Israeli right-wing politicians harshly criticized Channel 13 TV anchorwoman Oshrat Kotler for saying soldiers become "human animals" during their army service in the West Bank during a broadcast on Saturday night.
“They send children to the army, to the territories, and get them back human animals. That’s the result of the occupation,” she said.
The statement sparked the ire of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who tweeted: “Proud of IDF soldiers and love them very much. Oshrat Kotler’s words should be roundly condemned.”
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Netanyahu addressed the remarks again at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, saying “Yesterday I thought I did not hear correctly when I turned on the television. I heard an infuriating statement against IDF soldiers by a senior journalist, a news anchor. I would like to say that this statement is inappropriate and must be condemned - in a firm and comprehensive manner.”
“I am proud of IDF soldiers. They are protecting us and we are carrying out the supreme humanitarian and moral mission of defending our people and protecting our country against those who want to slaughter us. The journalist's words deserve all condemnation,” he said.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett wrote: “Oshrat, you’re confused. IDF soldiers give their lives so you can sleep peacefully. Human animals are the terrorists who murder children in their beds, a young girl on a walk or a whole family driving on the road. IDF soldiers are our strength. Our children. Apologize.”
Bennett's new party, Hayamin Hehadash, tweeted it would file an official request to the attorney general that he prosecute Kotler for defamation, "following her affronting comments which slander IDF soldiers."
Kotler, who realized during the broadcast that her statement sparked a storm, said later in the show: “I would like to stress: my children, and their friends, they’re all combat soldiers in the territories. My criticism was directed only at those soldiers led by our control over the Palestinians to hurt innocent people. Those who really listened and didn’t run to rail against me on the web understood that I'm in fact in favor of leniency toward the indicted soldiers, because we sent them into this impossible situation.”
Meretz chairwoman MK Tamar Zandberg came to Kotler's defense, writing: “How miserable and predictable is the attack on Kotler’s just statements. We don’t want a reality of occupation and violence? It must be changed. Closing our eyes and then scolding the messenger, that’s no solution.”
Peace Now also voiced its support for Kotler, tweeting: “It’s permissible and desirable to look in the mirror sometimes and honestly admit the mistakes of the occupation. So when the right wing falsifies and incites and when MKs rush to join the crowd, Oshrat Kotler’s courageous words should be given a platform.”
Channel 13 news issued a response saying “Oshrat Kotler is a journalist with strong opinions and she expresses them from time to time, like other journalists on our staff who hold other opinions. Oshrat expressed her personal opinion only.”
The parents of the indicted soldiers called the statement “unfortunate and ugly," saying there is "no place in Israeli discourse and certainly not by a new anchorwoman who is meant to represent the facts and not her distorted worldview. Our boys went into the army with a feeling of mission and Zionism. They chose a hard road, they wanted to be combat soldiers in the IDF, they wanted no special conditions; they carry out a complex mission in one of the most difficult sectors. These are the best of the sons of the State of Israel, who although only a month ago they lost two comrades in arms, held their heads high, walked tall and carried out any mission they were assigned, without fault."
They further criticized Kotler for not enquiring into the identity of the soldiers, "what they went through when they enlisted, what huge difficulties they experienced."