Golan Heights: Al-Marsad submits response to Energix lawsuit

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Al-Marsad – Arab Human Rights Centre in Golan Heights (“Al-Marsad”) has submitted its response to Energix Renewable Energies’ (“Energix”) 18 June 2019 legal complaint in Nazareth Magistrate’s Court. Al-Marsad’s reply categorically denies Energix’s claims that Al-Marsad, working with “anti-Zionist” activists, violated Israel’s Anti-Defamation Act of 1965 and Anti-Boycott Act of 2011. The response requests that the lawsuit be dismissed as it is a groundless attempt to “throw sand in the eyes of the court” through politically charged accusations aimed at stopping constitutionally protected human rights work.

Al-Marsad’s submission shows that Energix’s allegations are intended to eliminate Al-Marsad, the only human rights organization in the occupied Syrian Golan, due to its activities contesting Energix’s actions in the region. In Al-Marsad’s response, lawyer Auni Banna asserts that Energix’s claims lack merit because Al-Marsad’s activities were based in truth, properly sourced, undertaken with professional care and due diligence, and addressed issues of public concern. The reply highlights how Energix is using politically inflammatory anti-boycott language to attack legitimate human rights work. In fact, the Supreme Court of Israel deemed the provision of the Anti-Boycott Law Energix hinges its complaint on unconstitutional four years ago.

Al-Marsad’s submission asks the court to dismiss Energix’s complaint as a malicious “SLAPP” (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) case aimed at pressuring Al-Marsad through economic force. This is evidenced by Energix, one of the largest renewable energy companies in Israel, demanding compensation in excess of Al-Marsad’s annual budget for unsubstantiated damages related to its claims. It is also evidenced by Energix’s filing of five additional lawsuits against other prominent Golani activists. Energix is trying to exploit the judiciary by seeking arbitrary financial awards to stop human rights defenders from exercising their constitutionally protected freedom of expression. This is in line with a smear campaign that has sought to defame anyone who publicly contests Energix’s actions. This smear campaign, which, due to consistency in messaging between it and Energix’s lawsuit, seems to be initiated by Energix, has the stated goal of eliminating Al-Marsad.

Energix’s complaint and its possible involvement in a smear campaign followed the publication of an Al-Marsad report and Al-Marsad facilitated public meetings aimed at informing native Syrians about Energix’s energy project in the occupied Golan. Al-Marsad’s reportmeetings, and comprehensive joint objections filed with the Israeli government show that the project will have devastating impacts on the occupied Golan. Experts have concluded that the project: (1) may cause grave health problems in the Syrian communities; (2) will seriously restrict Syrians’ arable land by almost a quarter; (3) will severely limit the urban expansion of three Syrian villages, exacerbating the current housing crisis; (4) will endanger wildlife; and (5) will distort and alter the occupied Golan’s landscape, negatively impacting the tourism industry and destroying strong cultural traditions tied to the land.

Al-Marsad condemns Energix’s attempts to intimidate and silence those who oppose it. Al-Marsad will continue to facilitate public programs aimed at assisting the Syrian community in exercising its basic right to reject Energix’s project and will exhaust all available avenues for legal relief. Al-Marsad, fighting for its very existence, will not be silenced. 

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