An Arab Israeli party on Tuesday filed a defamation lawsuit against a prominent journalist who called it a “terror organization” on air last month.
Balad, a Palestinian nationalist party, which has teamed up with the Ra’am party in the Knesset elections, is demanding NIS 280,000 ($77,500) and a public apology from Channel 12 reporter and commentator Amit Segal, in addition to the removal of articles and social media posts containing the remark.
On February 22, Segal wrote an op-ed in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily in which he called Balad “a terror-supporting organization with party funding.” A day later he said on Channel 12 that the party is a “terror group with party funding.”
In the lawsuit, Balad claims the comments were “malicious, offensive, cynical and irresponsible, with the goal of trying to embarrass the plaintiffs, spill their blood, incite against them and make them a target for hate using a publication that is false and incites to racism, violence and persecution.”
Last week, Balad asked Segal to retract his statement and apologize, but the journalist refused.
“Balad’s policy has been not to file lawsuit against inciters so as to not turn the political debate into a dry legal debate,” said the new party chairman Mtanes Shihadeh.
“But Segal, who is known for his far-right views, crossed the line and used his status to hurt the party during elections,” he added. “We won’t allow damage to the legitimacy of Balad, which represents the national movement within the Arab society and has the most democratic policy platform — a state of all its citizens.”
Attorney Khaled Titi, who filed the lawsuit, said Segal had tried to defend his remark by mentioning the law that allows the state to disqualify parties from running in the elections, despite the High Court repeated approving Balad.
Segal responded by merely saying he hadn’t yet received the lawsuit.
On Monday, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit rejected a petition that called for disqualifying Ra’am-Balad from running in the April 9 election as well as two other petitions that sought to boot the mostly Arab Hadash-Ta’al party, and the Union of Right Wing Parties from taking part in the vote.
In a letter to the chairman of the Central Elections Committee, Mandelblit wrote that the petition against Ra’am-Balad that claimed its members “seek to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state” and support violent Palestinian attacks, as well as the Hezbollah terror group, was not supported by enough evidence.
The two Arab Israeli slates broke off from the Joint List.