How Post-Zionists Falsify the History of Middle Eastern Jewry

Historian Rachel Shabi and a group of other post-Zionists have tried to use historical prejudice against Mizrahim—i.e., Jews of North African and Middle Eastern origin—to undermine Zionism. In her view, Mizrahi Jews are really “Jewish Arabs” who ought to make common cause with Palestinians against the state of Israel. Although ethnic prejudice and discriminatory policies have certainly existed in Israel, Shabi exaggerates them wildly, fails to understand then in their historical context, and idealizes Jewish-Muslim coexistence in the Arab world beyond all recognition. She also, writes Lyn Julius, ignores the fact that this prejudice is largely a thing of the past:

Although it was . . . a struggling developing country, Israel took in the stateless, the destitute, the sick, and the elderly—because they were Jews. . . . . Today Mizrahim are generals, doctors, property developers, bank managers, and have held every government post except prime minister. Most importantly—a hugely significant fact that Shabi simply glosses over—intermarriage [with Ashkenazi Jews] is running at 25 per cent, and the mixed Israeli family is fast becoming the norm. Soon there will be no such thing as Mizrahi or Ashkenazi in the Israeli melting pot.

Shabi’s nostalgia trip to a world before Zionism leads her up a blind alley. She confuses the interpersonal with the political: good neighborliness with the (unequal) power relationship between Jews and Arabs. An overlap of culture and language with Arabs over 14 centuries did not protect Mizrahim from pogroms, dispossession, and expulsion, to the point where fewer than 5,000 Jews live in Arab countries today, out of a 1948 population of one million. This is a lesson lost on some who eagerly espouse Arab-Israeli coexistence projects.

Read more at Fathom

More about: Arab anti-Semitism, Matti Friedman, Mizrahi Jewry, post-Zionism

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood