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Historian Noah Harari criticised for 'coronavirus dictatorship' remark

Press Trust of India  |  Jerusalem 

Noted Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari, who accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of imposing 'coronavirus dictatorship' referring to a host of restrictions that have put the country in a near shutdown mode, has evoked sharp rebuke from Netanyahu's son, Yair, who said "clever professors can be stupid about politics".

Netanyahu has coped criticism for allegedly exploiting the coronavirus outbreak to trample democratic institutions.

Netanyahu is using the virus fear to postpone his pending criminal trial, authorise unprecedented electronic surveillance of citizens and blocked the Parliament from going ahead with legislation against his continuity in office.

Harari on Thursday tweeted "coronavirus has killed democracy" in Hebrew and "the first coronavirus dictatorship" in English.

"Netanyahu lost the elections. So under the pretext of fighting corona, he has closed the Israeli Parliament, ordered people to stay at their homes, and is issuing whatever emergency decrees he wishes. This is called a dictatorship," tweeted Harari, the author of bestsellers Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.

"In Italy, Spain and France emergency decrees are issued by a government that the people elected. This is legitimate. In Israel, emergency decrees are issued by someone who has no mandate from the people. This is a dictatorship," he wrote.

Yair Netanyahu, 28, retorted saying Harari, a Hebrew University professor, was an example of why "clever professors can be stupid about politics," Ha'aretz Online reported.

The right-wing activist compared Harari to Albert Einstein, who Yair claimed "didn't understand politics" and "opposed Zionism".

According to reports, Yair argued as to how his father's ruling Likud Party won the March 2 election, beating rival Blue and White Party for its willingness to cooperate with the Joint List alliance of Arab Majority Parties after its leader Benny Gantz had promised not to do so during the election campaign.

"Perhaps because [the joint list] includes people who glorify those who crush the skulls of babies," Yair said, explaining how the Likud Party won the election.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Monday gave Gantz the mandate to form the government after former chief of Israel Defence Forces (IDF) won the recommendation of 61 out of 120 members of the newly elected Knesset to put a coalition together under his leadership.

Taking the attack further, Yair tweeted that everything Harari has written since "Sapiens" in 2011 "has been very disappointing, with globalist paradigms, as if they were written by [George] Soros. And with all due respect, your book is essentially an AliExpress version of Will Durant".

AliExpress is a web-based retail service. Durant was a historian and philosopher, who with wife Ariel wrote the 11-volume 'The Story of Civilization' between 1935 and 1975.

In other tweets, Harari said, "Temporary measures have a nasty habit of outlasting emergencies, especially as there is always a new emergency lurking on the horizon".

A caption of a Financial Times piece by him posted on his twitter handle read "This storm will pass. But the choices we make now could change our lives for years to come".

The measures to tackle coronavirus announced by Netanyahu has led to Opposition Leader Yair Lapid alleging Israelis "no longer live in a democracy".

"There is no judicial branch in Israel. There is no legislative branch in Israel. There is only an unelected government that is headed by a person who lost the election", said Lapid, a former journalist and talkshow host.

"You can call that by a lot of names, it isn't a democracy", he said in a recorded video.

Israeli health officials have diagnosed 677 coronavirus cases with a huge spike recorded in the last 36 hours, prompting the government to impose stronger restrictions.

People have been instructed to stay at home unless there is an emergency. Foreigners have been banned from entering the country.

The Israeli government has also instructed its internal security agency Shin Bet to start deploying its phone surveillance technology to help curb the spread of the virus by tracking the moves of the infected.

The controversial move has come under criticism and even challenged in the court.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, March 20 2020. 18:08 IST