Knesset Ethics Committee obligates MK to apologize to 'Hotam'

MK Stern ordered to apologize to organization director Rabbi Amital Bareli for remarks during Knesset committee hearing.

Mordechai Sones,

MK Elazar Stern
MK Elazar Stern
Photo: Miriam Alster, Flash 90

The Knesset Ethics Committee heard a complaint filed against MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid), demanding that he apologize for disparaging remarks he made to Rabbi Amital Bareli, Executive Director of the Hotam organization, which disseminates Judaism in the public arena. The remarks were made in a discussion held last May in the Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women.

"The committee found that what was said was uncalled for, and asked MK Stern to apologize. MK Stern gave the committee a retraction stating that he was recanting the statements quoted in the complaint, regretting they were said," wrote MK Yitzhak Vaknin, Ethics Committee Chairman.

It was also noted that the committee accepted and decided that the apology was sufficient rather than initiating weightier proceedings against Stern.

The complaint was filed by attorney Moshe Polski of the Hotam organization, following belittling and odious statements made by Stern against Bareli, who was invited to testify before the Committee for the Advancement of Women. In the midst of a presentation, Stern objected to a photograph from an animated video released by Hotam, warning of the dangers of military service to young religious women. Stern opposed the animated video's heroine, claiming that it conveyed sexuality.

"I don't know any female soldiers who look like this. I do not know of someone with a beard and a skullcap giving such a prominence in his painting to a protruding chest on a blonde girl - that's disrespectful," Stern remarked. "Maybe there are those among your students who are affected by this." Stern did not stop there, but continued with a sexual innuendo: "It does something to him, maybe it does; perhaps take it home - take the picture to your wife, stick it in your bed," Stern exclaimed.

Following the incident, Hotam petitioned the Knesset Ethics Committee to impose disciplinary measures against Stern. "The recording of the meeting shows that the provocation was planned and prepared by MK Stern, with a premeditated aim to humiliate the organization he [Bareli] represents and publicly humiliate him with no relevance to the subject under discussion, so as not to allow substantive discussion of the subject," stated the letter.

After Stern's apology was received, Hotam issued a statement: "It was important for MK Stern to apologize for statements that embarrass him and the Knesset. Similarly, we expect another apology to the chief rabbis whom he disparaged only last week."