Army Radio’s longtime film critic Gidi Orsher on Saturday was suspended from his post after making racially disparaging remarks about the culture of Israelis of North African or Middle Eastern descent.
In a Facebook post directed at “those from the East,” Orsher remarked: “Next time you suffer from a heart attack, skip the medical procedure and follow your grandmother’s remedy of putting a chicken leg on your head instead.”
He suggested that next time the country comes under a rocket attack, that Mizrahis should “ignore the Iron Dome’s warning and recite Psalms or perhaps wait for the matriarch Rachel to protect you.”
Orsher went on to say that in lieu of pursuing advanced medical fertility treatments, that members of the community should continue the practice of praying for fertility at the graves of dead rabbis in the Galilee.
“And next time you want to publish your writings, leave the computer running programs and applications developed by Israeli startups, and go back to writing on parchment, sending messages with fire and responding to the media hysterically (which is something you do already).”
Jewish ethnic divides among Israel’s Sephardic and Ashkenazi — or European descended communities — have been characterized by what many say is a history of systemic discrimination against Middle Eastern Jews by the ruling Ashkenazi elite.
Army Radio chief Yaron Dekel said in a statement that he “strongly condemned” Orsher’s remarks, adding that there was no place for such sentiments at the station.
“He has been suspended from all broadcasting until an investigation is completed,” he said.
Dekel added that although Orsher was employed at the station as a freelance journalist, he has been summoned for a hearing slated for early next week.
Orsher’s post evoked strong condemnation from across the political spectrum.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu railed against the “explicit and contemptible slander against Eastern communities,” which he said “deserves to be utterly condemned.”
Netanyahu added: “Anyone with such ignorant and racist views has no place in Israel’s public broadcasting.”
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev demanded the radio station impose harsher disciplinary measures against Orsher.
“A suspension is not enough, I demand that he never again set foot in the radio station that is subsidized by public funds,” she said. “He and others like him must understand that racism directed towards Eastern communities comes with a heavy price. This is the only way to root out racism that breeds exclusion, discrimination and oppression.”
Regev added that she discussed the matter with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, and hoped he would ensure there would be “no place for people like Orsher at the radio station.”
Liberman issued a statement of his own Saturday, praising Army Radio for its swift response to Orsher’s post.
“In light of his terse and clear cut statements that cannot be interpreted in any other way except as a crude swipe at an entire community, it’s fitting that a temporary suspension should become a permanent one, and will end the saga of Orsher at Army Radio.”
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri — himself a Moroccan-born Israeli — slammed Orsher as a “racist of the lowest kind who incites against an entire population that he treats with condescension, arrogance and terrible racism.”
Deri’s Shas party primarily represents the interests of Sephardic ultra-Orthodox Jews in the government.
Deri praised Army Radio for its handling of the affair so far, and went on to urge Channel 10 television to take similar steps against its incoming chairman Rami Sadan over allegedly racist comments by him — which he has vehemently denied making.
“We cannot allow people with such views to be in positions of influence where they are able to continue perpetuating an exclusionary, discriminatory and distorted discourse,” Deri said.
Education minister Naftali Bennett also took Orsher to task for his “deeply patronizing and embarrassing” Facebook tirade.
“Unfortunately, this is not an issue that only affects Orsher, but reflects a larger problem of ingrained racism that we must combat through education,” he said.