Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Post-Zionism and the Sephardi question

Well-reasoned critique by Meyrav Wurmser of the post-Zionists who blame Israel for the problems of its Mizrahi-Sephardi population.

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 Israelis.

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 oppression.

(Read it all)

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