‘Shame and disgrace’: Bennett wins defamation suit over claim mother not Jewish

Court awards tens of thousands in compensation from rabbi; judge asks former PM to reduce claim in 2nd case

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court for a hearing in a defamation lawsuit he brought, September 11, 2023 (Avshalom Sassoni/FLASH90)
Former prime minister Naftali Bennett at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court for a hearing in a defamation lawsuit he brought, September 11, 2023 (Avshalom Sassoni/FLASH90)

A judge ruled Monday that Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi must pay compensation to Naftali Bennett for the false claim that the former prime minister’s mother, Myrna, is not Jewish.

During the hearing, an emotional Bennett decried Mizrachi’s defense as a “disgrace” for its tactics, and described the pain the false accusation had inflicted on his mother.

The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court judge ruled in Bennett’s favor, ordering Mizrachi to pay NIS 40,000-80,000 in compensation, and to publish a full apology on his YouTube channel in which he must emphasize that his claim was false.

During the hearing, Bennett said Mizrachi’s claim about his mother led many people to question whether she was Jewish.

“They told a complete lie and defamed my mother,” Bennett said in a quavering voice, according to Channel 12 news.

“Her entire family was destroyed in the Holocaust. Dozens of people have come to my mother in the last two years and said, ‘We didn’t know you weren’t Jewish,'” he said. “Millions of people believe these things.”

Myrna Bennett speaks after receiving a 3rd COVID-19 vaccine, at a Maccabi Healthcare Services clinic in Haifa, August 3, 2021. (Omer Miron/GPO)

Myrna Bennett was tearful in court as she explained how she felt watching Mizrachi.

“One night I was watching television, and I saw Mizrachi say that I am a Christian,” she said. “It was so hard.”

“I want to sit on my couch and watch him apologize in public,” she said.

During the hearing, Mizrachi’s lawyer Yosef Weizman criticized the Bennetts for not bringing documentation to prove that they are Jewish.

“If there was an attempt here to really end the case and not just make headlines, they would have brought proof of their Jewishness in a legal document,” the lawyer said, according Walla.

Weizman produced a printout that he said proved Mizrachi’s statement, but the judge said that the quality of the printout meant the document was unclear.

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett arrives at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court for a hearing in a defamation lawsuit he brought, September 11, 2023 (Avshalom Sassoni/FLASH90)

Bennett then criticized Mizrachi’s defense, saying that the other side was showing no intention of concluding the proceedings.

“It’s a shame and a disgrace. They talk about an apology, but continue with these things. It’s a shame and a disgrace,” he said.

After the judge ruled that Mizrachi must pay compensation for the false claims, the rabbi issued an apology for the hurt caused by his incorrect statements.

Earlier, Bennett also attended a hearing at the court for his lawsuit against right-wing activist Igal Malka, for repeatedly alleging that the former prime minister personally pocketed NIS 50 million ($14.6 million) in public funds. The amount is a reference to the cost of security at Bennett’s home in Ra’anana while he was premier.

Igal Malka arrives at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court for a hearing in a defamation lawsuit brought by former prime minister Naftali Bennett, September 11, 2023 (Avshalom Sassoni/FLASH90)

According to Walla, Malka has in the past also claimed that Bennett did not really sell Cyota, the anti-fraud tech company he co-founded — and has also claimed that the former prime minister is divorcing his wife, and has used violence against her.

In December, Bennett filed a NIS 500,000 ($146,000) defamation lawsuit against Malka. In response, Malka vowed to fight Bennett in court and linked to a crowdfunding site to fund his legal defense.

At Monday’s hearing, the judge asked Bennett to reduce the amount of compensation he was asking for in the suit.

The lawsuits were part of a series that Bennett filed after leaving office in what he called a campaign to “clean the internet” of the “the culture of poison and fake news online in Israel.”

In May, Bennett won a defamation lawsuit against a rabbi who also claimed that he and his parents, Myrna and Jim, were not Jewish.

Bennett filed the suit last year after Rabbi Ronen Shaulov falsely claimed his mother underwent a Reform conversion in the US, said he “sold out the country” to non-Jews and that he was “worse than a dog,” who is at least loyal.

Following the court verdict, Shaulov issued a statement apologizing for the comments and how widely they spread, and admitting that he now knew them to be false.

The suit had noted that users who conduct a Google search for Bennett’s mother are suggested by the algorithm to add the words “Christian” or “convert” to the search, indicating how widespread the claim became.

The damages to be paid by Shaulov are slated to be decided by the court at a future date. Bennett has previously stated that he intends to donate any proceeds to charity.

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