Author Topic: Caucasian Jews Up To Their Old Racist Practices Ag  (Read 262 times)

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Caucasian Jews Up To Their Old Racist Practices Ag
« on: September 29, 2002, 04:21:17 AM »
This is something for those White Jews who think Isreal is about peace and Justice. Oh and Infinite "the rappin' white moslem who wishes he was black", you are still a confused cracka...salaam alaikum ;D

Hip Hoppers and Black Panthers in the Holy Land

By Hisham Aidi
 
Black? Or Jewish?

Last week, the Jewish affairs weekly, The Forward, reported that a leading Conservative rabbi in Israel was charging two Orthodox kibbutzim in Israel with discrimination after they refused to admit two Ugandan Jews to their Hebrew language programs. The director of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel, Rabbi Andrew Sacks, alleged that the two East Africans -- members of the Abayudaya community of 600 Ugandans whose forefathers embraced Judaism in 1919 -- were not allowed into the classes because they were black. "We have had a myriad of problems with the Interior Ministry in regards to persons of color," Sacks stated. "Virtually every Conservative convert that was a person of color was immediately suspect."

The incident sparked a lively discussion in Israeli newspapers about race and discrimination in Israeli society, and about the increasing, well "blackness" of African Jews in Israel. At the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv, in an area known locally as Little Africa, one often sees Ethiopian Jewish teenagers milling around, sporting baggy jeans, Kangol hats, sports jerseys, voguish hairstyles - African braids, Rastafarian dreads, bald heads - and the occasional yarmulke. The Ethiopian youth, many of whom are often suspected of petty crime and drug use, are an indicator to many social critics that Israel is developing a new kind of underclass. They're also another example of how marginalized, disaffected youth of color the world over increasingly look towards African Americans, American black culture and the Civil Rights struggle when trying to make sense of their own predicaments.

The link between African America and Israel's African Jewry is more than a matter of shared style and global popular culture. In Operations Moses and Solomon in 1984 and 1991, over thirty thousand Ethiopian Jews were airlifted from their East African land of birth to Israel. Eleven years hence, and despite government policies of affirmative action (such as tuition-wavers for Ethiopian university students, and favorable mortgage terms) the situation of Ethiopian Jews, who make up one percent of the Israeli population, remains grave. A report earlier this summer in the Christian Science Monitor stated: "The gap between black and white Israelis seems, with some exceptions, to be growing. For Ethiopians, it is visible in impoverished neighborhoods, soaring unemployment, and the highest high-school dropout rate of any Jewish group in Israel. Twenty-six percent of Ethiopian youths have either dropped out or do not show up for classes most of the time, raising concerns that the community's current difficulties may become chronic. Drug use, including glue-sniffing, is on the rise, and criminal activity, hardly known among Ethiopians before they came to Israel, has been growing." Ethiopians, according to various reports, are the poorest of Israel's Jews: 77 percent of Ethiopian adults are unemployed, and 72 percent of Ethiopian immigrant children grow up in families that are living below the official poverty line.

Ethiopian Jews say they are often referred to as "primitives," that their Jewishness is regularly questioned and they are often made to go through conversion rituals despite being born and raised Jewish. Habad, one of Israel's orthodox religious groups, does not recognize the Ethiopians as Jews and does not allow their children into its kindergartens. Ethiopian Jews also complain of discrimination in the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces), and note that Ethiopians have the highest suicide rate in the army.

In 1996, relations between the Ethiopian community and the Israeli state hit a low point, when it was discovered that Israeli hospitals regularly threw out all blood donated by Ethiopians for fear that it was contaminated by AIDS. Ethiopian youths rioted, and the race row was commemorated by Ethiopian groups such as Dreams in rap style lyrics ("You distanced us from society as defectives / But more than anything / you drew a conclusion / when you threw away our blood like dry leaves"), as the search for Ethiopian Jewish cultural identity leading increasingly not towards Israel but transatlantic, to African American and Caribbean identities. Rahamim Elazar, the director of Israel's Radio Amharic, says the marginalization of Ethiopian youth in Israel has led to a sense of solidarity with African Americans and West Indians. "When you see their behavior in terms of haircut, dress, and jewelry, it's entirely different than what we are used to," Elazar explains. "Black people in Israel don't feel they are part and parcel of the Israeli public or society, so they are trying to relate to African-Americans or Jamaicans."

To understand the particular "blackening" of Ethiopian Jews, one must examine the schism between Jews of African and Middle Eastern origin (called "Mizrahi") and the Jews of European ancestry (called "Ashkenazi"). In March 1971, riots erupted in the Musrara neighborhood in Jerusalem, home to Jews of North African (Mizrahi) origin. The riots were led by a group of unemployed, disenchanted North African (mostly Moroccan) youths who were protesting the neglect of the Labor government and the purported racism of the Ashkenazi political class. Calling themselves the Black Panthers, this local youth organization, which began with demands for better schools and extra-curricular services in their neighborhood, would become one of the most powerful and militant radical groups in Israeli politics whose legacy and influence would reshape the country's political landscape.

The Israeli Panthers evocation of the rhetoric and tactics of the American freedom struggle was obvious. The Israeli Black Panthers borrowed their name from the American Black Panthers, and the symbol of the panther and the fist was displayed on every banner and T-shirt. They sported Afros, and adopted black nationalist concepts and expressions such as "white power," "masters and slaves" and "police state," applying them to the Mizrahi/Ashkenazi dynamic. The Panthers also borrowed the tradition of uncompromising, aggressive protest, bringing together thousands in rallies in Jerusalem throughout 1971. At one rally in Zion Square, Jerusalem, the Panthers burnt an effigy of then Prime Minister Golda Meir, and declared: "We are warning the government that we will take all necessary means against show trials of the Panthers...a state in which half the population are kings, and the other half are treated as exploited slaves - we will burn it down." The Panthers rhetoric was controversial and polarizing: They claimed the Ashkenazi state was racist and that darker-hued Jews of North African were the victims of Zionism just like the Palestinians - a comparison considered the utmost treason by many Ashkenazi's.

Golda Meir responded to claims of racism by blaming the victims: "They brought discrimination with them. Back in the countries they came from, there was discrimination against them...They are not very nice boys." Then, in an eerie echo of events on the other side of the Atlantic, Black Panther "uprising," as it has been called, would fizzle out after a year, as state authorities granted some concessions and encouraged Panther leaders to run for seats in the Knesset. Because of their incendiary rhetoric and bad-boy image, the Panthers never gained widespread electoral support, but they did electrify and mobilize the Mizrahi electorate who bolted from the Labor Party. The absence of non-white votes lead to the so-called Upset of 1977, when the Labor government was dislodged from power after three decades by the even more conservative (and some would argue, xenophobic) Likud, an unintended to the Mizrahim's newfound political muscle.

Speaking by telephone from Tel Aviv, Dr. Sami Shalom Chetrit, a professor of cultural studies at Hebrew University who has written extensively on the influence of African-American ideas on Israeli politics, told Africana that the smaller (and more recently arrived) Ethiopian community has yet to develop a political movement on a par with the North African Mizrahi: "The Ethiopians feel rejected by Israeli society. They've adopted African-American and Caribbean styles, and they feel more at home with the [non-Jewish] African immigrants. But any protest has been local, it's not a movement yet."

Like the North African youths in the 1970s, the Ethiopians say they inhabit "the other Israel" - not the promised land of which their parents spoke. Nadav Haber, a lawyer/activist who works with Ethiopian youth, however, points to differences between yesteryear's Black Panthers and todays's Afrocentric Ethiopian youth: "Unfortunately, the African-American influence is quite superficial, coming mostly through MTV. Ethiopian kids do not understand English - 81 percent study in schools that don't teach English, so how can they be influenced by Malcolm X or Martin Luther King?"

Government officials emphasize that in 2002 there are 1,500 Ethiopians in universities, compared to a 100 in 1997, and that $600 million has been earmarked for a nine-year job-training and educational program for Ethiopian immigrants. Activists like Haber are unfazed. "They receive mortgages to buy houses, but the mortgage plans send them to the poorest neighborhoods, like in the city of Lod, a drug center that is now 50 percent Ethiopian. There's a lot of anger at the establishment. Crime is growing rapidly. Very soon in all Ethiopian families there's going to be someone with a criminal record. And the sad thing is that there is no public discussion of this"

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