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After suicide, Israel lawmakers discuss online shaming

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli lawmakers are looking to take steps to prevent online defamation after a public servant killed himself over an accusatory Facebook post.

An African-American immigrant to Israel wrote a Facebook post last week accusing an Interior Ministry official of racism.

In her post, which was shared more than 6,000 times, Lee Lenoir Yurista wrote that she arrived to ministry offices with her three children to get a passport for one of them. Yurista said she was denied access to a shorter line for mothers with children, while other mothers were not. When she complained to the Interior Ministry official, Ariel Runis, that she was being discriminated against based on her race, he told her to “get out of my face,” she wrote.

Dozens of people reacted to the post, overwhelmingly with messages of support. “Sad! Disgusting! You should have turned over a table,” said one respondent.

In a statement issued before the suicide, the Interior Ministry told Channel 10 TV that Yurista had demanded immediate attention when there were others before her in line. It said it was looking into the incident.

Before taking his own life last weekend, Runis, 47, wrote a Facebook post rejecting the claim of racism and saying he could not bear the public shame.

“Up until two days ago my life looked rosy,” he wrote. “Each (Facebook share) was a sharpened arrow driven into my flesh.”

“My name, which I worked for years to build, is now synonymous with the worst description that could be linked to me — racism,” he added.

The issue of racism has been on the public agenda in recent weeks since Ethiopian immigrants launched a campaign against alleged discrimination.

At a discussion on the incident Wednesday, Israeli lawmakers called for Internet anti-defamation laws.

“Legislation today, not just here… around the world, lags greatly behind the advances of technology,” Cabinet minister Yariv Levin told Israel Radio on Thursday.

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