Outrage mounted on Wednesday after demonstrators hurled insults at neighbors of the prime minister, the family of a fallen Israel Defense Forces soldier, because they hosted a group of anti-Netanyahu protesters.
“There is a God and he punished her. I wish upon her another [lost child],” shouted one member of a group of pro-Netanyahu protesters who gathered outside the Caesarea home of the family of Capt. Tom Farkash on Tuesday evening.
“The fact that you lost a son does not give you the right,” another demonstrator shouted toward the home of the soldier’s mother.
Farkash, an air force pilot, was killed when his helicopter crashed in 2006 during the Second Lebanon War. He was born in Canada and had immigrated to Israel with his family at the age of eight.
“He is also bereaved,” one protester yelled toward the home of Farkash’s mother, referring to Yoni Netanyahu, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s brother, who was killed in Operation Entebbe in 1976.
“We will be here as long as you host the anarchists on the roof of your house,” another demonstrator shouted toward the family home. “I will not give you the freedom of expression you are used to here.”
According to Hebrew-language reports, a message was circulated in a WhatsApp group for activists from Netanyahu’s Likud party.
“Friends.. we will get to the Farkash family home in Caesarea on Tuesday at 7 o’clock. We must give it to them. This family hosts the Black Flag [protest group] every week and commits terrorism in front of the Netanyahu family’s home,” the message from activist Orly Lev reportedly read.
Videos posted to social media showed a group of around 15 supporters of the prime minister, carrying flags of his Likud party as well as the Israeli national flag.
Farkash’s mother, Anat, expressed outrage that the demonstrators would curse someone whose son died defending the country.
“Tonight, they came to us, a private family, about allowing the citizens of the State of Israel to tell the prime minister what’s on their minds. They came to attack and tell us, a private family, ‘shame’ that we are a bereaved family, ‘shame’ that we believe in democracy, ‘shame’ that we allow citizens to express their opinions,” she wrote.
“Our son gave his life so that they, their children and all the residents of the State of Israel will have a safe life. How did we get here? Shame on the police who allowed them to stand under our window — private citizens — and did nothing,” Anat wrote.
“How low have Bibi’s supporters sunk? How low did Benjamin Netanyahu sink?” she continued, referring to the prime minister by his nickname. “Dear Likud members who stood under our window tonight — we are fighting for all the citizens of the State of Israel. Our Tom was killed for you as well. We all deserve better.”
Police said that one demonstrator was arrested for refusing to identify herself and said that they acted to break up the demonstration.
Demonstrators have been holding regular protests against Netanyahu, demanding he resign over his trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, as well as his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to a central protest in Jerusalem and satellite demonstrations around the country, demonstrators regularly rally outside the Netanyahu family’s private residence in Caesarea. The Farkash family had allowed anti-Netanyahu activists to demonstrate against the prime minister from the rooftop of their home, which is adjacent to his, Channel 12 reported.
After condemnations mounted on Wednesday, Netanyahu responded to the incident with a statement issued in the name of his Likud party.
“As someone who has himself experienced the suffering of bereavement, Prime Minister Netanyahu has throughout his life fastidiously respected the sense of loss of bereaved families, and others — from left and right — must conduct themselves in a similar fashion,” the statement read. “The prime minister harshly condemns any comments of this sort that has to with the loss of bereavement, including such comments that were made in Caesarea.”
In the statement, the prime minister also complained that the protesters against him were staging their demonstrations less than 300 meters away from his Caesarea house, in contravention of a High Court decision.
A number of senior politicians had earlier expressed outrage at the incident, with Defense Minister Benny Gantz saying he had spoken with Farkash’s father to extend his support.
“As someone who has lost many brothers in arms, I feel ashamed this morning. There are lines that we do not cross. The agitation and polarization will not lead us anywhere,” Gantz wrote.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid called on Netanyahu to condemn the incident at the Farkash home.
“The ugly attack by Netanyahu’s supporters on the family of the late Captain Tom Farkash is a new and despicable low. We must stop the violent discourse that tears us from within. I call on Netanyahu to strongly condemn this ugly attack,” he tweeted.
President Reuven Rivlin added his voice to the growing clamor, saying that no excuses could be made for what had happened. “What happened in front of the Farkash family home is not a protest,” he said. “This is not our way. And do not say ‘but,’ and enough with ‘we did not hear you when.’ Just look and say out loud: This is not our way and we will not be silent, because silence is filth.”