My father Morris, God rest his soul, taught me the importance of education, helping others, responsibility and one other thing – he taught me to be aware and proud of my Sephardic roots. "The Moroccans are the best," he used to say, and would vote accordingly: David Levy's Likud, Abu Hatzera's TAMI party, Meir Sheetrit and Shaul Amor, Aryeh Deri's Shas and Moshe Kahlon's Likud. Kahlon is not Moroccan, but my father liked him just the same. He was the true voice of Sephardics in Israel in the new millennium.
"We have to support our ethnic group and the Sephardics. We are just as good as anyone else," my father would say. The fact that ahead of the early elections Likud has only one Sephardic on its roster, Silvan Shalom, is and insult to the party's support base, which consists of a large number of Sephardics. One has to wonder why Likud is kicking out its Sephardic representatives one after the other.
David Levy was continuously humiliated. "David Levy jokes" they used to call them in the 80s. Today people remember how he stood up for his principles and fought for social justice. Meir Sheetrit fled to Kadima when Likud turned into a radical rightist party and gave up on peace for Feiglinism. Amor was a humble man who said that Bibi stuck a knife in his back and twisted it. Netanyahu buried Silvan Shalom in a small office with little influence. Kahlon is behind the cellular revolution that helped every Israeli financially, but he has left politics. For now, no one knows why. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that his decision was related to pressure from his colleagues in Likud and an attempt to hurt his status within the party.
Likud members show love for Kahlon (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
During Kahlon's recent farewell speech before the Likud Central Committee, he asked a number of activists to stop shouting out "stay" and "Kahlon is the king of Israel." He addressed these activists by name – Zaguri, Asulin, Amsalem – all Moroccan. How many Sephardics are currently on Likud's Knesset list? Just one. And yet, this does not stop Sephardics from voting Likud. They are stupid for voting for a party that has abandoned them for names such as Feiglin. To my father, who said Moroccans were "the best," I say: Dad, you were wrong.
Menachem Begin's Likud embraced the "tchachtchachim" (a pejorative word for wild or uncivilized people) and won the 1977 elections. The current Likud is identical to the party it once loathed – Labor, during the days of the red notebook, when Sephardics (who were called "frenkim," a derogatory reference to Jews of North African origin) were hardly a factor. The fact that this issue is not being raised is an insult to the ruling party and to those who yell "Haide Bibi!" while disregarding the fact that Likud has ignored the Sephardic voice.
If you are Sephardic, I won’t tell you who to vote for, but come January 22 you should keep in mind that after 64 years of independence there is no reason why Sephardics should not be an important part of the party that, according to the polls, is set to win the largest number of Knesset seats. Speaking of Sephardics, look who some of the Labor party's candidates are for the upcoming elections: Eitan Cabel, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Amir Peretz, Daniel Ben-Simon, and others. Quite the turnaround.