Deaf MK is 'dim-witted' and 'cannot speak' - right-wing radio show host

A radio show host from a right-wing station called Israel's first deaf MK Shirly Pinto 'stupid' and 'dim-witted' and said that it was good she was deaf after she accused Netanyahu of incitement.

Shirley Pinto, the first deaf Knesset member with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during a swearing in ceremony of new Israeli parliament members at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, June 16, 2021. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Shirley Pinto, the first deaf Knesset member with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during a swearing in ceremony of new Israeli parliament members at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, June 16, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)

A presenter on a right-wing radio station on Tuesday called deaf MK Shirly Pinto (Yamina) "stupid" and "dim-witted" and said that it was good that she was deaf and "doesn't know how to talk."

The presenter, Yossi Ben-Atar of Galei Israel (94 FM), hosts a daily program called "Nerve Center," which is characterized on the station's website as "a program that enables its listeners to say their opinion on any topic in the news."

"Shirly Pinto is stupid and dim-witted. It is good that you [Pinto] are deaf and we don't hear your high-pitched voice, it's good that you don't know how to speak," he said.

Ben-Atar's remarks came after Pinto was denounced on Monday for accusing opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu of incitement.

Monday marked 26 years since the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, during which Netanyahu was also opposition head and was accused by many to have fanned the flames of vitriolic public discourse.
Swearing-in of MK Shirley Pinto, the first deaf MK in the Knesset (credit: NOAM MOSKOVITZ/KNESSET)Swearing-in of MK Shirley Pinto, the first deaf MK in the Knesset (credit: NOAM MOSKOVITZ/KNESSET)

"The attack on Shirly Pinto is an attack on any person with disabilities in Israel," Foreign Minister Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter in her defense. "I would like to strengthen my friend Shirly, we are proud of her and proud that she is a Member of Knesset," he wrote.

Galei Yisrael issued an apology on Twitter.

"Radio Galei Yisrael is unwilling to accept statements of the type that was spoken and apologizes to MK Pinto and anyone else who was hurt," the tweet read.

"It should be noted that the presenter apologized for how words soon after they were said."

As the daughter of two deaf parents and the wife of a deaf husband, Pinto has seen firsthand the barriers to accessibility for those who rely on sign language.

Pinto is a long-time activist for those with disabilities, is one of the establishers of the 'Israeli Deaf Center for Deaf Studies' and has led the "I sign, I am equal" campaign in September 2016 aimed at raising awareness of the importance of sign language in the public sphere. She has served as a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University’s sign language interpreting program and a volunteer as the Ramat Gan Municipality’s adviser on disability affairs.

In 2019 Pinto joined the Yamina party as it headed to elections. In June 2021, with the swearing-in of Naftali Bennett as the 13th Israeli Prime Minister, Pinto became a member of the coalition making her the first deaf MK in the history of the Knesset.