Incitement probe said opened against prominent activist who called Netanyahu ‘Satan’

Ami Dror said PM’s home should be razed and all memory of him expunged; reported investigation comes after Herzog warns inflammatory rhetoric may lead to violence

Prominent anti-government activist Ami Dror speaks outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's home at the end of a 'week of resistance,' in Caesarea, June 20, 2024. His shirt reads: 'Enough.' (Screen capture: Youtube/Hofshi B'Artzenu protest coalition)
Prominent anti-government activist Ami Dror speaks outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's home at the end of a 'week of resistance,' in Caesarea, June 20, 2024. His shirt reads: 'Enough.' (Screen capture: Youtube/Hofshi B'Artzenu protest coalition)

The State Prosecutor’s Office has approved an investigation into a prominent activist who threatened to “blot out the name Netanyahu” at a recent anti-government protest near the prime minister’s home, Hebrew media reported on Monday, citing an unnamed law enforcement official.

Ami Dror will be investigated for alleged incitement at a large protest outside the premier’s Caesarea residence on June 20. The rally capped a “week of resistance” that protest groups had embarked on amid legislation exempting most ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students from being conscripted into the military.

Reports of the investigation came after several cases of inflammatory rhetoric at anti-government rallies, including a police officer yelling “I’ll rape your mother” at a protester at Saturday’s protest. A relative of a hostage held in Gaza since October 7 was also recorded saying that if the captives do not return, families would be waiting for Netanyahu “with a noose.”

Some ministers had urged Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara to investigate Dror specifically.

Dror slammed his accusers’ “tricks,” and said the probe would not deter him from protesting “without violence, without politeness, until there is a new government.”

He added that he would cooperate “with love” with any investigation. “I greatly respect the state attorney and will be very happy to explain my words,” Dror wrote on social media, in an apparent swipe at the government’s fraught relations with the judiciary.

On June 20, near the end of a rousing speech interrupted by sirens and jeers, Dror described Netanyahu as “Satan.” He also pledged to demolish the premier’s home and expunge all memory of him.

“On the ruins of his fortress in Caesarea, we’ll build a lawn; we’ll seal his pool with cement,” Dror said.

“The name of Netanyahu will become a curse; we will blot out the name Netanyahu!” he added, paraphrasing the biblical command to blot out the memory of the Israelites’ foe, the nation of Amalek.

He also claimed a million protesters were “coming” for the premier’s government of “draft-dodgers,” as well as for his “deranged” wife Sara and “inciting” son Yair — whom Dror described, using another biblical phrase, as a “son of a perverse, rebellious woman.”

Protesters outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s private residence in Caesarea hold Israeli flags and signs with names of northern communities damaged by fires due to Hezbollah rocket and drone attacks, June 20, 2024. (Pro-Democracy Movement/Amos Gil)

Throughout the speech, Dror alluded to Netanyahu’s notorious “They are afraid” speech at a 1999 election campaign rally, at which Dror, a former bodyguard of the premier, said he was present.

When campaigning for reelection — which he lost — Netanyahu led a Likud audience in a chorus of “They are afraid,” aimed at Israel’s left. Netanyahu’s critics often cite the moment as a watershed in incitement in Israel; the speech came barely four years after the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, which some critics also sometimes tie to incitement by Netanyahu.

Dror, in his speech, similarly led the crowd in a chorus of “They are afraid,” aimed at the Netanyahu family.

“They are shaking [with fear],” Dror said, because “a nation of fighters, a nation of Zionists, a nation of pumped-up patriots” was rallying against the premier.

“A nation of heroes who are proud to serve in the Israel Defense Forces!” Dror added to applause.

Yair Netanyahu and Sara Netanyahu in the Knesset gallery as the new government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (not pictured) is sworn in at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on December 29, 2022. (Amir Cohen / Pool / AFP)

The rally marked the culmination of a “week of resistance” announced by protest groups amid a recent legislative attempt to enshrine ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students’ exemption from the draft. The legislation coincided with an extension of reservists’ service to support the war in Gaza. Anti-government groups have cast it as a capitulation by Netanyahu to his Haredi coalition partners.

Several ministers later expressed their dismay with Dror’s speech on social media, and some called on the attorney general to investigate Dror for incitement.

Hebrew media outlets reported that Diaspora Minister Amichai Chikli had written to Baharav-Miara, urging her to investigate Dror and another anti-government activist, Guy Tzur, for “inciting violence and even murder against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) sits with Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli, at the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem, June 26, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gen. (res.) Tzur had reportedly said that “Netanyahu is a traitor, has turned into an enemy of the people, and must be ousted as soon as possible.” It was unclear if Tzur would be investigated as well.

Dror, a tech entrepreneur-turned-activist, was one of the leading figures in rallies against the government’s judicial overhaul last year, which then pivoted to criticizing the government’s handling of the war in Gaza. He was active in both the tech sector’s protest movement and in the Brothers in Arms reservists’ protest group. Dror has also used his past as the premier’s bodyguard to criticize what he has said is Yair Netanyahu’s wasteful, ego-driven security detail.

During the ongoing war, the mass anti-government protests in Tel Aviv have taken place in conjunction with weekly rallies organized by families of hostages who have been held in Gaza since October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists stormed southern Israel to kill nearly 1,200 people and kidnap 251.

Speakers in both rallies frequently assail the government for failing to bring home the 120 remaining hostages.

Anti-government protesters rally on Azza Street near the home of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, June 27, 2024. The placard (foreground) reads: ‘Those who need the war keep it burning’ (Dana Reany / Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)

President Isaac Herzog decried inflammatory rhetoric on Sunday.

“In recent weeks, I have been horrified again and again by words of the most awful type — saturated with hate, saturated with violence,” Herzog said, speaking at a Hebrew Book Week celebration at the President’s Residence.

The president warned violence could ensue if Israel failed to stamp out violent speech “against families of hostages and bereaved families, against the chief and commanders of the IDF and the security agencies, against women and members of the media, against the judiciary and judges, against ministers and Knesset members and against the incumbent prime minister.”

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