Opinion

When Will the Leftists in Their Kibbutzim Absorb Refugees?

It's easy to cluck with disapproval at south Tel Aviv's Mizrahi population when hardly any of these self-righteous writers or spokespeople have ever even seen an asylum seeker

Israelis clash with asylum-seekers during a protest in south Tel Aviv, August 28, 2017.
Moti Milrod

The left is horrified. Look at the right wing, the left whines from its comfortable armchair, pointing mainly at Miri Regev and Arye Dery. Look at what it has done now to those poor refugees, tossing them away to their deaths. Have you forgotten (the left adds automatically) that we were once refugees, too? Don’t you have any heart? Where is your memory? Where is your morality?

Well, let me ask a heretical question: Where was your holier-than-thou morality two years ago and three years ago and 10 years ago? Where was your conscience when Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, in tandem with the immigration authorities, poured tens of thousands of refugees and migrant laborers into the southern part of the city, where they could not work or live in decent conditions, right on top of the most hard-pressed Mizrahi population there?

It’s so easy to cluck with disapproval and raise the universal cry of “people are all equal” when hardly any of these self-righteous writers or spokespeople have ever actually seen or met a Sudanese or Eritrean. It’s so easy to sit in remodeled Arab villas in Old Jaffa or in big houses in north Tel Aviv or Tzahala, or in Rehavia or Talbieh, and to hand out grades to the rest of the world, as if this were some theoretical exercise and not real life. After you’ve arranged to live in separate communities, by force of law, with fences and a guard at the entrance and admission committees; after you’ve deliberately distanced yourselves and your offspring from anything that could mar your vision of some imaginary European ideal – now you have the nerve to criticize those who do share their (much less ritzy) living space with one of the most wretched and put-upon groups of people in the country? No, my friends, this is not some cool exotic encounter, this is a war for jobs, for home, for basic survival, for human dignity.

The day that the kibbutz movement announces to the world that it is ready to take in thousands of refugees rather than continue squeezing every drop it can from the public coffers (and playing on the Zionist conscience), to bestow land on its third and fourth generations; the day when all those pure-hearted leftists declare that they insist that all the refugees be dispersed equally among all Israeli cities and provided with the means for a decent life; the day the mayors of the country’s strong and well-established cities and towns call for the refugees to be brought to them as well, for the same moral reasons – then we’ll be able to sigh contentedly and say that the Jewish conscience has returned to its starting point, that it has resumed its true calling.

And no, I do not support the corrupt vote by Regev, Dery and the other Mizrahi MKs who’ve forgotten where they came from and where they’re going, and have forgotten the “selection” policy applied to olim from North Africa in the 1950s, the “outside children” on the white kibbutzim, the feeling of being “unwanted” and “unworthy” in the neighborhood, or the nightclub, or the workplace or in academia. The Mizrahi politicians need to understand that they cannot demand equality for Mizrahim and trample another oppressed group at the same time. Equality is equality. As soon as they cease to operate according to this basic universal rule, they are weakening and hurting the entire Mizrahi cause.

Yes, some Mizrahi politicians, certainly Dery and Regev, see themselves as emissaries of the Mizrahi public, the same public that for years has been painted by the old media as hotheaded, devoid of solidarity, Arab-hating and completely one-dimensional. I guess they think that a vote in favor of expelling the refugees will curry favor in the eyes of Mizrahi voters. But this isn’t just a disgraceful surrender to “public opinion” or to the Mizrahi stereotype of the last decades, it’s also small-minded, provincial and incredibly cynical thinking that undermines the Mizrahi revolution that, inshallah, will ultimately arrive. Ayman Odeh could teach them a thing or two about morality.