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A Symbolic Choice in Labor Primary That Could Push Longtime Voters Away

Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav
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Lawmaker Naama Lazimi, who finished in the top place following the Labor party's primary voting.
Lawmaker Naama Lazimi, who finished in the top place following the Labor party's primary voting.Credit: Moti Milrod
Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav

The election of MK Naama Lazimi to the first place in the Labor Party primary is interesting mainly on the symbolic level. Labor, in any case, is expected to win only a small number of seats. Lazimi defines herself as “feminist, social-democratic, Mizrahi and traditional.” She showed diligence in the last Knesset, and before that, activism on the Haifa City Council and in Haifa University student government. One area close to her heart is the blood libel about the abduction of Yemenite (and Balkan!) children by the establishment of Labor’s forerunner Mapai, and giving them to Ashkenazi families for adoption.

This libel has flowed through her bloodstream for all her years in public life. In the past, for example, she moderated a panel titled: “The Abduction of Yemenite Children and the Injection of Women of Ethiopian Origin with the Contraceptive Depo-Provera as a Feminist Issue.” In the Knesset, she initiated a bill to commemorate the affair, and attacked the Health Ministry for “commissioning an opinion denying the abduction.” She is close to the Amram association, which pays salaries to hacks who purvey hatred of Ashkenazim to promote this blood libel in the mainstream.

Surprisingly, they are succeeding. Just this month the President’s Residence, ostensibly the holy of holies of public consensus, was opened to them as well. It would be interesting to see the reaction in Israel if the president of Poland or Italy had organized a conference on “the abduction of Christian children by Jews to make matza with their blood on Passover.” No wonder that the dam was broken by an ingratiating president like Isaac Herzog, who only a few days earlier hosted Avishai Ben-Haim, who came to market his charlatanic story of the oppression of the “Second Israel” and the framing of Benjamin Netanyahu.

But this madness, which Lazimi and her comrades have been working to promote for years, does not stop with ceremonies and conferences. Last month, a surrealistic and macabre scene took place in the Nahalat Yitzhak cemetery. The State of Israel opened the grave of a baby, more than 70 years after his unfortunate death, to take samples from his bones as part of the “clarification” that never ends. Three investigative commissions, the establishment of a large DNA bank and the lack of even a single proven case of a baby abducted from his or her parents and given to Ashkenazim will not put to rest the of those promoting the blood libel. Some of them, as noted, even make their living that way.

Not Lazimi. She’s already leading Labor’s Knesset roster. After her election she said she was “proud to have come from Migdal Ha’emek to the first place.” And she has a reason to be proud – not only due to her election and her biography, but also her worthy work for a variety of social issues. It’s a welcome thing that women like her make their way in politics and win positions of influence in the left-wing parties. Except for the not-so-small cloud of the abduction that wasn’t (as opposed to a high death rate of infants, mistakes in registration and displays of arrogance and alienation, which there certainly were).

The symbolism reverberates. Not only “from Migdal Ha’emek to first place in Labor,” but the blood libel has also conquered the descendants of Mapai. In this sense, Lazimi is just a symptom of a deeper phenomenon.

The first 10 places on the Labor roster look like laboratory clones, the ultimate poster for identity politics. The fulfillment of all the wishes of the left about “opening the ranks” and “attracting new communities.” To some extent, this is former Labor chairwoman and lawmaker Shelly Yachimovich’s vision, which even after she retired from politics and went back to preaching on the radio and social media, continues to stir the party cauldron through the camp she led.

Everything works great in the echo chamber of Facebook. There’s only one problem with real life: The voters are in fact streaming to the parties of Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz (whose seats together equal those of Likud). This is a decade-long process, the responsibility for which is not Lazimi’s. But when an enthusiastic missionary of the blood libel wins the primary, no wonder the old-time Labor electorate looks for another home.

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