Defense Minister Benny Gantz revealed Tuesday that he is forced to get a new phone regularly due to harassment from political activists, claiming that the trouble comes from the left, and not the right.
Gantz spoke out against the incitement that a number of senior officials have faced in recent months, warning at a conference on democracy organized by the Haaretz newspaper that the discourse is also a threat to the general public.
“I change my phone every two months, and it pains me to say, it is as a result of attacks from the left and not due to those from the right,” Gantz said. He noted that the Shin Bet security service has classified him as high risk.
“The toxic atmosphere in the country is intolerable and stems from not accepting the rules of the democratic game,” Gantz said at the conference held in the port city of Jaffa.
“I am mainly worried about the lives of the citizens on the street. It must be stopped. Typing on a keyboard may be halfway to pulling the trigger,” he warned.
But, Gantz said, the offenders were a minority.
“Most right-wingers in Israel are not violent and inciting, and likewise most left-wingers,” he said. “I can personally testify that weeds exist at all corners of Israeli society.”
His remarks came a day after Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told a faction meeting of his Yesh Atid party of the hate messages that he and his wife have received, including one that likened him to Adolf Hitler.
“’You’re exactly like Hitler. You’ll get a bullet in the head from me or from someone else,’” Lapid quoted the message as saying. He said messages his wife received called for them and their daughter to face divine punishment.
“May God take revenge on you,” one such message allegedly said.
Lapid warned that left unchecked, that kind of discourse would turn Israel into “a violent, hateful society.”
“We must stop the hate before the hate stops us,” he urged.
MK Idit Silman — from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party — told Channel 12 news on Saturday that she had been pushed by a man at a gas station last month amid the Likud party’s scathing, months-long online campaign against Yamina for joining the government that ousted Benjamin Netanyahu.
Some critics have questioned why Silman did not go into detail about the gas station incident and have doubted her account, especially after she refused to elaborate during Sunday morning radio interviews.
Silman later filed a formal notification with the Knesset Guard over the threats made against her on various occasions since September 25 and throughout October in the build-up to a vote on the budget (which was eventually passed last week).
Incitement against public figures has extended beyond the political arena. Top Health Ministry figures, and in particular the ministry’s head of public health, have been subjected to a torrent of abuse by those opposing the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis has been given a bodyguard and heightened police protection due to the threats made against her, and protection has also been increased for the ministry’s director-general, Nachman Ash.