Yair Netanyahu called to court over ‘threatening’ tweet against protest leaders

Premier’s son publishes official document with names, addresses of protest organizers, who said they received threatening calls after Twitter post

Yair Netanyahu in court in Tel Aviv, December 10, 2018, where he testified in a NIS 140,000 libel suit he filed the previous year against Abie Binyamin, a social activist. (FLASH90)
Yair Netanyahu in court in Tel Aviv, December 10, 2018, where he testified in a NIS 140,000 libel suit he filed the previous year against Abie Binyamin, a social activist. (FLASH90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair was summoned for a Sunday appearance at a Jerusalem court over a call for his online followers to visit the homes of anti-government protest organizers.

He will appear at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Sunday at 11 a.m. for a hearing on an order against “threatening harassment,” Channel 12 reported. Protest organizers will also attend the hearing.

Yair Netanyahu wrote on Twitter on Thursday, “I invite everyone to come to protest, day and night (the Supreme Court says it’s allowed), at the homes of these people that are organizing for us all the anarchy in the country in recent weeks.”

Attached was an image of a court registration document with protest organizers’ names, addresses and birthdays. Yair noted that he had covered the organizers’ personal identification numbers “even though they didn’t deserve it.”

The organizers claimed to have received threatening calls on Thursday after the tweet was sent out, the report said.

Gonen Ben Yitzhak, a lawyer and prominent protester, said, “The court sees with great severity the incitement by Netanyahu’s son, and for evidence declared an urgent hearing on Sunday morning.”

Yair Netanyahu maintains an outsized and inflammatory presence on social media.

A favorite of the prime minister’s nationalistic base and far-right leaders around the world, Yair has become a fixture in the news, clashing with journalists on social media, threatening lawsuits against his father’s adversaries and posting online content deemed so offensive that Facebook briefly suspended his account.

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.

Recent protests have devolved into violence with attacks by right-wing counter-protesters, and scuffles between anti-government demonstrators and police.

Israeli Border Police officers push away a right-wing protester from a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Thursday, July 30, 2020. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

The political turmoil online has spilled out of social networks several times in recent weeks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a video on Friday to his social media accounts that he said highlights examples of “incitement” against him at recent anti-government protests that purportedly features protesters on the street and online threatening him and his family.

Netanyahu posted online on Wednesday a threat to kill him from a Facebook profile which was later determined to be fake and has since been removed from the platform. Police were investigating who was behind the fake profile. In the post, Netanyahu also drew attention to the arrest of a man who threatened him and his wife and was found to be in possession of a plastic gun and two razor blades.

Ben Yitzhak, whose photo was included in the Wednesday post, but who had nothing to do with the threat or arrest, filed a police complaint against Netanyahu’s social media manager on Thursday for incitement.

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.

Also in June, a man was arrested for threatening Netanyahu in a social media post, police said, without providing further details on the threats. The suspect, a 21-year-old resident of the north of Israel, was arrested by the police.

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