Friday, August 12, 2016

The Left Left the Mizrahim to the Right

In June, the Education Ministry published the Biton Report, named for the head of the committee that produced it, prominent Algerian-born poet Erez Biton. It's a set of recommendations for reforming the country's Ashkenazi-centered schooling. Ashkenazi Jews have their roots in Germany and Eastern Europe. The report aims at including the history and culture of Mizrahi Jews—those from Muslim countries—and of Sephardim, whose ancestors were expelled from Spain. 
Reform is long overdue. It's a failure of the Israeli left that the issue was left for a right-wing government to champion.
The emphasis is my own,  because it is worthy of emphasis. The degree to which the Israeli left (to say nothing of the broader Jewish left, to say nothing of the broader international left) has left matters of Mizrahi equality and inclusion is a failure we must be held accountable for. That the right picked up the baton we dropped is likewise to their credit. It is our fault, our responsibility, that we did not tackle this issue on our own. We cannot therefore be indignant when a community we did not, for the most part, protect today mistrusts our politics (to say nothing of our egalitarian slogans).

The way you rectify that is by jumping back into the fray. I found this post on +972 searching for ways to reinvigorate efforts to promote restitution for Mizrahi refugees heartening (though, it must be said, my friends at JIMENA were less enthused). It's not quid pro quo, we're not "owed" anything for our (belated) backing. You do it because it's right, and hope that leads someplace better.


Anonymous said...

The Israeli Ashkenazi left has far more significant crimes to atone for than simply neglect. Like the now certainty that anti-Yemenite racism led to systemic kidnapping of children to be given to Ashkenazi parents to be raised. Let's be honest - the Ashkenazi left had years and years to lead Israel to the place they thought it should become and time after time they miscalculated, committed unforgivable moral sins, and wrapped themselves in the unearned glow of their self-righteous superiority. The Charedi and Mizrahi communities are in the midst of taking over Israel and Bibi's Likud government is really just a transition gov between these two stages. Israel will be less Western, more religious, and more right-wing in the future. Everything else is just commentary.

Unknown said...

David, do you have any good sources of Mizrahi Jews writing about Mizrahi issues? Most stuff I've found is by Ashkenazim.

David Schraub said...

Albert Memmi's work, especially his book Jews and Arabs, is essential. The Flying Camel: Essays on Identity by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage, edited by Loolwa Khazzoom, is an anthology entirely comprised of writings by Mizrahi Jewish women. There's also good anthology on late 19th through mid-20th century Mizrahi political thought co-edited by Moshe Behar; I think his work generally is excellent. Finally, for an example of contemporary Mizrahi work by someone who is on anti-Zionist left, Smadar Lavie is a big name.

Unknown said...