Thursday, April 02, 2015

  • Thursday, April 02, 2015
  • Elder of Ziyon
Ha'aretz keeps publishing idiotic op-eds. This one by By Salman Masalha does a spectacular job of misunderstanding Mizrahi Jews.

There was an uproar over remarks made by Prof. Amir Hetsroni against those who voted for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, including Hetsroni’s suggestion that it would not have been so awful if Moroccan Jews had been “left to rot” in North Africa rather than coming to Israel. But if we translate his statement into the more nuanced official language of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, it sounds very familiar.

“We are Europeans. We are refined [and] don’t eat as much as you Moroccans do.” This comment was reportedly directed by First Lady Sara Netanyahu at one particular Moroccan, Meni Naftali, former chief caretaker of the Prime Minister’s Residence, who is suing the Netanyahus. Nevertheless, a lot of Meni Naftalis showed their support for the First Family by going to the polls on Election Day to fill the ballot boxes with Likud ballots.
Masalha, writing for Haaretz, is convinced of course that the Likud is more racist against Mizrahi Jews than the Left, and cannot understand why they tend to vote right wing. It never occurs to him that his premise might be wrong. (Or that the Prime Minister's wife isn't a Likud official.)
One should remember that Zionism is a white European national movement. This Ashkenazi Zionism, which established the country in an ongoing confrontation with the Arab world, created a serious emotional crisis for Jews from Arab countries. The more the Arab-Israeli conflict intensified, so did the complexity of the situation faced by Jews from Arab lands.

The people with the political, economic, social and cultural clout have no problem declaring proudly, “We are Europeans. We are refined, not like you Moroccans.” On the other hand, what are Jews whose entire existence is Arab supposed to do? In the intensifying national confrontation between European Zionism and the Arab world, Jews from Arab countries were pushed aside. They therefore began referring to themselves as Mizrahim (literally “Easterners”) among other things. Anything to escape the term “Arab,” which connotes national enmity. A few years ago such emotional pressures pushed a Jewish Likud Knesset member at the time, Carmel Shama, to ask the Interior Ministry to add “Hacohen” to the end of his name because he was sick of people always thinking that he was Druze, in other words, Arab.
Notice how Masalha is himself bigoted against Mizrahi Jews. He assumes that they are conflicted about their identity while European Jews have pride in their not being from the backwards Middle East (that they risked their lives to move to.).

This last anecdote is a fantasy that Masalha published five years ago in Haaretz as well. There is no evidence that Shama-Hacohen was embarrassed by his last name; many Ashkenazic Jews also change their names in Israel from German or Polish surnames to Hebrew ones. If "proud, refined" Europeans and Americans change their names just like the Jews from Arab countries that Masalha considers emotionally disturbed, then that sort of blows apart Masalha's theory.
The flight from Arabism, even the wearing of Eastern European shtetl clothing (as one sees in Shas) will not lead Mizrahim, meaning Arabs of the Jewish faith, anywhere. Netanyahu and the white right wing in general will continue to fan hatred towards Arabs. This hate will ensure the continued flight of Arab Jews from their Arabness and the right’s continued manipulation of Jews who are estranged from it.
The only Ethiopian Knesset member at this time is a Likud member. Likud also has a Druze member. Silvan Shalom, #6 on the list this time, was born in Tunisia.

So much for the "white right wing."
As a result, it is only when the descendants of Jewish Arabs proudly and confidently proclaim to the refined, arrogant European Israelis that they are Arab, and proud of it, that perhaps there will be an end to their tribulations. This could also constitute a first step on the road to a historic reconciliation with the Palestinians.
I asked the blogger at Point of No Return to comment, since she is far better qualified than I am to respond to this:

It's a puzzle. Mizrahim ('Jews of the East') get insulted by Mrs Netanyahu. (Or was it that foul-mouthed professor with the long hair, Hetzroni, who wished they could have rotted in Morocco?)

Yet, like victims of long-term abuse, they come back to vote for Mrs Netanyahu's husband.

Masalha performs logical acrobatics to conclude that Jews from the East are denatured from their 'Arab' identity. So desperate are they to be loved by their 'European superiors' that they imitate them and vote for parties that take a hard line against Arabs.

How does Salman Masalha explain this curious phenomenon?

Well, let me provide an explanation.

The confrontation with the Arab world did not create a serious emotional crisis for Israel's Mizrahim. Despite the arrogance of some members of Israel's elite, they have, with the exception of a few fringe communists, always been able to see the unvarnished truth.

The truth is that Israelis surrounded by enemies, some with serious psychopathic tendencies. Were Israel to show weakness, as advocated by Herzog's Zionist Union, Hamas, Hezbollah, the jihadists of Al Qaeda, Al-Nusra and Da'esh, would make mincemeat of Israel's Jews. To say nothing of the Iranian nuclear threat. And so they vote for parties that will stand firm against Israel's enemies.

What Masalha and his ilk cannot, or will not, acknowledge is the Arab and Muslim antisemitism that drove the Mizrahim to the Jewish state in the first place. Mizrahim view today's threats with a sense of perspective and history that even many Ashkenazim do not have.

Mizrahim know full well that had they stayed in Iraq, Libya or even Morocco, they would have been at best marginalised, worse, oppressed, at worst massacred.

They fled not Arabness, but Arabism and Islamism.

Zionism has never been the sole preserve of white Europeans. Mizrahim prayed 'next year in Jerusalem' along with the rest.Through the centuries, Eretz Yisrael has always attracted a steady inflow of Sephardim and Mizrahim.

As for being proud Arabs, perhaps the Tunisian writer Albert Memmi puts it best:

"We would have liked to be Arab Jews. If we abandoned the idea, it is because over the centuries the Moslem Arabs systematically prevented its realization by their contempt and cruelty. It is now too late for us to become Arab Jews."


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