Members of the Yisrael Beytenu party took aim at rock star and actor Gidi Gov for incitement and racism after he blasted Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman amid a fight over blackballing another singer.
One member of the party demanded Wednesday that police investigate Gov and another MK urged that Gov be banned from the Radio Tel Aviv station, where he gave an interview Tuesday calling Liberman a “new immigrant with a Russian accent.”
Gov apologized for the comments Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Liberman demanded Army Radio boycott singer Yehonatan Geffen after he compared Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi to Anne Frank, Hannah Szenesh, King David and Joan of Arc. Liberman was widely criticized for the move and was quickly rebuffed by the attorney general, who said he had overstepped his bounds.
In an interview with Radio Tel Aviv later on Tuesday, Gov said “it’s hard to hear someone with a Russian accent, a new immigrant, call Yehonatan Geffen an enemy of Israel.”
Liberman is originally from Moldova, but moved to Israel in 1978. Many of Yisrael Beytenu’s members come from the former USSR.
In a letter to Mandelblit, MK Yulia Malinovsky demanded that police open a criminal investigation into the entertainer “for incitement to racism and making racist statements publicly.”
There was no immediate response from Mandelblit’s office.
She also sent letters to public broadcasting officials and the Bezeq telecommunications firm, where Gov is a celebrity spokesman.
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.
In a separate letter Wednesday, MK Robert Ilyatov asked Radio Tel Aviv to suspend Gov from appearing until he issued a public apology.
“Unfortunately, during the years of immigration of Soviet Jews, who suffered anti-Semitism in the places they left, we were witness to waves of racism also here in Israel from locals who made racist comments about them,” he wrote. “We were sure that this era had ended sometime in the 90s and would not return.”
On Wednesday, Gov issued an apology on Facebook, saying he regretted hurting the Russian-speaking community. However, he said he stood by his criticism of Liberman for attempting to suspend Geffen.
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,
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.”
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.”