Israeli Army Chief, in Rare Move, Defends Bereaved Family Berated by Netanyahu Supporters

Responding to a protest by pro-Netanyahu activist, Kochavi says politicizing the pain of families who lost loved ones 'is a humane and moral red line that must not be crossed'

Yaniv Kubovich
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Israeli army chief Aviv Kochavi speaking in a ceremony marking Israel's Memorial Day in Jerusalem, April, 2020.
Israeli army chief Aviv Kochavi speaking in a ceremony marking Israel's Memorial Day in Jerusalem, April, 2020. Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
Yaniv Kubovich

Israeli army chief Aviv Kochavi made on Friday a rare statement, urging supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to refrain from attacking families who lost their loved ones in war and leaving them out of political disputes.

In a letter sent to various media outlets, Kochavi warned of crossing "a moral red line" after some 15 people protested Tuesday outside the home of the Farkash family, who are neighbors of the prime minister in Caesarea, for hosting anti-Netanyahu activists on their roof.

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Orly Lev, a firebrand Likud activist, called during the protest: "The fact that you lost a son doesn’t give you the right." The statement was roundly condemned by most political figures in Israel, including Netanyahu's own Likud party.

Capt. Tom Farkash was killed in a helicopter crash during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

"In recent years, much like in recent days, we have witnessed cases in which bereaved families were attacked," Kochavi said, stressing that in many instances the families' loss has been tied to criticism against them. "Bereavement, which shouldn't be part of any dispute, has become an axe to grind," he argued, "This is a humane and moral red line that must not be crossed."

Kochavi added, "The fallen soldiers and the bereaved families are part of the army and part of the wall shielding us all. Every soldier who serves in the army or who has sacrificed their life for the people of Israel must know that we will protect their dignity and that of their families."

"We'll argue, we'll disagree, we'll voice diverse opinions, but we'll always protect those families," he said. "It is our duty to ourselves to not go down the slippery slope of social separation. This is our duty to them, a national, humane and moral duty." 

“We will stay here as long as you host the anarchists on the roof of your house,” Lev said. “We won’t give you the freedom of expression that you’ve been used to.”

Major political figures condemned the statement. President Reuven Rivlin said on his Twitter account that "What happened outside the Farkash family's home is not a protest. This is not the way. And don't say 'but..' and enough with 'You didn't say anything when...' Just say loudly and clearly: This is not our way and we will not be silent, because silence is mire."

Opposition leader Yair Lapid called it "a new low," asking Netanyahu to "roundly condemn this ugly attack."

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the leader of the Kahol Lavan party and a former Israeli military chief of staff said, “As someone who has lost many brothers in arms, I feel shame this morning. There are limits that are not crossed. The incitement and polarization will not lead us anywhere.”

Likud later issued a statement saying that “as someone who has personally experienced the anguish of bereavement, Prime Minister Netanyahu has throughout his life made sure to respect the feeling of loss of all bereaved families, and that’s how everyone, on the right and the left, must act. The prime minister strongly condemns any statement that has to do with the loss of the bereaved, including a statement such as the one in Caesarea.”

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