September 23, 2023

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Don’t call Ashkenazim ‘privileged whites’

Ashkenazi Jews themselves, and Mizrahi influencers, must not fall into the trap of treating Ashkenazi Jews as ‘privileged white people’, argues Sarah Katz (who is half Ashkenazi/ half Mizrahi herself) in the Times of Israel:

As the Islamic world and western left continue to frame Israel as a European colonialist outpost in the Middle East full of “white Jews” seeking to oppress “non-white Arabs”, an alarming chunk of the global Jewish community has fallen into the trap of divide and blame. Namely, provided the financial and political success of majority Ashkenazi Jews in the US and Israel, many Mizrahim and non-Jews have come to conflate Ashkenazim with white Europeans, almost a sort of ‘false Jew’ or, at the very least, Jews who are too removed from Israel and the Middle East to be considered legitimate or even at risk of oppression.

This categorization of Ashkenazim as “privileged white people” is not only dangerous, as any kind of divide among the already minuscule world Jewish population facilitates the goal of those wishing to victimize us – furthermore, such a label is also inaccurate. After all, the synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh, PA,[2] and Poway, CA,[3] within the past year alone targeted communities of majority Ashkenazi Jews. In neither case did the white supremacist assailants choose to spare these Jewish individuals because of their skin tone or their ancestors’ residence in Europe. Moreover, the Jewish caricatures included in the recent Belgian street parade[4] specifically targeted Ashkenazi Jews living in Belgium, complete with the long-held stereotype of the large hooked nose, a physical trait also commonly observed throughout western media when portraying Arabs.[5] Unfortunately, however, the western left has taken to labeling Ashkenazim as “occupiers” and “fake Jews”[6] to claim indigeneity to the Levant, accusations that Mizrahim typically do not experience, despite the latter two groups’ proven common ancestry.[7]

All that being said, we cannot deny the existence of Ashkenormativity in the US and Israel – the former due to the majority of American Jews being Ashkenazi, while the latter stems from the fact that most of Israel’s original founding fathers in 1948 were also Ashkenazim. Therefore, despite such Ashkenazi dominance in these circles, this tipped scale has everything to do with history and nothing to do with skin tone, especially since not all Ashkenazim have fair skin – two of the most notable examples being the well-known Ashkenazi actors, Jeff Goldblum and Oded Fehr.

Top: Oded Fehr, above: Jeff Goldblum, both Ashkenazi actors

Thus, an issue arises when Mizrahi Jewish influencers such as Hen Mazzig strive to paint all Ashkenazim as a lump sum of Jewish privilege. When faced with the threat of white supremacy, the entire Jewish community worldwide – along with Muslims, such as the victims of the Christchurch atrocities[8] – must stand in solidarity, rather than creating victimhood hierarchies based on Diasporic discrepancies and perceived similarity to “white” Europeans.

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Ashkenazi Jews are Middle Eastern too

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