A week ago, on the night of Wednesday 23rd May, South Tel Aviv erupted, becoming the epicentre of an attack by an angry, violent mob against members of the city’s African migrant population, deliberately targeted because of no other reason than their ethnicity.
African-owned businesses and homes were destroyed and looted. There were no fatalities but many were injured. Social media was alive with images and information regarding the attacks, pointing out the absolute apathy, even complicity, of the authorities.
This attack on the African minority in Tel Aviv is not an isolated event. Wednesday night’s violence was the culmination of a series of racist attacks, including the firebombing of homes and a kindergarten in south Tel Aviv neighbourhoods. In fact, these attacks illustrate the prevalent high level of racial tension within the city and in Israel as a whole.
One cannot fully understand the events of Wednesday without an understanding of the various contexts at play, historical, political and ideological. Steven Salaita writes in The Electronic Intifada that Zionism is ‘an ideology that can accommodate liberal and humanistic discourses, (but) cannot be practised without a concomitant abrogation of the rights of those who are not Jewish.’
Zionism, in other words, dictates racial and religious supremacy. Israel, a state built on ethnically cleansed land, thus operates under the veil of a democracy in which the Jewish population is the exclusive beneficiary of the democratic process.
However, Israel’s Jewish population is itself stratified within an ethnic hierarchy, where the prosperous Ashkenazi (white Jews of European descent) dominate the economy, media and politics. In comparison, the Mizrahi and Sephardi (Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent) suffer socio-economic hardship.
Ethnic and religious minorities are uniformly oppressed, from Palestinian Muslims and Christians to African migrants. The disparity is well-documented. Human Rights Watch states that in Israel’s segregated school system ‘Palestinian Arab children get an education inferior to that of Jewish children, and their relatively poor performance in school reflects this.’
Discrimination continues into higher education, employment, healthcare and housing. If we consider the core principle of Zionism, the construction of a Jewish homeland in order to preserve Jewish identity and ensure Jewish security, this oppression is inevitable. However, it is the treatment of black Jews that reveals most about the racism ingrained in Israeli society.
Hanan Chehata writes, in the Race and Class journal, that ‘the Falasha, Ethiopian Jews … brought to Israel in mass transfer operations, have found themselves relegated to an underclass.’ Chehata argues that black Jews are not only racially discriminated against but are also used to bolster the populations of illegal settlements.
In 2010, the Israel lobby group FLAME (Facts and Logic About the Middle East) ran an advertisement in Jewish American newspapers in an attempt to refute claims that Israel is an apartheid state. The advertisement argued that ‘Israel has brought in about 70,000 black Ethiopian Jews, who despite their backwardness have become fully integrated citizens of Israel.’ The advertisement perpetuates the image of the uncivilised savage; we might expect to find such language in nineteenth century European colonial texts.
Jonathan Cook wrote an extensive piece for The National, an English language newspaper, published daily in Abu Dhabi, that examines Israel’s treatment of Ethiopians. Cook writes that ‘Health officials in Israel are subjecting many female Ethiopian immigrants to a controversial long-term birth control drug.’ He further states that ’57 per cent of Depo Provera users in Israel are Ethiopian, even though the community accounts for less than two per cent of the total population.’
The drug has a wide range of damaging side effects and was used by the South African apartheid government to limit the fertility of black women. Yali Hashash, a researcher at Haifa University said similar practices were used against Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews in the 1950s and 1960s because ‘Israel’s leading gynaecologists regarded Arab Jews as ‘primitive’ and incapable of acting ‘responsibly’.’ The evidence is difficult to refute and presents a compelling conclusion: the preservation of Jewish identity in the eyes of the state appears only to encompass white Europeans.
Although oppression takes on many guises, the language of oppression is universal. From the top down, prominent Israeli parliamentarians have fanned the flames of racial hatred and undoubtedly incited violence. In a cabinet meeting last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described African migrants in Israel as ‘illegal infiltrators flooding the country … threatening our existence as a Jewish and democratic state … our national security and our national identity.’
A familiar tune: in 1915, the CUP described the Armenian minority in Ottoman Turkey as a threat to Turkish security and identity. The Ottomans’ chief propagandist, Ziya Gokalp, insisted Turkey could only be revitalised if it rid itself of its non-Muslim minorities, arguing that Armenians were ‘a foreign body in the national Turkish state.’ A few years later, Nazi propagandists Goebbels and Rosenberg propounded the central notion that Germany needed to be Judenfrei (free of Jewish presence) in order to revitalise itself. In both instances, these fabrications created the cultural space for racial hatred and were the pretext for genocide.
Here is why I hate that story: don’t get me wrong - it is cool to create a deaf superhero specifically for this boy - trust me, been where this kid is (sometimes still am) and it is great to see that a superhero has a disability like I do.
But as the article stated: Hawkeye lost…
I felt uncomfortable when I read this story and I couldn’t put my finger on why - this post has clarified it for me. It’s a completely tokenistic, ignorant representation of D/deafness and it uses all the old cliches that only come from hearing people’s (lack of) understanding of deafness/ability.
I don’t want to be completely negative - it’s a lovely story and if it helps the little boy now, then great. But it is important to recognise there are flaws in the entire story - and in the language of the telling of the story.
“We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that it is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.”—
(On why he let Willow cut all of her hair off)
Read more: Will Smith On Allowing Willow To Cut Her Hair: ‘She Has Got To Have Command Of Her Body’ | Necole Bitchie.com
- He raises a really great point. What would it mean to believe very early that my body was mine. That it’s not for anyone or for any particular purpose other than to be mine until I decide otherwise.
But the real reason I want to take this show to task is because it is Exhibit A of a TV trend I’m officially tired of. It might have been funny, a long time ago, for two straight men to constantly fend off the suggestion that they are gay (though perhaps for GLBTQ people, these kinds of jokes were never all that funny). But there are a few reasons I’ve grown very tired of this particular trope (which also occurs a little too frequently for my taste on the otherwise good “Sherlock”).
… it’s past time to stop treating gay, lesbian and trans characters as The Other. When “Seinfeld” introduced the phrase “not that there’s anything wrong with that” in connection to the possibility of a character being gay, GLBTQ characters were a rarity on TV and thus that joke may have served as a sort of crude but useful enlightening tool. Now that kind of joke — “We’re close friends, but we’re not gay!” — feels like a distancing technique, something that draws attention to gays and lesbians as something out of the norm.
And honestly, who cares? In this day and age, are you telling me that two men who are best friends would constantly have to deal with the assumption that they’re gay? I just find the whole idea fairly preposterous. Who doesn’t know straight men who hang out all the time without anyone thinking about or guessing about their sexuality? How is drawing attention to not-gayness, at this point, anything but a representation of lingering shreds of mild but unmistakable gay panic?
… More to the point, the show makes nonsexual male intimacy seem weird or odd, which it isn’t — I want to take this moment to introduce the “We’re friends, but we’re not gay” schtick to the Cliche Hall of Fame.
Now before any white people or white identifying people start getting offended calm the fuck down and read my entire post. I’ve chosen to submit this to the beautiful ladyatheist because she has a bigger audience than I do and I’d seriously like an answer, so let us begin shall we?
Ok so today in…
What’s wrong with white people, imo, is that we’ve been raised to think we’re entitled. We feel entitled to live as the majority on a continent we “discovered”, in a country we created from land taken from “savages” who weren’t using it “properly”. We feel entitled to have “our” story be the one taught in schools as “right”.
Because we feel entitled, we can be offended when POC say we’re oppressive or racist or appropriative. Because we feel entitled, we can be angry when registered First Nations peoples don’t have to pay tax on gasoline while we whites do. Because we feel entitled, we can say “Don’t blame us for our ancestors’ actions,” while current indigenous peoples still suffer from the consequences of those actions. Because we feel entitled, we can continue to propagate negative stereotypes of POC while simultaneously appropriating bits of their cultures.
Because, if we’re not raised to feel entitled, we are forced to face the actual events of history and the ongoing consequences of our actions.
I honestly think that it should go by region to a certain extent. See, and don’t say I’m defending whites or whatever, I’ve given up caring, but I was raised in a part of town where POC’s were the majority. Not in the US, but in schools. I was bullied, as were other white kids in my school, and beaten down for being white because I was racist. Also because I have a severe skin condition which only made them ‘defend’ their actions by saying I was a lizard and shit… But I only saw them fight with each other or jump us. It was 5:1 there. I’m not saying we are opposed or anything, but I can’t let people (not you but others) say that I don’t know what its like to be hated.
Regardless of skin color. I’m homosexual. I’ve got a severe, disgusting skin condition that’s only cure is extremely possible death. I’m white in a mostly Mexican area (though we have moved in the last year so now I’m more on the white sise). I’m a cutter, etc.
Yes, I see whites are more priveleged. I get it. Whatever. But you can’t say people don’t understand oppression because they are white. Thats no excuse. Thats just my two cents. :)
But you can literally go anywhere and not be a minority.
Why don’t people understand that? Yeah, it sucks that some people of color gave you a hard time…but are you ever going to get pulled over for the color of your skin? No. Like those Mexicans who you live around, are people going to assume you’re an undocumented illegal? No. When you go to college are people going to question whether you should actually be there or are only sitting with them because of affirmative action? No. Do shopkeepers and clerks follow you around stores? No.
So yes, all those beating you took in school must have sucked and the problems you face because of your skin condition are terrible too but they do not equate the countless micro and macro-agressions that black people face every single day no matter where in this country they go.
There is straight up no equivalence.
Yeah Ceremonious-haze there is a big difference between having had a shitty life because of the factors you listed, and racism. There will be plenty of POC who have all of your problems AS WELL as having to deal with Racism and (unconscious, institutional) racism. We white people might be able to understand a tiny part of what it means to have a hard fucking time, but we can never truly understand and we will, we do have it better than POC.
My little brother was beaten up almost every day when he was at school by POC but that still doesn’t mean he understands racism. In fact he is so ignorant of racism he’s become a bona fide racist himself and doesn’t know it, refuses to acknowledge it.
Also, your comment is derailing the discussion. Nobody’s asking you if you understand oppression. This post seems to simply be asking you to examine yourself/asking white people to examine ourselves and to listen to what POC have to say.
I don’t know why we have this institutionalised, rampant, obsessive problem with respecting POC. I am English and I get sick when I remember our colonialist past - I don’t understand it. For sure nowadays our problems seem to stem from, as somebody else said, entitlement etc. One of the biggest problems with racism in England is our Police force and there just seems to be this monolithic stubbornness of never admitting wrongdoing and never admitting they have a problem. They are willfully blind to it and refuse to ever properly acknowledge what they’ve done. That seems to be pretty representative of most white people when it comes to discussing our privilege etc.
I think it’s because we as a whole are unwilling to confront our histories and take responsibility for them and take responsibility for the racism we all have that we’re not even aware of. I think it is also down to fear. I think humans as a species scare pretty easily - the unknown makes us uncomfortable and often scares us. If we’re lucky we might be able to broaden our horizons and think our way out of our cosy little sheltered worlds but for the majority of white people that obviously seems to be not the case. Confronting our own racism means being able to admit we’re in the wrong, being able to admit mistakes, being able to admit privilege. I guess for the majority of us that is too hard to do.
Seriously. We need to tag every positive, beautiful picture we reblog as ‘fat’. Because right now it is filled with so much hate. People hating themselves, being cruel to other people, tearing themselves and one another down. It’s just wrong. So from now on, pretty much everything I post will be tagged with FAT. I want to be able to search fat and not be triggered by how much negativity they’re throwing around in there.