Court Orders Netanyahu's Son to Delete Tweet Doxing Protest Leaders

Yair Netanyahu tweeted personal details of people involved in protests against his father, calling on followers to 'come and protest outside their homes, day and night'

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and son Yair pose for a photo in Tel Aviv ahead of the World Holocaust Forum, January 23, 2020.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and son Yair pose for a photo in Tel Aviv ahead of the World Holocaust Forum, January 23, 2020.Credit: Aleksey Nikolskyi / AP

The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Sunday ordered the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yair Netanyahu, to remove a tweet in which he published the personal information of people leading the protests against his father and calling on followers to protest in front of their homes.

The judges also ordered Netanyahu to "avoid harassing in every way, shape and form" the protest leaders for six months.

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On Thursday, Netanyahu tweeted: "I invite you all to protest, day and night (the High Court says it's allowed) under the homes of these people, who have organized all the anarchy in the country for us in the past few weeks," the tweet said. It included a picture of a document from the government's NGO registry, which shows the full names and other personal details of members of the anti-corruption New Contract NGO's management committee.

The organization leads the "Crime Minister" movement, which has called for the prime minister to step down in light of his indictments for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu was called in for a hearing on Friday after three members of the management committee, attorney Gonen Ben Itzhak, Yishai Hadas and Haim Shadmi filed a request for a harassment restraining order against him. Netanyahu was notified Sunday morning that he did not need to be present for the hearing.

"Yair Netanyahu published the personal information and called on his gang to punish us," said Ben Itzhak. He added that he has received death threats against himself and his family since the tweet was posted. "This is an attempt to send violent gangs who have already gone and beat protesters, and some of them are outside the courthouse shouting disgraceful things," he said.   

Netanyahu's defense attorney, Yossi Cohen, accused Ben Itzhak of organizing anarchist demonstrations. "Yishai Hadas is a dangerous man who runs amok with a stick in his hand. In my opinion, something is mentally unwell about him. He threatened me in the hallway," added Cohen.

He said "Their entire objective was to bring Yair Netanyahu here. They called on all their anarchist friends to come here to the court. One of the petitioners was questioned about threats; there was another one who called to throw a Molotov cocktail at the prime minister's residence."

Cohen said Netanyahu's tweet is "legitimate and permitted. On the contrary, it does not contain a call for violence, as opposed to the violence adopted by the [petitioners] day after day and hour after hour."  

Deputy Court President Dorit Feinstein said that Netanyahu's tweet qualifies as harassment. Netanyahu was indifferent to the possibility that it would greatly disrupt the lives of the people whose information he disseminated, she said. "While he saw that some of his Twitter followers were calling for violent acts, he did not condemn them in response, and did not remove the tweet when he saw that it was prompting worrying responses," she added.

Feinstein opined as to why someone who professes to oppose violence did not take down the tweet when he saw those replies. She added that demonstrating outside homes of private citizens is quite different from doing so outside the homes of public figures. After Feinstein asked whether Cohen sees that difference, Cohen replied: "These people are simply destroying an entire country, paralyzing a country."

Feinstein once again asked Cohen, in a stormy hearing accompanied by shouts from both sides: "Does the respondent deny the fact that the reactions on Twitter are sometimes problematic, to put it mildly?" Cohen replied: "My client is not an expert at Twitters. He's opposed to responding violently."

Netanyahu responded in a series of tweets. "The judge mainly said that I need to take down the tweet (which I did). This is a tweet where I put up a screenshot from an NGO registry that's open to anyone who Googles it. She completely ignored all the material that attorney Yossi Cohen presented to her on their calls to murder me, and it doesn't look like that interested her at all," he wrote, among other messages.

In a request submitted by Netanyahu to cancel or postpone the proceeding, he explained that the activists "of course publicized the fact that there is a proceeding and called on their 'admirers' to attend. Knowing these respondents, they will arouse a major uproar in the court and will thereby achieve their objective: Violent uproars and provocations." According to Netanyahu, "Nobody seriously believes that the three petitioners truly feel threatened. Their only objective is a courtroom hearing that will be filmed and broadcast by the media."

Netanyahu stressed his claim that "The petitioners misled the court and caused it to believe that they presumably feel threatened, although their only objective is a cynical use of the court to promote their extraneous objectives," and claimed that he has proof attesting to it. He said that he "had done nothing that justifies his summons to the hearing, and to guarantee the issuing of an injunction against him. The information that he published was public knowledge." In response, Feinstein wrote that Netanyahu is exempt from being present in court, but must be available for questions during the proceedings by phone.

The protest against the prime minister continued on Saturday night, as tens of thousands of people demonstrated in front of the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem late into the night, when the police began to evacuate them by force. Twelve protesters were arrested. At the same time, there were demonstrations near Netanyahu's private residence in Caesarea, and the self-employed and the unemployed protested in Tel Aviv's Charles Clore Park. Thousands of Black Flags movement members demonstrated at intersections throughout the country.

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