On demons and cousins


Demons have always mocked human beings with their amazing elusiveness. They dress and undress, appear and disappear, especially to the color-blind. Still, their bad influence is apparent to everyone, despite the efforts of those who prefer to stick their heads in the sand. It’s the same thing with the ethnic demon, in my humble opinion.

Everyone who says the ethnic demon doesn’t exist or isn’t so terrible should provide a convincing explanation to an outstanding soldier named Asaf Abudi, who encountered this demon recently in Brussels. The Jewish Israeli soldier later recounted the humiliating treatment he suffered when going through El Al’s security check on his way home from a horseback riding competition; he was representing Israel. His father put his finger on the reason for the treatment. His son’s last name was the Arab-sounding Abudi.

So did the penny drop, as they say? There is no pleasure like malicious pleasure, but every Arab citizen of Israel who flies abroad has experienced the same heavy hand of the white Zionist who prefers names that end in “ski,” “baum” or “blum.”

Recently the media took Shas co-leader Aryeh Deri to task for calling the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu ticket a group of “Russians and whites” and letting loose the ethnic demon. Everyone has forgotten that this elusive demon has always existed. He has a permanent spot in the social, cultural and national no-man’s-land separating East and West.

As far back as 1928, the international organization of Sephardi Jews published a manifesto for Jews here of Middle Eastern origin; it mentioned “the great need to establish an institution that would organize the Sephardim into one national grouping” (Doar Hayom, November 25, 1928 ). White Zionism’s arrogance toward Mizrahi Jews, those of Middle Eastern origin, also found expression in a memorandum presented to the delegates of the 17th Zionist Congress in 1931: “Of course, unfounded allegations have sometimes been made by the leaders of our national home. They have said Mizrahi Jews are incapable of handling office work at our institutions.”

The memorandum also noted that Sephardi Jews could be a bridge between Jews in general and Arabs: “Sephardi Jewry can serve as a desirable force to come to an agreement between the Jews and the Arabs, who have kinship of race and language” (“Hatzfirah,” July 12, 1931 ). So when Deri calls on his “Sephardi brothers” to take their fate into their own hands (vis-a-vis “the Russians and the whites” ), he is not inventing the wheel of ethnic identity. Today’s demons are the descendants of yesterday’s demons.

As far back as 1951, a Sephardi party had the same messages. Its election campaign reflected the same demons. One ad highlighted comments in the Davar newspaper of June 14 that year; the paper reported that at a gathering of educators a few days earlier, one speaker discussed how “our Arabs are the Mizrahim.”

The ad also noted that at a women’s physicians’ conference, someone said “we should fear the blacks, and soon we will all be black.” The ad then called on the “black” Mizrahi Jews to “respond to the slander of the academic educators … from Western countries and vote for the representatives of the ‘blacks,’ who will protect you from the defamers and those committing injustice.”

If that’s the case, then the ethnic demon has been around for a long time in the no-man’s-land between “Hava Nagila” and “Hava Nargila.” And if that’s the dance of the devil that exists among cousins, imagine the dance that prevails between Jews and Arabs.



Piblished: Opinions-Haaretz, Jan 8, 2013


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