Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mizrahim are missing from Meretz

 Zahava Gal-On, leader of Ashkenazi-dominated Meretz

 The leftist party Meretz has doubled its seats in the new Israeli Knesset - to six. But while one will be occupied by an Arab, the rest will be reserved for Ashkenazim, explains Tsafi Saar in Haaretz. In case you' re wondering why Mizrahim are missing from Meretz - the answer is simply that the far left has never shown much understanding of their abused human rights and painful history in the Arab world.

The Meretz representatives are all good people. Their heart is in the right place. Good souls. Which brings us to their election campaign, an effort rife with mistakes. It started with the patronizing slogan "Your heart is on the left, neshama" – that final word, "my soul," is a term of endearment characteristic of non-Ashkenazi speakers of Hebrew.

Then there was that video that mocked people taking part in the Revivo Project, a revival of old songs from Middle Eastern Jewish traditions, one of the best music projects in recent years. It sometimes seemed as if the campaign were trying to persuade people not to vote for Meretz.

The thing is, the Meretz people really are good people. And smart – they have an explanation for everything. When asked about their lack of Mizrahim (Jews of Middle Eastern origin), they noted that their three top spots were filled by a woman, a disabled person and a gay man. About the mocking video, they said it was made not by the party but by its supporters. Even if in some cases such answers are acceptable, the questions leave no room for doubt: The party has a problem. A big problem.

In fact, Meretz is continuing the Israeli left's long and inglorious tradition of (in the best case) ignoring Mizrahim, including the Mizrahi left. In the past this was clear racism. What is it today? Why the insularity and foregoing of activities with people committed to similar values? How can it be that a party that waves the banners of human rights, equality and pluralism is sending to the Knesset only people from a hegemonic class? How come its leaders don’t understand that this produces a lack of trust, which the high-flown words, the willingness and even the worthy actions won't dispel?

If Meretz wants to establish a real and broad left, it has to start now. Yesterday it should have begun a thorough inspection, not to say revolution. First, its men and women must acknowledge the problem. There is no escaping it, and no intellectual explanation will sweep it under the rug.

As every female politician in Meretz no doubt knows, men, no matter how progressive and enlightened, cannot faithfully represent women’s interests. In this way, Ashkenazim cannot represent Mizrahim, and the same applies to Jews and Palestinians.

Throughout the country groups of activists are busy at work, and if Meretz has the sense to realize that they are its only hope (not the other way around) and to cooperate with them – not as a senior partner and patron – hope could spring here. And it wouldn't just be for the party, but for all Israel.

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6 comments:

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

I don't agree with the author that Meretz people are good folk. They are encouraging Arabs to make war on Israel. As to Mizrahim in Israel, Merets folk may have prejudices. But part of their problem is their psychological need to be in step with the world "left". But world "Left" has an agenda --who sets the agenda, I can't be sure-- which sees Arabs as eternal, innocent victims. Thus, the Arabs can never have harmed Jews, or Mizrahi Jews in particular. Hence, the particular history of Jews in Arab countries must be suppressed and kept unknown for the sake of the "Left's" pro-Arab narrative. For the sake of the cause.

Likewise, the Israeli educational system dominated as it has been by "Leftists" [most of them also Ashkenazim, to be sure], could not go too deeply into the Arab-Muslim dhimma system or into Arab collaboration with the Nazis and in the Holocaust. [I actually once had a discussion with an Israeli high school history teacher who questioned whether the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, had really been a Nazi colloborator].

Anonymous said...

There's no better place to talk about prejudice against Mizrahim than on the pages of Haaretz. But they should be doing a mea culpa, not trying to give lessons. From the offensive and racial prejudice in the beginning of the State till today, with the thinly veiled contempt of it's editorial line and columnists, Haaretz is the proof that the left can't offer anything to the Mizrahim (or to any self-respecting Israeli).

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

to get a feel for how some of Israel's "Left" think about their fellow citizens who don't belong to their club, let's look at their views on music appreciation, rather than something more obviously controversial like policy toward the PLO or such like. In the 1990s, Shulamit Aloni, the high priestess of "Leftist" orthodoxy, decreed that religious people don't like or listen to classical music. In other words, their musical taste is inferior. No doubt inferior to that of "leftists" who appreciate such sounds as hard rock, techno, rap, trance, etc etc.

Apparently following his priestess' dogmas, Gideon Levy, HaArets' expert on Arab affairs and on how Israel is always mean and rotten to them, wrote about a free concert that was given in the summer at Tel Aviv's exhibition grounds [ganey haTa`arukhah]. He asserted that there were no Oriental Jews at all in the crowd that numbered maybe 20,000 or 30,000. Hence, Mizrahi Jews have inferior taste in music. No doubt Arab musical taste is impeccable.

This article by Levy was about the summer of 2010 or 2009, as I recall. Maybe in late June.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago, Haaretz published an article about how the Hebrew language was being destroyed by the new generation -- using, if I recall it right, Yossi Sarid's "עשר שקל" rant as a starting point. The columnist (I don't remember who it was), started to list those enlightened and superior artists who were still trying to educate our moronic masses and still cared about the proper pronunciation of the letters. She brought quite a few names and, to my surprise, all but one were Ashkenazim, and mostly the idols of the yuppies. Not a single Mizrahit artist was mentioned. I wonder why.

C. Bendavid said...

Be careful Eliyahu, Meretz (and its ancestor, Mapam) are not part of the global left. They are actually rejected by the global left, the same way as Moshe Sneh and the MAKI Party ended up rejected by Moscow.
The Israeli Zionist left (even the far left), has been rejected by the radical Left, alll over the world, not after the Six Day War, unlike what people tend to believe, but rather after the May of1968 events, which marked the rise of the "New Left", for whom the mere fact that Israel was created by Europeans, necessarily means that Israel is a colonial state. Thus, they reject everything related to Zionism, including the Zionist far left. The only Israelis they accept, are either post-Zionists like Shlomo Sand or Ilan Pappe, and the members of the defunct Matzpen. In fact, even Hadash is too Zionist for the far left outside Israel. But please, keep in mind that so far, Hadash has refused any kind of partnership with Hadash, because of it refuses to endorse Zionism.

C. Bendavid said...

Sorry for the last sentence, I meant, so far, Meretz has refused to envision an alliance with Hadash because of its refusal to endorse clearly Zionism.
As for the Mizrahi issue, frankly, Likud is not a home for us anymore. They have taken us for granted for too long.
As a result, they have become one of the most AshKenazi party in the Knesset. Frankly, I don't see Likud with a Mizrahi leader anytime soon. Just look at the way David Levy was dismissed by the party. It hasn't changed since then. The left however has had two Mizrahi leaders over the last decade.