Dimi Reider is a journalist and photographer, working from Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. His articles have been published in the Guardian, Jerusalem Post, Index on Censorship, Counterpunch and Peace Reporter. Dimi co-edits Kav-Hutz – an attempt to provide fresh and engaging commentary and analysis on the world outside Israel. He currently works for Haaretz newspaper. He blogs at Dimi’s Notes.
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Grassroots and governmental campaigning against interfaith mingling is nothing new in Israel: Just a few months ago there was a “task force” set up by the municipalioty of Petah Tikva, which is basically a suburb of Tel Aviv. The job of the task force was to patrol the city at night and break up Arab-Jewish dates. The London Times also covered the activities of a concerned parents’ group vigilante gang patrolling the rapidly integrating Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev, intimidating mixed couples.
On top of that, we have the activities of a huge, quasi-paramilitary group called Yad Leachim that goes on army-style”rescue operations” of Jewish women from their Gentile husbands (homegrown terrorist Jacob Teitel boasts working with them for a while, which they deny), and, lest we forget, the insane Jewish Agency campaign about non-Jewish partners kidnapping 50% of the young Jews in the Diaspora.
But this is the first time officially sanctioned racism, funded by taxpayers, has come to Tel Aviv, Israel’s liberal heartland.
Moria Ben Yossef, Zman Tel-Aviv [Maariv Tel-Aviv Weekly Magazine] February 23 2010 [Hebrew original here]
The municipal finance committee decided three weeks ago to give NIS 250,000 [~$66,000] to what it refers to as “‘an aid program for immigrant girls at risk”. The program will be launched this month in the Shapira, Kiryat Shalom and Nevs Ofer neighborhoods. The committee said some of the project’s aims are ‘locating immigrant girls at risk… case-specific family and community intervention to locate the girls… and locating the appropriate figures in the community to treat the girls.’
The program is aimed to treat up to 120 young women under 22, and is jointly run by the Tel Aviv Municipality, the Absorption Ministry (which will sponsor 75 percent of it), and the World Congress of Bukharan Jews
…”the term ‘distressed immigrant girls’ is politically correct whitewash for the true destination of the budget,” a senior source in the municipality said. “This is a war against the trend of scores of Jewish girls getting together with minority men and with migrant workers, and then getting into trouble with their families and the families of the minority men, that often ostracize them for being Jewish.”
According to councilwoman Yael Ben Yeffet (City for All), who sits on the finance committee, municipality director-general Menachem Leibe said at the meeting that the girls in question belong mainly to the Bukhara community, who get together with criminals and minority men. “When I asked him if getting together with members of minorities constituted being at risk, Leibe replied: ‘For the families that ostracise them it is’”, Ben Yeffet said.
The decision to support the boycott appears to have resulted from lobbying by councilman Benjamin Babyuf (Shas), himself a Bukhara Jew and a resident of Kiryat Shalom. Babyuf approached some months ago mayor Ron Huldai with a request to set up a municipal organization to locate and treat the girls in question. In his request, Babyuf spoke of girls getting “assimilated,” and suggested increasing funding to part-time religious schools operate by Shas, which take up young women meeting with Arab men.
These girls come from a poor socio-economic background,” Babyouf explains. “They don’t get enough attention. Very often these are unpopular girls whose appearance is unattractive, and these men use this,” he said.
“It’s happening across the country and in Tel Aviv, too, but it’s particularly rife in Jaffa and the south of the city, where the population is more diverse,” said a Shas activists who had been running the part-time religious schools for 20 years and can only be identified as N. “They got out hunting for girls… we’re talking about local Arabs and Arabs from villages coming to Tel Aviv for work. At first they shower them with love and money, they spoil them, and then they take them back to their village – usually after getting married. From our experience we know this is where this Romeo and Juliet plot turns into an action movie. They become enslaved. We had some really hard cases of girls who approached us and we helped them. They were begging to leave but their Arab boyfriends wouldn’t let them.”
N said there were more than 10 part-time religious schools capable of taking care of the girls, but they were suffering from overload and lack of funds. “We’re collapsing. Hundreds of girls are going through this. Girl falling after girl,” he said.
“It’s a frightening thing, the girls also begin using drugs and alcohol,” said Yaffo activist David Machlouf. “About a year and a half ago I witnessed the shocking case of a 15-year-old girl. This Arab guy hit on her, she became pregnant and got an abortion, He took her to his village and they dressed her up in a galabiya (Arab Dress) but everyone treated her horrifically, calling her a Jew-Jew. At some point she complained against him so he beat her up really badly. After that we took her to an organization in Bnei Brak, but later she went back to him again.”
UPDATE: In a statement issued today, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) expressed shock at the racism of the Tel Aviv municipality, as reported in the Ma’ariv article.
Hagai El-Ad, the director of the ACRI, said: “Neither the municipality of Tel Aviv nor any other official body is responsible for ‘racial purity.’ The idea of the municipality interfering in the weaving of romantic connections is inconceivable.”
For further information from the ACRI, contact spokeswoman Nirit Moskowitz.
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