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Bennett threatens libel suit over racism claims

Jewish Home leader says Globes writer misrepresented his remarks on rampant crime in Arab population centers

Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett speaks at the Tel Aviv Citizens Empowerment Institute Conference on February 8, 2015. (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett speaks at the Tel Aviv Citizens Empowerment Institute Conference on February 8, 2015. (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett on Sunday threatened to sue a journalist who walked out on the politician’s speech earlier in the day and accused him of racism on Twitter.

Bennett spoke at Tel Aviv University on Sunday and denounced what he described as rampant, unchecked crime in Arab areas of the country.

“Anyone who’s gone traveling in the Negev in recent years knows that they can’t leave their car… because it will be broken into and stolen,” he said. He blamed the Israel Police for the rampant crime in East Jerusalem and Galilean villages, saying that “in every Arab village and city, you can’t go in there, and that harms Arabs before anyone else, because the state of Israel has decided that the rule of law applies to Tel Aviv, Haifa and Ra’anana, but not those [other] places.”

In a Channel 2 interview later Sunday evening, Bennett said police had opted not to enforce the law in especially problematic areas, and reiterated his demand that in the next government the public security portfolio be given to Jewish Home Knesset candidate Ayelet Shaked.

Bennett’s remarks at Tel Aviv University drew fire from Arab and left-wing members of the audience, who walked out of the auditorium mid-speech. Globes reporter Dror Feuer was among them, and wrote on Twitter that the event “was respectable by and large until Bennett came and called all Arabs car thieves. Just like that. The students and Arabs left and I did, too.”

Aymen Oudeh, head of the United Arab List, responded to Bennett’s remarks saying that he was “continuing with his ugly incitement against Arab citizens and suggests a political horizon which means only hatred and division.”

The Jewish Home leader struck back on Facebook, writing a post saying that he’s been slandered “with every falsehood you can think of: I’m for the murder of Arabs, responsible for the massacre of one hundred Lebanese, that I’m racist, ignorant and live in the Dark Ages.”

Addressing Feuer, he said, “But that’s the thing, Dror: it never happened. Everything is on tape. It’s a total lie.”

“I’ll make this simple, Dror: Either you issue a correction and apology within 24 hours or you’ll be facing a libel suit like you’ve never seen before,” he wrote.

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