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Shas Condemns Dismissal of Mizrachi Economist

Shas condemns firing of Shlomo Ma’oz over remarks about discrimination against Mizrachim in Israel.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 1/13/2012, 2:15 AM

Shlomo Ma'oz
Shlomo Ma'oz
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The Shas party condemned on Thursday the dismissal of senior economist Shlomo Ma’oz from the Excellence-Nesuah company.

Ma’oz, who was the company’s chief economist, was dismissed after making a speech Wednesday night about how Mizrachim were still, over 60 years after the establishment of the state, still considered second-class citizens in comparison to Ashkenazim.

“Shas has been crying out for years about the discrimination against Mizrachim,” the party said. “Ethnic discrimination is still alive and kicking, unfortunately, and until the issue is not eradicated from its root, we will continue to hear out loud what most people think silently.”

During his speech before students at Sapir College, Ma’oz drew a comparison between how police treated Mizrachi protesters for social justice in the 1970s, and how they treated the “Ashkenazi elites” who took over Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv for months this past summer. Police responded to those long-ago protests by “busting heads,” Ma'oz said – but barely lifted a finger against this year’s protesters.

“I want to see the cop who dares to break the heads of the Ashkenazim on Rothschild,” he said. “But Mizrachi cops bust the heads of Mizrachi protesters, on order of the 'white' powers that be,” he said, referring to the “white” Ashkenazi elite, as opposed to the “dark” Mizrachim.

He added that although the 1950s are long gone, the same spirit of Ashkenazi elitism still reigns in Israel. “The same white establishment rules,” he said. “Bank Leumi is for white people only. Only whites can achieve top-level positions.” He himself applied for a job there, Ma'oz said, and he was certainly qualified. “They found me a fine candidate for the job, but they shut the door in my face. And the acceptance committee, of course, was all Ashkenazi.”

Ma’oz’s dismissal was also criticized by Labor Party Chairwoman, MK Shelly Yechimovich, who said the dismissal constituted a blow to freedom of expression.

“Ma’oz’s remarks were strong and I do not agree with many of them, but some of what he said is a legitimate economic and sociological analysis, even if it was made using a strong and extreme language,” Yechimovich said.

She added, “Ma’oz touched on a nerve which hurts society. You can disagree with him, attack him or condemn him - but his dismissal is cowardly, silencing, and restricts free debate and free speech.”

Ma’oz himself responded to his dismissal in an interview on Channel 10 Thursday evening, in which he said he is sure Excellence-Nesuah regrets firing him.

“I’m sure they're sorry about this and hope they regret it,” he said. “They are not bad people, they were simply frightened.”