OUT OF BOUNDS: Israeli police should prosecute former IDF pilot who said Netanyahu, right-wing leaders should be assassinated
Has the Israeli left forgotten the lessons of the Rabin assassination? Dissent is one thing, but incitement to violence is completely unacceptable
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – The protest movement against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his right-wing government and his right-wing reforms – especially his judicial reforms – is growing in numbers.
But the Israeli left-wing is also growing increasingly desperate to stop Netanyahu’s judicial reforms and to drive him out of office for good.
Fair enough – dissent is perfectly legal and acceptable in a free society.
Especially in a robust democracy like Israel’s.
But incitement to violence is completely unacceptable.
That’s why I’m outraged by the comments of one of the leaders of the anti-Netanyahu movement who crossed the line over the weekend when he openly suggested that Netanyahu and right-wing leaders should be assassinated.
Retired Israeli Air Force Colonel Ze’ev Raz is not just any old protestor.
He is one of the movement’s highest-profile members, having been one of the F-16 pilots who participated in the daring 1981 air strike that destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor.
Yet it is one thing to attack a foreign enemy.
Calling for people to physically attack one’s own sitting prime minister is absolutely out of bounds.
“If a prime minister stands up and assumes dictatorial powers for himself, he is a dead man, it’s as simple as that,” Raz wrote on Facebook on Friday.
He added that if a national leader acts “in a dictatorial way, there’s an obligation to kill them.”
What a reprehensible thing to say.
And, my guess is, illegal.
Doesn’t the left remember how some of Israel’s right-wingers were saying such reprehensible things about then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin?
Don’t they remember that climate of hatred and incitement against Rabin because he signed the Oslo Accords with Yasser Arafat?
Don’t they remember how that climate induced a crazed right-wing terrorist to assassinate Rabin?
A citizen calling for the assassination of his or her own leaders should be locked up for years, not allowed to continue pouring gasoline on a national fire.
Raz has now removed his post from Facebook but the Israeli police should immediately and thoroughly investigate this matter and prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.
Netanyahu himself was accused in 1992 of being someone who incited people against Rabin.
It wasn’t true.
Netanyahu strongly opposed Rabin’s policies, but he called people to use democratic means – not violence – to remove Rabin from office.
But that didn’t stop Netanyahu haters from slandering him for years after Rabin was killed, as though he were personally responsible.
Now, Netanyahu sees a similar climate building against himself.
“In recent weeks, we have witnessed a growing wave of daily incitement, that crosses boundaries,” the prime minister said upon preparing to depart Paris after meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron. "It had seemed that all boundaries have been crossed by threats against elected officials and myself, but it seems that this is not the case because today we have heard and seen an explicit threat to murder the Prime Minister of Israel.”
“I know that there is a debate over what endangers democracy but this is not something that is subject to dispute – this truly endangers democracy,” Netanyahu added. “I expect the law enforcement and security officials, who spoke out so clearly and sharply, during the tenure of the previous government, about phenomena that were much less serious, to come out – with the same severity and clarity – against this terrible phenomenon. I expect the law enforcement officials to take immediate action against those who are inciting to murder, and I expect the leaders of the opposition to speak out as vigorously and as strongly as I did. Ours is a complicated time and we need to do what is expected of us as public leaders. We cannot be silent about this.”
Netanyahu is not right about everything.
But he is right about this.
To his credit, opposition leader Yair Lapid immediately put out a statement that he “strongly condemns all incitement and the din rodef call against Netanyahu. This fight [against the judicial overhaul] is for the soul of the country. Any incitement and violence only harms the battle to save the nation.”
Din rodef is a Jewish concept stating that it is acceptable to take action against an enemy before that enemy has time to strike.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.