Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sephardim rebut allegations of discrimination

The example of the Beit Yaakov girls' school in Immanuel discriminating against Sephardi pupils has not only been been turning the presses of the anti-Zionist media, but is touted by the New Israel Fund in Canada as typical of the treatment Sephardim can expect in Israel. But the state has imposed a fine on Beit Yaakov, and members of the Sephardi community in Israel have refuted the NIF allegations of discrimination. The Jewish Tribune reports:

TORONTO – Yifat Bitton, a lawyer and co-chair of the Tmura Centre, an Israeli civil rights group under the umbrella of the New Israel Fund (NIF), spoke recently at Adath Israel synagogue as a guest of NIF Canada on discrimination in the Jewish state.

She specifically addressed the alleged prejudice against Jews of Middle Eastern, Central Asian, Caucasian and North African origin, known as Sephardim or Mizrahim. The talk was covered by a number of local Jewish newspapers, and it seems, according to the coverage, that no one questioned the validity of Bitton’s premise.

Bitton has been raising awareness of what she claims is bigotry against Jews of Sephardic origin, and in Toronto she discussed the highly unusual case of the Beit Yaakov school in Immanuel, Israel, which completely segregated Ashkenazi and Sephardi students.

“This Immanuel case is representative of what’s going on in Israel,” she declared.

The second-class status of Sephardim in Israel among many circles and institutions was prevalent in the early years of the state, when Jews of vastly different backgrounds came together for the first time in centuries. However, that sad chapter appears to have ended decades ago. The Jewish Tribune contacted several members of the Israeli Sephardic community for their impressions on the situation.

“The story is over,” asserted Jonathan Dahoah Halevi, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd., former advisor in the ministry of Foreign Affairs and editor of Shalom Toronto. Both of his parents were born in Yemen and his father was a political activist against discrimination in the ’70s and ’80s.

“I am clearly familiar with issues of discrimination,” Halevi told the Jewish Tribune. “No party today could grab votes for an agenda of discrimination against Sephardim. No marketing strategy today appeals specifically to them.”

Bitton’s claim of discrimination against Sephardim “is not the true picture of what’s happening in Israel – totally not,” he stated, referring to the equal chances of mobility in the army, government offices and universities.

“It’s not even a consideration. It’s absolutely irrelevant."

Read article in full


Anonymous said...

Discrimination against mizrahim is still going on to this day - by the Israeli government itself! Nowadays they are giving holocaust survivors extra privileges and money (a couple of years ago it was decided that a holocaust survivor is anyone born in Europe till 1.1.1947! it doesn't matter wether he was in nazi camp or not). The excuse is that even those who were not in camps lived in fear, etc... Didn't the mizrahim live in fear? mizrahim were killed, persecuted, jailed, kidnapped, tortured, arab governments for years and years. Why should everyone who was born in Europe till 1947 get extra priveleges over mizrahim?????? This is pure discrimaination!

bataween said...

Of course you are right that Mizrahim were never compensated for anything - and one of the aims of this blog is to get recognition, and compensation, for them.
The biggest difference between Holocaust survivors and Mizrahim is that the Israeli government is passing on to survivors reparations from the Germans and other Europeans (even then - I seem to recall a scandal that many survivors were living in poverty). We are a long way from Arab governments even admitting that Mizrahim suffered, let alone that they owe them reparations.

Anonymous said...

Some of the funds for holocaust survivors in Israel do not originate from abroad, but from the israeli budget! All israeli citizens should get an equal share of the pie (the budget), but as things stand, those who are defined as holocaust survivors get a bigger share. The discrimination by the Israeli government between those born in Europe and those born in arab countries is outrageous.

BadTux said...

I find the allegations of "no discrimination in government" to be hilarious. How many Israelis are Sephardi? How many Israeli *leaders* are Sephardi? Enough said on that. The election of a dark-skinned Israeli Prime Minister or President would make headlines just as much as the election of President Obama in the United States did -- because until it happened, it seemed inconceivable.