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April 20, 1984 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-04-20

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Friday, April 20, 1984




is pleased to welcome



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Continued from. Page 16

Semitic beauty, with long, dark hair
and a mouth and eyes of sensuous
richness. She was once one of the stars
of Tel Aviv's bohemian intellectual
circles, but has turned against them in
"All the lovely humanist values of
their coffeehouse talk just didn't exist
in practice," she says softly. "The_more
I worked with street gangs, who are all
Easterners, the more I began to under-
stand Israeli society in a different way.
But these people — the liberal poets,
artists, and intellectuals — just didn't
care. They were all Westerners, and
whenever I brought up the subject of
Easterners, they said I was being sub-
jective and emotional. Talk about the
Palestinians, and they understand ev-
erything and take their side, the side
of the weak. But talk about Easter-
ners, and they suddenly understand
Her bitterness is compounded by a
sense of betrayal. "I don't expect hon-
esty and integrity from politicians, but
I do from intellectuals and liberals.
Despite their claims to the opposite,
they're as full of stereotypes and ag-
gression as anyone else. They're just
more dishonest, since they pretend- not
to be.
"The problem doesn't exist in iso-
lation. The Easterners have a problem
with the Westerners. When. I talk in
public, I'm often asked, 'How are we to
assimilate the Eastern communities
into Israeli society?' And I reply Who
are the Eastern communities and who
is Israeli society?' You know what we
mean,' they say, and I reply, know
what you mean — you mean that
there's Israeli society and then there
are the Easterners. But you're going to
have to realize that Israeli society is
both.' "
She continues in a calm, even
voice, but her hands gesture tensely as
she emphasizes the correlation be-
tween status and birth. The fact is
that after 35 years of a modern
egalitarian society, the ethnic gap has
deepened. The state's resources are
parceled out in a discriminatory way.
The kibbutzim are Ashkenazic, and
they are well subsidized and rich. The
development towns are Sephardic, and
they are poor and badly subsidized, so
of course there's crime and social prob-
lems. But what do they do? They send
in psychologists to work on the Eas-
terners, to convince them that they are
lesser people, that they're backward.
They say, It's the family
structure, you know,' or 'It's the men-
tality' — there are a hundred and one
ways of saying 'You're backward'
without actually using those words."
Vicki Shiran found a forum as an
activist in Tami, a small political
party that represents mainly Sephar-
dic interests and has been embattled
ever since its inception in 1981, not the
least because its founder, former
Cabinet minister Aharon Abu-
Hatzeira, recently served a three-
mouth sentence for fraud and theft
after a much-publicized three-year
Shiran dismisses the trial im-

patiently. The Ashkenazic-controlled
press assumed he was guilty because
he was Sephardic and this is the kind
of thing Sephardim do, the Sephardic
mentality. When it's an Ashkenazi, do
they say he stole because he's an
Ashkenazi? The whole thing started
just as an excuse to get him out of
power — he did nothing more than
regular bureaucratic procedure, the
kind of thing everyone does but that
they use as an excuse when they want
you out."
Further scandal broke out when
Shiran compared Abu-Hatzeira's trial
to the Dreyfus trial. Ashkenazim
reacted with shock and disgust. But for
many Sephardim, her comparison
seemed quite just. Dreyfus was falsely
accused because of his Jewish origin,
they say, and Abu-Hatzeira because of
his Sephardic origin. Few Sephardim
will say he was guilty.
The Dreyfus comparison gained
Vicki Shiran overnight infamy and a
reputation as a firebrand. However
gentle her demeanor, she still talks
fire, especially when responding to
Ashkenazic charges that Tami is ra-
cist and divisive.
"Tami is like the bastard that's
born of a bad relationship," she says.
"You can't ignore it; you can't say that
the problem doesn't exist. Not that
people didn't know it existed before,
but they avoided talking about it pub-
licly. It was taboo, because they saw it
as dynamite, as a time bomb. But lis-
ten, a normal man faced with a bomb
in his courtyard will neutralize it, so
it's pretty stupid that a whole society
refuses to do this. It could explode!"
Surely the explosion has already
begun? Shiran has had several months
since the Peace Now march to think
that one through. The moment you
open a wound," she replies, "there's
infection and pus and pain. That's part
of it. You can't start to heal until you
go through that."
And is right-wing politics the
place for healing? The mass support
for the Likud is clearly opposition to
Labor," she maintains. "It's a revenge
against Labor; it's not ideological.
That's why it's such a lie that the Eas-
terners are a barrier to peace. Begin
could give back the Sinai because he
knew the majority of his support came
from Easterners. If he thought it was
from Westerners, who are strongly
ideological, he wouldn't have been
able to do it. And don't tell me about
Begin being a demagogue and man-
ipulating ethnic tensions, like the lib-
erals say. When my father came here
from .Egypt, he went out into the
streets and shouted, 'Ben-Gurion,
King of Israel,' and everyone thought
that was just fine. Now his son shouts,
`Begin, King of Israel,' and everyone
screams demagoguery.
"True, it's clear that the right-
wing politics of the Likud help; so long
as we hold on to the West Bank, the
Arabs are doing the dirty work instead
of the Sephardim, so we've gone up a
rung on the social ladder. They're the

Continued on Page 28

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