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Netanyahu’s party is accused of using coronavirus hoax to suppress vote

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Two recent hoaxes about coronavirus contagions in Israel have led to warnings that Likud will attempt to used corona hoaxes as a tactic of voter suppression during Israel’s election tomorrow. Benjamin Gantz, leader of the main opposition party Blue White, denounced today a corona hoax as a Likud dirty trick, an attempt “by Netanyahu to prevent you from going out and voting.”

There have been two corona hoaxes so far: one last week in Mevaseret Zion outside Jerusalem, and one today, in Givataiym, a city east of Tel Aviv. Both towns are considered to be Blue White strongholds. Both rumors were denied as hoaxes within hours by the Ministry of Health, but during election day, a delay of hours can lead to massive vote suppression. Another hoax was reported in the Palestinian region of the Triangle: an ad, supposedly put out by the Ministry of Health, calling upon citizens to avoid leaving their homes without plague masks. The Ministry of Health has issued no such recommendation.

HaBloc HaDemocrati (The Democratic Bloc), a left-wing NGO, warned that Likud will attempt voter suppression tactics involving corona tomorrow. It predicts we will see more corona hoaxes and that Likud poll watchers– every party is allowed to send some– showing up at polls in plague masks, for instance.

So far, the corona hoaxes have been spread by fake or anonymous accounts on social media, particularly on Whatsapp (which is ubiquitous in Israel). Likud has used Whatsapp and other social media accounts, sometimes fake and sometimes official, to spread disinformation during previous campaigns. In the September 2019 elections, for instance, the Election Overseeing Committee ordered Facebook to block Netanyahu’s page on election day, as it was spreading illegal propaganda. The infamous Netanyahu 2015 message of “the Arabs are coming out in droves” was sent out to voters by SMS.

Concerns have also been raised about a spyware used by Likud, called Elector, which – aside from leaking the entire electoral rolls, twice – will be used by Likud in real time to monitor which Likud supporters or their friends have gone to the polls or stayed at home (collecting this information is generally illegal in Israel). The white hat hackers who exposed the holes in Elector concluded that no other party has any tool remotely as powerful as Elector.

As always, voter suppression efforts by the right-wing are likely to concentrate on Israeli Palestinians towns – particularly as polls show the Joint List is likely to emerge stronger from the elections.

Yossi Gurvitz

Yossi Gurvitz is a journalist and a blogger, and has covered the occupation extensively.

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4 Responses

  1. Misterioso on March 1, 2020, 7:49 pm

    https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20191004-ex-general-likens-israel-to-nazi-germany/

    “Ex-general likens Israel to Nazi Germany”

    “Israel could end up like Nazi Germany”,

    Middle East Monitor, Oct. 4/19

    “Former Israeli army General, yesterday, Yair Golan compared Israel’s right-wing politicians to the Nazis.

    EXCERPT:
    “In an interview with Radio Darom, the newly elected member of the Knesset, representing the Democratic Union alliance, said: ‘I’m reminding people that the Nazis came to power democratically, so we have to be careful, very careful, so that extremist figures with a messianic view won’t exploit Israeli democracy to replace the system of government.’

    “This is not the first time Golan has likened Israeli policies to those of the Nazis, in May 2016 during a speech to mark Holocaust Day, he claimed ’the horrific processes which developed in Europe’ and led to the Nazi genocide were present in Israel today.”

    Also:
    “Israel’s Right Wing Is Worse Than Europe’s” by Zeev Sternhell,** Haaretz, July 19/19

    EXCERPT:
    “From the end of the 19th century, radical, anti-liberal nationalism – after serving as a basis for fascism throughout Europe and Nazism in Germany, and despite calling itself an ideology of national unity – essentially became an ideology of civil war. Hostility toward different categories of citizens, not just ethnic minorities but ideological adversaries, became a primary tool of nationalists. So it was in the past and so it is today in countries where vicious nationalism rules: From ostensibly democratic India, which abuses its minorities, to Poland and Hungary, to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel, which is consciously moving toward becoming an apartheid state.

    “In truth, the Israeli right, which maintains the settlements with their racist, backward rabbis, is much worse that the European nationalist right, which is wary of displaying open racism and anti-Semitism, lest it be accused of fostering an ideology akin to Nazism. Here we have no such problem because hey, we’re all Jews, and who would dare accuse a Jew of approximating the kind of Nazi ideology that preceded World War II? Therefore we get an education minister who is ignorant, not just on sexual matters but also of history, feeling no qualms about calling for the annexation of millions of Arabs while cynically denying them of political rights.

    “In all Europe, the pre-fascist and pre-Nazi nationalists were united in their hatred of human rights and enlightened principles, of socialists, intellectuals, pluralism and democratic government based on a division of authority. The Polish government and the Netanyahu government are similar not only because both foster hatred among their citizens as a tool of governing, but because they are both promoting a historical fabrication industry on a colossal scale.”

    **Zeev Sternhell is a Polish-born Israeli historian, political scientist, commentator on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and writer. He is one of the world’s leading experts on fascism. Sternhell headed the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

  2. Misterioso on March 2, 2020, 9:55 am

    More disgusting reality regarding “Israel’s” so called “democracy.”

    https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-aide-in-leaked-recording-hate-is-what-unites-our-camp/

    “Netanyahu aide in leaked recording: ‘Hate is what unites our camp’” by TOI Staff, Feb. 29/20 Times of Israel

    “Natan Eshel heard saying negative campaigning works well with ‘non-Ashkenazi’ voters and that the ‘animal’ Miri Regev is particularly effective at it.”

    “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s senior aide Natan Eshel said that ‘hate is what unites’ the right-wing camp led by the Likud party and that negative campaigning works well on ‘non-Ashkenazi voters’ in a leaked recording revealed by Channel 12 on Saturday.

    “Eshel, a former Netanyahu chief of staff who resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct, continues to work with the premier, leading the previous two coalition negotiations over the past year.

    “In the newly revealed recording, he can be heard discussing the party’s campaign strategy with an unnamed person whom he is trying to recruit as a political adviser, according to the report. In the tape, Eshel says that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s decision to indict Netanyahu in three corruption cases actually helped the premier in his campaign. ‘He went up by 20 percent’ Eshel recalls, though it was unclear what numbers he was referring to.

    “’If you haven’t stolen, what exactly have you come [into politics] for? We’ve checked this. And to my shock, they [the public] do not understand [this notion] of going into politics to do what’s good for the nation. You go into politics in order to steal and you need to be a man,’ Eshel claims, not yet specifying which public he was referring to.

    “’Now, in this public, I’ll call it… non-Ashkenazi…What gets them worked up? Why do they hate the press?… They hate everything and we’ve succeeded in whipping up that hatred. Hatred is what unites our camp,’ Eshel says plainly.

    “Eshel appeared to be referring to the Likud base of voters from Mizrahi communities, often in the periphery, who have long supported the party.

    “In the recording, the Netanyahu confidante then goes on to explain that Likud minister Miri Regev is ‘excellent’ at ‘stirring up’ Likud supporters. Eshel recognized that Regev is ‘an animal’ but works effectively as if she were standing in a stadium at a soccer match and waving her hands in order to drum up the crowd.

    “Asked to comment on the leaked recording, Eshel said he would not respond to ‘lies,’ though it was unclear what exactly he was disputing.

    “The Likud party appeared to accept that the recording was genuine, but asserted in a statement that ‘it is impossible to compare Nathan Eshel’s erroneous private opinion when he has no role in the Likud campaign to the shocking testimony of Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz’s senior adviser, Israel Bachar, who says Gantz is a danger to Israel and does not deserve to be prime minister.’

    “Bachar, in a recording leaked to Channel 12 on Thursday, could be heard saying that Gantz does not have the courage to attack Iran and could pose a danger to Israel’s security.

    “Blue and White said in a statement Saturday that the Eshel recording shows what the Netanyahu aide ‘really thinks of Likud voters.’

    “‘It is Netanyahu’s spirit that is poisoning Israel. It will be over in two days. Bibi, go home!’ the centrist party added.

    “Netanyahu later Saturday issued a statement that said he called Eshel to make ‘clear to him that his comments are inappropriate and unacceptable.’

    “’He apologized immediately. The Likud is home to all parts of the Israeli public and that’s the way it will always be,’ Netanyahu said.

    “This isn’t the first time this month that Eshel found himself in hot water over a leaked recording.

    “Last week, Netanyahu was forced to apologize to a prominent religious-Zionist rabbi Chaim Druckman after Eshel was recorded mocking him and the Yamina party that views him as a religious leader.

    “In the recording, Eshel appears to mock Druckman with the dismissive Yiddish prefix ‘sh,’ calling him ‘Druckman and Shmuckman.’

    “Eshel later explained in a statement that he had spoken in ‘slang’ and meant nothing by the comment.”

  3. Vera Gottlieb on March 2, 2020, 10:23 am

    Same underhandedness as the Americans…their teachers.

  4. bcg on March 2, 2020, 1:58 pm

    And in the same vein, VOX recently published a long piece titled “The war on Israeli democracy – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has attacked the foundations of democracy. If he wins his 2020 reelection bid, things could get a lot worse.”

    https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/2/27/21075868/israeli-democracy-war-netanyahu

    I’ll quote the last paragraph:

    “You can talk as much as you want, when you’re trying to educate kids, of equality before the law as a basic principle,” he told me. “In reality, there’s no equality … but for most people here, that’s totally invisible and totally normalized. Because that’s the only reality that they know.”

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