The diaspora’s blindspot for the (Mizrahi) poor

When it comes to raising money for Israeli causes, the Jewish diaspora routinely finds Jews from Africa less interesting than African refugees, argues the iconoclastic Seth Frantzman in the Jerusalem Post.

A report on poverty in Israel found that 12 percent of the Israeli population had to beg for food (Photo: Marc Sellem)

A while ago I pitched an op-ed to an American
Jewish publication. The Friends of the IDF had recently raised $31
million in California. I wanted to write that it would be worthwhile
for contributors to give the same amount of money to support
educational initiatives for IDF soldiers after the army. Israel has a
conscript army and while it may be important that average Israelis
serve, it is more important that they can get into college afterwards
and have a financially successful future for their families.

The newspaper said it wasn’t interested.

Why wasn’t it an interesting topic? Because it didn’t fit
the narrative that focuses primarily on Israel as either a place of
conflict or a place to negotiate Diaspora Jewish identities. Many Israelis live in poverty, but while poverty may be a Jewish concern
abroad, wrapped up in such concepts as “tikkun olam,” it isn’t a “sexy”
issue. African refugees in Israel are interesting, Jews from Africa
are less interesting.

That is the blind spot of well-meaning, left-leaning
Jewish Americans who are critical of Israel’s policies. A recent visit
by Jewish activists to Hebron underpinned this. They focused on social
justice for Palestinians and token “civil rights” protests. One
activist wrote of the “beautiful act of partnership, we, Jews and
Palestinians, came together through trust and understanding and made
huge strides in creating the first cinema that will stand in Hebron
since the 1930s.” Aiding Palestinians to build a cinema is a worthy
goal, but there is a disconnect here. Social justice and the fight
against racism should not end at the Green Line, but for many
left-leaning activists they do.

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