Editorial |

Incitement Is Not Merely a Fashionable Word Used by Netanyahu's Critics

The prime minister can't play innocent to his targeting of rights groups, the media, Israeli Arabs and so many others

Haaretz Editorial
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Netanyahu addressing lawmakers in the opening session of the Knesset winter session on October 24, 2017.
Netanyahu addressing lawmakers in the opening session of the Knesset winter session on October 24, 2017.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Haaretz Editorial

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood on a podium Monday at the opening of the Knesset’s winter session and shamelessly mocked the opposition and the media. He rolled his eyes while wondering what on earth his critics wanted from him.

“There is another fashionable word in their dictionary: incitement. Everything is related to stirring things up. Is responding to fake media reports incitement?” he said. “Complaining about tendentious, illegal leaks, is that incitement? Is criticizing the illegal employment of a political adviser, costing the taxpayers millions of shekels, also a form of incitement? Is that damaging the rule of law? In a democracy?”

Netanyahu’s playing the innocent can only compete with his own hypocrisy.

Incitement is opening a Knesset session by saying the opposition and the media are displaying “sour grapes.” Incitement is to warn on Election Day of the danger of 20 percent of this country’s citizens taking advantage of their right to vote, only because they are Arabs. Incitement is to give a speech on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street after a terror attack, talking about a “state within a state,” instead of telling Arab citizens they’re part of this country.

Incitement is marking journalists enemies of the state. Incitement is the unbridled persecution of human rights groups while considering them traitors. Incitement is to point a finger at the High Court of Justice and assail it when it nullifies a law because it is unconstitutional. Incitement is the launching of a well-orchestrated campaign against the police commissioner and attorney general who are only doing their job.

Incitement is the fostering of a political discourse in which there are “internal enemies” and “traitors,” in which the loyalty of citizens, soldiers and military commanders is cast in doubt. Incitement is the turning of African asylum seekers into enemies of the people and a public nuisance that south Tel Aviv residents must be saved from, while promoting hatred and racism against foreigners.

President Reuven Rivlin’s speech was an excellent rebuttal to the prime minister’s supposedly innocent ponderings. Rivlin described the assaults on the opposition, the Supreme Court, the police, military commanders and the media exactly as they are: “an ongoing attempt to weaken the guardians of democracy in Israel.”

Rivlin also undermined the accusation that the opposition is outraged only because it’s not in power, not because of the deliberate assault on the system of checks and balances in Israel’s democracy.

“The government, the legislators, you who are here have the privilege and obligation to undertake systemic changes, sometimes dramatic and necessary ones. But what is the connection between this and the assault on the very legitimacy of these institutions?” he said, bravely standing up to Netanyahu and his minsters, alone carrying the remnants of statesmanlike conduct.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel

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