until (and if) the defamatory publication is deleted.
The general idea is to gather evidence to prove the extent of “coverage” that the defamatory post received, which is a factor that the court takes into consideration when deciding how much damages to award the plaintiff.
Q: Assuming I have grounds for a defamation lawsuit in Israel, what remedies would a court of law award?
A: In contrast to many other legal systems, Israeli law makes the presumption that every person has a good reputation, and is therefore entitled to compensation for general damages without having to prove special damages.
The court may award up to 50,000 NIS without the plaintiff needing to prove any actual damages. If the defamation was published with intent to harm, the court may award up to 100,000 NIS in punitive damages, without the plaintiff needing to prove any actual damages. If the plaintiff is able to prove actual damages, the court may award the full amount of actual damages proved.
It should be noted, also, that Israeli courts may also reduce the award if the plaintiff provoked the defamatory statement.
Q: I wrote hurtful things about someone on a public Facebook group. Can I be sued?
A: Not necessarily.
In general, there are three key defenses to defamation:
- the defamatory expression was true and of public interest;
- the defamatory expression was in “good faith”;
- the defamatory expression was a fair report of official information.
There are also further exceptions.
However, all of these are beyond the scope of an article, and you should turn to an attorney for specific legal advice.
Q: Are the things written here correct only for online defamation?
A: Israeli law does not distinguish between online and offline defamation, and most of what is written in this article is true for any type of defamation.