Monday, May 17, 2010

The most Ashkenazi elite is Israel's radical left


Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy (above). Moroccan royal adviser Andre Azoulay (left)


If Moroccan royal adviser Andre Azoulay moved to Israel tomorrow, the best he could expect would be to sit on the local council in Dimona, Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy has alleged (seemingly dismissing such Moroccan high-achievers as David Levy and Shlomo Ben-Ami). Reading Alexander Jacobson's riposte to Gideon Levy's accusation that Israel has failed to integrate Mizrahi Jews into its elites, one can't help a frisson of satisfaction: the most Ashkenazi elite of all, Jacobson claims, is the radical left, of which the vuzvuz (yekke, noch!) Gideon Levy is a prime example. (With thanks: Independent Observer)

The elites vary enormously in integration of Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Jews. The elite that is apparently the most Ashkenazi of all is that of the radical left. Gideon Levy raises an important issue: the incorporation of Mizrahi Jews into the elites of Israeli society. The picture he draws is depressing: "Our entire political, economic, legal, academic and even military leadership is made up of Ashkenazim, with a smattering of Sephardim as the exceptions that so remarkably prove the rule." ("And what happens in our community?" May 2 )

This picture is only partially true. The elites vary enormously in this matter. Some are more integrated, while others less so. The elite that is apparently the most Ashkenazi of all is that of the radical left.

In recent decades we have had ministers of defense, foreign affairs and finance who were Mizrahim. We have had chiefs of staff who were Mizrahim, GOCs, heads of Military Intelligence, commanders of the air force and Sayeret Matkal special operations force, attorneys general, directors general and senior officials at the Finance Ministry, heads of the Histadrut labor federation, and business tycoons. Even the Labor Party, a regular target for criticism in this respect, has twice elected a Mizrahi head, and the current Histadrut secretary general is far from being a "pet Mizrahi."

However, the elites calling for an international boycott of Israel, and the Israeli participants in Israeli Apartheid Week in cities around the world, and in general all those who tend to portray Israel as a despicable and failed state, solely responsible for the conflict - this indeed is an Ashkenazi elite "with a smattering of Mizrahim." It would be appropriate for the members of this elite, who excel at preaching morality, to show a little more humility and learn a lesson from Israel's business, political and defense elites on how to integrate Mizrahim.

As a rule, it can be said that all encounters in the modern era between the European world and the East, particularly the Middle East, have been unequal. Of these encounters, the one in Israel between those with origins in Europe and those from the Middle East was the least unequal because both sides shared the Zionist ideology that considered all Jewish communities as belonging to the same people. This approach did not, in practice, prevent prejudice, patronizing and discrimination, but it included an enormous advantage when compared to every other outlook, as far as integrating communities was concerned.

Among modern ideologies, only Zionism enables, and requires, that Polish Jews and Yemenite Jews be seen as one people. It is fashionable today to denigrate this philosophy that sees all Jews as one nation; it is fashionable to consider it a myth. But it is clear that when it comes to integrating people from Europe and the Arab-Muslim world, in nearly equal numbers, Israel is the most successful example of such an integration in modern history. From a Zionist standpoint, it could be said that this achievement is less worthy of wonderment; after all, it involves people of the same nation, despite the cultural differences between them. And it's not about the much more difficult integration of immigrants from different nations and cultures.

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7 comments:

Sammish said...

There has never been a social experiment where an equal society with a more or less transparency emerging as trully equal based on its diverse ethnic, racial as well as social class or political constituencies. If there is one, I would like to know about it. All cases that we have (historically speaking) of nations that attempted to integrate their various groups, they all run into social inequalities, marginalizations and outright discrimination based on group membership, or ethnic or racial belongings.

Israel's case is a very good case to discuss because in the span of 60 years many structural changes have occured to allow it to be the prime successful case of integration ever. Diversity in Israel has a complexity of its own. I do not beleieve any other nations has this and experienced at least recently. It cuts across all groups membership, whether it be ethnic, linguistic, former geographical location, social class, religious affiliation, political persuation, racial composition and educational attaintment and occupational prestige... I mean the whole gamut of very complex interwining group identificatuion.. For Israel to come out in the span of time of what it has accomplished is in my opinion a great accmplishment.

Certainly the road taken had many bumps and quite franckly was discriminatory at times (Ashkenasim vs. all the other "jewish-isms"). But these discriminatory processes were not institutionalized. They were as a matter of fact, a consequence of the large gap that existed bewteen those who experienced european enlightement and those who were primaryly living under the world economic depressed peripheries of the ME and Africa. This difference mattered in terms of who had skills, rational approach to life, education and problem solving capacity. Therefore any discriminatory processes that other jewish minorities hasd suffered was due to the educational gap as well as technological lag. Nowadays, this is less of a problem, in my opinion. It can even be better.. and I hope it will. Seeing is believing.. I would however like to see more Ethiopians at the highest of the Israeli Military-Industrial Complex, which includes the governmental institutions. As far as Mizrahi upwards mobility, there is ample evidence that it did occur and will proceed based on merit and qualifications. But we also have to remind oursleves that a trully equal society is also a myth, but lesser social, economic and political gap between all the groups are also desired and wanted in the future. Israel's survival depends on it..

bataween said...

Very well put, Sammish. You must be a sociologist.

Anonymous said...

So now we're whitewashing the past with a shameless dose of "realism"?
If I need to do that to defend Israel...

You have yet to prove that the ashkenazic elite "attempted to integrate [Israel's] various groups" rather than impose their way while trying to create what they called the "new hebrew identity"

Funny how "those who were primaryly living under the world economic depressed peripheries of the ME and Africa." were able to grow and live better in Europe than in the land controlled by "those who experienced european enlightement"...

Even funnier is the fact that even today non-jewish slavs receive more 'attention' from the israeli government than mizrahim...

bataween said...

If you're referring to Mizrahim who resettled in Europe and the Americas - these did very well for themselves, mainly because they were amongst the richest and best educated of their communities. (Not all, however, those Jews who live in the northern suburbs of Paris and Marseille with their Muslim neighbours are still struggling.)
Those who came to Israel for the most part were amongst the poorest and most disadvantaged. They did not have a choice.
Israel in the 50s had seen its population double overnight. It had limited resources - there was rationing and unemployment and the country had such a shortage of housing that it put its refugees in tent camps and wooden shacks. The Russians who came in the 90s never had to endure such conditions - Israel is not the third world country it once was.

Sammish said...

I do not want to get into a methodological argument with Anonymous, because the main issue here is what information or data are there to support the claims made. If however the claims are made only to steer the dialogue into a debate of deafs and unchallenged minds than I would rather not say anything.

By simply restating claims in the opposite causal chain does not provide one with critical evidence that what I stated in my entry as a fallacy. I am pointing to the two statements anonymous made:

1st statement: "those who were living in depressed areas of the peripheries of ME and Africa were growing and LIVING better in Europe than in Israel" Show me the data, or the source of this claim. Did it occur to Anonymous that the case he is alluding to is the case of Algerian jews? I did not allude in my entry to the fact that people who left for France instead of Israel fared much worse than those who decided to make it to Israel during the difficult early days. The young state was not of the same par with post-war France. The social and political landscape were entirely different. There is also a very important fact between Morocco and Algeria. In fact there is still a great amonosity towards the Jews of Algeria for not going en masse to Israel. They were French citizens and were a group that "did not baked in the depressed areas of the periphery.. and the feudal semi-arid farming of the interior". They were urbanite, educated and professionals and some were highly placed in French Algeria. Compare these with the Jews of Morocco those majority were from agricultural, semi-nomadic areas tilling the dust of an obsolete and archaic feudal agricultural system. Morocco was a French protectorate. The French did not industrialized the country as Algeria. I see a huge difference here. I will let you weight in by trying to be aware of this difference. Thus you cannot use the case of Algerian jews to debunk my claims. Besides I have not stated that there was no discrimination at all. Reread my previous entry.

The 2nd statement: "the so-called Israeli Ashkenazim establishment has preferencial treatment towards non-jewish slavs than towards Misrahim.. while I do admit that there may be cases like this at the individual level. Regionalism, "tribalism", "croniesm" and the mighty "nepotism" are real I do not deny them) but the question is how generalized are these preferencial treatments. To what extent are they embedded in the fabric of Israeli society? Where is the data that show that this is a widepread institutionalized process giving preferencial treatment to Russian Jews. Are the Uzbekistani, Kazakstani jews included in this group (they were after all russian citizens previously)or are we talking about only Moscovite jews? You see my point. The problem is generalization.

Ben said...

The Ashkenazi Haredim are very strong competitors of the radical left in this matter.

Only last week Israel's newspapers were describing how the city of Emmanuel was segregating Mizrahi schoolgirls from their Ashkenazi peers. Most painful was to hear of the demeaning term that was being deployed by these youngsters against their hapless antagonists - Sfaradjukiot, no less.

bataween said...

PoNR has been following the Emmanuel issue, but it's not as simple as a clash of ethnicities - see my post of 4 May.