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Israel on the Road to the Orient?

The Cultural and Political Rise of the Mizrahim

SWP Comment 2017/C 09, 07.04.2017, 7 Pages Research Areas

The Israeli debate sparked by the manslaughter trial of an IDF soldier over an incident in Hebron in March 2016 reveals an identity dimension as well as an ethical one. The perpetrator – convicted of shooting a Palestinian assailant in the head when he was already lying motionless on the ground – was an “Oriental” Jew, a so-called Mizrahi, thus inserting the event into the context of the internal conflict between Mizrahim and Ashkenazim, the Jews of European origin. In recent years the pendulum has swung towards the originally highly marginalised Mizrahim – who now assert political and cultural leadership and challenge Israel’s “Western” identity. Some of them, like the new activist group Tor HaZahav, go as far as openly describing Israel as part of the Middle East, although without elaborating what that would mean concretely. The paradigm shift associated with these developments thus remains an intra-societal phenomenon for the time being. Foreign policy implications, for example for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or relations with Europe, are not discernible at this stage.