Flap between Yisrael Beytenu, singer Gov reignites with fresh exchange

Flap between Yisrael Beytenu, singer Gov reignites with fresh exchange

After saying sorry for Russian accent jibe at Liberman, entertainer calls youth wing of party 'fascists,' prompting MK to say he no longer accepts apology

Gidi Gov, right, ahead of a concert in Tel Aviv 2013. Moshe Shai/Flash 90)
Gidi Gov, right, ahead of a concert in Tel Aviv 2013. Moshe Shai/Flash 90)

Hours after apologizing for making derogatory remarks about Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Russian heritage, entertainer Gidi Gov again went on the attack against the Yisrael Beytenu party, calling members of its youth wing “brainwashed fascists.”

Gov, a popular rock star and actor, came under fire by members of the party Wednesday, with one MK urging a police investigation into hate speech and another calling for him to be boycotted by a Tel Aviv radio station.

On Tuesday, Gov reacted to Liberman’s push to have singer Yehonatan Geffen banned from Army Radio for a poem he wrote comparing Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi to Anne Frank, telling the Radio Tel Aviv broadcaster it was “hard to hear this coming from someone with a Russian accent who is a new immigrant.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks to reporters about the situation in Gaza in the IDF’s Gaza Division headquarters on December 19, 2017. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Liberman heads the hardline Yisrael Beytenu party, many of whose members come from the former Soviet Union. Liberman himself immigrated to Israel from Moldova in 1978.

Gov apologized for his comments, but late Wednesday reacted angrily to a post slamming him on the Yisrael Beytenu Youth Facebook page, seemingly reigniting the brouhaha.

“A party of fascists, and you youth are simply lost. I feel sorry for you, how much brainwashing you went through in your childhoods,” he wrote.

He was reacting to a post in which the youth wing said Liberman “was doing and will do more for Israel than you and all your Israel-enemy friends combined.”

“You and your terrible leftist friends don’t realize that you no longer have veto rights over the country,” the post read.

Gov’s Facebook page later claimed that the post was written without his knowledge by somebody who had access to his account.

MK Robert Ilatov, who had earlier demanded the Radio Tel Aviv station where Gov made the initial comments kick him off the air until he apologized, said that after the station manager expressed regret and, the party had decided to move on, but now signaled he would re-lodge his protest.

“Unfortunately, after the latest comments by Gidi Gov saying Yisrael Beytenu is a party of fascists, I must view his whole apology and attempt at peacemaking as totally devoid of content,” Ilatov wrote on Facebook early Thursday.

Gidi Gov performs together with members of the legendary Israeli band, Kaveret, at the school year opening event at the Hebrew University, Givat Ram, Jerusalem, on October 19, 2015. Hadas Parush/Flash90)

MK Yulia Malinovsky, who had asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to open an investigation into Gov for making racist comments, did not immediately react.

Gov is best known as a member of rock group Kaveret, often called Israel’s Beatles. He has also managed a successful solo career and has worked as an actor and comedian.

The saga began on Monday when Geffen posted a poem comparing Tamimi, who had been jailed for slapping a soldier, to Holocaust icons Anne Frank and Hannah Szenesh, along with King David and Joan of Arc.

The 70-year-old Geffen on Monday posted on Instagram a photo of Tamimi confronting an IDF soldier, with a poem in Hebrew:

A pretty 17-year-old girl committed a terrible deed
and when a proud Israeli officer
invaded her house once again
she gave him a slap.
She was born into it and in that slap
were fifty years of occupation and humiliations.
And when the day comes for this struggle’s story to be told,
you, Ahed Tamimi,
the redhead,
like David who slapped Goliath,
will be among the ranks of
Joan of Arc, Hannah Szenes and Anne Frank.

Frank, one of the most famous Holocaust victims, is known for the diary she kept detailing her life in hiding in Amsterdam between 1942 and 1944, before she was killed by the Nazis. Szenes was one of the Jewish paratroopers who were parachuted into Yugoslavia during World War II to rescue Hungarian Jews about to be deported to Nazi death camps. She was caught, tortured and executed, and is considered a national heroine in Israel.

Liberman, apparently outraged by the comparison drawn by Geffen, tweeted on Tuesday morning that he had “instructed the commander of Army Radio to stop playing or interviewing Yehonatan Geffen in all the station’s broadcasts,” and that he was “calling on all media outlets in Israel to do the same.”

Yehonotan Geffen, in a 2012 interview with Israeli media. (screen capture: YouTube)

But Mandelblit was quick to point out that Liberman lacks the authority to influence the content of Army Radio in such a manner.

Firing back, Liberman dismissed Mandelblit’s statement, claiming that “rules of common sense” took precedence over the law, and implying that the attorney general was not sufficiently piqued by Geffen’s comparison.

Liberman’s attempt to blackball Geffen was widely condemned by artists and opposition politicians, who branded the defense minister a “commissar.”

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