In a ruling that was handed down regarding the lawsuit filed by Magen David Adom (MDA) against United Hatzalah for defamation, the court, under Judge Naftali Shiloh, decided not to award MDA 90% of the remedy it sought. The original lawsuit, under which Magen David Adom demanded 2.6 million NIS in damages, ended with them receiving less than 10 percent of that amount. The court also criticized Magen David Adom for unjustifiably filing a lawsuit with the District Court for the “most excessive” damage award and said the matter never should have gone to a District Court but rather to a mere magistrate.

A United Hatzalah volunteer on his ambucycle
A United Hatzalah volunteer on his ambucycle – Illustration

Magen David Adom’s lawsuit was based on statements made by a number of United Hatzalah’s volunteers in the course of protest arguing that Magen David Adom refused to share pertinent information regarding the location of people who called for emergency medical assistance back in 2018.

Judge Shiloh wrote in his decision that “The amount demanded in the suit by Magen David Adom was most excessive,” and that, ”I have awarded them less than 10 percent of the amount requested.”

In addition, United Hatzalah filed a reciprocal defamation lawsuit against MDA for comments depicting United Hatzalah as a “business” rather than as a charity dedicated to saving lives. The court accepted this claim and granted United Hatzalah 25,000 NIS in damages.

Judge Shiloh wrote with regard to this that “There is no doubt that (The Director-General of MDA Eli) Bin aimed the arrows of his critique in an interview against United Hatzalah and called the emergency medical service organization United Hatzalah a “business”. These comments were made in order to humiliate and degrade United Hatzalah, an organization with which Magen David Adom has had an ongoing and acute conflict for many years as has already been described. His (MDA’s Director General’s) statement that United Hatzalah is acting due to business motivations is simply not true and was said in order to give the impression of United Hatzalah as an organization whose lead interests are financial. These statements are of course aimed at hurting United Hatzalah’s fundraising initiative, whose primary support comes from donations.”

Continuing his reasoning for his decision Shiloh wrote: “(Eli) Beer [United Hatzalah’s founder and president], spends most of the days of the year abroad, working day and night in order to make sure that United Hatzalah prospers. He is continually involved in trying to raise as much funds and resources as possible in order to save lives. United Hatzalah does not work to enrich its leaders and top executives, rather it works to further the goals of the organization, that of saving lives

Shiloh also added that “United Hatzalah is an organization whose mission is to save lives” and noted “the importance of the organization and its considerable contribution”.

President and Founder of United Hatzalah, Eli Beer said “We are happy that this is over and that we can return to focusing on our mission which is saving lives. We are saddened that public money that is intended to save lives is being needlessly wasted in legal proceedings. I agree with what Judge Shiloh wrote in his decision: “It is upon the parties to stop their arguing and fighting, resheath their swords, and focus only on saving lives and not to waste their money, (which emanates from public funds and or donations) on litigation instead of purchasing lifesaving medical equipment”.

Sadly, in our efforts to make the lives of all Israeli citizens better and save their lives, we have been dragged into this legal battle by MDA. I am pleased that the court recognized the importance of the lifesaving work done by United Hatzalah’s network of volunteers. We will continue to do everything we can to save as many lives as we can while working together with all relevant parties who are involved in such work.”