“The people who stood outside took detonators, put them in a glass bottle and threw them so they exploded at the entrance of the house.” That’s how an activist in the New Hope party who attended Saturday night’s campaign rally in Moshav Azaria described the attack by supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “My daughter, who was there, was traumatized. She’s six, and she asked me, ‘Why does Bibi Netanyahu act this way?’"
As expected, New Hope Chairman Gideon Sa’ar denounced the incident, calling it “a glimpse of what we as a country can expect if Netanyahu remains prime minister.” But it’s slightly odd to use the future tense in connection to such violence, as if it were new and Sa’ar and his party were its first victims. Until recently, the innocent question “Why does Bibi Netanyahu act this way” could have been directed toward Sa’ar himself by the same token.
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Sa’ar and his party colleagues Zeev Elkin and Sharren Haskel have been given a taste of the medicine they saw being cooked up during their many years as Knesset members in Netanyahu’s Likud. It must be noted, however, that Sa’ar, followed later by Elkin and Haskel, quit the party, in part over disgust for the incitement and violence it employed.
But it’s hard to avoid feeling that there’s a non-negligible degree of hypocrisy in the shock they felt when an egg was thrown at a New Hope activist during the rally. It’s impossible not to ask where they were when the well-oiled incitement machines targeted Arabs, leftists, asylum seekers, human rights organizations (B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence) and the media, as well as the police commissioner, the attorney general and other law enforcement officials. Where were they when the protesters outside the prime minister’s residence were attacked by Netanyahu supporters?
By Haaretz’s count, only nine people have been charged with assaulting demonstrators since these protests began, despite dozens of violent incidents, many of which were filmed. Why did they remain silent during all the months when supporters of the party they belonged to at the time were assaulting demonstrators? How were they not shocked when protesters were stabbed or hit with pepper spray on a weekly basis?
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Now Sa’ar is complaining about Netanyahu’s silence. “To this moment, I haven’t heard any condemnation or disclaimer from Netanyahu,” he said. On Monday, Netanyahu finally deigned to condemn the assault on New Hope activists, if his vague, half-hearted statement can be called a condemnation.
It is significant that Sa’ar, Elkin and Haskel were not willing to lend a hand to Netanyahu’s incitement and hate-mongering and as a result left Likud to establish a new political home. But what has been happening in the past few days, including the video shared on social media Monday that paints them and Yamina Chairman Naftali as traitors, teaches an important lesson: People who remains silent when violence is directed at others will end up having violence directed at them.