Race: Mizrahi

For all of his adult life economist Shlomo Maoz was - and will probably continue to be - one of the leading exponents of the system that led to his dismissal.

The last person who can complain about the brutal dismissals at the Excellence Nessuah Investment House is the person who was fired, chief economist Shlomo Maoz. And not because he crossed the boundary of good taste and went on a rampage (among other things, blasting the "Ashkenazi establishment" and calling Bank Leumi "the whites' bank" ), but because for all of his adult life he was - and will probably continue to be - one of the leading exponents of the system that led to his dismissal.

Most of Maoz's past statements are tainted by base and embarrassing racism, which for some reason was allowed to continue unchecked. In April of this year, when he said on Channel 1 that "Europe is a geriatric continent," that Israel "has to start turning to the yellow and brown countries" (China and Brazil ), that Ireland is a country of drunks, that "Greece is a country of goatherds," that there is no mutual responsibility in Europe, and asked "Who will come to the aid of Greece? The lame and crippled from Spain and Portugal?" - there was no responsible adult in the television studio to tell him to please shut up. Not to mention barring him from his role as a commentator.

On other programs and channels as well, where Maoz scattered similar pearls, it didn't cross anyone's mind to stop inviting him. Apparently they wanted his provocations. The media, after all, have long been captives of shallow dichotomies, which define nations, countries and communities according to narrow ethnic criteria, and ignore any socioeconomic context.

That is no coincidence. In a sectoral neo-liberal society, which has lost the foundation of solidarity and the civic common denominator, what remains is only the superficial definitions that operate within the closed circle of sectoral interests. They prevent any possibility of a different discourse, and even encourage hatred and incitement. This murky wave provided Maoz with lots of room for surfing, and he gladly rode the wave of incitement. His blatant words of scorn for other countries and communities only bolstered Israeli peacock-like pride, when he explained that Israel's economy is amazingly successful.

Although this economic flourishing wilted momentarily last summer, when the media were swept up in a fashionable trend that admired the social protest and complained about prices, Maoz was not at a loss for words. As the former adviser of ministers and banks and the present adviser of an investment firm, as a representative of the most rightwing economic worldview, and as someone who serves as the chair of one board of directors and is a member of at least five others, he sat in the television studios and spoke of the hardships of the middle class. None of his interviewers asked him about his responsibility for these problems, and especially those of the Mizrahim.

Unlike Maoz's deceptive presentation, the deprivation of the Mizrahim is not ethnic. Its root causes are social and economic. The immigrants from the Arab countries were pushed to the poor periphery of the country for objective reasons (a new country that lacked means ), and for infuriating reasons: condescension, obtuseness, racism and a problematic socio-national structure. The process created a disturbing correlation between ethnic origin and socioeconomic status.

With the development of the country that correlation could have been eliminated, and a window of opportunity for doing so was opened in the wake of the revolt of the Black Panthers, with the appointment of the Katz Commission in the early 1970s. For the first time in Israel the need for expanding and strengthening the welfare state was emphasized at the time. But the 1977 political upheaval brought an opposite message, a rightist economic policy that encouraged privatization, and a long series of reforms (for some of which Maoz can personally take credit ), including that of Benjamin Netanyahu in 2003, which crushed governmental responsibility, weakened the weak, strengthened the strong and perpetuated the correlation.

Since then the situation has steadily deteriorated. Although many Mizrahim from the periphery were able to overcome the deprivation, the tendency to label them as a community was exacerbated and turned into a meaningless and cynical political tool. In reaction to the labeling, new civic groups use it in an empowering way, to counter its very premise. The Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow, Mimizrach Shemesh, and others all emphasize the problematic nature of the correlation and are fighting against it.

Now comes the most outspoken spokesman of the system that caused this correlation, and creates a new definition. According to Maoz, "Mizrahi" is a race, and as such is deprived. We're lucky. Otherwise he would probably have explained that Vicky Knafu (a single mother who in 2003 started a protest movement ), for example, is a lame and drunk goatherd, and that's why she is poor.

Read this article in Hebrew.