Court orders Yair Netanyahu to remove tweet doxing protest leaders

Judge also orders PM’s son to stop harassing demonstrators against his father for the next 6 months, after he posted their addresses and encouraged followers to picket their homes

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)

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Sunday ordered Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, to take down a tweet identifying and doxing the leaders of a protest movement against his father.

The younger Netanyahu had publicized the activists’ addresses and encouraged his 88,000-plus social media followers to picket their homes.

“I invite everyone to come to protest, day and night (the Supreme Court says it’s allowed), at the homes of these people who have been organizing the anarchy in the country for all of us in recent weeks,” he tweeted on Thursday.

The court also told Yair Netanyahu to stop harassing the activists for six months, “in any form,” according to Hebrew-language media reports.

Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Dorit Feinstein wrote in her decision that Netanyahu’s tweet could “definitely” lead to harrassment of the protest leaders and violation of their privacy.

Netanyahu “was indifferent to that possibility when he saw some of his followers calling for violent acts, didn’t condemn that and didn’t remove the tweet when he saw it was drawing worrying comments,” the judge said.

She said it was “doubtful” whether a parallel could be drawn between a demonstration outside a public figure’s official residence in protest of their opinions and policies, and a protest outside a non-public figure’s private home.

The court hearing convened without Yair Netanyahu, after Feinstein ruled that he only had to make himself available by phone in order to answer questions rather than attend in person.

Doxing is the practice of sharing a person’s personal information, often for the purposes of harassment, on the internet.

Thousands of Israelis have come out to demonstrate against the prime minister this summer, calling on him to resign over corruption allegations and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

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

The organizers said they had received threatening calls on Thursday after the tweet was sent out.

Netanyahu defended his conduct after the ruling, tweeting that while he had indeed removed the offending post, “it was a tweet in which I uploaded a screenshot from the Registrar of Associations that is open to all upon searching Google.”

He said the judge “completely ignored all the materials presented by Attorney Yossi Cohen about [the protesters’] calls for my murder, and that didn’t seem to interest her.”

Yair Netanyahu’s comments came amid concerns of growing political violence, after several attacks on protesters by suspected far-right activists.

On Friday, 16 suspected far-right activists participating in a pro-Netanyahu counter-demonstration in Jerusalem organized by the Beitar Jerusalem soccer fan club La Familia were arrested after allegedly attacking demonstrators, police and members of the press. They were later released.

On Saturday, police arrested four people for accosting demonstrators at a pair of protests in the south and in Haifa arrested a man who threw a firecracker at protesters, injuring a woman.

Five suspected far-right assailants were arrested last week after an attack on protesters following a demonstration near the Tel Aviv home of Public Security Minister Amir Ohana on Tuesday evening. In video from the scene, the attackers were seen hitting demonstrators with glass bottles, clubs and chairs and spraying them with mace. They were later released to house arrest.

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

On July 27 he apologized after facing a flurry of angry responses from Hindus who found one of his tweets offensive: He’d posted a picture of the Hindu goddess Durga with the face of Liat Ben Ari, the prosecutor in his father’s corruption cases, superimposed over the goddess’s face. Her many arms were also raised giving the middle finger.

Earlier this month the younger Netanyahu issued a laconic apology to journalist Dana Weiss for appearing to suggest the top news anchor had attained her position through sexual favors.

In February, he was accused of employing similar tactics to shame a female supporter of Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, causing her to suffer online harassment.

He has also accused prominent politicians of engineering a coup against his father, claimed that Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut compared his dad to Hitler, and said that he wanted “all the Muslims [to] leave the land of Israel,” which led him to be temporarily banned from Facebook.

In April, he tweeted his support for the end of the European Union and called for a “free, democratic and Christian” Europe. His statement was later endorsed by the German far-right, with Alternative for Germany MEP Joachim Kuhs sharing a graphic with the quote and a photo of Netanyahu online.

In 2017, Netanyahu drew praise from white nationalists after sharing an anti-Semitic meme depicting American Jewish billionaire George Soros and a figure that resembles Nazi depictions of world Jewry manipulating former prime minister Ehud Barak and two leaders of an anti-government protest movement.

The meme also featured references to the Illuminati and some sort of lizard creature, likely a reference to conspiracy theories peddled by British anti-Semite David Icke, who believes the world is run by the Rothschilds and giant shape-shifting reptiles.

Last month, Netanyahu asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to investigate alleged threats and incitement against him, saying he was concerned they could lead to attacks.

In a letter dated July 13, the premier’s lawyer said that Yair had been subject to “the most serious and severe online bullying there is” and that he had also received threats against his person.

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