The candidates running for leadership of the Labor party are good at exposing racism. The phenomenon is not a new one, and has mainly reared its head in the disparaging treatment of Amir Peretz.
I still remember the remarks of Gigi Peres, Shimon Peres’ brother, who said that, “North African phalangists took over the party” after Peretz won the election for Labor chairmanship in 2005. Then, more recently, we heard Isaac “Buji” Herzog describe Peretz to an American colleague using three adjectives: inexperienced, aggressive and Moroccan. And after that Amram Mitzna, a candidate who has no chance and no charisma, claimed, “Herzog and [MK Shelly] Yachimovich have a huge advantage. They are not Amir Peretz. He comes from another land. We can build an effective workforce with them after the election. That didn’t exist in my previous term, when everyone saw only my personal interest. This time it can be different.”
Peretz, who has used his political capabilities to bring an impressive number of new members to the party, has been accused of being an alien. Regardless of whom Labor supporters choose to support, the treatment of Peretz has been outrageous.
It appears that the failed leaders of the Labor party haven’t looked in the mirror lately. They don’t understand that times have changed. Employees at Haifa Chemicals have been striking for nearly two months without the public having heard the voices of the oppressed. In Kiryat Shmona, all of the cultural institutions are shutting down due to debt – an entire city will remain without cultural venues. Say what you will about Peretz, but he is conscious of such enormous social problems and he seeks their resolution. He isn’t from a different planet. He simply adheres to a different ideology.
According to reports, in his remarks about the recent Labor party membership drive, Mitzna said, “Amir Peretz recruits people who don’t belong in the Labor party. He brings hamulot [a derogatory term for extended families or clans]. He is building himself a camp of supporters, so that even if he loses in the primaries, he will be able to impose himself on the winner. I hear horrible things about the membership drive.”
Mitzna apparently doesn’t understand politics. He doesn’t understand that every leader builds a camp of supporters for himself. But, more importantly, he has once again repeated the mantra that Mizrahi Jews are influenced by a herd mentality. It’s a shame that the battle for Labor party leadership has highlighted the division of Israel according to east and west – and implied that if someone is Mizrahi, something is wrong with him, he is an alien, unprofessional, aggressive, or finally, Moroccan.