Protest leader sues Likud MK for libel over ‘disgusting lies’ linking her to Oct. 7

Bressler demands NIS 2.6 million in damages as Gotliv, other social media influencers continue to spread unfounded claims of links between activists, security personnel and Hamas

Left: MK Tali Gottlieb at the Knesset, January 29, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90); Right: Shikma Bressler meets social activists at Dizengoff Square, Tel Aviv, October 3, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Left: MK Tali Gottlieb at the Knesset, January 29, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90); Right: Shikma Bressler meets social activists at Dizengoff Square, Tel Aviv, October 3, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Activist Shikma Bressler has filed a NIS 2.6 million ($715,000) defamation suit against Likud MK Tally Gotliv, after the controversial lawmaker repeatedly circulated unfounded claims that connected the protest leader with the Hamas terror group and its deadly October 7 onslaught.

According to Hebrew media reports on Thursday, Bressler’s attorneys also filed lawsuits against six online influencers who circulated the false claims.

Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the head of the Likud party, and the Mossad spy agency have repeatedly and forcibly denied the claims.

The statement of claim focuses on Gotliv’s repeated allegations, first circulated in a social media post in October, that US intelligence agencies had intercepted a conversation between Bressler’s partner, a public servant, and Hamas chief Yahye Sinwar. According to the conspiracy theory, Mossad head David Barnea had summoned Bressler for a meeting as a result of the intelligence, days before the October 7 attacks on southern Israel which saw Hamas-led terrorists kill some 1,200 people and kidnap over 250 to the Gaza Strip, mostly civilians.

The statement also refered to a series of social media posts in which Gotliv revealed that Bressler’s partner was employed by the Shin Bet security agency, hinting at collaboration between opponents of the government’s judicial overhaul and defense officials. Gotliv has insinuated that this collaboration contributed to the October 7 attacks.

“The lies are awe-inspiring and, even though they were denied by the Prime Minister’s Office on a number of occasions, have made their way from the depths of the internet into the heart of public debate and the Knesset,” Bressler’s lawyers wrote in the claim.

Gotliv was quick to respond to the lawsuit, claiming that Bressler had filed the suit because she “missed the limelight,” and taunting her to deliver her claim in person: “You’ve got your contacts to get my address.”

Likud MK Tally Gotliv speaks in the Knesset, Jerusalem on January 22, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gotliv also said that she had “no intentions” of giving up her parliamentary immunity. “I’m sorry to disappoint the lady who is responsible, along with her friends, for the hell that beset us,” Gotliv wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The 15-page lawsuit, as cited by Channel 12 news, relates to “the blatant, conspiratorial and disgusting collection of lies that were spread in the case of the plaintiff [Bressler] and her partner (who is a public servant).”

“At the heart of the allegations, a blood libel against the plaintiff is an accusation of treason, connections with the terrorist organization Hamas, and responsibility for the terrible massacre carried out by its terrorists on October 7,” the lawsuit claimed.

The statement of claim also noted that Bressler’s attorneys had asked the Police Internal Investigations Department (PIID), the state attorney and the government to open an investigation into the Likud MK, for crimes including aiding the enemy in war, revealing confidential information, defeatist propaganda, abuse of official power, breach of trust and defamation.

Ronen Bar, head of the Shin Bet security services (L) with Mossad chief David Barnea at the annual IDF memorial ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War at Yad La-Shiryon, September 27, 2023. (Jonathan Shaul/Flash90)

Haaretz reported on Thursday that State Attorney Amit Eisman was in favor of opening a criminal investigation into Gotliv.

The claim came days after the Likud MK published a “warning letter” to Bressler on Sunday, in which she again accused the protest leader of involvement in the October 7 onslaught: “Bressler did well to leave the country when the Holocaust broke out at the hands of the Hamas murderers on October 7… Bressler knew why she fled the country. Bressler knew that blood was on her hands.”

The Likud lawmaker first posted the conspiracy theory about a meeting between Barnea and Bressler on October 3.

“It’s a good thing I have immunity and judicial orders don’t apply to me,” wrote Gotliv at the time, asking: “Can someone explain this meeting? It’s not innocuous, otherwise it wouldn’t be subject to a gag order.”

Since entering the Knesset after elections in November 2022, Gotliv has established a reputation for making incendiary claims, such as accusing the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet of “working for terrorists.”

The Mossad has denied previous reports linking it to the mass demonstrations against the government’s plans to weaken the judiciary, including US intelligence documents leaked in April purporting to show senior officials in the spy agency helped stir the protests. The intelligence agency at the time dismissed the reports as “completely false and absurd.”

Bressler, a renowned physicist, shot to national prominence as one of the most visible and articulate leaders of the nationwide protest movement that sprung up over the last year against the government’s judicial overhaul plans that critics said would undermine democracy in Israel.

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