As African ‘refugees’ are served with their deportation papers from Israel, there is something disturbing about this cry from Yair Asulin in Haaretz for Mizrahim to rise up in solidarity just because both populations are non-white. Why would the predominantly Mizrahi residents of south Tel Aviv, whoseexperience of living cheek-by-jowl with the Africans has been less than happy, excoriate the Netanyahu government for taking steps to solve the refugee problem? (With thanks: Sylvia)
African migrants queue at the Israeli ministry of the interior (Photo: Meged Gozani)
The most resounding silence surrounding the
refugees’ issue is that of the “Mizrahi movement.” I’m referring to the
silence over the absurdity of the refugees’ expulsion and Israeli
society’s disregard for the weak. I’m talking about the silence of those
who deal with the Mizrahi issue, those who repeatedly seek to point out
the racism in Israeli society and smash existing conventions, and who
want to challenge prejudiced views about people and human nature.
the face of it, what’s so surprising? A quick glimpse at almost any
newspaper shows that the struggle seems to be between the Mizrahim –
“south Tel Aviv,” “Shas” – and the asylum seekers.
On the face of it, that’s the story: Are you for south Tel Aviv, are
you for the women who kissed Netanyahu’s hand during that visit, the
women who look just like your grandmother – or are you for the refugees,
the foreigners, the blacks?
tension also corresponds, of course, to the left-right fault line. It’s
troubling to see how Mizrahi rhetoric, by its silence, falls into line
with this story, with these old divisions. How it doesn’t rise up
against this characterization of Mizrahi as “south Tel Aviv.” How it
adopts, almost automatically, the identity that those in power designate
for Mizrahim. How come there’s no uprising?
deliberately talk about “uprising,” because the situation actually
provides a real opening to escape from these labels. This situation is
an opportunity to break down the order, a chance to say, “We stand in
solidarity,” “We are no longer playing this game,” “Israel has deeply,
criminally neglected south Tel Aviv since long before the asylum
seekers, don’t con us, don’t sell us that nonsense, don’t cover one evil
with another.” It’s a chance to say, “This is us.”
yet, there is silence. We see Mizrahim identify with the old, cynical,
degenerate order, with those who in the name of racism want to deport
asylum seekers to a bad place. Obviously there is no equating the
Mizrahi struggle with that of the refugees. That’s not the argument.
Solidarity is something much deeper.