The Ethics Committee of the Israeli Knesset decided to register a remark against MK Michael Ben Ari (Strong Israel) for remarks constituting incitement. Ben Ari called out, amongst other things, “good evening good Jews and treacherous leftists”, “leftists out” and “leftists to Gaza” near a 15 November demonstration in Tel Aviv against Israel’s Gaza attacks. MK Ben Ari: I don't take back my words.
"Enough! (in Arabic) Let the IDF kick ass (a Hebrew-language play on 'left the IDF win')" - demonstration of MK Ben Ari's Strong Israel party (Photo: MK Ben Ari Facebook)
In its decision from 31 December, the ethics committee wrote that whilst the vast majority of complaints it received during the recently concluded 18th session of Knesset related to statements by Knesset members, the committee almost never exercised its authorities so as not to harm the freedom of expression by Knesset members. In the case of Ben Ari, however, the committee stated that “the fundamental principle of freedom of expression cannot protect everything said by a Knesset member, and the committee believes that this is one of the instances in which it must intervene and express its opinion that the border was crossed between a legitimate expression, no matter how difficult and outrageous, and incitement. Calls such as “leftists out”, “leftists to Gaza” and “treacherous leftists” are not calls within the framework of the wide political freedom of political expression awarded to Knesset members and are inconsistent with the manner of expected and appropriate behaviour of a Knesset member and with the ethical rules which obligate a Knesset member to act in a manner appropriate to his position and to refrain from inappropriate use of his immunity and rights.”
MK Ben Ari formed the new party Strong Israel through which he is running in the 22 January Israeli elections. Ben Ari is a former member of the Kach party, banned in Israel for being a terrorist group, and was denied entry to the US at least twice under the State Department’s prerogative “to ban terrorists” from entering the country. Ben Ari lives in the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron and has been accused of attempting to import racist and violent tactics from the West Bank into southern Tel Aviv by exploiting the intentional marginalization of this impoverished area and the distress of its numerous residents who are migrant workers and asylum seekers.
MK Ben Ari responded that he does not take back his words. The settler-affiliated media source Arutz 7 reports that Ben Ari added that “one who demonstrates against IDF soldiers during war is a traitor, while soldiers are giving up their lives, is committing a treacherous act against the people of Israel, one who identifies with the aggression of the enemy should go to Gaza.”