Israel is now a kind of federation of several major demographic-cultural blocs which dominate our social and political life.
Who are they? There are (1) the old Ashkenazim (Jews of European origin); (2) the Oriental (or “Sephardi”) Jews; (3) the religious (partly Ashkenazi, partly Oriental); (4) the “Russians”, immigrants from all the countries of the former Soviet union; and (5) the Palestinian-Arab citizens, who did not come from anywhere.
This is, of course, a schematic presentation. None of the blocs is completely homogeneous. Each bloc has several sub blocs, some blocs overlap, there is some intermarriage, but on the whole, the picture is accurate. Gender plays no role in this division.
The political scene almost exactly mirrors these divisions. The Labor party was, in its heyday, the main instrument of Ashkenazi power. Its remnants, together with Kadima and Meretz, are still Ashkenazi. Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beytenu consists mainly of Russians. There are three or four religious parties. Then there are two exclusively Arab parties, and the Communist party, which is mainly Arab, too. The Likud represents the bulk of the Orientals, though almost all its leaders are Ashkenazim.
The relationship between the blocs is often strained. Just now, the whole country is in an uproar because in Kiryat Malakhi, a southern town with mainly Oriental inhabitants, house owners have signed a commitment not to sell apartments to Ethiopians, while the Rabbi of Safed, a northern town of mainly Orthodox Jews, has forbidden his flock to rent apartments to Arabs.
But apart from the rift between the Jews and the Arabs, the main problem is the resentment of the Orientals, the Russians and the religious against what they call “the Ashkenazi elite”. (...)
It may be said, quite rightly, that I generalize. I do, just to simplify matters. There are indeed a lot of Orientals, especially of the younger generation, who are repelled by the ultra-nationalism of the Likud, the more so as the neo-liberalism of Binyamin Netanyahu (which Shimon Peres once called “swinish capitalism”) is in direct contradiction to the basic interests of their community. There are also a lot of decent, liberal, peace-loving religious people. (Yeshayahu Leibovitz comes to mind.) Some Russians are gradually leaving their self-imposed ghetto. But these are small minorities in their communities. The bulk of the three blocs – Oriental, Russian and religious – are united in their opposition to peace, and at best indifferent to democracy.
All these together constitute the right-wing, anti-peace coalition that is governing Israel now. The problem is not just a question of politics. It is much more profound – and much more daunting.
SOME PEOPLE blame us, the democratic peace movement, for not recognizing the problem early enough, and not doing enough to attract the members of the various blocs to the ideals of peace and democracy. Also, it is said, we did not show that social justice is inseparably connected with democracy and peace.
I must accept my share of the blame for this failure, though I might point out that I tried to make the connection right from the beginning.(...)
I put my trust in the new generation. Last summer’s huge social protest movement, which erupted quite suddenly and swept [“along”?] hundreds of thousands, showed that yes, it can happen here. The movement united Ashkenazim and Orientals. Tent cities sprang up in Tel Aviv and Beer Sheva, all over the place.
Our first job is to break the barriers between the blocs, change reality, create a new Israeli society. We need blockbusters.
Yes, it is a daunting job. But I believe it can be done.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 09:50