‘Violent discourse may end in murder,’ warns Shin Bet head

A “very significant surge” in phrases such as “treason against the state” and “save the state from the change government” has caused great concern in the security agency.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency, Nadav Argaman, issued a rare warning on Saturday, calling on politicians, rabbis, and activists to curb the level of incitement on social media, lest someone be physically harmed.

Argaman said that free speech is an important aspect of Israel’s democracy but that “in recent days, there has been an increase and serious radicalization in the violent and inciting discourse, especially…on social media.”

He said that the online conversation included “expressions of division, incitement, and even calls to violence and physical harm.”

This discourse may be “interpreted among certain groups or among individuals as such which allows violent and illegal actions, which may, God forbid, even end up costing in lives.

“It is our duty to come out with a clear and decisive call for an immediate cessation of the incitement and violent speech. The responsibility for restraining the discourse rests on the shoulders of us all,” he added.

While Argaman refrained from singling out specific politicians or political parties, he said a “very significant surge” in phrases such as “treason against the state” and “save the state from the change government” has caused great concern in the security agency.

Religious Zionism chair Bezalel Smotrich responded to Argaman’s warning in a tweet, insinuating that the Shin Bet prioritizes monitoring Jewish Israelis’ online discourse over stopping Arab violence.

“Several weeks ago, Jewish citizens were killed and wounded here in severe rioting carried out by many of Israel’s Arabs. The Shin Bet under your leadership did not expect, warn of, or prepare for this in advance,” he tweeted.

“Israelis deserve an explanation as to where you were, and how you missed the incitement and nationalism ahead of those riots.”

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg wrote on her Twitter account that Argaman was “clearly referring to Netanyahu and his entourage, who operate a well-oiled hate machine with results that it is impossible not to think can lead to murder.”

The left-wing politician was recently forced to flee her Tel Aviv home after major backlash over legislation she proposed that would criminalize Jewish outreach to minors, which reportedly included death threats against her baby daughter.

The Shin Bet recently beefed up security for Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett and Yemina number two Ayelet Shake, after hundreds protested outside of their homes in an effort to thwart the upcoming “change government.”

On Sunday, another Yemina MK, Idit Silman, requested extra protection after telling Knesset security that she was being followed while driving and that she had stopped sending her children to school because she fears for their safety.

Transportation Minister Miri Regev (Likud) tweeted that Netanyahu’s supporters will “continue to protest the theft of right-wing votes in a democratic and dignified manner, without violence.”

Referring to Yair Netanyahu’s recent social media ban, she decried “censorship and violation of the right to protest, while painting the entire right-wing camp as violent and dangerous.”