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A dark stain on all of Judaism

Friday’s arson was a terrorist attack familiar to the likes of ISIL. Now is the time for ideas; condemnations aren’t enough. The question is not only what was said that led to the murder, but what we did not say.

By Meir Buzaglo

Perhaps if I were a better Jew, I would fast today. With every such attack by “religious” people, the wound within Judaism grows. Last summer, after Muhammad Abu Khdeir was burned alive, Rabbi Israel Maimran told me: “I am ill.”

At this moment, we condemn and let the police do the talking. But perhaps the police, and even the Shin Bet, cannot help us heal this wound. They are too little, too late. Even condemnations do not suffice.

Like in cases of domestic murders, we pass the issue onto the police. To my knowledge, they are fairly helpless. They can look for the perpetrators, use D.N.A. samples to reveal their identities — but this is not enough.

When the world battled malaria, we did not chase after every single mosquito. We must find the swamp from which they originate and dry it up. On top of this dried swamp we can establish a town based on environmentally friendly principles, which will allow us to forget that there was ever a swamp there to begin with.

In our case it seems that, first and foremost, the swamp is full of the inciters. Our next phase must be to directed against those who choose to remain silent. Friday’s arson is a terrorist attack against Arabs, but in terms of our lives here in Israel, it is more like ISIL, al-Qaida and Hamas.

We must resist the easy solutions. Claims of “I told you so, it’s those religious people,” do not suffice. Perhaps the job of the believers is to explain that these are not religious people, but rather those who besmirch God’s name.

Furthermore, we must not use this tragedy as payback against the Right. There is a fierce battle going on between the Right and Left in Israel, and it is important to make a distinction between stances one doesn’t agree with and stances that are beyond the pale.

Now is the time for ideas. Condemnations aren’t enough. The right-wing spiritual-political leadership (and perhaps that of the Left as well) must come together and take a good look at itself. The question is not only what was...

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How the Jewish Agency is throwing Ethiopian immigrants onto the street

By Yossi Dahan
(Translated from Hebrew by Shaked Spier)

The Jewish Agency for Israel states on its website that its work concentrates on four fields: aliyah (the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to Israel), social action and giving, Israeli experience, and bringing Israel and Jewish communities abroad together. Let us focus on the Jewish Agency’s social giving.

In a meeting of the parliamentary control panel on June 15th, one of the biggest Israeli real estate scandals in recent years was exposed (as described in The Marker). Control of publicly owned real estate assets, owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and designated for the absorption and integration of Jewish immigrants, were transferred to the Jewish Agency’s pension funds.

The real estate assets are part of the immigrant absorption center in Mevaseret Zion, which houses 1,300 Ethiopian immigrants to Israel. The pension fund put these assets on auction, which, de facto, means throwing the residents onto the street. For some reason, no one can explain or provide any documents that might clarify how publically owned real estate earmarked the absorption and integration of Jewish immigrants was handed over to a private institution, which leases it out in order to finance the Jewish Agency’s employee pension funds. These real estate deals are currently under legal examination and will be examined by the State Comptroller’s Office.

This real estate scandal is one in a long line of such scandals with which the Jewish Agency is involved – dubious real estate deals that are very profitable of the Jewish Agency. The common denominator in all of these deals is that their victims are from the weakest groups of Israeli society: immigrants and public housing tenants.

The Jewish Agency is also one of the major beneficiaries from the public housing selloff. The Jewish Agency, which owns Amigor (a real estate management company in charge of public housing projects in Israel), received an astronomical NIS 2 billion ($500 million) from the State of Israel in a deal between Amigor and the Ministry of Finance. In the deal, Amigor sold the state public housing apartments that were never sold to their tenants. It is important to note that the revenues from selling those apartments were suppose to be invested in building new public housing apartments for the needy; not a single apartment was built using the NIS 2 billion.

The State Comptroller wrote in...

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A patriotic death, not only on the battlefield

Israeli economic and social policies are turning a growing number of people into a burden, a surplus cost that can be saved by withdrawing benefits and tightening up welfare criteria. These people are branded as work-shy, cheats and parasites. Against this background, it is clear that even though the National Program for the Prevention of Suicide meets a critical need, it is also emblematic of the government’s cynicism.

By Yossi Loss
(Translated from Hebrew by Orna Meir-Stacey, edited by Amy Asher)

In his first book, published in 1952 in two different editions and under two different titles (Utopia 14 and Player Piano), Kurt Vonnegut describes a reality in which many people are superfluous. In such a world, all human consumption is provided by machines and most humans become useless. The only people whose work is required are engineers and managers, who hold PhDs. In order to somehow employ the rest, they are sent to the army or to repair roads. But actually they are surplus, and if they committed suicide tomorrow morning it would be a patriotic act on their part, as this would unburden the state from seeing to their needs – at least from the point of view of the powerful people controlling it.

Utopia14VonnegutVonnegut referred to the same idea in different ways in subsequent publications. For instance, in the story “2 B R 0 2 B” in the book God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, he describes a planet where there is strict control over the size of the population, as all problems had been resolved and all can live forever and in good health. Therefore, when children are about to be born, which does not happen so often anymore, others must volunteer and commit suicide, in order to maintain the population size. There is a federal office for the purpose of ending life, which uses gas chambers among other methods. In another story, there are so many surplus people that the government encourages its citizens to commit suicide. Suicide centers are placed on busy junctions near fast-food restaurants, where genial stewardesses offer death without pain.

Vonnegut likes to take to the extreme the modern motivations to cure all diseases, improve manufacturing, and in fact solve all problems scientifically and rationally. By doing that he shows that these so-called ultimate achievements defeat the very objective modernity has aspired to: control...

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The 'new Zionism' is turning Negev Bedouin into a myth

As the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran prepares to be replaced by a Jewish town with a near-identical name, its residents are offering solutions based on real co-existence. 

By Ariel Dloomy

In July 2007 I witnessed one of the saddest events of my life. Hundreds of security force personnel descended upon the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in order to evict the residents and demolish their homes. The police removed cradles together with the infants while bulldozers razed the homes and uprooted olive trees from the yards. Dozens of Jewish youth hired by the demolition contractor loaded residents’ personal belongings into containers that were then transported from the area. When everything was packed up, the youth danced in front of the stunned residents while chanting, “this is the new Zionism.”

Eight years and many court hearings have passed, but the threat of demolition and eviction lingers over the residents’ heads. Currently, this threat is more tangible than ever after the High Court recently rejected the appeal of the community’s 700 residents. This decision enables the government to proceed with its plans to forcibly relocate the residents of Umm al-Hiran residents to the neighboring village of Hura, while building the Jewish town of Hiran atop the ruins of the old village. This decision was unaffected by the mayor of the Hura local council, who said that his village does not have room for the evicted residents. The residents’ claims that in 1956, the military governor of the area ordered the tribe to move to its current location, after it had already forcibly removed them from the area of Wadi Zubaleh, near Kibbutz Shuval.

Just a few kilometers from the village, where the Yatir Forest road begins, 25 Jewish families from the Hiran Group are living in a temporary camp, awaiting “final authorization” to settle on the land Umm al-Hiran. According to the group’s website, “the intention is to build a settlement designated for the national-religious community in the northern Negev Desert as part of establishing a continuity of Jewish settlements in the area.” These descriptions are in complete contradiction to the state’s claim to the High Court that the new settlement will be a “general” (non-denominational) one without unique characteristics, and will not be closed to any potential resident based on religious affiliation. Thus, once again, the story of Umm al-Hiran epitomizes the national-ethnic struggle over land and settlement...

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For Palestinian artists, freedom of speech is anything but guaranteed

By forcing Arab actors to perform in West Bank settlements and closing down Arab theaters, the government is proving once more that freedom of speech is solely reserved for Israel’s ruling class.

By Hasan Masri

As an artist, I write these words with great trepidation that I may be judged based on my background, religion, skin color or political beliefs. I want to express myself — I want to write, perform, sing, and dance however I see fit. I love my job, I love the world I live in, I am opposed to all injustice or forms of oppression.

Until when will we continue to be oppressed in our homeland? Until when will we continue to be shackled? When will we live out the idea that the “personal is political?” And art is…?

Allow me to present a political scenario, which could easily come from the world of theater: an oppressive king from a faraway land appoints a new minister who wants to exert her power and kick out all the clowns — who are known to posses a controversial identity — from the streets (the majority of these clowns come from a community that once lived in a forest upon which the kingdom was later established). During their performances, the clowns tend to publicly express themselves about the goings-on in the kingdom. “Art is another way to engage with the world around us,” says one of the leading clowns. This story is far from over.

Since the election of this latest new-old government, we have witnessed how quickly things have turned extreme. Arab actors are required to perform in settlements, while Arab theaters are being shut down. ”In Arab countries they destroy art, while we provide them a stage,” the regime will say in response. But is freedom of speech guaranteed for all in the State of Israel, or is it only reserved for the ruling class? Is it possible to occupy and inherit the land, not to mention freedom of speech or movement? Is it conceivable that an “Arab Israeli” will perform before a crowd for whom he does not want to perform on land full of crimes and blood? This brings up a simple question: are we artists, or just actors in the hands of the system? We are witnessing an attempt to force an Arab actor to perform on occupied land, where crimes that dehumanize...

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The economic costs of military rule

Israelis cannot treat the occupation as something that merely affects them in the eyes in the world while their economy keeps paying a heavy price for its continuation.

By Shlomo Swirski and Yarom Hoffman Dishon

The social-economic cost of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is spoken about far less than the human cost or the price Israel pays on an international level. And when the social-economic costs do get brought up, the leaders of the economy always stress that this is a relatively small price to pay that have a short-term negative effect on the market. This position only lends to the idea that the conflict can be “managed,” and does not require a peace agreement. Education Minister Naftali Bennett arrogantly expressed this idea when he likened the Palestinian problem to “shrapnel in the ass” that must be taken out. This approach is nothing short of delusional, and both Israeli society and the Israeli economy are paying a heavy price for the continuation of the conflict. Here are seven reasons why:

1. Economic instability

A lack of a peace agreement makes Israel vulnerable to harm and instability. Growth, investments, trade, tourism and work days all take a hit. Furthermore, the image of Israel as a stable, reliable and safe economy for investment is also harmed. The GDP per person may have grown over the past decade at the same rate as in Germany and the United States, but this is not comforting when taking into account that the GDP per person in these countries is significantly higher than that of Israel. In order to reach the same standard of living as in other Western countries, we must grow at a higher rate than them for an extended period of time. The continued conflict with the Palestinian makes this very difficult.

2. Credit rating

The conflict makes improving Israel’s credit rating, which is relatively low, a difficult task. If, according to the UN’s Human Development Index, Israel is rated 19 out of 187 countries — respectable by all accounts — it finds itself 30th on Standard and Poor’s credit rating.

3. The boycott threat

If in the past the heads of the country tended to diminish the dangers of the international boycott movement, today the situation is different. In January 2014, former Finance Minister Yair Lapid warned that: “If the negotiations with the Palestinians get stuck or end and we wake...

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Why won't Israeli peace groups talk about the Nakba?

It’s 2015 and Israeli peace groups still refuse to talk about the mass dispossession of Palestinians in 1948, including those who became Israeli citizens. Tom Mehager says it is time for a real conversation about the right of return.

By Tom Mehager

Israeli non-profit organizations that strive for a society based on coexistence most often focus on the most pressing issues vis-a-vis Jewish-Arab relations: educating toward democratic values, mutual recognition and teaching the Arabic language; equal allocation of resources and land; integration into the workforce and strengthening economic investment in Arab towns and villages; proper representation in decision-making processes; legitimacy for Arabic in the public sphere; changing state symbols, and more. In this respect, these organizations are making important conversations.

But what those same organizations, which demand equality between Jews and Arabs, do not speak about or deal with is the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland. 1948 is the elephant standing in the center of the room. Many of our Palestinian colleagues in these organizations come from families who were uprooted from their homeland, with much of their nation still living in the diaspora.

I do not want to speak in the name of Palestinians and claim that they want to open up a conversation with us, Jewish Israelis, about the right of return. But I do want to ask why it is that we never raise questions about 1948 when speaking of a life of coexistence or about our vision of equality.

Jews realized and continue to realize their right of return in the wake of several historic events: most of us are here after 2,000 years of exile, as per the Zionist movement’s definition, due to the Law of Return, which allows the Jews of the world to receive Israeli citizenship. Moreover, many young Israelis who are the grandchildren of the victims of World War II have obtained citizenship in their grandparents’ countries of origin in Europe. And let’s not forget that the government of Spain has announced that it will allow the descendants of the victims of the expulsions in the 15th century to apply for Spanish citizenship. Thus, if we believe in true equality between Jews and Arabs, we must support the right of return for Palestinians to their homeland.

In reality, however, these organizations that strive for integration and equality remain silent when it comes to the privileges that...

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How Jewish and Palestinian cultural artifacts became Israeli property

A new book looks at the ways in which ancient religious manuscripts belonging to Yemenite Jews, as well as thousands of books owned by Palestinians and Holocaust survivors became part of Israel’s National Library in Jerusalem.

By Gish Amit (Translated by Shaked Spier)

The book “Ex Libris: History of Robbery, Preservation, and Appropriation in the National Library in Jerusalem,” addresses three affairs that took place within the walls of the Israeli National Library in Jerusalem: the robbery of Yemenite Jews’ manuscripts, which migrated to Israel during the 1940’s and 50’s; the collection of many thousands of book owned by Palestinians, which became part of the library’s collection; and the political struggles surrounding the redistribution of books belonging to Holocaust victims after World War II.

I argue that these three events are deeply intertwined in the way they reveal the manner by which Zionism has separated between people and their culture and heritage as part of the formation of national identity. The book’s epilogue, which is published here, aspires to think about the relationship between literature and socio-political violence. By doing so, it paints a new portrait of the National Library: not a site of secluded history, which is permanently decided and determined, but rather a continuous present tangled up with its own past — a space of injustice that also enables processes such as reparation, recognition and forgiveness.

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Mary Douglas wrote that objects are always encoded signs of social meanings. As a site of power creation and identity formation, the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem isn’t a place of knowledge, which is chosen in a naïve manner and free from hidden agenda, but rather a plac, in which knowledge is created, organized and sorted along the lines of ethnic, class, and national categories; a space that transforms objects into an inseparable part of a social reality that provides them with value according to its standards and needs. The three affairs described in the book “Ex Libris” couldn’t have happened unless Zionism had portrayed itself as the voice of the secret wishes of individuals and their communities, under the ethos of denial of (Jewish) exile; unless individuals had been transformed into objects serving a nation in its constituting phase, a nation that has left its mark on individuals and communities while claiming to speak in their name and redeem their culture, while at...

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Poverty kills: Survival and struggle in 'the other Israel'

No matter how much I look, I never seem to find any news items about those whom Israeli society sacrifices on a daily basis, slowly, until they turn to dust.

By Yael Cohen-Rimer (translated by Yudit Ilani and Shaked Spier)

She is somewhere outside, the 13-year-old girl who was sent by welfare services to step over the dried blood at the entrance to the building floor. This blood reminds her of her mother, who jumped out of the front window about a week ago. So far, no one from the welfare services has come to talk with the girl or with her sisters. Just another one out of many driven to suicide by poverty.

”Spit it out, talk your anger away,” says Vardit, while I’m sitting in my car near my home, crying into my cellphone. After she hangs up, I continue sitting there for a while, afraid to go upstairs. I know that if I go up and close the door behind me, a heavy veil will come down and push everything out. I know that my daughter Netta will call “Mommy!” in excitement; then she’ll ask “Mommy, why…” before explaining to me that “that’s the way it is.” And I know I’ll finish the evening on the couch with Ofir, wondering whether to watch another episode or go to bed already. I know I will stop replaying that memory, lodged somewhere deep in my stomach, of a 13-year-old girl sent yet again to step over the blood stains at the building’s entrance; reminding her of her mother who jumped from the front window about a week ago. No one even bothered to talk to her or her sisters, nor did anyone come to talk to their stepfather. The oldest sister, 16, went to the social services, begging for help. “After the holidays,” they promised her, referring her to us, thus passing on the problem to someone else.

When I get out of the car I will lose that rage, that fervent anger toward my country — its social services and its social workers whose sense of compassion has become so eroded that they are able to look these young girls in the eyes and tell them “to wait until after the holidays.” I’ll lose the anger toward a state that can leave a family of a stepfather and five girls — whose mother died in the wrong war...

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Longing for Jewish-Muslim co-existence in Morocco

Kamal Hachkar’s film, ‘Echoes From the Mellah,’ looks at Morocco’s history, which not long ago included Jews and Muslims living together in peaceful co-existence, and serves as an important resource for building a vision of a shared Jewish-Palestinian existence.

By Ronit Chacham (translated by Noam Benishei)

The January 6 screening of Kamal Hachkar’s “Tinghir-Jerusalem: Echoes From the Mellah,” at the opening of Doc Aviv Festival in Yeruham, and the following screening at Ben-Gurion University, were first and foremost an opportunity to broach a subject that is at the heart of our lives: Muslim-Jewish relations. This time, however, it was done through the prism of Morocco. While the Jewish community in Morocco was one of the largest and most ancient communities in the Arab world, its magnificent history is not taught as part of Jewish history by Israel’s educational system.

Kamal Hachkar, the maker of this film, is a history teacher. Born in the Atlas town of Tinghir, he immigrated to France with his parents as a baby. He grew up between different identities and, according to him, with no identity at all — neither French nor Berber nor Moroccan. Every summer he visits his grandparents in Tinghir, where among signs of absence, among “memorials” for the Jews that vanished and their still-empty homes, he finds a whole cultural world that remains alive in many people’s memory, Muslim and Jewish alike. It is a world now gone, though present in its absence, through the longings thereto.

As an exile, as a man in search of a home, Hachkar sets out to observe those who left and those who were left behind — who still share the common thread of one language and many memories. The destroyed home remains a monument to a memory that has not faded. Hachkar, who is no filmmaker, takes along (Jewish) cinematographer Philippe Bellaiche to record these recollections, extracting it from his grandparents and other elders of their age who have preserved the memory of a world shared by the Jewish Berbers and Muslim Berbers that once lived in Tinghir, as well as from the Jewish Berbers who immigrated to Israel.

“All of a sudden they were called to leave, and so they did,” the elders of Tinghir recount the story of the Jews’ departure in the 1960s. “They cried, they didn’t want to go,” report the elders, feeling deserted, “we cried too.” Perhaps they recount what Hachkar...

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Beyond Netanyahu: On the collapse of the so-called Left

Many in the Israeli Left saw the recent election defeat as a danger to democracy. But if the Left wants to win elections, it needs to let go of its anti-Mizrahi fear-mongering and racism.

by Elad Ben Elul (translated by Joshua Tartakovsky)

In order to understand the outcome of the recent elections in Israel, one has to step away from the two central conceptual frameworks that make up the discourse of most Israelis, but in fact do not capture the complex reality below the surface. One has to step away from the traditional boxes of “Right” versus “Left” and of “religious” versus “secular,” at least if one seeks to liberate oneself from orthodox conditioning that does not reflect the reality on the ground. The key to breaking out of this conceptual straitjacket has been the Palestinian discussion regarding the Joint List and the Mizrahi discussion regarding the ultra-Orthodox Mizrahi Shas party, which provide a different interpretation of political realities.

These discourses are not new, and in fact have been prevalent in the media, television, cinema, literature and politics over the past years. For some reason, however, they have not filtered in to the so-called Israeli “peace camp.” Instead, the Israeli Left chose to conduct a disengaged campaign that was not based on a genuine ideological alternative to the Zionist hegemony, and focused solely on the mantra “anyone but Bibi.”

The connection I make between the Arab and Mizrahi post-Zionist discourse in relation to the recent elections is meant to offer a new prism by which to see future possibilities, provide an alternative and ask how is it possible that some electoral outcomes appear unfortunate and despairing for some but as inspiring for others? And why is the strengthening of the Arab political camp, along with parties that offer social economic policies — such as the Kulanu or Shas — seen as a major defeat by those who view themselves as the Left?

As someone who identifies as part of the Left, I have always been proud of the fact that leftist thinking always examines itself before criticizing the Other. In my view, advancing a progressive agenda means advancing the understanding that we cannot change the Other before we change ourselves, and that if we want to improve a given situation, we must examine ourselves in an unyielding manner before we criticize our perceived enemy. But recent months...

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A different look at democracy: Impressions from a 'Haaretz' conference

What does it feel like to be thought of as someone who endangers democracy? Sometimes, all it takes is having dark skin, curls and a kippa. Thoughts on Mizrahi identity from Haaretz’s Conference on Democracy.

By Eli Bareket

Several weeks ago I attended the Israel Conference on Democracy sponsored by the liberal Haaretz daily. It was truly impressive. Around 1,000 polite and friendly people attended — those for whom Israeli democracy matters and who could set aside a day. Eva Illouz was also in attendance, and even said a lot of wise things such as, “democracy is a regime in which you do not have to be afraid of who you are.” This was a “wow” moment for me, as she unwittingly succeeded in throwing in a quote by Rabbi Nahman.

After imagining Rabbi Nahman hugging Eva Illouz, I could now imagine myself as part of the panel. I know that they invited people who stood them up. Yes, even Shas’ Aryeh Deri stood them up due to the New Israel Fund’s involvement, but if you have no representation on the stage you can imagine the panel with yourself in it. That way you can participate rather than complain.

So here are some musings of an Mizrahi Jew at the Israel Conference on Democracy.

As a child, I associated democracy with Arabs, and not just any Arabs, but terrorists. I think that one of the few times I was exposed to the term “democracy” was when it came up in the context of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) — democratic, but with a lot of blood on their hands.

I grew up some more and went to boarding school in Jerusalem. There things became clearer. There was Rabbi Meir Kahane who worked the “neighborhoods,” and said either Jewish or democratic — meaning that real democracy cannot suppress the Arabs. Thus, if one really means “democratic,” one has to make room for the Arabs, and if one really means “Jewish” one has to kick the Arabs out.

Read more: Why Mizrahim don’t vote for the Left

And then there were the leftists, the beautiful ones, sometimes called “the bleeding hearts,” for whom democracy was a private, members-only club that reinforced their self image — because they are democratic, they are better than all the Arabs in the neighborhood, and they are entitled to their privileges as guardians of the Only Democracy in the Middle East....

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Israeli Black Panther: Mizrahim must boycott the elections

Since its establishment and until today, not a single election has fundamentally changed the status of Mizrahim in the ‘only democracy in the Middle East.’ Now we must use the only tool we have left at our disposal and refuse to participate in the game altogether. 

By Reuven Abergel

For Palestinian citizens of Israel, the upcoming elections represent something new. The establishment of the Joint List is the result of the utter failure of the establishment to divide the rule different Palestinian political currents. In the wake of Avigdor Liberman’s racist attacks, the oppressed Palestinian public forced its representatives to unite. But for the Mizrahim, these elections bring nothing new to the table – the existing parties have nothing to offer them. This is why I am calling on Mizrahim to boycott the elections, in order to send a clear message to the Jewish parties that they do not represent us.

For the first time in its history, the “Jewish and democratic” state will have to face a large opposition that truly remains outside the realm of the ruling class. The prime minister will be forced to report to the Joint List about all peace talks with Palestinians, and will need to think long and hard about how to continue to control important committees such as the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee. Palestinian citizens, along with Jews who support the struggle for equality, will vote for the Joint List.

However, we must remember one thing: since its establishment and until today, not a single election has fundamentally changed the status of Mizrahim in the “only democracy in the Middle East.” The opposite is true: the situation of Mizrahim has only become worse in the wake of every election cycle. Don’t believe me? Read the reports by the Adva Center, the National Insurance Institute or the OECD. As opposed to Palestinians, who have been historically excluded from the political system as a group, thus forcing them to organize on a collective level, the attitude toward Mizrahim was always the opposite: to break down and spread out Mizrahi political activism among the different parties. How did they do this? Every few years, the leaders of these different politicians get on stage and promise the Mizrahim the exact same illusions – that the change they so need will only come if they vote for him or her.

Time after time,...

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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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