The son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said American left-wing groups are more dangerous than neo-Nazis.
Weighing in on the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, during a far-right march, and US President Donald Trump’s controversial statements that “both sides were to blame” for the deadly incident, Yair Netanyahu said he was far more concerned by leftist organizations that have recently come into public focus.
“To put things in perspective,” Netanyahu wrote on Facebook, “I’m a Jew, I’m an Israeli, the neo nazis scums [sic] in Virginia hate me and my country. But they belong to the past. Their breed is dying out.
“However the thugs of Antifa and [Black Lives Matter] who hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life.”
The Israeli premier himself tweeted Tuesday that he was “outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism. Everyone should oppose this hatred,” after he was criticized for staying silent on Charlottesville.
In a response Wednesday afternoon to Yair Netanyahu’s comments, sources close to the prime minister said, “Yair is an adult and his views are his alone”
Trump’s stance was also supported by Likud MK Oren Hazan, who said Tuesday that the president “is right. Violence and extremism on any side is forbidden and demands condemnation. That doesn’t matter to the bleeding hearts on the left and in the media. After all, they believe that only the right is extremist and violent.”
Other Israeli politicians — from left and right — have been far more critical of Trump’s position, some more directly than others.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett has called on US leaders to denounce the rally’s “displays of anti-Semitism.” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of Bennett’s Jewish Home party has urged prosecution of neo-Nazi activists.
Yesh Atid chair MK Yair Lapid and Zionist Union number two MK Tzipi Livni explicitly criticized Trump’s equivalence.
“There aren’t two sides,” Lapid said in a Wednesday statement. “When Neo-Nazis march in Charlottesville and scream slogans against Jews and in support of white supremacy, the condemnation has to be unambiguous. They represent hate and evil. Anyone who believes in the human spirit must stand against them without fear.”
Livni said “When it comes to racism, anti-Semitism and Nazism, there are never two equal sides. There’s good and there’s evil. Period.”
Trump sparked a political firestorm Tuesday when he doubled down on his initial response to the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that ended in bloodshed, saying there was “blame on both sides.”
The Republican president — who the previous day solemnly denounced racism and singled out the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis as “criminals and thugs” — also hit out at what he called the “alt-left” over the weekend melee.
Trump has faced days of criticism from across the political spectrum over his reaction to Saturday’s unrest in the Virginia college town, where a rally by neo-Nazis and white supremacists over the removal of a Confederate statue erupted in clashes with counter-demonstrators.
The violent fracas ended in bloodshed when a 20-year-old suspected Nazi sympathizer, James Fields, plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, leaving one woman dead and 19 people injured.
In a rowdy exchange with journalists at Trump Tower in New York, Trump made clear on Tuesday that he was fed up with continued questioning about the issue.
“I think there is blame on both sides,” Trump said.
As he spoke, his new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a former Marine general, appeared displeased during the president’s long tirade, standing rigidly.
“You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now,” Trump continued. “What about the alt-left that came charging… at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?… There are two sides to a story.”
“What about the fact they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. As far as I am concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day,” Trump said.
Trump’s comments were immediately welcomed by David Duke, a former “grand wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan and a key figure at Saturday’s rally.
“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists,” Duke tweeted.
But on the political left, the president’s words were met with indignation.
“Charlottesville violence was fueled by one side: white supremacists spreading racism, intolerance & intimidation. Those are the facts,” said Tim Kaine, a former Democratic vice presidential candidate and senator from Virginia.
The state’s other Democratic senator, Mark Warner, tweeted: “No words.”
Trump’s fellow Republicans also didn’t mince words.
“We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive,” Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan wrote on Twitter.
“This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.”
When asked why he waited until Monday to explicitly condemn hate groups present in Charlottesville, Trump said he wanted to be careful not to make a “quick statement” on Saturday without all the facts.
“I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct,” Trump insisted.
Trump called Fields, who has been charged with second-degree murder, a “disgrace to himself, his family and this country.”
But he also said that while there were troublemakers at the rally, there were also many people there “to innocently protest and very legally protest” the removal of a “very important statue” of Confederate general Robert E Lee.
“I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” he said angrily, referring to the fact they owned slaves.
“Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? … You’re changing history. You’re changing culture.”