A day after causing an uproar in Israel by implying that Likud voters were a “marching herd of beasts”, actor Oded Kotler on Monday sought to clarify his remarks.
Speaking to Army Radio, Kotler apologized for the way he worded his comments, but insisted that the premise behind them was correct.
The actor’s remarks had been made at a rally on Sunday night to protest the new government's policy that no funding would go to artists who boycott the state. Kotler, in his remarks, particularly criticized Culture Minister Miri Regev, saying, “Imagine your world, Mrs. Regev, as a quiet world, with no book, no music, no poem, a world with no one to disturb... no one to disturb the nation, in its celebration of 30 mandates, followed by a marching herd of beasts chewing straw and stubble.”
Asked about his comments on Monday, Kotler clarified, "I meant what I said. I'm a beast and [Zionist Union MK] Shelly Yechimovich is also a beast. I did not mean a particular fabric of society or certain citizens. I meant all of us, the herd includes myself.”
“If the wording was less successful, I apologize, but do not take it back,” he continued. “I think we should allow art to flourish and only stop it if it borders on criminal activity. I retract any intention to insult someone from the right, left or center. I spoke out against an ‘artistic herd.’”
Kotler was asked why, if he did not mean a certain part of Israeli society, did he refer specifically to the Likud’s 30 seats in the Knesset.
“My remarks came in response to the Minister of Culture. She talked about thirty seats. The sentence was taken out of context,” he replied, adding, “I have a serious disagreement with the lady who took over as Minister of Culture and said, 'I will show you.'"
"I accept the comment that my words were not clear enough,” continued Kotler. “The Minister of Culture announced that she was the Minister of Culture of everybody. If she is the Minister of Culture of everybody, then she will be the one who will lead the herd, all of us like a herd of beasts.”
Kotler’s remarks were met with criticism from left and right. Opposition chairman MK Yitzhak Herzog said, "Kotler's words, the words that came out of [Yair] Garbuz’s mouth and the applause that followed from the audience, there is nothing between these behaviors and culture and human love or pluralism.”
“Even artists and intellectuals need to know that during a difficult and justified debate, one should choose to treat people who think differently with dignity. Even when their opinion drives one crazy,” continued Herzog.
Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid denounced Kotler’s remarks as well, saying, “Israeli society is allowed to define what is allowed and what is not. We must not fund a play about the life of a terrorist who kidnapped and murdered an IDF soldier. We must not finance a film about the life of Yigal Amir, the murderer of the prime minister. We must not call those who think differently from us a beast.”
“We must not turn this ugly, violent discourse into what defines us. I call on everyone: Stop, calm down, do not let violence run our lives,” he continued.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday morning condemned the statement, though he stressed, "The law allows anyone to say his piece and to create [something about] whatever is on his mind."
Netanyahu added, "The right [to free speech] does not mean that everything that is said and created has the right to public funding. We must separate between these two things."