Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Feinstein, Barazani, Begin and His Famous Speech

Menachem Begin's famous "Tzachtzachim" Speech has been credited with turning around and winning for the Likud the 1981 elections. (for background, see here)

But it did more.

We found this item:-

...A major watershed in this development was the speech delivered by local media personality Dudu Topaz at a Labor election rally in 1981, in which he memorable said: "The [Mizrahi] riffraff are in Metzudat Ze'ev [Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv]. They are barely good enough to serve as guards on a base, if they even enlist. The soldiers and commanders of the combat units are right here."

Topaz's remarks followed the crude analysis, in a 1978 newspaper interview, by then chief of staff Mordechai (Motta) Gur, of what he called the "Arab mentality": "The Mizrahim will not be able to close the gap for another 20 or 30 years. All the money Israel has invested in the Mizrahim has yielded only partial results."

Levy largely attributes the subsequent profound change in the IDF's ethnic composition to Herut leader Menachem Begin. In his responses to Topaz and in his campaign speeches, Begin legitimized, for the first time, the contribution of Mizrahim to the state, from those hung by the British to those who fought in the Yom Kippur War. Begin's consistent approach laid the foundations for a new ethos for those who were competing with the old elites over the birthright.

On the speech:-

June 27, 1981. A few days before the elections, Dudu Topaz spoke at a rally for the Ma'arach party (which later changed its name to Labor) at Malchei Israel Square in Tel Aviv (in later days, Rabin Square). Tens of thousands of people turned out for the rally and Topaz had what he thought was a funny, heartfelt greeting for them.

"It's nice to see this crowd tonight," Topaz started. "Those tchakhtchakhim over there in Metzudat Ze'ev [the Likud headquarters]. Those guys barely serve in the guard booths in the army, and that's if they serve at all." Pointing to the crowd, he continued, "Here are the fighters and the commanders. Here is the beautiful Israel."

...tchakhtchakhim (pronounced TSHACH-tshach-eem). I wasn't able to ascertain the provenance of the term (it might be Yiddish). It's a pejorative which refers to low-rent criminal types and usually refers to Mizrahim. In 1981 terms, tchakhtchakhim was a little less offensive than the Yiddish word for Sepharadi Jews, frenkim...These days, nobody other than utter racists would use either term. Back then, tchakhtchakhim wasn't quite the N word, but it certainly was the kind of term that any mildly intelligent politician would know to avoid.

Unfortunately, Topaz was a clueless comedian rather than a politician. His use of the word, coupled with his statement about Ma'arach supporters representing the "beautiful Israel", turned the speech into political nitroglycerin. To many Mizrahim, Topaz voiced what they felt the old Ashkenazi establishment thought of them, that they were a bunch of greasy lowlifes.

Now, Begin was one of the greatest orators in Israeli history. He hurried to take advantage of the tchakhtchakhim speech. The following night, Begin took to the same podium in Malchei Israel Square. In his speech he attacked "This so-called comedian, this Dudu Topaz" (intentionally mispronouncing his last name) for making a racial epithet. As he spoke, he worked himself up into a climax of rage and defiance. "Back in his days fighting with the Etzel, they didn't know tchakhtchakhim. They were all comrades in arms. With both fists raised in the air he declared, "Back then, we all fought together in the underground -- Ashkenazis, Sepharadis, JEWS! TOGETHER!!" The crowd was electrified. Likud voters turned out in big numbers for the election and helped re-elect Begin.

It would be wrong to say that Dudu Topaz swung the elections...Although he quickly apologized for his speech, Topaz became a cultural outcast. He spent most of the '80s rebuilding his career.


meir said...

is there a video or at least audio of that classic speech ? if so, can you post it or post a link to it.

meir said...

is there a video or at least audio of that classic speech ? if so, can you post it or post a link to it.

Unknown said...