As criticism grew Saturday over a segment on the Likud party’s propaganda network which mocked the appearance of a journalist injured in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, a post promoting the interview appeared to have been deleted from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Facebook page.
The prime minister originally claimed ignorance of Thursday’s segment, saying he only heard about the broadcast on Friday afternoon. As of Saturday afternoon, a clip of the interview remained on the Likud party’s official Facebook page.
In the segment, Likud TV presenter Eliraz Sadeh interviewed an actor whose face had been made-up to resemble Amnon Abramovitch, who was badly burned when his tank was hit in the 1973 war during fighting around the Suez Canal.
“Do I look good?” the actor says.
“You look like a missile, as always,” Sadeh replies, using Israeli slang for someone who looks good.
אורן חזן אולי לא נכנס שוב לרשימת הליכוד אבל מסתבר שתרבות הלצחוק על אנשים עם מוגבלויות מתחילה בראש הממשלה. בטלויזיה של נתניהו עושים "דחקה" על אדם שפניו נשרפו כשנלחם למען המדינה רק בגלל שהוא לא תומך בו. אל תתפלאו למה נתניהו לא מעלה את קצבאות הנכים והקשישים. זה מה שהוא חושב עליהןם. pic.twitter.com/5crpLiE6BV
— Merav Michaeli מרב מיכאלי (@MeravMichaeli) March 22, 2019
Abramovitch is a reporter and prominent commentator who has covered the criminal investigations into Netanyahu.
A tank driver in the military, he received a military citation for bravery during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Abramovitch’s battalion was one of the first to arrive in the Suez region shortly after the outbreak of the war, and was hit during the fourth day of hostilities.
According to interviews given by fellow soldiers to the Ynet news site in 2016, Abramovitch drove his burning tank to a protected area as he sought to save his fellow soldiers, without realizing his commander and two others had been blown out of the vehicle by the force of the explosion. He underwent multiple surgeries to treat the wounds he received in the incident.
A group of disabled IDF veterans planned to protest outside the prime minister’s residence on Saturday evening, the Kan public broadcaster reported.
Labor MK Merav Michaeli tweeted a photo of Abramovitch, saying “It seems the culture of laughing at people with disabilities begins with the prime minister. Netanyahu’s TV comes down on a person whose face was burned when he fought for the state, only because he [Abramovitch] did not support him [Netanyahu].”
Former prime minister Ehud Barak also tweeted his dismay at the segment, blaming the prime minister and his family rather than the anchor of the show.
“I was there on that damned day in October 1973 when Amnon was burned, almost to death,” Barak wrote. “It’s not Eliraz Sadeh, it’s Netanyahu. He, Sara and Yair pollute the public discourse, life itself, and all of us.”
Opposition chief Avi Gabbay also attacked Netanayhu, saying: “After he hurt bereaved families when he mixed the graves of the boys with a cynical campaign, his channel mocked the injury of Amnon Abramovitch, one of the heroes of the Yom Kippur War, who was burned when his tank was set alight.”
“There are no depths Netanyahu will not go to, and no person he will not hurt on his journey to save himself from bribery and breach of trust charges,” Gabbay said.
Last month the Likud party was castigated for claiming in a video broadcast on the Likud TV Facebook channel that if rival Benny Gantz becomes premier there will be “hundreds” killed, while using an image of a military graveyard as background. Following widespread criticism, including from an organization that represents families of fallen soldiers, Netanyahu ordered the video deleted and apologized for the “unfortunate error.”
Last year, leaks from conversations between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes revealed complaints from the prime minister that Abramovitch “kills me every day” with critical opinion pieces.
The conversations form part of the basis of Case 2000, in which Netanyahu is alleged to have conspired with Mozes to economically hobble (including via Knesset legislation) the Sheldon Adelson-financed, pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom daily — a free tabloid that is the most-read paper in Israel — in return for favorable coverage by Yedioth and its sister website Ynet.
In January, Likud claimed a previously anonymous campaign against a number of journalists who have reported on criminal investigations involving Netanyahu, including Abramovitch. The billboard, which was put up at the Glilot Junction on Route 5 not far from Tel Aviv, showed pictures of reporters Abramovitch and Guy Peleg from Channel 12 news, Channel 13’s Raviv Drucker, and Ben Caspit of the Maariv daily. Above them was written: “They will not decide” — apparently referring to the results of the April 9 elections.
Last October, Netanyahu’s son Yair called veteran journalist Abramovitch “a garbage can” and “a Soviet propagandist.”