After a resident of the central Israeli town of Givatayim posted a picture of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his Facebook account, a police officer came to his home and told him to delete it, claiming that it qualifies as incitement, although he did not have authority to do so.
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The picture in question was part of an exhibition by photographer Alex Levac, and shows Netanyahu raising his right arm in a way that resembles a Nazi salute. In response, the police said that while they “respect free speech,” they must investigate complaints of incitement and calls for violence.
Sagi Haber, 50, posted the picture to his Facebook account, along with the caption “A brand for idiots.” One person who replied to Haber's post told him that he had reported him to the police. Half an hour after the comment was posted – and an hour after the post itself went up – a district police officer arrived at Haber’s house to demand he delete the picture immediately, saying it qualifies as incitement.
“I’ll tell you exactly why I came here,” the officer said. “We received a report on a post that you uploaded against the prime minister. I came to explain to you that what you did is a crime. It’s incitement. We can arrest you for this.” The officer explained to Haber that the police have registered his information, and added that “There’s a chance you’ll be called in for questioning.”
Haber argued back to the officer: “This is harassment by the authorities. How did you determine that this is incitement?”
“Because you put up a picture of the prime minister as if he were a Nazi.” the officer said. Haber explained to him that the picture is a documented photograph of Netanyahu, but the officer continued: “I came to warn you. You don’t have to say a thing. Everything is documented with a camera. You’re allowed to respond. You also have the right to remain silent. I came to explain to you what’s happening here… you’ve been asked to take down the post, the original picture does not interest me.”
Haber took down the post. “What happened here was 1984 on speed,” he said. “I can’t get arrested – I’m taking care of my very ill mother. I’m not against Netanyahu, I’m against corruption and in favor of justice. Since when does the police send officers for people who over posts or pictures? The whole situation is ridiculous.”
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Israel Police said in response that they “respect free speech and recognize its special position as a fundamental right. With that, the police act to investigate and check complaints of incitement and calls for violence, which, according to the law, do not constitute free speech. The situation in question will be looked into and dealt with accordingly.”
Levac took the photo that Haber posted at the Likud assembly over 30 years ago. He said in the past that he removed the picture at the time after receiving responses to it, but now, ahead of his new photography exhibition, he posted it again.
Over the past few months, Netanyahu has filed a number of police complaints over incitement and violent threats against him and his family, the most recent of which occurred Wednesday. In a press release last month, Netanyahu claimed that some of the calls to kill him and his family members “Are clearly identified with the extreme left.” An investigation on the report of a woman named Dana Ron, who threatened Netanyahu with murder on her Facebook page showed that the profile is most likely fabricated.