(photo credit: BAYIT YEHUDI)
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett sued Globes reporter Dror Feuer for NIS 1 million, citing defamation Monday night.
On Sunday, Feuer tweeted “Bennett called all Arabs car thieves. Just like that,” following an event at Tel Aviv University for first-time 12th-grade voters, in which dozens of Arab students, Meretz activists and Feuer left the hall when Bennett spoke.
“Whoever tried to hike in the Negev in recent years knows that he cannot leave his car near the small crater, or near one of the streams, because it will definitely be broken into,” Bennett said, sparking the walk-out.
Bennett responded to Feuer’s tweet by saying “that never happened,” and demanded he apologize within 24 hours or expect a lawsuit.
Feuer defended himself on Facebook, saying that perhaps Bennett meant something else, but he understood the minister’s words as generalizing that all Arabs steal cars.
“I didn’t write that as a quote, I didn’t put them in quotation marks or put a colon before them. Did I misunderstand? What did I misunderstand? Did everyone misunderstand? This was a reasonable understanding by totally reasonable people,” Feuer wrote. “Don’t play dumb.”
The journalist added that he learned from Bennett not to apologize – a reference to a Bayit Yehudi campaign slogan – and he clarified: “Bennett did not say all Arabs are car-thieves. I understood as much and tweeted it on my private twitter account.”
On Tuesday morning, Bennett posted on Facebook a document from the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court proving that he opened a case against Feuer Monday.
“The lies are over. You will not silence us. I will not let you turn the majority of the nation, which we represent, into racists,” the Bayit Yehudi leader wrote. “Yes to criticism, no to lies.”
According to Bennett, he received dozens of messages and phone calls from Israeli Arabs supporting his call for better law enforcement.
“We do not hate Arabs. We are for the rule of law in Israel; all of Israel. The ones who suffer most from the lack of law enforcement are the Arabs themselves,” he added.
Bennett pledged to give every agora he makes from the lawsuit should he win, to help protect Israeli farmers and citizens.
Meanwhile, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch called Bennett a populist, while on a visit to the Beduin town of Hura.
“Just like there are Arabs, there are Jewish robbers and we cannot label one specific area or specific people. It’s not right. It’s all populism and spin to get a few more votes; it’s mostly posts and likes,” Aharonovitch said.
“I’m here to protect the coexistence and strengthen the Arab population. The problem is not the police and law enforcement, but the government ministries that need to invest more resources,” he added. “The economy minister should find more employment for the youth, infrastructure and education that don’t reach these places.”
MK Taleb Abu Arar (UAL), ninth on the joint list, said Bennett is competing to be the person who shows the most extremist hatred toward Arabs.
“The hatred and incitement against the Arab population has become a stock market for seats [in the Knesset] in the Jewish population, instead of taking care to budget funds for the Arab population that will bridge the gaps,” he stated.
According to Abu Arar, Bennett is trying “to cover up [the government’s] failures by passing racist laws against the Arab minority.”