Sunday, January 22, 2012
Surprise, surprise - that grand old man of the Left, Uri Avnery (pictured), has jumped on to the 'white-discrimination-against-Mizrahim' bandwagon, following the Shlomo Maoz 'scandal'. Why should we take Avnery seriously? Because he still has an international following. Many radical leftists are casualties of an inadequate Israeli schooling system. They simply haven't a clue about Jews from Arab countries and apply Marxist class stereotypes. We must redouble our efforts to educate 'leftists' as to the true history of Jews in Arab countries. My comments follow in italics.
Avnery: The Orientals have deep grudges against the Ashkenazim. They believe – not without justification – that they have been humiliated and discriminated against from their first day in the country, and still are, though quite a number of them have reached high economic and political positions. The other day, a top director of one of the foremost financial institutions caused a scandal when he accused the “Whites” (i.e. Ashkenazim) of dominating all the banks, the courts and the media. He was promptly fired, which caused another scandal.
The discrimination has been overstated and in many ways is a thing of the past. And one cannot generalise: As our commenter Sylvia says: Turkish, Iranian and Iraqi Jews have done very well - while Jews from North Africa are still struggling.
Avnery: The Likud came to power in 1977, dethroning Labour. With short interruptions, It has been in power ever since. Yet most Likud members still feel that the Ashkenazim rule Israel, leaving them far behind. Now, 34 years later, the dark wave of anti-democratic legislation pushed by Likud deputies is being justified by the slogan “We must start to rule!”
The scene reminds me of a building site surrounded by a wooden fence. The canny contractor has left some holes in the fence, so that curious passers-by can look in. In our society, all the other blocs feel like outsiders looking through the holes, full of envy for the Ashkenazi “elite” inside, who have all the good things. They hate everything they connect with this “elite”: the Supreme Court, the media, the human rights organizations, and especially the peace camp. All these are called “leftist”, a word curiously enough identified with the “elite”.
How has “peace” become associated with the dominant and domineering Ashkenazim?
That is one of the great tragedies of our country. Jews have lived for many centuries in the Muslim world. There they never experienced the terrible things committed in Europe by Christian anti-Semitism. Muslim-Jewish animosity started only a century ago, with the advent of Zionism, and for obvious reasons.
Ah, that Golden Age myth again. Avnery is blissfully ignorant of the history of Jews in Arab countries, where they lived in an atmosphere of 'cordial hatred' - as Professor Paul Fenton, a scholar of Moroccan-Jewish relations once put it. Avnery is at once ignorant of antisemitism in the Koran, and the long history of Jewish servitude, known as 'dhimmitude', under Muslim rule. (Somebody please tell him about pre-20th century massacres). Furthermore it is shocking that a German Jew whose family escaped the Nazis should be ignorant of the Nazi inspiration behind 20th century Arab Jew-hatred.
Avnery: When the Jews from Muslim countries started to arrive en masse in Israel, they were steeped in Arab culture. But here they were received by a society that held everything Arab in total contempt. Their Arab culture was “primitive”, while real culture was European. Furthermore, they were identified with the murderous Muslims. So, the immigrants were required to shed their own culture and traditions, their accent, their memories, their music. In order to show how thoroughly Israeli they had become, they also had to hate Arabs.
It is true that Israel did not at first appreciate Arabic culture, but Jews arriving from Arab countries were able to get state grants to do degrees in Arabic literature at the Hebrew University. They still continued to listen to Farid al-Atrash. Likewise the state did nothing to promote Yiddish culture. Leftists tend to overstate the cultural 'discrimination' that Jews from Arab lands experienced because they hate all elites, without recognising that they are part of them.
It is not true that all Jews from Arab countries were products of Arab culture. In fact many were fans of western culture. Those who were products of the Alliance Israelite system, spoke English and French. They could recite the poems of La Fontaine and Rudyard Kipling. They sang along to Edith Piaf.
Avnery: It is, of course, a world-wide phenomenon that in multinational countries the most downtrodden class of the dominant nation is also the most radical nationalist foe of the minority nations. Belonging to the superior nation is often the only source of pride left to them. The result is frequently virulent racism and xenophobia.
Avnery has got it precisely backwards. Many oriental Jews brought with them a pre-existing hatred of Arabs - the result of suffering and dispossession. It is this leftist inability to recognise or downplay Arab antisemitism which is actually raising roadblocks to peace.
Avnery: This is one of the reasons why the Orientals were attracted to the Likud, for whom the rejection of peace and the hatred of Arabs are supreme virtues.
Nonsense. Who signed a peace agreement with Egypt in 1979? Menahem Begin of the Likud.
Read article in full