Monday, May 3, 2010

What Israel Means to David Shasha (Part 3): The Racism Comes Out

This is the third and final part of my long analysis of Huffington Post blogger David Shasha's article "What Israel Means To Me." Let's continue with this little gem (emphasis mine):
"Castigating Arab Jews for their native culture has led to a profound crisis in Sephardic civilization. Sephardim have been transformed by Ashkenazi Zionism into Arab-haters and as witnesses to the barbarity of Arabs and their culture. This has led the Sephardim to reject their traditional past and the wisdom of their Sages, many of whom were immersed in the Arab culture."
Really? Mr. Shasha is claiming that Sephardic Jews in Israel were "made racist" by those evil Zionist Ashkenazis. This is really an unbelievable claim, and like all of Shasha's unbelievable claims, it is also completely fabricated nor backed up by anything in the way of reasonable sources. It couldn't have anything to do with the extreme amounts of anti-Semitism pouring out of the Arab countries that might make the Sephardim skittish. After all, practically all the Sephardim who live in Israel are onlyi there because they were thrown out of Arab countires for no good reason! But you're right, let's blame the Ashkenazis. Shasha's racism toward them has already been discussed in Part 2, so I guess this is only the natural conclusion.

Shasha races toward the end of this article and his words only get more and more rabid and shrill:
"In the end, those who are on the receiving end of the Israeli whip understand all too well the pressures that have been placed on Jews to conform: Israel is the new God, the new revelation from on High, and all those who reject its commandments are to be excommunicated from the community, marked as Jewish heretics who deny the new order."
Um, right. As I discussed in Part 1, Jews see Israel as part of their community. They see it as an important part of Jewish life. But Judaism does not revolve around Israel, and if Shasha had any kind of actual evidence to back up this claim he should put it forward. Arguing about Israel and what Israel does is a favorite pastime among Jews I know, Shasha cannot claim in any honesty that there is the kind of uniformity of opinion that he describes.
"For Sephardim, what Israel means at present is not only the ongoing destruction of their culture and heritage and the near-complete triumph of Ashkenazi Judaism, but the requirement that Sephardim bear witness to their own cultural impotence and corruption."
 Excuse me? "For Sephardim?" I know that Shasha is the Director of the Center for Sephardic Heritage, but he doesn't have any right to speak for Sephardic Jews. Especially when they are often very pro-Israel. It seems like Shasha is using the classic debate trick that we have seen so often among the HPers; make a claim and then say something like "the whole world knows this," or "everyone agrees with me," or "all intelligent people think this is true." Speak for yourself, Mr. Shasha.
"What Israel means to me at the moment is the fact of Jews persecuting other Jews for speaking out and affirming the traditions of the past, of being "Old Jews" rather than "New Jews.""
 I guess if nothing else that sentence sums up this article pretty well: Shasha berating unnamed Jews for something that they never did, all the while making unsupported claims and using undefined labels like "Old Jews" and "New Jews." Whatever the heck that means.

It thinking more about this article, I cam upon a theory: Shasha thinks about the Jews of the old days as the more traditional way of living. Jews lived under the heel of others. They were small, kept to themselves, were learned and kept to the traditions of their ancestors. They also died by the dozens if not hundreds when the people in power decided that now is a good time to kill them.

What changed in recent times is that the Jews joined the community of nations, in the form of creating Israel. And like all the nations of the world, they had to make tough decisions. When faced with an enemy who would destroy them, do they fight or just give up? And if they fight, what might happen? Well, people will die of course. So how do you conduct the war so innocent people get killed as little as possible? Or do you not even try? How do you handle problems in your country? Your own citizens who put your soldiers and people at risk (like Anat Kam)?

Before Jews entered the national stage, these things were easy. Jews were weak, if they were attacked, they died. They didn't need to soul search about the best ways and make the hard call when it comes to killing their enemies. And now that they have, people like David Shasha screech endlessly about how they have "lost their soul." No, they haven't. They have simply become like all the other nations. Real people do what they need to to stay alive. Real people do things that they don't like because they don't have a choice. And the Jews are now "real people." If David Shasha would prefer that they go back to the days when they were endlessly oppressed and endlessly brutalized (but were righteous victims) he's going to be waiting a long, long time.


  1. There are no Arab Jews. Askenazi Jews don't seem to get through their heads they are not Arabs, have never been, have been hated by them and want nothing to with them. They are Jews!

  2. I just happened to come across your website and am astounded by the ignorance displayed by the writers.
    I am a Sephardic Jew, born in Egypt and living in the U.S.A. Quite successfully, I might add. I have my own blog, Women's Lens, where the topic of Sephardic Jews is prominent.
    I have written extensively about people who don't know the history of Jews as they should. I recommend both of you gentlemen read the work of Tom Segev, an Israeli historian. You will then understand the racism which existed at the time of the founding of Israel with those who created it. Yes, the Sephardim were subjected to that hatred of the "other" and continue to be seen as second class citizens in Israel. That is the reason that a great majority of the Jews from Arab countries did NOT migrate there. And...just for your info...the majority were not thrown out by Arabs. Hereagain, you don't have the facts. Let's revisit after you complete your education.

  3. Ms. Kligman, for someone who claims to be well informed your comment is loaded with insults and appeals to authority. If you are as well educated on the subject as you claim, I find it difficult to believe that you would need to rely on such tactics.

    You reference Tom Segev, a New Historian. I accept that the viewpoint of New Historians may have some validity, but please do not try to pass it off as fact. This is a subject with many different points of view, and if you want to present actual "facts" I would invite you to do so, as your claims are quite strong for their weak foundations. Have you ever even been to Israel, Ms. Kligman? How long did you stay?

    No one is denying that there is racism in all areas of this conflict and on every side. What I do not accept from Mr. Shasha or you is that the Sephardim were innocent and kind before the racist Ashkanazim turned around and "made" them racist.

    Come back when you are ready to discuss this civilly and without insults or hyperbolic accusations. I would appreciate hearing what you have to say.