Deputy Finance Minister Calls ultra-Orthodox 'Parasites' on the Air, and Immediately Apologizes

Mickey Levy of Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party was discussing the issue of ultra-Orthodox joining the military and serving in the workforce and quickly said he was sorry for using such a derogatory term.

An Israeli politician discussing the issue of ultra-Orthodox serving in the military and joining the workforce on Wednesday morning referred to the Haredi sector as 'parasites,' and then immediately apologized for his remarks.

Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) was speaking on the "From 8 to 10" radio program, hosted by Moti Lavi, on the Haredi radio station Kol Berama. Levy said that the utlra-Orthodox must “bear the burden together, join the job market, they can’t be parasites on the Israeli public, they can’t keep on with their world view that ‘We don’t work.’”

Responding to his use of the term, Lavi asked his guest, “Aren’t you ashamed to say that on the air?” Realizing his mistake, Levy apologized immediately.

That wasn't enough for Lavi, who said, "You apologize because you realize you said something wrong, but it’s in your mind."

Levy replied, “I apologize for the term. I’m just saying that people can’t live — I’m changing it — they can’t keep on living, economically speaking, at the expense of people who pay taxes, people who enlist in the army, people who serve the state. You’re citizens who live in this country and have equal rights? Then share the obligations equally, too.”

When Lavi continued focusing on the deputy finance minister's use of the term “parasites,” Levy retorted, “You’re dwelling on something unimportant and clinging to it instead of conducting an interview. I apologized for that word, which was said in the heat of the conversation, and I apologize for it again. It was said in the heat of the moment.”

Earlier this week, Finance Minister Yair Lapid unleashed a harsh tirade against ultra-Orthodox Knesset members during a speech at the opening meeting of parliament's summer session, saying that they do not have exclusive rights over Israel or the Israeli government.

"There is such a thing as this in democracy: a government without the ultra-Orthodox. Israel is not listed in your name in the Land Registry and the Israeli government is not listed in your name in the land registry," the Yesh Atid party chairman told ultra-Orthodox Knesset members who were present. "We believe in the importance of your democratic voice from the opposition." 

Shas' leader El Yishai responded angrily to Lavi's remarks on Wednesday. "It is worrying that in Israel of 2013 things are said like they were in Germany of 1942," Yishai said. "If sayings such as those of the deputy finance minister said were said in another country by a European parliament member about the Jewish community, the country would be shocked, and with justification. Unfortunately, the behavior of the finance minister and chairman of Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid), gives legitimacy and encourages the continuation of harm to the Haredi public."

He added that while it is clear how this damage started, it is not clear how it will end. "In other countries they call this behavior anti-Semitism."  

Aron Nachson