Comment: From Tel Aviv to New York, Israeli Politicians’ Safety Depends on Their Party

By Hamodia Staff

One of the hallmarks of a democratic system of checks and balances is the ability of citizens to vocally — but peacefully — protest government actions without fear of retribution.

But since when are citizens permitted to strike fear into the hearts of their political foes, harass them  and their families, restrict their freedom of movement and, at times, physically assaulting them?

That “permission” was granted by some in the Israeli left, but its leadership has done little to nothing to stop it.

Are those who chant slogans about democracy being in danger not bothered by infringing upon the rights of private citizens — right that are enshrined in every democracy in the world?

Or do the promises of civil rights only apply to people who subscribe to one particular ideology?

Last weekend, when MK Simcha Rothman of Religious Zionism, a key architect in the government’s plans for judicial reform, was in New York City, a group of protestors followed him and his wife down a Manhattan street for approximately 20 minutes, repeatedly blasting a megaphone in Rothman’s ear.

Rothman says that the group physically assaulted his wife, too.

“We were accosted by protestors who blocked our route and physically assaulted my wife,” Rothman said of the incident, which was caught on video. “Our security detail alerted the police, and we carried on walking. The police later accompanied us back to our hotel.

“These protestors come from Israel. They represent a small group of violent people. … It is acceptable to protest; it is prohibited to attack or harass MKs.”

Addressing the Arutz Sheva Conference in New York City, Rothman said: “It’s quite a simple issue. There were demonstrations outside the place where we had dinner. There’s no problem with that. As a longtime protester on many issues, I respect any protest. [But] to go for 10 blocks for 20 minutes, basically going after a couple — I was there with my wife — and to use a megaphone in very close proximity, that’s not a demonstration. That’s not a protest. That’s an attack. They placed the megaphone next to our ears — assault in the full sense of the word — and shouted.

“That’s an attack on me, but because I don’t take it personally,” Rothman continued, “the attack is actually on democracy.”

When the wife of a sitting Prime Minister is made a prisoner inside a hair salon by a mob of angry, potentially violent demonstrators, are they merely exercising their right to freedom of expression? What about Sara Netanyahu’s right to live and walk the streets without harassment?

“It’s time to apply the rule of law to those who claim to speak in the name of the law, but who trample the law and individual rights of all those who don’t think like them,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said after that incident, in early March.

In February another siege took place, when Likud MK Tally Gotliv’s home was surrounded by angry protestors who prevented her from taking her daughter — who has special needs — to school. That time, perhaps due to the feeling that dragging a disabled child into the line of fire was crossing a red line that the left designed for itself, opposition leader Yair Lapid condemned the act.

“I vigorously condemn the siege of MK Tally Gotliv, whose daughter has special needs, and the fact that [the protesters] didn’t let her through to take the girl to school,” Lapid said on social media.

One might wonder, though, if this was due to his own personal sensitivities in the matter, as Lapid, too, has a child with special needs. “This is not our way,” Lapid said. But was barricading Sara Netanyahu “our way”? Why is Lapid silent on Rothman and his wife being accosted and assaulted? Where was the condemnation when Sara Netanyahu was held prisoner in the hair salon? And in the case of Gotliv, were any arrests made? Was an investigation even opened?

“The fact that Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz don’t condemn attacks on MKs, and even encourage them, proves beyond anything that they operate in opposition to the country,” Rothman said.

Attorney Alan Dershowitz offered to defend Rothman if anyone tries to prosecute him for defending himself against the use of a megaphone essentially as a weapon.

“Under American law, it is permissible to restrict speech based on the loudness of the speech, the proximity of the speaker, time, manner and location,” Dershowitz said.

The left-wing protestors act not only with impunity, but are galvanized by their cohorts in the Israeli media, which continues to slam the Netanyahu government at every turn. They warn that a duly elected Prime Minister and coalition government, supported by a majority of Israeli voters, wishes to strip Israelis of their rights… because they wish to limit the unmitigated power of non-elected judges.

Those judges are typically favorable to left-wing causes. Would the same protestors be up in arms if the judges were conservative-minded? Or would they champion democracy by demanding that all government posts be directly or indirectly adminstered by elected officials?

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