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Israeli food giant halts ads on Channel 14 after call to release Rabin assassin

Israeli food conglomerate Strauss Group announced Monday that the company will stop advertising on the right-wing Channel 14 after a panelist called for the release of Yigal Amir, the assassin of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Channel 14 dismissed Ari Shamai soon after he made the comments, but Strauss, one of the largest food manufacturers in Israel, sent a letter to the channel saying that “following repeated hurtful comments on the channel’s programs,” the company decided to rescind their advertisements in accordance with its internal ethical guidelines.

The letter added that Strauss will reconsider advertising on Channel 14 only if the manufacturer becomes completely convinced that the station operates in accordance with the ethical guidelines.

In response to Strauss’ decision, Channel 14 released a statement, saying it was “an embarrassing expression of their condescension and attempt to reeducate the hundreds of thousand of Channel 14 viewers. It would be best that Strauss focus on the quality of their products instead of trying to educate the public.”

Shamai made the comment Sunday during a discussion on Channel 14’s “The Patriots,” about a High Court ruling against a recent law seen as specifically benefiting an associate of Shas party chair Aryeh Deri. The court ruled that the law, which shortens the cooling-down period for an acting mayor before he or she can run for a full term, must only go into effect after the upcoming local elections.

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“I am happy to hear one statement — that the High Court of Justice and Supreme Court are against personal laws. If that is so, then the time has come to release the assassin Yigal Amir because there are personal laws against him,” Shamai said, receiving pushback from the other panelists, but applause from the show’s studio audience. Host Yinon Magal said: “We’re not getting into this.”

Shamai was likely referring to a law passed in 2001, colloquially called “the Yigal Amir Law,” that bars parole boards from pardoning or commuting the sentence of a prisoner convicted of murdering a prime minister for political reasons.

Channel 14, a pro-Netanyahu conservative channel sometimes likened to Fox News, quickly disavowed Shamai’s remark and said he would no longer be invited on the show or on the network.

“The serious remarks Ari Shamai made represent his views alone. In light of the seriousness of the matter, Mr. Shamai will no longer be invited to appear on the channel’s programs,” the network said in a statement.

Shamai, a lawyer and media personality, has had several high-profile clients throughout his career including Gonen Segev, a former energy minister convicted of spying for Iran; members of the extremist Beitar Jerusalem fan club, La Familia; and Ronnie Leibowitz, a well-known serial bank robber.

Shamai’s comments came during his first appearance on Channel 14 following a five-month suspension he had received for saying protestors against the government’s judicial overhaul were the offspring of Jews who lived in the Warsaw Ghetto during the ghetto uprising but refused to fight against the Nazis.

Rabin was assassinated on November 4, 1995 by Amir, an extremist Jew who opposed the 1993 Oslo Accords under which Israel was transferring West Bank territory to Palestinian control. He claimed religious legitimacy for the murder, and has said he was prompted to kill Rabin by the 1992 election results that brought the Labor leader to power and encouraged to do so by the massacre of 29 Palestinians by Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein in Hebron in 1994.

Amir shot Rabin to death at the end of a mass peace rally in Tel Aviv that was called to highlight opposition to violence and to showcase public support for Rabin’s efforts to negotiate with the Palestinians.

Last year, Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich, now the finance minister, sparked outrage at a commemoration event by saying that responsibility for the assassination lay with Israel’s Shin Bet security service, claiming it had used “manipulations” that encouraged a right-wing extremist to go through with the murder plan. He argued that right-wing rhetoric against Rabin at the time played no role in inciting the killing.

However, Amir told interrogators after the killing that the Shin Bet “didn’t know anything” about his plans ahead of the murder. “The Shin Bet never could have been alerted. The Shin Bet didn’t know anything about me at all,” the assassin told investigators after the killing.

Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben Gvir, the national security minister, first gained national attention when he was interviewed after managing to steal the logo off Rabin’s vehicle. “We got to his car, and we’ll get to him too,” Ben Gvir said, weeks before the 1995 assassination.

Ben Gvir maintains that the clip was cut to not include the next section where he was asked what he would do if he reached Rabin himself, to which the young far-right activist ostensibly responded, “I’d shout at him.”

But Ben Gvir went on to campaign for Amir’s release and in previous election campaigns vowed to secure a pardon for Amir if elected.