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Post-Zionism: the Sephardi Question

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  • World View
    NOTE: Wurmser is the wife of undersecretary David Wurmser. Racist ethnic Ashkenazi Neocons work as hard as possible to control discourse among Jews as they do
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2005
      NOTE: Wurmser is the wife of undersecretary David Wurmser. Racist
      ethnic Ashkenazi Neocons work as hard as possible to control discourse
      among Jews as they do among non-Jews.

      Wurmser misrepresents the critique of ethnic Ashkenazi racist
      colonialist nationalism (Zionism) in several serious ways, and many
      ethnic Ashkenazi scholars have come to the same conclusion.

      Joachim Martillo


      Post-Zionism and the Sephardi Question
      by Meyrav Wurmser
      Middle East Quarterly
      Spring 2005

      A growing group of Jewish Israeli professors is challenging the
      legitimacy of the Israeli state from within. Many are Mizrahim, as the
      Sephardi Jews from the Middle East and North Africa are increasingly
      called, and do so from a distinctly Mizrahi outlook. In July 2004, for
      example, a poem appeared online entitled, "I Am an Arab Refugee":

      When I hear Fayruz[1] singing,
      "I shall never forget thee, Palestine,"
      I swear to you with my right hand
      that at once I am a Palestinian.
      All of a sudden I know:
      I am an Arab refugee
      and, if not,
      let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.[2]

      The author is not a Palestinian refugee but rather an Israeli Jew. His
      name is Sami Shalom Chetrit, a Mizrahi professor at Hebrew University
      in Jerusalem who, along with Mizrahi academics like Ella Shohat, Eli
      Avraham, Oren Yiftachel, Yehouda Shenhav, Pnina Motzafi-Haller and
      others has developed a radical critique of ethnic relations in Israel.
      True to post-Zionism, an intellectual movement that believes that
      Zionism lacks moral validity, post-Zionist Mizrahi writers believe
      that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state. According to
      Mizrahi post-Zionism, the Mizrahim, about half of Israel's Jewish
      population, are "Arab-Jews," who like the Palestinians are victims of
      Zionism. While this new school of intellectual radicalism remains so
      far contained within the halls of academia and without broad support
      among the broader Mizrahi population, it, nevertheless, represents a
      new and worrisome twist on the post-Zionist phenomenon that continues
      to dominate Israel's academia and media.
      The Mizrahi Rejection of Zionism

      At the center of the radical, post-Zionist Mizrahi critique is a deep
      feeling of victimization. The post-Zionist Mizrahi writers continue to
      live their parents' insults and humiliations at the hands of the
      European Ashkenazi Jewish establishment that absorbed them in Israel
      after immigration. Discriminatory policies created a continuing social
      and economic gap between Mizrahim and Ashkenazim. These academics
      promote the view held by many young Mizrahim that discrimination did
      not end with their parents' generation. The children—who, in large
      part, were born in Israel—continue to face discrimination and cope
      with social and economic handicaps.

      The radical Mizrahim who turned to post-Zionism tap into anger beyond
      the well-known complaints of past ill-treatment, including the
      maabarot, the squalid tent cities into which Mizrahim were placed upon
      arrival in Israel; the humiliation of Moroccan and other Mizrahi Jews
      when Israeli immigration authorities shaved their heads and sprayed
      their bodies with the pesticide DDT[3]; the socialist elite's enforced
      secularization; the destruction of traditional family structure, and
      the reduced status of the patriarch by years of poverty and sporadic
      unemployment. These Mizrahi intellectuals' fury extends beyond even
      the state-sponsored kidnapping of Yemeni infants for adoption by
      Ashkenazi families who lost their children in the Holocaust.[4] The
      real anger Sephardim feel nowadays, and upon which these Mizrahi
      post-Zionists seize, comes from the extent to which, in their view,
      the Zionist narrative denied, erased, and excluded their historical

      Some of the adherents of this new Israeli school of thought now equate
      Mizrahi grievances with those of Palestinians. In an article, "Zionism
      from the Standpoint of Its Jewish Victims," a takeoff on Edward Said's
      famous "Zionism from the Standpoint of its [Palestinian] Victims,"[5]
      Ella Habiba-Shohat, an Iraqi-Israeli woman and one of the principal
      Mizrahi post-Zionist leaders, claims that, alongside the Palestinians,
      Mizrahi Jews are Zionism's "other" victims.[6] According to Shohat,
      Zionism is a white, Ashkenazi phenomenon, based on the denial of the
      Orient and the rights of both Mizrahi Jews and the Palestinians.
      Indeed, she argues, the conflict of East versus West, Arab versus Jew,
      and Palestinian versus Israeli exists not only between Israelis and
      Arabs but also within Israel between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews.

      This view contradicts the mainstream Zionist narrative, which
      maintains that Zionism saved Mizrahi Jews.[7] According to this view,
      the Mizrahi Jews were devout Zionists who deeply wished to leave the
      Diaspora and return to Zion.[8] Zionism saved these Mizrahim when
      persecution in their Arab and Iranian homelands intensified after
      Israel's independence. It also rescued them from the backwardness of
      Arab society and introduced them to the technology and culture of the
      civilized world. Zionism helped them to overcome the disadvantages of
      the illiterate, despotic societies from which they came.

      In contrast, post-Zionist Mizrahi writers believe that this official
      Zionist account is false and needs to be de-constructed. They maintain
      that the Mizrahim did not come from backward or primitive societies.
      Cities like Alexandria, Baghdad, and Istanbul were great metropolises
      of wealth and culture. Most Mizrahim had been exposed to Western
      culture and ideas since they came from countries once subject to
      British or French rule. The Mizrahim were also largely literate, if
      not highly educated. Most men and even some women could read the Torah.

      The post-Zionist writers also attack the claim that the Mizrahi Jews
      longed to immigrate to Israel. In reality, they argue, as loyal
      residents of the Arab world, Zionism played a relatively minor role in
      the Mizrahi world-view. Despite the role that the longing for Zion
      played in their religious lives, they did not share the
      European-Zionist desire to leave the Diaspora. Even after the
      Holocaust, post-Zionist writers maintain, Mizrahi Jews remained
      largely opposed to Zionism and lived peacefully with their Arab
      neighbors. Yehouda Shenhav, professor of sociology and anthropology at
      Tel Aviv University, writes in his study of the Jews of Iraq that the
      Mizrahim were never really Zionists. Instead, he argues that the
      Ashkenazi establishment encouraged their immigration less to protect
      the Mizrahim and more to address its own need for cheap labor.[9]
      Instead of saving the Mizrahi Jews, Zionism only ruthlessly displaced
      an entire community, Shenhav maintains, and removed its members' right
      to determine their own future. Pursuing this logic to its end, he
      argues that Zionism cannot be considered a liberation movement for all
      Jews. It liberated European Jews but enslaved the Mizrahim who, like
      the Palestinians, are an abused Third World people suffering under the
      yoke of first world Ashkenazi oppressors.

      One of the main complaints of this radical intellectual school is the
      belief that Zionism destroyed the Mizrahi sense of community and
      culture by forcing the adoption of new "Zionist" and "Israeli"
      identities so as to eradicate any threat of a Mizrahi-Arab alliance.
      This action not only destroyed the natural Arab-Jewish identity of the
      Mizrahim, these post-Zionists argue, but also sparked the Arab-Israeli
      conflict. Shiko Behar, a Mizrahi post-Zionist writer, asserts that
      identity in the Middle East today is shaped around post-colonial
      nationalism, not the religious division between Muslim and non-Muslim

      Before the rise of modern Jewish and Arab nationalism, Mizrahim and
      Arabs could coexist without conflict because they all shared an Arab
      identity and only differed in their religious beliefs.[11] In Zionist
      Israel, continues Behar, the Mizrahim could not be considered
      Arab-Jews even if their historical identity was more closely aligned
      with the Arab rather than Israeli identity. The Arab-Israeli conflict
      meant that the Mizrahim were forced to choose: either they were Jews,
      or they were Arabs. Mizrahim suffered communal schizophrenia because,
      for the first time since perhaps the time of the Caliph Harun
      ar-Rashid (763-809) when the Islamic caliph forced Jews to wear yellow
      patches, Arabism and Judaism were in conflict. Yet for this very
      reason, argues Behar, the Mizrahim—victimized by both Ashkenazi
      Zionism and the rise of Arab nationalism—are the key factor in solving
      the Arab-Israeli conflict. They alone can serve as the bridgehead into
      the Arab world since they, like the Palestinians, are refugees whose
      identity was destroyed.[12]
      Zionism and the Mizrahim: What Went Wrong?

      The Mizrahi academic embrace of post-Zionism is an attempt to address
      a broader, genuine problem. Post-Zionist Mizrahi writers present a
      compelling account of the systematic economic and ethnic
      discrimination that they personally, their families, and Mizrahi Jews
      in general have faced since the establishment of Israel to the present
      day. They provide evidence of discrimination and racist attitudes
      beginning with the early years of statehood. For example, in 1949,
      Ashkenazi journalist Aryeh Gelblum wrote the following about the
      arriving Mizrahi immigrants:

      This is the immigration of a race we have not yet known in the
      country. We are dealing with people whose primitivism is at a peak,
      whose level of knowledge is one of virtually absolute ignorance and,
      worse, who have little talent for understanding anything intellectual.
      Generally, they are only slightly better than the general level of the
      Arabs, Negroes, and Berbers in the same regions. In any case, they are
      at an even lower level than what we know with regard to the former
      Arabs of Israel. These Jews also lack roots in Judaism, as they are
      totally subordinated to savage and primitive instincts. As with
      Africans you will find among them gambling, drunkenness, and
      prostitution ... chronic laziness and hatred for work; there is
      nothing safe about this asocial element. [Even] the kibbutzim will not
      hear of their absorption.[13]

      Gelblum was not alone. Post-Zionist Mizrahim quote one of Israel's
      leading intellectuals in the 1950s, Karl Frankenstein, a celebrated
      professor at Hebrew University and the man considered the father of
      the Israeli education system. Frankenstein expressed outright racist
      attitudes towards Mizrahim, writing, "We have to recognize the
      primitive mentality of many of the immigrants from backward
      countries."[14] He further suggested that Mizrahi Jews have the
      mentality of primitive people who are somewhat mentally disturbed.[15]
      Israeli sociologist Yosef Gross argued in the early 1950s that Mizrahi
      immigrants suffered from "mental regression."[16] One of the worst
      examples of the anti-Mizrahi discrimination involves The Ashkenazi
      Revolution published in 1964 by writer Kalman Katzenelson in which the
      author argues that the Mizrahim suffer from irreversible genetic
      inferiority that endangers the superiority of the Ashkenazi-Zionist
      state. He called for the establishment of an apartheid regime that,
      among other limitations, would abolish their political rights. He also
      objected to mixed marriages and demanded the prohibition of the Hebrew
      language because it resembled Arabic too greatly. Instead he demanded
      that Yiddish become the national language because of its supreme
      Germanic origins. His book was a bestseller until Ben-Gurion banned

      The sentiments expressed by these intellectuals, the Mizrahi
      post-Zionists argue, were not uncommon. There were racist attitudes
      toward the Mizrahi Jews even among the highest political levels. Prime
      Minister David Ben-Gurion described the Mizrahi immigrants as lacking
      even "the most elementary knowledge" or "a trace of Jewish or human
      education."[18] Furthermore, he said, "We do not want Israelis to
      become Arabs. We are bound by duty to fight against the spirit of the
      Levant that corrupts individuals and society."[19] Likewise, Abba
      Eban, one of Israel's most eloquent diplomats, noted that "one of the
      great apprehensions which afflict us is the danger of the predominance
      of immigrants of Oriental origin forcing Israel to equalize its
      cultural level with that of the neighboring world."[20] In 1949,
      Shoshana Frasitz, a member of the Knesset, said of the Mizrahim, "You
      know that we have no common language with them. Our cultural level
      does not fit with their level; their lifestyle is the lifestyle of the
      middle ages."[21] Nachum Goldman, chairman of the Jewish Agency and
      president of the World Zionist Organization in the late 1940s and
      1950s, said, "A Jew from Eastern Europe is worth twice as much as a
      Jew from Kurdistan," and continued, "We should return a hundred
      thousand of the Jews of the East to their countries of origin."[22]
      Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir once asked, "Shall we be able to
      elevate these immigrants to a suitable level of civilization?"[23]

      The current clique of radical post-Zionist Mizrahim argues that such
      attitudes have not disappeared from Israel. Even as late as 1983, for
      example, the left-wing liberal and Palestinian-rights advocate,
      Shulamit Aloni, who headed the Citizens' Rights party and served as a
      member of the Knesset, denounced the Mizrahim as "barbarous tribal
      forces" who were "driven like a flock to the sound of tom-toms …
      chanting like a savage tribe."[24] In the same year, the celebrated
      Ashkenazi columnist Amnon Dankner raised the possibility of an
      Ashkenazi-Mizrahi cultural war in Ha'aretz:

      This will not be a war among brothers … [because] these are not my
      brothers … The sticky blanket of "Jewish love and brotherhood" is
      thrown on my head and I am asked to be considerate of the [Mizrahi]
      cultural deficit and the authentic feelings of discrimination. My
      blood boils when I hear those hypocritical calls. They put me in a
      cage with a baboon running amok and then they tell me: "Okay, now you
      are together and begin a dialogue.…" Now I want to tell you that I am
      tired of empathizing and understanding. I have heard all the stories
      about discrimination, the social-economic gap, the feelings of
      frustration, the DDT and the maabarot. [I am told that] we [the
      Ashkenazim] have Heine, Freud, Einstein, and the wonderful synthesis
      between Judaism and Western culture, but the [Mizrahim] also have some
      wonderful things: hospitality, respect for mother and father, and a
      wonderful patriarchal tradition. … For me, however, they are not among
      the traits that I wish to see in the society that my spiritual fathers
      and I dreamed about establishing here: an exemplary and modern society
      laced with the most beautiful visions of humanistic liberalism.
      [Still] the advocates of Jewish love and brotherhood say, "Do not call
      them [the Mizrahim] Khomeini-like or primitive. It makes them even

      These anti-Mizrahi attitudes, argue the post-Zionist Mizrahim, exist
      in the depiction of Mizrahim in movies, literary works, and
      especially, the media. They quote the findings of researcher Eli
      Avraham who investigated the media portrayal of the Mizrahim in the
      1980s and 1990s. He found a number of recurring themes were associated
      with the Mizrahim. Those included violence, crime, and social unrest;
      unseemliness and neglect; limited future prospects; a herd mentality,
      and ethnically-determined political identity; an inability to be "like
      us [Ashkenazim]; and a syndrome of `primitivism.'"[26]

      While anti-Mizrahi attitudes are a legitimate concern, for radical
      post-Zionist writers, the problem does not end with the racism of some
      of Israel's founding fathers, politicians, and intellectuals. For
      them, the core issue is economic and social discrimination. In the
      1970s, the Mizrahi Black Panther movement emerged to address economic
      and social discrimination through violent protests. Prime Minister
      Golda Meir ordered a brutal crackdown on the movement, which took its
      revolutionary outlook from the African American struggle in the United
      States and Marxist movements in Latin America. Radical post-Zionists
      believe that socioeconomic discrimination continues to exist, and they
      see it as the key factor that has led the Mizrahim to vote in droves
      since 1988 for the religious Mizrahi party Shas.
      The Persistent Social Gap

      According to the radical Mizrahi critique, one of the great recent
      myths about Israel is that the social, economic, and educational gap
      between the Ashkenazim and the Mizrahim—which peaked in the 1960s and
      1970s—finally closed in the 1990s. According to this myth, after years
      of Ashkenazi state-run and personal discrimination, the Mizrahim, who
      until the Russian immigration of the 1990s represented the majority of
      Israelis, were able to finally catch up to the standards of Ashkenazi

      There were many reasons to believe that the great social and economic
      gap between the Mizrahim and Ashkenazis had closed and that
      discrimination had become a thing of the past. Since the 1980s, a
      growing number of Mizrahim have held key positions in the Israeli
      government and military establishments. Moshe Katzav won the
      presidency in August 2000, while David Levi, Meir Schitrit, Aryeh
      Der'i, Shaul Mofaz, and Shlomo Ben-Ami have held top ministerial
      portfolios in a number of governments. The Israeli military is a tool
      of social mobility, and several of its high-ranking officers and
      chiefs-of-staff have been Mizrahim. Moreover, Israel underwent
      somewhat of a cultural revolution starting in the 1980s and 1990s;
      much popular culture today is dominated by Mizrahi music, traditions,
      and customs. Sometimes this translates into the politicization of
      Mizrahi traditions. For example, attending the Moroccan-Jewish
      celebration of the Mimuna, which marks the end of Passover, is now a
      must for every Ashkenazi prime minister and aspiring politician. On
      that day, the media is full of reports of top politicians visiting
      Mizrahi homes and tasting the traditional bread (mofleta) baked by the
      women of the house.

      But despite the appearance of change and of a closing
      Ashkenazi-Mizrahi gap, studies show that during the 1990s the
      disparity between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim in Israel grew. Even in the
      late 1990s, 88 percent of upper-income Israelis were Ashkenazim while
      60 percent of lower-income families were Mizrahim.[27] In spite of the
      general increase in standard of living in Israel, the gap between
      Israeli-born Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, especially in housing, remains
      comparable to their parents' generation. In other areas such as
      income, the gap has only become wider. In fact, as Yoav Peled, a Tel
      Aviv University political scientist, demonstrated, a "cultural
      division of labor" characterized Israel in the 1990s when, within the
      Jewish population, the vast majority of the low income and
      impoverished families were of Mizrahi origin. The lower-middle class
      consisted of both Ashkenazi and Mizrahi families, with a small
      Ashkenazi majority, while the upper-middle and upper classes were
      almost exclusively Ashkenazi.

      Even though the Mizrahim account for almost half of Israel's
      population, even as late as 2000, there was still only one Mizrahi for
      every four college-educated Ashkenazim. Sami Shalom Chetrit's works
      focus largely on the gap in education between Mizrahim and Ashkenazim.
      He argues that the gap has resulted from state policies that have not
      changed significantly since the 1950s.[28] In areas more densely
      populated by Ashkenazi Jews, high schools focused on college
      preparation. But, in mostly Mizrahi areas, the state built special
      high schools (called makif and amal), which offer mostly vocational
      training. While in theory these schools included a single class of
      approximately 30 students who could aspire to higher education, my own
      experience growing up in the almost completely Mizrahi town of Ramle,
      Israel, was that far fewer succeeded. I attended a school of 700
      students; only 37 students per grade were allowed to engage in full
      academic study. Of these, only three of us actually graduated high
      school and went onto higher education. The existence of separate
      education systems has meant that the disparity in higher education has
      continued. Naturally, differences in levels of education lead to
      differences in occupation and income.

      As researcher Ya'akov Nahon has noted, since the 1980s, the
      socioeconomic gap divides Israeli society into two ethnic groups even
      among the second-generation population. He suggested that despite
      intermarriages and the process of socialization of the Mizrahim into
      Ashkenazi society, the gaps between the two groups did not close and
      even grew. Part of the problem stems from basic unequal conditions
      between Mizrahim and Ashkenazim: the Mizrahim tend to have larger
      families, their economic situation was worse from the start, and their
      negative image in society has made them less able to catch up to the
      Is Post Zionism the Answer?

      The Mizrahi post-Zionist allegations about the systemic ethnic,
      cultural, and socioeconomic discrimination that marked much of Israeli
      society in its early years are truthful. The claim that Mizrahim
      continue to live the consequences of this type of discrimination is
      not a distortion. The examples they point to are neither fabricated
      nor taken out of context. They represent a dark chapter in Israeli
      history that remains open even today. They also reflect genuine
      feelings of fury and insult against the Ashkenazi establishment that
      exist among many second- and third-generation Mizrahim. Although
      intermarriage between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi families takes place in
      growing numbers and might eventually lead to the end of the
      discrimination, two distinct ethnic identities and subcultures still
      exist today. The socioeconomic differences between the impoverished,
      predominantly Mizrahi development towns along Israel's borders and the
      wealthy, mostly Ashkenazi urban neighborhoods of Israel's large cities
      are striking. So, too, are the economic and cultural differences
      between those who are popularly known in Hebrew as the
      tzfonim—literally, those who reside in the north, a reference to the
      wealthy and mostly Ashkenazi Herzliya and northern Tel-Aviv
      neighborhoods—and the dromim, the residents of the south, the Mizrahim
      who reside in the poor areas of south Tel-Aviv and its southern suburbs.

      With this in mind, the post-Zionist Mizrahi radical rejection of
      Zionism and the Israeli state is the wrong medicine for the disease.
      Rejecting Zionism is opting for a solution that is outside the Israeli
      political system. Such a solution will contribute little to solving
      the existing problems of Israeli society and its Mizrahi population.
      Destroying the state of Israel will not make the Mizrahim more equal
      or accepted by either Jewish or Arab societies.

      Taking a radical stand against the state of Israel means that the
      post-Zionists undermine the achievements and accomplishments of
      Mizrahim in Israel. Years of Mizrahi history in the Jewish state are
      dismissed by the post-Zionists as atypical or unimportant. Their many
      successes are ignored and belittled. In so doing, the post-Zionist
      Mizrahi writers portray the members of their community as the passive
      object of history. They are forever the victims, too weak to rebel and
      too naive to fight the system. Although some Mizrahi writers, such as
      Chetrit, emphasize in their works the story of the Mizrahi uprising
      against the state at different points of time, this remains a story of
      a small minority even within the Mizrahi community. It does not offset
      the general tone of the post-Zionist writers, which remains one of
      helplessness and weakness.

      Moreover, much of the post-Zionist Mizrahi outlook is based on
      nostalgic reminiscences of the Arab world rather than an unsentimental
      view of what it was then and now. Even if the post-Zionist point of
      view were adopted by scores of Mizrahim, it is hard to believe that
      they could safely go back to residing as "Arab-Jews" in countries like
      Iraq, Syria, or Libya. Long years of Arab-Israeli conflict exposed
      Arab society to so much anti-Semitism and hatred toward Israel that
      the safety and security of Mizrahim who might desire to be a part of
      the Arab world again would be threatened. This exposes yet another
      weakness in the post-Zionist argument: the assumption that the
      Arab-Israeli conflict is one-sided and is only the result of the
      manipulations of Zionism. The post-Zionists Mizrahi writers forget
      that the Arab world continues to play a role in the conflict. The Arab
      world's version of Arab nationalism was inspired since its creation by
      both fascism and Islamic fundamentalism—two movements which have by no
      means been kind to Jews. Modern Arab nationalism—and not "Ashkenazi"
      Zionism—is no less responsible for the conflict between Arabs and

      In their attempt to end what they view as the oppression of the
      Mizrahi Jews, the post-Zionist Mizrahi academics claim to speak in the
      name of liberty, justice, and equality. Their argument is that the
      Mizrahim need to break the chains of enslavement in Israel and declare
      themselves as Arab Jews in order to liberate themselves and revive
      their self-definition and self-respect. But the post-Zionists once
      again ignore Middle Eastern reality: what they advocate would put half
      the Jewish population of Israel under the rule of Arab tyrants since
      there is as yet no democracy in the Arab world. The so-called
      liberation of the Mizrahi Jews will only expose them to new forms of
      The Future of Mizrahi Post-Zionism

      Perhaps the greatest difficulty with the post-Zionist agenda stems
      from the fact that its proponents lack a substantial following among
      the Mizrahim in Israel.

      Mizrahim tend not only to view themselves as ardent Zionists, but they
      also tend to hold religious and nationalist views that lead them to
      support the Israeli Right in national elections. Perhaps rooted in
      their families' past experiences, most hold an antagonistic view of
      the Arab world and find the attempt to define them as Arab Jews rather
      than as Israelis insulting.

      Post-Zionist Mizrahi writers seem to be aware of this problem, and
      some of them complain about their Mizrahi brethren who cannot
      understand what is in their own best interest. Other post-Zionist
      writers, such as Ella Shohat, explain the political behavior of the
      Mizrahim as the result of years of Ashkenazi oppression. In her view,
      Mizrahim have internalized the condescending Ashkenazi attitude toward
      them to such an extent that they have turned into self-hating
      Mizrahim. In other words, the East came to view itself through the
      West's distorting mirror. Shohat quotes Malcolm X who said that the
      white man's worst crime was to make the black man hate himself.[30]
      She maintains that Mizrahi hatred toward the Arabs is no more than
      self-hatred caused by long exposure to Ashkenazi ill treatment.[31]
      But in their argument, Shohat and her colleagues once again belittle
      their Mizrahi brothers and sisters whose political behavior they
      explain not as a matter of independent, mature political choice but
      rather as yet another unintended consequence of Ashkenazi action. In
      so doing, they present the Mizrahim as childlike people who cannot
      understand their own best interests and cannot manage to vote
      "correctly." This is hardly an argument that can contribute to Mizrahi
      pride or liberation.

      Furthermore, to claim that the Mizrahim cannot express themselves
      within the Israeli political system, as the post-Zionists argue, is to
      ignore reality. The electoral victories of the Likud party in 1977 and
      1981 were the outcome of the Mizrahi ethnic vote protesting the
      Ashkenazi elite's failure in the 1973 war, its corruption, and its
      condescending attitude toward non-Ashkenazi Israelis. Likewise, the
      rise to power of the ultra-orthodox Mizrahi Shas party as the third
      largest political force in Israel in the 1999 elections demonstrates
      the Mizrahi ability not only to influence Israeli politics but also to
      master the political system and determine Israel's political future.
      Regardless of the politics of Likud or Shas, the Mizrahi ability to
      understand that they can determine and change their country's future
      by using democratic means shows not only a high degree of political
      maturity but also the aptitude to internalize the democratic process
      and rules.

      The Mizrahi ability to master the democratic game might arguably be
      where their greatest contribution to Israeli society can be found.
      Until the Likud victory in 1977, Israeli politics were characterized
      by single-party rule. The left-wing Labor party (or its splinter,
      Mapai) had dominated Israeli politics since Israel's 1948
      independence. Only the Mizrahi vote in support of Likud in 1977 turned
      the Israeli political system for the first time into a full
      multiple-party, liberal-democracy. Ultimately, Mizrahi power remains
      its most effective when it continues as an integral part of the
      democratic Zionist process.

      Meyrav Wurmser is the director of the Center for Middle East
      Policy at the Hudson Institute.

      [1] A famous Arab singer born in Lebanon.
      [2] Sami Shalom Chetrit, "Ani Palit Aravi," 2004.
      [3] Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, a toxic chemical banned in the
      United States in 1972 due to health and environmental risks.
      [4] See, for example, Yael Tzadok, "Yaldi Timan: Hakonflict Shemerov
      Pahad Mechanim Oto Shed Vemachnisim Oto Lebakbuk," Kedma, Dec. 2000.
      [5] Edward Said, "Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Victims," in
      Moustafa Bayoumi and Andrew Rubin, eds., The Edward Said Reader (New
      York: Random House Inc., 2000), pp. 114-68.
      [6] Ella Shohat, "Mizrahim in Israel: Zionism from the Standpoint of
      Its Jewish Victims," Social Text, Fall 1988, pp. 1-35.
      [7] On Zionism as an Ashkenazi phenomenon, see, Pnina Motzafi-Haller,
      "A Mizrahi Call for a More Democratic Israel—Israel at 50," Tikkun,
      Mar.-Apr. 1988.
      [8] Yehuda Shenhav, Hayehudim-Aravim: Leumiyut, Dat, ve'Etniyut (Tel
      Aviv: Am Oved, 2003), pp. 24-55.
      [9] Yitzhak Dahan, "Waters of Babylon," review of Yehouda Shenhav, The
      Arab-Jews: Nationalism, Religion, and Ethnicity (Tel Aviv: Am Oved,
      2003), in Azure, Winter 5765/2005, p. 127.
      [10] Shiko Behar, "Is the Mizrahi Question Relevant to the Future of
      the Entire Middle East?" Kedma, Jan. 1997.
      [11] Norman Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source
      Book (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1979)
      p. 157.
      [12] Behar, "Is the Mizrahi Question Relevant to the Future of the
      Entire Middle East?"
      [13] Ha'aretz (Tel Aviv), Apr. 22, 1949.
      [14] Quoted in Sami Shalom Chetrit, Hamaavak Hamizrahi Beyisrael, Bein
      Dikui Leshihrur, Bein Hizdahut Lealternativa, 1948-2003 (Tel Aviv: Am
      Oved, 2004), pp. 76-8.
      [15]. Quoted in ibid., p. 77
      [16] Quoted in Ella Shohat, "Rupture and Return: A Mizrahi Perspective
      on the Zionist Discourse," The MIT Electronic Journal of Middle East
      Studies, May 2001, pp. 58-71.
      [17] Kalman Katzenelson, HaMahapecha HaAshkenazit (Tel-Aviv: Anach,
      1964). Quoted in Chetrit, Hamaavak Hamizrahi Beyisrael, p. 133.
      [18] Quoted in Shohat, "Mizrahim in Israel," p. 3.
      [19] Quoted in Sami Smooha, Israel: Pluralism and Conflict (Berkeley:
      University of California Press, 1978) p. 88.
      [20] Ibid.
      [21] Quoted in Chetrit, Hamaavak Hamizrahi Beyisrael, p. 65.
      [22] Quoted in ibid.
      [23] Smooha, Israel: Pluralism and Conflict, pp. 8-89.
      [24] Shohat, "Mizrahim in Israel," p. 4.
      [25] Chetrit, Hamaavak Hamizrahi Beyisrael, pp. 221-2.
      [26] Eli Avraham, Hatikshoret Beyisrael: Merkaz vePeriferia: Sikuran
      shel Ayarot Hapituah (Tel Aviv: Breyrot, 1993), p. 32.
      [27] Shlomo Swirski and Etty Konor-Attias, Israel: A Social Report
      (Tel-Aviv: Adva Center, 2003), p. 10; Chetrit, Hamaavak Hamizrahi
      Beyisrael, p. 218.
      [28] Sami Shalom Chetrit, "Hahinuch Beyisrael: Bikoret VeAlternativa,"
      lecture at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Nov. 27, 2000.
      [29] Ya'akov Nahon, "Pe'arim Adatiyim—Tmunat Matav Leorech Zman," in
      Kivunim Hadashim BeHeker Haba'aya Ha'adatit: Rav Siah (Jerusalem: The
      Jerusalem Institute for Research of Israel, 1984), no. 8, p. 43.
      [30] Ella Shohat, "The Invention of the Mizrahim," Journal of
      Palestine Studies, Autumn, 1999, pp. 5-20.
      [31] Shohat, "Mizrahim in Israel," p. 14.



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