When the generation of Israelis who poisoned the minds of people in Israel and created an imagined divide between “Ashkenazi” and “Mizrahi” have moved on, it will not be too soon. It’s amazing to me how so many Israelis will make passing comments about the “inferiority” of Mizrahi Jews (Jews from the Middle East), while inflating the supposed “culture” and “achievement” of their own “Ashkenazi” ancestors. I was on the elevator today and heard about the “tchachakim” just like in the 1980s.
It’s fascinating to me how Israelis who are descended from cobblers, tanners, panhandlers, and inn-keepers, will boast about the “culture Ashkenazim brought” and “our cultural heritage” and talk about it as “superior” and “enlightened” and “European.”
Have they seen what was much of this supposed “culture”? They adopt Heine, Karl Marx and Moses Mendelssohn as if they are cousins, as if every American is part of the legacy of Edison, when in fact there is no shared “Ashkenazi” culture or culture of intellectual superiority. The fact is that the same culture they take pride in as “superior” to the “primitive” Middle East, is the one that many Europeans thought was semi-barbaric and “oriental.” It’s ironic, but the “Ashkenazi superiority” narrative one hears whispered in Israel, is actually an adoption of forms of European white supremacism mixed with anti-semitism, such that the “east” and the “oriental” becomes “inferior.”
There is a constant hammering away at this stereotype in media and elite circles in Israel. On radio they boast about “our superior music” and on TV they say things like “how will Olmert who is Ashkenazi be able to get along in prison where everyone is Mizrahi (yes, that was said on Israel’s famous London/Kirschenbaum program)”.
There is a nonsensical myth in Israel, created to bolster the imagined community-superiority status of immigrants from Europe in the 1920s and 1950s, that posits that European immigrants are “superior” to people from the Middle East. In 2016, this stereotype still exists, despite 70 years of social engineering and Israeli education and conscription that supposedly was designed by these same “European” elites.
I read today about how a Jewish Israeli was “Ashkenazi” because he was from “Bulgaria” and that this was good because he could heal an “ethnic divide”. It’s ironic how suddenly Bulgarian immigrants, not exactly Heine and Einstein were from there, have become part of the “Ashkenazi white tribe” as Israelis say…even though just across the Hellespont are “Miazrahi” Jews supposedly who are “different ethnically”.
How are they ethnically different?
Some Israelis believe in the myth of white superiority, I’m sorry to say, but that’s what they think. They believe that someone whose grandpa was from Bulgaria is naturally superior to someone whose grandpa was from Aleppo.
Grandpa might have been a shoe-shiner from Ukraine, but he’s superior to an educated person from Baghdad? That concept runs wild in Israel. It’s ridiculous. And when I hear Israelis tell me about their supposed “Ashkenazi” identity and how it is so much better, I feel sorry for them. They treat Jews the way the anti-semities did, viewing Jews as inferior, just based on invented differences.
When you hear someone say “Ashkenazi” one must interrogate that, when they say “we brought culture” to Israel. What culture? The inn-keepers and shoe-shiners of Poland and Rumania? Don’t pretend that grandpa was Einstein. He wasn’t. Don’t let them pull this bait and switch. The culture of Aleppo, Istanbul, Baghdad was as good, if not superior to whatever was lurking in Galicia or Odessa.
I should know, some of my ancestors fled Odessa, and they weren’t all Einsteins, they were hard workers, but working class people, strivers and strugglers. Only in Israel there is this fake notion that they were all philosophers and pianists.
And the fact is that the immigrants to Israel were the less educated people from Europe, not the more well educated ones who often went to the US or UK or Germany. That’s right…the less educated went to Israel, the less cultured. And the result is probably why this ignorant stereotype and racism continues.