Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s eldest son compared the massive protest movement against the government’s judicial overhaul to the Nazi Sturmabteilung paramilitary, or SA, in his latest tirade attacking anti-government demonstrators.
Speaking Friday on the Galey Yisrael radio station (Hebrew link) alongside far-right columnist Caroline Glick, Yair Netanyahu claimed without evidence that anti-government protestors attempted to burn down the Knesset, similar to the arson of the Reichstag in 1933.
Yair Netanyahu said “the process which the Israeli left is undergoing… is one-to-one comparable to the 1930s in Germany.”
“What happened in the 1930s in Germany?” he said to his co-host, before continuing. “Paid thugs carried out political terror in the streets. No murder by the way, no one was murdered. Political terror via intimidation, via violence, via disruption of public order, and intimidation of citizens. They created chaos and then their party rose undemocratically.”
Implying the protest movement in Israel seeks to overthrow the government using Nazi tactics, Yair Netanyahu said Hitler was not democratically elected, but rather that “there were actually SS operatives who stood at the polling stations and beat those who tried to vote for another party. There was the burning of the Reichstag, which is the equivalent of trying to burn down the Knesset, which is now being done on the left. And they actually gained power through terror.”
He called critics who have likened the government’s moves to 1930s Germany “ridiculous.”
“They are the ones who are calling for a dictatorship, they are the ones who are marching Israel towards fascism. They are the ones who use the same methods as the blackshirts in Italy, it is unpleasant to say, [also] the SA in Germany,” Yair Netanyahu added.
The SA, colloquially known as “Brownshirts,” was the original paramilitary wing of the Nazis, and eventually helped the party to power. It was involved in carrying out the Kristallnacht pogrom, among other violent actions to intimidate political rivals.
Responding to Yair Netanyahu, protest organizers said his remarks were “a sickening blood libel by a disturbed person who should be under supervision behind bars.”
Yair Netanyahu has a long history of incendiary comments and frequently rails at those he says have wronged him or his family, leading to numerous libel lawsuits against him.
After protesters blocked a major highway in Tel Aviv last week, Yair Netanyahu accused police brass of engaging in a “rebellion.”
He also claimed the Shin Bet security agency was involved in a “coup” against the premier, before later deleting the Twitter post. In another recent tweet that he has also since deleted, he called protesters who surrounded a Tel Aviv salon where his mother was getting her hair done “terrorists.”
He also seemed to indicate in December that “treasonous” prosecutors should face the death penalty for pressing charges against his father.
The prime minister has rarely criticized his son publicly. In the last instance, he said only that he “did not agree” with his comments.
The government’s plan, as it stands, will allow the Knesset to override court decisions with the barest majority, preemptively shield laws from judicial oversight altogether, and put the selection of all judges in the hands of coalition politicians.
Opponents argue it will drastically weaken Israel’s democratic character, remove a key element of its checks and balances and leave minorities unprotected. Supporters call it a much-needed reform to rein in an over-activist court.
The overhaul plans have drawn intense public criticism and fierce opposition across Israel, sparking mass protests and dire warnings from economists, legal professionals, academics and security officials. Hundreds of thousands of protesters have been pouring into the streets since January in multiple days of “disruption” and “resistance.”
A number of polls have indicated the legislation is broadly unpopular with the public.