Sunday, May 24, 2020

Ashkenazi Jews must stop identifying as 'white'

There is no doubt that Jews  originate in the Middle East and were victims of European colonialism - so why do so many Ashkenazi Jews feed the myth that Jews are 'white'? Dani Ishai Behan has posted this long, but carefully argued article in the Times of Israel: 

Chaim Weizmann (left) meeting Emir Faisal of Iraq in 1919

The minute we classify as white, we allow ourselves to be seen and treated as foreign colonizers in the Middle East. Ashkenazi Jews who identify as “white Europeans”, and refuse to own their Middle Eastern identity, are opening *themselves* up to delegitimization.

 Arguments about Israel’s Mizrahi majority can only take you so far. We can’t keep using Sephardim and Mizrahim as shields. We need to own who we are, and to tell the Palestinian (and the Lebanese, and the Syrian, and the Mizrahi, and the Sephardi) that we are every bit as indigenous to the region as they are. Not one iota less.

 Exile in Europe and colonization did not transform us into Europeans. We are still ethnic Jews, and therefore still Levantine. We should not be deprived of our indigenous Middle Eastern ethnic identity – and the rights entailed therein – for the fact that we were taken away from our homeland against our will.

To argue that is to argue we should be punished further for the crimes that were committed against us, and is a crass exercise in victim-blaming. So long as we keep thinking of ourselves as white, the Palestinian Arab will have every right to look at us as colonizers.

Remember, it’s not our skin color that necessarily bothers the Palestinian – for there are plenty of Palestinians who are quite white-skinned themselves (Linda Sarsour, Ahed Tamimi) – it’s the connotation that comes with it.

 So if they see us as white, it’s not our skin tone, it’s the connotation of being “white Europeans” and therefore unwelcome colonizers in the Middle East. That’s the narrative we all need to change, and change right now.

Read article in full


HDG, Yerushalayim, E"Y Shlemah said...

Thank you for this one, Lyn! I can identify.

I happen to be half Ashkenaziah and half Mizrahiah, but to look at me, people think I'm white. My college, back in the late '90s when I went back to school and filled out the form, denied me the "other" designation when I didn't want to call myself white back then. Of course they changed it according to how I looked (and still look).

Later on, I worked as a temporary in an office with a black man. I told him once, "I'm not white." He said, "That's cold." Meaning that I was turning my back on "my own."

This, despite that I have a grandfather named Mussa. It's really hard for a black Muslim (not my co-worker, but a taxi driver reapplying for a document that was about to expire) to believe that a "white" woman has a grandfather whose name is the same as his own, as I found out when I interviewed one at this job.

I hope these people will see articles like this one, remember me and realize that this is what I was talking about.

Kol tuv,

HDG, Yerushalayim, E"Y Shlemah said...

And next, I hope we'll all identify each other as family...this galuti paradigm has to go.


Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Look, 220 years ago, German and French philosophers like Kant, Hegel, and Voltaire considered Jews --including Jews in Germany & France-- to be Asians, and therefore inferior. Just read Voltaire's Dictionnaire Philosophique. Read what D'Holbach wrote about Jews.
100 years ago racism was all the rage, including among many intellectuals in the West, including socialists. Jews were seen as alien to Europe.
In the novel Trilby published about 1895, the villain is a swarthy Polish Jew. Now, after WW2 and the Shoah, Europeans seek to shift their guilt over the Shoah and imperialism and colonialism by depicting Israel as colonialist and whiter than white, quintessentially white. The Euros have cast their guilt onto the Jews and therefore they can keep on seeing themselves as morally superior to Jews. Which is how they have seen Jews for nearly 2 millennia. The Marxist movement was heavily influenced by Hegel as was Marx himself, and saw Jews negatively in Hegelian/Kantian terms.

In the United States, relatively little influenced by Kant & Hegel, there was certainly racism directed at Blacks but less so against Jews and other peoples coming to the US as immigrants around 1900. There were many people whom I would call Mediterranean or Near Eastern --Jews, Italians, Greeks, Armenians, Lebanese [in 1900 these were all or mostly all
Christians]-- but they were accepted as whites more or less. In fact, in the 19th century when laws were passed in the USA against Chinese and Japanese, called Asians, some Syrians [what Lebanese were also called then] went to court to have themselves declared white and thereby exempt from the discriminatory laws. The court accepted their claim and they were declared white although not exactly from Europe.
Maybe these several ethnic groups were accepted as white because Blacks were so bitterly hated. Nevertheless, I remember hearing --behind my back: Jews are N*****s turned inside out: more than once. I also heard it once said of Italians.
My mother was olive-skinned like many Italians, Greeks, etc. Likewise, some on my father's side were swarthy or olive-skinned or whatever you would like to call it. Yet we were more or less accepted as white although we sometimes felt hostility for being Jews.
But this was true too in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s of Muslim Arabs who were often showing up as students in American universities. They were well accepted on the campuses, especially as they were important to the US political establishment and often had plenty of money to spend.
So the argument made against Jews, that we were white and accepted as white, is just as true for Muslim Arabs.