Zionist Camp split reveals ethnic divide among Israeli left

The long years of bitterness between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi on the left are far from over

Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay speaks at a conference held by the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem on March 11, 2018

Danny Zaken writes in Al Monitor, “Labor chair Avi Gabbay unexpectantly announced his political divorce from his Zionist Camp partner, Hatnua head Tzipi Livni, on Jan. 1. The announcement, which broke the Zionist Camp into its original components, was followed by a rapid deterioration in the party’s standing in the polls to single-digit numbers, accompanied by mounting voices calling for Gabbay to be fired.”…

“Beyond the political reasons behind the decision, Gabbay’s description of his childhood years points to another, no less significant factor: discrimination against a Mizrahi who grew up in a slum, in favor of the comparatively well-off and arrogant Ashkenazis represented by Livni. In a hostile speech in which he explained his decision to break with Livni and her party, Gabbay spoke about growing up in a Jerusalem slum in the 1950s, in a family that came from Morocco. This slum and others served originally as transit camps for new immigrants and became poor neighborhoods over the years.”

Gabbay said, “We grew up in asbestos shacks surrounded by new buildings that were populated by more educated families on a higher economic level. Some of the children from those buildings were our good friends. Others looked down their noses at us, the kids from the slums. From a young age, I chose not to give power to the conceited ones. Not to give power to anyone who tells me that I don’t have a chance.”…

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni

“In the interview, Gabbay denied that his firing of Livni during a live broadcast was an act of chauvinism. When asked why he didn’t tell Livni about his intentions beforehand and privately, he said, “I grew up in the hood. In the hood, I learned that if someone hits you, you hit back rather than rush to make peace.” His answer confirms that he did take offense and wanted to get back at the one who offended him. There are some who view his words as another wink toward the right, if they are interpreted in the diplomatic sphere as concerning the Palestinians.”

“Even if Gabbay survives the attempts to topple him, Labor’s expected failure at the voting booths will lead to the recognition that Gabbay has not succeeded in transforming the party, which for a generation of immigrants to Israel from Arab states continues to represent discrimination against the Mizrahi Jews.” (more…)


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