A policeman on Thursday arrived at the home of a private citizen who had uploaded a photo of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Facebook and demanded that he remove it, the Haaretz newspaper reported Friday, in what appeared to be a striking case of police overreach.
Sagi Haber, a resident of Givatayim, uploaded the photo, from some 30 years ago, in which Netanyahu makes a hand gesture which can appear similar to the Nazi salute, tagging it with the words “A brand for idiots.” The photo itself was not doctored in any way, and Haber made no allusions to Nazism in his post.
A commentator told Haber he had complained to police about the post. One hour after Haber uploaded the photo, a police officer arrived at Haber’s door and told him he’d committed a criminal offense by inciting against the prime minister, and was required to remove the post.
Though Haber stressed to the policeman that the photo was a publicly available one, the officer insisted it constituted incitement and said Haber could be called in for questioning over his post.
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) July 31, 2020
Haaretz noted that police do not have the authority to order any person to remove online content without the authorization of the state prosecution.
Haber said he eventually relented and removed the post, as he feared being arrested while needing to take care of his sick mother. But he was aghast at the experience.
“Since when do police send officers to people who upload posts or photos? It’s crazy,” he said.
In a statement police said it respects free speech but “acts to investigate and probe complaints of incitement and calls to violence… the case in question will be reviewed and handled accordingly.”
Protesters have for weeks been holding regular rallies outside the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem, as well as in Tel Aviv and other areas, calling on the premier to resign due to his indictment on corruption charges. They have been joined in recent weeks by people protesting the government’s economic policies during the coronavirus pandemic, with crowds in the thousands and rising.
Netanyahu has complained of violent discourse surrounding the protests and has claimed there is widespread incitement against him.
Earlier this month a Beersheba man was indicted for threatening Netanyahu on social media. The man, 39, was arrested following an investigation by the Lahav 433 national crime unit’s cyber division. He was identified by Hebrew media as Asher Ben Dor.
Last month an Ashkelon man was indicted for posting threats to Netanyahu on social media. Tzvi Sabag, 57, was accused of penning Facebook posts with direct threats against the premier in November of last year and also threatening Yair Netanyahu.