'They do not respect the people. Why should I respect them?'

Veteran musician Hanan Yovel declines Knesset performance, citing ‘boorish’ lawmakers

Singer and songwriter refers to MKs’ behavior in parliament, highlights incident this week where far-right MK made racist comments about opposition lawmakers

Israeli singer Hanan Yovel, April 28, 2022. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Israeli singer Hanan Yovel, April 28, 2022. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Veteran Israeli singer and songwriter Hanan Yovel has declined to perform at the Knesset over the actions of “boorish” lawmakers.

“To sing there before these boorish people is to be untrue to myself,” Yovel said in a response message to an invitation to perform in parliament on Israel’s upcoming Memorial Day for fallen soldiers.

Yovel cited the behavior of coalition MKs whose conduct he saw as uncouth, as the nation is increasingly split over the government’s efforts to assert unprecedented powers over the justice system.

He also referred specifically to an incident this week when Almog Cohen, a far-right MK, filmed himself at the Knesset plenum making racist comments about opposition lawmakers. In response, Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana banned lawmakers from filming from the Knesset plenum.

“This Knesset, that of Almog Cohen, of Dudi Amsalem, of Tally Gotliv, of Galit Distal [Atbaryan], of Aryeh Deri who enjoys Almog Cohen’s humor, of the Knesset speaker who instead of reprimanding the filth, forbids them from filming, and on and on,” Yovel said.

Likud MK Amsalem is known for his brash style and frequent heckling in the Knesset, while Gotliv and Distal Atbaryan are known for making highly controversial comments against opponents.

Speaking with Channel 12 after his message became public, Yovel said he had performed at the Knesset several times for different events. But, he added: “This is not my Knesset.”

“They say the people are the sovereign, but they do not respect the people,” he said of the current government. Why should I respect them?”

Yovel, 76, began his singing and songwriting career in 1965 when he joined the army’s Nahal band.

His decision came amid widespread protests against the government’s attempts to radically alter the process for appointing judges, part of a broad and radical judicial overhaul.

Critics say the moves will undermine Israel’s democracy and harm its economy and security.

Also on Saturday, more than 100 leading Israeli authors and poets signed a petition decrying plans to curb the National Library of Israel’s independence by allowing the government to determine the makeup of the library’s board.

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