Netanyahu Rails at Media Over Protests Against Him

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz at a weekly Cabinet meeting, July 5. (Amit Shabi/POOL)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday railed at swelling protests against his rule, saying they were egged on by a biased media that distorts facts and cheers on the demonstrators.

Netanyahu has faced a wave of protests in recent weeks, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of the long-serving leader. Netanyahu has painted the protests as dens of “anarchists” and “leftists” out to topple “a strong right-wing leader.”

The protests have largely been peaceful. In some cases they have ended with clashes between demonstrators and police.

At a meeting of his Cabinet, Netanyahu slammed the media for “inflaming” the protests and for misrepresenting incidents of violence against the protesters.

“There has never been such a distorted mobilization — I wanted to say Soviet but it has already reached North Korean terms — of the media in favor of the protests,” he said.

Netanyahu said the media ignored “wild and unfettered incitement, including daily calls — including the day before yesterday — to murder the prime minister and his family.”

He said the protests were breeding grounds for the virus that were being allowed to take place with no limits, shutting down streets and neighborhoods. He said right-wing protests have not been given such free rein.

He condemned violence “from all sides” at the start of his remarks before tearing into the media he has long viewed as hostile toward him.

“I remind you what former Chief Justice Aharon Barak said about the anti-disengagement protesters. He took a hard line against blocking roads, and said, ‘Freedom of speech is not a license to riot. Freedom of speech is not a shield to shut down the mechanisms of law enforcement and bring them down. Freedom to demonstrate is not a shield with which to bring the country to a standstill and put individuals and the population in danger,'” Netanyahu said.

“When there is unchecked incitement, including daily calls to murder the prime minister and his family, the media ignores it, whitewashes it, and politicians are silent,” Netanyahu continued.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz sided with the demonstrators, saying, “As a government, we have an obligation to listen to people. As the ones in power, we have a responsibility to allow the demonstrations to go on and protect the protesters, who I regret to say were attacked yesterday at a number of locations.”

“The right to protest is the lifeblood of democracy and violence eats away at the foundations of democracy. I spoke about this issue last week, with [Public Security Minister] Ohana. I am again calling on everyone to refrain from violence, and on the Israel Police to use minimal force and uphold the law while protecting protesters,” Gantz said.

Netanyahu’s tirade came as a Yerushalayim district court ruled that his son Yair must remove an online post that published the names, addresses and phone numbers of prominent protesters and called for his followers to demonstrate outside their homes “day and night.” Protesters said they received threatening calls after the post. The court also decided he must “refrain from harassing” the protesters for six months.

“Turns out that in our ‘democracy’ you aren’t allowed to protest outside the homes of anarchists who have called for the prime minister’s murder,” posted 28-year-old Netanyahu Jr. after the ruling.