4 Doctors Drop Suit against Israeli Health Official

On Sunday, a defamation lawsuit was dismissed by a Tel Aviv court against a senior official of the Israeli Health Ministry who had used the term ‘COVID deniers’ to refer to a group of doctors. The chief of public health services, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis was sued by four senior doctors for about NIS 150,000 ($47,000) who had been publicly opposed to some of the measures that the Health Ministry had implemented for curbing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. One of the plaintiffs, Dr. Amir Shachar said that he had been called a ‘coronavirus denier, antivaxxer’ without any basis or reason. 

He said that he was not against vaccines and neither had he denied the existence of COVID-19; he was just not in favor of the government’s policy. These four doctors had participated in a documentary that was released in the beginning of the year and titled ‘And What If the Whole World is Wrong’. The previous government that was headed by Benjamin Netanyahu had been criticized in the film for how the third wave of the coronavirus was dealt with and particularly for imposing a lockdown in the country. At the time, Alroy-Preis had responded and said that those who had participated in the film were antivaxxers and coronavirus deniers.

She had said that these people were trying to disrupt the faith of the public in the health system and these remarks prompted the four doctors to file a defamation suit against her. The judges of the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court recommended that the four doctors not take the case any further. They wrote that they were hopeful of a respectful, matter-of-fact and professional discourse between professionals who are in charge of battling the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Shachar, he and the other three plaintiffs had decided to pay heed to the court’s recommendations and had withdrawn the suit.

A state-funded bodyguard accompanied Alroy-Preis to the session on Sunday because of the threats that have been made against her. She told the court that the doctors’ action of choosing a legal avenue for determining the public health policy was outrageous. She called the dismissal of the case an appropriate conclusion and added that it shouldn’t have been filed in the first place. The court’s handling of the case also received appreciation from the Health Ministry. It said that Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis would continue to maintain public health and would not be deterred by threats and defamation.

Death threats have been made against Alroy-Preis by anti-vaccine activities, due to which she had come to Sunday’s hearing with a bodyguard. The street also had armed police officers covering it when her car arrived. The Director-General of the Health Ministry, Nachman Ash condemned the threats made against her and said that action was required. He expressed hope that the police would get the culprits. He disclosed that Alroy-Preis was not going to give up her position because of the threats. He added that he had also received threats, but they were not as substantial and he didn’t feel in danger. 

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