A right-wing activist apologized Wednesday for wishing the family of a fallen Israeli soldier would lose another child because they allegedly hosted a group of anti-Netanyahu protesters at their home.
“There are not comments that should be made to a bereaved family. I apologize. You don’t say the things I said [last night], but we are human and we make mistakes. It shouldn’t have happened; it was said in a storm of emotions,” Ephraim Grif told Channel 12.
The network had brought him on to respond to growing outrage from across the political spectrum over a demonstration he led earlier this week outside the Caesarea home of the Farkash family. During the protest, insults were shouted mentioning the Farkash’s late son Tom, who was killed in a helicopter crash during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
“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.
“The fact that you lost a son does not give you the right,” another demonstrator shouted toward the home of the slain soldier’s mother.
Farkash 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 a hostage rescue operation in 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.”
The demonstration was condemned by Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Opposition chairman Yair Lapid.
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin said the conduct of the demonstrators “is not the way of the Likud movement, nor the way of the right-wing camp.”
“The bereaved families are the most precious that the people and the State of Israel have. Thanks to their lost loved ones, we have a safe and prosperous State of Israel,” he said in a statement.
According to Hebrew-language reports, a message had circulated in a WhatsApp group for activists from Netanyahu’s Likud party ahead of the protests.
“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 loss and bereavement, including such comments as 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.