Photo Credit: Screenshot from 'Perspective'
Rabbi Assaf Naumburg

Channel 13 News and Mechinat (pre-military school) Atzmona this week reached an out-of-court settlement according to which the TV channel will financially compensate the mechina and Rabbi Assaf Naumburg, Makor Rishon reported Friday (Channel 13 will compensate Mechinat Atzmona for a defamatory article). The two parties submitted to the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court a request to end the legal proceedings between them, after “the plaintiffs and defendants reached agreements that include a monetary component, outside the court.”

In 2019, Channel 13 ran recordings of lessons given by the rabbis of Mechinat Atzmona, especially those given by staff Rabbi Assaf Naumburg. The report by newsman Omri Maniv claimed that the mechina was preaching anti-Zionist values and opposed the IDF draft – which could be somewhat embarrassing for a pre-military, religious-Zionist yeshiva.

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Apparently, Maniv relied on misleading data he had received submitted by attorney Yair Nehorai, who in recent years has waged a media campaign against the religious pre-military preparatory schools with the aim of cutting their state-awarded budget. But Hanan Amior, editor of the Perspective website, examined the original recordings and found that the Maniv was not an innocent victim of disinformation (Sodom and Gomorrah on News 13).

According to Amior, the report, which slandered and shattered the public image of Rabbi Assaf Naumburg irreparably, was produced using unparalleled faking. Maniv used the technique of removing sentences from their distinct context, weaving them into an extreme and creepy portrayal of a Rabbi Naumburg that does not exist, burying the real Rabbi Naumburg.

The harsh sentences which Maniv attributed to Naumburg were indeed uttered by him, but Maniv knew full well that Numburg did not tell his students they were his own views, but the views of the Haredim against Religious Zionism, which he expressed as part of a methodical exercise.

The students understood that the views expressed by the rabbi were not his own but the way Haredim viewed the path of the mechina.

Rabbi Naumburg also explained this to them in the recordings that were handed to Channel 13 by attorney Nehorai. In one recording the Rabbi says: I want to argue as a Haredi person, okay? Now I’m wearing that hat, suggesting that the root of this thing comes from a very deep point of view that says you have destroyed the partition between good and evil. Between the wicked and the righteous. [As a result,] everyone is fine, everyone is legitimate, everything is fine, the State of Israel was established here without a drop of Judaism.”

Not only did Naumburg not make this claim on his own behalf, but he insisted on reminding his students time and again that this was the case. And Maniv, who watched the whole lesson, saw it and knew full well that he was engaged in libeling a good man and did anyway.

Clearly, Rabbi Naumburg in the lesson recordings that Nehorai delivered to Maniv, and which Maniv admits that he watched, is the 180-degree opposite of the creepy mask News 13 attached to his face. Rabbi Naumburg is a loving and inclusive person, who warns against hatred and teaches how much one should beware of it. Indeed, the first example of hatred he gives his class in the recordings that were kept off the screen was that they “should be very, very, very careful” of hating leftists.

News 13 and Omri Maniv issued apologies following the broadcast, saying, “Rabbi Naumburg did not argue against military service and did not express concern that it would cause lawlessness, but played the role of an alleged Haredi,” they admitted the time. And, concerned about what their libel would cost them, they added: “It is important for us to emphasize that the conduct of the report was in good faith and without any intention of harming the rabbi or the mechina. We apologize deeply to Rabbi Naumburg for the way he was portrayed in the episodes that were broadcast and for the mental anguish they caused him.”

But the mechina and the rabbi were not satisfied with an apology and filed a tort claim against Channel 13. The channel chose not to file a statement of defense and sought to reach a confidential settlement centered on a “monetary component,” meaning the channel will compensate the mechina and Rabbi Naumburg.

According to Makor Rishon, the legal proceedings against attorney Yair Nehorai, who allegedly provided the lesson recordings, continue in the courts.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.