MK claims libel over report he said settlers’ blood worth more than that of Oct. 7 dead

Channel 12 says Simcha Rothman shocked attendees at Knesset hearing with his words; he insists it never happened

Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman chairs a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on June 20, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)
Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman chairs a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on June 20, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

Controversial right-wing MK Simcha Rothman threatened on Wednesday to sue Channel 12 news for defamation, after it reported that he had indicated during a recent Knesset hearing that he believed the lives of settlers killed in a terror attack earlier this year were worth more than those of Israelis killed in Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern communities.

The network had reported that at a meeting earlier this week of the Knesset panel he chairs, the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Rothman said: “The blood of the brothers Hallel and Yagel, may their memory be a blessing, who were murdered in Huwara, is redder than the blood of those murdered on October 7.”

The alleged comment references a quote from the Gemara, and refers to whether one life is more valuable than another.

Hallel and Yagel Yaniv were two brothers from the West Bank settlement of Har Bracha who were shot dead in a terror attack in the northern West Bank town in February. Their deaths were followed by a violent settler rampage in Huwara that shocked the country, with rioters setting Palestinian homes and cars alight.

Rothman angrily denied the Channel 12 report, calling it “false, inflammatory libel.”

The hearing, attended by Justice Ministry and Shin Bet officials, dealt with potential updates to counter-terrorism laws amid Israel’s grueling war with Hamas in the wake of its October 7 atrocities.

Channel 12 did not provide context for Rothman’s alleged quote, while saying his comment “shocked” those present, with some demanding he retract his words, which he then did.

The report also quoted Rothman as saying that “So much blood should not have been spilled to bring about a change in policy,” while adding: “I don’t trust the Shin Bet’s judgment. You have previously misused your tools against Jews.”

In his denial of the report, Rothman said: “To remove any doubt, I did not say or hint that one person’s blood is redder than another’s, in any way or form, not in closed discussions or open discussions. It is a total lie.”

In a letter to Channel 12, Rothman’s lawyer alleged: “My client said the blood of those murdered in past terror attacks should have justified a change in policies as their blood was also red — the exact opposite of what you claimed.” He demanded that Channel 12 retract its report or face legal ramifications.

Channel 12’s Guy Peleg, who reported the comments, wrote on X: “I invite MK Rothman to sue me for defaming him. I am certain that officials in the Shin Bet and Justice Ministry will make clear what was said at the hearing.”

Rothman became a highly divisive figure over the past year as he spearheaded the coalition’s judicial overhaul plans. Rothman used his Constitution Committee chairmanship to rapidly push through a raft of legislation aimed at radically curtailing the judiciary’s power as part of the government’s broader judicial overhaul plan — though most of the bills have since been frozen.

He was criticized by opponents of the legislation for his brash style and his often dismissive attitude toward opposition concerns. Opposition MKs accused him of rushing bills through his committee with little time or patience for substantive debate, while Rothman has insisted he acted properly throughout the process.

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