TV host slammed for calling Haredim ‘bloodsuckers’ during panel on state budget

Galit Gutman issues apology after facing widespread criticism for accusing right-religious coalition of ‘simply milking its citizens’

FILE: Israeli model and TV host Galit Gutman hosts the "Israel Calling" concert in Tel Aviv's Rabin square on April 10, 2018, (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
FILE: Israeli model and TV host Galit Gutman hosts the "Israel Calling" concert in Tel Aviv's Rabin square on April 10, 2018, (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

TV host and model Galit Gutman came under fire Friday after calling ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews “bloodsuckers” during a panel discussion about the government’s upcoming budget.

“How much burden can be placed on a third of this country in order to support all of these Haredi bloodsuckers, all these people who suck our blood?” she said on the Channel 12 morning news show.

The current government has allocated massive funds to the coalition’s right-wing and Orthodox parties as part of the latest budget, drawing criticism from the largely secular opposition parties.

Government critics have largely objected to approval of NIS 13.7 billion ($4 billion) in discretionary funds, much of it for the ultra-Orthodox community, and a controversial planned municipal tax fund that would take money from richer towns and redistribute it to poorer ones.

“There’s no other word [for what the Haredim are doing],” Gutman said on Friday. “We have a new government that is simply milking its citizens. Our young people — those who serve in the army and go to university will not stay here. I’m telling you, they’re sucking the blood [out of us], they’re milking us, they have no shame, and we are done sitting here and [taking it].”

The remarks drew quick pushback from coalition lawmakers, such as MK Yitzhak Pindrus of the United Torah Judaism party, who said in a statement, “even the British Labour party dismissed a member who called the “Talmudic Jews” bloodsuckers.” He was referring to former British councilor Damien Enticott, who was suspended by the Labour Party in 2018 after suggesting in a Facebook post that “Jews are parasites” that “drink blood.” The left-wing party has been marred by antisemitism scandals in recent years.

 

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a statement denouncing “Gutman’s ugly and inciting statement against the ultra-Orthodox public in Israel, which is reminiscent of elitist statements directed against [the Jews] in the past. There is no place for this [rhetoric]. All Israelis are brothers!”

“Who are you calling bloodsuckers?” said ultra-Orthodox Shas party leader Ayreh Deri. “Shame on you. The righteous Torah learners are the elite tribe… of the people of Israel. They are the spiritual patrol who together with all the security forces protect the people of Israel, continue the Jewish dynasty and keep the Torah, without which we would have no right to exist in our country.”

Among opposition figures, National Unity chair Benny Gantz expressed disapproval of Gutman’s remarks while slamming the government’s budget as a “grave mistake.”

“What the government is doing right now is dealing a serious blow to Israeli society and the economy, including harming the ultra-Orthodox themselves,” he said.

“At the same time, I hear the statements against the ultra-Orthodox community… some of which have reached the level of the worst antisemitic tropes. I strongly condemn this. Liberalism also means to accommodate [others]. This extreme behavior does not improve or serve anything other than adding hatred that will deepen the divide between the different parts of Israeli society.

Gutman later apologized following the backlash.

“I would like to apologize from the bottom of my heart if I offended an entire community. I love the State of Israel, and out of concern for its future I have sharp criticism toward the representatives of the ultra-Orthodox community in the Knesset,” she wrote on her Instagram account. “The words were said during a discussion about the government budget and its municipal tax plan, but I had no intention of harming an entire community. I apologize to everyone who was hurt by my words.”

Channel 12’s Keshet parent network also issued a statement condemning Gutman. “Her words are unacceptable and should not have been said in any way. We regret this and apologize for the unnecessary harm caused.”

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