Netanyahu has slandered Black Flag as agents of Iran - opinion

While Iran’s attempts to undermine Israel’s government are of extreme concern, the way Netanyahu and Likud responded was more than just disingenuous.

Israelis protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, outside Tzur Hadassah, October 17, 2020. (photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
Israelis protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, outside Tzur Hadassah, October 17, 2020.
(photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
On Friday, Facebook dropped a political bombshell.
In a statement released to the press, the social media giant said that it had removed 12 Facebook accounts, two pages and 307 Instagram accounts over foreign interference originating in Iran and used to target the government in Iraq and to fuel the protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel.
The users had created fake personas who claimed to be in Israel and Iraq, according to Facebook, and would post comedic images and additional content in both Hebrew and Arabic, referring to anti-government activity in both countries.
Naturally, Netanyahu seized on the news. "Iran, which is working to destroy Israel in an attempt to acquire nuclear weapons and arm the enemies around us, is investing in efforts to overthrow Prime Minister Netanyahu because it knows that Netanyahu has been standing as a wall against these efforts," the prime minister’s Likud Party said in a statement following the announcement.
“Even if the Left's protests switch their black flags to pink flags, they will not be able to blur the fact that they are supported by one of the darkest regimes in the world and they have a mutual goal: to take down Prime Minister Netanyahu," the statement concluded. "We will not let Iran win."
While Iran’s attempts to undermine Israel’s government are of extreme concern, the way the prime minister and his party responded was more than just disingenuous. It was slander.
Does anyone really believe that the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have taken to the streets in recent months to protest against the prime minister over his alleged corruption - his trial resumes in a few weeks - and against the way he has managed the health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus are Iranian agents?
Are the people who stand on bridges every Saturday evening across the country working for the ayatollahs of Tehran? Are they really supported, as the Likud claimed, by the dark extreme regime in Iran?
Of course not. To say so would be to insult the hundreds of thousands of law-abiding citizens who are legitimately upset at the fact that a politician indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust continues to run their government.
They are legitimately upset that they have lost work and have had to close down businesses. Around 1 million Israelis remain out of work. This is not because of Iran but because of the virus and the economic policies this government has adopted.
Iran is not responsible for Netanyahu’s decision not to pass a state budget - this is due to political considerations - which almost every economic expert has said is harmful and damaging for the country.
The Black Flag movement, one of the groups that organizes the weekly protests against Netanyahu, responded harshly to the Likud’s claims that it was backed by Iran.
“After the Likud claimed that we were aliens and anarchists, now Netanyahu claims that we are Iran's emissaries," the movement said. "There has never been in the State of Israel a prime minister who hated and incited so much against the citizens of the state."
While harsh, the movement might not be wrong. Netanyahu in recent years, has not hesitated to incite, divide and insult different sectors of society. He has ignited ethnic and racist battles, has lied to achieve political goals and he has worked to undermine the integrity of our voting system with his claims against the legitimacy of the Arab vote in Israel.
Netanyahu would do himself a favor to carefully watch what seems to be happening right now in the United States. While close, the presidential election looks like a repudiation of Donald Trump and his own divisive tactics that aimed to polarize and split the American people.
A lack of humility, of decency and of sincerity seem to have led to Trump’s looming loss. Dismissing the legitimacy of civil protests does not help Israel. Dismissing peoples’s grievances does not advance the country and claiming that regular Israelis are Iranian agents is more than just a lie. It is an insult.
Stop the slander and political games, Mr. Netanyahu. Listen to what people are upset about and work to improve their lives. That’s what they really want. 


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