Rights group calls for investigation of TV host for incitement

Talking about clashes between settlers and Palestinians, Channel 13’s Avri Gilad said on air that ‘sometimes there is no choice but a show of presence, even violent presence’

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Avri Gilad in 2008. (Public Domain, Wikipemida Commons)
Avri Gilad in 2008. (Public Domain, Wikipemida Commons)

Rabbis for Human Rights on Monday asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to open an investigation of incitement to violence against a veteran television host who had expressed support for settlers involved in a deadly clash with Palestinians in the northern West Bank on Thursday.

In a letter the rabbis alleged that Avri Gilad, a host of Channel 13’s morning show, apparently gave his support for collective violence against the Palestinian residents of the village of Qusra.

Hosting a morning show on Friday, the day after a Palestinian man was shot dead during what settlers said was an attempted lynching of a group of hikers, Gilad expressed his empathy for the settlers and said there was no choice but to respond to it, even with violence.

Palestinian men throw stones toward Israeli soldiers and settlers at the entrance to the northern West Bank village of Qusra on December 4, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

“The call for violence against the residents of the village may be incitement and it is certainly a call to take the law into your own hands,” the rabbis wrote to Mandelblit. “But, more than that, the call to collective and indiscriminate action against the general residents of the village is a call to harm innocent people.”

“In an atmosphere in which extremists are getting more and more of a tailwind, the call by a figure considered part of the mainstream, like Avri Gilad, is like to give a feeling of broad legitimization to acts like this.”

In the broadcast Gilad said, “Many of the village residents took part in this thing, and this can’t happen without a response. I think that sometimes there is no choice but a show of presence, even violent presence.”

When asked by his co-host Maya Ziv-Wolf if that meant against residents, Gilad responded, “Certainly. We shouldn’t be ‘Jewboys.’ I am saying we shouldn’t be those kind of people that when they come to kill them they just hide under the bed and think that the local lord will come to protect them, ” he said in apparent reference to Jews who lived under the feudal system in Eastern Europe.

In response to the storm his comments stirred up, Gilad said that next time he should make such comments only to himself in the car while driving to work.

“I’m glad that what I said on a modest morning program at 6:15 a.m., in front of eight sleepy viewers, stirred up the internet… I’m not sure I was awake enough to speak in a more moderate, calculated and considerate way in the politically correct era,” Ynet news site quoted the broadcaster as saying. “I understand that it is forbidden to say this at 6:15 a.m. and next time I will tell it only to myself at 5:45 in the car on my way to work.”

He also said when he approved of violence, he did not mean against people, but that it was legitimate to torch cars.

On Thursday a few dozen children and their armed escorts on a hike were pelted with stones outside Qusra and forced to take cover in a cave, where they were reportedly pepper-sprayed, according to an Israel Defense Forces preliminary investigation.

Palestinians carry the body of Mahmoud Ouda during his funeral in the West Bank village of Qusra, near the West Bank city of Nablus on December 2, 2017. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

During those clashes, one of the escorts shot a Palestinian, 48-year-old Mahmoud Za’al Odeh, killing him, in what the settler said was self-defense. Police later questioned him and the other parent leading the trip on suspicions of negligent manslaughter.

Later that day a group of settlers tried to enter the village of Qusra forcing security forces to use riot-dispersal means to try to end the clashes. The army said that one soldier was lightly hurt by a Molotov cocktail thrown by a Palestinian.

On Monday renewed clashes broke out between settlers and Palestinians after a group of Israelis led by a far-right activist returned to the scene of the deadly clash.

An army spokesperson said soldiers on the scene were working to drive back both the approximately 50 Palestinians, who were burning tires and rolling boulders at security forces, and the few dozen Israeli activists who entered the area despite the fact that the area had been declared a “closed military zone.”

One Palestinian man was shot and critically wounded under unclear circumstances, a spokesperson for the Rabbis for Human Rights organization said. According to the Red Crescent ambulance service, the unnamed Palestinian was taken to a hospital in Nablus for treatment.

The army said it was aware of the reports of an injured Palestinian and was investigating the circumstances of the shooting.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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