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Both Massad, and ‘Open Zion’, ignore the experience of Middle Eastern Jews

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The pro-Palestine blogosphere has been abuzz with the deletion of an article on Zionism by Columbia University professor Joseph Massad from the Al-Jazeera website (you can read the Massad article here). What is interesting about the article is that it – as is usual – identifies Jews as Ashkenazim only.

For all that Massad has relationships with Mizrahi Jews, his thinking remains monocausal and racist.  Jews never lived in the Middle East and all discussion of Jewish identity and Zionism must be tied exclusively to Europe.

Now there is no question that this is very much what the Ashkenazi Jews have demanded.  They have usurped Jewish identity for themselves and made Jewish nationalism a matter of European provenance.  The details of this discussion then become very contentious given the deep ambivalence and outright confusion of European Christian and Jewish identity and how that plays into Zionism as an exclusionary form of Jewish identity which seeks to isolate Jews from the Gentile world.

It is this view of Jewish identity that creates a bizarre linkage to Anti-Semites.

And yet the invisible Arab Jews with their roots in the ancient Near East, Medieval Iberia, and the polyglot Ottoman Empire do not match this Eurocentric pattern.  Eliminated from Zionist history, the despised Sephardim are equally absent from pro-Palestinian discourse where their claims to Middle Eastern nativity would potentially serve to upset the neat categories that have been established by the Zionists.

It is therefore ironic that Massad, in seeking to counter Zionism, affirms its basic dogma that Jews are Europeans and not Middle Easterners.

The contentious, ugly, and hateful battle between pro-Israel and anti-Israel forces is thus underscored by a rejection of Arab Jewish history and identity.  Sephardim have no allies in this battle and those Sephardim who remain convinced that they are a part of this discussion are seriously mistaken.

A perfect example of how all this works came to my in-box a few hours after I first wrote this comment with Lyn Julius’ article “Throw Away That Rusty Key” for Open Zion. What we see in all of Lyn Julius’ articles is a deeply devoted commitment to Zionism.  Her advocacy marks Arab Jews as victims and supports the idea that the Jews of Middle East are indeed just like the Palestinians; homeless refugees who were oppressed by their host countries.

What the article misses is the larger history of Jewish life in the Arab-Muslim world and some articulation of the glorious culture that it produced.  All that we see is the hatred of the Arabs in a way that parrots the standard Israeli-Zionist approach.

Of course Israel is greatly supportive of the Arab Jewish groups that do its bidding:

These are organizations that work hand in glove with the Zionist organizations in a way that seeks to aid Israel in its attempt to negate the claims of the Palestinian Arabs.  In the course of this advocacy the matter of anti-Sephardi racism on the part of Ashkenazi Israel is completely ignored.

This latter point is critical: These Sephardim-in-Name-Only are more concerned for the feelings and needs of the Ashkenazim who have decimated our culture and impoverished our communities economically and politically.  Such individuals are militantly Zionistic and beat down all those Sephardim who would have the temerity to criticize Israel and the Ashkenazim.  It is often an ugly sight when the battle is being waged.

The bottom line here is that, as I said earlier, the actual culture and history of the Arab Jews is completely ignored in favor of a bare-knuckles political approach that marks Jews and Arabs as separate categories.  The narrative is one that has been constructed by the Zionists and leaves out the existential and cultural substance of the Sephardic community.  Those permitted to speak in the name of the community have already shown their allegiance to the Ashkenazim and to Israel.  Their actions, as we see clearly in the Julius article, are meant to affirm the things Israel wants said and leave out what it wants left out.

We can also point to the exclusionary practices of the media, in this case Open Zion, which suppresses Sephardic voices.  It is something that I have discussed many times.

So long as Sephardim are cut out of the discussion this sort of thing is going to keep happening.  There are only two voices permitted in the discussion: the Arab voice and the Ashkenazi voice.  Any attempt at presenting a more complete and nuanced picture of the matter is not possible under the current rules of the media.  So long as we conform to the pre-existing models all is well.  If not, what we see is the exclusionary practices of a media that is mired in its own skewed understanding of the cultural history of the Middle East and hell-bent on perpetuating the stereotypes and racist values that continue to permeate discourse about the conflict.

David Shasha

David Shasha is the director of the Center for Sephardic Heritage in Brooklyn, New York. The Center publishes the weekly e-mail newsletter Sephardic Heritage Update as well as promoting lectures and cultural events. His articles have been published in Tikkun magazine, The American Muslim, the Christian Progressive and other publications. To sign up for the newsletter visit the Sephardic Heritage Google Group at http://groups.google.com/group/Davidshasha

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52 Responses

  1. Justpassingby on May 21, 2013, 10:31 am

    Pro-palestinian groups/persons fighting each other.

    • eibieman on May 21, 2013, 10:39 pm

      Not the case, the Sephardic spokesperson David Shasha is suppressed by both the Zionist and Christian institutions and also the Marxist parties, which cannot escape from making a mish-mash of Israel and the Jewish People, as ordered by the Zionist ideology of that ‘Nation-State’. As a Jewish Bundist from an Ashkenazi family, refugeed from Poland, my work is also suppressed since we do not fit into any standard model of thinking, in spite of our existence. Zionism seeks to re-define the Jewish identity to be modeled on the Christian Protestant nationalism of the Reformation. The same nationalism which led to our disaster in Europe.

  2. hophmi on May 21, 2013, 11:34 am

    “What is interesting about the article is that it – as is usual – identifies Jews as Ashkenazim only.”

    Yes, that’s definitely interesting. It’s only one of many wrinkles Massad ignores in his “Jews are evil white people” rant.

    “Now there is no question that this is very much what the Ashkenazi Jews have demanded.”

    Of course there’s a question. You confuse cause and effect. The Askenazim came from Europe. They brought some of their customs. But they’ve tried to forge a separate Jewish identity. You can’t argue out of one side of your mouth that Israelis have a habit of appropriating Middle Eastern customs and out of the other that they’re too tied down to their European customs. Arab Jews came to Israel with customs from their countries. It’s no different.

    ” They have usurped Jewish identity for themselves and made Jewish nationalism a matter of European provenance. ”

    Maybe so. But again, they came from Europe. The idea of the nation-state is essentially a European idea. If importing that idea to the Middle East makes Middle Eastern states European constructs, then every nation-state in the Middle East is in some sense a European construct.

    And they have hardly usurped Jewish identity for themselves. No one is stopping Sephardim from being Jewish.

    “The details of this discussion then become very contentious given the deep ambivalence and outright confusion of European Christian and Jewish identity and how that plays into Zionism as an exclusionary form of Jewish identity which seeks to isolate Jews from the Gentile world.”

    Again, this is a very silly notion. Zionism posits that Jews are a nation and that to be accepted in the world community, they must form a nation-state. Zionism is about being a part of the Gentile world, not being excluded from it. It was never the contention of the Zionists that every last Jew had to make aliya. By your definition, any minority community that seeks a form of autonomy, or even chooses to set up communal institutions of any kind is engaging in exclusionary forms of identity. Indians who belong to Indian-American organizations must be exclusionary, right? Muslims who belong to Muslim-American organizations must be exclusionary, right?

    Why do you need a separate organization for Sephardic heritage. You’re obviously endorsing an exclusionary philosophy.

    “What the article misses is the larger history of Jewish life in the Arab-Muslim world and some articulation of the glorious culture that it produced. ”

    I’m sorry, David, but I don’t see Ashkenazim denying that Jews had a glorious culture in the Arab world. I see them arguing that despite their contributions, they were never quite treated equally, and when they exhibited political consciousness, they were persecuted and pushed out. Their culture has been largely destroyed, like the Eliahu HaNavi synagogue in Syria.

    “We can also point to the exclusionary practices of the media, in this case Open Zion, which suppresses Sephardic voices.”

    Was one of your articles denied publication?

    • Hostage on May 21, 2013, 2:15 pm

      You can’t argue out of one side of your mouth that Israelis have a habit of appropriating Middle Eastern customs and out of the other that they’re too tied down to their European customs. Arab Jews came to Israel with customs from their countries. It’s no different.

      My, my, Hophmi has forgotten about the “continuous Jewish presence” talking point, while talking out of both sides of his mouth.

      Correction: The Arab Jews didn’t “come to Israel” with customs from their countries, many of them were already there.

      • hophmi on May 21, 2013, 2:25 pm

        “My, my, Hophmi has forgotten about the “continuous Jewish presence” talking point, while talking out of both sides of his mouth. ”

        Um, no, not at all. Continuous presence of Jews is not inconsistent with the emigration of some Jews, including most of the Jews living in conditions ranging from second-class citizenship to heavily persecuted minority in the Arab world.

        Nice try, though.

      • Hostage on May 21, 2013, 4:29 pm

        Um, no, not at all. Continuous presence of Jews is not inconsistent with the emigration of some Jews, . . .

        No Hophmi, you’re statement that Arab Jews were no different from European Jews in that they had brought their customs to Israel from other countries is a gloss. You ignored the fact that many Arab Jews weren’t émigrés at all.

      • hophmi on May 21, 2013, 4:45 pm

        “No Hophmi, you’re statement that Arab Jews were no different from European Jews in that they had brought their customs to Israel from other countries is a gloss. You ignored the fact that many Arab Jews weren’t émigrés at all.”

        Many weren’t. Most, in the end, were. I’m not sure what you’re trying to prove.

      • notatall on May 21, 2013, 5:41 pm

        “Jews” have been a continuous presence in “Israel” since ancient times; many became Christians and later, Muslims. Today they, along with others, are known as Palestinians.

      • Hostage on May 22, 2013, 9:06 am

        Many weren’t. Most, in the end, were. I’m not sure what you’re trying to prove.

        That you were talking out of both sides of your own mouth. There was no need for Askenazim to forge a separate Jewish identity. The Arab Jews that were already inhabiting Palestine had an authentic Jewish identity that wasn’t borrowed or transplanted as you claimed:

        Of course there’s a question. You confuse cause and effect. The Askenazim came from Europe. They brought some of their customs. But they’ve tried to forge a separate Jewish identity. You can’t argue out of one side of your mouth that Israelis have a habit of appropriating Middle Eastern customs and out of the other that they’re too tied down to their European customs. Arab Jews came to Israel with customs from their countries. It’s no different.

        If you can’t see that your statement above removes Palestinian Arab Jews from the discussion, then have one of them explain it for you.

    • Woody Tanaka on May 21, 2013, 4:00 pm

      “to make aliya.”

      Jesus Christ, can’t you people use the plain, simple words for things that we have in English — like “immigrate” — instead of your stupid racist dog-whistle phrases?

      • thankgodimatheist on May 22, 2013, 5:40 am

        “Jesus Christ, can’t you people use the plain, simple words for things that we have in English — like “immigrate” — instead of your stupid racist dog-whistle phrases?”
        My reaction, exactly. I vomit a bit in the mouth every time I read it. That and the “her” and “she” in regards to Israel when every other country on the frigging planet is just “it”.

      • Stephen Shenfield on May 25, 2013, 6:58 pm

        “Make aliya” differs from “immigrate” not only because it includes a Hebrew word but mainly due to its religious-ideological-emotional connotations. Thus, “make aliya” translates into proper English not as “immigrate” but as “ascend to Zion.”

    • eibieman on May 22, 2013, 11:03 am

      hophmi says: “They have usurped Jewish identity for themselves and made Jewish nationalism a matter of European provenance. ”
      Maybe so. But again, they came from Europe. The idea of the nation-state is essentially a European idea. If importing that idea to the Middle East makes Middle Eastern states European constructs, then every nation-state in the Middle East is in some sense a European construct.

      >> Well, yes every Arab State was constructed by Europeans in the Sykes-Picot colonial project. The common heritage of the Arab political-culture is evident now in the combined Arab Spring revolts. Even Europe is plagued by the nature of the Nation-State and is seeking to overcome that heritage from 1648, i.e. the European Union is one example. Federalism in respect of the various national cultures is the appropriate response to the Nation-State.
      Furthermore, if the Nation-State was a suitable solution for the European refugees then why was it not established in Europe in Bresleau for example where my parents were located in the refugee camp, or in Russia in the Pale of Settlement territory. The Jewish Sephardim of Palestine could have been left in peace to live with their Muslim neighbours.

  3. yishai on May 21, 2013, 11:46 am

    I had a similar reaction when I read Massad’s piece, regarding the elision of Mizrahi/Arab, Sephardi, and other Jews of color from his piece and its thinking. BUT, I also loved his piece and was really glad to see the discussion of Jewish whiteness, which is a central scourge in current institutionalized Jewish thinking, and within most (but certainly not quite all) Jewish communities that one finds oneself spending any time in. Very nearly most. This needs far more discussion, and certainly does not need to be dismissed.

    One sentence in your piece was especially telling:
    “For all that Massad has relationships with Mizrahi Jews, his thinking remains monocausal and racist.”
    While Massad made some real, but minor mistakes in his essay, en route to a courageous and missing argument in our world’s popular cultural consciousness, it is sheer equalization to refer to him as racist.

    This is precisely why more discussion of race and Judaism, race and Israel is needed, and why we need to start getting a much deeper discussion of Jewish whiteness going. Black scholars of race and anti-racism in the US, and their many allies before, during and after the Civil Rights Movements, have developed very sophisticated tools for holding such discussions. One such tool is the important note that race and racism is not just an individual phenomenon. Once the -ism or -ist shows up, we are dealing with something that is predominantly a structural phenomenon, in which individual actions bolster it at times, but which is upheld at an institutional level, across many institutional sites.

    To claim that Massad or any Palestinians or Arabs has some sort of institutional, structural power over any Jews, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrachi or otherwise, is pretty ridiculous. Without this structural power, Massad cannot be racist in this critical sense, and calling him such is a profound equalization in the face of very real institutions of power on the Jewish and Israeli sides of the equation.

    It doesn’t mean Massad cannot be wrong. Or that we cannot discuss with him, and add to his work, but it does mean that countering him with specious equalizations only underscores his important intervention, and proves the point that we need more, not less of it…

    While I agree that Sephardim, and even more, Mizrahim and Black Jews, and other Jews of Color are truly left out of most discussions, and that this is unfortunate, and that reversing this can play a role in making our discussion more complex, I do not think we can safely argue that most of this exclusion is racist, or a form of oppression. While some racism may play a part in some of this, and I think there may be some prejudice involved, and certainly some injustice and exclusion, if we use our words and tools of analysis carefully, we would be more precise.

    There is still much privilege as well in the Sephardic community, for example, even in light of Ashkenazi centered-ness and privilege. Especially in Israel, Sephardim play significant roles in the institutionalized manifestations of racism, against Black Jews, Arab, especially Palestinians, and now also African migrants. In the US, most Sephardic Jewish communities and families have pretty deep entanglements with US whiteness, different from but parallel to Ashkenazi versions, if sometimes thankfully less extreme…

    Lets be more precise…

    • eibieman on May 22, 2013, 11:07 am

      I laugh when I read about Jewish ‘Whiteness’.. in Toronto the Protestant English did not consider Jewish people to be white until the sixties. The notion of ‘White’ is racist in itself and corresponds to the Nazi notion of ‘Aryan’. The ‘White’ supremists are neo-Nazis.

  4. kylebisme on May 21, 2013, 2:27 pm

    Massad didn’t “identify Jews as as Ashkenazim only” in his article, nor did he suggest anything along the lines of “Jews never lived in the Middle East”. Rather, he wrote about “European Jews” in particular, which implicitly acknowledges the fact that only some Jews are Ashkenazi.

    A person can only address so much in single article, and Massad’s focus was on those who control the Zionist native, those who determine which Sephardi are “permitted to speak in the name of the community”, and who do the same with Mizrahi who you barely give mention to. If you want to speak for Sephardi against Zionism, why are you joining with Zionists in reading things into and attacking Massad for what he didn’t say rather than addressing what he actually has said?

    • eibieman on May 22, 2013, 11:11 am

      This comment reminds me of the argument that to recognize the existence of a Jewish People is equivalent to Zionism! Really, this is just like the Stalinist contention that the Jewish People do not exist in spite of the Jewish Bund movement which fought for National-cultural Autonomy since 1897. Most of our members were exterminated and our leaders imprisoned and killed by Stalin but we live again.

  5. talknic on May 21, 2013, 2:45 pm

    Like the DNA waffle, “we made the desert bloom” or the cherry pickings from Mark Twain, it’s another stupid distraction.

    As of 00:01 may 15th 1948 (ME time) it’s completely irrelevant to the internationally recognized legal sovereign extent of the State of Israel and the State of Israel ‘s legal obligations as an Occupying Power over territories “outside the State of Israel” … “in Palestine”!

  6. Krauss on May 21, 2013, 2:58 pm

    I’m glad to see this article here at Mondoweiss.

    The exclusion of non-white Jewish voices has a long and ugly history – and it is happening as of this day.

    Massad makes fair points about many of the inherent white supremacist ideas and ideals that the Ashkenazi of Europe brought with them as cultural baggage, some of them very enthusiastically like the founders of the facist Irgun gang – which in a normal Western country would be filled with people for prison but in Israel apparently is a breeding place for prime ministers. Go figure.

    But that story isn’t the only story. The white Jews of Europe decided to supercede the Jews of the Middle East, allocate them to shanty towns and tell them that their culture is inferior.

    Today, Israel’s Jewish population is about 55-60% non-white although this is slightly decreasing since the Haredim are mostly Ashkenazi and their birth rate is enormous.

    Yet at the very top, it’s all white men. Look at the business tycoons, who runs the banks, the media. And so on. Purely white Jews. There hasn’t been a single non-Ashkenazi prime minister of Israel thus far. Netanyahu’s cabinet is also almost entirely made up of white Jews.

    This same exclusion continues in America, where most non-Jews don’t even know that there are non-white Jews, and for good reason. How many of the major Jewish community organizations have non-white leaders? Zero.

    The contemporary exclusion is mirrored in the exclusion in history. I’d very much would appreciate if we could get more Sephardi and Mizrahi voices on this site. I hope this isn’t a one-off.

  7. ritzl on May 21, 2013, 3:24 pm

    As an outsider, I’m glad this article was published here. If there is a suggestion of a difference between Ashenazi and Mizrahi views on this conflict, it’s good to know. Would Mizrahi Jews (as I understand this article is that they are too often considered “Part 1b” Jews) have more affinity to working something out with the Palestinians?

    This article is also timely because there was an article at Open Zion by a Iraqi Mizrahi author that basically said “I got my state so you Palestinian refugees can stuff it.” That article suggested to me that there was no difference between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi views wrt the Palestinians.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/20/throw-away-that-rusty-key.html

    Thanks for this article.

    • ritzl on May 21, 2013, 4:27 pm

      Hey guys, I see I missed a couple of key paras. please just delete these comments. Duh… Cheers.

  8. Keith on May 21, 2013, 3:50 pm

    DAVID SASHA- “It is therefore ironic that Massad, in seeking to counter Zionism, affirms its basic dogma that Jews are Europeans and not Middle Easterners.”

    Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Oh, so the fate of the Mizrahi is the fault of the Palestinians? It is up to Massad to tell your tale? Funny, I don’t recall you posting on Mondoweiss before, informing us of the vast differences between the Ashkenazi Israelis and the Mizrahi Israelis. So, the Mizrahi are staunch defenders of the rights of Palestinian Israelis? The Mizrahi support an Israeli state of all of it’s citizens? Feel free to tell us your tale of woe, but spare us the hypocrisy of criticizing a Palestinian who explores the Ashkenazi roots of Zionism. Perhaps when you make common cause with your Palestinian brothers and sisters I will be more inclined to take you seriously, not before.

    • thankgodimatheist on May 22, 2013, 5:51 am

      Spot on, Keith. And to consider the chutzpah in calling Massad racist.

    • MRW on May 22, 2013, 1:24 pm

      Funny, I don’t recall you posting on Mondoweiss before, informing us of the vast differences between the Ashkenazi Israelis and the Mizrahi Israelis.

      Because you haven’t been here long enough or because you didn’t bother to read? (What you’re looking for is the second entry.)

      Notes on Hanukkah: The Maccabees and Zionism’s ‘invented traditions’
      by David Shasha on December 1, 2010
      http://mondoweiss.net/2010/12/notes-on-hanukkah-the-maccabees-and-zionisms-invented-traditions.html

      A Jewish voice left silent: Trying to articulate ‘The Levantine Option’
      by David Shasha on January 10, 2012
      http://mondoweiss.net/2012/01/a-jewish-voice-left-silent-trying-to-articulate-the-levantine-option.html

      Should have seen this coming – Dershowitz defends Paterno
      by David Shasha on November 21, 2011
      http://mondoweiss.net/2011/11/dershowitz-defends-paterno-despite-demanding-collective-responsibility-for-palestinians.html

      Exchange on anti-Sephardi racism on the left
      by David Shasha and Rabbi Brant Rosen on January 4, 2013
      http://mondoweiss.net/2013/01/exchange-sephardi-racism.html

      • Keith on May 23, 2013, 12:56 pm

        MRW- “Because you haven’t been here long enough or because you didn’t bother to read?”

        You might have a point if your links made your point, but they don’t. A 2010 post on Hanakkah, a 2011 post on Dershowitz, a 2012 post on the cultural history of Sephardic Jews, and a 2013 post on Arab versus Jewish cuisine? The 2012 post which you emphasize merely tries to make the point that the Sephardic tradition is more humanistic than the Ashkenazi tradition, hence, if the Sephardic Jews had more influence this could result in a form of Levatine humanism. The essence of all of these posts is to promote the Sephardic cultural tradition, nothing more. Not surprising coming from “the director of the Center for Sephardic Heritage in Brooklyn, New York.”

        None of these posts deal with the political reality involving Ashkenazi Israelis and Mizrahi Israelis. As far as I know, the Israeli Mizrahi Jews support the Jewish state of Israel, and participate in the occupation and subjugation of the Palestinians. Are there not Mizrahi in the IDF with their boot on the Palestinian neck? Do they not man check points and vote for right-wing governments? How does all of this relate to their so-called Levantine humanism? What does David Sasha have to say about all of this? In his last post he called Massad a racist for not adequately dealing with Sephardic cultural differences in analyzing the Ashkenazi roots of Zionism. This attack on Massad as a racist no doubt plays well to the Zionist galleries and helps promote his Sephardic cause.
        I see no evidence of any real concern on his part for the Palestinians, or even with dealing with Israeli Mizrahi Jews in an honest manner.

      • notatall on May 23, 2013, 6:02 pm

        The Mizrahi are among the “poor whites” of Israel. They have a lot to gain by joining with the indigenous Palestinians to destroy the Zionist entity. But until they recognize that truth they will continue to act as oppressors because whatever little they have depends upon them maintaining their status as members, even if the least respected members, of the favored race. Their history so far is the history of “poor whites” everywhere.

  9. ToivoS on May 21, 2013, 3:57 pm

    David, I think you are performing an important task in your efforts to give the Sepharidim a voice. However, you are off base accusing Mossad of racism for not properly accounting for their plight inside Israel. The Palestinians enemy is the colonialist Ashkenazi Jews. It is only natural for him to focus on the Palestinians primary problem.

    Also in spite of your efforts to give the Sephardim a voice, you do have to admit that a big majority of them are eager to be accepted as honorary white people and give their political support to the most extreme right wing parties. Those soccer fan thugs that break out into chants of ‘death to the Arabs’ whenever they encounter a Palestinian are predominantly Sephardim if I am not mistaken. I can’t imagine a Palestinian intellectual becoming their advocate.

  10. Pamela Olson on May 21, 2013, 4:18 pm

    Thanks for this commentary — it is badly needed. The Sephardic voice does tend to be drowned out in this discourse and overshadowed by the European Jewish powers that dominate in Israel.

    My understanding is that Sephardic citizens are often intimidated into silence, or even into denying or downplaying their Arabic heritage, in Israel (not to mention economically marginalized) — correct me if I’m wrong. Do many of those organizations you mentioned feel that aligning with the Ashkenazim is simply their best economic bet?

    Anyway, I have lots of (probably naive) questions, so I’m glad this subject is being broached. I hope it will continue.

  11. seafoid on May 21, 2013, 4:21 pm

    “What the article misses is the larger history of Jewish life in the Arab-Muslim world and some articulation of the glorious culture that it produced.”

    Traded in for some beads and an IDF uniform. Son became a Betar fan.
    Would have been better off staying in Morocco.

  12. pjdude on May 21, 2013, 4:33 pm

    I’m sorry but his references to the article “Throw Away That Rusty Key” makes him just another jew trying to make out the palestinians have no claim to palestine and no right to return to their homes. it comes across heavily as typical zionist jewish elitism and self centeredness. what happened to the jews who were actually expelled( and lets be honest not all of the number claimed were expelled they chose to leave) wasn’t any where near the same as what happened to the palestinians. the palestinians were brutally removed from their ethnic homeland with no place else to go and were shot if they attempted to return. the jews had a violent expansionistic state will to take them in and illegally give them other people’s property.

  13. andrew r on May 21, 2013, 5:09 pm

    For all that Massad has relationships with Mizrahi Jews, his thinking remains monocausal and racist. Jews never lived in the Middle East and all discussion of Jewish identity and Zionism must be tied exclusively to Europe. (…) It is therefore ironic that Massad, in seeking to counter Zionism, affirms its basic dogma that Jews are Europeans and not Middle Easterners.

    To be blunt, this style of argumentation is a ridiculous logical leap. That Massad did not mention Sephardic Jews by name in the article is not a license to belligerently attribute a meaning to his words he obviously did not intend. The failure to mention Middle Eastern Jews may be problematic in some ways – some of them were victims of Nazi racial persecution as well – but in dispossessing the Palestinians, the primary agents, Jewish or not, have been European.

    OTOH, there’s a murkiness to the essay in that Massad wants to prove gentile support for Israel follows a linear path of closet antisemitism, to the point he believes a Holocaust museum dedicated to the Jewish victims is implicit support for Nazi racism. Although Zionism started off supported by out-and-out antisemites, it’s a much stronger case that today support for Israel is animated by colonial racism. Otherwise the analytical content is dumbed down from what Massad could have accomplished. It’s not enough to scandalize people with the revelation that Zionists internalized white-nationalist antisemitism of the 19th/early 20th century and that their biggest supporters were indeed such antisemites; there’s no clear indication that today all the evangelicals and secular imperialists share the goal of chasing out the remaining American and European Jews to Israel or that any government supporting Israel has such a program in mind.

    What someone like Massad could aim for is a discussion on what exactly there is to gain by imperialist support of Israel and how the anti-Zionist struggle can undermine it.

  14. Inanna on May 21, 2013, 9:34 pm

    What the article misses is the larger history of Jewish life in the Arab-Muslim world and some articulation of the glorious culture that it produced.

    The Arab world includes Christians too. How dare you forget them!

    See, I can make specious and irrelevant accusations as well.

  15. gingershot on May 21, 2013, 9:46 pm

    Fascinating!

    Massad’s article is BACK UP on the site at Al Jazeera and Massad is coming out both guns blazing at Al Jazeera for having taken it down in the first place – and at American Zionists for their pressuring of Al Jazeera

    Massad claims Al Jazeera is being disingenuous with the reasons they succumbed to pressure in the first place.

    Massad has a full comment at the end, including his chronicling of his discussions with Al Jazeera management:

    Massad;
    “It seems to me that the attempt to censor my article is the price that Al Jazeera, or at least Ehab Al Shihabi and other upper management executives, are willing to pay in order to enter the US media market. This means that Al Shihabi and other executives at Al Jazeera see no problem in sacrificing Al Jazeera’s freedom of expression and subjecting it to the severe restrictions of the American mainstream media on the question of US foreign policy in the Middle East and on the question of Israel, thus eliminating in the process Al Jazeera’s critical coverage of both. Clearly, American Zionist pressure, placed on Al Shihabi and on Al Jazeera, is intended to impart to Al Jazeera the mediocre standards of mainstream American journalism and its commitment to severe censorship of views critical of US policy and of Israeli colonialism.”

    Here’s more:

    Massad:
    “At any rate, Mr. Musa (the editor who took it down) never called back today, though he issued a statement on the Al Jazeera website this afternoon which does not contain an apology to the readers or to me. There are no expressions of regret either, or any acknowledgment of the motivations for the censorship. Musa repeats the shameful excuse that the reason why the article was pulled was due to it alleged similarity with the December article. I find this to be a damage control move that refuses to take responsibility for Al Jazeera’s submission to American Zionist dictate”

    • eibieman on May 22, 2013, 11:28 am

      Great, no more censorship of Palestinian opinion but what about the suppression of the Sephardic anti-Zionist voice, what about the Jewish Bundist anti-Zionist voice.. we are being suppressed by not only the Zionist forces but also some anti-Zionist sources.

  16. McNulty rocks on May 22, 2013, 1:36 am

    I respect David Shasha but he should have taken the time at least read Massad’s extensive corpus on Israel before making these comments in his article. Massad may not have discussed Middle Eastern Jews in this particular piece but he has devoted much time to talking about them in his other many pieces. His lectures also contain discussions of Middle Eastern Jewish experiences as well in critiquing Euro Zionist racism. The most famous one can be found in his volume The Persistence of the Palestinian Question. More recently, he wrote an article for Al Jazeera English on Lucette Lagnado’s Egyptian Jewish nostalgia, criticizing its romanticization of royalist Egypt and ignorance of deep class divisions as well as repeating Zionist propaganda against Nasser, not to mention the Zionist appropriation of Egyptian Jews in its discourse. Its an outright falsehood to claim he leaves out Middle Eastern Jews from the narrative he presents. So much of his work revolves around showing how Middle Eastern Jews are themselves victims of the Euro-Zionist colonial project and how their cultural practices were extinguished due to Zionist racism.

  17. DICKERSON3870 on May 22, 2013, 2:37 am

    RE: “And yet the invisible Arab Jews with their roots in the ancient Near East, Medieval Iberia, and the polyglot Ottoman Empire do not match this Eurocentric pattern.” ~ David Shasha

    AN EXCELLENT DOCUMENTARY: Forget Baghdad, 2002, NR, 111 minutes [in two 50+ minute segments – J.L.D.]
    This compelling documentary traces the experience of “Arab Jews” — people of Jewish religion and Arab culture, also known as Sephardis or Mizrahim — offering a rare look at a community that has long found itself caught between warring worldviews. Conceived and directed by Samir, the son of an Iraqi Communist who immigrated to Switzerland, the film follows four fascinating Iraqis living in exile in Israel [one of them now living in Brooklyn – J.L.D.].
    Cast: Shimon Ballas, Ella Shohat, Moshe Houri, Sami Michael, Samir Naqqash
    Director: Samir
    Genres: Foreign, Arabic Language, Germany, Hebrew Language, Foreign Documentaries, Foreign Languages, Foreign Regions
    Language: Arabic [DVD HAS AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE OPTION.]
    Format: DVD
    Netflix listing – http://dvd.netflix.com/Movie/Forget-Baghdad/60033277
    Forget Baghdad: Jews and Arabs – The Iraqi Connectionhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forget_Baghdad:_Jews_and_Arabs_%E2%80%93_The_Iraqi_Connectionhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forget_Baghdad:_Jews_and_Arabs_%E2%80%93_The_Iraqi_Connection
    Forget Baghdad: Juden und Araber Die Irak-Connection TRAILER [VIDEO, 01:31] – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYIjOsdVgH0
    A DISCUSSION OF THIS FILM – http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/03/voices-of-the-mizrahim/

  18. Hostage on May 22, 2013, 9:27 am

    And yet the invisible Arab Jews with their roots in the ancient Near East, Medieval Iberia, and the polyglot Ottoman Empire do not match this Eurocentric pattern.

    I think the differences are overblown. There are certainly Ashkenazim and Sephardim of good will who want to live peacefully alongside their Palestinian friends and neighbors. But you can’t whitewash the historical record of the Arab Jews to exonerate them of the various roles some of them played in persecuting their Muslim and Christian neighbors as full partners in the Zionist political experiment.

    * Walter Laqueur noted that “Among the Irgun and the Stern Gang there were many youngsters from the Oriental Jewish community, which was not widely represented in the non-terrorist Hagana.” See A history of terrorism, Transaction Publishers, 1977, page 122 link to books.google.com

    * One area of the Hagana where they were over-represented was in the Palmach’s corps of assassins. Jewish undercover units, called “The Arabists of the Palmach” or Mista’arvim [literally, “Arab-pretenders”], are known to have been in operation in Palestine and neighboring Arab countries as early as 1942. — See Targeting To Kill: Israel’s Undercover Units, Elia Zureik and Anita Vitullo, The Palestine Human Rights Information Center (PHRIC)
    *link to thejerusalemfund.org
    *link to palmach.org.il
    and Zvika Dror, The ’Arabists’ of the Palmach (Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House, 1986)

    One of the most virulently racist anti-Palestinian spiritual leaders of the Sephardic community in Israel, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, is an Iraqi-born Arab Jew.

    • eibieman on May 22, 2013, 11:33 am

      This comment resorts to the similar argument that all Jewish people are represented by the Zionist gang that operates the State of Israel, as if there is no Jewish opposition to that self-proclaimed Nation-State. The Jewish People is not a homogenous culture, nor is any culture. To stereotype any culture is sectarian and possibly racist.

      • Hostage on May 23, 2013, 7:29 am

        This comment resorts to the similar argument that all Jewish people are represented by the Zionist gang that operates the State of Israel

        Your comment resorts to bullshit. I noted that there certainly are Ashkenazim and Sephardim of good will who want to live peacefully alongside their Palestinian friends and neighbors. They are not in the majority according to the opinion polls and their views are not reflected by their elected political and religious leaders either.

        More to the point, the article above portrays Arab Jews as if they are all sitting around singing Kumbaya, when in fact many of them in the past and the present use their familiarity with Arabic and Arab culture on behalf of the Arab Intelligence branches of the Jewish Agency and its militias or the IDF to betray and even murder their Arab brethren.

        Entire volumes have been devoted to the subject as I noted in my comment above. From time to time the IDF and police revive the idea and announce the formation of another Mista’arvim unit to operate in Arab areas under deep cover. Here are a few more examples:
        *Naḥmān Ben-Yĕhûdā, Political assassinations by Jews: a rhetorical device for justice, page 229-30 http://books.google.com/books?id=19ZMulluIgkC&lpg=PA229&ots=c7YKoyrzB6&pg=PA229#v=onepage&q&f=false
        * Haaretz Secret police unit monitoring Israeli citizens
        Undercover cops operating in East Jerusalem, Arab villages in recent years to thwart terror attacks. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/secret-police-unit-monitoring-israeli-citizens-1.6196.

        The Palestine: Information with Provenance (PIWP database) has a page that lists over a dozen sources for “The Mista’arvim (Israeli “Arabized” secret police — posing as Palestinians)” which describes things like Non-violent resistance strategy: Israeli secret police posing as aggressive demonstrators to justify police attack http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/php/topic.php?tid=1379

  19. kma on May 22, 2013, 1:25 pm

    Shasha’s article supports its claims by linking to his own works rather than Massad’s, so it is more emotional rant than Massad’s article which is more informational.

    Massad aside, what Shasha is talking about seems way worse in the Christian world than in the Jewish one! Most WHITE and privileged Euro-Christians have NO IDEA that Arab Christians even EXIST, in spite of all their bible-study with Palestinian cities all over them!

    I have helped to sell Palestinian crafts at Catholic churces in the US, and while the congregations LOVED buying gifts made in Bethlehem, a priest took me aside one day, quietly and embarrassed, to verify that our “profits” were going to Catholics in Palestine….
    Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, a handful of different Christian churches share the keys to the most sacred sites in the Old City which is in itself an act of rebellion. Israel is doing all it can to shrink their presence, and ignorant white American Catholic priests are worried that some of “their” money might go into the hands of the “wrong” Christians! Personally, I couldn’t care less, and the earth is 4.5 billion years old, and humans evolved over millions of years, so Jerusalem is just another Disneyland in my opinion!
    And, meanwhile again, little beggar children in the streets of Bethlehem will try to chase the few tourists they see while Palestinian police chase the little children – a perfect example of colonial control with our own tax dollars and of our culture of abusive domination all the way down the ladder. After thousands of years, who can expect a religion to stay the same? I believe that Christianity will lose all connections to where it began and simply evolve into the familiar old model of the privileged stuffing themselves with cream puffs while being served by masses of lesser people who they believe their god smiles upon for their unending suffering.

    So, Ashkenazi/Sephardic Jews may have similar issues, but it really doesn’t look like more than a little every-day racism to me. Extermination of Palestinians overshadows it. It’s like worrying about the different European cultures over US history while erasing indigenous altogether and enslaving Blacks. (me? I’m white privileged Euro, though darker, and mostly Gypsy!)

    • Hostage on May 23, 2013, 5:41 am

      Massad aside, what Shasha is talking about seems way worse in the Christian world than in the Jewish one! Most WHITE and privileged Euro-Christians have NO IDEA that Arab Christians even EXIST, in spite of all their bible-study with Palestinian cities all over them!

      Oh they know that they exist. For example, in 1913 a federal judge ruled that neither Faras Shahid, a native of Syria, and a Christian nor Jesus Christ could be considered free white persons eligible to immigrate to the Eastern Federal District of South Carolina unless they could establish their European heritage. http://www.press.umich.edu/pdf/9780472116096-ch2.pdf

      Someone must have realized the inherent contradiction of praying for Jesus to return in the face of an outright federal ban, because the following year another Syrian, George Dow, obtained a judgment on appeal which held that the lower courts had erred in ruling that a Syrian of Asiatic birth is not a free white person within the meaning of the naturalization statute.

      The three judge panel, of Pritchard, Knapp, and Woods, reasoned that some German works available at the time the act was first adopted categorized the Syrians as members of the white race and that:

      In the Dictionary of Races, contained in the Reports of the Immigration Commission, 1911, it is said:
      “Physically the modern Syrians are of mixed Syrian, Arabian, and even Jewish blood. They belong to the Semitic branch of the Caucasian race, thus widely differing from their rulers, the Turks, who are in origin Mongolian.” We have, then, this condition: That in the numerous reconsiderations of the statute, when it was amended or repealed and re-enacted, the Congress must have been aware that certain Asiatics, near the Mediterranean Sea, including Syrians, were generally classed as white people.

      http://nclebanese.wikispaces.com/file/view/DOW+v+United+States-Overturned-for+Seminars.pdf

      Although many Sephardim could, and did establish their European heritage, the Mizrahim were finally considered both Caucasian and White (for the purposes of the statute).
      http://www.press.umich.edu/pdf/9780472116096-ch2.pdf

  20. kma on May 22, 2013, 1:37 pm

    p.s. by the way, the Shashi article goes to great lengths to identify and shout “racist!”, which seems obsessive, and maybe driven by deep personal doubts.

  21. ramona73 on May 23, 2013, 6:19 pm

    “For all that Massad has relationships with Mizrahi Jews, his thinking remains monocausal and racist. Jews never lived in the Middle East and all discussion of Jewish identity and Zionism must be tied exclusively to Europe”

    David Shasha, please show me where Massad makes this claim. You are attacking a strawman.

    It should be very clear from Massad’s piece that one of its main objectives is to trace the historical specificity and origin of Zionism. Please tell me if I’m missing something, but Zionism originated in Europe–logically, Massad’s piece is going to focus on European Jews. Nowhere in the article does he claim, or even imply, the ridiculous proposition that there are no Middle Eastern Jews. You yourself state:

    “The narrative [that omits the Arab Jew] is one that has been constructed by the Zionists and leaves out the existential and cultural substance of the Sephardic community.”

    And yet it is this very narrative that Massad is tracing genealogically. To focus on the Zionist narrative entails that he looks specifically at the transformations in European political currents in regards to Jewish people there.

    This is not to say that Zionism did not have any consequences on non-European Jews–obviously this claim would be ridiculous . But, this is not the target of this article. If you want to read something by Massad that deals *specifically* with the antagonism created by Zionism between European and non-European Jews, check out his piece “Zionism’s Internal Others: Israel and the Oriental Jews.”

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2538006?uid=3739560&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21102037560893

    It’s insane to me that you would be referring to Massad as a racist based on his Aljazeera article.

    • Hostage on May 24, 2013, 5:50 am

      To focus on the Zionist narrative entails that he looks specifically at the transformations in European political currents in regards to Jewish people there.

      Just to clarify, prior to WWII there were hundreds of Sephardic communities in the Balkins, France, Germany, England, and elsewhere in Europe. The members weren’t Mizrahi or Arab Jews. But it is a mistaken view to think that an Ashkenazi is necessarily more “European” than a Sephardi or that prominent Sephardic Jews, like Moses Montifiore, didn’t play an instrumental role in financing Jewish agricultural colonies and other Zionist projects in Palestine. I’ve noted elsewhere that the estate managers of Sephardic Jews, like Judah Touro and Monifiore, actually evicted poor Misrahi Jews of the old Yishuv from lands acquired by their charitable trusts in order to build homes there for the new Zionist Jewish settlers. During the Ottoman era, it was mainly Sephardic Ottoman subjects who served as the actual land purchasing agents for the Zionist movement in Palestine.

      • yishai on May 24, 2013, 1:20 pm

        Brilliant comment Hostage.

        One of the main differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities is northern versus southern European locations and histories. Another is heaviest involvement in early Capitalist versus Middle Capitalist Empires, ie: Spanish and Portuguese versus Dutch and later British and French.

        Your point is very well taken. Sephardic Jews were actually dabbling in, and negotiating whiteness in the Caribbean and other parts of 16th Century capitalism way before most Ashkenizim were doing so in the same way, and with the same intensity.

        These are very different itineraries, but both are very much European in flavor, and heavily entangled with race, racism, whiteness ,and later the nationalisms of modernity.

        Your specifics about Sephardic involvement in early zionism is really important, and on the Ottoman side of things, makes perfect sense. Needs to be spelled out more often, and in greater detail, to make these arguments more salient and less easily dismissed…

        Thanks!

      • McNulty rocks on May 24, 2013, 7:28 pm

        Actually Joseph Massad recognizes this and points this out in his piece Zionism’s Internal Others, where he takes contemporary Euro-Israeli understandings of “Sephardim” to task for eliding the historical existence of European Sephardic communities in the Balkans and western Europe.

      • McNulty rocks on May 24, 2013, 7:29 pm

        Albeit this is in a lengthy footnote, not the piece itself.

      • Hostage on May 25, 2013, 4:46 pm

        Actually Joseph Massad recognizes this and points this out in his piece Zionism’s Internal Others, where he takes contemporary Euro-Israeli understandings of “Sephardim” to task for eliding the historical existence of European Sephardic communities in the Balkans and western Europe.

        Moses Montifiore wasn’t “the Other”. He was one of British Zionism’s “Grand Poobahs”.

      • McNulty rocks on May 25, 2013, 8:20 pm

        No one said he was the “Other”. We are referring to “Sephardim” as the term is used in contemporary Israel, referring to Middle Eastern and North African Jews.

      • McNulty rocks on May 24, 2013, 7:43 pm

        Indeed, following Massad, I would argue that there needs to be a fundamental critique of the usage of the word “Sephardic”. Its too often used to refer to all Middle Eastern Jewish cultures, as if they all follow the same trends , religious customs, or even live in the same area. There are Israeli MK’s descended partially from the old Spanish-Portuguese Jewish communities in the Netherlands who are for all practical purposes “Ashkenazim” in the census and social life. I think even the Israeli pro-Palestinian journalist Amira Hass comes from Yugoslav Sephardic roots and yet is counted as a Ashkenazic piece activist. Whereas “Sephardim” in Israel today include a wide menagerie of different Jews, many of them different from each other. Ethiopian Jews and Indian Jews have very little to do with the classic Sephardim of old. Persian/Iranian Jews have their own history and traditions, which are very ancient and distinctive and yet are absorbed into the Sephardic label. And then there are the Arab Jewish communities which aren’t all necessarily homogenous. Moroccan Jews can be split between Arabic and Haketia speakers – the latter speaking a Ladino-Arabic hybridized dialect. Indeed, Moroccans, Algerians and Tunisians are perhaps the only “Sephardim” who can be truly called Sephardic, as they descend from Spanish migrants fleeing Al Andalus. Same for Turkish Jews. The Syro-Lebanese, Iraqi and Yemeni Jewish communities are very old and predate the Alhambra decree by centuries although many Sephardic families fleeing Spain did find refuge in Syria-Lebanon and so among the community you will find families with Hispanic surnames. Egyptian Jews are a fairly heterogenous bunch consisting of local Arab, Sephardic and even Ashkenazi elements. Considering these facts, it makes little sense to refer to them all as “Sephardim” or even “Mizrahim”.

  22. DaBakr on May 24, 2013, 3:12 pm

    If you want a REALLY screwy opinion of this subject-Go over to PressTV and read what the well known holocaust denying Ahmadi-nejads ‘right-hand’ scholar says about this whole ‘affair’ of the posting of, the pulling down, and then the immediate re-publishing by AJ of Massads article on Zionism and Anti-Semitism.

    He somehow attacks Massad while at the same time agreeing with his premise but only on the grounds that he hasn’t gone ‘far enough’. I can barely make sense of it but whats funny id the author is trying to claim that neither does Massad make any sense because he is ‘beholden’ to the US left-wing intellectual elite. Go figure

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