Givatayim resident Sagi Haber, 50, was surprised to find police officers at his door on Thursday evening, after posting a controversial photograph, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can be seen gesturing in a manner resembling the Nazi salute, to his personal Facebook page, Haaretz reported.
The officers can be heard in a recording telling the man he must remove the post immediately, saying that the photo qualifies as incitement, and that he could be detained for such an act.Police, however, are not legally allowed to command a citizen to remove any content from the internet without judiciary approval, neither are they allowed to determine what qualifies as incitement.Haber did not understand the request and argued with the policeman, saying "this is harassment by the authorities, how do you determine that this is incitement?" To which the policeman replied "For posting a picture of the prime minister as if he were a Nazi."In response, Haber explained that this was an undoctored photographic documentation of the prime minister, but the policeman continued, saying "I came to warn you. You do not have to say anything. Everything is recorded on camera. You are allowed to respond. You also have the right to remain silent. I came to explain to you what is happening here... You are requested to take down the post, I'm not interested in the original image."After arguing with the officer, Haber eventually agreed to take down the picture. He told Haaretz in and interview following the incident that "what's happening here is like [George Orwell's] '1984' on amphetamines."According to Haber, police arrived about 30 minutes after he received a comment on his post by a man who said he reported it to the police, only an hour after the post itself was uploaded to Facebook."I can not afford to be arrested, I take care of a very sick mother. I am not against Netanyahu, I am against corruption and in favor of justice. Since when do the police send policemen to people who post pictures? The entire situation is delusional."The photo that Haber posted is one by renowned photographer and Israel Prize winner Alex Libak, who republished the photo last month, 28 years after redacting it, drawing heavy criticism from the Netanyahu family spokesman and right-wing commentators."I just don't understand what right they think they have to come to someone's house and ask them to do such a thing. Who sent them? Who asked them? They have no right to do this," Libak told The Jerusalem Post in an interview following the incident.Libak originally published the photo in a newspaper in 1992, back when Netanyahu was only a Likud MK, before quickly redacting it from his galleries and apoligizing to Netanyahu. In an interview about his latest gallery in Herzeliya he told the local newspaper Tzomet HaSharon that "people remarked to me that it was inappropriate, that it could hurt and broadcast something that did not exist."When asked why he chose now to republish the photo, he said "now, after 30 years, the reality has changed and I thought it would be appropriate to publish again. I didn't know it would make so much noise."And make noise it did. After news of the police's request came out, users social media began circulating the photo as a form of protest. In a tweet, Haaretz contributor and writer Shira Makin posted the photo with the message "I heard that this picture by Alex Libak is very annoying to the supreme leader, which is a great reason to spread the hell out of it on social networks. Let's go!"In an interview following the arrest, he told the Post that his photo had been taken out of it's proper artistic context, saying "I chose to republish this photo as a part - an integral part, but still as a part - of a larger gallery, which focuses on the effects of fifty-plus years of Israeli military occupation in the Palestinian territories."While Libak doesn't think a comparison to Hitler is appropriate, he does think that recent actions by Netanyahu are early warning signs of fascism. He told the Post "I don't think the picture compares Netayahu to Hitler, god forbid. But the hand gesture resembles fascist salutes. I see the photo as more of a stop sign, or a red flag, warning us to stop and look around to see how we wound up in this mess of incitement and slander, of the delegitimization of one part of the country by the other.""We're a democracy, but we're beginning to lose that," he told the Post.When asked about the criticism he received for the photo, Libak told Tzomet HaSharon last month that "I think if they hadn't made a fuss about it, no more than 300 people would have seen the exhibition. But the right looks for things like this to show how 'victimized' it is and how 'badly' the media behaves towards the right. Nobody cares what this picture says. Is the Prime Minister really a democratic person? Is he free from fascism? This picture says something. There is a fascist mindset in Israel. But no one talks about it, they just talk about the Nazis. The right jumped on this picture as if they'd found a buried treasure. In their eyes, this is "the left inciting once again." The real problem is that we are moving away from democracy and the prime minister is one of those responsible for that."Libak gave a possible explanation for his characterization, telling the Post that "the right has always been at a certain defensive stance since the great incitement of the Rabin assassination. It's a type of trauma that I don't think they will ever truly heal from, at least not in the near future. They're always looking for any sign of incitement."The police said in a statement in response to the incident that "we respect freedom of speech and recognize its special status as a fundamental right. However, the police are working to investigate and investigate complaints about expressions of incitement and calls for violence, which by law are incompatible with freedom of expression. The case will be investigated and handled accordingly."שמעתי שהתמונה הזו של אלכס ליבק מאוד מרגיזה את המנהיג העליון, שזו סיבה מצוינת להפיץ את האמאמא שלה ברשתות. קדימה pic.twitter.com/rs3Q7twxaF— Shira Makin (@shiramakin) July 31, 2020