Mitzna denies ‘ethnic’ quote about Peretz

Newspaper accuses Labor leadership candidate of racism after saying that Peretz "comes from another planet."

Amram Mitzna 311 (photo credit: Ron Friedman)
Amram Mitzna 311
(photo credit: Ron Friedman)
Labor leadership candidate Amram Mitzna vigorously denied a front-page report in Ma’ariv on Thursday that quoted him making a statement about front-running candidate Amir Peretz that the newspaper interpreted as racist.
According to the report, Mitzna told pensioners in Givatayim that if elected, he could cooperate with fellow candidates Isaac Herzog and Shelly Yacimovich – and that they, unlike Peretz, added value to the party.
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“They aren’t Amir Peretz,” Mitzna said according to the report. “He comes from another land.”
Another report quoted Mitzna saying Peretz was “from another planet.”
The newspaper interpreted “another land” as a reference to his native Morocco, and proclaimed in a headline that the “ethnic genie” had been uncorked in Labor.
“I was referring to his political approach, not his ethnicity,” Mitzna said, complaining about Peretz’s mass registration drive, which he believes tainted Labor with people who don’t belong in Labor, or who joined the party illegally.
Mitzna’s spokesman, Gil Solomon, said he was present at the speech and that Mitzna did not say such a thing.
Givatayim Deputy Mayor Iris Avraham, who does not support Mitzna’s candidacy but was at the event, said he had been misinterpreted.
“There is nothing wrong with talking about different political cultures,” she said.
“Mitzna and Peretz are very different people. There was nothing racist there. All attempts to ignite a racial dispute in Labor are unfair and incorrect.”
Candidates Herzog and venture capitalist Erel Margalit said they did not think Mitzna had bad intentions, or was a racist. Margalit called upon all six Labor candidates not to criticize each other, except on matters of policy.
Peretz, who is on a fundraising tour in the US, did not respond to the report.
But sources close to him called Mitzna “a nostalgia candidate from another time.”
They said that if the report was accurate, it showed he was unfit to lead Labor.
Peace Now Secretary-General Yarive Openheimer endorsed Peretz on Thursday because of his support for the peace process and his ability to bring frustrated Likud voters from poor sectors into the party.
“Amir Peretz is the only candidate who can lead a clear diplomatic approach, as well as a tough stance on socio-economic issues,” Openheimer said. “He can offer a sharp alternative to parties on the right and in the center.”