Blue and White MK denies accusations of racism, releases interview tape

The recording taken by Hendel was sent in an internal Blue and White party WhatsApp group and, from there, was released to the media.

Yoaz Hendel (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yoaz Hendel
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Blue and White MK Yoaz Hendel on Sunday released a recording of his interview with Haaretz that took place over the weekend, for which he was criticized for making racist comments.
The recording, according to Hendel, justifies his statement by showing the context within which it was brought up, while author Ravit Hecht stuck by her article on a recent Haaretz podcast episode.
The recording taken by Hendel was sent in an internal Blue and White party WhatsApp group and, from there, was released to the media.
The interview was originally released by Haaretz, which was written by Hecht and titled, “I believe the Arab culture around us is a jungle.” It quoted Hendel as saying: “People came here from many countries, some with a mentality of a concert in Vienna and some came with a mentality of darbukas [Middle Eastern drums].”
This statement circulated on social media, with many people accusing the MK of racism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retweeted a Likud statement on Twitter saying that Hendel should be ashamed of himself. The tweet compared Hendel to leftist artist and author Yair Garbuz, who made news ahead of the 2015 election when he compared Likud voters “primitives” who “bow down at the graves of the dead.”
In the recording of the interview, Hendel says: “There were things that weren’t good that were done in the past, there were mistakes, there were errors. The Zionist movement is not perfect. Building this country was a complex business. Many mistakes were made, but at the end of the day, a country was made here that is a large miracle.”
“I truly hope that we can eliminate the ‘ethnic demon,’” Hendel said, referring to the lingering social barrier between Israelis of different ethnicities, such as between European origins and those from Mizrahi origins (who are descendants of local Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa from biblical times into the modern era).
“I do not wish to refer [to] the ethnicities. There is something beautiful in them, but I am not asking you what your ethnicity is, I have no clue, and I do not know what his ethnicity is and it does not concern me,” he said, pointing at different people in the room during the interview. “I know there are some who nurture it, but when I look at my surroundings, I tell you, it’s a mixed environment, and when I look at my family, it is mixed, and when I look at my army service, it is mixed.”
“I refuse to revive the ‘ethnic demon,’” Hendel said in the recording. “I do not live this way. If it were up to me, I would create an Israeli prayer cycle and not Ashkenazi and Sephardi. Who said there are no Mizrahim who vote Blue and White and vice versa?”
Hecht stuck by her article that portrayed Hendel in a racist light in an episode of the Haaretz podcast released on Sunday afternoon.
“I met him in the middle of last week in the new Blue and White offices in Ramat Hahayal,” Hecht said. “I know Yoaz for many years... and I am willing to sign off as [a] witness to his character, which is that of one of the better people in politics, a man with good intentions.”
Gil Hoffman and Maariv contributed to this report.