SUMMARY:While most critical research on the MENA Jews is focused on post 1948 Israeli racist policies, this panel offers a multi-temporal, pre/post comparative perspective and traces moments of transition and reconceptualization of the commonly used category of Mizrahim. Though Jewish MENA communities originally viewed themselves as Jews in their Arab and Muslim homelands, they were racialized and Israelized by Zionist officials to form the category of Mizrahim or Edot Hamizrah (the ethnic groups of the East). This process was reinforced by multiple official policies aimed at increasing their immigration to Israel/Palestine to meet the demographic urgent need of establishing a Jewish majority in the area.
intersecting gender, race, and nationalism theories with narratives of Arab-Jewish rupture, oppression and resistance presenters on this panel bring together historical, textual and visual testimonies that demonstrate and materialize the racialization of MENA Jews.
Building on personal testimonies, official documentation, and practices of representation including contemporaneous museum exhibitions, films, and media text, that cement the official commemoration of the “pasts” of MENA Jews today, each presentation offers a critical reading that defies Israel’s official meta-narrative.
We especially unfold, challenge, and resist the official narrative that depicts the Arab-Jewish immigration to Israel as a ‘rescue Immigration’ (Aliyt Hatsala) and reframe it as a forced migration largely manipulated by Zionist ideology and policies; this included agreements with MENA states officials, sometimes ‘above the heads’ of Arab-Jewish community leaders and while ignoring their authority.
Resisting official narratives of unified Jewishness and exposing silenced narratives of MENA Jews prior to Zionism, this panel reexamine MENA Jews communities as a minority that does not neatly fit within any national, ethnic, or racial category nor in Israel/Palestine or in their Arab and Muslim countries of origin but rather, offers an approach that evades any of these categories altogether.
We ask: What do comparative cultural studies about the racialization of MENA Jews before and after 1948 tells us about the construction of Arabness vs. Israeliness in each period? What can we learn from it about the intersection of race and nationalism in the Middle East and North Africa? And what are the strategies used by second and third generation Arab-Jews to resist and challenge the master narrative while reclaiming their own histories and identities?
DISCIPLINES:Media Arts; Media Arts