Report: State Attorney to expand inquiry into lawmakers’ incitement against Gazans

Comments made by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Likud MK Tally Gotliv expected to be investigated in move seen as an effort to comply with ICJ orders

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich leads a Religious Zionism faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, June 24, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich leads a Religious Zionism faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, June 24, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The State Attorney’s Office is reportedly seeking to expand its investigation into politicians for alleged incitement against Palestinians in Gaza amid the ongoing war, as part of its response to International Court of Justice orders to probe such activity.

According to a report in the Walla news site on Wednesday, the state attorney is expected to investigate some of those lawmakers whose calls for destroying all of the Gaza Strip were mentioned during proceedings at the ICJ, where South Africa has accused Israel of committing genocide in the Gaza Strip.

The news comes a day after a report indicated that state prosecutors are moving ahead with such a probe into comments made by firebrand National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

It is considered unlikely that the investigations will lead to indictments in light of the politicians’ parliamentary immunity.

Rather the move is designed to show the ICJ that Israel is complying with its orders to investigate and punish anyone who violates the clause of the Genocide Convention prohibiting incitement to genocide. The ICJ duly ordered Israel in its January 26 orders to “prevent and punish” incitement to genocide.

Israel adopted the Genocide Convention into law in its 1950 Law for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, which includes the prohibition on incitement to genocide.

Judges and parties sit during a hearing at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, January 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)

According to Walla, another lawmaker expected to be investigated is Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who while speaking at an event in Ofakim in April, quoted the Book of Deuteronomy, saying, “There is no half job. Rafah, Deir el-Balah, Nuseirat — total destruction. ‘Thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.’ There is no place under heaven.”

Likud MK Tally Gotliv is also considered a potential target after she was mentioned at the ICJ hearings for writing on X, “‘May your village burn!’ Yes yes as far as I’m concerned it is a great chant to wish upon Gaza to be erased and go up in flames. I have said not once that revenge is a value. They almost occupied the kibbutzes in the south, butchered, raped, cut off heads and pulled out eyes, almost 1,400 murdered in one Saturday. So may their village burn.”

Likud MK Tally Gotliv attends a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on September 26, 2023. (Chaim Goldbergl/Flash90)

“May your village burn” is a chant often sung by the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club’s ultras fan organization La Familia, which is known for its overt racism. “And if ‘La Familia’ sing it it’s because they understand that the enemy understands only force! And more force,” Gotliv’s post continued.

Another lawmaker cited during the ICJ hearings was Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman, who said, “There are no innocents in Gaza.”

Ben Gvir, whose possible investigation was reported on Tuesday by the Kan public broadcaster, has made multiple inflammatory comments about the Gazan population since the Hamas-led October 7 onslaught that started the war. In November, he said, “when we say that Hamas should be destroyed, it also means those who celebrate, those who support, and those who hand out candy — they’re all terrorists, and they should also be destroyed.”

His comment, as well as other remarks demanding the cessation of humanitarian aid to Gaza, were cited by South Africa in its various filings to the ICJ.

According to Kan, officials close to State Prosecutor Amit Aisman said the launch of the probe investigation was not likely to ultimately matter much at the ICJ, and could end up causing damage to Israel’s reputation.

The Attorney General’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office issued a joint statement in response to the report, saying that a decision has yet to be made as to whether to open an investigation into Ben Gvir, but that it is examining all comments which may have violated Israeli criminal law.

State Prosecutor Amit Aisman at the Israel Bar Association’s annual conference in Tel Aviv, September 4, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Aisman and Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara released a statement in January saying that “remarks that call for, among other things, the intentional harm to uninvolved civilians contradict the current policy and may constitute criminal offenses, including incitement offenses. There are currently several cases being examined by law enforcement.” It is unclear what cases the attorneys were referring to at the time.

In December, South Africa brought a case against Israel in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, accusing the country of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. Dozens of countries have expressed support for the case, and a number of countries have formally joined the proceedings.

Israel has vociferously rejected the genocide allegation and the premise of the ICJ case. It has argued that the ongoing offensive in Gaza is targeted at eliminating Hamas and returning the hostages taken by the terror group on October 7, and has highlighted steps to ensure civilian casualties are minimized while charging that such deaths are the result of the terror group’s use of civilian infrastructure to carry out attacks.

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