Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s elder son, Yair, on Tuesday condemned the European Union for supporting a joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day event the previous evening organized by bereaved parents on both sides of the conflict.
“Shame on you for financing a disgrace in the holiest day of the Israeli calendar! We have one day in a year to remember our fallen soldiers! And you destroy it with a ‘memorial’ to Palestinian terrorists!” he wrote on his Twitter account, in response to a tweet by the official Twitter account of the EU’s mission in Ramat Gan.
“EU is an enemy of Israel, and an enemy to all European Christian countries! Schengen zone is dead and soon your evil globalist organization will be too, and Europe will return to be free, democratic and Christian!” he added.
The Schengen Area comprises 26 European states — including some that are not EU members — that have agreed to abolish all border controls between them.
A spokesperson for the EU’s Israel mission told The Times of Israel that it did not financially support the Monday event.
Earlier on Tuesday, the EUinIsrael Twitter account tweeted: “Yesterday we joined members of the Parents’ Circle @ThePCFF, in the joint virtual [Israeli-Palestinian] memorial ceremony sharing their grief and breaking the cycle of violence and hatred. Those who have lost loved ones in the conflict know best the necessity of peace and the path to reaching it.”
>>> countries! Schengen zone is dead and soon your evil globalist organization will be too, and Europe will return to be free, democratic and Christian!
— Yair Netanyahu ???????? (@YairNetanyahu) April 28, 2020
During the event, which organizers said was viewed by nearly 200,000 people, bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families made an impassioned plea for reconciliation.
The Israeli-Palestinian Joint Memorial Day Ceremony was held without a live audience for the first time since its inception in 2006 due to the coronavirus, and instead was livestreamed from studios in Tel Aviv and Ramallah.
An Israeli emcee broadcast from the event’s usual location in Tel Aviv in Hebrew and a Palestinian emcee hosted from Ramallah in Arabic.
Speakers included Israelis Hagai Yoel and Tal Kfir, and Palestinians Yusra Mahfoud and Yaqoub Rabi, all of whom lost relatives in the past two decades of the conflict.
The ceremony has been an annual point of contention, particularly among the Israeli public, with critics accusing it of legitimizing terrorism and equating Israel’s fallen soldiers to those who attacked them.
Supporters say it represents an effort by those who have lost the most in the conflict to give meaning to the deaths of their loved ones by turning away from violence.
Last year, Prime Minister Netanyahu denounced the Tel Aviv event and ordered a halt to permits for dozens of West Bank Palestinians who were planning on attending, citing security precautions. The High Court of Justice overturned the decision, arguing that it was not legitimate to bar the attendees’ entry for security reasons.
Participants at the 2020 ceremony were unmoved by the backlash.
Yoel, whose brother Eyal was killed in Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, addressed the controversy surrounding the ceremony on both sides of the conflict for its equating Israeli and Palestinian victims. In 2016, far-right activists subjected ceremony attendees to verbal and physical abuse at a demonstration outside the event.
“After Eyal’s death, I covered my ears, I closed my eyes and I shut my mouth… I didn’t feel I had anything of significance to say, until four years ago when I heard about the violent demonstrations against bereaved families at this ceremony — a ceremony that until that point I really did not identify with,” he said, referring to the 2016 demonstration.
Palestinian speaker Mahfoud spoke on behalf of the Parents Circle-Families Forum grassroots organization of bereaved families. The group organized the ceremony along with Combatants for Peace, which is made up of Palestinians and Israelis who say they have taken part in the conflict’s cycle of violence. Combatants for Peace said the event was broadcast by some 45 online channels.
“At first I rejected the possibility of sitting face to face with the enemy who murdered my son, but today I came as an active member of the Forum. They taught me that their pain is the same as mine,” Mahfoud said.
“I want to address all the Israeli mothers watching,” said Mahfoud, whose son was shot dead by IDF troops in the al-Arroub refugee camp near Hebron in 2000. “Bereavement is bereavement. Let us educate our children against violence… May we all live in peace.”
The younger Netanyahu has gained a reputation as an arch-conservative, known for brash and often off-color social media trolling. Most recently, two weeks ago, he sparked a firestorm of criticism by appearing to wish that left-wing Israelis die of the coronavirus.
“I hope the elderly who die following this protest will only be from your camp,” Netanyahu tweeted in response to a Tel Aviv demonstration where some 2,000 people protested what they described as the erosion of Israeli democracy under Benjamin Netanyahu’s stewardship of the coronavirus crisis.
Yair Netanyahu’s comments drew immediate and vociferous rebuke, including from his father, whose office released a statement saying that he “roundly rejects the remarks.”
He later deleted the tweet, though he continued to post messages defending himself, including one calling journalists “idiots.”
Netanyahu appears to relish playing the part of the salty-tongued villain. In 2017, he drew international condemnation after posting a cartoon attacking critics of his parents, while appearing to adopt anti-Semitic tropes.
Months later, he was temporarily banned from Facebook over a number of posts, which were also removed from his account, tarring all Muslims as terrorists and urging they be forcibly departed from Israel.
He has also used social media to call a police chief autistic, and to accuse the president and Knesset speaker of plotting a coup, and has become embroiled in a number of libel suits, both as defendant and complainant.
Last month, a judge ordered Netanyahu to pay NIS 250,000 ($72,425) after he failed to respond to a libel suit brought against him by a former Walla news site editor over a retweet with an incendiary allegation.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.