I often reflect on the sterotype attributed to non-Ashkenazi Israeli Jews that lumps them as conservative, right-wing, ethnocentric, underclassed, etc. I say “non-Ashkenazi” because I find the term “Sefardic” a bit confusing. Sefardic is supposed to mean “North-African Jew” (namely, Moroccan, Algerian, Lybian, etc.) – but sometimes I get the term lumped with Iraqi, Lebanese, or basically any non-Ashkenazi Jew other than Ethiopean Jews (there are Jewish communities from other places in the world, but they are freakishly minor in comparison).
Iraqi, Lebanese, Iranian (or as we Israelis call them, “Persian”, since Iran is basically a modern metamorphosis of Persia), Egyptian, Yemenite, etc. Jews should be simply called “Arabic Jews”. Islam may have spread all the way to Morocco, but that doesn’t mean Arabia did. I guess it’s better for Israel to deem any non-Ashkenazi Jew as “Sefardic” and not as “Arabic”, since “Good Israelis” ™ know that “Arab” means only one thing.
But back to the point. NAJ (Non-Ashkenazi Jews hereafter) do get perceived, even today, as more primitive, provincial, family-centered, conservative, etc. These traits tend to correlate with xenophobia, anti-Arab (and sometimes anti-Jewish!) racism and the like. That ignorance and conservatism correlate with racism and xenophobia is probably undisputed, and it would apply to anyone who possesses these traits, Ashkenazi or NAJ, and Arabs, for that matter, too.
Contrastingly, the history of Ashkenazi Jews suggests that it is they who tend to be ethnocentric and racist (and thus, right-wing) Ashkenazi Jews are the royal kings of racism. My grandmother (an otherwise majestically advanced individual) still fosters that ever-so-Colonial-European dislike for anyone foreign, and I can see that sort of ” uppity” in many of my “Ashkenazi peers”. Not undermining the importance of the Arab/Sefardic Jewish communities, the biggest Israeli Jewish community is still Ashkenazi, and has been ever since the European and Russian pogroms and antisemitism drove Jews from these countries towards Zionism about 2 centuries ago. Ashkenazi Jews came from racist, nationalistic and colonial Europe and built “colonies” (how they used that term shamelessly, I will never understand). The “enlightened Jews” carried a lot of shit in their intellectual baggage, courtesy of the ever-so-lofty continent of Europe.
And I can see this baggage today as the major ingredient for the stereotypical NAJ.
Whether or not NAJs are more likely to be right-wing (and whether or not that actually means anything useful) remains to be seen. As far as I know, most NAJs do tend to be more religious and more religious people do tend to be right-wing (and that usually correlates with a host of shit I don’t care for). I think it bespeaks more about Arab tradition as opposed to European tradition a lot more than it does on Jewish tradition, and I don’t think it’d be fair to compare Arab and Ashkenazi Jews in respect to religiosity, since the Enlightenment occurred in Europe, and in Europe alone. All of this said, I opened this paragraph with “as far as I know”, and hence I can only refer to my subjective and anecdotal opinion. I could be talking straight out of my ass here, and I do not mean in any way to disparage the NAJ community by writing this post. I wouldn’t disparage an entire society before I made sure I know they deserve it (as I would for Haredi Jews or evangelical Christians, for example)
As for my relationship with NAJs as a group, I will ignore their stereotype if I ever need to evaluate someone on the basis of one’s individual traits, and I of course reject any version of racism or prejudice of any kind – but I also consider NAJs and Ashkenazis to be, for all intents and purposes, two different people. Even though there has always been an attempt to “homogenize” the Jewish Israeli populace (not the Arab, Muslim/Christian population!) – the fact remains that NAJs and Ashkenazis have different costums, different religious rituals, different heritages and different cultural mores. This doesn’t implicate that any one of these groups is “better” (pah!), but the fact that these groups are different has real-world implications, and I won’t ignore real-world implications just because it’s more politically correct.
To me, for obvious reasons, the fact that they’re “Jewish” means nothing. The reason I could get along with anyone whose “outside of my tribe” but still is Israeli (be one Arab, NAJ or otherwise) is yet more evidence that prejudice towards Arabs, Ethiopean Jews or whoever is pointless. The fact that Jews of different origin cooperate and do so well is clear evidence that we should simply give up on our ethnocentric inclinations and just blend and fuse into whatever cultural baggage our peers subscribe to. That said, I don’t mind the name “Israel” (it’s a good a name as any) for this riffraff country of ours, but perhaps “Canaan” would be even better. “Canaanites” could simply refer to anyone who lives in this extremely diversified region, and it might eventually defang the Jewish connotations to the name “Israel” that make this place such a difficult place to live in if you’re not Jewish.
Well, either that or some crackpot eliminates anyone who’s not Jewish from the citizenry. Looks like we’re heading that way right now as it is.