The Center for the Struggle against Racism wishes to warn about a serious phenomenon appearing again in full force following the Margalit Tzanani affair. Regardless of the evidence against her at this stage, the insinuation by the media that entertainment personnel of Sefardi extraction have connections with the world of crime automatically perpetuates racist stereotypes and creates hate. The affair presently being considered in court enables and legitimizes the release of the sharp tongues of dark racists purporting to represent and protect the face of a "clean" Israeli society that is purged of all scrap of Sefardi blood.
The Margalit Tzanani affair seems to have made it "kosher" for many to jump on the bandwagon of racism and hatred of Sefardi Jews and women, and to pretend to speak in the name of an "orderly Israeli society".
This attack comes after a long period of persecution of "Mid-Eastern" music ("Mid-Eastern Pop") and its representatives in the popular culture, of marking them as being a negative and unacceptable phenomenon in the Israeli discourse, not an integral part of acceptable Israeli culture, as many claim. Discrimination and exclusion of the Sefardi entertainers is alive and kicking. Israeli society insists on not speaking of it and on denying its existence, but now it has burst out powerfully. The Center for the Struggle against Racism wishes to point to the struggle against the phenomenon of hatred of Sefardim as a major effort in Israeli society. Below are a number of phenomena to which we wish to bring attention in this context:
1. The HaAretz newspaper published last Friday an article in "Achbar HaIir", by Itamar Handelman Smith (Itamar Ben-Canan), under the headline "Preserve me from Margol: The Yemenite Cindarella is Dangerous to us All." The article said: "The strong link between the (violent) Sefardi music, the (shallow) reality programs and the (criminal) underworld is wholly embodied in the figure of Margalit Tzanani", "Margol always seemed to me to be the worst dressed pimp in the country". He confessed to fear and to "esthetic revulsion" from the figure of Margol which began back in his childhood. According to him, the affair should not surprise us since the "phenomenon of Mid-Eastern music is violent by its very existence" and "Margol and the culture she represents are a kind of crime. A violent crime. A cultural-social-economic-political crime."
2. The article by Eyal Meged "Mega Role Model", published in "Maariv" and on the nrg website on August 18 in response to the Margalit Tzanani affair, breaks all records in anti-Sefardi racism. "The Margol affair is not the Israeli society for goodbad, but only for bad", writes Meged, and immediately explains: "What is called "beautiful Israel" is as nothing compared with the Mediterranean character starring in the Margolian drama." Meged is clearly against the Sefardi-ness of Tzanani and links her to criminal economic opportunities. Meged further states that [we are] "a people who not only does not separate itself from these revolting phenomena, but even makes its mid-Eastern heroes, who are greedy for the television drama, into a model they will aspire to emulate."
3. Before her arrest, Margol spoke to the media about the social protest, saying that struggles of this kind were embraced and legitimized by society and the media because its leaders are Ashkenazis. Natan Zahavi objected to this statement, and chose to use the word "frecha": "Margol, you are like the last of the frechot. You have again raised the Ashkenazi/Sefardi issue for discussion - but you werent there and you didnt see that there were more Sefardis than Ashkenazis in the demonstration, and they are hurting. Nothing hurts you! With the contract you have with Keshet what could hurt you?" Zahavi also made the connection between Tzananis Sefardi aspect and money.
Margalit Tzanani and her Sefardi-ness are blamed for the destruction of the culture and values of Israeli society. Tzanani is indeed a successful Sefardi woman, and it is reasonable to suppose that she earns an income commensurate with her status. We should remember that the media institutions and mechanisms of power in Israeli society are controlled by men, mostly Ashkenazi, and they have the real and true influential power over the fate of the citizens of Israel, while complaints of this kind are never heard against them. The Center seeks to use this low point in Israeli society and its attitude to Sefardi-ness as a turning point that will make it possible to bravely confront the unrestrained anti-Sefardi racism, especially in the case of Sefardi women, that has been living within this society for many years and denied throughout all those years.
The organizations participating in the Center: The Coalition Against Racism in Israel and the Jewish Pluralism Center (Israel Religious Action Center), the Massawa Center for Arab Civil Rights in Israel, the Tmura Center, the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow, Agenda, the Sikkuy Society, Maagalim-Halakat, The Abraham Foundation, The "Sister" Movement for Women in Israel, the Mixed Families Society, Gadar Society, Doctors for Human Rights, the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, TEBKA - Law and Justice for Ethiopian Immigrants, Mahapach - Taayer, Kav LaOved, Pura, Morashtenu, School for Peace at Neve Shalom, Coalition of Women for Peace, the Womens Democratic Movement in Israel, the Society for Citizens Rights in Israel, Hirak - the Center for Advancement of Higher Education in Arab Society, the Follow-Up Committee for Arab Education Affairs, Maan, the Arad Keshet, Moked for Assistance to Foreign Workers and Independent Operators.