Why Mizrahi Jews in Israel Tend to Vote the Way They Do

The support of Jews from the Arab world was a crucial factor in the rise of the Israeli right in the 1970s, and Mizraḥim remain an important part of the right-wing coalition today. To one left-wing activist, the path to winning over Mizraḥi voters goes through the promotion of the “shared culture” that connects them to Arabs near and far, which can in turn be an antidote to the “anti-Arab racism” that, he claims, has been promoted among Israelis of Middle Eastern ancestry by Ashkenazi politicians. Lyn Julius is unconvinced:

Firstly, what “shared culture” are we talking about? . . . When Arab countries had Jewish communities, Jews interacted with Arabs in business and trade, but each community led siloed lives: intermarriage was rare. Jews spoke their own dialects of Arabic and had their own, self-contained, rich religious culture.

Secondly, the culture of the Jews of Middle East and North Africa was not monolithically Arab. It is true that Jews and Arabs might share a love for the songs of Um Kulthum or Farid al-Atrash. Egyptian singers and films were very popular all over the Arab world in the 1930s and 1940s. But Jews also flocked to the cinema to see the latest American films. Many Jews living in Arab countries were influenced by Western culture, educated in French-speaking schools, bore European names, and many had a marked preference for Edith Piaf over Um Kulthum.

Mizraḥi mistrust of Arabs . . . is real and not the result of Ashkenazi gaslighting. It is borne of bitter experience—a hostility Mizraḥim brought with them from Muslim countries. This is the elephant in the room, ignored or downplayed by the Ashkenazi left: the subliminal memory of Arab and Muslim persecution experienced by parents and grandparents—violent riots, arrests, torture, even executions in the recent past, coupled with the atavistic fears of a vulnerable and servile minority at the mercy of an unpredictable majority. Mizraḥim view the Palestinian jihad against the Jews of Israel as just the latest chapter in a long story of Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism.

And here is another fallacy about “shared culture.” It will not save you from missiles, or a mob which wants you dead, or a government hellbent on scapegoating your people. A “shared culture” did not save the “Arabized Jews” of Iraq, any more than acculturation saved the German Jews from the Nazis.

Read more at Fathom

More about: Israeli politics, Jewish-Muslim Relations, Mizrahim


Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria