Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir on Sunday filed a defamation lawsuit against former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon for associating the coalition lawmaker and his supporters with chants of “Death to Arabs.”
Though the plaintiff claimed that he accepts legitimate criticism, he accused Ya’alon of pushing a “fundamental lie” in his remarks, according to the suit filed at the Jerusalem District Court.
“In this matter, we stress that the plaintiff repeatedly emphasizes at every opportunity that he does not generalize against Arabs and that he advocates the death penalty for terrorists as opposed to all Arabs,” the document read.
During an interview with the Haaretz podcast in April 2022, Ya’alon said: “I see Itamar Ben Gvir’s [chants of] ‘Death to Arabs,’ with his supporters marching behind him.”
Ya’alon bowed out of politics in 2021, but has recently become a regular speaker at protests against the government’s plans to radically overhaul the judiciary.
In a tweet, Ben Gvir announced the lawsuit against Ya’alon, whom he called a “failed former MK.”
“If he thinks that the immunity granted to him by the Knesset is eternal — he is bitterly mistaken. Ya’alon’s collection of lies and defamations will have a price. The days are over when the extreme left tells lies about right-wing representatives and we remain silent. See you in court!” tweeted Ben Gvir.
While a self-described disciple of the late extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, Ben Gvir maintains that he has softened his views in recent years and has also removed from his living room a photo of Baruch Goldstein, the gunman who carried out the 1994 massacre at Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs in which 29 Palestinians were killed.
Ben Gvir has several criminal convictions to his name. In 2007, he was found guilty of incitement to racism and supporting a terror organization for holding signs at a protest reading “Expel the Arab enemy” and “Kahane was right,” a Jewish supremacist slogan endorsing Kach’s proposal to ethnically cleanse Israel of its Arab citizens.
Ben Gvir has said he no longer supports the chant of “Death to the Arabs” despite using it in the past, and has told supporters to instead chant “Death to terrorists.” Nevertheless, the chant remains a popular taunt among the minister’s supporters, including during the Jerusalem Day Flag March earlier this month.
Ben Gvir campaigned on hardline policies such as enacting the death penalty for terrorists, expelling “disloyal” Arab Israeli citizens, and changing the rules of engagement for Israeli security forces to allow them to more easily shoot-to-kill Palestinian suspects.