Jerusalem District Court Judge Aryeh Romanov on Sunday ruled in favor of MK Itamar Ben Gvir and his Otzma Yehudit party, in their lawsuit against Meta Platforms Inc. (a.k.a. Facebook), ordering the latter to immediately remove all restrictions of any kind imposed on the plaintiffs, until a judgment is rendered in the main claim or until another decision is rendered.
The court also charged Facebook with Ben Gvir’s court expenses in the amount of INS 7,500 ($2,293).
“To hear the application before me I am prepared to accept the explanation given by the respondent as to the reason at the basis of the restrictions that it imposed on the activities of the plaintiff. Therefore, the question that must be asked is, does the explanation that the respondent offers allow it to subject the plaintiffs to the restraints it imposed, as follows,” Judge Romanov wrote.
“The background of the explanation provided by the respondent, it should be noted, was the fact that due to the controversy and tensions that exist in the Shimon HaTzadik compound in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, the plaintiffs established a parliamentary office there on February 13, 2022, in one of the homes in the Shimon HaTzadik compound. That day he convened a press conference to which the media were invited. Among other things, the plaintiffs hired a professional photographer, Mr. Moshe Mizrahi, who videotaped excerpts from the event that took place at the venue. This was broadcast live on the plaintiffs’ Facebook page, and two clips were saved on the same Facebook page. According to the plaintiffs, the excerpts were also published by the media.
“According to the respondent, Mr. Bentzi Gopstein appears in the clips that were taken and saved on the plaintiffs’ Facebook page, and according to the respondent’s attorney, Gopstein is ‘the head of the Lehavah organization and one of the inciting people in Israel with everything related to hate speech.’ According to the respondent’s attorney, Mr. Gopstein violated Facebook’s terms of service and his behavior violated community rules, since ‘people who head organizations or who themselves support hate and hate speech and racism, cannot be members of Facebook, and anyone who even mentions them on Facebook can be removed…’ According to the respondent’s attorney, Mr. Gopstein has filed a lawsuit against the respondent demanding that he be returned to Facebook, and the lawsuit is being heard in the Magistrate’s Court in Tel Aviv.”
At this point, one can’t avoid the feeling that the judge was citing Facebook’s attorney so extensively because he had been taken aback by the shrill quality of his argument. Judges are entitled to have fun:
“According to the respondent’s attorney, ‘his picture cannot be on Facebook. If they find the picture it will be removed because the person was removed from Facebook And no one should see it.’ And later the respondent’s counsel said these things: ‘There’s a demonstration that whoever sees it is moving in discomfort. You see the gentleman who was removed from Facebook… to answer the court’s question, I
say that even if in the video they would have shown Mr. Gopstein without saying anything, it would have been a violation of our community rules… Gopstein is a person who was removed from Facebook… Gopstein cannot be on Facebook. This picture is not innocent, and even if it were, he could not be on Facebook, because people take it to other places. When a person sees the demonstration in the Sheikh Jarah, Palestinian flags and people are quarreling over the wall, and Jews who stand and shout and scream with their full throats around them, and some policemen are defending this thing, and at the center of the picture is Mr. Gopstein, it sends a message to large communities. This is not a picture he goes and buys at the grocery store. This is not a paparazzi photo. Mr. Gopstein appeared there in a political context, in the context of political opinions, and that’s the point. And so they took it down … it’s not just a person. If Ben Gvir had appeared there by himself, they probably would not have taken down the picture. You can’t beat around the bush. Ultimately, Gopstein promotes unacceptable opinions on Facebook, hate speech on Facebook, which, according to its contract, has the right to take down these things.’”
Wow. The hate that pours from every word in the above monologue is stunning. Basically, Bentzi Gopstein, who is opposed to intermarriages and has devoted his life to preventing them, is so repugnant that the mere sight of him can affect whole communities. Facebook in Israel is truly giving Stalinism a bad name.
The judge then cited Ben Gvir’s complaint that Facebook had taken harsh measures against him without any warning. He said: “Let them send me a letter. Say that it’s forbidden, lower my exposure. But not to allow me to broadcast live? Why such a severe sanction, that as far as I’m concerned makes having my account pointless. If I am deprived of the opportunity to upload content, why should I have a Facebook account? … No one warned us that Gopstein’s picture should not be shown. If we let him give a speech I would have understood, but to see him at a glance? … it’s disproportionate and unreasonable. You don’t kill a fly with a cannon … The fact that I am not on Facebook hurts an entire public … To take Facebook from away me is to take away my mouth.”