How Israel's Election Awakened the Ethnic Demon

03/24/2015 03:08 pm ET | Updated May 23, 2015

"Drink cyanide, bloody Neanderthals. You won," Only death will save you from yourselves."

By the time the Israeli author of these words, an award-winning writer called Alona Kimhi, had deleted them from her Facebook page, it was too late. The blogosphere was buzzing, and Facebook and Twitter heaved with similar enraged disgust, even hatred, accusing Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party supporters of racism.

Some Israelis even started a campaign called 'Lo latet' to stop donating charity to the poor: They deserved punishment for perversely supporting the Right, even when Benjamin Netanyahu's centre-right 'capitalist policies' hurt them most.

Leftist resentment has bubbled out with unprecedented venom. After an extraordinary diatribe abusing Israel's right-leaning oriental jews or Mizrahim on Israeli TV, a long-haired professor called Amir Hetzroni walked out after being asked to apologise by the show's presenter.

Netanyahu's 'racist' comments pandered to his 'racist' supporters. He had exhorted them to come out and vote because 'Arabs were being bussed to the polling stations in their droves'.

But the damage had already been done the previous week. The centre-left Zionist Union's own chairman, Yitzhak Herzog, blamed a speaker at his party rally for the Zionist Union's defeat: artist Yair Garbuz had derided the "talisman kissers" and "tomb worshippers" who support Netanyahu.

His remarks were taken to refer to the country's traditionalist Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent. But, argued columnist Ben Dror Yemini, Garbuz was not the only one who harboured these condescending thoughts. The Ashkenazi-dominated Israeli establishment - writers, artists, dramatists, media people, academics - must crush its 'inner elitist'.

The Garbuz moment unleashed the 'ethnic demon' into the election campaign, Yemini opined. That was the moment when the Israeli election became about identity politics.

"There's no question that the speech given by Garbuz hurt us," Zionist Union chairman Yitzhak Herzog admitted.

Although he did not distance himself from Garbuz's comments at the time, Herzog said he 'did not subscribe to those beliefs'.

"I have nothing to do with Garbuz. "I have a golden rule - never to criticize beliefs and opinions, or to insult someone for their faith."

A chastened former Labour leader Shelly Yafimovitch appeared on Israeli TV. She bitterly regretted Yair Garbuz's words, and promised change.

Even before the election, far leftist commentator Dimi Reider wrote that the Garbuz episode showed something was seriously rotten in the state of the Left. The Israeli electorate has not voted in a Labour government since 1999. If they are ever to win back voters from Likud, the Left needs to do some serious soul-searching.

But Dimi Reider still failed to put his finger on the Mizrahi malaise.

Some say Netanyahu whipped up the politics of fear.

Call it fear - but it is fear grounded in bitter experience.

All Israelis have experienced Hamas rockets and Arab terrorism, but only the Mizrahim carry the memory of what it was like to have lived in Arab countries and to have been brutally displaced from them.

The average Likud voter has not forgotten the 'Jewish Nakba'. He and his family were dispossessed and uprooted from Morocco or Iraq. More than 50 percent of the Jews of Israel are refugees or descendants of refugees from Arab and Muslim antisemitism.

This is the elephant in the room. Yet the Left refuses to take the Mizrahi experience seriously, mumbling that the real issue was Israel's discriminatory reception of these refugees in the 1950s and 60s. In its 'Jewish nakba denial', the Left persists in seeing only Palestinians as true victims.

The average Likudnik sees full well that the antisemitism that drove him out of his country of birth still haunts and hounds his tiny corner of the Middle East. Hamas, Hezbollah and the beheaders of ISIS hover on Israel's doorstep while Iran rattles its nuclear sabre.

Israel would be mad to go the route of political concession and show weakness. The Neanderthals have spoken. There is no compromise with genocidal jihad. It's a no-brainer.