A Tel Aviv court on Sunday rejected a defamation lawsuit against a senior health ministry official who called a group of doctors “Cubid deniers.”
Dr. Sharon Elroy Price, head of public health services at the Ministry of Health, was sued in the amount of NIS 150,000 ($ 47,000) by four senior doctors who publicly opposed certain steps the ministry had taken to curb the corona plague.
“The head of public health services called me a ‘corona denier, anti-waxer’ for no reason and no basis,” Dr. Amir Shachar, one of the plaintiffs, told Cannes public radio.
“I do not agree with the government’s policy, but I do not deny the corona virus nor do I oppose vaccines,” he said.
The four doctors participated in a documentary titled “What if the whole world is wrong.” The film, which was released earlier this year, criticized the previous government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, for its treatment of the third wave of pollution, and in particular the state’s order to close it.
Elroy-Price then responded to the video, saying that those who participated in it were “Corona and Anti-Wax virus deniers” who tried to disrupt public trust in the health care system. Her remarks caused doctors to sue her.
Sharon Elroi Price leaves the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court accompanied by security guards pic.twitter.com/y6FK70z8Di
– Tomer Applebaum (@tomerappelbaum) October 31, 2021
Tel Aviv Magistrates’ Court judges advised the four doctors not to proceed with the case and wrote that “the court has no choice but to express hope that the discourse between the professionals in charge of the fight in Corona will be professional, matter-of-fact. Respectful and respectful.”
Shahar said he and the three other doctors accepted the court’s recommendation and withdrew the lawsuit.
Elroy-Price, who was accompanied to a meeting on Sunday by a state-funded bodyguard because of threats against her, told the court that it was their place that doctors were looking for a legal way to determine public health policy.
After dismissing the case, she called it “an appropriate conclusion to an unfortunate case that should never have been brought.”
The Ministry of Health praised the court’s handling of the case. “Dr. “Sharon Elroy-Price will continue to act with determination and a public mission to maintain public health, to conduct a pragmatic and professional dialogue in the appropriate forums, to promote information aimed at increasing public trust, without being deterred from defamation and threats,” the ministry said.
Elroy-Price came to the hearing on Sunday under the close supervision of a security guard. Armed police officers were deployed on the street even when her car arrived, defending her as she got out of the vehicle and entered the courtroom, after death threats were made against her, on charges of vaccine activists.
“The director general of the Ministry of Health, Nachman Ash, said that the insult of the head of public health in the ministry should be condemned and action taken against him.” He told Radio 103FM that he hoped the police would catch the culprits.
Ash said he spoke with Elroy-Price the night before, and that although “difficult for her,” she has no intention of giving up her role.
Ash revealed that he also receives threats, but they are “much less” substantial than those hurled at Elroy-Price. “I do not feel I am in danger,” he said.
Ash said those behind the threats are members of a group that opposes the vaccine, especially the children’s vaccine. Their threatening approach, he said, was “illogical” because they certainly did not believe that forcing a health official to change his position would stop the vaccination campaign in the country.
Israel, which already offers a three-dose vaccine regimen for ages 12 and up, is set to begin vaccinating children ages 5-11 following last week’s approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to vaccinate Pfizer-BioNTech for that age group.
The Israel Police and the Ministry of Health confirmed on Saturday that Elroy-Price was given a full-time security detail due to the threats against her.
Other health experts fear media interviews about COVID-19 vaccines due to the concrete threats posed by anti-waxer activists, Prof. Gili Regev-Yohai, director of the Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Unit at Sheba Medical Center, told Ynet.
“It starts with incitement and ends much worse. We already had a prime minister who was assassinated,” said Regev-Yohai, referring to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 by a far-right man.
“My name is Nazi, ‘child poisoning’, things like that, especially around vaccines. It is not comparable to what Sharon is going through. I think it is shocking and it is impossible to remain unanswered,” she said.
“The threats against Sharon Elroy-Price are worrying,” Regev-Yohai added.
Elroy-Price, one of the government’s leading COVID-19 advisers, has faced threats and attacks for months. It has been a special target of anti-vaccine activists and those who oppose the government’s epidemic restrictions.
In August, she revealed she had been given a panic button by authorities to alert police to any possible danger, following ongoing harassment and threats from antivaxers. Demonstrations outside her home earlier this year included chants of “Nazi killer” and “daughter of the devil,” while some in attendance wore yellow stars that compared Corona’s restrictions to the Holocaust.
Corona Minister Salman Zarka also attacked the threats to health officials, saying the public attitude to the outbreak is problematic.
“The plague cannot be controlled in a time of threat,” Zarqa told army radio. “This is not just a health problem, but a nationwide problem.
“In a democracy where senior health officials have been working for two years to save us from the danger of the corona, should Dr. Elroy-Price hang out with a security guard? It’s unthinkable, ‘she threw away.