The Shas Party as an Option for Leftists? You’ve Got to Be Kidding

An Israeli social activist has declared that she’ll vote for this ultra-Orthodox party, for which theft is a way of life, not helping people.

Olivier Fitoussi

This land mine wasn’t swept away by the recent flooding in Israel. It’s buried in exactly the same place since the founding of the state. I saw it as I approached, but I wasn’t careful. Maybe the Mizrahi siren lured me.

An Israeli “social activist” has declared that Shas, that ultra-Orthodox Mizrahi party, “is the only party that represents me,” and her friend, an “intellectual,” agreed. I didn’t understand. How does Shas represent them if it has no women, Arabs or new immigrants from Ethiopia and Russia on its party ticket — and not a single Ashkenazi?

This is Shas, which for more than 30 years has been plowing through Israeli politics, on the backs of its supporters. Shas has been weakening its foot soldiers — just as long as the spring of its voters doesn’t run dry.

Isn’t this the Shas that sat in governments backing tough policies and throwing tens of thousands into poverty? Yes, that’s Shas, which just recently promised to continue to eat at Benjamin Netanyahu’s table — who’s well known for his great compassion for the needy. If Bibi weren’t prime minister he’d be a “social activist” in Caesarea, where he has that house.

Who doesn’t remember the reason for Shas’ founding: to return to the “crown of glory,” the glorious days of old. Instead of returning to it, they stole it. Seven ministers and Knesset members from Shas have been embroiled in crimes; most of them stole from the party’s education system, because they steal from children too. Even those born without a silver spoon in their mouths may swallow a spoon of gold.

I should stop here, but I’ll continue through the mine field. Thirty-three years ago King Hassan II of Morocco signaled his desire to improve relations with Israel. He invited MKs, all originally from North Africa. Will Yossi Sarid come too, the King asked his advisers. “No, he wasn’t invited,” they answered, “because Sarid isn’t one of us.” Then arrange it, the king ordered.

And so it was arranged: The Moroccan Embassy in Paris issued “travel documents” for us instead of visas. “The document will be taken from you when you leave and no one will ever know you were there,” we were told.

But I’m no sucker, I copied it, to keep it as a memento: place of birth, Casablanca, it said. I was born again. I kept it for many years. I believed that with such a pedigree — in the name of His Majesty — I would go far. After all, Menachem Begin from Warsaw made a rather impressive career as a Moroccan.

Until I sobered up. After all, my mother and father were Ashkenazim from Poland; we never lived through transit camps because my parents came to Israel 20 years before the state was founded.

But there’s no way to fix this deformity. My father was a Mapainik and a member of the Labor Party, and I myself have no fond memories of the flavors of my grandmother’s kitchen, because Hitler took her away too soon. Ya’akov was a teacher for decades who earned a frugal wage, and Doba was a housewife whose legs took her to the market.

What haven’t I tried to be rid of my birth defect; to beg forgiveness for my ancestors’ mistakes and blot out the remains of the DDT. I lived in Kiryat Shmona and raised hundreds of students; I went to live in Margaliot near the Lebanese border and  taught in Sderot — all told, eight enriching years.

As education minister and environmental protection minister I turned my back on the rich and preferred the weak. Nothing helped: I never earned recognition as a “social” minister like Shas leader Arye Dery and other ministers whose last name and the embers of their youth provided cover for their Armanis. Social activists and intellectuals refused to see me as their representative because I was “transparent” for them, like Ran Cohen and his Public Housing Law, which Shas opposed.

So now I have stepped on the ethnic land mine. But when will our Mizrahi friends recognize their Ashkenazi racism?