A 63-year-old Tel Aviv resident was indicted Friday at the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court for threatening the lives of Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton and her family.
The man, whose online activities show him to be an anti-vaxxer, is accused of sending a threatening message to a WhatsApp group he manages with hundreds of others, in which he referenced the murder of her adviser on Arab affairs, Sahar Ismail, outside his home earlier this month.
“A final warning and alert to Education Minister Shasha-Biton before your family is harmed,” the man wrote. “Your personal assistant who was assassinated with gunshots… was a final warning… You should note we do not talk, we assassinate and murder people.”
The man confessed to his actions and told the court he apologizes for them. His remand was extended until further notice. His lawyer Rafat Nshef said he had no prior criminal record and that “he claims he only wanted to protest vaccination policy and had no intention of harming the education minister.”
It was not immediately clear why the man targeted Shasha-Biton specifically with his threats. The minister has in the past has expressed a certain wariness regarding the vaccines. She recently opposed allowing authorities to vaccinate children at schools (those with parental approval) during school hours, asserting that the issue was controversial. However, she was overruled on the matter by the Health Ministry.
As elsewhere in the world, a vocal anti-vaccination movement has grown amid the COVID-19 pandemic, ranging from conspiracy theorists to those who do not oppose most inoculations but fear the speed in which the coronavirus shots were developed.
Some extremists have directed abuse and threats at various officials ties to the Health Ministry and vaccination efforts.
Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services at the Health Ministry, recently said she had been given a panic button by authorities to alert police of any potential danger, following continued harassment and threats by anti-vaxxers.
“These aren’t easy days, you need to remember that aside from being a public worker I am also a human being, with a family. When my seven-year-old son asks me why people stood by the house and called me a ‘child killer,’ it’s very difficult,” Alroy-Preis told Channel 12 news on August 13.
Dozens of anti-vaxxers staged a protest outside Alroy-Preis’s home last month, with some participants heard calling her the “daughter of the devil” and a “Nazi murderer.”