Amid widespread criticism, Yair Netanyahu, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son, on Sunday removed a controversial meme he had posted on his Facebook page that included anti-Semitic themes.
The cartoon, posted Friday on Yair Netanyahu’s private Facebook profile, featured references to Jewish billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, the Illuminati and some sort of lizard creature.
It takes aim at his parents’ critics, including former prime minister Ehud Barak, lawyer and Labor party activist Eldad Yaniv, and Menny Naftali, a former caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence, who is at the heart of allegations of wrongdoing over which Sara Netanyahu, Yair’s mother, is facing indictment.
Yair Netanyahu posted the graphic with the caption: “Food chain.”
The young Netanyahu took the post down on Sunday more than 24 hours after it sparked an outcry from Israeli and US Jewish leaders. As of Sunday night, he had offered no apology nor expressed remorse.
There was no comment from the prime minister either. Asked directly about the post by reporters at the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said briskly that “this is not a press conference.”
The Israel office of the Anti-Defamation League on Sunday took Yair Netanyahu to task over the meme, even as leading white supremacists celebrated his use of the image.
“The cartoon that Yair Netanyahu posted contains blatantly anti-Semitic elements,” the ADL tweeted in Hebrew. “The dangers inherent in anti-Semitic discourse should not be taken lightly.”
Netanyahu’s Friday post has been shared by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and other anti-Semites.
Leading US neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer welcomed the younger Netanyahu as one of their own on Saturday, praising him for using the image.
In an article titled “Netanyahu’s Son Posts Awesome Meme Blaming the Jews for Bringing Down His Jew Father,” the website wrote, “Yair Netanyahu is a total bro.”
“Next he’s going [sic] call for gassings,” the website added.
“Welcome to the club, Yair — absolutely amazing, wow, just wow,” Duke, the former KKK leader, tweeted as well as sharing media reports about the meme.
Israel’s Channel 2 news said Sunday night that “senior US Jewish leaders close to Netanyahu” were demanding an apology from Yair Netanyahu over the incident. It quoted them saying they were “shocked and appalled at the notion that the son of Prime Minister Netanyahu would post a cartoon of an anti-Semitic nature. It is understandable that a son would want to defend his father during a difficult period, but what he did is unacceptable.”
The unnamed leaders urged the prime minister’s son not only to remove the cartoon from his Facebook page, but also to “dissociate himself from the embrace of the extreme right. It is the prime minister’s obligation to ensure that his son takes responsibility and apologizes,” the reported said.
Political leaders in Israel have also lashed Yair Netanyahu for the cartoon.
The opposition Labor Party’s chairman, Avi Gabbay, told Army Radio the post “crossed every line imaginable,” saying it was a “very sad” day for Israel and the Jewish people when the prime minister’s son posts a cartoon that the leader of the Ku Klux Klan can endorse.
Barak, one of the meme’s targets, wondered on Twitter whether Yair Netanyahu, who enjoys a state-funded driver and bodyguard while living at the prime minister’s official residence, absorbed his ideology at home.
“What is it, genetics or a spontaneous mental illness? It doesn’t matter. In any case, we ought to pay for him to have a psychiatrist, not a bodyguard and a chauffeur,” Barak tweeted.
Yair Netanyahu responded by calling Barak a drunk who needed geriatric care. Earlier, he accused the Haaretz daily of being anti-Semitic, after it reported on the cartoon.
The 26-year-old Netanyahu has drawn criticism for living a life of privilege at taxpayers’ expense and for his crude social media posts.
The Netanyahu family is facing a slew of corruption allegations. The prime minister has been questioned about his ties to executives in media, international business and Hollywood. His associates have been engulfed in a probe relating to a possible conflict of interest involving the $2 billion purchase of German submarines. Israel’s attorney general has said he intends to indict the prime minister’s wife, Sara, for fraud over her bloated household expenses.
Yair Netanyahu, who has reportedly taken a leading role in his father’s aggressive social media platform, has also been drawn into the scandals.
Australian billionaire James Packer has reportedly lavished Yair with gifts that included extended stays at luxury hotels in Tel Aviv, New York and Aspen, Colorado, as well as the use of his private jet and dozens of tickets for concerts by Packer’s former fiancee, Mariah Carey.
Police are trying to determine whether these constitute bribes, since Packer is reportedly seeking Israeli residency status for tax purposes.
The prime minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, portraying the accusations as a witch hunt against him and his family by a hostile media. He has resisted increasingly vocal calls for him to step down.
At the opening of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Netanyahu declined to respond to questions about his son’s social media posts, saying, “This isn’t a press conference.”