Likud lawmaker Miki Zohar is suing four journalists for slander and defamation, after they called him names.
Haaretz analyst Yossi Verter called Zohar an “awful clown,” Channel 10’s Barak Ravid said Zohar “lies non-stop” and is “stupid and a fraud,” and Haaretz columnist Yossi Cohen wrote that Zohar needs “to be taught not to pee in the living room.”
Independent journalist and government transparency activist Tomer Avital wrote that Zohar used the Knesset to promote his personal interests and uses the legislature as his personal cash dispenser.
Zohar courted controversy in February, when he compared the ongoing police investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dealings to former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. He defended the comparison by saying that both aimed to remove a prime minister from his job outside of an election.
Avital has written about Zohar holding meetings in his now-disbanded Knesset Committee for Distributive Justice about the construction of a power plant adjacent to the Karmei Gat neighborhood in Kiryat Gat, where his wife owns property. The activist-journalist submitted a complaint against Zohar to the Knesset Ethics Committee, which said the MK had a conflict of interest and that lawmakers should avoid initiating discussions of matters in which they have a personal interest.
Zohar took to Twitter on Sunday to boast about the lawsuits, writing: “We’re going on the offensive. In recent months, reporters and organizations from the extreme left did not hesitate to use any means to hurt my name just because of the stances I represented, as opposed to their opinions.”
The MK included images of the letters he sent to the journalists and their employers in the tweet.
Zohar’s attorneys wrote in the letters that the comments are “harmful and humiliating... meant to make him a target for mockery and public contempt.”
They emphasized that Zohar “is well aware of the principles of free speech and liberty to express opinions, and they are a guiding light in his service as a lawmaker. The trouble is that these comments are not a legitimate expression of opinion...they totally and blatantly diverge from reasonable and acceptable political criticism, and are plagued with an extreme lack of integrity.”
The law firm Chai Bar-El, Ilan Yonash and Partners, which is representing Avital pro bono, said: “We received MK Zohar’s letter. It looks unfortunate from a public perspective and lacking any legal basis, and looks like its purpose is to try to silence legitimate criticism. We will study it and respond.”
Channel 10 and Haaretz said they will review Zohar’s letter and respond to it.