Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called Sunday for an immediate investigation of the protester who hoisted a cardboard model of a guillotine at Saturday night’s leftwing anticorruption demonstration in Tel Aviv.
Protester Amit Brin wrote on his Facebook page that he was a pacifist who did not intend to encourage violence. But Jerusalem Likud activist Eliahu Cohen filed a formal complaint with the police for incitement to violence – against Brin, who was condemned by politicians from across the political spectrum.
Erdan expressed frustration that he did not have it in his own power to initiate an investigation, which he said was a decision that can only be made by the attorney-general or state prosecutor.
“Presenting a sign with a guillotine is grave and definitely crosses the threshold of incitement to violence,” Erdan told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office ahead of Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
Former justice minister Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) also said the guillotine sign should be investigated, but expressed hope that more protesters would take to the streets “without guillotines, without incitement, and without violence.”
“This is clear incitement that crosses the limits of freedom of expression and protest, and I condemn it,” President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement, but added that he was glad so many Israelis still participated in public protests in an era dominated by social media.
The first to condemn the guillotine sign were Education Minister Naftali Bennett, chairman of Bayit Yehudi, as well as a Likud spokesman. Both called the sign an incitement to murder Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said the Tel Aviv protest had crossed red lines.
Protest organizer Eldad Yaniv responded by saying that if he had seen the sign, he would have destroyed it. He wrote on Twitter to Bennett that Brin did not taint the entire demonstration, just as former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s support of Bayit Yehudi did not make Bennett a supporter of Rabin.
“There were thousands of patriotic Israelis with Israeli flags at the protest,” Yaniv said. [Netanyahu’s associates] have a new hobby that amuses them, of looking for idiotic signs at our rallies, and every week there is at least one idiot with an idiotic sign.”
Brin and his Facebook profile were swamped with comments from angry people who rebuked him for invoking the historic beheading device – best known for the execution of the nobility during the French Revolution – and bringing it to Tel Aviv. He responded by writing that he is a pacifist and educates his children by these same values.
“I did not act under any formal structure or on behalf of anyone other than myself – a citizen who feels intense anger because of the hedonism and bottomless corruption that harm all citizens of this state – such as yourselves,” he wrote.
Brin claimed that he used the French symbol as a “historical reminder for a civic victory over a corrupt regime that betrayed the trust [of the people].”
Others advised him to read up on his French history, as the French Revolution eventually led to a regime of terror that gave way to the rise of Napoleon.
“The guillotine is one of the cruelest execution devices,” wrote one commenter, “ISIS style.”
One man ironically congratulated Brin for giving the government “the perfect tool with which to batter the protest.’’ “One hundred wise men can’t lift a stone thrown into the well by a fool,” he wrote. “Mazal tov – you are that fool.”
Meanwhile, Likud MK Nava Boker issued a statement calling Kulanu MKs Roy Folkman, Rachel Azaria and Merav Ben-Ari “a fifth column in the coalition,” for participating in Saturday night’s right-wing anti-corruption rally, which she said was intended to topple their own government.
Ben-Ari responded by saying Boker clearly did not know what a fifth column was, because a fifth column is supposed to act secretly and a demonstration is anything but secret.