The Israeli Law of Defamation: A Comparative Perspective and a Sociological Analysis
University of Haifa
August 1, 2010
Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, Vol. 20, No. 3, 2012
Driven by the observation that social conventions greatly influence the law of defamation, which varies dramatically across jurisdictions, this Article explores and analyzes the central features of this legal field in Israel. The Article’s basic finding is that the Israeli legislature and Supreme Court are ideologically divided with respect to the appropriate balance between the competing interests in defamation law; while the former is inclined to emphasize the right to reputation, the latter contemporarily gives preference to the freedom of speech. The apparent reason for this difference in approach, the Article demonstrates, is the fact that Israeli defamation law is essentially an incoherent mixture of principles and perceptions drawn from four legal systems: the legislation is based on English law, German law, and Jewish law, whereas American law heavily inspires the court rulings. The Article finally argues, based on studies that addressed the sociological dimensions of defamation law, that the said jurisprudential choices stem from their perceived suitability to social conceptions prevailing in Israel. As the article explains, the complexity and dynamic nature of Israeli society, in addition to the foreign influences it absorbed, engendered different social conceptions in different times and among different sectors, hence the conflicting legal transplantations.
Examining the contrasting viewpoints that evolved in the Israeli defamation law and placing them in comparative and sociological contexts thus provide a new perspective on processes in Israeli society and politics, on Israel’s position in the spectrum of legal systems, on the global impact of various cultures and legal traditions, and even on the phenomenon of defamation law as such.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 62
Date posted: February 21, 2012