Peretz, supporters slam Barak's 'silence policy'

Labor chairman blasted for "silence policy;" One loyalist compares party leadership to Third Reich.

peretz 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
peretz 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Former Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz held a gathering Friday morning at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters, in which he and his loyalists sounded harsh criticism of current chairman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Peretz blasted what he called Barak's "silence policy" as well his dangerous cobduct, while supporters called on the chairman to resign his position. One speaker went so far as to call the party racist, anti-Semitic and comparable to the Third Reich, although Peretz later distanced himself from the harsh words. During the meeting, Peretz announced that the Labor party's social camp would begin taking action, and would no longer remain silent in the face of chairman Barak's actions. "I know the silence plan is very comfortable," Peretz said. "There is a policy of silence, with everything being said behind closed doors. We've received the 'closed doors' leader. A leader is a public figure. He should show himself and talk." Peretz also criticized Barak's conduct regarding an upcoming US-sponsored Middle East conference which is set to take place later this month in Annapolis, Maryland. "Annapolis is upon us. If Barak had come and said: Look, in light of my failure at Camp David, I've learned that one should be careful when going into such a conference because, should it fail, it could lead to escalation, to confrontation, to the eruption of a new Intifada. If he had said that…you know what? I would have really respected that." Many speakers, including MKs Efraim Sneh and Yoram Marciano, took the stage after Peretz, and all of them commended Peretz's activity and attacked Barak. The harshest of these was Beersheba activist Yehuda Alush, who accused the party of racism, and hinted that its current leadership had deposed Peretz due to his ethnic origin. "There is racism in the Labor party - racism that borders on anti-Semitism, on fascism. This is not a borderline group - this is the mainstream of the Labor party," Alush said. "There were some who could not accept the fact that at the head of the party stood a Moroccan-born from Sderot. There are some who could have easily been accepted into the honor guard of the Third Reich," he went on. At the request of the meeting's organizers, Alush apologized at the end of his speech to anyone who may have been offended by his words, but did not retract them. Peretz distanced himself from Alush's statements, saying "I must express my aversion to Alush's words. Although the things you have said are important, I don't think we have any right to attach labels of fascism or the Third Reich. Our camp has always opposed racial discussions. There are many people of Ashkenazi origin here right now, and they are a part of the social camp. This open wound needs to be discussed, but should by no means reach such levels. I apologize in all of our names if anyone was hurt by those words. It is important that we remain united." Earlier in the meeting, Marciano said he had experienced disillusionment from the party. "There is an attempt today to destroy a generation of social leaders, who truly believe in social issues, and who want to bring change. Barak, you began the destruction of the party in 1998, and you want to finish the job in 2008. Make the necessary conclusions and resign," he said.