Shin Bet head warns of political violence

June 6, 2021 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman issued an unusual warning on Saturday against the intense political climate in the country which he claims may lead to political violence.

ISA (Israeli Security Agency or Shin Bet) Director Nadav Argaman, speaks at a joint press conference in Ha-Kirya, the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Aviv Kochavi, following the killing of Bahaa Abu el-Atta, the north Gaza Strip Islamic Jihad commander and the massive rocket attack from Gaza into Israel. Tel Aviv, Nov 12, 2019.

During the Shabbat, Argaman stated that while “the principle of freedom of expression is an important and necessary principle in a democratic state,” his security service has “identified an increase and severe radicalization in the violent and inciting discourse, with an emphasis on that which takes place on social networks.”

“It is a discourse that includes serious statements, using language and terms of incitement and even calls for violence and physical harm,” he noted.

“As the head of an organization dedicated to safeguarding the security of the state and the order of the democratic regime and its institutions, I call and warn that this discourse may be interpreted among certain groups or individuals, as one that allows violent and illegal activity that may even harm individuals,” he said.

He said that “elected officials from all corners of the political spectrum, opinion leaders, clerics, educators and all citizens of Israel – have a heavy responsibility in these days.”

He called for an “immediate cessation of the inciting and violent discourse. The responsibility for calming the winds and restraining the discourse rests on the shoulders of us all.”

Political emotions and tensions are very high in Israel following the sharp U-turn Naftali Bennett took with his right-wing party when he joined left-wing parties and anti-Zionist Islamists to form a government.

However, it is unclear why Argaman felt the necessity to issue this rare warning which carries political weight, and while desecrating the Sabbath and harming the feelings of many in doing so.

Several Members of Knesset (MK) accused him of taking a side in the political storm.

Minister of Transport Miri Regev called on protesters against the formation of Bennett’s government to refrain from violence while noting that “after years in which left-wing demonstrations took place unhindered in Balfour [against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu], and in front of my home even in the midst of a pandemic, there is no room for gagging and a violation of the right to protest, while painting the right-wing camp as violent and dangerous.”

MK Betzalel Smotrich pointed out that “a few weeks ago, Jewish civilians were killed and injured in severe riots carried out by many Israeli Arabs. The Shin Bet headed by you [Argaman] did not anticipate, warn or prepare in advance.”

“The citizens of Israel deserve an explanation of where you were and how the incitement and nationalism that preceded these riots disappeared from your sight. Could it be that you are weak in Arabic networks?” he quipped.

Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish of the Likud posted a picture of protestors holding a sign that read: “Bibi is a traitor,” adding that “following the Shin Bet chief’s announcement, I call for an end to the incitement and violent discourse. Such signs are prohibited. They should be condemned on all sides of the political spectrum.”

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