Lieberman, Israel Beiteinu MKs [file]_311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
MK Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor) apologized in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday for
saying that Israel Beiteinu is “polluting” the Knesset and for making fun of
Speaking at a Tuesday-night conference in the Knesset
about relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel, Ben-Simon said Israel Beiteinu
MKs “poisoned and polluted” the Knesset, and called for them to join the
conference in order to “learn what they weren’t taught in school in Saint
Ben-Simon, himself an immigrant from Morocco who speaks with
a French accent, described Israel Beiteinu parliamentarians as speaking “as if
they have gravel between their teeth.”
“They barely know the language and
are already judging other people,” he added.
The Labor MK was repeatedly
heckled during his apology speech.
MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) told Ben-Simon
that he is “shaming Moroccans,” while MK Moshe Matalon, a non-Russian Member of
Israel Beiteinu, called him an “embarrassment to the Knesset.”
day I moved to Israel at age 16, my goal was to protect the weak,” Ben-Simon
explained in his apology. “I was only trying to strengthen the weak with what I
said. I didn’t say one word on immigrants.”
The MK also said that “gravel
between their teeth” was a literary reference, which Israeli author and poet
Haim Guri wrote about Ben-Simon.
Before Ben-Simon spoke, Culture and
Sport Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) said that the Labor MK’s statements are
racist, and that his “dark” words are polluting the Knesset.
praised Russian immigrants’ “ great contributions to culture, sport and
science,” and called on Ben-Simon to apologize.
Also on Tuesday night,
Ben- Simon called the “Kahanists” in the National Union “poisonous,” and asked
the organizers of Tuesday night’s conference to invite those MKs to join the
event so that they could be exposed to other opinions.
One of Ben-Simon’s
best known works as a reporter for Haaretz,
his career before becoming a Knesset
member, was an interview that destroyed the political career of then-Labor MK
Uri Or, because of anti-immigrant comments.
In 1998, Ben Simon quoted Or
as saying the following about his colleagues of Sephardic descent in Labor: “You
can’t have a normal conversation with them. The problem with [then-minister
Shlomo] Ben Ami, Rafi Ederi, Raanan Cohen and the others is that they interpret
all legitimate criticism as race-based criticism.”
interview, Labor sanctioned Or, not allowing him to speak in the party’s name in
the Knesset. Or, however, said that his comments were fabricated.