TEL AVIV (JTA) – Yair Netanyahu reportedly advises his father, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on how to use social media. But his own Facebook activity has repeatedly sparked controversy in Israel — and made headlines worldwide.
Most recently, in the wee hours Wednesday, Yair Netanyahu, 26, weighed in on the violence at a white supremacist rally over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va. He suggested in English that American left-wing groups — the anti-fascist Antifa movement and the Black Lives Matter movement against systemic racism — are more dangerous than neo-Nazis.
“To put things in perspective. I’m a Jew, I’m an Israeli, the neo nazi scums [sic] in Virginia hate me and my country. But they belong to the past. Their breed is dying out,” he wrote.
“However the thugs of Antifa and BLM who hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life.”
On Tuesday, after coming under criticism for staying silent on Charlottesville, Benjamin Netanyahu had tweeted a vague denunciation: “Outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism. Everyone should oppose this hatred.”
Earlier this month, Yair Netanyahu — who goes by Yair Hun on Facebook, using the pre-Hebraicized last name of his mother’s father, Shmuel Ben-Artzi – trashed left-wing Israeli nonprofits and several former prime minister’s sons.
He was responding to a critical article by Molad, a left-leading Israeli think tank, titled “Five Facts You Didn’t Know About Crown Prince Yair Netanyahu.” The article questioned the cost of Netanyahu’s lifestyle to taxpayers, and noted a Facebook post making the rounds in which Yair’s neighbor accused him of flipping her off when she complained that he had not picked up his dog’s droppings.
Calling the article “lies and slander,” Yair called for investigations into Molad’s sources of funding or the alleged illicit behavior of the sons of former prime ministers. Most controversially, he said Ariel Olmert, the son of Ehud Olmert, had “an interesting relationship with a Palestinian, that could have had national security implications,” apparently referring to rumors that Ariel Olmert had an affair with an East Jerusalem man.
Netanyahu ended the post by saying, “I have a message for all the members of the Israel Destruction Fund and their metastases,” playing on the Hebrew name of the New Israel Fund. He then typed emojis of a hand giving the middle finger and a smiling poop.
Ariel Olmert responded with a Facebook post criticizing Netanyahu as an adult living at the prime minister’s residence, using a state-funded driver and security guards and spending time with millionaires. “Unlike you,” Olmert said, “I actually work for my living. I also make an effort to pick up my dog’s poop.”
Both he and Molad threatened to sue Netanyahu. Molad made good on the threat.
The Hebrew media had a field day, with two leading papers running cartoons with caricatures of Netanyahu and poop emojis.
While Netanyahu’s public timeline only goes back a few weeks, his Facebook activity has been getting him in trouble for years. In 2011, when he was doing his mandatory military service in the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit, Netanyahu complained on the social media platform that soldiers need to do weekend duty “because of those damned Palestinians.”
After a report that criticized his mother, he wrote: “I hate the damned media.”
After that post, his Facebook page was temporarily deleted.
But by 2015, according to Hebrew reports, Netanyahu was helping to steer his father’s media strategy in the national elections. With the help of a last-minute social media campaign — including the controversial Facebook warning that the Arabs were voting “in droves” — Benjamin Netanyahu defied the polls and held on to his seat.
Since then, Yair Netanyahu’s influence with his father has reportedly grown. The media have lately made much of the sway he and his mother, Sara Netanyahu, allegedly hold over the prime minister.
For his part, Benjamin Netanyahu has often complained about the media’s unforgiving coverage of his wife and two sons, recently railing against “fake news” and “leftists.” At a rally last week in Tel Aviv, he called the corruption investigations that threaten to oust him from power “an obsessive witch-hunt against me and my family.”
But in a leaked statement Wednesday from sources close to Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister distanced himself from his son’s statement, saying, “Yair is an adult and his views are his alone.”