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Tel Aviv University
[TAU Sociology] Yehouda Shenhav, the Self-Appointed Spokesman for the Mizrahim, Changes his "Narrative" Again
TAU Professor Yehouda Shenhav
E-mail: shenhav@post.tau.ac.il

Editorial Note:  
 
Yehouda Shenhav (TAU) has been very busy recently.  The Israeli Foreign Ministry - in conjunction with Justice for Jews from Arab Counties (JJAC) - has declared its intention to seek justice for Jewish refugees from Arab countries as part of a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
 
The JJAC, who has the support of the World Sephardi Congress and the American Sephardi Federation has been founded in 2006 by S. Daniel Abraham - a leading philanthropist and peace activist who spent a small fortunate pushing for the Oslo peace.  The distinguished  Canadian jurist Irwin Cotler, made a compelling case for the JJAC in his report "Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights and Redress."
  
From the very beginning, Shenhav was adamantly opposed to the Foreign Ministry-JJAC initiative, as indicated bellow.  He argued that this is a ploy to detract from the demands of the Palestinian refugees and, more to the point, that there were no forced expulsion of Jews in the Arab world.  Shenav is strongly supported by Reuben Abergil, the former head of the Black Panthers who appeared with Shenhav in the short documentary.  On several occasion, Shenhav implied that the Sephardi activists in JJAC are dupes of the Zionist and Israeli colonial project.

Shenhav is no stranger to controversy; he has urged creating a binational state and a full right of return for the Palestinian refugees. In fact, as IAM reported, Shehnav wants to rebuild the Palestinian villages in Israel and set up courts that would adjudicate the return of property in cities. 
 
He is best known for his effort to reclassify the Mizrahim as "Arab Jews" in order to promote an alliance between them and the Palestinians as a prelude to his binational state.  In his book on the subject Shenahv described Jews from Arab countries as "victims of Zionism" who were alienated from their Arab roots and made "voting fodder" for Likud and other right-wing parties.  This is not surprising , as Shenahv is an enthusiastic practitioner of "false consciousness," a construct invented by Marx to explain why workers support bourgeois parties to the detriment of  their class interest.  In Shenaha'v version of "false consciousness" the Mizrahim have been compelled to vote for Likud because of Zionist brain-washing.
 
What is more surprising is Shenahv's short memory.  In an effort to convey the depth of the "Zionist perfidy," his book uses unsubstantiated charges that the Mossad fomented attacks on Jews to scare them into leaving en mass.  But to hear Shenhav tell it now, the Mizrahi refugees are an invention of the Foreign Ministry.
 
Israeli taxpayers have been left holding the short stick in the affair.  Hired to teach and research sociology of organizations, Shenhav has used his tenured position to write about topics that support his political activism.   It is even more regrettable that some of the writings  are laced with elaborate conspiracy theories that should have no place in the academy. 


 

 

 

Shenhav in 2006:


http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/articles/article0048400.html

Arab Jews, Palestinian Refugees and Israel's Folly Politics

By: Yehouda Shenhav

October 2006

In an article in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz from 22.10.06, the Reuters Agency reported that World Jewish groups began a global campaign calling for recognition of Jews from Arab countries (i.e. Arab Jews) as refugees in the Middle East conflict. Stanley Urman, executive director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC) was quoted saying that:

The world sees the plight of Palestinian refugees, and not withstanding their plight, there must be recognition that Jews from Arab countries are also victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), a U.S.-based coalition of Jewish organizations, is one of the groups coordinating the campaign which aims to record testimonies of Jews from Arab countries, list asset losses and lobby foreign governments on their behalf. Reuters also reported that JJAC is working in tandem with Israel's Ministry of Justice, which is collecting and registering testimonials, affidavits and property claims. The daily internet paper Y-NET (October 24 2006 under the title: "Jews of Arab Countries prepare yourself to claim compensation") also reported that the new minister of justice Meir Shitrit is behind this "new effort." 

However this effort is all but novel. It started 6 years ago in a folly attempt to use the Arab Jews and their histories to counter-balance the Palestinian claim for the so called "right of return". The campaign has tried to create an analogy between Palestinian refugees and Arab Jews, whose origins are in Middle Eastern countries - depicting both groups as victims of the 1948 War of Independence. The campaign's Jewish proponents hope their efforts will prevent conferral of what is called a "right of return" on Palestinians, and reduce the size of the compensation Israel is liable to be asked to pay in exchange for Palestinian property appropriated by the state guardian of "lost" assets. Whereas in the past, the State of Israel and Jewish organizations have denied any linkage between the two groups and argued that the campaign was launched in the interest of the Arab Jews (see Chapter 3 in my book The Arab Jews, Stanford University Press, 2006), today all parties involved acknowledge that the main objective of the campaign is not to secure the interest of the Arab Jews, but rather to counter-balance the Palestinian political demands. I would like to argue that the idea of drawing this analogy constitutes a mistaken reading of history, imprudent politics, and moral injustice; and that any analogy between Palestinian refugees and Jewish immigrants from Arab lands is folly in historical and political terms 

Bill Clinton launched the campaign in July 2000 in an interview with Israel's Channel One, in which he disclosed that an agreement to recognize Jews from Arab lands as refugees materialized at the Camp David summit. Ehud Barak, the Israeli Prime Minister at the time, stepped up and enthusiastically expounded on his "achievement" in an interview with Dan Margalit. It should be noted, that past Israeli governments had refrained from issuing declarations of this sort. There were at least three reasons for that. First, there has been concern that any such proclamation will underscore what Israel has tried to repress and forget: the Palestinians' demand for return. Second, there has been anxiety that such a declaration would encourage property claims submitted by Jews against Arab states and, in response, Palestinian counter-claims to lost property. Third, such declarations would require Israel to update its school textbooks and history, and devise a new narrative by which the Arab Jews journeyed to the country under duress, without being fueled by Zionist aspirations. At Camp David, Ehud Barak decided that the right of return issue was not really on the agenda, so he thought he had the liberty to indulge the analogy between the Palestinian refugees and the Arab Jews, only rhetorically. 

Characteristically, rather than really dealing with issues as a leader, in a fashion that might lead to mutual reconciliation, Barak and later prime ministers Ariel Sharom and Ehud Oulmert acted like shopkeepers. Furthermore, whereas the article in Ha'aretz mentioned above reports that the Ministry of Justice has already received thousands of claims to date, in actuality the campaign's results thus far are meager. The Jewish organizations involved have not inspired much enthusiasm in Israel, or among Jews overseas. It has yet to extract a single noteworthy declaration from any major Israeli politician. This comes as no surprise: The campaign has a forlorn history whose details are worth revisiting. Sometimes recounting history has a very practical effect. 

The World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC) who initiated this linkage was founded in the 1970s. Yigal Allon, then foreign minister, worried that WOJAC would become a hotbed of what he called "ethnic mobilization." But WOJAC was not formed to assist the Arab Jews; it was invented as a deterrent to block claims harbored by the Palestinian national movement, particularly claims related to compensation and the right of return. At first glance, the use of the term "refugees" for the Arab Jews was not unreasonable. After all, the word had occupied a central place in historical and international legal discourses after World War II. United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 from 1967 referred to a just solution to "the problem of refugees in the Middle East." In the 1970s, Arab countries tried to fine-tune the resolution's language so that it would refer to "Arab refugees in the Middle East," but the U.S. government, under the direction of ambassador to the UN Arthur Goldberg, opposed this revision. A working paper prepared in 1977 by Cyrus Vance, then U.S. secretary of state, ahead of scheduled international meetings in Geneva, alluded to the search for a solution to the "problem of refugees," without specifying the identities of those refugees. Israel lobbied for this formulation. WOJAC, which tried to introduce use of the concept "Jewish refugees," failed. 

The Arabs were not the only ones to object to the phrase. Many Zionist Jews from around the world opposed WOJAC's initiative. Organizers of the current campaign would be wise to study the history of WOJAC, an organization which transmogrified over its years of activity from a Zionist to a post-Zionist entity. It is a tale of unexpected results arising from political activity. The WOJAC figure who came up with the idea of "Jewish refugees" was Yaakov Meron, head of the Justice Ministry's Arab legal affairs department. Meron propounded the most radical thesis ever devised concerning the history of Jews in Arab lands. He claimed Jews were expelled from Arab countries under policies enacted in concert with Palestinian leaders - and he termed these policies "ethnic cleansing." Vehemently opposing the dramatic Zionist narrative, Meron claimed that Zionism had relied on romantic, borrowed phrases ("Magic Carpet," "Operation Ezra and Nehemiah") in the description of Mizrahi immigration waves to conceal the "fact" that Jewish migration was the result of "Arab expulsion policy." In a bid to complete the analogy drawn between Palestinians and Mizrahi Jews, WOJAC publicists claimed that the Arab Jewish immigrants lived in refugee camps in Israel during the 1950s (i.e., ma'abarot or transit camps), just like the Palestinian refugees. 

The organization's claims infuriated many Arab Jews in Israel who defined themselves as Zionists. As early as 1975, at the time of WOJAC's formation, Knesset speaker Yisrael Yeshayahu declared: "We are not refugees. [Some of us] came to this country before the state was born. We had messianic aspirations." Shlomo Hillel, a government minister and an active Zionist in Iraq, adamantly opposed the analogy: "I don't regard the departure of Jews from Arab lands as that of refugees. They came here because they wanted to, as Zionists." In a Knesset hearing, Ran Cohen stated emphatically: "I have this to say: I am not a refugee." He added: "I came at the behest of Zionism, due to the pull that this land exerts, and due to the idea of redemption. Nobody is going to define me as a refugee." The opposition was so vociferous that Ora Schweitzer, chair of WOJAC's political department, asked the organization's secretariat to end its campaign. She reported that members of Strasburg's Jewish community were so offended that they threatened to boycott organization meetings should the topic of "Sephardi Jews as refugees" ever come up again. Such remonstration precisely predicted the failure of the current organization, Justice for Jews from Arab Countries to inspire enthusiasm for its efforts. 

Also alarmed by WOJAC's stridency, the Foreign Ministry proposed that the organization bring its campaign to a halt on the grounds that the description of Arab Jews as refugees was a double-edged sword. Israel, ministry officials pointed out, had always adopted a stance of ambiguity on the complex issue raised by WOJAC. In 1949, Israel even rejected a British-Iraqi proposal for population exchange - Iraqi Jews for Palestinian refugees - due to concerns that it would subsequently be asked to settle "surplus refugees" within its own borders. The foreign minister deemed WOJAC a Phalangist, zealous group, and asked that it cease operating as a "state within a state." In the end, the ministry closed the tap on the modest flow of funds it had transferred to WOJAC. Then justice minister Yossi Beilin fired Yaakov Meron from the Arab legal affairs department. Today, no serious researcher in Israel or overseas embraces WOJAC's extreme claims. 

Moreover, WOJAC, which intended to promote Zionist claims and assist Israel in its conflict with Palestinian nationalism, accomplished the opposite: It presented a confused Zionist position regarding the dispute with the Palestinians, and infuriated many Mizrahi Jews around the world by casting them as victims bereft of positive motivation to immigrate to Israel. WOJAC subordinated the interests of Mizrahi Jews (particularly with regard to Jewish property in Arab lands) to what it erroneously defined as Israeli national interests. The organization failed to grasp that defining Mizrahi Jews as refugees opens a Pandora's box and ultimately harms all parties to the dispute, Jews and Arabs alike. 

The State of Israel, the World Jewish Congress and other Jewish rganizations learned nothing from this woeful legacy. Hungry for a magic solution to the refugee question, they have adopted the refugee analogy and are lobbying for it all over the world. It would be interesting to hear the education minister's reaction to the historical narrative presented nowadays by these Jewish organizations. Should Yael Tamir establish a committee of ministry experts to revise school textbooks in accordance with this new post-Zionist genre? 

Any reasonable person, Zionist or non-Zionist, must acknowledge that the analogy drawn between Palestinians and Arab Jews is unfounded. Palestinian refugees did not want to leave Palestine. Many Palestinian communities were destroyed in 1948, and some 700,000 Palestinians were expelled, or fled, from the borders of historic Palestine. Those who left did not do so of their own volition. In contrast, Arab Jews arrived to Israel under the initiative of the State of Israel and Jewish organizations. Some arrived of their own free will; others arrived against their will. Some lived comfortably and securely in Arab lands; others suffered from fear and oppression. 

The history of this immigration is complex, and cannot be subsumed within a facile explanation. Many of the newcomers lost considerable property, and there can be no question that they should be allowed to submit individual property claims against Arab states (up to the present day, the State of Israel and WOJAC have blocked the submission of claims on this basis). The unfounded, immoral analogy between Palestinian refugees and Mizrahi immigrants needlessly embroils members of these two groups in a dispute, degrades the dignity of many Arab Jews, and harms prospects for genuine Jewish-Arab reconciliation. 

Jewish anxieties about discussing the question of 1948 are understandable. But this question will be addressed in the future, and it is clear that any peace agreement will have to contain a solution to the refugee problem. It's reasonable to assume that as final status agreements between Israelis and Palestinians are reached, an international fund will be formed with the aim of compensating Palestinian refugees for the hardships caused them by the establishment of the State of Israel. Israel will surely be asked to contribute generously to such a fund. 

In this connection, the idea of reducing compensation obligations by designating Arab Jews as refugees might become very tempting. But it is wrong to use scarecrows to chase away politically and morally valid claims advanced by Palestinians. The "creative accounting" manipulation concocted by the refugee analogy only adds insult to injury, and widens the psychological gap between Jews and Palestinians. Palestinians might abandon hopes of redeeming a right of return (as, for example, Palestinian pollster Dr. Khalil Shikai claims); but this is not a result to be adduced via creative accounting. 

Any peace agreement (which seems now far then ever) must be validated by Israeli recognition of past wrongs and suffering, and the forging of a just solution. The creative accounts proposed by the refugee analogy by the Israeli Ministry of Justice and Jewish organizations turns Israel into a morally and politically spineless bookkeeper. 



Yehouda Shenhav is a professor at Tel Aviv University and the editor of Theory Criticism, an Israeli journal in the area of critical theory and cultural studies. He is the author of The Arab Jews, Stanford University Press, 2006.


============================================



http://972mag.com/spineless-bookkeeping-the-use-of-mizrahi-jews-as-pawns-against-palestinian-refugees/56472/


By 

  |Published September 25, 2012

Spineless bookkeeping: The use of Mizrahi Jews as pawns against Palestinian refugees

Calls to define Jews from Arab countries as refugees were silenced in the past by Israeli governments. The change of policy has to do with the relatively new recognition that Israel will not be able to escape its responsibility for the Nakba. But leaders of the new campaign should first learn the history of their unfounded idea.

By Yehouda Shenhav

In the last three years, we have witnessed an intensive campaign aimed at winning political and legal recognition of Arab Jews as “refugees.” The aim of this campaign is to create symmetry in public opinion between the Palestinian refugees and the “Oriental” Jews who arrived to Israeli in the 50s and 60s, presenting both populations as victims of the 1948 war. The Foreign Ministry, under the leadership of Deputy Minister Danny Ayalon, is intensively collecting evidence which would offset – as if it were an algebra equation – the testimonies of Palestinians regarding expulsion, looting and killings.

A couple of years ago, the Knesset passed a law ordering every Israeli government that deals with Arab representatives (i.e. Palestinians) to treat the Jews of Arab origin as refugees. Several weeks ago, the National Security Council published a paper recommending the government “create a linkage between the Palestinian refugees and the Jews of Arab origin.” Former head of the NSC Uzi Arad decided upon his appointment to lead a special team that would come up with the official Israeli policy on “the Jewish refugees of Arab counties.”

Arad has received Prime Minister Netanyahu’s blessing for his initiative. He set up a special body inside the NSC and had representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Finance Ministry and the Foreign Ministry join the discussions. Historians, economists and representatives of Jewish organizations such as WOJAC (World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries) and JJAC (Justice for Jews from Arab Countries) were invited as well. The council recommended that the prime minister make the “Jewish refugees” and their compensations claims an inseparable part of the negotiations over the issue of Palestinian refugees.

http://972mag.com/spineless-bookkeeping-using-mizrahi-jews-as-pawns-against-palestinian-refugees/56472/yemenites_at_rosh_haayin/

Yemeni immigrants at a Rosh Ha’ayin transit camp. (photo: Wikimedia Commons / public domain)

Calls to define Jews from Arab countries as refugees were made in the past, but back then, they were silenced by Israeli governments. Why the change of policy? Partly due to a relatively new recognition that Israel will no longer be able to hide its responsibility for the Nakba.

The Foreign Ministry’s bookkeeper’s trick betrays the fear of the Palestinian claim of compensation and return – a central tenet of Palestinian demands. It proves that Israeli recognizes that the ’67 paradigm will not bring an end to the conflict, due to its denial of the Nakba. As a result of this recognition, the leaders of the new campaign hope to use the Mizrahi Jews to block the Palestinians from carrying out their “right of return,” and offset the compensation claims might be forced to pay for the Palestinian property that was expropriated by the Custodian of Absentee Property (the Israeli authority that confiscates and manages Palestinian property, most notably real estate). It is an idea that is historically twisted, unwise from a policy perspective and unjust from a moral point of view – as its history demonstrates.

A miserable history worth reciting

The campaign for the recognition of Jews from Arab countries as refugees was launched by no other than President Bill Clinton, during an interview he gave to Israeli Channel 1 in July, 2000. Ehud Barak, then the prime minister, declared this “achievement” in an interview to Israeli journalist Dan Margalit a month later.

Until then, Israeli governments had avoided recognizing Jews from Arab countries as refugees. They did so because (a) of the fear that such a declaration would reawaken what Israel had tried to erase and forget – the right of return; (b) a concern that Jews might submit compensation claims to Arab countries, and as a result – bring about lawsuits by Palestinians against Israel; and (c) because such a decision would have forced the state to update all of its history books, forming a new narrative according to which Mizrahi Jews didn’t come to Israel due to Zionism, but against their will. Any historian raising such a claim would have been labeled a “post-Zionist.”

The idea to equate Mizrahi Jews with Palestinian refugees was first cooked up by Bobby Brown, government advisor for diaspora affairs, and members of his office, along with representatives of organizations like the World Jewish Congress, the World Sephardi Federation, and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Avi Beker, the secretary general of the Jewish Congress, and Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents, convinced Professor Ervin Cotler, a Canadian member of parliament and expert in international law, to join the campaign. An umbrella organization was established, called “Justice for Jews from Arab Countries.” However, it did not manage to garner much excitement for the campaign, including from among the Jewish world. The campaign failed to enlist a notable declaration from central Israeli politicians until recently. That’s not surprising. This campaign has a miserable history that should be internatlized, because history can come in very handy.

In the 1980s, the World Organization for Jews from Arab Countries – WOJAC – was established. Yigal Alon, then foreign minister, feared that WOJAC would serve as a greenhouse for what he called “sectorial organizing.” Again, WOJAC wasn’t established in order to help Mizrahi Jews but rather to create a deterrent to block demands from the national Palestinian movement – primarily the demand to compensate refugees, and the right of return. The use of the term “refugees” wasn’t unreasonable, as the term had become central in the historical discourse and in international law, following World War II. UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed in 1967, referred to a “just settlement of the refugee problem” in the Middle East. In the 1970s, Arab states asked to specifically refer to “Arab refugees in the Middle East,” but the U.S. government, through Ambassador to the UN Arthur Goldberg, opposed it.

In a working paper prepared in 1977 by Cyrus Vance, then the secretary of state, ahead of a possible Geneva Conference meeting, he wrote about the pressure to find a solution to the “refugee problem,” without mentioning which refugees he was referring to. WOJAC, which had tried to put into use the term “Jewish refugees,” had failed. In addition to Arabs, many Zionist Jews all over the world were opposed to the initiative. I recommend that the organizers of the current campaign examine the anatomy of the organization that went from Zionist to post-Zionist in the course of its activities, and to take a page from the laws of political action’s unintended consequences.

The thinker behind the idea of “Jewish refugees” in WOJAC was Ya’akov Meron, the head of the department for Arab legal affairs in the Justice Ministry. Meron formulated the link in the most extreme thesis regarding the history of the Jews of the Arab world. He claimed that the Jews were expelled from the Arab countries in an act coordinated with Palestinian leaders, and called it “ethnic cleansing.” Meron sharply diverged from the Zionist epos, which he said produced romantic terms like “Magic Carpet” [the operation that brought Yemeni Jews to Israel] or “Operation Ezra and Nehemiah” [the airlift that brought Iraqi Jews], suppressing the “fact” that the departure of the Jews was the fruit of an “Arab policy of expulsion.” In order to complete the analogy between Palestinians and Mizrahis, WOJAC’s people even claimed that the Mizrahis lived in refugee camps during the 1950s (referring to transit camps for Jewish immigrants), just like the Palestinian refugees. This claim sparked angry complaints on the part of figures in the state’s founding institutions, which termed it “treason.”

Refugees and free will

The Foreign Ministry, which became alarmed by WOJAC’s tenacity, proposed to put an end to the campaign, claiming that classifying the Mizrahi Jews as refugees was a double-edged sword. At the time, Israel insisted upon maintaining a policy of ambiguity regarding this complex issue. In 1949, the state rejected a joint proposal by Britain and Iraq for a population swap (Iraqi Jews for Palestinian refugees), out of fear that it would have to be responsible for settling “surplus refugees” in Israel. The Foreign Ministry called WOJAC divisive and separatist, asking the organization to cease acting independently in opposition to state interests. In the end, the Foreign Ministry cut off funding to the organization. Justice Minister Yossi Beilin even fired Ya’akov Meron from the Justice Ministry’s department for Arab legal affairs.

It must be stated that there is no serious researcher in Israel or outside it that adopted the organization’s extreme rhetoric. Moreover, in its attempt to strengthen the Zionist thesis and assist the state in its war against Palestinian nationalists, WOJAC achieved the exact opposite. It presented a confused Zionist stance vis-a-vis the conflict, angered many Mizrahi Jews across the world – as it presented them as lacking motivation to move to Israel – and enslaved the interests of the Mizrahi Jews (especially over the issue of Jewish property in Arab countries) to what he accidentally termed “national interests.” He failed to understand that categorizing Mizrahi Jews as refugees opens a Pandora’s box that hurts both Jews and Arab.

Out of a desire to find a magic solution to the question of the refugees, the state readopted the formula, and is now promoting it with great enthusiasm all over the world. It will be interesting to hear the position of the Minister of Education regarding the narrative that the Jewish organizations present as part of the campaign. Will he immediately establish a ministerial committee to change the history textbooks so that they match the new post-Zionist genre? Every honest person, whether Zionist or not, must admit that the analogy between the Palestinians and the Mizrahi Jews is baseless. The Palestinian refugees did not ask to leave Palestine. In 1948, many Palestinian villages were destroyed, and nearly 750,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled from the borders of historic Palestine. Those who fled did not leave out of their own free will.

http://972mag.com/spineless-bookkeeping-using-mizrahi-jews-as-pawns-against-palestinian-refugees/56472/suba/

The depopulated Palestinian village of Suba, west of Jerusalem. (photo: flickr / gnuckx CC BY)

On the other hand, Jews from Arab countries arrived here through the initiative of the State of Israel, as well as Jewish organizations. Some of them arrived out of free will, some against their will. Some of them lived comfortably in Arab countries, and some lived in fear and under oppression. The history of the Mizrahi immigration is complex and cannot be resigned to one simplistic explanation. Many lost a great deal of property, and there is no doubt that they should be allowed to submit individual property claims against Arab countries, something Israel and WOJAC have rejected until today. For instance, the peace agreement with Egypt does not allow individual property claims against the Egyptian government. Jewish property is seen as the property of the State of Israel, and as important leverage to offset the future claims of Palestinian refugees.

Another example: During the Gulf War, the property of a Jewish-Iraqi family in Ramat Gan suffered damages. In their compensation claim, a seasoned attorney advised the family to include a house that had been confiscated by the Iraqi government in 1952. Israel’s Foreign Ministry forbade the move, due to the state’s policy of holding onto such property as leverage for future negotiations with the Palestinians.

The analogy between the Palestinian refugees and the Jewish Mizrahis is thus baseless, not to mention offensive and immoral. It serves to cause friction between Mizrahi Jews and Palestinians, it is an insult to a great number of Mizrahim and harms chances for real reconciliation. More than that: the analogy points to a clear lack of understanding regarding the meaning of the Nakba. The Nakba does not only refer to the events of the war. The Nakba is, at its core, the prevention of those who were expelled from returning to their homes, lands and families after the establishment of the State of Israel. The Nakba is an active and clear policy of the State of Israel – not just the chaos of war.

The temptation to use this concept of offsetting claims is understandable, but we cannot use scarecrows in order to refute the moral and political demands of the Palestinians. Such manipulation only worsens the crime and increases the psychological gap between Jews and Palestinians. Even if some of the Palestinians give up on realizing the right of return (as, for example, Dr. Khalil Shikaki claims), such tricks are not the way to achieve this end. Every peace agreement must be based on Israeli acknowledgement of past injustices and finding a fair solution. These accounting tricks turn Israel into a morally and politically spineless bookkeeper.

Prof. Yehouda Shenhav teaches sociology at Tel Aviv University. He was the editor of Theory & Criticism for 10 years, and is currently the senior editor for Organization Studies. Shenhav was a co-founder of The Mizrahi Rainbow Coalition in 1996. This post was originally published in Hebrew in Haoketz.


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