Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday called on Israelis to boycott Channel 12 and its owner Keshet for its role in producing the HBO series “Our Boys,” which the premier called “anti-Semitic.” In a Facebook post, he wrote Israelis should stop watching the network for “its choice to tarnish us in the world with lies against the State of Israel.”
The post was accompanied by a graphic that included the logos of Channel 12 and its news division, under which was written “fake news.”
“Our Boys” tells the story of the gruesome murder of an Arab teen by Jewish extremists in 2014. The series has been controversial in Israel for choosing to focus on that event while giving little attention to events that precipitated it — the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teens in the West Bank.
Netanyahu has regularly slammed Channel 12 for its extensive coverage of a series of criminal cases he is a suspect in and has singled out for criticism a number of its reporters, one of whom it was reported Friday will receive a security attachment following threats against him on social media.
Earlier the Central Elections Committee rejected a petition from Netanyahu’s Likud party to bar news outlets from publishing transcripts and documents from Netanyahu’s corruption investigations ahead of national elections next month.
In its petition to the elections committee, Likud charged that the recent reports on the probes against Netanyahu were meant “to sway the election” and requested an injunction blocking further publication by the media of investigatory materials.
But CEC head Judge Hanan Melcer said he did not find Likud’s claims convincing.
Also Friday, Netanyahu’s Likud party said the prime minister’s lawyers sent a letter to the broadcast authority, Channel 12 news and its reporter Guy Peleg asking the network to look into what they alleged was the journalist’s intentional misquoting of transcripts to harm the premier.
Peleg’s reporting on graft accusations against Netanyahu has previously drawn criticism from the prime minister and he was one of a number of journalists targeted in an election campaign by Likud earlier this year.
The Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Friday that Channel 12 news decided to assign Peleg a security detail in light of recent threats against him on social media.
Responding to the report, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz blamed Netanyahu and accused him of incitement.
“When the prime minister constantly incites against the media and puts up statuses [on social media] against reporters, violence goes from being an issue of ‘if’ to ‘when,'” Gantz wrote on Twitter.
Earlier this week, Channel 12 aired testimony from the most serious of the graft cases facing Netanyahu, in which a state’s witness described to investigators how the prime minister allegedly intervened in regulatory and other business decisions that benefited an Israeli tycoon by hundreds of millions of dollars.
Shlomo Filber, who was appointed by Netanyahu to be director of the Communication Ministry, testified to police that the prime minister personally told him that businessman Shaul Elovitch was not happy with the way reforms in the communications and internet sector were going, and indicated to Filber that he should do something about it, according to a Tuesday report.
Netanyahu’s personal Twitter account tweeted a response to the report describing Channel 12 as a “propaganda channel” and saying that the case “is a blood libel that is not based on facts or documents but rather on the lies of state witness Momo [Shlomo] Filber.”
The probe is the most serious of the three investigations into the prime minister, as it includes a proposed bribery charge for both Netanyahu and Elovitch.
Netanyahu is suspected of an illicit quid pro quo with Elovitch — the majority shareholder in Israel’s biggest telecom firm Bezeq, and the owner of the Walla news website — that continued for about four years until early 2017. The alleged understanding saw Elovitch ensure favorable coverage of Netanyahu at Walla, Israel’s second largest news site, and critical coverage of Netanyahu’s rivals, especially in the 2013 and 2015 election periods.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s lengthy description of Netanyahu’s alleged illicit dealings with Elovitch, known as Case 4000, took up the majority of the 57-page document released in February in which Mandelblit set out the allegations that prompted him to announce a criminal indictment against the prime minister, pending a hearing.
A pre-indictment hearing for Elovitch and his wife, also a suspect, was held earlier this month.
Netanyahu is scheduled to attend his own pre-indictment hearing in the case on October 2-3, which will also cover two other corruption probes against him in which the prime minister faces additional fraud and breach of trust charges.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing in all the cases.