This year's Miss Israel is a young lady of black Ethiopian heritage. But how many people, including prominent intellectuals and leaders, believe the myth that most Israelis are white? Jeff Weintraub puts them to rights.
In 2003 a very great man, Nelson Mandela, made a very inaccurate and unfortunate statement:
Why should there be one standard for one country, especially because it is black, and another one for another country, Israel, that is white.That remark was was especially bizarre because the country Mandela referred to as "black" was Iraq. I very much doubt that this was the way Saddam Hussein would have described himself.
As I pointed out in 2008, Mandela's statement reflected a misconception about Israel that is all too prevalent. His description of Israel as a "white" country was no doubt based on a taken-for-granted assumption that Israeli Jews are of European origin.
In fact, about half of Israeli Jews are Middle Eastern Jews, or Mizrahim (sometimes also called Sephardim, though strictly speaking that term covers only Jews who can trace their ancestry back to pre-1492 Spain)--and for most of the history of Israel, until the arrival of the Russian Jews in the 1990s, a solid majority of Israeli Jews were Mizrahim.
These people are not Europeans or ex-Europeans, but refugees from the Arab world and Iran (and their descendants), and the now-vanished Jewish communities they represent had roots in the Middle East, including what is now Iraq, that long pre-dated the coming of Islam.
(For some details, see A historic optical illusion - Israel & the invisible Middle Eastern Jews and Irwin Cotler on the Middle Eastern Jews & the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as the very useful website Point of No Return.)
If they are "white," then so are Iraqis ... not to mention Syrians, Algerians, Egyptians, Saudis, and so on.
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