A well-known Israeli screenwriter said during a primetime interview with Channel 12 News that not only is Benjamin Netanyahu a “dictator,” he will “end up like every other dictator in history.”
When asked what exactly he meant by that, Giora Chamizer told viewers to go scroll through Wikipedia and see what has happened to other dictators throughout history. The implication was clear, and anyone who knows history, especially that of the past two centuries, knows that the most well-known dictators have all been assassinated or lynched.
Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini are two prominent examples who died violently. More fresh in Israelis’ memory are regional dictators Saddam Hussein and Muamar Gaddafi, both of whom were brutally killed at the hands of local revolutionaries.
A police complaint filed by Netanyahu’s Likud party on Tuesday insisted that Chamizer’s remarks were clear incitement to violence and even assassination against the prime minister.
Chamizer has produced several hit television shows for Israeli teenagers. In a series of social media posts earlier in the month, he encouraged his viewers to equate Netanyahu with the villains in those shows. He noted that as a writer he can determine the happy outcome of his shows, but in real life to defeat the villain of Benjamin Netanyahu “we must all take action.”
Not the first threat of assassination
Earlier in the uprising against Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul, several prominent protest leaders similarly suggested that the prime minister’s assassination might become necessary.
“If a prime minister stands up and assumes dictatorial powers for himself, he is a dead man, it’s as simple as that. There’s an obligation to kill him,” wrote prominent anti-Netanyahu activist Ze’ev Raz in February.
Raz is a well-known figure as one of the former Air Force pilots who bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981. More recently he played a leading role in the anti-Netanyahu protest movement of 2020 and 2021.
His above remark, which was posted to Facebook, seemed to evoke the Jewish religious concept of din rodef, a Talmudic teaching that encourages the extrajudicial killing of a person who intends to harm others. According to Raz and others in his camp, Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms will “lead to many deaths.”
Yigal Amir appealed to din rodef in defending his decision to assassinate former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
Police also investigated the remarks of Israeli attorney David Hodek after he encouraged the use of “live fire” to prevent Israel from becoming a “dictatorship.”
“If someone forces me to live in a dictatorship and I have no choice, I won’t hesitate to use live fire,” Hodek told the Israel Bar Association’s annual conference in Eilat.
Hodek went on to stress that he was being quite literal: “People are willing to fight with weapons. Everyone is aghast [at such statements]. They say ‘How can you say such a thing?’ I’m saying it. If I’m forced to go there and they drag me there, that’s what I’ll do.” He later claimed to have not called for the use of live fire.
Deepening divisions, zero-sum game
By repeatedly painting Netanyahu as a dictator, his detractors have signaled that there can be no genuine dialogue or compromise. After all, there’s only one way to deal with a dictator. For them to win, Netanyahu must fall. There is no alternative. Which is why, even after the judicial overhaul was paused, protest leaders announced they would not halt their large weekly demonstrations.
Chamizer and the more radical elements of the anti-government movement disrupting life in the Jewish state week after week believe they represent a majority of Israelis. The screenwriter said as much both in his Channel 12 interview and on social media.
However, Netanyahu and his right-wing allies won a clear majority in the last election, signaling that there is a very large, if not numerically superior sector of Israeli society that supports the prime minister. Some have gone so far in the past as to declare Bibi their “king” and to liken him to the biblical King David.
This sector has so far remained largely quiet, outside of a counter-protest in support of judicial reform on Monday evening in Jerusalem.
But the more hostile the anti-Netanyahu movement becomes, the more likely that the pro-Netanyahu sector will itself rise up and take to the streets, resulting in inevitable clashes between the two sides.
And heaven forbid someone actually take action on incitement to harm Netanyahu. It will only take one person, motivated by the hateful rhetoric of Chamizer or someone like him, to truly set Israel aflame and change the face of the Jewish state forever.
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