Free of (yet) another Racist
On Dudu Topaz Suicide
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An Israeli actor turned television entertainer Dudu (an affectionate form of David in Hebrew) Topaz was born in Haifa in 1946 into the Israeli cultural elite (his father, Eliyahu, was an actor and a director). Later, he got an easy service at the IDF as an entertainer and then was sent to study in London. In Israel of the late sixties, such a treat was reserved to people close to the Mapai (later the Labor Party) establishment. This connection played an important role later in his life (and in the Israeli politics as well).
"Topaz" is a new-age name in the Israeli reality. His original name was "Goldenberg," and was changed in an attempt to make himself more attractive to the complex ethnic reality of Israel. "Topaz" implies no clear ethnicity and has a pleasant sound to the Hebrew ear. On the other hand, "Goldenberg" is a clearly Ashkenazi (West European) Jewish name.
Since the eighties onwards, he was a very popular television host and entertainer.
In 1981 Israel was amidst a very complex elections campaign. The Labor was trying to return to the power after it lost it for the first time in the country’s history to the Likud Party in 1977. The economic situation was very bad and it seemed Shimon Peres - the Labor’s leader - would easily win against Menachem Begin.
The Labor invited a young entertainer to help in the campaign. His name was Dudu Topaz. For the Labor, he was "one of us," "the son of" and "educated at." All the right classifiers for the job.
None of the Labor's leaders imagined the result.
In an elections rally held in Malchei Yisrael Square (now Tel Aviv's Rabin Square), Topaz said: "It's a pleasure to see the crowd here, and it's a pleasure to see that there are no chahchahim who ruin election gatherings. The Likud's chahchahim are at Metzudat Ze'ev," and changed history.
Why? "Chahchahim" is a derogatory term alluding to Sepharadic Jews, especially those of Northern African descent; its meaning is related to "being untidy," though it is just Hebrew slang. "Metzudat Ze'ev" - the "Fort of Ze’ev (Jabotinsky)" - is the name of the Likud Party Headquarters.
Needless to say, most "Chahchahim" voted for Menahem Begin’s Likud Party and gave him victory.
Israeli Left Wing Racism
This racism of the Israeli left wing has deep roots. Traditionally, very few Sephardic Jews were accepted into the different incarnations of the Labor Party. Those who were never advanced; they were just a fig leaf used to hide the truth from the voters.
Another good example in this category is the actress and entertainer Rivka Michaeli. Born to a family of Armenian descent, her original name was Michaelshvili. Being also Armenian Jews discriminated in Israel, she took out the Armenian suffix from her surname and advanced quickly in the Israeli entertainment world.
In the 1980’s, she built her career with a show called "Joking on the Week" (almost so, the literal translation makes no sense in English). Despite the show allegedly being a political satire, her jokes were almost exclusively based on the extremely funny (in her eyes) accent of Spanish-speaking Israelis (Moroccan, Turkish and South American Jews speak also Spanish and Ladino – a medieval form of Spanish). The potential victim turned herself into an executioner: many people spent the following years repeating her very bad accent imitations.
Arrest and Death
Racism is a form of violence. Speaking against others on ethnic grounds can easily turn into physical violence. That was the case with Topaz. In May 2009, Topaz was arrested by the Israeli police for being suspect of paying for a series of attacks on three high-ranking Israeli TV executives. They were beaten by unknown attackers and sustained serious wounds. On August 20, 2009, Topaz was found dead by a warden, after he hanged himself in the prison shower using the cord from an electric kettle.
May God judge him.
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