Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

No room at the school unless you’re racially pure

Internal blatant discrimination against Israeli Arabs who make up a fifth of the population is well known and documented, as is the brutal and longest running occupation in modern times of Palestinian territories by Israel.

Racism against its “own” — olive-skinned Jews indigenous to the Middle East and the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and not the politically dominant Ashkenazi Jews who originated from Europe, is less documented but endemic to Israeli society. Note that while the term Sephardi Jew originally described Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, in common usage it now denotes all non-Ashkenazi Jews.

Y-Net (2 Sept) reports that a Haredi (orthodox Jewish) Talmud Torah school has recently rejected a ‘Sephardi’ child on racial/ ethnic grounds, with the school principal branding the child’s part Sephardi heritage a ‘stain’ in his genealogy.

I am posting this in part because it is under-reported in the mainstream press, and also because it so well illustrates Hannah Arendt’s observation (The Origins of Totalitaranism) that “… though tyranny, because it needs no consent, may successfully rule over foreign peoples, it can stay in power only if it destroys first of all the national institutions of its own people.”

Zvi Alush writes:

Anyone who thinks that racist rules are a thing of the past is wrong, according to the mother of a four-and-a-half year old child who was rejected from a Talmud Torah school because of his grandfather’s ethnicity.

“They are alive and kicking in all their ugliness in Ashkenazi haredi educational institutions,” the mother said.

The child was denied admission to a Talmud Torah school in Beit Shemesh because of what its principal called a “stain” in his genealogy.

“Tell the child’s dear father that although he himself is completely Ashkenazi, his wife’s father is Sephardic, and we therefore cannot accept his son into our institution. We have to maintain a certain standard,” the principal said.

The child’s mother made several attempts to change the principal’s mind, to no avail.

“I begged the principal. I explained that my child is truly Ashkenazi and looks exactly like his father. Our son also speaks Yiddish, but nothing helped,” the mother said. “They explained to a friend of ours that they didn’t want to ruin their Talmud Torah with ‘damaged goods’.”

The Talmud Torah school had previously given the same explanation to several other frustrated parents who petitioned MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) for help.

The Knesset member tried several times to convince the principal to allow the rejected children admission to the school, but the principal insisted there was “no room” in the institution.

“This is a complicated problem. I don’t deal with condemning these things, just like I don’t condemn kibbutzim, which sometimes select who to accept as a member. There are communities that wish to be strict about their religion or social character. It’s not simple,” Porush said.

2 comments on “No room at the school unless you’re racially pure

  1. Michael Breen
    7 September, 2007

    For those interested, one book describing racism
    among Israeli Jews is Ilan Pappe’s “A History of
    Modern Palestine”. From my review notes:

    On this last point,
    Pappe describes native Jews regarding the Zionist
    immigrants as troublemakers, the disdain of
    earlier immigrants for Holocaust survivors
    (weak victims threatening their self-image
    as Zionist conquerors), and the generally
    racist attitudes of Ashkenazi Jews towards
    Arabic-speaking Mizrachi Jews from countries
    like Morocco and Yemen: demographically useful,
    but otherwise a socioeconomic underclass,
    ignored by the political parties of the Israeli
    “left”. Pappe notes that the discord and social
    protests that tend to surface in times of
    relative peace give Israeli leaders an incentive
    to maintain a state of simmering conflict with
    the Palestinians.

    This phenomenon deserves a wider exposure among
    those who use the charge of “anti-Semitism” to
    smother debate on Israeli policies – and the
    “loathing” of native Israelis for Holocaust
    survivors makes the use of that atrocity to further
    the Zionist cause especially cynical.

  2. Ann El Khoury
    8 September, 2007

    Interesting observation about the disdain directed toward the Mizrahi Jews by many of the Ashkenazis (who also, as you note, don’t seem to be treating Holocaust survivors all too well, either).

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This entry was posted on 4 September, 2007 by in Diplomacy, Education, Israel, Israel Watch, Japan, Judaism, Justice, Political Economy, Race, Racism.

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