Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has filed a police complaint against Dr. Ofer Cassif, a political science lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who roundly attacked her on his Facebook page on Monday.
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Cassif called her “neo-Nazi scum” and said she is an indirect partner to murder and crimes against humanity in Africa. He also wrote that Shaked is responsible for making Israel more fascist.
The professor wrote the comments when he shared a separate post from Prof. Amiram Goldblum, a lecturer at the Hebrew University pharmacy school. Goldblum wrote that Jewish-Belgian diamond dealer “who sold weapons to murderers in Sierra Leone and the Colombian drug cartel” was among the donors to Shaked’s primary campaign in Habayit Hayehudi.
“Your hands are steeped in blood,” Cassif said in his post.
Serge Muller, who contributed to the primary campaign of Shaked’s as well as of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) was arrested in March on an international warrant by Belgian police on suspicion of drug trafficking, selling arms to criminals and money laundering, according to a Channel 2 report in June.
The comments on social media sparked outrage from several government representatives including MK Moti Yogev (Habayit Hayehudi) who called on the university to distance itself from Cassif and to consider firing him.
In their own response to media inquiries however, the Hebrew University spoke against such actions.
"The University is not responsible for the comments of the lecturers and it is not [the University's] job to deal with them as long as the academic stage is not being exploited to distribute them," the Hebrew University said in a statement on Monday. “Anyone who believes this or another statement constitutes incitement or a violation of state laws should turn to law enforcement authorities.”
Shaked responded herself to the Facebook post, calling on the authorities, rather than the university, to handle the matter.
"Today the frail line was crossed between freedom of speech and incitement and the poisoning of the public discourse," said the justice minister. "I'm sure that law enforcement will deal with this incident in the appropriate manner."
Cassif, however, was unapologetic. "I don't see what (to apologize) about," he told Army Radio in an interview. "Becuase I told the truth? I usually tell the truth." The professor continued to flirt with controversy when he told Israel Radio in a separate interview, "I think it's fair to compare Israel to Germany in the 1930s, and not to the years of genocide."
"The spotlights," said Cassif, "need to be aimed at the minister and her government, not at me ... we have moved into a completely different phase in the history of this country. We are now the Germany of the 1930s and this is expressed in the completely Nazi video that Im Tirtzu released and also in the nonprofit organization law.
"I'm not afraid of anything," he continued when the possibility of a police investigation was raised. "If they call me in, I will come respectfully. Maybe I will go with a tag of a (foreign agent) proudly to the police."
Asked what his students should think about his post, he replied: "my students must understand that freedom of speech, criticism and a strong, non-violent opposition are the building blocks of democracy."
"This is the worst case of incitement against an acting justice minister since the founding of the state," Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who is also the leader of Shaked's party, Habayit Hayehudi, said. Bennett added that he has asked Hebrew University President Prof. Menachem Ben-Sasson to look into the incident. Bennett said he refuses to label the lecturer as a "leftist," and said: "We must stop the mutual accusations and work to reduce the level of incitement."
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog also addressed the incident on Twitter, calling Cassif's comments on social media "pathetic," and condemning the Facebook post.