Wheelchair-bound MK fires back after Likud lawmaker mocks his disability

Meretz’s Ilan Gilon says children should ‘feel very bad’ that Oren Hazan, who called him ‘half a human,’ is a member of Knesset

Meretz parliament member Ilan Gilon at faction meeting in the Knesset, on May 28, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Meretz parliament member Ilan Gilon at faction meeting in the Knesset, on May 28, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

An opposition Knesset member said Tuesday that the country’s children should be dismayed over the behavior of a ruling Likud party lawmaker who made fun of his disability, along with the conduct of the culture minister and one of the prime minister’s son.

Meretz lawmaker Ilan Gilon appeared on Channel 10, where he responded to comments made the day before by MK Oren Hazan, who called him “half a human.”

“In general, children, with or without disabilities, should feel very bad that in the Israeli Knesset there is such a person,” Gilon said, referring to Hazan. “That should be clear. And [also] when there is a culture minister like that. And when the son of the prime minister calls [journalist] Amnon Abramovich ‘a garbage can’ and his father says nothing. I no longer have any expectations from these people.”

Gilon was referring to Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, who is pushing legislation that would make government funding for the arts contingent on “loyalty,” and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair, who last month called veteran journalist Abramovich “a garbage can” and “a Soviet propagandist.”

Hazan on Monday drew fire for his “half a human” taunt of Gilon, though he later insisted he had not been referring to Gilon’s disability.

The comment came during a stormy Knesset debate over Regev’s arts loyalty legislation.

Gilon had been criticizing Regev, also of the Likud party, from the podium when Hazan came to her defense.

Gilon and Hazan then exchanged words, and Gilon branded Hazan “the Golem of Prague.”

The Likud backbencher retorted “If you weren’t half a human, I would respond to you.”

MK Oren Hazan reacts during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset, January 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Likud MK, who has been punished for mocking a disabled lawmaker in the past, insisted his insult was not a jab at Gilon’s condition.

“My comments referred to his manners. If my statements were interpreted otherwise, accept my apology,” said Hazan.

Gilon, who had polio as a child, has difficulty walking unaided and often uses a wheelchair.

Hazan’s comment drew backlash from opposition MKs, who described the lawmaker’s words as “revolting” and “repulsive.” “If he isn’t thrown out of the Likud in the coming hour then this is the true face of the party. This is the way they want to lead Israel. Revolting,” wrote Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir on Twitter.

“Let me remind you that this repulsive MK also mocked my friend Karine Elharrar for her disability. How disgusting can you be?” added Zionist Union MK Mickey Rosenthal.

He was also condemned by MK Bezalel Smotrich of the coalition Jewish Home party.

Since his election to the Knesset two years ago, Hazan has been temporarily banned from the Knesset twice over various wrongdoings. In January, the Knesset Ethics Committee handed Hazan the maximum possible punishment — unprecedented in all the years of the Knesset — for a series of incidents in which he insulted fellow lawmakers.

In November 2015, during a late-night vote, Hazan shouted at wheelchair-bound Yesh Atid MK Karine Elharrar, “Need Issawi to help you?”

Hazan had accused her of illegal double-voting after she asked Meretz MK Issawi Frej to help her cast her vote in the plenum. Elharrar suffers from muscular dystrophy.

Recently, he told a female lawmaker in a Knesset committee meeting that she was too ugly to be a prostitute.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, attends a Culture, Sports and Eductaion Committee meeting at the Knesset, on July 2, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Hazan’s father, Yehiel Hazan, lost his Knesset seat after he was caught casting a double-vote in the plenum, and then attempting to remove a voting computer from a Knesset storage room to hide evidence of the act.

The Knesset on Monday night will vote on the first reading of the controversial bill that would allow the culture minister to withhold funding for cultural organizations “that are working against the principles of the state.”

The so-called Culture Loyalty Law would allow the government to pull funding from organizations or events that present any of five topics: denial that the State of Israel is a Jewish, democratic country; incitement of racism, violence, or terror; support for the armed struggle or acts of terror against Israel by an enemy state or a terror group; marking Israel’s Independence Day as a day of mourning; or any act of destruction or physical degradation of the flag or any state symbol.

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