MK Apologizes to U.S. Envoy for Calling Him 'Jewboy'

Gideon Alon
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Gideon Alon

Far-right MK Zvi Hendel apologized Wednesday evening for having called U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer "a little jewboy" in a Tuesday Knesset comment which prompted a wave of condemnations across the Israeli political spectrum. Hendel had previously refused to apologize for the remarks, but gave in to heavy pressure from the Knesset ethics committee.

The ethics committee was to open hearings Wednesday over Hendel's remarks. The National Union MK was protesting against the Jewish ambassador's reported comment that Israel prefers investing in the settlements rather than in the disabled.

Speaking from the Knesset floor Tueaday, Hendel said that "irrespective of the fact that this is a representative of a foreign country, who can be Jewish or a jewboy, religious or not religious, the state of Israel should not ignore the intervention of a little jewboy who represents the U.S."

Kurtzer is a modern Orthodox Jew, the first religious Jew to serve as a U.S. ambassador to Israel, and only the second Jew to serve in the position, after Martin Indyk. The late minister Rehavam Ze'evi, also of the National Union Party, referred in the past to Indyk as a "jewboy."

Asked about his comments and the strong criticism it garnered, Hendel told Army Radio Wednesday "I think the person is a little Jew, so what's the big deal? I need to apologize to my friends in Israel, because the expression was perhaps too sharp and inappropriate. But to him, I see no need to apologize."

The embassy and Kurtzer refused to comment on the affair, but an embassy source was quoted last night as saying that Hendel's remarks "are indicative of his character."

The Prime Minister's office said that Hendel's remarks should be "roundly condemned," while Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, in India, said that the remarks "were disgraceful and intolerable. Jews, too should not use anti-Semitic phrases."

Hendel was following in the tradition of previous right-wing spokesmen, including members of his own Gush Emunim (a settlement movement), who routinely referred to then-U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as a "jewboy" when he tried to press for a disengagement of forces agreement between Israel and Egypt after the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

In February, 1997, National Union founder Rehavam Ze'evi sparked the fury of then-U.S. ambassador Martin Indyk by terming him a jew-boy in the employ of the administration. In a reference to an impending Washington visit by then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ze'evi, assassinated by radical Palestinians in a Jerusalem hotel in Oactober, told fellow rightist legislators "Bibi's going to the tyrant (then-president Bill Clinton) across the sea. In the dead of night come phone calls from the jew-boy ambassador Indyk."

The next month, at a memorial ceremony for slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the Australian-born Indyk was widely quoted as telling Ze'evi that he last time someone had called him jew-boy was when he was 15, and that the name-caller had received "a fist in his face". The septuagenarian Ze'evi reportedly replied "Just try me, let's see you. Jew-boy."

Knesset Ethics Committee Chair Colette Avital (Labor) vehemently denounced Hendel's remarks, and called a session of the committee for today to discuss what she called "a racist statement that could only incite anti-Semitism. In the name of national pride, Hendel besmirched a person of stature and a Jewish supporter of Israel, and displayed the ugly face of the Knesset." She demanded that Hendel apologize.ize.



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