MY DAY IN COURT or HOW I LEARNED TO
DESPISE THE ISRAELI JUDICIAL SYSTEM
by Barry Chamish © 2000
Last October, Knesset Member Ofir Pines sent a letter to the
Steimatzky Book chain, Israel's book monopoly, demanding that it remove my
book Who Murdered Yitzhak Rabin from its shelves. In the letter he called
me "the country's biggest inciter and his book is a pack of lies."
So I sued him for slander. A month ago he defended himself in court,
citing parliamentary immunity. Or simply, no one can sue him for anything
because he's a Knesset member. Judge Boaz Okun, of the Tel Aviv
Magistrate's Court, turned down his defence and today, May 1, a procedural
hearing was held. But wouldn't you know it, the judge had a change of heart
and ruled that Pines was immune from further trial.
Here was my day. At 11 AM, my attorney Nitzana Darshan Leitner phoned
from the court saying, "You won't believe it. The Attorney General sent his
lawyer to influence the judge. He wants to speak to you. Can you get here
in an hour?"
I did and she was right. Sitting at Pines' table were his two lawyers
but the General Attorney Elyakim Rubinstein had sent his mouthpiece, a
curly-haired semi-youngish woman named Orit Podansky to do 90% of the
talking. She came armed with a brief prepared by the Attorney General's
office explaining why Pines' parliamentary immunity had to be protected.
Nitzana received her copy of the brief three hours after the hearing
began. "This,"she acknowledged, "is called an ambush."
Later in the day, another attorney, Dror Bar Nahum was incredulous.
"I've never heard of the Attorney General intervening in a civil case
before. This appears to be scandalous."
Before the afternoon session began, Nitzana informed me, "He's
already reached a decision. He wants you to comply with it so it won't be
overturned later on. If you do, he'll waive court costs."
"What if not?" I asked.
"We'll appeal but it won't be cheap."
"Let's hear what he has to say first and maybe I can sway him to
change his mind."
Judge Okun addressed me. "It would be a waste of time for you to
carry on with your suit. It is legal in this country to criticize someone
and anyone can legally write a book store asking it to remove a book from
its shelves. There is no basis for a continuance."
I asked Nitzana, "Is it really legal?"
She whispered, "He's lying."
I asked for permission to speak and began, "Mr. Pines did not merely
criticize me. He called me a liar and then deliberately abused his power as
a Knesset member to wreck my income. I worked for almost four years on the
book without pay and his goal was to deprive me of an income. To do so, he
sent copies of his letter to Steimatzky to most of the Israeli media, and
this resulted in headlines calling me a liar. There are hundreds of
thousands of readers who still believe what's printed in the papers and
they didn't buy my book because a member of the government said it was a
lie. And, though I admit, sales rose initially because of the scandal,
later stores turned the book down because they thought selling it was
illegal. I'll bring my publisher and he'll show you the refusals.
"Pines tried his best to ban my book. This is barbaric and primitive
and has no place in the twentieth century. You seemed to have already made
your ruling and it justifies book banning and the repression of free thought."
Judge Okun was clearly taken aback as was the gallery where loud
murmurs arose. The judge tried a new strategy. Reading from the Attorney
General's brief, he quoted my book's allegations against Carmi Gillon and
Meir Shamgar. He had hoped I would trip up and say nasty things about them.
I replied, "So let them sue me. My fight in this courtroom is only
with Pines. You can take passages you dislike and read them out of context
but the fact is I based my book on police lab results, hospital findings
and eye witness reports. I have brought my notes for you to examine. They
prove I'm no liar since the book's quotes are from official sources."
The judge answered, "This isn't the time to read your notes. I haven't
even read your book."
"It comes highly recommended," I said. Then I added, "Ofir Pines took
an illegal action against me and even Leah Rabin called his act, 'too
drastic. People should read the book if they like.' Since the book's
release, polls by Gallup and the Jerusalem Post show that two thirds of
Israelis, including the Rabin family, want the assassination
reinvestigated. If you rule against continuation of the trial, you will be
alienating those with doubts. They will further lose faith in our judicial
Judge Okun replied, "We are dealing with techical matters here. This
court is not the right place for you to pursue your argument with Mr. Pines?"
"If a civil court isn't the right place, where is?" I asked.
"In the public arena," the judge replied.
I knew then that, yes, Judge Okun had been influenced by the
government. He must have known how flimsy his arguments were. Still, I
added, "And who in this public arena will compensate me for the damage Mr.
Pines has done to my reputation and income? This court is the last stop. If
you rule against continuation, you will set some very dangerous legal
precedents. From now on Knesset members will be free to slander whoever
they want and interfere in anyone's honest business affairs. That will be
From that point on, Ofir Pines sat in the gallery with his assistant.
The government sent in its forces and turned an honest judge into a
compromised weakling. Attorney Avi Leitner summed it up, "You just got a
front seat view of judicial corruption."
For the next four hours, the lawyers entered their arguments but it
was already a done deal. Judge Okun ruled in favor of Pines' parliamentary
immunity and opened the door to dictatorship in Israel.
* * *
Now, of course, I'm ticked off so I'm going to release new
information. After unrelenting pressure from honest journalists, Rabin's
assassination night driver Menachem Damti agreed to be interviewed by two
television crews working with me, one from Tel Aviv University's
Communications Faculty, the other from MGI Productions.
I had claimed that his daughter was in Rabin's car, slammed the back
right passenger door, witnessed the murder and caused the Rabin limousine
to arrive at the hospital between twelve and twenty minutes late. I based
this assertion on an interview given to Channel Four Television in England
on the evening of Rabin's funeral. One guest was Yifah Barak who claimed
her sister's friend was in the car, Rabin fell on her after he was shot and
she was taken to hospital for treatment of shock.
Damti acknowledged that one his daughters, Reut, was beside Rabin's
car and indeed she appears in the assassination film standing beside her
father. After all this time, Damti acknowledged that his daughter was at
the murder scene but the film proved she wasn't in the car.
Next Reut Damti, finally, agreed to be interviewed and added to her
father's claim that she couldn't have been in the car because she was
outside. She was then shown Yifah Barak's interview and admitted that a lot
of people did call her house on the murder night to see if everyone was
alright. She added that there was nothing strange about her being in the
sterile area, her two uncles were there too.
Damti had invited his family to witness the grand fake assassination
of which he would play a starring role. One of his invited guests was
likely his OTHER, twelve year old daughter.
Yifah Barak was phoned in London to get her side of things. She
stood by her story but added vital details. She never claimed Reut Damti
was in the car. Reut was her age. It was her sister, Karen Barak who called
the Damti home to inquire about the other daughter, who was her own age,
twelve at the time. And that is who, most likely, was an accidental witness
to the Rabin assassination.
Stay tuned! Now lots of researchers are working towards sorting out
the lies. One is Ori Barkan, who wrote a brilliant dramatization of the
murder called Srak. For those who read Hebrew, write the Zionist Book Club
at for a copy.
Today was a sad day for Israeli justice but the push towards truth
is now a shove. We'll all get there. And, oh yes...I SHALL APPEAL THE
Brookline Books will be issuing a new edition of Who Murdered Yitzhak Rabin
in a few weeks. Call 1 800 666BOOK. The first edition is sold over
Amazon.com. The Hebrew and Russian editions can be acquired from Gefen
Books. Write or call 02 5380247. The French
edition is available by writing Please