President, ministers flooded with calls after activist posts their phone numbers

Barak Cohen says his list was a 'public service,' but some lawmakers denounce his move, and one MK calls him a 'bastard'

President Reuven Rivlin, left, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, right, at a conference for regional education department heads in Jerusalem on February 28, 2017. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

The phones of Israeli politicians across the political spectrum began ringing off the hook over the weekend after a list of their private numbers was published online.

President Reuven Rivlin, Ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked and opposition leader Tzipi Livni were among those whose numbers were on the list, which rapidly spread across the country via WhatsApp.

Barak Cohen, the attorney and political activist who compiled the list, explained in a Facebook post that he believed that his actions were a “public service” and urged his social media followers to distribute the numbers “so that every citizen can benefit from accessible communication with their [public] servants.”

Cohen’s post is an example of doxxing, the practice of publishing people’s personal details, such as addresses and phone numbers, on the internet, often for purposes of harassment. In his case, Cohen insisted that he was making the elected representatives more accessible to their constituents.

Not all of those on the list appreciated the public service, however.

Likud MK Sharren Haskel attends a debate of the Knesset Health Committee regarding a reform to ease access to medical cannabis, January 9, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Likud MK Sharren Haskel said that while she has always tried to be open and accommodating to the public, following the leak and the “immense amount of trolling” it caused she would no longer answer phone calls from unidentified numbers.

“Thanks to the bastards,” she concluded.

Tzipi Livni noted that the number posted as hers actually belonged to someone else, who was going through a family tragedy, and requested that people not harass her.

Oren Hazan, a firebrand Likud MK known for stunts such as breaking diplomatic protocol in order to take a selfie with US President Donald Trump, had a different take. In a tweet, he wrote that he wanted to thank Cohen.

“Thanks to him I was privileged to discover again how much love and sympathy I have from Dan to Eilat [i.e., from the north to the south of the country] and to gather a huge crowd of supporters who joined my path,” he wrote, thanking the “thousands” who called him with words of encouragement.

“I’m here for you, feel free to call.”

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