This isn't Israel's first political revolution.
"You have to understand that for us, the natives of the Arab countries, the State of Israel was not created because of the Holocaust."
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Many are calling the recent political upheaval in Israel historic and unprecedented.
Historic, time will tell, but unprecedented? Definitely not.
First, the Israeli judiciary has been changed before.
From the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 until 1953, the process of selecting judges for all courts was entirely decided by politicians.
During that time, to appoint a judge to the Supreme Court, the justice minister would nominate a candidate to the cabinet, the cabinet would approve the nomination, and the Knesset would affirm it.
But in 1953, that system was radically changed by the Judges Law, which established the Judicial Selection Committee and swung the balance of power on the committee significantly towards the judiciary and legal professionals.
We’ve also seen seismic shifts in Israeli politics before. Most notably in the 1970s, with the creation of Likud, the party which current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs.
Likud was founded in 1973 by Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon, in an alliance with several right-wing parties, including Herut, which had been the nation’s largest right-wing party. In Hebrew, Likud means “consolidation,” since it represented a consolidation of the Israeli right.
From its establishment, Likud enjoyed great support from blue-collar Middle Eastern Jews (known as Mizrachim and Sepharadim), who were significantly underrepresented in Israeli politics prior.
This is ironic because the Likud leadership was dominated by European Jews (Ashkenazim) at the outset, most notably Begin and Sharon (both of whom went on to become Israeli prime ministers). To this date, Likud has never been headed by a Middle Eastern Jew.
Aside from Yemenite Jews, most Middle Eastern Jewish immigrants and refugees started arriving to the State of Israel, founded in 1948, in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s. They were placed in rudimentary and hastily erected tent cities, often in development towns on the peripheries of Israel (the least-desirable areas).
They also settled in moshavim (cooperative farming villages), but many Middle Eastern Jews were craftsmen and merchants, meaning farm work was foreign to them.
Since the majority had to leave property behind in their former countries as they journeyed to Israel, many of these Middle Eastern Jews suffered a severe decrease in socioeconomic status aggravated by their cultural and political differences with the dominant European Jewish communities.
Between 1948 and the early 1980s, more than 850,000 Jews left or were expelled from countries in the Middle East and North Africa. In 2005, 61-percent of Israeli Jews were of full or partial Middle Eastern ethnicity.1
The first identifiable Middle Eastern Jewish politics was on the left, and arose in response to their marginalization within Israeli society. It was shaped by the Rainbow Alliance and the Israeli Black Panthers, explicitly inspired by the American Black Panthers.
But by 1977, just four years after Likud’s founding, the share of Middle Eastern Jews in its Central Committee grew from 10 to 50-percent.2
Voting against their own interests?
Many Israelis claim that Middle Eastern Jews, since they predominantly vote for Likud, choose a party that doesn’t actually benefit their historically economic and social hardships.
“It is clear they (the Israelis who make this claim) miss the point,” according to Sheleg Ben Shitrit, a producer and artistic director at one of Israel’s TV networks.3