Labor lawmaker Eitan Broshi on Wednesday filed a libel suit for NIS 300,000 ($82,000) against party leader Avi Gabbay, who called him a “sex offender” and refused to back down from the comment despite an ultimatum demanding an apology.
The lawsuit, filed at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court by Broshi’s lawyer Ilan Bombach, alleged that “the defendant held a humiliating trial by kangaroo court against the plaintiff in a post on Twitter, which quickly culminated in an ugly [online] lynching.”
Broshi has faced calls from members of his own party to step down in light of accusations that he sexually harassed a woman 15 years ago in an elevator. He also recently touched a female MK from his party inappropriately, and then apologized for his action.
The Labor party, together with the Hatnua party, forms the main opposition faction, the Zionist Union.
After the alleged elevator assault was reported by Channel 10 news on Sunday, Gabbay, who is also the Zionist Union leader, temporarily suspended Broshi and wrote in a tweet that “there is no place for sex offenders either on the streets or in the Knesset.”
Broshi “completely rejected” the allegation, his lawyer wrote in the lawsuit.
He said Gabbay had suspended him without holding a hearing, as required by the party’s rules, claiming that he had “tried so hard to prove his ‘leadership’ at the plaintiff’s expense that he blatantly and brutally ignored the Labor party’s binding rules and trampled his good name in front of the whole nation, while attributing to him an ugly status of ‘sex offender.'”
“Without verifying the facts,” he continued, Gabbay made the decision to suspend him “at the spur of the moment.”
Gabbay reacted to the lawsuit by saying that “a secure and protected public space for women is a goal that we will continue to fight for. Attempts to intimidate will have no influence on the matter.” The same statement was issued by Gabbay after Broshi publicly demanded an apology on Monday.
Two weeks ago, Labor MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin accused Broshi of touching her on the buttocks during a field trip by members of the opposition party. She subsequently accepted his apology.
Broshi’s lawsuit referred to that incident by saying that “to the plaintiff’s great sorrow, a situation was created that shouldn’t have occurred, whereby the plaintiff touched a female MK’s buttocks. The plaintiff never intended to harm her or others.
“After understanding his mistake, the plaintiff took responsibility for it and apologized to the MK,” the lawsuit added. “She accepted his sincere apology.”
In his Monday letter to Gabbay, Bombach warned that if no apology were given and the tweet removed within 24 hours, Broshi would sue.
Sources close to the Labor leader stressed that he has no intention of apologizing and maintains his stance regarding Broshi.
On Sunday Gabbay tweeted that he had spoken to Broshi and informed him that he had been suspended from party activities. Gabbay does not have the authority to remove Broshi from the Knesset.
The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel said Monday it had new testimonies on other inappropriate actions by Broshi that were committed since he became an MK in 2015, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.