TEL AVIV (Jul. 4)
A Tel Aviv district court ruled against the newspaper Haaretz today in an 1L 10 million damage suit brought by millionaire contractor Bezalel Mizrahi who claimed the paper libeled him when it included his name on a published list of alleged organized crime overlords in Israel. Judge Shulamit Wallenstein ruled in favor of Mizrahi on four of the five counts in his complaint but dismissed a fifth related to allegations of income tax evasion. Attorneys for Haaretz said they would appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court.
Wallenstein will decide at a later date the amount of damages Haaretz will be required to pay Mizrahi. Should he recover the full amount, the 1L 10 million (about $700,000) would be worth almost a third less because of the encroachments of inflation since he filed suit more than a year ago.
The trial lasted over a year during which testimony was heard from 177 witnesses. The judge’s ruling covered more than 100 pages but only a 20 page summary was read in court today. The court found that a list of 11 alleged leaders of organized crime that Haaretz published was not an official police list as the paper had stated but, according to the police, only a list of persons under investigation for possible crime connections.
The list was published in connection with the newspaper’s crusade against organized crime. A series of Haaretz articles in 1977 led to a reshuffling in senior police ranks and the appointment of a special investigating committee which found that there was, in fact, an organized crime empire in Israel with agents abroad.
Wallenstein said in her ruling that she fully supported those findings and that there were connections between Mizrahi and persons believed to be associated with organized crime. But Haaretz failed to produce proof that Mizrahi was connected with any criminal activities, she said.