Radicals: ‘nation-state law is anti- Mizrahi’

  Over 50 prominent Israeli Jews of Mizrahi origin have filed a petition to
the High Court of Justice demanding it strike down the Jewish Nation-State Law, saying it ‘discriminates against both Palestinian citizens and Jewish Mizrahi citizens of Israel’. The signatories are a who’s-who of radical leftists and activists. I have ‘fisked’ in italics this article from +972 by Orli Noy, one of the signatories. (With thanks: Daniel)

There is an assumption here that Arabs and Mizrahi Jews have common values – which is demonstrably untrue.

According to the petition, the law, which demotes Arabic
from an official language to one with “special status,” is
“anti-Jewish” for excluding the history and culture of Jews from Arab
and Muslim countries, “while strengthening the impression that
Jewish-Arab culture is inferior…and anchoring the identity of the State
of Israel as anti-Arab.”

Not all Jews from Arab countries speak Arabic, and when they do, it is a dialect often unintelligible to Muslims. What is Judeo-Arabic culture? You could define the mainstream trends in Israeli culture, music and food as Judeo-Arabic. It is absurd to claim that Israel discriminates against its dominant culture.

The petition, which was written and submitted by Attorney Netta
Amar-Shiff, also refers to a clause in the law that establishes Jewish
settlement “as a national value.” According to the petitioners, every
time Israel takes it upon itself to demographically “re-engineer” the
land, it harms Mizrahim by pushing them into the country’s underserved geographical periphery. This process hinders their access to highly-valued land through admissions committees, which allow communities across the country to reject housing applicants based on their “social suitability.”

There is a lot to be said against admissions committees but there is nothing in the nation-state law about them. Nor is there any force ‘pushing Mizrahim to the periphery’.  

Author Sami Michael


Among the signatories are renowned author Sami Michael, Professor
Yehuda Shenhav, Professor Henriette Dahan-Kalev, Israeli Black Panther
and social justice activist Reuven Abergil, among others. (Full
disclosure: the writer is one of the signatories of the petition).
According to the petitioners, Mizrahim were largely excluded from the
law’s formulation, despite the fact that it would affect their
community’s right to preserve its heritage, and that its blatant
anti-Arab bias would adversely affect Jews from Arab countries.

 Professor Yehouda Shenhav


These are all radical leftists. What proof is there that Mizrahim were excluded from the law’s formulation ? The Knesset passed this law by a small majority and there is no evidence that Mizrahi MKs were excluded from the vote.

Following Israel’s establishment, authorities did everything they could to suppress Arab identity and culture
among immigrants from Arab and Muslim countries through a forced
“melting pot” doctrine, leaving them both materially and culturally
disenfranchised. More than six decades ago, Israeli diplomat and Arabic
scholar Abba Eban said: “The goal must be to instill in them a Western
spirit, and not let them drag us into an unnatural Orient. One of the
biggest fears… is the danger that the large number of immigrants of
Mizrahi origin will force Israel to compare how cultured we are to our

Mizrahim walk around the Mamila neighborhood in West Jerusalem, 1957. Mamila, like countless other neighborhoods and communities, was empied of its Palestinian residents in the 1948 war. (GPO)

Mizrahim walk around the Mamila neighborhood in West Jerusalem, 1957. (GPO)

For 70 years, this worldview formed the basis for how Israel viewed

Not true. One can cherry-pick similar quotes by Israel’s founding fathers till kingdom come. There are also positive statements.

The political establishment demanded Mizrahi Jews renounce
their Arab identity, while driving a wedge between them and their
cultural histories. And yet, despite the establishment’s attempts at
cultural erasure, expert opinions and affidavits attached to the
petition show that many Mizrahim — including younger generations —
continue to view Arabic as both culturally and linguistically relevant
to their personal lives.

One can equally argue in its drive to create a new Hebrew-speaking Israeli out of its citizens, the state discriminated against Yiddish and the culture of Eastern Europe.

The expert opinions also seek to lay out the complex histories of
Jews from Arab countries, in order to explain why the law, akin to a
constitutional amendment, would be both harmful to the cultural legacy
of Mizrahim and would continue to negatively affect them. According to
Professor Elitzur Bar-Asher, a linguist and expert on the Hebrew
language, the goal of the law is not to “strengthen Hebrew [at the
expense of Arabic], but to lower its Arabic counterpart.”

In his expert opinion, Dr. Moshe Behar demonstrated how Arabic was an
inseparable part the Jewish intellectual world in the Middle East
during the Ottoman and British Mandate periods, respectively. According
to Behar, Jewish intellectuals considered knowledge of Arabic as a
necessity for all Jews in the region.

Cultural researcher Shira Ohayon described the influence of the
Arabic language and its connection to the revival of the Hebrew
language, poetry and Jewish liturgy, while cultural scholar and film
director Eyal Sagui Bizawe noted how Jews living in Arab countries took
an active part in the creation of Arab culture, and how that very
culture became part of their own heritage.

The petition is an important, and perhaps revolutionary milestone in
the Mizrahi struggle in Israel. Among the signatories are women and men,
religious, secular and traditional, those who define themselves as
Zionists and others who do not. The petitioners seek to anchor
Mizrahi identity in its deepest sense by demanding our cultural and
historical rights, while using all legal, academic, and moral tools to
reject any attempt to isolate Mizrahi Jews from our natural environment —
all for the benefit of Israel’s “melting pot” ideology.

Read article in full

One Comment

  • Wasn't one of the sponsors of the nation-state law a mizrahi jew – and gay at that!?


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