Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday apologized for publishing a campaign video three years ago that denounced opposition Zionist Union candidate Yossi Yonah as sympathetic to the Palestinian terror organization Hamas.
“I’m sorry for that, it was inappropriate, unjustified and wrong,” Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, told Yonah, who is now a MK, during a meeting of the Knesset’s Finance Committee.
The clip, aired ahead of the 2015 general elections, starts with an image of the Hamas logo and menacing music. Then a quote appears: “There’s no difference between the Jewish Holocaust Day and the Palestinian Nakba.” The line, written in broken Hebrew, suggesting it was written by Arabs, refers to the “catastrophe” that for Palestinians is Israel’s creation in 1948.
Images of the Holocaust and violent Palestinian uprisings emerge, followed by more controversial statements, such as “Respect for Zionist soldiers who refuse to serve in the occupied territories” and “As long as there is occupation there will be terror,” mixed with footage of Palestinian protests.
At the end of the one-minute clip, it says: “This is not Hamas! This is Yossi Yonah [from] the Labor party headed by [Isaac] Boujie [Herzog].”
“I was appalled, I was angry, I was hurt,” Yonah, an Ivy League-educated social activist and a professor of the philosophy of education at Ben Gurion University, told The Times of Israel at the time. “Though I am critical and sometimes some of my comments were provocative, they were never stated with any desire or wish for this place to unravel. This place, Israel, is dear to me.”
Most of the statements attributed to him in the video are either total fabrications or partial statements ripped out of context, Yona asserted at the time. Only one statement attributed to him was accurately reflected in the clip, and he has since retracted it, he added. The Times of Israel reached a similar conclusion after looking up some of the statements.
Several lawmakers interrupted Bennett while he made the apology, and MK Mickey Rosenthal, Yonah’s party member, then told them “this is a very human moment, the minister is saying things from the heart.”
Committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni also praised Bennett, saying that he had “acted remarkably,” and that participants should have let him do it “without background noise.”
Yonah, for his part, told Bennett he accepted the apology.
“I appreciate the statement, accept your apology and hope this will be a preface for restraining our remarks,” he said.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.