At the center of the radical, post-Zionist Mizrahi critique is a deep feeling of victimization. The post-Zionist Mizrahi writers continue to live their parents’ insults and humiliations at the hands of the European Ashkenazi Jewish establishment that absorbed them in Israel after immigration. Discriminatory policies created a continuing social and economic gap between Mizrahim and Ashkenazim. These academics promote the view held by many young Mizrahim that discrimination did not end with their parents’ generation. The children—who, in large part, were born in Israel—continue to face discrimination and cope with social and economic handicaps.
The radical Mizrahim who turned to post-Zionism tap into anger beyond the well-known complaints of past ill-treatment, including the maabarot, the squalid tent cities into which Mizrahim were placed upon arrival in Israel; the humiliation of Moroccan and other Mizrahi Jews when Israeli immigration authorities shaved their heads and sprayed their bodies with the pesticide DDT; the socialist elite’s enforced secularization; the destruction of traditional family structure, and the reduced status of the patriarch by years of poverty and sporadic unemployment. These Mizrahi intellectuals’ fury extends beyond even the state-sponsored kidnapping of Yemeni infants for adoption by Ashkenazi families who lost their children in the Holocaust. The real anger Sephardim feel nowadays, and upon which these Mizrahi post-Zionists seize, comes from the extent to which, in their view, the Zionist narrative denied, erased, and excluded their historical identity.
Some of the adherents of this new Israeli school of thought now equate Mizrahi grievances with those of Palestinians. In an article, “Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Jewish Victims,” a takeoff on Edward Said’s famous “Zionism from the Standpoint of its [Palestinian] Victims,” Ella Habiba-Shohat, an Iraqi-Israeli woman and one of the principal Mizrahi post-Zionist leaders, claims that, alongside the Palestinians, Mizrahi Jews are Zionism’s “other” victims. According to Shohat, Zionism is a white, Ashkenazi phenomenon, based on the denial of the Orient and the rights of both Mizrahi Jews and the Palestinians. Indeed, she argues, the conflict of East versus West, Arab versus Jew, and Palestinian versus Israeli exists not only between Israelis and Arabs but also within Israel between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews.
This view contradicts the mainstream Zionist narrative, which maintains that Zionism saved Mizrahi Jews. According to this view, the Mizrahi Jews were devout Zionists who deeply wished to leave the Diaspora and return to Zion. Zionism saved these Mizrahim when persecution in their Arab and Iranian homelands intensified after Israel’s independence. It also rescued them from the backwardness of Arab society and introduced them to the technology and culture of the civilized world. Zionism helped them to overcome the disadvantages of the illiterate, despotic societies from which they came.
In contrast, post-Zionist Mizrahi writers believe that this official Zionist account is false and needs to be de-constructed. They maintain that the Mizrahim did not come from backward or primitive societies. Cities like Alexandria, Baghdad, and Istanbul were great metropolises of wealth and culture. Most Mizrahim had been exposed to Western culture and ideas since they came from countries once subject to British or French rule. The Mizrahim were also largely literate, if not highly educated. Most men and even some women could read the Torah.
The post-Zionist writers also attack the claim that the Mizrahi Jews longed to immigrate to Israel. In reality, they argue, as loyal residents of the Arab world, Zionism played a relatively minor role in the Mizrahi world-view. Despite the role that the longing for Zion played in their religious lives, they did not share the European-Zionist desire to leave the Diaspora. Even after the Holocaust, post-Zionist writers maintain, Mizrahi Jews remained largely opposed to Zionism and lived peacefully with their Arab neighbors. Yehouda Shenhav, professor of sociology and anthropology at Tel Aviv University, writes in his study of the Jews of Iraq that the Mizrahim were never really Zionists. Instead, he argues that the Ashkenazi establishment encouraged their immigration less to protect the Mizrahim and more to address its own need for cheap labor. Instead of saving the Mizrahi Jews, Zionism only ruthlessly displaced an entire community, Shenhav maintains, and removed its members’ right to determine their own future. Pursuing this logic to its end, he argues that Zionism cannot be considered a liberation movement for all Jews. It liberated European Jews but enslaved the Mizrahim who, like the Palestinians, are an abused Third World people suffering under the yoke of first world Ashkenazi oppressors.
One of the main complaints of this radical intellectual school is the belief that Zionism destroyed the Mizrahi sense of community and culture by forcing the adoption of new “Zionist” and “Israeli” identities so as to eradicate any threat of a Mizrahi-Arab alliance. This action not only destroyed the natural Arab-Jewish identity of the Mizrahim, these post-Zionists argue, but also sparked the Arab-Israeli conflict. Shiko Behar, a Mizrahi post-Zionist writer, asserts that identity in the Middle East today is shaped around post-colonial nationalism, not the religious division between Muslim and non-Muslim Arabs.
Before the rise of modern Jewish and Arab nationalism, Mizrahim and Arabs could coexist without conflict because they all shared an Arab identity and only differed in their religious beliefs.In Zionist Israel, continues Behar, the Mizrahim could not be considered Arab-Jews even if their historical identity was more closely aligned with the Arab rather than Israeli identity. The Arab-Israeli conflict meant that the Mizrahim were forced to choose: either they were Jews, or they were Arabs. Mizrahim suffered communal schizophrenia because, for the first time since perhaps the time of the Caliph Harun ar-Rashid (763-809) when the Islamic caliph forced Jews to wear yellow patches, Arabism and Judaism were in conflict. Yet for this very reason, argues Behar, the Mizrahim—victimized by both Ashkenazi Zionism and the rise of Arab nationalism—are the key factor in solving the Arab-Israeli conflict. They alone can serve as the bridgehead into the Arab world since they, like the Palestinians, are refugees whose identity was destroyed.
(Taken from Post-Zionism and the Sephardi Question by Meyrav Wurmser)
hah though this article obviously isn’t purely academic and obviously comes from an anti-zionist / anti-israel bias…i was just having an argument with someone about whether the ” longing for Zion ” was an inherently jewish thing or at what point it crossed from “next year in israel!” to “ok srsly though, next year lets have a State of Israel” and whether/to what extent that desire was created by zionism or had always been in jews.blablabla wut u think?