Israel: Supreme Court book ban a harsh blow to artistic freedom of expression

28 May 2014

In a ruling handed down in April 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a writer’s appeal of a district court decision, which included a ban against the publication and distribution of his novel. In effect, the court ordered that the book be shelved, after it had already been published, printed and even sold in hundreds of copies.

The plaintiff, who is the author’s former partner, claimed that although he claimed that the plot was fictional, the book describes their intimate relationship and violates her privacy and harms her reputation. Justice Noam Solberg accepted her argument and rejected the appeal. He was joined in the decision by Justices Miriam Naor and Salim Joubran.

The Supreme Court ruling is a harsh blow to freedom of expression. It signals to other judges, in lower legal instances, that artistic works should be examined according to meticulous and tough criteria, which are in clear contradiction to freedom of creativity. Artists have received a castrating message to the effect that anyone who identifies as a subject or a muse of a work is liable to prevent its publication. This ruling, had it been handed down in the past, might have prevented the publication of canonical literary works due to a possible identification of their source of inspiration.

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