Netanyahu Is Leading an Incitement That Could End in Murder, Again

Nehemia Shtrasler
Nehemia Shtrasler
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech to his supporters in Jerusalem in March.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech to his supporters in Jerusalem in March.Credit: AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS
Nehemia Shtrasler
Nehemia Shtrasler

A direct line connects the awful incitement before the Rabin assassination and the even harsher incitement going on today. Then, just before the assassination, the country was awash with violent rallies against the prime minister. His picture was burned, he was called a traitor and depicted with a kaffiyeh and even in an SS uniform. Far-right rabbis issued a rodef ruling against him, and it all culminated in murder.

The discourse that is happening right now against Naftali Bennett and the other members of Yamina is even more inflammatory and violent. Bennett has already been depicted in a kaffiyeh and with a swastika and his picture has been burned; social media is filled with death threats against him and his family. He is being called a traitor, an enemy of Israel, a court Jew and being wished all kinds of unpleasant deaths. Other members of his party are also being threatened and have been assigned special security details. Member of Knesset Idit Silman can’t even send her son to school because of the threats.

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The inciters have even managed to pin the label of a “leftist government” to the change government, despite the fact that it will have 44 MKs from the right and center and only 17 from the left, and a hard-right, kippa-wearing prime minister. But who cares about facts?

Just like back then, 26 years ago, Benjamin Netanyahu is playing a key role in the incitement today too. In 1995, he marched at the head of a procession in Ra’anana with a coffin and later appeared as the chief inciter at a big rally in Zion Square in Jerusalem. He is following the same playbook today. He is inciting the masses with speeches full of lies and slander, and recently published an inflammatory and revolting post citing the weekly Torah portion about the spies, in which he likened the 10 spies who “weakened the people’s spirit” to the Yamina MKs. He doesn’t finish the story, but the spies all died in a plague. Is that what he wishes for the six Yamina MKs?

And like then, before the Rabin assassination, today, too, senior religious Zionist figures are doing their best to inflame the situation. Haim Druckman, the leading rabbi of this stream, urges his followers to “do everything to keep this government from coming into being.

What does “everything” mean? Remember that Rabin’s killer said in his interrogation that without the encouragement and backing of the rabbis he wouldn’t have committed the murder. At the Likud faction meeting this week, Netanyahu called the incitement “freedom of expression.” He also insisted that there is incitement from both sides, and that is another lie. The intensity and the aim are different. The fact is that all political murders have been perpetrated by the right. And when he spoke about journalists, he said, “Don’t be afraid to lay into them,” essentially saying it’s okay to kill them.

Nor did he offer one word of reservation about this week’s Flag March set to pass through Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter, in order to instigate violence and bloodshed that will draw a response from Hamas. In fact, Hamas had already called on people to come to Jerusalem en masse on Thursday to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and it wouldn’t take much more to spark a renewal of the rocket fire and fighting and a cancellation of the swearing-in of the new government.  Fortunately, the police cancelled the event on Monday. Nor should we forget that Netanyahu is currently blocking the transfer of the Qatari money to Gaza, which caused Hamas to announce that if the money doesn’t arrive this week they will respond with steps that will escalate the situation.

In the weeks before the Rabin assassination, Shin Bet chief Carmi Gillon asked Netanyahu to make a public statement against the raging incitement. It did not happen. Current Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman drew the necessary conclusion and made a public appeal to “opinion leaders” to “speak out loudly and clearly to immediately halt the inciting and violent discourse.” He also said that “lately there are calls for violence and physical harm… This kind of talk could be interpreted as permitting violent and illegal activity that could result in people getting hurt.”

Argaman really wants his boss, Netanyahu, to put a stop to the incitement. But Netanyahu hasn’t the slightest intention of doing so. He is basically doing just the opposite, raising the level of the flames with the aim of preventing the swearing-in of the change government in the Knesset. He hasn’t changed at all since the Rabin assassination.