(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Senior politicians from the coalition and opposition joined the wave of condemnations Wednesday, against MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi), who on Tuesday advocated separating Jews and Arabs in maternity wards.
Smotrich had commented that, “after giving birth [his] wife wants to rest and not have a party like Arab women do,” and his “wife would not want to lay down next to someone who just gave birth to a baby who might want to murder her baby in 20 years.”
His remarks followed an Israel Radio report that several hospitals around the country separated Jewish and Arab women in the maternity ward, at some women’s request, though it is illegal.
The report and Smotrich’s support of the policy sparked outrage across the political spectrum.
MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) wrote a letter to State Comptroller Joseph Shapira Wednesday, asking that he investigate the policies.
“It appears to be a clear act of racism, which defies the law and twists the State of Israel’s principles of equality,” Shai said. “The Health Ministry is not enforcing its own decisions. An investigation must take place swiftly and assertively in order to uproot the plague of racism from within us.”
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, speaking at the Bar Association Conference in Eilat, said he rejects Smotrich’s remarks. “This is just a symptom of increasing hostility to minorities. This has been going on for many years. We are in a bad place regarding racism and hatred of the other,” he stated.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid also came out against Smotrich’s comments, saying they are similar to ones “that were common in Germany in the 1930s.”
According to Lapid, the government is “being dragged after extremists’ brutality.”
“Israel has enough enemies on the outside. It cannot allow itself to have political leadership that fuels the flames instead of being responsible and lowering the flames,” he added.
On Tuesday, after Smotrich made his comments, first on twitter and later on various radio stations, Bayit Yehudi chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett came out against them.
Bennett tweeted a quote from the Mishna, “beloved is the person created in the image of God,” adding “every person, Jewish or Arab.” He shared a Facebook post from last year, when the Education Minister’s father was in the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, in the same room as Khaled, an Arab man, in which Bennett wrote that in the hospital, everyone is the same, regardless of background.
On Wednesday, Bennett tweeted a quote by the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Avraham Yitzhak Kook: “Love of [God’s] creations must spread to all people, despite differences of religions and races. Narrow-mindedness, which sees what is outside of one’s nation as ugly and impure, is among the worst darkness that destroys all that is good.”
Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, a prominent rabbi in Samaria, however, agreed with Smotrich.
“MK Smotrich expressed the opinion of most of the public, and the media does not reflect the majority,” Levanon posited in an interview with Galei Israel, a regional West Bank radio station.
“This isn’t just hatred of non-Jews and strangers, it’s not hatred of Arabs, it’s not hatred. It is a nation with a different mentality. That nation [Arabs] is raised with a violent mentality. It cannot be ignored.”
Levanon pointed to a higher crime rate among Israeli Arabs than Jews, and said it should not be ignored.
“It’s not nice to say it. It’s not flattering...
but those are the statistics. The different mentality is expressed when I am in a hospital, and when I visit sick people, when a whole tribe comes to visit and makes noise... There are Arabs that don’t make noise; they’re the minority... It’s their right to bring dozens of people [to the hospital]... I would separate them from those who have difficulties with this mentality, so they can get better in the hospital in peace and quiet,” he said.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.