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Sephardic Jews Assail Ashkenazic Domination of Gov’t, Labor Party

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A long brewing revolt against the alleged domination by Ashkenazic Jews of the government. Labor Party and national institutions exploded here yesterday at a convention of ranking Sephardic leaders who warned that Israel would evolve into two separate societies unless prompt measures are taken to equalize the two communities.

The gathering brought together a Cabinet minister, Knesset members. Sephardic members of the Labor Party and Histadrut Executives and town councilmen and local authorities of Sephardic origin. They assembled at Beth Berl, the Labor Party’s, ideological center, to discuss such sensitive subjects as the persistent social gap between Israelis of Oriental and European origin and alleged discrimination against Oriental Jews in appointments to ambassadorial, ministerial and other important posts.

Efforts by the Labor Party leadership to prevent the gathering backfired. A letter from Labor Party Secretary General Aharon Yadlin asking the conveners to call off the meeting because it was a “regressive and gratuitous act” unrepresentative of the Oriental members of the Party, only infuriated his Sephardic constituents Police Minister Shlomo Hillel said Yadlin was removed from reality. MK Itzhak Navon said the convention was neither regressive nor aggressive but progressive. Although only 135 invitations were issued, hundreds of people showed up at Beth Berl and they were in an angry mood.

GREATER REPRESENTATION DEMANDED

Speakers vowed to press for greater representation of the Sephardic half of the nation in the Cabinet, the Knesset, the Histadrut and Zionist Organization Executives and on the boards of public corporations.

“We need not be ashamed to ask for representation,” Hillel said, observing that every element and clique within the party is constantly demanding representation. “The regressiveness exists in the present situation. Nothing is done to close the social gap. Yadlin and the (Labor Party) leadership think everything is fine and only we are out of line. But what happens is that the lights were dimmed within the Labor Party.” Hillel said.

Navon said the convention was not a “professional communal organization” and was not aimed at helping one individual or another. It was convened because the problems of the Oriental community do not get the treatment they deserve, he said. Navon observed that the Sephardic party members said nothing before the elections “But now we are duty-bound to speak out,” he said.

MK Mathilda Ghez said that for years she had opposed the idea of a Sephardic pressure group but now she realized there was no other way to effect change. Former MK Mordechai Bibi demanded to know why only one ministry-Police–was reserved for a Sephardic minister. Other speakers accused the Labor Party of failing to give expression to the Oriental community and many now look elsewhere.

Shimon Avizemer, a former Consul in London, said it was not the Sephardim who are pushing toward a communal rift. “Whenever we make a demand we are blamed for communal aggrandizement but when it is them (the Ashkenazim) they claim they are representing the whole nation,” he said. “We have to end the patronage of one part of the nation over the other.” The convention resolved to continue holding meetings of Sephardic Laborites and to appoint a committee to decide the best ways of organizing Oriental Jews within the party.

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