Anat Berko and Orly Levy.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM,KNESSET)
MK Anat Berko (Likud) came under fire on Thursday for “sexist” comments she made on Twitter against another MK, Orly Levy-Abecassis.
Berko wrote on Twitter: “Orly, you should concentrate on more elegant ways to stay relevant. Modeling for the cover of La’Isha [‘For the Woman’ magazine] is certainly one of them.”
Her statement was in response to a tweet by Levy-Abecassis, a former model who posed for the cover of La’Isha last week, criticizing the lack of government funding to the periphery.
Levy-Abecassis, an independent lawmaker since she resigned from Yisrael Beytenu last May, had tweeted: “Berko: Unfortunately I visit hospitals in the North.”
Levy-Abecassis responded: “Sorry about what? That you had to crush your feet? Or about what you see there? If so, appeal to your coalition members and demand funding!” The Twitter spat was a continuation on social media of a heated discussion that took place on Wednesday in the Knesset plenum regarding funding for the periphery.
Berko’s tweet struck a nerve with Twitter followers, who responded en mass and took her to task.
“[Former US secretary of state] Madeline Albright said: ‘There is a special place in hell saved for women who don’t help other women.’ Sexism is not worthy of you as an MK and as a woman,” one follower wrote.
Another follower wrote: “Orly Levy criticized you, maybe you didn’t like to hear it, but it was relevant. You responded like the worst kind of chauvinist. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Galia Wolloch, president of the NA’AMAT Israel women’s organization, penned a letter to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein regarding Berko’s comment and titled the letter “A refresher on gender discourse in the Israeli Knesset.”
“The gender discourse, which defames and insults women, escalated when an MK used chauvinistic and misogynistic terms against another Knesset member,” she wrote.
Wolloch called out Berko’s comments and said she essentially told Levy-Abecassis to “be pretty and shut up.”
“Such dialogue takes us back years in the fight against discrimination against women and the harm they receive because they are women. The fact that these words come from a woman indicated the depth of the crisis, which is primarily educational,” she wrote.
“In other words, MK Berko internalized the insulting and sexist masculine discourse and turned it into a part of her own basic concepts,” she said.
Wolloch called on the Knesset speaker to hold lectures on gender discourse, clarifying what is allowed and what is not as well as what is expected of public officials on such an important issue.
“... there should be a clear boundary against insulting discourse against women,” she said.
Levy-Abecassis responded to the controversy in a statement on Thursday and said that “unfortunately, we have already heard a number of embarrassing comments from her [Berko] on other subjects and I prefer to focus on the important struggle for the North.”
The MK said that unfortunately the coalition members only acknowledge the North when there are missiles being fired from Lebanon or other security concerns, and fail to see the strategic importance in funding the development of the region.