It has been argued that ‘intersectionality’, that voguish concept bandied about on US campuses – applies to all ‘oppressed’ groups except Jews. Not so, says Sigal Samuel in the Forward, producing evidence that Mizrahi Jewish intellectuals saw their fate bound up with Arabs since the 1950s, an argument popular on the radical anti-Zionist left. The comments I have selected below this extract do a good job of rebutting Samuel’s assertions (with thanks: Amie):
Ma’abara residents in the 1950s
“If you’ve been tuned in to the Israel-Palestine conversation over the past few months, you’ve probably heard the word “intersectionality.”
The idea that different forms of oppression are linked — so that
standing up for victims of sexism and homophobia should also mean that
we stand up for, say, victims of Israeli state violence — has touched
off a frenzy in the Jewish media.
“But whether you listen to those supporting or to those opposing
the idea that Jews must stand in solidarity with Palestinians because
our liberation is intrinsically tied to theirs, you’ll find that almost
everyone is talking about this idea as if it’s a new development.
“Which is strange, because it’s not. And it’s only because of Jews’
fixation on a mainstream Ashkenazi-centric history that we’ve managed to
forget how far back this idea goes among Mizrahim, Jews from Arab
“They weren’t using the term “intersectionality” back then, of course —
that was coined by black feminist scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989.
But Mizrahim were developing a robust intersectional politics and
culture way back in the early 1950s, soon after the State of Israel was
created. As they struggled in ma’abarot, transit camps, many
Mizrahi intellectuals and artists saw their fate as inextricably bound
up with the fate of the indigenous Arabs, with whom they shared not only
cultural markers like the Arabic language, but also the experience of
severe discrimination at the hands of the Israeli government.”
Here are three comments from the thread:
Secondly, Samuel is being hugely disrespectful to
the millions of Mizrahi Jews today who feel absolutely no sense of
identification with “Palestinians”. These people do not suffer from
false consciousness – they are instead wisely able to differentiate
between right and wrong, democracy and terrorism.
will continue to be a flowering of Mizrahi culture in Israel without any
of the political gobbledygook that Samuel recommends. After all, German
Jews in the US and Israel could appreciate Goethe and Beethoven without
celebrating the Nazis.
The Jews from the
Arabic-speaking world did not have an Arab identity. There are a number
of anti-Zionist intellectuals who claim that they are “Arab Jews”, but
their ideological fervor is not a reflection of the sociological
reality. The Jews in the Arab world were not Arabs – not in their own
eyes, and not in the eyes of the Arabs. Their peoplehood identity is
Finally, it is important to point out to our author that
animosity towards Ashkenazim is also a very improper trait. It’s in the
same nasty category as all the other prejudices.