Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against right-wing pundit Shimon Riklin over a tweet he posted in March.
Riklin, a commentator with Channel 14 news and frequent provocateur, tweeted a satirical “response” from Michaeli following a deadly terrorist attack in Beersheba on March 22. Riklin suggested that Michaeli would respond to the attack by stating: “Why did they kill the terrorist? An unfortunate loss of life.”
In the lawsuit, Michaeli’s attorneys claim Riklin was attempting to delegitimize the minister with a “false publication.” Her attorneys wrote that, as a public figure, Michaeli has been the target of many harmful publications, but has held back on suing for defamation until now.
In this instance, they wrote, Riklin was “cynically exploiting” the murder of Israeli citizens and deliberately misleading the public in order to “turn the plaintiff into a traitor and an enemy of the people.”
The defamation lawsuit seeks NIS 300,000 ($88,000) in damages and for Riklin to delete the tweet and post a clarification that it was false.
On March 22, a terrorist killed four Israelis and wounded two others in a ramming and stabbing attack at a mall in Beersheba before being shot dead by two civilian passersby.
Rikin posted a series of similarly mocking tweets on that day with fake reactions from a range of political actors.
In response to news of the lawsuit, Riklin tweeted on Wednesday that he believed Michaeli was actually suing him in regards to a tweet he posted about her grandfather, Rudolf Kastner, last month.
“It is unfortunate that she didn’t sue [me] for that,” Riklin wrote. “It could have been interesting. But I understand her fear.”
Kastner was a controversial figure accused of collaborating with the Nazis during World War II. Kastner, who was assassinated by right-wing extremists in 1957, was defended against such charges by the Supreme Court, which argued that he dealt with high-ranking Nazi officials in order to save Jewish lives. But the court still claimed that Kastner lied about his testimony on behalf of certain Nazi officials at Nuremberg and that his statements prevented them from being brought to justice.
In 2018, Michaeli honored Kastner at a Knesset ceremony that resulted in controversy over his still hotly debated legacy.