Facebook users have called for the murder of Haaretz journalists, responding to a call by a right-leaning politician who wants an investigation into Haaretz’s editors on suspicion of “defeatist propaganda” under Statute 103 of Israel’s penal code.
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Ronen Shoval, who is running in right-wing party Habayit Hayehudi’s primary, called for the investigation on Facebook over the weekend. This came after Haaretz had run a cartoon in which its graphic designers paid tribute to the cartoonists killed in the terror attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in France.
Shoval, a founder of the Im Tirtzu movement that an Israeli court has described as having fascist "similarities,” wrote: “If we have learned anything, it is that terror attacks are the result of an atmosphere of incitement.”
According to Shoval, “Unfortunately, the attorney general will not do a thing, as usual. But determined lawmakers can change this situation.”
A raft of death threats came in. “We must do what the terrorists did to them in France, but at Haaretz,” wrote Facebook user Chai Aloni. “Why is there no terror attack at Haaretz?” wrote Moni Ponte.
“Let the terrorists eliminate them,” wrote Daniella Peretz. “With God’s help, the journalists at Haaretz will be murdered just like in France,” wrote Miki Dahan. As Danit Hajaj put it, “They should die.”
“Haaretz is where the terrorists should have gone,” wrote Riki Michael. “Death to traitors,” added Moshe Mehager. “I hope that terrorism reaches Haaretz as well,” wrote Tuval Shalom. “With God’s help, [there will be] a Hamas operation that kills all of you, like the journalists in France,” wrote Ruti Hevroni.
Haaretz’s editorial staff said the cartoons published in the project were a personal gesture by the newspaper’s designers, not the editorial board, and this is how they were presented.
“It is astonishing that in the framework of the global debate over freedom of expression and freedom of the press, and at a time when journalists have been killed over the existence of this right, Internet users are demanding that Haaretz completely censor a cartoon whose content they do not like,” a spokesman for Haaretz’s editorial staff said.
“[The cartoon represents] the personal view of the cartoonist, just as the cartoons in Charlie Hebdo expressed the opinions of the cartoonists who worked there and were published in the name of freedom of expression, even though they were provocative and angered many people. The role of caricature, or of any other visual message, is to arouse thought and debate.”
Shoval responded to the wave of Facebook comments on Sunday afternoon, promising to remove the offending remarks. "Thank you for drawing my attention to the severe comments posted on my page," Shoval said. "I will make sure to erase them quickly; as you said, I understand that incitement leads to murder. In the same breath, I ask you to remove the caricature immediately."
The cartoon that sparked the death threats (captions in Hebrew read: 10 journalists killed in attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris (top), about 13 journalists killed last summer in attack on Gaza (bottom)