Israeli lawmakers are looking to take steps to prevent online defamation after an Israeli public servant killed himself over an accusatory Facebook post.
An African-American immigrant to Israel wrote a Facebook post last week accusing an Interior Ministry official of racism. Her post was shared more than 6,000 times.
Before taking his own life last weekend, the official wrote a Facebook post rejecting the claim and saying he could not bear the public shame.
The issue of racism has been on the public agenda in recent weeks since Ethiopian immigrants launched a campaign against alleged discrimination. Before the suicide, the Interior Ministry had said the American woman had tried to cut a line while waiting to renew her son’s passport.
At a discussion on the incident Wednesday, Israeli lawmakers called for Internet anti-defamation laws.
“Legislation today, not just here… around the world, lags greatly behind the advances of technology,” Cabinet minister Yariv Levin told Israel Radio on Thursday.
Shortly before taking his own life, Ariel Ronis wrote in a Facebook post that he had been wronged by the masses, told his side of the story, and urged people to consider the effects of their actions and words on social media.
“Two days ago a woman came to the office to get service,” he recounted. “At the time I was assisting other people. She demanded the service immediately and instantly began shouting that not receiving it was racism.”
“It was not long before I got a phone call from the public complaints division. After a few hours a (Facebook) post appeared as well as an article on (Israeli Facebook group) Mamazone, an interview (on Channel 10) and a whole media cricus. Not two days later the post had over 6,000 shares, each of them a sharpened arrow in my flesh. Me? A racist?” he wrote.
“All of my work over the course of my entire life was swept away instantly, ended momentarily by someone asked to stand in line like everyone else,” he said. “The sharers continued… to fire their arrows at me, not stopping for a moment to question (themselves).”
“I hardly blame them. I too would have been appalled at such a post and perhaps would have clicked my tongue and shared (it) self-righteously, without considering the consequences,” he added.
Ronis said he could not stand the fact that his good name had been sullied, and was now “synonymous with the most terrible designation imaginable in my case — racism.”