Artist's 'Idol-worshippers' Remarks at anti-Netanyahu Rally Draw Ire

Zionist Union distances itself from Yair Garbuz's comment about how 'amulet-kissers' control Israel; Habayit Hayehudi slams the Union and Garbuz.

Author Yair Garbuz at election rally: Accused of condescension, racism and contempt.
Moti Milrod

Officials from all parts of Israel's political establishment sharply criticized the statement of artist and commentator Yair Garbuz at the left wing’s rally in Rabin Square on Saturday night.

Garbuz, the first speaker, expressed amazement at how “amulet-kissers, idol-worshippers and people who prostrate themselves at the graves of saints” were controlling the State of Israel. Figures representing the right and left wings accused the artist of condescension, racism and contempt for his political rivals’ world views.

Among other things, Garbuz said during the rally: “They told us, and wanted us to believe, that the abominable man who assassinated the prime minister [i.e., Yigal Amir, who killed Yitzhak Rabin] had come from a handful of freaks. And they told us that he had been influenced by rabbis who were cut off from reality, and that he belonged to the lunatic fringe. They told us that the people wearing the yellow shirts with the black logo, the members of Kahane Tzadak [the Kahane Was Right movement] and the people who screamed ‘Death to Arabs,’ were a handful. They were only a handful.

"And they had even more gall to say that the thieves who took bribes were only a handful. And that the corrupt and hedonistic and greedy people were only a handful. The destroyers of democracy — a handful. Those who think that democracy means the tyranny of the majority — a handful. Kissers of amulets, idol-worshippers and people who bow down and prostrate themselves on the graves of saints — only a handful.”

Then Garbuz added, “If all of them are only a handful, then how is it that this handful has control over us? How is it that without our being aware of it, and without any hindrance, this handful has become the majority?”

For their part, in criticizing Garbuz, Zionist Union officials issued an official statement that read: “We condemn the statements that insulted a community on the basis of its beliefs,” and they distanced the party from Garbuz, saying: “The event and its speakers were not organized by us.”

Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud), called the artist's address “the second ‘chakh-chakhim speech" – referring to the speech by the late entertainer Dudu Topaz during the 1981 election campaign in which he used the anti-Sephardi slang term “chakh-chakhim” (“rabble”) to disparage Likud voters. The term became a symbol also thanks to remarks address Prime Minister Menachem Begin gave in response to Topaz.

Akunis: “Garbuz is exposing the true face of the Israeli left wing: condescension, contempt for the 'other,' dismissal of any different opinion or position that does not correspond to the outlooks that sanctify withdrawal [from territories] and concessions. The supporters of Likud and the right wing have been called a rabble and a mob, and now we are amulet-kissers who have become the majority.”

Habayit Hayehudi chairman Minister Naftali Bennett, for one, criticized the heads of Zionist Union, Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, as well as Garbuz after the latter made his statements. At a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Bennett said, “This handful is Emanuel Moreno, a lieutenant colonel in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit, who had pictures of rabbis on his wall, and he fell in battle during the Second Lebanon War. And this handful is also Roi Klein, of blessed memory, who during the Second Lebanon War cried out what you consider a pagan call [before throwing himself on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers]: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.’”