President Reuven Rivlin.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Curses and threats that were directed at President Reuven Rivlin via various social media outlets are being investigated by the police as of Sunday, at the request of Rivlin’s security detail. Security has not yet been increased, but it is being seriously considered, said a source in the President’s Office.
The police cybercrimes unit has been tasked with the investigation by Asst.-Ch. Meni Yitzhaki, head of the Police Investigations and Intelligence Branch. Although Rivlin is no stranger to threats, having encountered them as speaker of the Knesset whenever he defended the rights of Israel’s minority communities, the recent spate of threats and curses has been much greater in volume and much harsher in nature.
Thousands of comments, mostly in Hebrew but also in Arabic and other languages, have been posted on the president’s Facebook page. Most were supportive of his views, but some comments, in both Hebrew and Arabic, gave security personnel cause for concern.
Israelis rally against violence
Rivlin, a former Likud MK, has been called a traitor, told that he does not represent all Israeli citizens and has been berated for doing irreparable damage to Israel by speaking out on behalf of the GLBTQ community and the Palestinians.
The social media comments became more threatening after the arson attack on the home of the Dawabsha family in Duma, in which toddler Ali was killed in his crib and his parents and four year old brother Ahmed severely injured.
Rivlin’s reaction to this act of terrorism was to issue a statement in which he declared: “I feel a sense of shame, and moreover a sense of pain – pain over the murder of a small baby; pain that from my people there are those who have chosen the path of terrorism and have lost their humanity. Their way is not my way... Their way is not our way... Their way is not the way of the State of Israel, or of the Jewish People.”
Later on Friday, after visiting Ahmed Dawabsha at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer and receiving an update from Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba on the condition of the boy’s father, Rivlin again spoke of his sense of shame and said that terrorism cannot be tolerated. He said it was untenable that churches, synagogues and mosques are destroyed and that people are burned alive in the name of religious ideology.
Speaking at a rally for tolerance in Jerusalem’s Zion Square on Saturday night, Rivlin was emotionally critical of the spreading of a blatant disregard for the rule of law, for human dignity, for a love of mankind, for a love of Israel, and freedom of opinion.
Ever since Thursday’s stabbing of six members of the GLBTQ community, one of whom, Shira Banki, 16, died on Monday when doctors at Hadassah Medical Center lost the battle to save her life, Rivlin has been saying that Israel’s leadership must stop merely paying lip service and must start to do something to weed out the rot in society.
Among the recent hate messages posted on Rivlin’s Facebook page was one that wished him only ill health and suffering. Another accused him of selling his soul to the devil.
Yet another expressed the wish that a new Yigal Amir (the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin) would rise and cleanse Israel of Rivlin and the Arabs.
Rivlin is taking it all in his stride, but says that such messages demonstrate the need to nip violence and intimidation in the bud.
He refuses to change his schedule and on Monday evening will travel to Haifa to address the 90th anniversary convention of the Histadrut labor federation-affiliated Hano’ar Ha’oved Vehalomed (The General Federation of Students and Young Workers in Israel) of which Rivlin’s predecessor, Shimon Peres, was a leading member during his youth.
In the aftermath of last week’s hate crimes, the Peres Center for Peace decided to expand its summer program to include tolerance dialogues between Jewish and Arab youth. The first of these was held on Sunday.Ben Hartman contributed to this report.