Franklin Hugh Adler’s “Israel’s Mizrahim: ‘Other’ Victims of Zionism or a Bridge to Regional Reconciliation?” appears in Telos 156 (Fall 2011). Read the full version online at the TELOS Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue here.
Mizrahim, Jews who issued from Arab lands, comprise roughly half of Israel’s population. Most arrived after having been expelled from Arab states after 1948, and in number exceed those Palestinians who were displaced at Israel’s birth. They also possessed substantially greater property that was confiscated without compensation upon expulsion. Mizrahim have had a largely ignored and uneasy relation with Zionism, whose master narrative was based upon the return of European Jews to Palestine. An orientalist, anti-Arab blindness that became embedded in Zionism also encouraged a deracination of Mizrahim, as they, too, were Arabs and had been an enduring presence in the region predating by centuries the birth of Mohammad and the ascendance of Islam. In recent years there has been a reassertion of Mizrahi identity, often articulated by subsequent generations, which, at the same time, might become a source of regional reconciliation and help redeem the pluralism and cultural hybridity that once characterized Mediterranean-Levantine civilization. This essay attempts to explore these imaginative possibilities.