Jewish refugees arriving in Israel
Although much of the curriculum plays on routine anti-Zionist arguments and tropes, Bears for Palestine’s lesson materials for week five (“The Character of the Zionist Settler-State”) take a more creative approach to demonizing Israel by including an article by Ella Shohat titled, “Sephardim in Israel: Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Jewish Victims.”
The article proceeds to tell a story of “Arab Jews,” a majority of whom now seek to form a “Palestinian-Sephardi alliance” in order to combat the evils of Zionism. The article attempts to make an argument about settler-colonialism while indulging colonialist language. In the piece, Shohat routinely refers to Mizrahim as “Arab Jews” or even “Jewish Arabs,” terms that are themselves a product of Arab imperialism.
Mizrahi Jews had been living in the Middle East long before the Arabization of the region, and pushing the use of the term “Arab Jew” over our preferred indigenous title is itself an act of colonization. As a result, a vast majority of Mizrahim today reject the term “Arab Jew” in favor of “Mizrahi Jew.” The irony of using this language of erasure for a unit entitled “The Character of the Zionist Settler-State” cannot be understated. Shohat also dodges the topic of the Jewish exodus from Arab lands in favor of a narrative that paints Israel, the place of refuge, as the ultimate oppressor.
If we wish to have an honest discussion about the oppression of Mizrahi Jews, should we not begin with the Farhud in Iraq? The internment of Jews in Egypt? Nazi-inspired concentration camps in Libya? To gloss over all of these atrocities in favor of an argument that demonizes the country that gave my family and the families of the 850,000 refugees a future is disingenuous at best.
But it is Shohat’s suggestion that there is a “Palestinian-Sephardi alliance” against the existence of Israel that is indicative of just how disconnected from reality and incredibly manipulative the article is. The mainstream Mizrahi perspective is a Zionist one.