People queue for the new issue of satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo at a kiosk in Nice..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman instructed Yisrael Beytenu activists to buy thousands of copies of the Charlie Hebdo “survivors’ issue” on Sunday, after Israel’s largest bookstore chain decided not to stock it in order to not offend Muslims.
Steimatzky decided on Saturday night to cancel a planned event to sell the magazine in Ramat Gan’s Ayalon Mall and to sell it online only instead, after MK Masud Gnaim, leader of the southern Islamic Movement’s United Arab List, warned that doing so would be “very dangerous.”
The magazine in question is the first issue the satirical journal published after the deadly terrorist attack on its headquarters in Paris at the beginning of the month. It has a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad on the cover, holding a sign that says “Je Suis Charlie,” or “I am Charlie,” the slogan adopted by many after the attack, plus the statement, “All is forgiven.”
Charlie Hebdo was little known in Israel before the attack on its offices, but since then demand for it has spiked.
Once the Yisrael Beytenu activists receive the magazines, the party plans to hold an event at which they will give them out for free.
“We won’t let Israel turn into Islamic State,” Liberman said. “We will not let extremist Islam to intimidate us and turn Israel into a country that surrenders to threats and harms freedom of expression.”
Liberman quoted Gnaim’s warning that “the country and the [Steimatzky] chain will be responsible for the results” of selling Charlie Hebdo copies, and that doing so would be crossing a redline as far as Israeli Arabs and their leadership are concerned. According to Liberman, saying such things is “another way the Israeli Arab leadership crosses redlines.”
Later Sunday, former journalist and No. 5 on the Yisrael Beytenu list Sharon Gal, along with a dozen activists wearing T-shirts with party slogans, protested outside a Steimatzky shop in Tel Aviv.
“We won’t give in to terrorists or those who support them,” Gal stated. “There was a clear threat of terrorism, and we are standing here to say clearly that we won’t accept their threats, and anyone who supports terrorism shouldn’t be part of this election.”
Gal called the still-unnamed joint Arab list a coalition of “jihadists, Islamists, and communists.”
Yisrael Beytenu plans to petition the Central Elections Committee to disqualify the list on the grounds that it supports terrorism.
“This paper is sold all over the world and should be sold in Israel. We aren’t afraid of those who incite against us… We’re telling the united extremist [Arab] list that no one can scare us in the Jewish state,” he added. “This issue of the magazine is a symbol of victory over terrorism.”
Labor-Hatnua co-leader Tzipi Livni also said Sunday that Steimatzky’s decision angered her.
“I think we expect every European country to stand up to threats on freedom of expression – that’s how we need to act,” Livni told Army Radio. “I acted against those who take advantage of freedom of expression to do bad things and against racism, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t sell a magazine because people were killed over it.”
According to Livni, “our values and Israeli society are strong enough to know what the limits are, and the limit is the law. A caricature doesn’t break the law.”
Gnaim sarcastically called Liberman “a champion of freedom of expression” on Army Radio.
“Liberman, the fascist with Bolshevik opinions, doesn’t want Arabs in the Knesset and now is defending freedom of speech. There is no need to say anything else,” Gnaim scoffed.
The MK added that his idea of freedom of expression is “you can’t offend people’s religion and prophets. To humiliate prophets is not freedom of expression.”
Gnaim added that the distribution of the French magazine in Israel would harm the Muslims and their feelings. The result of releasing such a magazine, he warned, could trigger violence from the Arab public.
MK Dov Henin (Hadash) said, when pressed to respond as to whether he agrees with Gnaim, that he disagrees and wouldn’t prevent the distribution of the newspaper.
Ta’al chairman MK Ahmed Tibi said in an interview with Israel Radio on Sunday that attacking religion is not an issue of freedom of speech, adding that it is an act of “pyromania.”