June 15, 2021
On June 13, 2021, a new Israeli government was sworn in, following a protracted political crisis that saw four elections in two years. The turmoil changed the political map in Israel and ultimately resulted in a new government – often referred to as the “change bloc” headed by Yamina Party leader Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid Party leader Yair Lapid. The former is now Prime Minister, while the latter serves as alternate prime minister and foreign minister. They are expected to rotate in their positions later on.
In the lead up to this political transition, significant tensions related to the political situation have at times included highly inflammatory rhetoric, incitement and even death threats. Much of the incitement has been directed at Bennett, Lapid and other members of the change bloc by those opposed to the creation of this new coalition. It was seen as enough of a threat that the head of Israel’s General Security Services issued a rare public statement warning about the incitement, which led Israeli law enforcement to boost security around some of these politicians.
The problematic rhetoric has come from Knesset Members and others, including from supporters of former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Notably, this incitement included harsh religious rhetoric by some Haredi politicians and rabbis, some with large followings, who asserted that the forming of the government was a sin before God, and who publicly questioned the Jewish identity of some of the change bloc leaders.
Below are examples of the latest incitement:
United Torah Judaism leader Moshe Gafni: “The names of the wicked shall rot” a reference to Bennett and Lapid. About the Yamina party leadership, Gafni said: “purge these people from among you, so that they will be excommunicated and ostracized.” [Times of Israel].
United Torah Judaism’s Yaakov Litzman said about Bennett: “If he signs all of these coalition agreements, he’s [a] Reform [Jew] — there’s no difference between them” adding, “He should take off his kippa… so at least people can understand that he’s Reform.” [Times of Israel]. Reform Judaism is considered by some in the Haredi world to be an inauthentic form of Judaism.
The Council of Torah Sages of Degel Hatorah – which is part of the United Torah Judaism political party – issued a statement decrying the formation of the government: “Astonishment is increased, and the pain is great over the desecration of God’s name, when those who stand as a central basis for the establishment of a government such as this are members of the faction called Yamina, who declare themselves to be, and present themselves, as Jews who believe in God and observe the Torah and mitzvot.” The statement added: “This would be an act in defiance of heaven and a bitter and severe iniquity.” [Jerusalem Post].
Likud MK May Golan: “While there is a world of difference, I would compare them [Naftali Bennett and Gide’on Sa’ar – AB] to suicide bombers.” She explained that “They’re like terrorists who don’t believe in anything anymore, who go out on their suicide mission, and even if they know it’s their death sentence, they don’t care because they’re Shiites.” [Times of Israel].
Images of Naftali Bennett and late Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin – whose 1995 assassination by an Israeli Jew was a result of significant incitement against him - wearing Palestinian kufiyahs were circulated on social media with the caption “The Liar” [Times of Israel].
A fake death certificate was circulated with the name of Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg [Labor MK Emilie Moatti tweet].
In response, ADL forcefully denounced these and other instances of incitement, and, in the aftermath of the swearing in of the new coalition, will continue monitoring and reacting as needed. [link 1; link 2; link 3; link 4 in Hebrew; link 5 in Hebrew].