Public Security Minister Amir Ohana is worried by the demonstrations outside the prime minister’s official residence. “I’m truly worried by the hatred I see in the air,” he told the public radio station Kan Bet on Sunday. “I have the impression, and even see a high probability, that this will end in blood.” Nor is he the only one worried. “We don’t oppose the demonstrations, but the incitement,” Transportation Minister Miri Regev tweeted. “We don’t fear criticism, but violence in general, and violent harm to the prime minister and members of his family in particular.”
This attempt by Ohana and Regev to portray the nationwide protests as fertile ground for left-wing violence that will end in bloodshed echoes similar accusations by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But this is simply lying propaganda whose goal is to delegitimize the demonstrations. Netanyahu and his loyalists have presented a warped version of the protesters’ sociopolitical profile, describing them as homogenous in their ethnicity (Ashkenazi), class (elite) and politics (leftist). Saturday night, Netanyahu even accused Channel 12 television in social media posts of turning into “a shameless propaganda organ of the anarchist left” that has mobilized entirely behind “Bolshevik propaganda” while ignoring “the explicit threats to murder the prime minister and his family.”
Netanyahu and the right are trying to compare the atmosphere today to the incitement that preceded the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and to warn that Netanyahu could also be murdered. But this is a manipulative lie. Netanyahu and the right have no problem denying the incitement that led to Rabin’s murder, in order to shirk responsibility for it, even as they accuse the protesters of not having learned anything from that murder. But Netanyahu and Ohana are showing criminal disregard for the fact that incitement and violence in Israel aren’t symmetrical. Rather, they continue to be unidirectional – by the right against the left.
Demonstrators nationwide have said they were attacked on Saturday night, including with pepper spray, hurled bottles and fists, sometimes by several assailants. Police arrested three suspects that night. One, a 20-year-old resident of the south, is suspected of stabbing a protester at the Sha’ar Hanegev Junction.
The second, a 34-year-old resident of Ramat Gan, is suspected of spraying pepper spray at demonstrators at the Aluf Hasadeh Junction; he confessed to this and said he did it because he was angry that they were “harming state symbols.” The third, in Jerusalem, is suspected of involvement in assaulting a protester; five other people who were with him were detained for questioning.
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These acts should not be viewed in isolation from the ongoing, systematic incitement by the prime minister and those around him. Instead of worrying about imaginary threats of “the next murder of a prime minister” by a left-wing protester, Ohana would do better to order the police to combat the genuine threats in order to prevent a repeat of the 1983 murder of Emil Grunzweig – a leftist demonstrator killed by a right-wing activist.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.