The Invention of the Mizrahim
This essay examines the paradoxical effects on Arab Jews of their two, rival essentialist nationalisms--Jewish and Arab. It shows how the Eurocentric concept of a single "Jewish History" cut non-Ashkenazi Jews off from their origins, even while the Zionist idea that Arabness and Jewishness are mutually exclusive gradually came to be shared by Arab nationalist discourse. The emergence of a new, hybrid identity of Mizrahim, as a product both of Israel's assimilationist policy and of resistance to it, is discussed. Finally, the author proposes an interdisciplinary framework--Mizrahi studies--as a way of going beyond hegemonic Zionist discourses while at the same time making a strong link to the Palestinian issue.
Ella Shohat is professor of women's and cultural studies at the City University of New York-Graduate Center. Among her books are Israeli Cinema: East/West and the Politics of Representation, Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media (with Robert Stam), and Talking Visions: Multicultural Feminism in a Transnational Age.
The author would like to dedicate this essay to the memory of Neelan Tiruchelvam, director of the International Center for Ehtnic Studies in Colombo, Sri Lanka, member of Parliament and a leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front. A profoundly peaceful man who worked on constitutional reform to alleviate Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict, he was targeted and killed by a suicide bomber on 29 July 1999.