Likud activist Itzik Zarka was distanced from the Likud movement after he shouted at anti-judicial reform protesters that "another six million [Ashkenazim] should burn" during a demonstration in northern Israel on Saturday night.
"Ashkenazim, w****s. May you burn in hell. Not for nothing did six million die. I'm proud. If only six million more would burn," said Zarka in an apparent reference to the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, while standing next to a group holding a sign reading "the people demand judicial reform" and the flag of the far-right Lehava movement.
A video of Zarka's outburst was shared widely on social media.
On Sunday morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Likud CEO Zuri Siso to remove Zarka from the Likud in an official capacity. "We will not accept such shameful behavior in the Likud movement," the prime minister said.
Chani Zarka, Itzik's wife, denied to KAN news that Zarka had been kicked out of the party, saying that Netanyahu had spoken with Zarka and that "everything is fine." Zarka's wife stressed that her husband had apologized and that "that's the end of the story." The Likud Party later denied that Netanyahu had spoken with the Zarkas.
איציק זרקא חבר מרכז ליכוד בולט ששרי הליכוד מהללים אותו, איחל הערב את המפגינים נגד ההפיכה המשטרית בצומת עין הנצי"ב שבכניסה הדרומית לבית שאן: "אשכנזים שרמוטות שתישרפו בגיהנום, טפו עליכם. אני גאה על 6 מיליון שנשרפו, גאה!". pic.twitter.com/vAjl8dj7QD— עדי חשמונאי (@adi_hashmonai) July 15, 2023
Despite the Likud's insisting that Zarka would be "distanced" from the Likud, there is no legal avenue to remove a Likud member due to a statement – and therefore Zarka is unlikely to be removed, according to Likud ombudsman, lawyer Shai Galili.
The Likud's constitution includes a number of factors for which one Likud member can appeal to the Likud internal tribunal against another member, such as if the latter ran in a different party for the Knesset or for a local authority. However, there is no factor that serves as a basis for the court to remove a member due to a statement, no matter how harsh.
The Holocaust was not restricted to Europe as over 400,000 Jews of North Africa were persecuted as the Axis invaded the region as well during World War II. Antisemitic legislation was issued against the Jews of Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia.
In Libya, thousands of Jews were imprisoned in concentration camps where hundreds died.
The Likud Party condemned Zarka's statements, saying "We will not accept or contain shocking statements of this kind."
"We call for the cessation of the inciting and violent discourse from all sides, it is time to unite against our enemies and the many challenges that lie ahead of us," added the party.
Zarka stated on Sunday morning that he was "embarrassed" by the statement he made overnight, claiming that he was "goaded by the insults thrown at me." Zarka added that he had relatives who were Holocaust survivors and stressed that "it is important for me to atone for these words through actions as well," stating that he intended to volunteer to help Holocaust survivors.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant responded to the event on Twitter, saying: "I reject with disgust the despicable statement of Itzik Zarka. Especially these days, we must all - on the right and the left - maintain respectful and proper discourse and remember that words have meaning. It is good that he apologized."
Justice Minister Yariv Levin also condemned Zarka's statements, stating that "there is no place for such behavior and statements anywhere and under any circumstances."
Levin stated that his condemnation was in contrast "to the way in which the leaders of the opposition act," accusing the opposition MKs of supporting "violence, army service refusal, and incitement from the left."
Despite Levin's claim, members of the opposition have expressed condemnations of army service refusal amid the ongoing anti-judicial reform protests.
Last month, National Unity party head Benny Gantz stated "my position and that of my party remains the same - we are against army service refusal of any kind. It must stay out of the game, we all need to place a limit on this matter."
Israel Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman also stated at the time that "there is no place for a call against showing up when called for the reserves. I also expect volunteers to continue volunteering, even though they don't have to and can't be forced to."
Zarka's past threats during right-wing protests
Zarka, who has repeatedly conducted protests against demonstrators opposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his governments' policies, has a long history of issuing threats and incitement against left-wing Israelis while holding close ties and receiving public admiration from high-ranking members of the Likud Party.
In January, he approached High Court of Justice President Esther Hayut and told her to "take it down a notch...so that no one will come after you."
During protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent years, he was filmed shouting at protesters "Black Flags, these are your burial shrouds," "may your eyes both fall out," and "this is the cancer of the country," among other slogans.
Another video showed him after rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel, saying "[after] the rockets that were fired from the south toward Yad Mordechai (a kibbutz in southern Israel), I raised a glass, enjoyed it."
Earlier this year, Zarka began conducting demonstrations blocking the entrances to kibbutzim in northern Israel in protest against anti-judicial reform protests that blocked roads throughout Israel. The demonstrators stopped drivers car by car and asked them if they supported or opposed the reform.
Zarka is close with a number of Likud MKs and ministers. In 2020, Likud members including Economy Minister Nir Barkat, Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, Transportation Minister Miri Regev, and Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel published videos wishing him a happy birthday and describing him as a "loyal" and "valuable" member of the Likud Party.
Jerusalem Post Staff and Eliav Breuer contributed to this report.