Remember Amir Hetzroni? He is the maverick academic and provocateur who created a national scandal on TV in 2015 when he said his interlocutor of Moroccan-Jewish origin should never have been allowed into Israel. We thought Hetzroni was heading out for a new start in Turkey, but that does not seem to have worked out. Back in Israel, he has not changed his views one iota. For these he was hit in the face during a live broadcast. Report in the Times of Israel:
Academic, novelist and provocateur Amir Hetsroni was wounded on Monday when someone threw a chair at him during a live broadcast.
Hetsroni, best known for making offensive comments about practically every sector of Israeli society, was recording a segment in Ashdod for “Online TV,” which streams its content on YouTube and social media.
In video from multiple angles that circulated widely on social media, Hetsroni was hit in the face by a chair thrown at him during the conversation. He began bleeding and appeared to be dizzy and disoriented, clinging to the man seated next to him. Hetsroni later received medical treatment and filed a police complaint about the incident.
On Tuesday, police said they had detained a 16-year-old boy for questioning in connection with the incident.
Hetsroni has a long and colorful history of making wildly racist, sexist and otherwise offensive comments. He regularly rails against the presence of Mizrahi Jews — those from Middle Eastern nations — in Israel, stating that he does not believe they should have been allowed to immigrate.
“I was just attacked during filming in Ashdod by the second generation of cavemen that came [to Israel] without selection due to having a Jewish grandfather,” Hetsroni tweeted after the incident on Monday. “Think about this next time you believe ‘selection’ is a bad word.”
Perceptive piece by David Swift in the Jewish Chronicle demonstrating that US critical race theory does not apply to Israel. Their history of persecution in Muslim countries often holds more significance for ‘Jews of colour’ than the Holocaust.
To understand the Israeli-Palestinian dispute through the lens of US race relations is a huge mistake, not least because the complex ways in which “race”, class and politics interact in Israel is completely different to the American situation.
Here in Israel, “Jews of colour” (Mizrahi and Ethiopian Jews) overwhelmingly support parties of the Right, particularly the Likud, while the Left draws its support almost exclusively from “white” Ashkenazim.
The American progressive association of “whiteness” with support for nativism, Islamophobia, militarism, and so on, and the assumption that “brown” people are against this is turned on its head in Israel. Class, race and education are correlated in such a way that the descendants of the original Ashkenazi immigrants occupy the most socially and economically privileged positions, and make up the vast majority of the support for the Israeli “left”, such as it is.
Back in 2011, a protest in Charles Clore Park, near the waterfront of southern Tel Aviv, demonstrated the complexity of “race” in this country. Organised in opposition to the mistreatment of East African asylum seekers, the crowd consisted mostly of young, Ashkenazi Israelis, descendants of the European Jews who emigrated to Israel in the years around the time of the state’s founding.
In the days before the protest, missiles fired from Gaza at southern Israeli towns had left one dead and 30 injured, and at the conclusion of the march a moment of silence was held to commemorate these casualties. Afterwards, during a succession of short speeches, muted heckling began from the edge of the crowd as a group of five men with distinctively Mizrahi accents demand that the speakers denounce the missile barrage; their heckling increased when an Arab speaker took to the podium, and the atmosphere became increasing vitriolic.
At one point, a protester told the Mizrachi hecklers to “go back to the zoo”, to which the leader of the counter-protesters shouted: “You son of a bitch. Hitler didn’t kill enough of you.”
The invocation of the Holocaust as a means for one Jew to attack another demonstrates the complex of histories of the various inhabitants of Israel, and the particular way in which “race”, class and politics interact in this country. For Mizrahim from North Africa and the Middle East, the Holocaust does not have the same place within their collective memory and contemporary identity; often their mistreatment and expulsion from their native countries after the formation the Israeli state in 1948 or after the Six Day War in 1967 holds greater significance.
In some ways, the Charles Clore Park incident could have taken place in many different countries: a crowd of mostly young, middle-class, “white”, university-educated people protested in solidarity with a group of people different from themselves. They were criticised by working-class men, who accused them of being insufficiently patriotic and who implied that their concern was a result of their “privilege”.
But in this case the group of working-class men were themselves from a group historically and currently mistreated and disadvantaged within their own country due to their ethno-national background and the colour of their skin.
Even to this today, virtually all of the people killed by the Israeli police are Muslim Arabs, Ethiopian Jews, or Mizrachim. In fact, Yigal Amir — who in 1995 assassinated Yitzhak Rabin in response to what he saw as the betrayal of the Oslo Accords — was radicalised at least in part by the experience of being a Mizrachi student at an Ashkenazi Yeshiva, where he was badly bullied.
The daughter of Egyptian and Iraqi parents, Rachel Wahba gravitated to progressive causes when she moved to the US. But she soon found out you could not be a progressive and also be a proud Jew and Zionist. She has witnessed a slide into outright antisemitism among her friends and colleagues. Read her blog in Times of Israel:
Antisemitism never stays in one lane. It is no longer limited to racists chanting “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville or Nazis marching in Skokie. No group is immune to the “world’s oldest hatred,” repackaged today as “anti-Zionism.” We are told we cannot be both a Zionist and a Feminist, that we cannot bring a Rainbow Flag with a Star of David to a Pride Parade.
Given my background as a stateless Egyptian/Iraqi Jew schooled in International Catholic and Protestant missionary schools as a curombo gaigin (darky foreigner) in Japan, coupled with my particular personality, I resonated with all civil rights movements once I landed in California, on my Red Cross student visa.
With my layered background of my parent’s and grandparents’ flight from Arab lands because they were Jews, and my personal experience of anti-Jewish prejudice growing up in Christian schools, I heard the antisemitism in responses to my Magen David.
“Why do you have to make yourself ‘different’ by wearing that (Star of David)?’initially took me by surprise. And “does it have to be so big?”
‘Progressive’ organisations and publications increasingly misrepresent Mizrahi history and cherry-pick unrepresentative minority voices in order to push their anti-Zionist agenda. Sapir Taieb and Matthew Nouriel, who work for the advocacygroup JIMENA, write in JNS News (with thanks: Imre):
Scroll through the feeds of anti-Zionist organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace or publications like +972 or Jewish Currents and you’ll find cherry-picked stories that misrepresent our communal values. More and more ink is being spilled by the small number of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews who do not support Israel’s existence. They focus on Israel’s faults with no mention of the antisemitism we faced in MENA countries before 1948, willfully taking advantage of the limited recorded history of our communities.
Poor public understanding of the history, politics and economics of MENA countries makes it easy to tokenize Mizrahi and Sephardic anti-Zionists, turning them into leading voices even though they do not represent our communities. Anti-Zionist organizations and publications exploit our underrepresentation to manufacture partisan narratives about the Middle East and weaponize public ignorance in order to rewrite history.
The anti-Israel publication Jewish Currents regularly hires Mizrahim whose views are beyond the fringe to weigh in on our issues as if they were experts. They’ve brought in voices to make the ahistorical claim that Mizrahim are “Arab Jews” and that we experience Islamophobia. In reality, as mentioned above, MENA Jews were never allowed to be referred to as Arabs and were denied the legal rights that Arabs enjoyed. +972 has gone as far to publish op-eds claiming that centering our stories of escape to Israel is “Mizrahi-washing,” and that teaching about tragedies such as the Farhud—the 1941 massacre of Jews in Iraq—is to “diminish the Palestinian claim for justice.”
A prime example of this dynamic is when Jewish Voice for Peace published an inflammatory Instagram post about Mimouna, a traditional end-of-Passover festival celebrated in North Africa. They claimed that “Zionism has coopted”such traditions and “our Mimouna celebrations won’t be used to marginalize or tokenize our people, brownwash Israeli colonialism and occupation or erase our history of community.”
Anyone with basic knowledge of Mimouna knows that it is obscene to claim that Zionism has “coopted” it. In fact, given the ethnic cleansing of nearly all Jews who celebrate the occasion, almost the only place where Jews still freely celebrate Mimouna is in Israel. Even in their own post, JVP admits that since the tenure of Golda Meir, every Israeli prime minister has commemorated Mimouna. We fled to a Jewish state, which is why we and our traditions are still alive.
The vast majority of Mizrahim and Sephardim do not marginalize, tokenize or erase our own history. Expressing our communal values is not “brownwashing.” Organizations that capitalize on the increased attention to diversity within the Jewish community in order to burnish their credentials as “progressive” while ignoring the mainstream values of Mizrahim and Sephardim are exploiting us.
Just as anti-Zionist Jews try to represent themselves as conventional American Jews even though their political stances are on the fringe, these organizations and publications cherry-pick minority voices that are not representative of Jews from North Africa and the Middle East. These voices are chosen only because they are willing to affirm anti-Zionist viewpoints rather than tell our collective story. This tokenization lends an unearned legitimacy to those demonizing Israel and harms Mizrahi and Sephardic communities by rewriting our ancestors’ histories.
A pro-Israel NGO, Human Rights Voices, has sent two million submissions to a UN human rights Commission investigating the ‘root causes’ of the Israel-Palestine conflict, nicknamed ‘Pillay’s pogrom’ after its chairman, Navi Pillay. They include examples of the persecution of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa and victims’ names from immigration lists by country at the Israel State Archives. JIMENA, HARIF and Justice for Jews from Arab Countries are among the organisations who made submissions on behalf of Jews from Arab countries. The Jerusalem Post has this report:
Prof. Anne Bayefsky of Touro College in New York, a human rights activist and critic of the UN, had both organizations she leads – Human Rights Voices and the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust – submit examples of the repression and discrimination against Jews in the Arab and Muslim world.
Bayefsky expressed certainty that the COI’s findings will be “an all-out offensive on a Jewish state from its Jewish essence to the necessities of its survival – economic well-being and the right of self-defense.”
Still, the organizations gathered names of specific victims, including hundreds of thousands of Holocaust victims and Jews who fled persecution and ethnic cleansing in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as a synopsis of tribulations of Jews in those regions.
They also wrote about the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini’s collaboration with the Nazis and his role in inciting mass violence against the Jewish people – such as in the 1941 Farhud pogrom in Iraq – as well as his impact on Palestinian society today.
This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.
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Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries
One-stop blog on the Middle East's forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.