The Dangers of Seeing the Israel-Palestinian Conflict through the American Lens of Race

A common theme of today’s anti-Israel rhetoric in the U.S. is the notion that Israelis are European (i.e., “white”) colonizers oppressing the non-European (i.e., “brown”) indigenous Palestinian Arabs. Such a framing of the conflict reduces it to racial terms familiar to most American, with clear moral valences. But, as Hen Mazzig notes, it has little connection to reality:

Only about 30 percent of Israeli Jews are of solely Ashkenazi (i.e., European) descent. . . . Jews that were expelled from nations across the Middle East have been crucial in building and defending the Jewish state since its outset. Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, was established . . . for all Jews, from every part of the world—the Middle East, North Africa, Ethiopia, Asia and, yes, Europe. No matter where Jews have physically resided, they have maintained a connection to the land of Israel, where our story started and where today we continue to craft it.

The likes of the Women’s March activist Tamika Mallory, the Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill, and, more recently, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib falsify reality in their discussions of Palestinians’ “intersectional” struggle [which implies an inextricable tie to racial grievances in the U.S.], their use of the term “apartheid” to characterize Israeli policy, and their tendency to define Israelis as Ashkenazi Jews alone.

I believe their misrepresentations are part of a strategic campaign to taint Israel as an extension of “privileged” and powerful white Europe, thereby justifying any and all attacks on it. This way of thinking signals a dangerous trend that positions Israel as a colonialist aggressor rather than a haven for those fleeing oppression. [And], it [entirely ignores] the story of my family, which came to Israel from Iraq and Tunisia. . . .

Israel is a place where an indigenous people have reclaimed their land and revived their ancient language, despite being surrounded by hostile neighbors and hounded by radicalized Arab nationalists who cannot tolerate any political entity in the region other than their own. Jews that were expelled from nations across the Middle East, who sacrificed all they had, have been crucial in building and defending the Jewish state since its outset.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Los Angeles Times

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Mizrahi Jewry, Racism, Rashida Tlaib

A U.S. Withdrawal from Syria Would Help Russia, Iran, and Islamic State

Aug. 21 2019

Despite the president’s declaration last year that American troops would soon begin leaving Syria, about 1,000 remain. Charles Lister argues that their presence in the country serves vital U.S. interests:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Middle East Institute

More about: Iran, ISIS, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy