Israeli Actress Sparks Controversy by Saying Right-wingers Incite 'Toward a Civil War'

Yael Abecassis comes under fire for saying that 'people on the right don't represent humaneness' in response to anti-Arab comments

File photo: Actress Yael Abecassis.
Ilan Assayag

Actress Yael Abecassis sparked controversy on Thursday after an interview on Army Radio in which she said that “for me, people on the right don’t represent humaneness.”

Abecassis was discussing an Instagram post by actress Rotem Sela, who had criticized Culture Minister Miri Regev for saying that an Arab presence in a governing coalition would be dangerous.

Abecassis said that Sela had a lot to lose by expressing her political opinions. “Artists and intellectuals are sensitive, living the Other on a daily basis," she said. "Currently, right-wingers don’t represent humaneness for me. What can I say? Being a right-winger, the way it’s going now, means being something polarizing, divisive, being combative and inciting toward a civil war.”

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After host Udi Segal told Abecassis that her criticism was harsh, she responded by saying: “I say what I feel. Don’t I want to feel secure in my place? Don't I want to feel secure in my land? Can I ignore 1.9 million citizens? Are they OK for cleaning our bathrooms and building our houses but not for being in the cabinet?”

Likud lawmaker Yehuda Glick tweeted in response to Abecassis’ words: “If the High Court of Justice disqualifies [Kahanist Knesset contender] Ben Ari and leaves alone those who hate the People of Israel and statements like those of Abecassis, it seems that the right can save money on campaigning. They have their work done for them by others.”

Habayit Hayehudi lawmaker Moti Yogev also jumped in, tweeting: “I invite Yael Abecassis to come for a visit and meet the ‘racists’ and ‘inciters’ on the right. I’m sure she’ll find a lot of sanity and humaneness.”

Kulanu lawmaker Meirav Ben-Ari meanwhile wrote: “This is a bizarre and unnecessary statement. There is humaneness on the right and left. It’s too bad a woman like you, who was a role model for me in the battle for women’s rights, says such foolish things.” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein added: “As a ‘non-humane person,’ I still want the discourse to be respectful. I’ve lived and will die a proud right-winger.”

Shimon Riklin, who hosts a TV current events’ show, compared Abecassis words to something written by journalist Avishai Ben-Chaim, who said that he’s muzzled by his news show editors with respect to Jewish-Mizrahi content. “Avishai is proud of his Mizrahi origins and criticizes the channel he works in for censoring him. The sycophantic Abecassis says the right is not humane. She’s never said a word about Palestinian terrorists and the most heinous murders. She knows which side of her bread the butter is on, the left side. I prefer Avishai a thousand-fold.”

Stand-up comedian Yotam Zimri, a supporter of the right, tweeted: “Before the storm erupts, it’s important to note that it’s Yael Abecassis’ right to express her opinions. Everyone has that right. Even Yael Abecassis is a damn idiot is an opinion.”

Channel 20 journalist Eliran Tal added: “Netanyahu is already preparing a wreath for the Garbuz of 2019,” referring to an artist who during the 2015 election campaign gave a speech perceived as insulting to Mizrahi Jews. “Abecassis will get a wreath for an ugly and generalizing statement about all right-wing voters,” said Tal.

Abecassis is one of Israel’s most esteemed actresses and producers. She has often voiced her political opinions and his considered an inveterate left-winger. Along with TV newscaster Danny Kushmaro, she hosted the torch-lighting ceremony at the 70th Independence Day celebrations.

Abecassis is also active in the campaign fighting violence against women in Israel. In an interview with Haaretz this year, she said: “I’ve never been comfortable with the images attributed to me, and because I’m not a cynical person, I’m hurt and feel pain. And if someone doesn’t try to understand me, what’s it all for? So publicity can be very destructive for me. I feel that the need for an image of a beautiful woman – one who fulfills fantasies or whatever it may be – is connected to my deep understanding of violence against women.”