World News

07.10.14

Knesset Member Walks Back On Facebook Post Calling Palestinian Kids ‘Little Snakes’

An Israeli parliamentarian tries to walk back on a shared post calling Palestinian kids “little snakes” and defining the Gaza crisis as “war”.

A week after Israeli Knesset member Ayelet Shaked shared a Facebook post that referred to the current conflict in Gaza as a “war” and Palestinian children as “little snakes,” she is trying to walk it back—all the while alleging that her life is now at risk because of what she says are the lies I published about it.

In a brief and heated, but voluntary, telephone call with The Daily Beast, the outspoken Zionist attempted to clarify what she posted, which could have been read as an incitement for all-out battle.

“You published against me, a horrible article,” Shaked said as I introduced myself. “A distort[ed] message of what I was saying on Facebook. You know people told me to go to the police actually, because of what you published.”

The piece to which she was referring, published Monday, included language Shaked had shared publicly on her Facebook account.

“What I said is that the people whose heroes are murdering children, we should not do a peace agreement with them,” Shaked told me. “Because in Israel, we—all the public—are ashamed of what happened to Mohammed Abu Khudair.” She’s referring to the 17-year-old Palestinian who was murdered last week; a Jewish extremist, one of six arrested in connection with the crime, has reportedly confessed to the killing.

“But the Palestinian people, they looked at murderers of our children as heroes.”

I asked Shaked why she chose to share that post, which was originally written by Uri Elitzur, whom Shaked described as a former Netanyahu associate and journalist. She replied with the same sentiment, mentioning how Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has, in the past, reportedly given freed prisoners a lump sum of $50,000 upon their release.

“I want to tell you: you are part of this war Gideon.”

“We in Israel are ashamed of murderers and put them in jail for the rest of their lives. This is the difference between the two people,” Shaked told me.

Shaked spoke in these generalities initially—referring to two sets of people, two polar opposites on a pendulum. The lack of distinction between Hamas, a known radical Islamist enemy of Israel, and the rest of Palestine’s citizens seemed to correspond with the methodology of the Elitzur piece she posted. They’re all part of one united front. They’re all the enemy.

The Knesset member has been called out in the past for her extreme remarks, which don’t always line up with those of her peers in Parliament. One of the founding members of My Israel, a Zionist activist group that opposes BDS (Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions), the 38-year-old Shaked is also frequently the target of subtle sexism, at best referred to as “a young and pretty secular woman.” There was a reddit forum from last year devoted to figuring out how attractive she was compared to a female journalist. But when I attempted to broach this subject, giving her the opportunity to discuss her relationship with the media, Shaked was not interested in any further conversation, cutting me off before I could tell her what I wanted to talk about.

But when I finally got the opportunity to ask her if the use of the word “people” in this conversation meant radical extremists—the presumed culprits of the murder of three Israeli teens—as opposed to the entire population of Palestinian citizens, she responded with a simple: “Yes.” That was not before the following exchange:

“By the way, are you from Canada?” Shaked asked.

“No.”

“Where are you from?”

“I’m in New York.”

“Just to let you know, the guard from the Knesset told me I need a bodyguard because of what you published,” Shaked said shifting the conversation back to her preferred talking points.

“After what you wrote about me on your website, I’m really not interested in talking to you anymore. Sorry,” she said using an impending television interview as a reason for her hurriedness.

When I told her that I simply shared the words that she shared and asked whether she agreed with those words, she replied, “You said that I’m calling for a massacre?… listen I really don’t want to talk to you anymore. You need to accept that.”

Shaked raced off to her alleged television interview before I could engage her in further conversation but that didn’t stop her spokesman, Tal Benesh, from sending a furious follow-up email.

“You took an article of someone else Shaked posted, and put it in her mouth,” he wrote, after acknowledging that she had in fact shared the piece. “Interpreting words based on your own agenda. Doing so, probably, in order for ppl to see your article. In order to get your own 15 sec of glory. i hope you achieved it.”

Yet Benesh didn’t clarify why Shaked had shared the inflammatory language in the first place.

“Based on what you did, i suggest you should be careful next time you singing an Ace of Base song, so that, god forrbid, no onecall you a Nazi. or also be careful when you see Woody Ellen’s [sic] movies so that no one will blame you you are a children rapist,” Benesh told me in his email.

“These are my words, my personal point of view," wrote Benesh in his email, "and i want to tell you: you are part of this war Gideon. Doing something like that is raising hatred and separatism In the world.”