+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

The good ‘ole Alabama-style racism in Israel

So, here on +972 you’ve heard about racism towards people who aren’t Jewish, people who aren’t male and people who aren’t right wing – but did you know Israelis also hate people who aren’t white?

Ethiopian Jews protested yesterday in the town of Kiryat Malachi (40 minutes south of Tel Aviv) after Channel 2 reported on a block of four buildings where tenants are refusing to sell or rent to Ethiopians because they “smell” and “bring down property prices.”

Trust me, this isn’t happening only in Kiryat Malachi.

Remind you of something?

The first thing that came to my mind was one of my favorite Stevie Wonder songs, “Cash in your face,” from 1980. I always remember that even as a kid who barely knew what racism was, Stevie’s vocals and lyrics managed to get my blood boiling. Just like the supremacists of Kiryat Malachi.

You see, when you live in a country where the State makes it so easy for you to hate the other, spreading it to more communities and minorities is just a matter of time.

Cash in your face

You just could not know how long we tried
To see how this building looks inside
This must be a lucky day for me
Because the sign says there’s a vacancy

Look I know you came a long way
But you made it just too late
So we had to give it to somebody else
Well I talked to you on the phone less than fifteen minutes ago
And you told me that it was cool
I graduated from Howard U.
My job is paying good money too
And if you check on my resume
You’ll find they all wanted me to stay

Well I can’t take the time out
To check your credit card
‘Cause the computer just broke down today
Well I’ll stop by here tomorrow to complete our interview
But I know what you’re gonna say
I know what your bottomline is

You might have the cash but you
Can…not cash in your face
We don’t want you living in here
Say you might have the cash but you
Can…not cash in your face
We don’t want your kind living in here
Too-oo, Too-oo too bad,
Too-oo, too-oo too sad

Our first child is due here any day
That’s why we’re desperate for a place to stay
The location is so perfect too
So please try to do what you can do

Well in this apartment complex no children are allowed
And if you told me that I could have saved you alot of time
Well I thought the Bill was passed that said you could not discriminate
But I know some excuse you’ll find
Because your bottom line is

You might have the cash but you
Can…not cash in your face
We don’t want you living in here
Say you might have the cash but you
Can…not cash in your face
We don’t want your kind living in here
Aye, you might be a great doctor
You might be a great lawyer
You might possess the key to the city
Or maybe a politician
You might have the cash but you
Can…not cash in your face
We don’t want you living in here
Say you might have the cash but you
Can…not cash in your face
We don’t want your kind living in here

Even the great Ehud Banai foresaw that hardships and the racism the Ethiopians would face when he wrote his epic song “Black Labor” in 1987. I specifically remember that chilling line: “Even at home it happens, the exile continues.”

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. Mikesailor

      There is an old song from the musical South Pacific written by those well-known antisemites Rodgers and Hammerstein (just kidding) with the title ‘You Have to be Taught to Hate’. It seems many have been ‘taught’ only too well.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Mati Milstein

      Hey Ami – Good item. I’d add one point: The “supremacists of Kiryat Malachi” are themselves discriminated minorities in the wider context of Israeli social history. Which brings up an interesting question (which may be applied to more than just one situation in our happy little corner of the world): Why do minorities who have themselves experienced discrimination and racism subsequently (sometimes) direct that same discrimination and racism against other minorities? Intuitively, we’d think that shouldn’t happen. But, clearly, it does.

      Reply to Comment
    3. AYLA

      It’s all so crazy. For example. Many Ethiopian jews here are on the top of the list of people who think the Sudanese etc. refugees should go home, and they would add that the refugees hang around the street and bring down the neighborhood, and that they’re all Muslim, which is a bad thing. Many Ethiopian Jews here are believe that this land does not belong to the Palestinians. What I’ve gathered is that in a way, it doesn’t get more Fundamental than leaving your home by foot–with nothing but faith in God based on the Torah that they were meant to be in Yerushalayim–risking if not giving your to come here, often spending years in refugee camps before making it here… And then the chutzpah of other Jews to treat them as non-Jewish; if you want to know REAL, non-rabbinic halecha, ask an Ethiopian Jew old enough to have been born there. This is one intense land we live in.

      Reply to Comment
    4. AYLA

      should have read: risking if not giving your LIFE… (sorry for this and other typos–need to go back to proofing before pressing send).

      Reply to Comment
    5. Isn’t this discrimination (at the very least in the spirit of) (and thus fully legalized by the ever-democratic-spirited Knesset and thus fully Kosher) law that Landlords can refuse to rent to whomever they don’t want as tenants?

      Reply to Comment
    6. Aaron

      Does everything that ever happens in the world have to be described in terms of 1950s Alabama?
      §
      There was no evidence in the video or in the linked article of “hate” or “supremacists.” It’s housing discrimination. The first goal should be to use words accurately. The kind of overheated, hysterical rhetoric used in this article (“Israelis hate people who aren’t white”) doesn’t really help anything. Though I’m sure the commenter Aristeides will put it to good use.
      §
      People don’t have to be taught by the state to “hate the Other,” as the author so charmingly and hysterically put it. Or, to translate that into English, to discriminate based on ethnicity. Ethnic discrimination predated the state by thousands of years. It probably goes back to the beginning of humankind. So I don’t think you can blame that one on the wrong political parties getting elected.
      §
      Now, if any of you beautiful souls happen to walk into a sandwich shop and find that the friendly counter person suddenly becomes less friendly when he finds out you’re a lefty, remember the rhetoric used in articles like this one. Then go ahead and call him a racist, as this article did in the first sentence, because he resents the left.

      Reply to Comment
    7. @aaron – you’re right. everything’s fine. sorry I even brought it up. Don’t know what I was thinking. Oh, and I find your “comment” to be one of the best pieces of “sh-t” I’ve read on my channel. Ever. (Now go ahead and complain that I don’t respond to your points blah blah blah. Been there with all the other fascist trolls. Spare me. I’m already tired of you).
      .
      @mati – very good point.

      Reply to Comment
    8. No doubt that this racism is disgusting and needs to be fought hard in both the legal and educational fields. But going straight to the US South analogies misses something crucial to understanding this story:
      I just wrote on my blog about this:
      “It easy to look at this story as another case of everyday racism, and of course we as Olim, as Jews and as people who believe in democracy are disgusted by this phenomenon.
      But it is important to know that the government chose to settle the country’s highest concentration of Ethiopian Olim in a town with a long history of poverty and underdevelopment. So it’s no surprise that people already on the periphery of Israeli society and economy feel threatened by the arrival of an even weaker population.
      The only people who benefit from this kind of division among weaker groups are those who wish to exploit their poverty.”

      You can read more at http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Only-Democracy-in-the-Middle-East/128910413889467

      Reply to Comment
    9. @ruth – racism is racism.
      .
      Just because it’s poor people in Kiryat Malachi doesn’t mean I need to be easy on them.
      .
      Also, Ethiopians suffer from racism in just about every place in Israel, in different forms. Rich and poor towns alike.
      .
      It’s about color. Just like in the South. I see no reason to sugar coat it. Next thing you know you’ll justify the racism in the South because they were poor white trash anyway from the periphery themselves.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Tammy

      er… uhm… “Just like in the South” should be changed to “Just like in the USA.” Sad and true.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Having (I hope) shown my support for the +972 endeavor (which gives you nothing, I know), I think Ami’s reply to Aaron a mistake. Segregating away dissent will only limit future possibilities. I have been very frustrated, angered, by comments as well (and I do not work this to live, as you journalists do), and have gone short in reply; but I have also learned things from reading some of those dissents, learned facts they place center, what they dismiss, etc. You play into the hands of the internet right by slapping such down.
      .
      With respect.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Hi Greg – I disagree with your comment (with respect as well). As time goes by, I have developed a “style” of reacting to trolls. These days I have no patience for people who don’t conduct dialogue or give true constructive criticism. Which is not what Aaron did. Since it is my channel, my blog, my little world, I feel free to do on it whatever I want – especially when it comes to anonymous trolls.
      .
      +972 has many bloggers that would have dealt with Aaron’s comments much differently. With a lot more patience and much more respect. But when people come to Half & Half, I like them to know that I play hardball and the rules are “a bit” different. Call me the “Zehavi Atsbani” of the site.
      .
      For example, I disagree with your comment – but your tone was totally acceptable.
      .
      I plan on dealing with Aaron and other arrogant trolls the same way. And I don’t see it at all as “going to down to their level.” In fact, many seem surprised to get a bit of their own medicine. To sum up, I’ve always thought there are enough left wing nice people who answer others politely. It’s time for some anger.
      .
      And if that hasn’t convinced you, then I hope you can simply understand that this is my style – and I’m keeping it 🙂

      Reply to Comment
    13. Well, anonymous I have to say bothers me. At least I’m dumb enough to let some secret angency track me down. I still say I’ve learned something from them. But I have not my head above the parapet

      Reply to Comment
    14. Elahn Zetlin

      What a half-assed story. Everyone interviewed in your video are in support of Ethiopians. Where are the people who aren’t selling or renting to them?
      Poor journalistic value. Poor title. Alabama??? Really???

      Reply to Comment
    15. @Elahn – It’s not my video. It’s the JPost.
      .
      You’re right about the title, though. It should have read “American-style” racism. To be more inclusive of all types of racism in America. Apologies to any Alabama racists I may have offended.
      .
      Thanks for the half-assed comment though!

      Reply to Comment
    16. ya3c0v

      what @Mati is referring to is the concept of defensive othering, when an oppressed person oppresses another to prove to the oppressor that they are better or different. This can happen within an oppressed group (eg wealthier/whiter Oriental Jews against poorer/darker Oriental Jews) or between different oppressed groups.

      The question to ask is, why does the phenomenon of the oppressed adopting the social structures of the oppressor occur in so many oppressor/oppressed contexts?

      If you noticed, even the Ethiopian Jew who is actively taking to the streets against oppression based on her race/origin adopts the social structure of the oppressor when she says, “we are all Jews”.

      When will the oppressed Jews in Israel completely discard the social hierarchy put in place by Ashkenazi Jews that keeps them suspended above non-Jews but at the bottom of the barrel among the Jewish population?

      Reply to Comment
    17. Aaron

      Ami, fair enough, I agree that my tone was pretty combative. I figured that since yours was combative, that such a tone was allowed in the comments as well. But it’s your thread, you have the right to set the rules. Now that I understand them better, in the future I’ll phrase my comments in your threads more respectfully.

      Reply to Comment
    18. I don’t think analyzing the complexity is about being easy on racists, I think it’s about understanding the complex system of oppression in order to allow a more serious response. What’s so brave about calling them racist? There’s a legal fight that needs to happen (and is happening) that is about straight-up discrimination, but a real answer also needs to include educational work in the community, and that means understanding the roots of the situation for everyone involved. The summer social protest (especially in Netanya where I live) had a lot of great shared protests that brought together members of very separate communities, including Ethiopians and Mizrachim. That’s what we need more of here.

      Reply to Comment
    19. ToivoS

      Ruth must disagree. It is racism and in international forums it must be called out explicitly in order to pressure local and national governments to take action (or to not take action which will reinforce the growing realization Israel is a racist state).

      I also agree with you that “it’s about understanding the complex system of oppression in order to allow a more serious response.” Any community out reach people who are working to persuade the Israeli citizens to stop their racism will need that sensitivity.

      Reply to Comment