A libel lawsuit filed by a veteran missionary against a Yad L’Achim activist was withdrawn last week in Beersheva Magistrates’ Court.
The suit was filed by Eddie Beckford, who claimed that he had been subjected to verbal attacks and ridicule after Yad L’Achim exposed his missionary activities in Arad.
Yad L’Achim holds regular demonstrations against Beckford and has publicized the fact that his soup kitchen and chess center were fronts for missionary activity.
Beckford has a history of run-ins with those opposing his activities. A few years ago, he brutally accosted the late Chief Rabbi of Arad, Harav Ben Zion Lipsker, of blessed memory, who was innocently walking behind the city’s market, not far from the missionary’s headquarters.
At the time, Beckford and his assistants were distributing missionary material and apparently suspected that the Rav was intending to warn the public from taking it.
In another incident, Yad L’Achim revealed in Beersheva Magistrates’ Court a video that captured Beckford brutally beating a Yad L’Achim activist. Beckford escaped the scene, but was later apprehended by police and brought for trial. The court issued an injunction barring him from the city for 45 days.
In the libel lawsuit, the judge tried in the first court session to get the sides to agree to a compromise: Beckford would drop the suit in exchange for a promise from Yad L’Achim that it would stay away from his headquarters.
“I responded on behalf of Yad L’Achim that it is our legal right and halachic obligation to stand and protest,” says Moshe Morgenstern, a member of Yad L’Achim’s legal team. “The judge responded that while the position of the halacha was not relevant to the case, he could understand that, from Yad L’Achim’s vantage point, there was no room to compromise with missionaries.”
Beckford showed up at last Thursday’s decisive court session without an attorney. When he was asked about this by the court, he answered, “No attorney is prepared to represent me.”
The judge, in response, expressed astonishment: “There are 50,000 lawyers in Israel, and you couldn’t find one that would represent you?”
The court, seeing that there was no foundation to the lawsuit, recommended that Beckford withdraw it, which he promptly did. The court clarified that the meaning of Beckford’s withdrawal is that he can no take no further legal action against the Yad L’Achim activist named in his suit.
Yad L’Achim chairman Rabbi Shalom Dov Lifschitz noted this week that “this was the third suit in the last period that Yad L’Achim has won against the missionaries. This proves that even in the judicial sphere, their tactics are failing.”
Lifschitz reiterated his call to the Knesset to legislate a counter-missionary law with teeth that would give the authorities the ability to fight missionary activity effectively.