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Campaign video decrying intermarriage is labeled racist

With national elections less than two weeks away, political campaign videos are much in the news. A few days ago Noam Sheizaf wrote about the Balad party video that was banned, allegedly for mocking Hatikvah, the national anthem. Now Shas, the Mizrachi ultra-Orthodox party that is predominantly Moroccan, is getting some heat for a campaign video that some have decried as racist.

In an image that Mordecai Richler and Philip Roth would recognize, the video shows a short, swarthy, curly-haired man standing next to a gorgeous, statuesque blonde under the huppah, or marriage canopy. Behind them stands a stern-looking security guard, arms folded over his chest. Relatives frame the couple on either side. According to the script in the video (subtitled in English, below), the blonde’s name is Marina and she’s just obtained a quickie conversion, courtesy of Avigdor Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu.

In broken, heavily-accented Hebrew, she tells him that all she has to do is dial 1-800-CONVERT on the fax machine while they’re standing under the huppah and  - voila! –  a conversion certificate pops out.

Intermarriage is a big no-no amongst religious and traditional Jews. Traditionally, Jews are not enthusiastic about converts, either. The Israeli rabbinate makes conversion a very onerous process that includes months of living under scrutiny in an Orthodox community. Non-Orthodox conversions are not accepted. Civil marriage performed in Israel is not legally binding, but there is a loophole — getting married abroad, then registering the union with the Ministry of Interior, thus bypassing the religious authorities.

But if the mother is not Jewish, the state will not recognize the children as Jewish. This can be meaningless or problematic, depending on how attached one is to having officials bless rites of passage like weddings, coming of age, army service and death / burial.

For some non-practicing Jews, the religion of their spouse is immaterial. This drives the ultra-Orthodox crazy, because it goes against a central precept of their religious and cultural practice — i.e., keeping the bloodline pure.

Like the secular-liberal parties, Yisrael Beiteinu advocates civil marriage, since a fairly large percentage of its constituents are halakhically non-Jewish. Israel defines a Jew for immigration purposes as someone who has a single Jewish grandparent on either side of the family, while according to halakha the identity is strictly matrilineal. Once in Israel, the halakhically non-Jewish Jews resent being made to feel less Israeli — hence the party’s name, which means Israel is Our Home. The name could’ve been “Israel’s OUR home too, dammit!” or “Israel’s Our Home and Don’t You Tell Us Otherwise!” (but that’s a bit long for a political party’s name).

It could very well be that Shas and its followers are worried about keeping the bloodlines pure. But there are other issues as well. Shas’s constituents tend to come from the socio-economic class that is now locked in its third generation of deprivation, living in neglected development towns, increasingly unemployed and impoverished. It took Shas considerable time to work its way into political prominence, using methods similar to the Muslim Brotherhood’s (free kindergartens, food distribution in poor neighborhoods and so on). Now Shas is competing with Yisrael Beiteinu for votes, power and perqs. That’s got to rankle.

Also, it’s kind of funny to see yet another reprise of that cliched image — the blonde “shikseh” tempting the swarthy Jewish boy away from his people.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Aaron Gross

      The background is that Mizrahim have hated Russian immigrants since the early 1990s, if not earlier. Back then pretty much all Israelis hated the Russians, but Mizrahim even more so, it seemed. And Russians looked down on Mizrahim as being “uncultured.” The secular-traditional antagonism is just one aspect of it. This is cobra vs. mongoose stuff.

      Reply to Comment
      • Palestinian

        Well those “uncultured” Mizrahim (mainly Jewish Arabs) are the ones who brought culture to the cultureless pseudo-European state.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Aaron Gross

      I knew an Australian convert and olah in my Hebrew class years ago, when I was a new immigrant. She practiced what Israelis call “traditional” Judaism, but of course the only way she could convert was Orthodox. The rabbis in Haifa told her that conversion was a long process, but if she donated a certain sum to a certain charity, they’d certify her Jewish in a jiffy. So she did, and they did. She really despised the rabbanut after that. (Years later I heard on the news that they were being investigated for bribery related to conversions.)

      Reply to Comment
    3. Such a bigoted attack piece, particularly ironic considering you’re calling them racist. This obsession you have with the Orthodox wanting ‘pure bloodlines’ is beyond absurd, and comparing them to a terrorist organization is disgusting. If they cared about bloodlines, there wouldn’t be conversion at all. A convert is just as Jewish as any other Jew, whatever blood runs in their veins. It has nothing to do with bloodlines, but it’s such an effective racist canard, you had to throw it out there. And seriously, comparing them to terrorist groups? And you’re calling them racist? Wake up and look at yourself in the mirror.

      Reply to Comment
    4. XYZ

      This disgusting clip will boomerang on them. SHAS seems to have a urge to self-destruction.

      I have seen a sample of the ads of numerous parties and they have hit the bottom of the barrel. They all really seem to think that the average voter is stupid. Most of them are simple “lashon hara” (evil slander) and the rest are idiotic emotional appeals (“you don’t want THEM in power!” or “I will make peace!”). THere is NO DISCUSSION OF THE ISSUES AT ALL.

      Reply to Comment
      • XYZ

        I should clarify that my opposition to this clip is NOT because it opposes intermarriage, which I also oppose, but because it portrays Russian olim in a negative light and is causing divisions among Jews.

        Reply to Comment
        • Piotr Berman

          Yes Ximena Yolanda! Good racism is OK, but the racism in Shas video is disgusting. Plus, they pretend to be oh-so pius, and show images of women — and blond women tall women at that! Plus the bride is similar to MK Anastasia Michaeli, and that is not nice. (Haneen Zoabi would make a nice Semitic bride, her status asa single, in a country where brides have to be imported, was much criticized.)

          Reply to Comment
    5. Kibbutznik

      Lisa a question ,

      I get ” But if the mother is not Jewish, the state will not recognize the children as Jewish. This can be meaningless or problematic, depending on how attached one is to having officials bless rites of passage like weddings, coming of age, army service and death / burial.”
      .
      We have many non Jewish members on our kibbutz plus ours is an aetheist based community , there are ways of getting around all the rites of passage you mention
      but what does army service have to do with any thing ??
      For the others you need a Rabbi plus you forgot it starts at birth with the brit milah .

      Reply to Comment
    6. Melinda

      Ha! I too, immediately though of Philip Roth. I guess this is what happens when the director is a fan, and the client is Shas.
      Also, can’t believe that the party of the freaking *Minister of the Interior* is running for Knesset with this ad. Don’t we have actual problems in this country?

      Reply to Comment
    7. aristeides

      Where are the calls to brand the ad antisemitic for portraying the Jewish bridegroom as a nebbish dwarf?

      Reply to Comment
      • Piotr Berman

        We are proud to be nebbish dwarfs! The video correctly challenges stereotypes that an attractive male has to be tall, slim or intelligently looking.

        Reply to Comment
        • ronit

          touche. haha…love it

          Reply to Comment
    8. Ante Pavelic

      Comment deleted. This user is not permitted to comment on +972. All his/her comments will be deleted.

      Reply to Comment

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