Speech at anti-Netanyahu demo recalls racism in 1981 Labor rally

Speech draws comparisons to the "Chach-chachim Speech" of the 1981 election, in which comedian Dudu Topaz used the anti-Sephardic slur "chach-chahim" at a Labor rally to describe Likud voters.

March 8, 2015 21:17
Israelis attend a rally calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's defeat

Israelis attend a rally calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's defeat in the upcoming elections. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)

A speech that artist Yair Gerboz gave at Saturday night’s rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, depicting right-wing voters as superstitious, religious Sephardic thieves who killed Rabin and took over the country, raised the ire of Sephardic people and politicians on the Right Sunday.

The speech was overshadowed by former Mossad head Meir Dagan, but video of Gerboz’s statements surfaced on Sunday.

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“We were told, and we wanted to believe, that the hateful person who murdered a prime minister came from a small group of bizarre people... That shouters of ‘death to Arabs’ are just a small group. They had the audacity to tell us that the thieves and the bribe-takers were just a small group and the corrupt and piggish hedonists are no more than a small group. The destroyers of democracy – a small group.

Those who think democracy is the tyranny of the majority – a small group. Amulet-kissers, idol worshipers and bowers...

at the graves of saints – a small group,” he said.

“If all these are just a small group, how are they ruling us? How is it that without us feeling the small group became the majority?” Gerboz asked.

The speech drew comparisons to the “Chahchahim Speech” of the 1981 election, in which comedian Dudu Topaz used the anti-Sephardic slur “chahchahim” at a Labor rally to describe Likud voters and said they hardly even serve in the army, while combat officers were Labor supporters.

The following night, the Likud held a rally in the same location – Kings of Israel Square, now called Rabin Square – and then-prime minister Menachem Begin repeated Topaz’s words, memorably mispronouncing the entertainer’s name.

Begin then mentioned two fighters in the Irgun, the prestate underground militia he commanded, who committed suicide rather than be hanged by the British: Moshe Barazani, who came to Israel from Iraq, and Moshe Feinstein, who was Ashkenazi.

“Ashkenazim? Iraqis? Jews! Brothers! Fighters!” Begin famously declared.

“What happened? Could it be that we’re back in the days of the Chahchahim Speech? What is going on here? Did people learn nothing from history?” Dr. Hani Zubeida, a political science lecturer at Emek Yizrael college, asked on 103fm.

“Riffraff? Am I riffraff? I have amulets, and I say ‘tfu, tfu, tfu’ when a black cat walks by, and when my mother brings me a red string, I wear it. What is wrong with that?” he asked.

According to Zubeida, Gerboz “thinks he’s better than everyone, because he thinks differently. That’s racism.”

Likud MK Miri Regev, who is of Moroccan descent, said “nothing changed. The Left is the same Left. Then it was the Chahchahim Speech and now it’s the Mezuza Kissers and Bowers on Rabbis’ Graves Speech. The only difference is that we saw Dudu Topaz’s nonsense in black and white and today it is in color.”

Regev called on Gerboz to apologize.

“His dark speech belongs to the dark ages,” she added.

The Likud responded that Gerboz’s speech brought up “the deep hatred he and his friends on the Left who think like him have for anyone who is different from them.”

“Gerboz and his friends will use any means to bring down the Likud government and anoint a left-wing government of concessions and withdrawals led by Tzipi and Buji,” a party spokesman added.

Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett took the speech to be about his voters, and said at a speech to the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya that the group of people Gerboz described, included soldiers who died protecting Israel.

“The small group you described,” Bennett began, using the term ironically, “includes people from development towns, people from Kiryat Shmona, Shlomi, Netivot, Sderot, who wake up at 6 a.m. to say morning prayers and put on tefillin. This small group is people whose culture – our culture - you trampled for a generation.”

According to Bennett, the people Gerboz spoke about “believe the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel...

When they see the Western Wall, they get excited! I get excited! I am proud to stand at the head of this small group!” Echoing Begin, the Bayit Yehudi chairman declared “we are all Jews, we are all brothers,” but added a dig at Gerboz: “What do you do, for God’s sake?” Bennett also accused Livni and Herzog of not speaking out against the rhetoric.

The Zionist Union’s spokesman said “the event and its speakers were not organized by us and we condemn statements that offend the public because of its faith.”

Gerboz told Channel 10 news that his words were “criticism, not condescension,” and that he will not take them back.

Also Sunday, Likud Deputy Minister for Liaison with the Knesset Ophir Akunis criticized Dagan for recently attacking Netanyahu publicly, after the prime minister helped save Dagan’s life by facilitating a liver transplant for him in Belarus in 2012.

In a Channel 2 interview Friday, Dagan acknowledged that Netanyahu had helped him find a new liver and he would always be grateful to him. He said that his current comments were against Netanyahu’s policies, and not directed against the man personally.

During the interview, Dagan can be heard saying “bullshit” while watching Netanyahu tell the US Congress last week that Iran could sprint to a nuclear device in less than a year. Dagan said the assessment was inaccurate and also ridiculed the prime minister’s assertion that Iran has missiles that could hit the US.

Speaking at the rally Saturday, Dagan said, “I am frightened by our leadership. I am afraid because of the lack of vision and loss of direction. I am frightened by the hesitation and the stagnation. And I am frightened, above all else, from a crisis in leadership. It is the worst crisis that Israel has seen to this day.”

Akunis told Army Radio that “if someone had saved my life, I would never in my life even think of coming out with such a venomous attack against him – neither publicly nor privately.” Akunis said that “what Meir Dagan said yesterday was not about the issues, it was personal.”

Daniel Clinton and Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

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