One-stop blog on Jews from Arab and Muslim Countries and the Middle East's forgotten Jewish refugees, updated daily
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Racism has been worse on the left
Yemenite Jewish refugees: political primitives?
Seth Frantzman , opinion editor at the centre-right Jerusalem Post, jumps ship in order to sound off on Israeli racism in the Forward, a centre-left publication. Racism, he argues, has always been more virulent on the left. What about Mizrahi racism towards others , one may ask. In the last analysis, however, the state itself has overridden individual objections and prejudice to open its doors to Jews of all backgrounds and circumstances. It cannot be faulted for that.
Since the 1950s, this legacy of ethnocentrism has haunted Israel. When the philosopher Hannah Arendt visited Israel in 1961, she described her fear of Jews who “looked Arab but spoke Hebrew,” calling them “an Oriental mob.” In 1981, singer Dudu Topaz castigated non-Ashkenazi Jewish voters as “chachachim,” a derogatory term. In 1983, Shulamit Aloni lambasted Sephardic Shas supporters as “barbarous tribal forces.” Shmuel Schnitzer, a journalist, described in 1995 Ethiopian Jews as “thousands of apostates bearing disease.” Noted author Amos Elon pondered in 1953 what effect Moroccan Jews’ “uncontrolled fertility would have on the Jewish people’s genetic robustness,” and in a 2004 interview he was still claiming that “political primitiveness” came from immigrants to Israel.
This narrative of what Ehud Barak called a “villa in the jungle” has cast an immense shadow over the ability to confront racism in Israel. Stereotyping against citizens who are not considered European-origin “sabras” has been an integral part of the left and right, but ironically in Israel, it has been particularly virulent on the left. Ari Shavit states without compunction in his 2013 book “My Promised Land” that “many Oriental Jews are not aware of what Israel saved them from, a life of misery and backwardness in an Arab Middle East.”
In just 50 years, almost a million Jews, whose communities stretch back up to 3,000 years, have been 'ethnically cleansed' from 10 Arab countries. These refugees outnumber the Palestinian refugees two to one, but their narrative has all but been ignored. Unlike Palestinian refugees, they fled not war, but systematic persecution. Seen in this light, Israel, where some 50 percent of the Jewish population descend from these refugees and are now full citizens, is the legitimate expression of the self-determination of an oppressed indigenous, Middle Eastern people. This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, which can never return to what and where they once were - even if they wanted to. It will attempt to pass on the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution. Awareness of the injustice done to these Jews can only advance the cause of peace and reconciliation. (Iran: once an ally of Israel, the Islamic Republic of Iran is now an implacable enemy and numbers of Iranian Jews have fallen drastically from 80,000 to 20,000 since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Their plight - and that of all other communities threatened by Islamism - does therefore fall within the scope of this blog.)