Likud campaign video raises ire over use of military cemetery
Video airing on 'Likud TV' on Facebook shows journalist Avishai Ivri in front of a backdrop of a military burial plot saying 'Gantz is part of the left, and the left is dangerous'; Netanyahu orders immediate removal of video; Ivri and other campaign staffers suspended.
A campaign video by the Likud Party sparked outcry on Tuesday evening after it used a military burial plot as backdrop for one of the scenes.
The video, which aired on the party's "Likud TV" on Facebook, shows journalist Avishai Ivri attacking former IDF chief Benny Gantz and his Blue and White Party.
At the end of the video, Ivri is seen in front of a backdrop of a military cemetery saying "Gantz is part of the left, and the left is dangerous."
Ivri is a paid employee of the Likud Party campaign and is regularly seen in its election propaganda videos.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads the Likud Party, instructed the campaign to immediately delete the video from Facebook, investigate the incident—which he described as a "regretful editing error"—and to take steps against those responsible.
As a result, the staffers responsible for the video, including Ivri, were suspended until further notice.
"As a bereaved brother, who over the past 43 years has been visiting his late brother's grave on Mount Herzl, I understand well the pain bereaved families feel," Netanyahu said.
At the beginning of the video, Ivri warns of the terror attacks that could come if Gantz becomes prime minister. Behind him are photos from different past attacks, including from the murder of three members of the Salomon family in Halamish, which took place during Netanyahu's tenure in the Prime Minister's Office.
"More and more violence, more and more dead—this is what a left-wing government means," Ivri is heard saying.
Gantz's Blue and White Party slammed the video, saying: "IDF soldiers who fell in battle and the bereaved families could not imagine the prime minister would use them for videos in a political campaign. Go apologize to these families immediately, or this stain will accompany you for the rest of your life. Shame on you, Netanyahu."
Former defense minister Moshe Ya'alon, who is part of the Blue and White Party, said that "Netanyahu continues crushing Israel. We must not—simply must not—allow the memory of the soldiers who fell in Israel's wars and the respect toward the bereaved families—which has always united us all—to become a tool in a political campaign, even if Netanyahu's legal and public standing is bad. Netanyahu is destroying stateliness at the altar of survival. We have yet to witness such a disgrace before. It's time for a different leadership."
Meretz also came out against the video. "Netanyahu and the right no longer have any boundaries. The one who dropped Kahanists into the Knesset now dares to release a hurrendous video starring a man who just this week justified the murderer (Baruch) Goldstein," the party said in a statement.
Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay added to the chorus of criticism, saying: "Enough, Bibi. Don't bring your filth into the military burial plots. Apologize to Gantz and the families."
Orly Levy-Abekasis, who heads the Gesher Party, also condemned "the cynical use of fallen IDF soldiers for political propaganda. This is simply repulsive. This isn't the Likud Party I grew up on. There's a limit to everything."
Eli Ben Shem, the head of the Yad Labanim (an organization dedicated to commemorating the fallen soldiers in Israel’s wars and helping the bereaved families), said the video was "horrifying."
"I don't know who the psychopath is who came up with the idea of mixing the fallen soldiers with politics. This is a grave blow to the families," he said. "I received dozens of messages from families offended by this video. People don't understand that this reopens the wound, and hurts the fallen and their families."
The burial plot in the video is of fighters from the Haganah Convoy of 35 (or the "Lamed He"), who died during Israel's 1948 War of Independence while trying to bring supplies to the blockaded kibbutzim of Gush Etzion. They were spotted before they could reach their target and killed by Arab irregulars and local villagers.
Uri Kushnir, who represents the Lamed He families, was outraged to see his brother Tuviya's grave in the video. "Their symbol was and remains the unity of the people. And then comes this spectacle making use of these gravestones and bringing in politics in the most divisive and contentious manner. It simply desecrates their memory. It's outrageous and shameful," he said.
Ivri responded to critics on Twitter, saying: "My friends are under these tombstones because of you ... some fell needlessly over your fantasies. If I can save even one soul from falling at the altar of your delusions, it's worth everything."