Ministers decry ‘Death to Bibi’ chalk messages scrawled on Tel Aviv sidewalk
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Ministers decry ‘Death to Bibi’ chalk messages scrawled on Tel Aviv sidewalk

As police open investigation, Likud lawmakers urge severe punishment, slam 'grave incitement' and say writing is 'literally on the wall'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his way to the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office on February 4, 2018. (AFP photo / Pool / Jim Hollander)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his way to the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office on February 4, 2018. (AFP photo / Pool / Jim Hollander)

Lawmakers from Israel’s ruling Likud party voiced outrage on Sunday after slogans slamming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of which called for his death, were discovered on a sidewalk and on walls of a building in central Tel Aviv.

“Death to Bibi,” read the chalk message written on a sidewalk on Bilu Street, near the city center, using the prime minister’s nickname.

Local residents discovered the messages Sunday morning and called municipality officials who erased them, with police saying they were opening an investigation.

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz condemned the message and called it “grave incitement and the crossing of a red line, be the reason personal, ideological or opposition to the deportation of work-seeking migrants.”

He was referring to a government plan, whose implementation began on Sunday, to deport Eritrean and Sudanese migrants to an unidentified third country believed to be Rwanda or Uganda. The plan has been vociferously oppose by activists, and has sparked previous attention-grabbing stunts, such as fake blood spattered at the entrance to an Interior Ministry office.

“We are approaching the brink. The criminals must be quickly captured and be fully punished,” added Katz.

Knesset speaker MK Yuli Edelstein warned that the messages could spark violence. “Again hate messages, this time against the prime minister,” he wrote on Twitter. “When will we understand that incitement produces violence? It’s fine to critize and disagree, but it is strictly forbidden to incite.”

Other lawmakers also said the messages were the latest incidents of what amounted to incitement to violence.

Threats against the prime minister are a near-daily occurrence, coalition whip David Amsalem charged.

“Now, when the writing is literally on the wall, stop this,” he said.

“The incitement against the prime minister has to stop immediately,” said Communications Minister Ayoub Kara on Twitter. “Don’t say the writing isn’t on the wall, because while it is spread across Tel Aviv sidewalks, it also stems from guillotines in protests, projects in Bezalel and more. Unfortunately, there will always be people who take action, and only then will we perhaps express remorse.”

At an anti-government rally in Tel Aviv in December, a protester caused outrage by parading with a cardboard guillotine. That sign was condemned by lawmakers across the political spectrum and President Reuven Rivlin as “incitement” against Netanyahu.

A year ago, a poster made by a student of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design featuring Netanyahu with a hangman’s noose sparked a similar uproar, with police investigating accusations of incitement but closing the probe two months later.

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