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Shifting Ethnic Boundaries and Inequality in IsraelOr, How the Polish Peddler Became a German Intellectual$

Aziza Khazzoom

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780804756976

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804756976.001.0001

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How the Polish Peddler Became a German Intellectual

How the Polish Peddler Became a German Intellectual

Orientalism, Jewish Identity, and the Antecedents to Social Closure in Israel

(p.104) Chapter Six How the Polish Peddler Became a German Intellectual
Shifting Ethnic Boundaries and Inequality in Israel
Stanford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter uses the historical record to find an alternate explanation for the specifics of Israeli resource distribution. It argues that the goal of westernization originated in the Enlightenment, spread at least to the elite of Jewish communities around the world, became embedded in the Zionist project, and can account for patterns of inclusion and exclusion among Jewish communities prior to the immigration to Israel. Given its explanatory power for Diaspora dynamics, this chapter contends, westernization projects are likely to have explanatory power for Israeli ethnic and national dynamics as well.

Keywords:   Israeli resource distribution, westernization, Enlightenment, Diaspora dynamics, Jewish communities, Israeli national dynamics

The preceding chapters showed that the country hierarchy in returns to education was not consistent with either a logic of gatekeeper's personal identification with all individuals from Europe or statistical discrimination based on average human capital among arriving immigrants. Nevertheless, it appeared clear that that hierarchy resulted from gatekeeper preference. What, then, could have been the logic of selection? In this chapter and the next, I argue that to understand whom veteran gatekeepers excluded and whom they included, this book needs to leave the realm of ethnicity as an axis for the monopolization of resources, and enter the realm of symbols and meaning. In this chapter, I examine the historical roots of the east/west distinction that was encoded into the Mizrahi/Ashkenazi categorization scheme, and in the next I quantify important symbols from this history and examine their effect on the distribution of occupational prestige in the labor market. I begin, however, with an anecdote.

Sometime in 2000 I noticed that Berkeley, California, had a new Israeli restaurant. Having lived in Israel for several years, I was curious to see the menu. I smiled to see that the restaurateurs called grilled cheese sandwiches “toast,” as is done in Israel, and then noticed that of the five or so varieties of toast, one was labeled “modern” and one “traditional.” The traditional toast was distinguished by its use of s'hoog, a popular Yemenite spice, while the modern toast was distinguished by its mixing of milk and meat, making it unkosher. Placing these ethnic and religious images under the titles “traditional” and “modern” blends concepts that academics normally separate, namely modernity, religiousness, and ethnic origins. Placing both the (p.105) traditional Yemenites and the modern nonkoshers under the title “Israeli” implies that they are contrasting facets of “Israeliness,” with Yemenites an ethnic group that embodies the traditional and nonmodern and some unnamed non-Yemenite group embodying the modern, which is not only nontraditional but also less Jewish.

Embedded in the playful menu making of some unknown Israel-to-Berkeley transplant, I argue, is the meaning system that accounts for who did and did not get excluded in the first encounter with the labor market in Israel. Beliefs that “modern” and “traditional” describe alternative states of being, and that Jewish tradition is eastern and modernity is western, have driven Jewish identity and social relations since the very first nationalist settlements in the late nineteenth century. They also created a central contradiction for the ideological Zionists who immigrated to Israel prior to statehood and who became the state's elite and the gatekeepers of the 1950s. On the one hand, most intended to create a western, modern society in Israel (see Eyal 2006 for exceptions). On the other hand, they came to Israel to create a Jewish state and to engineer the return of Jews to their roots in the Middle East. This represented for them a blending of easternization and westernization, religiousness and secularity, tradition and modernity. It created a delicate project in which things and people that were regarded as eastern needed to be incorporated and their easternness preserved, but kept at a distance. This tension explains why both the traditional Yemenite and the modern secular Jew were essential components of the emerging society's image, as well as how the Yemenites' role as authentic Jews could lead directly to their exclusion in the labor market.

Overview of Historical Argument

In this chapter I locate Israeli identity within two centuries of Diaspora Jewish history in Europe and the Middle East. I argue that these centuries can be conceptualized as a series of orientalizations, or episodes in which one group uses the previously established east/west dichotomy to construct another group as inferior. Orientalization of Jews, unlike that of other communities, always carried the promise of integration as a reward for acculturation. As a result, Jewish communities across Europe and the Arab world accepted their initial stigmatized status, developed commitments to (p.106) westernization as a form of self-improvement, and became both threatened by and attached to elements of Jewish culture that symbolized the Oriental past. Self-classification then drove the classification of others, as perceived levels of westernization became the primary determinant for evaluation of other Jewish communities. However, categorization did not always result in social closure.1 On the contrary, it often resulted in efforts to westernize these less western Jewish others.

Thus, although westernized Jews often used geographical origins to demarcate ethnic groups, those classification systems were normally flexible and oriented toward elimination of group boundaries by turning easterners into westerners. Exclusion appears to have resulted when a putatively less western group threatened the westernization project of another.2 In Israel, I argue, the mass immigration of Jews from the Arab world, in the context of Israel's geographic location outside of the west and the incomplete state of westernization of both Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, constituted such a threat. This threat explains not just why ethnicity was an important axis for the distribution of resources but also why most Iraqis would appear to be exempt from a system of ethnic discrimination that at first glance should have targeted them.

A Jewish History of East, West, and Colonial Domination

The series of orientalization that can be discerned from available secondary sources is illustrated in Figure 6.1. Beginning with western Europe's Enlightenment, French and German Christians cast Jews in those countries as their eastern foils. It was probably soon after that that German Jews orientalized eastern European Jews, but the trend became pronounced during the mid- to late 1800s. It was also about that time that French Jews established the Alliance school system in the Middle East, a main vehicle by which Middle Eastern Jews were exposed to orientalization. Once the westernization project had circulated among Middle Eastern Jews, they, and probably western European Jews as well, orientalized Arabs. Finally, as many have argued (see especially Shohat 1988), Israel has a three-tiered structure, as the primarily East European Ashkenazim are cast as western, the Mizrahim as assimilable easterners, and Palestinians and other Arabs as unassimilable easterners. (p.107)

How the Polish Peddler Became a German IntellectualOrientalism, Jewish Identity, and the Antecedents to Social Closure in Israel

Figure 6.1. Intercommunal Orientalization in post-Enlightenment Jewish history

Orientalization of Jews in France and Germany

I begin the history of ethnic exclusion in Israel with western Europe's Enlightenment and the first two orientalization episodes. The history itself is well known.3 Beginning in the late 1700s, influential groups of elite German and French Christians resolved to allow Jews full social and economic integration, but at a price.4 Jews were expected to “prove their fitness for equal rights” (Aschheim 1982, p. 5), by shedding their “backward” traditions, dismantling their separate communal infrastructures, and moving forward into “modernity.”5 Most Jews accepted this deal and launched numerous transformation projects, designed to make Jewish life more compatible with (p.108) the Christian ideal.6 Both the Enlightenment and the Jewish reaction to it differed greatly between Germany and France, as did the legal process of Jewish emancipation and the ease with which Jews were integrated into the larger society. But in the characterization of the Jews, the nature of the demands for change, and the overall effects on Jewish identity, dynamics in the two countries were very similar.

Christians demanded that Jews—“those unfortunate Asiatic refugees” (Dohm, quoted in Greenberg 1944, p. 13)—reform their lifestyle, values, and social, economic, and educational structure. Friends and foes alike were disgusted by Jewish poverty, by their dark, disorderly ghettos with the “narrow streets, dirt, throngs of people, … and ceaseless haggling” (Aschheim 1982, p. 6, paraphrasing and quoting Goethe's description). Jewish dress, particularly the beards and sidelocks, were attacked (Goldscheider and Zuckerman 1984), and Goethe disliked the rabbis' “fanatic zeal … wild gesticulations … [and] piercing outcries” (Barzilay 1955, p. 221). Special animosity was reserved for Yiddish. Not only, argued the enlightened, was it “the incarnation of linguistic ugliness” (Miron 1973, p. 45), but it was also too underdeveloped to support high-powered thoughts (Miron 1973). Jewish economic structure accounted for what everyone agreed was their dishonesty and parasitic natures. To solve the problem, Jews needed to reduce the number in commerce, especially peddling (Barzilay 1955; Mendes-Flohr and Reinharz 1980). Christians attacked Jews for their particularistic orientation, their “state within a state.” Finally, Jewish education had to be completely reformed. The heder, the primary educational institution, was dismissed as crowded, unhygienic, and chaotic. Children, it was said, were taught by rote rather than rational thought. And the subjects of their education, particularly the Talmud, were denounced as everything from superstition to sedition (Barzilay 1955; Heschel 1999).

As noted, this history is well known and generally not disputed. What has only recently been added to the analytical picture, however, is that Jews in western Europe were not constructed simply as backward, but as backward because they were Oriental, eastern, or Asian (Khazzoom 1996; in regard to Germany, see Hess 2000; Heschel 1999; Kramer 1999; Biale 2001; Raz Krakotzkin 1998). My own characterization of the French and German stigmatization of western Jews as the first orientalization is based on three observations: Jews were considered Asiatic, the package of deficiencies said to characterize them was already part of a discourse of (p.109) western European superiority (Fredrickson 1981), and the discourse that constructed Orientals as inferior already existed (Said 1978). Thus Dohm, quoted above, appeared to clearly connect the dislike of Jews to their origins in Asia); Voltaire was of the opinion that “the [ancient] Jews were vagrant Arabs infested with leprosy” (Barzilay 1955, p. 190); and many believed that Jews operated as a fifth column for the Muslim enemy (Cutler and Cutler 1986).

Of course it is empirically true that the ghetto was small, crowded, and noisy, that Jews were involved in commerce, and that they had a separate institutional infrastructure. This is part of the reason that, until recently, Jewish historians approached this period as a time of needed reform rather than a period in which Jews were subject to a power play. But the superficial accuracy of the construction is misleading. For example, there is nothing inherently backward about narrow streets; today, many parts of Europe are popular precisely for their romantic, intimate sidelanes. In addition, while Dohm complained that Jews overbuilt, colonists to the Americas asserted that Native Americans did not build enough. Denouncing Jews for their particularistic orientation is also suspicious, since Jews were initially attractive to the western European powers precisely because of their lack of investment in the internal European power struggles (Barzilay 1955). Finally, with the increasing importance of commerce to the western European economies and indeed to the Enlightenment itself, Christians should have been delighted to have a skilled commercial group in their midst.

From this perspective, straight streets, decorum, and even a peddlerfree occupational distribution have little to do with practical questions of advancement or economic and social efficiency. They are, rather, characteristics that are given value by a group with power, often because perceived cultural superiority can make economic or political privilege appear deserved (Bourdieu 1984; Bourdieu, Darbel, and Schnapper 1991). That lifestyle can be a tool in the monopolization of resources is an argument that can be traced back to Weber (1978) and that has been taken up in different ways in research on social stratification and inequality (in addition to Bourdieu, see DiMaggio 1982; Ridgeway et al. 1998). Said and the postcolonialists can be said to be arguing for a particularly pervasive form of lifestyle-as-legitimization. They define the broad referential system in which “east” and “west” are connected to other binarily opposed characteristics—straight/not straight, quiet/not quiet, rational/emotional, and (p.110) Christian/non-Christian—as a discourse. Nearly every possible social and personal characteristic becomes associated with one side of the discourse's dichotomy. It is because of this power by association that something as trivial as street width can appear to indicate something as complex as social development.

Importantly, Weber (1978) (followed by Bourdieu) presented the choice of cultural and lifestyle characteristics used to demarcate group boundaries as not, in the main, predetermined (e.g., chapter V). He did argue that some markers, such as language, are more likely to be chosen because they tend to be effective, and that others, such as putting butter in the hair, are chosen because they are highly distinctive, but in general the goal tends to be differentiating one putative group from another, so any distinction will do. For the postcolonial literature, on the other hand, one central observation is consistency in the characteristics used across time and space to construct different groups of others as backward. Sets of characteristics similar to the “orientalization package” described here have been used with relatively little variation to describe societies as diverse as the Chinese, Africans, North American Indians, and the Irish (see also Fredrickson 1981).

For postcolonialists, cultural characteristics do come to evoke visceral reactions, but in the main this consistency is seen as a form of convenience. Having become part of widely known discourses of difference, these packages resonate with people and become effective bases for new, often unrelated distinctions. In the Jewish case, consistency is again salient, but for different reasons. What will become clear is that the lifestyle features that were used to build stigma came to have enduring meaning for Jews in and of themselves. These characteristics—a heder education, traditional clothing, speaking a Semitic language, even employment in sales—were later used to create other distinctions not so much because distinction was the goal but because observing these features on other Jews induced panic among those who believed they had made some progress in bringing them under control.

Jewish Acculturation and the Development of a Stigmatized Identity

Jews initially engaged in the required acculturation for practical reasons. Equality and integration meant less violence against them, as well as increased educational and occupational possibilities. In addition, rabbinical hegemony within the Jewish world left many searching for a way to undermine (p.111) its strength (Barzilay 1955). However, in losing their separate infrastructures, Jews also lost the boundaries that had protected them from their stigmatized place in Christian society (Bayme 1981). This was a moment whose negative consequences would change Jewish history. Jews became vulnerable to self-hatred, as they began to see themselves from the orientalizers' eyes. Further, they placed the legitimate judges of Jewish acceptability outside the Jewish world. Over time, the goal was less to produce a Judaism that Jews liked as it was to produce a Judaism that the Christians could tolerate.

Goffman's (1963) theories of stigma can be used to explicate this process.7 He departs from Weber's insight that when stigmatized ethnic groups are segregated, a separate sense of honor can shield them from the effects of exclusion and stigmatization. He then argues that in the United States, because:

separate systems of honor [are] on the decline[,] the stigmatized individual tends to hold the same beliefs about identity that we do…. The standards he has incorporated from the wider society equip him to be intimately alive to what others see as his failing, inevitably causing him … to agree that he does indeed fall short of what he really ought to be. Shame becomes a central possibility, arising from the individual's perception of one of his attributes as being a defiling thing to posses. (p. 7)

Although Goffman's focus was on interactions between normal and stigmatized dyads (“mixed contacts” [p. 12]), it is clear that the knowledge that one is stigmatized continues to shape self-evaluation and behavior outside of the interaction, in anticipation of future interactions: “The immediate presence of normals is likely to reinforce this [sense of inadequacy], but in fact self-hate and self-derogation can also occur when only he and a mirror are about” (p. 7). One reaction to such a process, says Goffman, is to attempt to rid the self of the stigmas in an attempt to gain the acceptance of normals.

Spurred by the promise that change would effectively destigmatize, Jews accepted and propagated the negative image developed by others (Boyarin 1997; Aschheim 1982; Cuddihy 1974). They decried the narrow Talmudic world of the heder. Berr in 1807 exhorted his fellow Jews “to divest ourselves entirely of that narrow spirit, of Corporation and Congregation” (reprinted in Mendes-Flohr and Reinharz 1980, p. 108). In 1822 Gans wanted to destroy Jewish particularism, “the obstinate, self-centered independence (p.112) of the Jews” (reprinted in Mendes-Flohr and Reinharz 1980, p. 191). In 1895 Heinrich Graetz called Yiddish a “half bestial language” (quoted in Miron 1973, p. 36). And they simply loathed peddlers (Aschheim 1982).

Jews told each other about their individual responsibility to change these specific characteristics of themselves. Rathenau's words to his fellow Jews in 1897 illustrate the self-contempt they often expressed: “Look at yourselves in the mirror! … As soon as you have recognized your unathletic build, your narrow shoulders, your clumsy feet, your sloppy roundish shape, you will resolve to dedicate a few generations to the renewal of your outer appearance” (reprinted in Mendes-Flohr and Reinharz 1980, p. 232).

Importantly, the articulation of the Jewish stigma as an Oriental stigma specifically may have solidified over time, possibly as the Orientalist discourse itself and the notion of a Semitic race became more central to western European thought. In fact, it may be that it was only when western Jews orientalized other Jewish communities in the mid- to late 1800s that the characterization of their own pasts as Oriental crystalized. It was about that time that the French Jew Naquet told the Chamber of Deputies that, through Aryanization, contemporary French Jews had lost “that inferiority which I find in all Oriental people” (Marrus 1971, p. 23–24), and German Jews believed that East European Jews represented the “Asian form of Judaism” (Aschheim 1982, p. 20) that was the German Jews' own past.

As they increasingly adopted the east/west dichotomy and its hierarchy of cultures, a number of concepts became fused in the Jewish world view. These included enlightenment, progress, modernity, secularism, rationality, reason, and non-Jewish western European culture. As in the larger, non-Jewish European community, these concepts were translated into binary, oppositional categories attached to the umbrella opposition of east and west and given a moral connotation. But, since Jews initially placed themselves on the nonprogressive, ignorant end of the east/west dichotomy, it was their own origins that became the central symbols of degeneracy and backwardness. Says Aschheim, “The ghetto symbolized the distinction between enlightenment and superstition, progress and reaction, even beauty and ugliness” (1982, p. 6). This kind of transformation project tends to create a protracted liminal state; as Goffman wrote, even when “repair” of the stigma is possible, “what often results is not the acquisition of fully normal status, but a transformation of the self from someone with a particular blemish into someone with a record of having corrected a particular (p.113) blemish” (1963, p. 9). Because of their own ambiguous location within the dichotomy, Jews continued to fear regression until very late in the process of westernization (Aschheim 1982; Rodrigue 1993).

Group Formation and Exclusion: The Production of “Ostjuden” and “Oriental Jews”

In Goffman's schema, the internalized stigma affects one's perception of other group members: “The stigmatized individual exhibits a tendency to stratify his ‘own’ according to the degree to which their stigma is apparent and obtrusive. He can then take up in regard to those who are more evidently stigmatized than himself the attitudes the normals take to him. Thus do the hard of hearing see themselves as anything but deaf persons, and those with defective vision, anything but blind” (1963, p. 107).

But the less stigmatized not only exclude the more stigmatized, they also feel attached to other members of the stigma group. This is partly because normals are insensitive to differences among the stigmatized and partly because the less stigmatized experience empathy. “In brief,” says Goffman, “he can neither embrace his group nor let it go” (p. 108). Goffman argues that in an attempt to free themselves from this ambivalence, normalizing members of the stigmatized group may simultaneously push other members to normalize and distance themselves from them.

As they moved into the western European world, German and French Jews began organizing their identities around the east/west dichotomy, evaluating themselves and others according to conformity with the western cultural model. Their discomfort with their Oriental past became particularly important when they were placed in direct contact with other, unwesternized Jewish populations. For German Jews, East European, particularly Polish Jewish, communities became an orientalized “other” against which the Germans measured their own advancing westernization. Aschheim argues that it was at this point that an east/west distinction first began to shape Jewish intercommunal relations, as German Jews dubbed East Europeans “Ostiuden”—literally, “Eastern Tews”:

East European Jews … were regarded as immoral, culturally backward creatures of ugly and anachronistic ghettos. In large part this was a view formulated and propagated by West European and especially German Jews, serving as a symbolic construct by which they could distinguish themselves from their less fortunate, un-emancipated East European brethren. In this (p.114) sense, the very notion “Ostjude” was the product of the modernization of Jewish life and consciousness, for before the penetration of Enlightenment thinking, Jews did not divide themselves into radically antithetical “Eastern” and “Western” components. (1982, p. 3)

Somewhat later, French Jews orientalized Jews in Arab lands (dubbed at this point “Oriental”), as part of French colonial expansion into that part of the world (Rodrigue 1993).

Both orientalization-driven relationships simultaneously contained elements of exclusion and attempts to westernize the oriental group and bring it into the fold. But the balance differed, depending, I argue, on the type of contact between the western and the orientalized group. In Germany in the late 1800s, Jews' still-shaky status as westerners was threatened by massive immigrations of these orientalized East European Jews (Aschheim 1982). Concerned that integration of so many Ostjuden would disrupt their acculturation process, German Jews reacted primarily with exclusion, funneling the would-be immigrants to the United States or Palestine (Aschheim 1982). In France, on the other hand, contact with Middle Eastern Jewish communities was probably less threatening. It took place physically outside of France, and, by constructing the interaction as facilitating the French colonial enterprise, French Jews were actually able to use the relationship to strengthen their own “Frenchness” (Rodrigue 1993). In this case, orientalization did not result primarily in exclusionary activities, but in missionary-style projects aimed at westernizing the Oriental population. French Jews formed the Alliance school system, an intensive and highly successful westernization enterprise.

Orientalization of East European Jews

The influence of Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) ideology on Eastern European Jewish communities and identities can be divided into two historical periods. In the late 1700s, students and businesspeople were exposed to the changing German self-conception (Fishman 1995). At that time, however, the Haskalah took root primarily in larger cities such as Odessa and Vilna (Goldscheider and Zuckerman 1984; Zipperstein 1985). Then, in the earlyto mid-1800s, two changes sped up the East European Haskalah. First, a new czar opened the social system to Jewish penetration (Greenberg 1944; Raisin 1913). Second, German and Germanized maskilim (proponents of the Haskalah) began orientalizing in earnest. They wrote a series of Yiddish (p.115) novels whose intent was to show East European Jews the decaying and backward nature of their culture (Miron 1973; Rischin 1962). These novels, characterized by Rischin as “paper pogroms,” were very influential. As Goldscheider and Zuckerman (1984) put it, the “winds of change” had soon reached nearly everywhere.

And those winds meant acceptance of the stigma and the launching of westernization projects. Israel Singer, the brother of Isaac Bishevas Singer, wrote:

“See what Jews look like—stooped, despondent, living in filth. Watch them drag their feet as they walk. Listen to them speak. Its no wonder everyone else thinks of them as Asiatics. And how long do you think that Europe will stand for this clump of Asia in its midst?” (quoted in Selzer 1967, p. 35).

Substantively, both Jews and non-Jews, pro- and anti-Semites, Germans and East Europeans, agreed on the nature of Jewish deficiency. The filthy, chaotic, uncultured ghettos with their narrow twisty streets were prominent. The German Jew Zunz complained that the Hassidim (Jewish mystics) of Sklow “screamed and raved and sang like the savages of New Zealand” (Aschheim 1982, p. 14). East European maskilim requested that the Russian government outlaw Hassidic clothing (sidecurls and long black coats) (Selzer 1967) and urged Jews to speak local languages rather than “our corrupted jargon that grates on the ears and distorts” (Rabinowich 1861, reprinted in Mendes-Flohr and Reinharz 1980, p. 322). And the Ostjuden were attacked for their large families. Marx complained that Polish Jews bred “like lice” (Aschheim 1982), the anti-Semitic Vilna Journal reported that “in the same dwelling may be found four, five, or even six families, each of them having a number of children of tender age” (Quoted in Rischin 1962, p. 30), and in a Mendel Moicher Sforim story: “Observe the miserable conditions of the pauper, … the way his wife lies pregnant, the way his children roll about, the way they are clothed, and the way they are raised” (quoted in Rischin 1962, p. 40). Further examples abound.

Eastern Authenticity, Western Futures, and Variation and Limitation in Reactions to Orientalization in Europe

European Jews did not react with one mind to their orientalization; rather, they responded with a variety of identity projects, including antiwesternization projects (Bayme 1981; Katz 1986) and romanticizing of the orient (p.116) (Kramer 1999; Aschheim 1982). Nor would the stigmatized have seen themselves as an undifferentiated group of Orientals; in addition to the well-researched religious/secular division in Eastern Europe, numerous internal stratification systems would have either arisen or been reinterpreted along orientalist lines. Yet structuring the variety of responses and relationships, at least in Europe, was an opposition between Oriental authenticity and western modernity. Once a group had internalized the Oriental stigma, identity projects—whether advocating retention, transformation, or rejection of Jewish tradition—and relations with groups perceived as less western—whether vilifying them as culturally backward, romanticizing them as carriers of unspoiled culture, or both simultaneously—were organized around the diametric opposition of a new, modern, secular west and an old, traditional, religious east.

This is important because few westernization projects had full acculturation as their goal; on the contrary, most, including Zionism, aimed for a synthesis between “old” and “new.” But having also accepted the diametric opposition, most groups experimenting with synthesis wanted to be seen as fundamentally western with Oriental features, not as fundamentally Oriental. Several consequences are of interest. First, synthesis had to be undertaken with care, and delicate balances could be easily upset. Eyal (personal communication 1996) suggests that Jews became more adventurous in their synthesis when they were confident in their westernization. Thus later groups of German Jews built synagogues with Oriental architecture; similarly, early Zionists experimented with Arab dress and other forms of “Arabization.” Second, for westernizing Jews who wanted to connect to the past, preservation of other populations' easternness may have become important (see Bhabha 1994 and Trinh 1989 for similar dynamics in the colonial context). Work on German Jewish romanticizing of the Ostjuden (Brenner 1996; Aschheim 1982) suggests such a dynamic, as does the combination in Israel of admiration for the purity and authenticity of Yemenite Jewry with exclusion from central areas of the country and economy (Segev 1986; Raz Krakotzkin 1998).

Finally, the reaction to at least one piece of the orientalization package differed significantly between western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, and may have been critical to interaction later in Israel. Secularization was correlated with westernization projects in all three areas. There was variation, however, on the extent to which differing levels of (p.117) religious observance were translated into social movements and related to the larger task of acculturation. First, movements with formally articulated philosophical stances on how Jews should alter religious observance (such as Germany's reform or conservative movement) emerged in Europe but not the Middle East. Westernizing Middle Eastern Jews did become less observant (Goldberg 1996), but there is evidence that they did not see religious change as necessary (Stillman 1995; Zohar 1986, 1996; Goldberg 1996) and may have even played it down to preserve communal unity.8 In Europe, in contrast, specific changes in religious thought and practice became highly salient, visible, and even requisite symbols of adherence to westernization projects. Haskalah thinkers placed the elimination of older forms of thought and practice high on the list of priorities and were often virulent in their attacks. As the Yiddish writer Aksenfeld proclaimed, “We must find instruments for ridiculing [the Hassidim] … so that the common people will jeer at them in the streets” (Miron 1973, p. 53).

Orientalization of Middle Eastern Jews

The French interaction with Middle Eastern Jews is best understood within the larger history of western European colonization of the non-west. To manage conquered societies, colonizers often used previously marginalized ethnic groups as mediators between themselves and the mainstream of the conquered society. In return, the marginalized groups were provided with social and economic opportunities, and often themselves became prowestern elites. In the Arab world, Jews and Christians (collectively known as “Dhimma”) provided this marginalized population. Within this framework, French Jews used the Alliance school system, established in the 1860s, to reinforce their French and Jewish identities simultaneously. First, French Jews would advance the French cause by westernizing Arab Jews and developing them as an inroad for cultural colonialism. Second, they would help fellow Jews by teaching them the languages and skills that would enable them to take full economic advantage of the European presence in the Arab world. But there was a third goal as well. By westernizing this “Oriental” component of world Jewry, French Jews would be eliminating a potential source of embarrassment (Rodrigue 1993; Laskier 1983; Goldberg 1996).

The leaders of the Alliance network did orientalize Middle Eastern Jews, just as the German Jews had orientalized East European Jews. But, perhaps because Middle Eastern Jews were not threatening to immigrate (p.118) into France as the Ostjuden were threatening to immigrate to Germany, French Jews did not react with exclusion. Rather, their goals were to “regenerate” the “degenerate” eastern Jews, to “shap[e]” them, and “inculcat[e] them with useful knowledge” (Levy 1892 reprinted in Stillman 1991, p. 204), such as reading, writing, and new languages (Yehuda 1996; Rodrigue 1993). As Middle Eastern students graduated, many traveled to Paris for further education and returned to teach in the schools themselves.

There were probably at least some differences in the perceived “orientalness” of Ostjuden and the Orientals (see also Wolff 1994 for the non-Jewish parallel). Nevertheless, the characterizations of the two orientalized populations are largely similar, and at least some western Jews consciously and explicitly connected the two populations. As late as 1927, Nahoum Slouschz, a traveler who arrived with the local rabbi to visit Libyan cave dwellers reported that “the most prominent men of the village took advantage of our presence to bring up for trial a dispute … which was dividing the community …—for all the world like an orthodox Polish community”9 (quoted in Stillman 1991, p. 217). Similarly, in his 1930 biography of Sabbati Zvi, the German Josef Kastein remarked that western Jews “regarded [Sabbateanism] from a more worldly, concrete, and political point of view than the Oriental and Polish Jews (Kastein 1931, p. 228).10

As with Eastern Europe, Jews from Arab countries initially took on westernization projects—in this case, adopting languages, institutional forms, and occupations—for practical reasons. Colonialism generated significant economic possibilities, including careers in colonial enterprises and international business opportunities (Stillman 1991; Goldberg 1996b). Eventually, however, many came to see themselves through their orientalizers' eyes.11 Westernization became a central goal, at least among the wealthy, educated, or urbanized. Kattan of 1940s Baghdad said, “The rich Jews never missed a chance to slip a few words of English or French into their conversation” (Kattan 1975, in Stillman 1991, p. 281). As a Francophone Tunisian wrote of his boyhood prior to World War I: “They had tried to give me some religious instruction. A rabbi, not too famished-looking and not too threadbare, would come to teach me to read the sacred books three times a week…. How rudimentary was the good man's pedagogy, how mediocre his culture! Comparing him to my French teachers made him look ridiculous” (Stillman 1991, p. 252).

(p.119) Jewish Orientalization of Arab Non-Jews

For all their progress, their European networks, and their fluency in western languages and culture, “there remained always the nagging suspicion that the process had not gone far enough, that the truly westernized self remained always at a remove, and could not be totally captured” (Rodrigue 1993). Just as German Jews had reacted to cultural insecurity by orientalizing East European Jews, so did many westernizing Middle Eastern Jews become invested in discursive and symbolic separation from their own Oriental other, Muslim Arabs. Over time, these groups developed identities in which, at the most extreme, Jewishness meant non-Arabness.12 This move is important not just because it would later facilitate Middle Eastern Jewish acceptance of the Oriental stigma in Israel, but because it may have set the stage for orientalization of non-Jewish Arabs there as well. It thus adds another piece in the evolving relationship between Orientalism and social closure in Israel.

In this sense, it is significant that Jewish distance from Arabs appears to have been at least as important to French Jews as it was to westernizing Middle Eastern Jews. In fact, the first group to use the Arabs as foils was probably the French Enlightenment-oriented group.13 In their diaries and reports home, Alliance teachers underscored Middle Eastern Jewish success at westernization by pitting it against the continuing Oriental nature of the Arabs:

[T]he Arab has a plodding mind and is slow to comprehend; his religion and traditions make him a creature of habit and his ideas are desperately slow in changing. The Jew, on the other hand, now that he has been freed of the chains that had reduced him to the status of pariah through the ages, has suddenly taken flight…. Today [he] is a free man, capable of keeping step with the European in his dress, manners, and the development of his mind. (Rodrigue 1993, p. 218)

In an important variation on this theme, an Alliance secretary wrote in 1903 that “numerous communities have imitated the Arabs, who … marry off their children at an age when they should still be sitting at school benches” (Bigart 1903, quoted in Stillman 1991, p. 200). In this case, Arabs are “blamed” for the Orientalness of the Oriental Jews, despite the fact that the orientalization package of European Jews also mentioned early marriage. (p.120) In his turn of phrase, the Alliance secretary presents Oriental Jews as not truly of the Orient, but as some lost group that has only to find its true western self.

Westernizing Middle Eastern Jews then used the orientalization package in their ethnic struggles with Arabs. Said a Francophone Moroccan Jew in 1926: “Was it not Judaism which spread among the Berber tribes, bringing them the first glimmers of civilization?” (reprinted in Stillman 1991, p. 302). And in 1918 the Iraqi Jewish community used the dichotomy in a more subtle way, when its leaders requested that the British government restrict Arab political power in Iraq. The Arabs, they said, were too inexperienced “to undertake with success the management of their own affairs.” They would set up a religious, rather than a democratic, government, and since they had so few scientific institutions, they were unqualified. Conversely, the westernness of the Jews is suggested when the community leaders declare that their goals and orientations are commensurate with those of the British: “Two centuries of active commercial relations with Great Britain have slowly cemented a community of interests” (document reprinted in Stillman 1991, pp. 257–258).

Zionism and the Orient

Zionist ideas first began to appear in the late 1800s, as small segments of European Jews became convinced that the integration promised as a result of the Enlightenment would not be forthcoming. Borrowing from other nationalist movements in Europe, the Zionists argued that the respect Jews sought could be attained not by assimilating into European society but by striking out on their own, in their own country, building their own nationalist pride. This constituted a rejection of the Haskalah's integration project and therefore had the potential to challenge the stigmatized identity adopted by European Jews. Instead, however, the stigma was embedded in the Zionist enternrise and traveled to Israel with the settlers.

Zionists were almost obsessed with creating a culture that was new, unaffected by the “medieval” religious culture most had only recently left behind (Zerubavel 1995; Even-Zohar 1981). The following quote from Lessing is even more startling because it comes from a pamphlet critiquing Jewish self-hatred: “Who you are? The son of the slovenly Jewish pedlar (p.121) lar Nathan, would you think, and of lazy Sarah whom he had accidentally slept with? … No! Judah Macabee was your father, Queen Esther your mother…. They have been there all the time and tomorrow their spirit could be revived” (1930, reprinted in Mendes-Flohr and Reinharz 1980, p. 238).

Lessing's discomfort with Nathan and Sarah is acute, and he wants to make them disappear. But this escapism leaves Jews vulnerable. Because Nathan and Sarah are, in fact, part of the Jewish past, considerable energy would have to be spent constantly denying their existence.

That Zionists tried to replace the old culture with a new one is known, and much has been written about it (e.g., Penslar 1991; Even-Zohar 1981). What has not been articulated, except by Selzer (1967) and more recently by Raz Krakotzkin (1998), is the extent to which the Zionist transformation project was a westernization project, specifically. It is in Altneuland, written by Herzl, that this is most clear. In the story, Dr. Friedrich Loewenberg travels to Israel with his companion. He is disappointed. The town of Jaffa “was pitifully shabby…. The narrow alleys smelt to heaven; they were dirty and neglected, full of motley oriental misery…. A strange odor, as of mold and open graves, made breathing difficult” (Selzer 1967, p. 43). Jerusalem was no better: “Shouts, smells, tawdry colors, people in rags crowding the narrow airless streets, beggars, cripples, starveling children, screaming women, bellowing shopkeepers” (p. 43).

In other words, says Selzer, Israel was as Oriental as an East European Jewish ghetto. But in Altneuland, twenty years of Jewish stewardship changes Israel greatly. Haifa “looks just like America” (p. 46), and in Jerusalem, “modern suburbs had arisen” (p. 46), and the Jews had even widened and straightened the streets.

Zionism was in many ways a move directed toward Europe, a final bid for acceptance as equals in the European family. When Herzl wanted to “form a portion of the rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism” (1896, reprinted in Mendes-Flohr and Reinharz 1980, p. 425), he was trying to place Jews on the European side of the fence, on the western side of the dichotomy, and to argue that the Jewish project and the European project were one and the same. Similarly, when Ben Gurion stated that “we do not want Israelis to become Arabs. We are duty bound to fight against the spirit of the Levant,” and Abba Eban (p.122) argued that “the object should be to infuse the Sephardim with an Occidental spirit, rather than allow them to drag us into an unnatural Orientalism” (quoted in Shohat 1989, pp. 116–117), they also revealed the extent to which the Zionists were trying to establish themselves as the west's outpost in the Middle East. Ahad Ha'am's words, however, are the most startling: “What Herzl understood is that only by leaving Germany and settling in the Jewish state could the Jew finally become a real German” (Ilam 1998).14

But Zionism is a complicated ideology, and its stance toward the Oriental and toward Jewish tradition as part of the Oriental past was often complex and ambivalent. Zionism, after all, also sought to return Jews to their roots in the Middle East. Some Zionist strands romanticized and partially adopted the Arab way of life, as a model of a land-rooted peasant that was more appropriate to Israel than the models available in Europe (Eyal 2006). Nevertheless, argues Even-Zohar, these models were problematic precisely because they were also Oriental, and thus simultaneously “heroes, men of the soil … [and] inferior and almost savage” (1981, p. 173). In a similar vein, Cordova (unpublished) argued that an internal movement aimed at fully adopting an Oriental identity did not succeed because it was too far out of the range of the Zionist discourse.15

Zionism in fact struggled with the same fundamental tension between stigmatized authenticity and new western identities that plagued most European Jewish identity projects. It brought Jews to their ancient roots in the east in order to westernize them; it advocated a revival of Jewish life and celebration of uniqueness, but saw Jewish tradition as incompatible with modernity (Zerubavel 1995). Zionists clearly wanted to integrate Judaism and the Middle East into Israeli culture, but these were handled like dangerous, potentially polluting substances, and maintaining control was key. One common strategy was to transform tradition into a series of symbols that would preserve the uniqueness of Jewish life and provide rallying points for Israeli unity, but leave Jews largely secular. An example is the Israeli flag, whose blue stripes are meant to symbolize the Jewish prayer shawl. The revival of Hebrew shows a similar concern with maintaining a delicate balance (Kimmerling 1997). The care with which these projects tried to combine tradition with continuing cultural connection with Europe is critical, because it was into this delicate balance that the massive immigrations of Jews from the Arab world arrive.

(p.123) Orientalization and Ethnic Interaction in Israel

With a deeper understanding of the meaning of westernness to European Jewish communities, we can take a closer look at the application of the east/west dichotomy to the poststate immigrants to Israel. What stands out is the similarity between the German Jewish orientalization of the Ostjuden in Europe and the Ostjudisch orientalization of the Mizrahim in Israel less than a generation later. In orientalizing the Mizrahim, the Ostjuden simply took the arsenal of images and symbols that had been used to exclude them, and applied them wholesale and nearly unchanged to the Mizrahim. They thus presented themselves as the westerners that they had, up until that point, never been.

In Israel, ethnic difference in Zionist philosophy and orientation is one of the most commonly raised examples of the easternness of the Mizrahim, as well as one of the most effective justifications for Ashkenazi supremacy. The common conception is that Mizrahim, being nonwestern and thus not self-consciously philosophical, were not intellectually Zionist. Rather, their Zionism is understood to have emerged from their deeply religious orientation, to have been felt but not thought, inspired by mystical and messianic tendencies (e.g., Eisenstadt 1967). This construction is, internally, a powerful justification for Ashkenazi dominance in Israeli politics; the argument is that Ashkenazim, being the better Zionists, were uniquely qualified for stewardship of the state. Following, however, is a 1920s description of the Zionism of the Ostjuden, according to Nordau, a prominent Zionist thinker: “[Nordau] distinguished the Western Zionism of the ‘educated and free Jewish elite’ from the East European version. There the attachment to the Zionism of the uneducated tradition-bound masses was a matter of instinct rather than of reasoned reflection; they were still partly influenced by ‘mystical tendencies.’” (Aschheim 1982, p. 87).

Herzl, another prominent Zionist leader, made similar comments after speaking to a gathering of Eastern European Zionists in 1896 (Hertzberg 1984). In fact, Herzl remained deeply disdainful of the Eastern European Zionists throughout his career (Goldstein 1986).

Orientalization in Israel also focused on Mizrahi education. It was portrayed as religious rather than intellectual, with children taught by rote in large, uncontrolled classes, by teachers “whose only method of teaching is (p.124) the whip” (Organization for Youth Immigration in Morocco and Algeria, 1950, quoted in Segev 1986, p. 110). These descriptions parallel Enlightenment descriptions of the European heder, as described by Aschheim: “This institution, above all others, was held to be at the root of the ‘distortions’ of Eastern Jewry [i.e., Ostjuden]. Dark, dank, overcrowded, chaotic, as indeed it was, it was here that the seeds of spiritual and physical degeneration were sown” (1982, p. 19).

Other important parallels exist as well. Just as the peddler, dark, shiftyeyed, and dishonest, was the symbol of the degenerate Ostjude (Aschheim 1982; Avineri 1981; Katz 1973), so was the peddler regularly invoked to demonstrate the backwardness of Mizrahi immigrants. In 1951 Gelblum (discussed in Chapter 3) wrote of recent immigrants from Morocco, “They all say that in Africa they were ‘merchants.’ What they really mean is they were peddlers. And they all want to settle in the city [as opposed to development towns]. What can be done with them? How are they to be absorbed?” (Segev 1986, p. 160). The status of women, the extent of rabbinical authority, and early marriage were also cited as problems with both the Ostjuden and the Mizrahim. Finally, Israeli scholarly and media publications constantly evoked the large families of the Mizrahim (Kraus and Hodge 1990; Smooha and Kraus 1985; Ginor 1979) as a primary source of ethnic disadvantage in Israel, despite the statistical weakness of this effect (Kraus and Hodge 1990).

A Plausible Story

While the quick reversal may help to classify the formation of ethnic inequality in Israel as a process of exclusion, it cannot explain why Israel's gatekeepers would have used the Orientalist discourse, specifically, to draw lines around groups of arriving immigrants or why, having used the Orientalist discourse, they would not exclude Egyptians or Iraqis. The history of stigma, by connecting social closure to processes of self-classification and their consequences, explains this choice and adds a new dimension to the complicated story of ethnic formation and exclusion in Israel. The care with which Ashkenazi groups, from maskilim to Zionists, sought to balance their eastern heritages with their western futures, and the ferocity with which they often fought each other over this balance, shows how tricky their project was and how easily it could get out of control.

(p.125) A passage from Segev's The First Israelis (1986) demonstrates how high the stakes were. On the first anniversary of Israeli independence, a parade was planned. The crowd was huge and unruly, and at some point a scuffle broke out.

Among the scufflers were some who held tickets to the guest podium—government Ministers, Members of the Zionist Executive, Members of the Knesset and foreign diplomats. A judge was seen to climb over a barrier, a foreign ambassador leapt over benches. By the time they all reached the platform, it was already filled. A senior officer was seated in the place of an Ambassador's wife and refused to vacate it. A Consul took the place of a Minister's wife. The Minister's Director General tried to help her, but the Consul was stronger than he. Everybody was shouting and cursing and waving their invitations….

The following day Maariv's chief editor, Azriel Karlebach, wrote that people wept like children with bitter disappointment, fury and shame “about the disgrace, about the impression abroad, about the disorders and failure, the demonstration of our incapacity on the day of our strength.” (Segev 1986, p. 266)

The incident, as described by Segev, can be seen as one of the first opportunities for public self-presentation to the European “normals” since the establishment of the state. Most of the honored guests would have been veteran Ashkenazim, many of whom had been once orientalized by the very people they were trying to impress. That lack of decorum—a central orientalizing characteristic since the German Enlightenment—made the moment a failure, and the level of shame that resulted from this failure demonstrates again how important it was to veterans to be seen as western in the eyes of the now physically distant western Europeans.

For these uncertain Israelis, the Jews from Arab countries, whatever contact with the west they might have had, were frighteningly Oriental. They were dark, they had large families, their language had the guttural characteristics that German maskilim had carefully removed from the Hebrew language, and they adhered to a form of religious practice that in Europe was one of the stronger and more meaningful markers of pre-westernization lifestyles. This left the state's elite torn between two identity projects. On the one hand, they were deeply invested in westernization, and the massive influx of Jews from the Levant, as they saw it, could drag Jewish society back to its not-at-all-distant Oriental state. On the other (p.126) hand, deeply committed to free immigration of all Jews—as well as hoping to make the new Orientals the state's Jewish laborers (see Chapter 3)—they could not solve the problem by restricting immigration from the Middle East. Intent on incorporating the new immigrants without losing ground on the westernization project, they resolved the dilemma by integrating the most Oriental of the Middle Easterners into the margins of Israeli society, where their impact on the emerging culture and society would be minimal.

This argument predicts both salience of the binary categories in the treatment of the 1950s immigrants and a certain amount of flexibility. The flexibility is inherent in the prevailing belief that easterners can become western and that such transformations will be reflected in a specific set of behavioral characteristics. The hypothesis that one can draw from this history is that gatekeepers were concerned about the effect Mizrahim, as a group, would have on the emerging society and tended to exclude them because of that concern. But they would not want to exclude Mizrahim who did not appear to threaten Israel's ability to identify with Europe. The relevance of a very consistent set of characteristics in symbolizing easternness and westernness in Jewish discourses is an advantage for a quantitative work such as this book, because it means that the concepts can be validly measured with variables that are often standard for surveys. It is to that task that I turn now.


(1.) Recall that categorization is the imposition of an identity by the powerful onto the less powerful. To cast another group as eastern is to categorize.

(2.) There are various forms of exclusion. One group can marginalize another group by devaluing its culture without any uneven distribution of resources. Both devaluation and uneven resource distribution can be said to be exclusion, and the second dynamic can be termed social closure.

(3.) Main references: Zipperstein 1985; Goldscheider and Zuckerman 1984; Aschheim 1982; Bayme 1981; Mendes-Flohr and Reinharz 1980; Katz 1973, 1986; Barzilay 1955; Greenberg 1944; Raisin 1913; Lichten 1986; Mendelsohn 1983, 1986, 1989; Heschel 1999; Hess 2000.

(4.) The Enlightenment also affected the Jewish position in England. But because this line of orientalization did not extend to other Jewish communities with the same intensity, I have removed it from this account.

(5.) The terms modern and western were used in a variety of ways by the various actors in this history, and the meanings changed across time and space. But because Jewish Orientalism is a new subject, there are no careful analyses of the meaning of each term, or of the relationship between the two terms, in Jewish thought. Moreover since discourses often referenced a mix of modernity, westernness, and even bourgeois behavior, it might be more correct to analyze these concepts as a complex—similar to the way individuals experienced them—rather than separating them for the sake of analytical purity. For the moment, it is safe to say that both terms were used to refer to the set of characteristics I elaborate in the following paragraphs (see, however, the discussion in the final endnote of this chapter). As I argue, they later became fused with other concepts, such as secularism.

(6.) These projects varied along a number of axes. Among them were the level of tradition that Jews wanted to retain and the role that Jewishness, in some form or another, should play in individual identity. But in France and Germany, there were few explicitly antiwesternization projects. In addition, even projects that preserved tradition sought to mold it into something more compatible with western Christian observance. The modern orthodox, for example, added decorum to their services, while the conservative and reform sought to update Jewish ritual itself.

(7.) Given my use of postcolonial theory, one might wonder why I use Goffman's work to discuss stigma and the copying of putative western cultural forms, rather than Bhabha's. I detail this choice in Khazzoom 2003; the main point is that Goffman's work on stigma anticipates the details of Jewish identity and social closure more closely than postcolonial work. For example, in the postcolonial literature the primary focus has been the relationship between colonizer and colonized, not between different groups of stigmatized others (e.g., Said 1978; Spivak 1988; Trinh 1989; even Memmi 1965 and Bhabha 1994). As such, two details of the Jewish Orientalism story have not been elaborated: the chain of Orientalism, in which one recently stigmatized group evaluates other similar groups in terms of the extent to which they show the stigma, and the vacillation between excluding and trying to “normalize” more stigmatized others (Bhabha talks about simultaneously desiring and feeling repelled by the stigmatized other, but this is not the same). Goffman, by simultaneously attending to relations with normals, more stigmatized others, and less stigmatized others, anticipates such a chain more closely. Another point is that postcolonial work has not integrated performance into the discussion of stigma, and as I elaborate in Khazzoom 2003, performance (p.282) is critical to the Jewish Orientalism experience. Butler (1999) can of course be used, but this is unnecessary because Goffman's work has already incorporated it.

(8.) This is one of those statements on which most agree but on which there has been little direct research. The argument weaves through the work cited above, from Stillman, Zohar, and Yehuda. In the in-depth interviews that I am currently conducting with Iraqi immigrants, this strategy is mentioned often.

(9.) The visit occurred in 1906. What is relevant here, however, is the characterization of Poles, which was published in 1927.

(10.) Sabbati Zvi lived in the seventeenth century, not in the 1930s, and so Kastein's remark is theoretically about how Oriental, Polish, and western Jews perceived Sabbateanism in the seventeenth century. I would argue, however, that Kastein is reading contemporary constructions back into history. In fact, the time of Sabbati Zvi predates the westernization of even the western Jews; without the assumption that Kastein is using contemporary constructions, his argument would not make sense at all.

(11.) In contrast to Europe, where there is general agreement that Haskalah ideology came to shape identity in most communities (including oppositional identities), almost no research has been done on the extent to which the westernization project actually reached varying Middle Eastern groups. Some empirically based theorizing suggests that it was actually quite well spread. According to Israel's 1961 census, approximately three-quarters of the poststatehood Middle Eastern immigrants who had remained in Israel had at least one year of education, not including Yemenites (Khazzoom 1999; Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel). In urban areas, one can expect this rate to have been higher. Again not including Yemen, rates of attendance at religious institutions were low, particularly in Iraq (11%) and Egypt (1%) (other countries providing substantial numbers of immigrants: Morocco 27%, Poland 17%, Yemen 85%). Evidence suggests, then, that a good portion of urban Jews had had at least one year in an Alliance or other modern school, and therefore was exposed to propaganda about the need for westernization. Moreover, even uneducated Jews used hospitals, social services, old-age homes, and the like that were built and run by westernized or modernized Jews (archives and displays of Moreshet Yehudai Bavel). As such, it is reasonable to assume that the majority of urban Jews, regardless of education level, arrived in Israel with exposure to western institutional forms and, through them, the westernization identity project.

(12.) Scholars such as Shohat (1988), Shiblak (1986), Alcalay (1993), and Shenhav (1999) argue that the non-Arab identity was neither popular nor indigenous among Jews in the Arab world. They suggest instead that Ashkenazi Zionists exacerbated and often even created divisions between Middle Eastern Jews and their host societies. That western Jews were themselves invested in Mizrahi distance from Arabs is consistent with these scholars' contention. Recent suggestions that the Iraqi Jewish anti-Zionist (Meir 1989) and communist (Kazzaz 1991) movements were larger and more important than previously acknowledged (p.283) also indicate strong currents of Middle Eastern Jewish identification with Arabs rather than the west. Nevertheless, it is difficult to know how to interpret anti-Zionist statements from Middle Eastern Jewish leaders in a context in which pro-Zionist statements could lead to imprisonment and death. This, among many other related issues, requires a great deal more investigation.

(13.) Because the literature is not oriented toward understanding the history of orientalization, the story of how Middle Eastern Jews came to use Arabs as foils has to be built with logic and with what historical information there is. Within the literature that I reviewed, the technique first appears in Alliance documents and therefore appears to have been of French origin. Middle Eastern Jews had been in economic competition with Arabs for centuries, but although they appear to have nurtured a sense of superiority to Arabs, they would not have had the discursive equipment to orientalize Arabs prior to the arrival of the French.

(14.) Note, however, that Berkowitz (1997) has an accounting of “western” Jewry's attachment to Zionism that does not require reference to the westernization project. Berkowitz argues, in part, that western (Berkowitz does not unpack the concept) Jews liked Zionism because it was able to alleviate the poverty of the Ostjuden; he does not mention alleviation of their easternness. This is clearly a subject on which more research could be conducted.

(15.) Cordova did not argue, however, that the movement was rejected because Levantinization, specifically, was threatening to the Zionist westernization project. Eyal interprets this movement as evidence of the potential of the Hebrew culture to easternize Jewish identity (1996; see also 2006), and I do not disagree. I do argue, however, that within the framework of a forced choice between modernity and Eastern culture, such movements were doomed to failure.