The No to Phobia platform, a CSO coalition uniting thirteen organizations, expressed “deep concern” over ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili’s “anti-Semitic” remarks and urged the politician to refrain from using hate speech and discriminatory language.
Saakashvili made the statement on November 18, when he referred to the Israeli campaign strategist, Moshe Klughaft, as “Jewish swindler Moshe.” Commenting the Georgian Dream’s campaign tactics, Saakashvili said: “they have paid more than 1.2 million to some Jewish swindler Moshe to come up with campaign billboards with dreadful faces that they have put up in Tbilisi.”
The No to Phobia platform released a statement in response to Saakashvili’s remarks, saying stereotypical allegation against a person of Jewish origin as a swindler, amounts to anti-Semitism. “Populism aimed at marginalization of other groups harms social cohesion and peace and may have a grave impact on the rights situation of various groups,” they said.
The organizations also noted that this was not the first time Mikheil Saakashvili employed “anti-Semitic language,” and that use of hate speech and “populist, ultraconservative rhetoric” by him has “acquired a systematic nature.”
Saakashvili clarified his remarks in a Facebook post on November 19, saying he “has no problems with the Jewish people, but has a big problem with a concrete individual, who arrived to the country he knows nothing about and is taking part in its final devastation in exchange for money.”
“I have called him what he is – an outright swindler, and as if this is an expression of anti-Semitism,” he stressed.
“I would like to explain for those uninformed that I love and respect the Jewish people, including my Jewish daughter-in-law, but the reality is the following – there is an influx of swindlers in Georgia … the Israeli swindler Moshe has arrived to assist the Russian-Georgian swindler Bidzina [Ivanishvili],” he added.
MP Roman Gotsiridze of the United National Movement denied Saakashvili’s remarks were anti-Semitic, saying this was “an usual political vocabulary.” “A swindler may be Georgian, Jewish and Russian… if it describes the reality correctly, it is not insulting,” he added.