Israeli human rights activists who promote BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) and speak harshly against Israeli policy are often subject to campaigns of exclusion and sometimes to death threats. While their stories pale in comparison to the stories of Palestinians (who are often shot dead just for protesting their rights), they need to be told and heard once in a while.
Thus I will tell the story of Adi Shosberger, the Israeli activist who called Israeli soldiers “terrorists” who are participating in a “massacre of innocent civilians”, telling them they were brainwashed into joining a “terror army”, as featured in a video which went viral in Israel just over two weeks ago. The incitement against her following the video release resulted in death threats, harassment and intimidation of her children, slashing of tires, garbage on the lawn etc. Adi required protection from fellow activists, as the police have taken her situation very lightly.
The video and its reason
The video drew wide condemnation from across Israeli society. Prime Minister Netanyahu mentioned it in a cabinet meeting. He opined that those words were an “outrageous absurdity” and that the soldiers have the full backing of all cabinet ministers, in order to continue “to do their holy work.” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman promoted new legislation, making it a crime punishable by 5 years prison to film soldiers with the purpose of “destabilizing IDF morale and the morale of Israeli citizens”. The penalty becomes 10 years if the intent is to “harm the security of the state”.
But the video coincided with another video which went viral at the same time, wherein Israeli snipers were filming themselves (through a rifle scope) shooting an unarmed, motionless Palestinian protester, and celebrating it. This put into perspective precisely what the activists were trying to bring focus to with their action and video – a “patently illegal” Israeli policy.
Shooting the messenger
Israeli denial of its wrongdoings is a common feature. Even the IDF claimed that the soldiers in the sniper video had acted “appropriately”. And a common mechanism in denial is to shoot the messenger. Thus, Adi Shosberger was to become a main target for incitement and even death threats.
For example, Adi was trashed by two radio hosts, Shai Goldstein and Lea Lev, on the Maariv radio 103FM “Breakfast Club” show. Goldstein said that he “feels like killing that woman”, called her “stupid”, “retarded”, “little bitch”, “filth” and so on – with Lev confirming his views all the way through. And this, mind you, is on centrist Israeli mainstream radio.
The hyper-nationalist Israeli rapper Yoav Eliasi, known as “The Shadow,” is notorious for campaigns of incitement mobilizing many of his hundreds of thousands of followers through social media, against those whom he labels as traitors or enemies. Eliasi was the main mobilizer towards the Elor Azarya support-rally in 2016 (also known as the “murder rally” or “death to the Arabs rally”), and it is telling that even for that crowd, which was carrying “kill them all” signs, Eliasi was considered just a touch too extreme, and was thus not given a stage to perform.
Eliasi noticed Shosberger’s action immediately and mobilized against her. This is not the first time – last year it happened too, and despite Shosberger filing a complaint with 22 explicit cases of death threats with documented persons, the case was quickly closed. Eliasi has found a method by which his posts are apparently just below the threshold of what would be considered criminal in Israel, but they serve as a dog whistle for followers who are far more explicit, and who are quick to get the hint and translate it to action.
Here is Eliasi’s Facebook post from just after Shosberger’s video went viral:
“A very grave clip by a rotten sub-human pathetic anti-Semite which shoves a camera into the face of our fighters and calls them terrorists and murderers. The name of this leftist stench is Adi Shosberger, who by the family name and behavior is obviously an offspring of Judenrat [to mean Nazi collaborator]. I ask all of you to rise and file a complaint against her”.
Protection by activists
Adi has already experienced how lightly the Israeli police take her situation, so while filing a complaint, she did not count on police protection in her situation. This resulted in the mobilizing of fellow activists who were basically taking shifts staying around the house for the past two weeks. In addition to the garbage thrown on her lawn and car tires slashed, epithets have regularly been hurled at her, and even her children at the local school (she has four boys, ages 5-12) were harassed by older high-school students. As a result, the children were kept home for several days.
When I talked to Adi yesterday (by Messenger), precisely at noontime her phone started buzzing with unregistered numbers, people who left hate messages and threats. She responded to it with equanimity – she says that those people inform each other that they need to make a harassment storm at a certain hour, and they call from hidden numbers, and she simply doesn’t pick up.
Feeling safer with the Tamimi’s in Nabi Saleh
It may seem odd for some, that the place in which Adi feels most safe and protected is in Nabi Saleh, a village which is almost daily invaded and raided by Israeli soldiers. But she does, and she feels most welcome staying with Bassem Tamimi, the father of Ahed Tamimi. Now that 17-year old Ahed as well as her mother Nariman are in prison, the house is much more lonely – but the Tamimi’s are always warm and welcoming toward activists who show understanding and solidarity with their struggle, and there is a mutual and reciprocal understanding of each other’s situation there.
A right wing activist, Yossi Levi, likened Adi Shosberger and Ahed Tamimi, and suggested Adi receive the same treatment as Ahed (on Facebook):
Discrimination against Arabs?
Why is Ahed in jail and Adi Shosberger is still roaming free?
Share, share, share, until the law authority wakes up.
Adi Shosberger is a left activist, walks with a camera, harasses soldiers on duty, films them without permission and against their will, distracts their focus, insults and hurts them, calls them murderers and terrorists, and shames them.
Is a mental, psychological and moral hurting not worse than a slap?
Share, share until they arrest her, so that she too would be able to join Ahed Tamimi and all the other Israel-haters in jail.”
Adi herself sent me that post as an example, and said that she completely understands the comparison, and that she is highly aware of this difference of privilege between her and Ahed. This is the privilege that she is also continuously seeking to expose.
Adi’s story is one that is rather unsurprising for those who know the Israeli reality. Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has suffered similarly. He has already long been considered to possibly be “the most hated man in Israel” for his coverage of Palestinian suffering. But hell really broke loose when, in the midst of Israel’s 2014 Gaza onslaught, he wrote “Lowest Deeds From Loftiest Heights” about how “Israel’s ‘heroic’ pilots push buttons and joysticks, battling the weakest and most helpless of people.” At the time “Shade”, Yoav Eliasi, organized an incitement campaign against him, and actually hounded him in the street with a group of followers, hurling accusations and epithets against him which they filmed (here’s a video). Following this, Haaretz assigned Levy a bodyguard for some weeks.
It can be somewhat sobering to note, that Adi’s accusation of the soldiers as “terrorists” is a claim that has been indirectly made by none other than the UN fact-finding mission on Israel’s 2008-9 Gaza onslaught. The report, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, concluded that Israel was “terroriz[ing] a civilian population”.
Goldstone, who is notably a Zionist Jew, was also subject to a relentless hate campaign in the wake of the report, both by Israel and by Jews abroad, until he succumbed to the pressure (the full details of which we may never know), and ‘recanted’ in a Washington Post article, alas without any actual new evidence (see Norman Finkelstein, “Goldstone Recants”). Notably, his whole team maintained that they stood by the findings. Of course, the Israelis were jubilant: “Everything that we said proved to be true” (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu); “We always said that the IDF is a moral army that acted according to international law” (Defense Minister Ehud Barak); “We had no doubt that the truth would come out eventually” (Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman).
But when you let Israel off the hook like that for its state-terror, it becomes a license for more terror, and for more massacres. There were those at the time (2009) who believed that it couldn’t get worse. But Israel’s 2014 onslaught was worse. And that’s only part of this paradigm of state terror. It has many shades of black.
So Adi Shosberger and her fellow activists go over to soldiers and tell them that they are terrorists, in order to raise awareness of the paradigm. But why think about it at all? It’s easier to just shoot the messenger.