The Israeli leader spoke at a ceremony marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, but his remarks have been interpreted as less-than-sympathetic towards females.
The trouble began after Netanyahu told the conference, which was held at Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, that “women don’t belong to you, women are not an animal you can hit.”
Perhaps fearing that his statement could be misinterpreted, the prime minister added: “And today we say you don’t hit animals either.” Instead of moving on, Netanyahu then began to share his thoughts on animals.
Netanyahu at event marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: “A woman isn’t an animal you can beat, & nowadays we say don’t hit animals. We have compassion for animals, women are animals, children are animals, with rights.” pic.twitter.com/jwfLH6aYqU
— Noga Tarnopolsky (@NTarnopolsky) November 23, 2020
“We understand [animals] have insight and there is intelligence and there is cognition and animals have feelings. We are rightfully compassionate toward animals, we really connect to this,” he said as he gestured toward his wife, The Times of Israel reported.
Netanyahu then contradicted himself, insisting that women were in fact animals:
“A woman isn’t an animal you can beat, and nowadays we say don’t hit animals. We have compassion for animals, women are animals, children are animals, with rights.”
The Jerusalem Post reported that the prime minister specifically used the Hebrew term for “animal” while describing women, causing the word to trend on Israeli social media.
The word choice sparked a flurry of news reports in Israel, as well as condemnation from Netanyahu’s political opponents. In a statement, Knesset member Aida Touma-Sliman, part of Joint List, a coalition of Arab-majority political parties, reminded the Israeli leader that “we are citizens, we are human beings… not animals.”
The Prime Minister’s Office later issued a statement insisting Netanyahu “spoke from the bottom of his heart today about women’s rights and against any violation of them.” The statement said that his remarks had been taken out of context and that “in no way” did the prime minister intend to compare women to animals.