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by Judy Lash Balint
April 6, 2005


The Beit She'an Magistrate's Court has dismissed a lawsuit for libel brought by a foreign International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist against an Israeli journalist.

The American plaintiff alleged that Jerusalem reporter, Judy Lash Balint had defamed her in an article posted on an internet website which maintained that members of the ISM were in close contact with the Palestinian terrorist organizations. The plaintiff claimed that Balint had implied in the piece that her presence in the territories assisted the terrorist groups in perpetrating attacks.

Balint was defended in the case by Shurat HaDin Director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner.

Balint expressed her satisfaction with the dismissal of the action viewing it as a confirmation of the accuracy of her reporting: "The judge's decision to throw the libel case against me out of court underscores my assertion about the true nature of the International Solidarity Movement. Hopefully this decision will prevent further frivolous legal action against reporters who try to tell the truth about extremist groups."

The case filed in December 2003, was initially delayed when the attorney for the plaintiff, Shamai Leibowitz, represented to the Court that he had served Balint with a complaint and not received an answer. At the time, however, the Israeli court system was on strike and the time periods for answering court papers had been suspended in place. Nonetheless, the Court mistakenly granted the plaintiff a default judgment. However, after the error was brought to the Court's attention it swiftly vacated the default.

The defense then requested that the Court instruct the foreign plaintiff to post a bond to ensure court costs in the event that the case was to be dismissed, as is required by Israeli law. However, attorney Leibowitz boldly stated to the Court that under an "existing treaty" U.S. citizens were not required to post bonds in Israeli courts. The defense, however, researched the matter and discovered, in fact, that the U.S. was not a party to any such treaty. After being presented with this finding, the Court ordered the plaintiff to post the bond in thirty days. When this period of time passed and the plaintiff still had failed to post the money, the defense moved to have the nuisance suit dismissed.

In December 2004, Attorney Leibowitz inaccurately wrote to the Court that the two sides were negotiating a settlement, while in fact no such compromise would be entertained by Balint who insisted that she wanted to take the case to trial and publicly establish the accuracy of her article. Based upon Leibowitz' misrepresentation, however, the Court granted a further extension in time.

In January, Attorney Darshan-Leitner wrote to the Court informing it that the defense would not accept a compromise in any event and asked that the suit be dismissed for the plaintiff's failure to post the required bond. Finally last week, the Court dismissed the baseless lawsuit.

Leibowitz is the grandson of the late controversial Israeli philosopher, Rabbi Yeshaiyahu Liebowitz.

Since the outbreak of the current round of Palestinian violence in September 2000, Israeli troops have conducted thousands of counter-terrorism operations in the towns and villages of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, in the heart of hostile and dangerous Palestinian population centers. The IDF's ability to operate effectively in these areas against the Palestinian terrorists has been systematically and intentionally obstructed by groups of foreign volunteers, who are used by the Palestinian Authority as "human shields".

The most dangerous of these groups is the Palestinian-financed ISM The ISM recruits anti-Israel radicals, primarily from Europe and American college campuses, and sends them to Judea, Samaria and Gaza to disrupt Israeli military operations. The presence of these foreign civilians in the midst of the Palestinian population obstructs the IDF's ability to fight Palestinian terrorists. By interfering with Israeli counter-terrorism operations, the ISM directly endangers the lives of Israeli civilians.

In April 2003, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that: "ISM members take an active part in illegal and violent actions against IDF soldiers. At times, their activity in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip is under the auspices of Palestinian terrorist organizations."

In the past, ISM members have been arrested vandalizing and destroying Israeli security fences and equipment. In March 2003, fugitive Islamic Jihad terrorist, Shadi Sukiya, was arrested in a house in Jenin rented by the ISM

Shurat HaDin is also representing the family of an Israeli soldier currently on trial for the alleged shooting of ISM militant, Tom Hurndall, in April 2003. The Israel Law Center has called upon the Knesset to outlaw the extremist ISM.

Shurat HaDin � Israel Law Center is a long overdue Jewish legal rights institute based in Israel. Staffed by some of the country's leading activist attorneys, we are dedicated to providing legal representation and resources for the numerous courtroom struggles, which are being waged in the Israeli, American and European courts on behalf of the Jewish State.

Contact: [email protected]