With the Israeli elections looming, an artist and Haaretz contributor called Yair Garboz (Garbuz) has been venting his prejudices against 'talisman-kissers' and 'tomb worshippers', an obvious reference to Israel's Sephardim and Mizrahim. Condemnation comes from an unlikely source, founder of the far-leftist 972 magazine Dimi Reider. Reider produces some fascinating data indicating that Israelis still vote along ethnic lines, with the poorer Mizrahim supporting Shas and the more affluent Ashkenazim supporting Yesh Atid and Meretz. The mainstream parties are more evenly divided. The left needs to address Mizrahi grievances if it is to make headway, writes Reider. I would say he is partly right - but the Left also needs to tailor its foreign policy agenda to a constituency hard-bitten by Arab antisemitism.
Yair Garboz:derided 'talisman-kissers'
remarks were not merely patronising and prejudiced, throwing such
innocuous - and to many, cherished - experiences as pilgrimage into the
same category as corruption, genocidal racism and murder. They also
highlighted a tremendously important and painful political divide that
usually goes unseen by foreign observers: Israeli voters attribute
considerable importance to the often unstated ethnic affiliation of a
party, almost as much as they do to its political role.
A week before the rally, this
overwhelmingly ignored reality was confirmed by a rare survey broadcast
by Channel 10 that asked for whom Ashkenazis and Mizrahis intended to
vote. The resulting division could not be clearer: 51 percent of the
potential voters who support the Zionist Union, which the current
standard bearer of Labor Zionism, are Ashkenazi, and only 29 percent are
Among the voters for the Union’s
more liberal cousin, Meretz, whose stronghold is among Tel Aviv
academics, kibbutzim and professionals, 69 percent are Ashkenazi and 12
percent are Mizrahi. Habayit Hayehudi, product of the historic Ashkenazi
Religious Zionist movement, has 46 percent Ashkenazi voters and 31
percent Mizrahi. Yesh Atid, an “apolitical” centrist capitalist party
appealing to Israel’s urban young professionals, has 51 percent
Ashkenazi voters and 29 percent Mizarhi.
Meanwhile, Likud, the original
vehicle of Mizrahi electoral awakening, boasts the most equal division
between the two communities, with 41 percent Ashkenazi voters and 39
percent Mizrahi. Kulanu, a centrist party led by a prominent Mizrahi,
ex-Likud politician Moshe Kahlon, comes close to the Likud balance with
36 percent Ashkenazi voters and 42 percent Mizrahi. Shas, the only party
so far to bill itself as a party by Mizrahis for Mizrahis,
specifically, ultra-Orthodox Sephardi Jews, boasts 75 percent Mizrahis
among its voters and only 5 percent Ashkenazi.
These results are further borne out by the voting data from the 2013 elections, processed into map form
by the Madlan real estate portal. Hover over Tel Aviv, its northern
suburbs or any of the kibbutzim that dot the map, and you will see
overwhelming votes for Labor, Meretz and Yesh Atid.
Tel Aviv’s poorer southern suburbs, like Bat Yam and Rishon Letzion, or
over the far-flung “development towns” where the original Mizrahi
immigrants were shunted, and see the color change to blue, with
overwhelming vote for right-wing parties and for Shas.
Israeli left-wingers who like to
claim that intra-Jewish discrimination is a thing of the past also like
to wonder loudly - and often sneeringly - why the poorest Israelis
continue to vote for Netanyahu, even though his ultra-capitalist
economic policies hurt them first. The question should rather be who and
what they are voting against, and how the left-wing parties can address these grievances, past and present.
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A rejoinder by Benny Ziffer in Haaretz (with thanks: Eliyahu)
Cavemen accuse national poet of racism
Playwright derides mezuzah-kissers as fools