Israeli singer to crowd: 'You're all Ashkenazis...there's not a single riff-raff'

"You are a great audience, such an audience I want. You are all Ashkenazis who sing beautifully, there is not a single riff-raff."

Shlomo Gronich (photo credit: GILAD AVIDAN/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Shlomo Gronich

Musician Shlomo Gronich was accused of making derogatory statements at the Ein Gev Festival on Tuesday.

According to a tweet from the strategic advisor and former IDF spokesperson Avi Benyahu, Gronich addressed the audience during his performance at the festival and said: "You are a great audience, such an audience I want. You are all Ashkenazis who sing beautifully, there is not a single riff-raff."

The evening's host, journalist Nesli Barda, said: "You did not notice that the entire people of Israel are sitting here in the audience and that is why this audience is so beautiful and the songs belong to everyone - to Gronich, to Barda, to everyone." Gronich returned to the stage immediately afterward and said: "I want to apologize to all of you. I should not have said that, it just came out. Sorry."

Gronich later wrote: "In light of the slip of the tongue I had during my performance at the Ein Gev Festival - I really apologize for the stupid statement. I do not know where I got this bad joke from. I apologize from the bottom of my heart. In light of my collaborations over the years, I can not be suspected of being racist."

Culture and Sports Minister Chili Trooper responded: "I am saddened by the ugly, divisive and unnecessary statements of Shlomo Gronich tonight. We love an audience that has everyone in it. We love the whole people of Israel."

"It was good that Nesli Barda was there who knew how to face the ugliness in real time in order to mention the obvious, and it's good that Gronich apologized."

Shas party chairman Arye Deri reacted angrily to Gronich's remarks: "Singer Shlomo Gronich at the Ein Gev Festival said now to the audience these words: 'You are a great audience. Everyone here is Ashkenazis who sing beautifully. There is not a single riff-raff here.' A disgrace. Poor and sickening racism. Gronich, you are a despicable man. And moreover: How come they haven't expelled him from this festival yet?"

Former Culture Minister Miri Regev tweeted: "Yifat Shasha Bitton, are you awake? If you're missing someone for the Israel Prize."

The head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council and the chairman of the Ein Gev Festival, Idan Greenbaum, strongly condemned Gronich's remarks: "The management of the Ein Gev Festival condemns in all ways Gronich's words. Any statement that disparages one public or another is invalid and we do not accept it at all. The host of the show was asked to apologize and condemn the things on stage in front of the audience at the event and the listeners at home, and we also give our apologies. This is not the way of the Ein Gev Festival and is not the spirit of any event in our country. This statement hurt the spirit of the festival and we reject and condemn it with disgust."

In September 2017, before he was about to receive the Education Minister Award for Jewish Culture in the field of Lifetime Achievement, a complaint was filed against Gronich, which was statute-barred, regarding the sexual harassment of a girl following which two more testimonies were published. Nevertheless, it was decided to give Gronich the prize but his wife came instead to the event and to receive the prize.