(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) distanced himself from spokesman Ofer Newman on Sunday, after the latter wrote a Facebook post accusing settlers of “destroying our future” and “trampling Jewish morals.”
Herzog took to the social media to explain that he believes in free speech, even when statements are controversial, and he encourages his staff to express their opinions and not be “yesmen.”
However, Herzog added, Newman’s post is “very critical, very blunt and very mistaken, because it creates a generalization that I am unwilling to accept and uses imagery that we may never use.
“I meet settlers almost every day. The Labor Party encouraged and built part of the settlements, and even if we have criticism of the settlers’ leadership, they will always be our brothers and part of our family,” Herzog wrote.
“We have an incisive and difficult ideological dispute with the heads of the settlers, and it will continue, but even at the heart of the dispute, we must maintain the dignity of members of our nation.”
Herzog said he had a “difficult talk” with Newman, not about his political opinion, but about the use of generalizations and “inappropriate imagery.”
Newman wrote the Facebook post on Friday, after seeing the controversial documentary film The Settlers, and came to the conclusion that “the people who are destroying our future won without a battle. No one stood in their way.”
“People thought they were crazy, laughed at them, and they, with a ton of power and determination, committed the atrocity, the blatant brutalization of our chance not to die here. They violently took our homes. They trampled Jewish morals, Zionism that built our revival here. They won, because someone was stupid enough to fear them,” Newman added.
Herzog’s aide wondered why settlers, in general, are not rejected like Baruch Goldstein was after 25 Palestinians in Hebron in 1994, and questioned the judgment of former Labor prime ministers Shimon Peres and Levi Eshkol’s judgment for allowing the construction of “malignant” settlements.
Newman added a disclaimer that this is his opinion and not the Zionist Union’s or Herzog’s.
The spokesman later apologized for the post, writing on Facebook that the post was a mistake, and he wrote it out of anger. While he has criticism of the settler movement, his tone was inappropriate, he wrote.
MK Nava Boker (Likud) criticized Newman while visiting Hebron Sunday, saying that settlers are “Jews with values who are human shields for Buji [Herzog] and all his bleeding-heart friends on the Left.
“The Zionist Union proves once again that it has nothing to do with Zionism,” she added. “They sent the settlers and now they’re turning their backs to them.”
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) called the Facebook post a “blood libel” and said that “as long as the Left builds its strategy on letting hate flow and trying to cause conflict between the parts of Israeli society, it has no chance to lead the country.”
Eyal Shviki, Herzog’s chief of staff, retorted that the people on the Right who are complaining about Newman incite against the Left. In addition, he argued that although Newman should not have generalized about all settlers, he was making a relevant argument, because the cabinet voted Sunday to give a package of tens of millions of shekels to the settlements and not to the periphery.
In a related vein, Channel 10 news anchor Oshrat Kotler came under fire on Saturday night for a statement she made after a news segment about a resident of the settlement Yitzhar who makes videos to try to improve the settlements’ image.
“No doubt that this is a sane settler, there are certainly ones like that, too, even in Yizhar,” Kotler said.
Kotler apologized soon after, saying she meant the subject of the news segment was a moderate, and there others like him, and she did not express herself well.
“I certainly do not think that settlers are an insane group, period,” she said.