Tel Aviv (Oct. 1)
The kibbutz movement is up in arms over remarks Premier Menachem Begin made on Rosh Hashanah eve disparaging kibbutz members. Victor Shem Tov, Secretary General of Mapam, charged today that Begin was trying to incite Israel’s Sephardic community against the kibbutzim.
The Premier made his remarks in one of a series of pre-holiday press interviews. Questioned about the polarization between the Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities in last spring’s Knesset election campaign, Begin criticized kibbutzim for adopting a superior attitude toward the neighboring new immigrant centers, populated largely by Oriental Jews. He described kibbutz members as acting “like millionaires lolling around their swimming pools.”
The Sephardic community has been the mainstay of Begin’s political support and its votes helped Likud eke out its narrow victory over the Labor Alignment in the elections last June. Shem Tov, speaking in the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, said it was not the first time that people who have not worked one day at manual labor incite the Oriental community against kibburzim.
The kibbutz society is a society of labor and symbolizes one of the more important expressions of the Zionist revolution, Shem Tov said. A spokesman for Kibbutz Hatzor said it had invited Begin to visit them and see for himself that they did not live like millionaires. He charged that Begin has not visited a kibbutz since he became Prime Minister, although he has visited many border villages such as Kiryat Shemonah where he has supporters.
Meanwhile, Labor MK Menachem Cohen called on party chairman Shimon Peres to initiate a special Knesset session to discuss “the Premier’s incitement against kibbutzim.”