MK Dr. Shimon Ohayon (Yisrael Beytenu) has criticized the controversy surrounding President Rivlin's decision to cancel a performance by singer Amir Benayoun at a special event marking the ethnic-cleansing of Jews from Arab states and Iran.
The President's office announced it would be scrapping Benayoun's scheduled performance at an event marking the expulsion of Jews from Arab Lands and Iran for next Sunday, November 30, after the Mizrahi singer released a song branding Israeli-Arab terrorists "slimy ingrates."
A spokesman for the President accused Benayoun of "promoting division" between Jews and Arabs, and supporters of the decision to cancel his performance have claimed the song is "racist." Benayoun, among others, has pointed out that the song merely attacks those Israeli Arabs who murder Jews, and not directed towards the Arab-Israeli public at large.
Some MKs have even called on people to boycott the event in protest of the move, with Deputy Minister Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan (Jewish Home) accusing the President of "harming creative freedom in Israel."
But Ohayon - who drafted a law which succeeded in creating the national day of commemoration for the Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran - lamented that the entire controversy is distracting people for the actual issue at hand: the expulsion of Jews from Muslim lands.
"The real issue of racism here is the expulsion and forcing out of 850,000 people from their ancient homes because they were Jews and no one is talking about that, or has talked about it for 66 years," Dr. Ohayon said. "Suddenly a song which is considered offensive by some is gaining attention and once again people are forgetting about the historic injustice done to so many people that has still not been rectified."
"I call on everyone to concentrate on the real issue and if we focus on one song but forget the plight of hundreds of thousands of Jews who have still found no redress, compensation or apology for being thrown out of their homes, communities and countries then we as a nation have our priorities completely wrong," he added.
MK Ohayon's law was passed earlier this year, and designated November 30th as the official national day of commemoration for the Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
Watch - Foreign Affairs Ministry video commemorating expulsion of Jews from Arab lands:
In implementing the law, the Pensioners Affairs Ministry was given responsibility for sponsoring the official commemoration ceremony, and the Education Ministry was given responsibility to ensure that the history and expulsion of the Jews from the Middle East and North Africa was taught in Israeli schools, while the Foreign Ministry was given responsibility to ensure that the issue was raised in relevant diplomatic discussions and that commemoration events will be held around the world.
This year events will take place at dozens of locations including in Washington D.C., New York, Montreal, Sydney, Singapore, Paris, London and Rome, and a special commemorative event will also be held at the United Nations.
On the 2nd December, the Knesset will hold a special session devoted to the issue and the Education, Internal and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s will discuss issues relating to the subject.
"It is time that this issue is placed on the regular agenda of every relevant institution in Israel," Ohayon continued. "These events directly affected around half of the Jewish population of Israel and it has never been discussed and officially related to until this law.”
"Now we see that the issue has been hijacked because of an issue that should pale into insignificance compared with the ethnic-cleansing of whole populations and communities.
"If we talk about racism today, unless the Jews who were expelled and forced out of Arab countries do not receive a full apology and redress then it will be hard for the Jewish State to imagine it can be fully integrated in and at peace with the wider region.”