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Netanyahu's Son Yair Stirs Up Controversy With Anti-Semitic Cartoon


In Israel, a lot of people are talking about a Facebook post. It was put up by Yair Netanyahu, the son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Over the weekend, the 26-year-old posted a cartoon bashing his father's adversaries. That cartoon was swiftly criticized for containing anti-Semitic imagery. The post was shared by former KKK leader David Duke. It was also praised by the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. Netanyahu's son, we should say, did take down the post. But the prime minister has declined to comment on it. And let's bring in NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem. And, Daniel, what exactly is this post?

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Well, if you can picture it, it's a row of characters. And each one dangles a kind of fishing rod in front of the next. And it seems to depict who controls the world. So the liberal, American, Jewish philanthropist George Soros is the master manipulator in the cartoon. Netanyahu's government has bashed Soros for his support of groups critical of the Israeli government. And then also pictured in this cartoon are some of Netanyahu's most vocal opponents. Their faces are superimposed onto a common anti-Semitic caricature of a hook-nosed Jew. Now, Netanyahu's son got this cartoon from a kind of obscure, satirical, anti-leftist Israeli Facebook page. And that page seems to have adapted that cartoon from one that apparently circulates on extremist, anti-Semitic, "alt-right" websites.

GREENE: Wow. OK. That was a mouthful.

ESTRIN: Yeah (laughter).

GREENE: That's - this is extraordinary. And it's - I mean, we should say it's causing a lot of reaction in Israel right now.

ESTRIN: It's been at the top of the news here - and especially the fact that a writer on the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer called Yair Netanyahu a total bro. Leading politicians from the center-left spoke out about it. The Anti-Defamation League, which monitors anti-Semitism, has spoken out about it. Pro-Netanyahu commentators are deflecting the criticism. They're blaming left-wing Israeli media for trafficking in anti-Semitism.

GREENE: Well, what about Netanyahu's son. I mean, we mentioned that he took down this post? But is he still defending it?

ESTRIN: Yeah. He's written a number of defensive follow-up posts on Facebook. Yair is known for his provocative Facebook posts trashing leftists. And Netanyahu, the prime minister - an Israeli reporter asked him about his son's post, and he declined to comment.

GREENE: I guess one question I have, Daniel, is how much we should be focusing on this. I mean, Netanyahu's son is not an elected official. This was certainly not the prime minister posting this imagery. I mean, is the whole controversy giving too much weight to a 26-year-old and his Facebook post?

ESTRIN: Right. Yair Netanyahu - right? - is not an elected official. He may have not understood the subtext of the cartoon that he shared on Facebook. And Netanyahu has argued for a long time that there is an unfair media witch hunt against his family. But Yair Netanyahu does play a role in Israeli politics. He reportedly is involved in the prime minister's social media messaging. He has met President Trump. He is seen here as being groomed to enter politics one day. And so when Netanyahu's son shares a cartoon from an anti-Semitic - you know, anti-Semitic circles of the "alt-right" in order to bash the left wing in Israel - a liberal political commentator I spoke with says this is, you know, basically bringing the rivals - people who should be rivals - the "alt-right" in the U.S., which includes anti-Semites, and the right wing in the Jewish state of Israel - they find common imagery and common cause in demonizing the left.

GREENE: OK. NPR's Daniel Estrin reporting from Jerusalem. Daniel, thanks.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.