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Israel's nation-state bill threatens the mother tongue of Mizrahi Jews

The Israeli government’s attempts, via the nation-state bill, to erase the Arabic language from this country not only threatens Palestinians, it also undermines Mizrahi identity. But their attempt is doomed to fail.

By Netta Amar-Shiff

An old Arabic newspaper from Palestine in a lab for repairing and digitizing old books and scripts at the National Library in Jerusalem, December 30, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

An old Arabic newspaper from Palestine in a lab for repairing and digitizing old books and scripts at the National Library in Jerusalem, December 30, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

When my grandmother, Sa’ida, came to Israel, she worked at Kfar Hadasim Youth Village as a house mother, and needed to undergo a quick process of Hebraization so as to communicate with hundreds of new immigrant children. Although they had much in common, there remained a gulf between them, the most prominent of which was their mother tongues. Hebrew served as a bridge for both the children and my grandmother to a new society in Israel. Her mother tongue was relegated to the personal, and especially the synagogue.

By the time I came into this world, my grandmother had an impressive command of Hebrew, as opposed to her friends who were not forced to work with children and teenagers. And yet she regularly peppered her words of wisdom with Yemeni Arabic idioms. As a fly on the wall during her Shabbat conversations with her friends, I would understand few words — yet the meaning was clear. Only sometimes did my grandmother stop to translate for me. This is how Arabic, my grandmother’s language, the language my mother knows perfectly yet never spoke to me, found its way into my heart.

As a child of Generation X in 1970s Israel, I was part of part of the lost generation of the Israel of the ’80s and ’90s. A generation that includes women and men who today sit in the government. And yet, the melting pot did not totally work on me and many others of my generation. On the contrary, we felt a need to look back at our parents and grandparents’ lost generation. To pave a new path for building a future.

Preserving Arabic as a living language

Our Arab lineages and family histories only became more prominent during the Oslo Accords in the ’90s. The rise of the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow Coalition and an alternative cultural-historical discourse, in which the “other” Israel demanded a slice of the pie, brought the history of Arab Jews to the public’s attention. This was followed by a flurry of cultural activity, including the founding of the Israel Andalusian Orchestra, new literature, classical and popular poetry, dance, and theater, which looked to Jewish-Arab origins. The enemy within — our denied Arab identity — was now beloved.

An Israeli road sign that includes Jerusalem's Arabic name, Al-Quds, in parenthesis.

An Israeli road sign that includes Jerusalem’s Arabic name, Al-Quds, in parenthesis.

This generation’s push to revive the Arabic language — both spoken and written — can be found in various initiatives, such as those by Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam and Hand in Hand. Starting mostly in the 1990s, bilingual schools, such as the one my children attend, began popping up across the country. Their goal is to allow Jewish and Arab students to learn and live in both languages — and to view them as equals. A new generation of Jewish and Arab children viewed Arabic not only as a “second language,” but as part of their shared experience.

My efforts to make a change with my children, who read Torah in Yemeni with an Arabic accent and understand my Arabic-speaking aunt better than I do, was given a rude awakening when the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s decided to approve the so-called nation-state bill, which would strip Arabic of its status as an official language of the state.

The denial of Arabic’s official status reminds me of an Arabic saying: “Denial is the donkey of the law.” The initiators and supporters of the bill are fed by primeval fears of the Arabic language, which they view as a demand on behalf of the country’s Arab citizens for its rightful place in Israel’s law books. Young and old, Knesset members and government officials continue to sanctify the cursed policies of the state’s founding fathers, praising the erasure of what remains of Arabic in this country. They are thirsty to return to the glory days of a pure, white European country that never was and never will be in the Middle East.

As opposed to the despicable human engineering committed by the state leadership vis-à-vis its Arabic speaking population in the first years of the state, we are now living in an age in which the ties between society and the regime are far more complex and multi-dimensional. The borders of language are no longer established through legislation, thus there is no way to force these kinds of processes on the population. The nation-state bill is doomed to fail in the face of this irreversible process by the generation that knows its parents and grandparents, and does not focus on the narrow limits of its religious, ethnic, and linguistic origins.

All of the deep historical currents of this country’s inhabitants stand against this process. Therefore it is incumbent to strengthen the new current, which seeks to educate the present and future generation to learn Arabic as a living language. Not as a language used by the IDF intelligence corps, but as a language of shared living in this country. Everyone is welcome to join.

Netta Amar-Shiff is a human rights attorney. This article was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call.

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    1. Saramango

      You are delusional. Arabic is a dead language among the Israeli Jewish population. And worse than being dead it is useless economically and socially in Israel. The only thing that could reverse this would be processes established through legislation, which you insist can’t work.

      The new bill establishes Hebrew as the official language, which for all practical purposes it already is. If you want to continue penalizing your children by forcing them to learn a useless language, you are entirely free to do so. Nothing is being erased and no amount of your exaggeration changes that.

      Enjoy your bubble.

      Reply to Comment
      • Baladi Akka 1948

        That “useless language” is spoken by hundreds of millions of people, it’s studied by thousand of Western academics in order to read the original sources in fields such as history, geography, history of science, lingusists study Arabic too, not only for its own sake but also for its major influence not only on Spanish but also on French and Italian, it’s one of the six official languages at the UN …. but thanks for exemplifying the average Israeli Zionist mindset: you live in the heart of the Arab world but consider the language of your neighbours ‘useless’. We really should try to relocate lost of you to the US or Europe, you’d be much more at ease there too.

        Reply to Comment
        • Baladi Akka 1948

          Erratum: Linguists

          Reply to Comment
        • Mark

          For those who have no prior connection, Arabic is a very specialist language to learn in the UK, generally only in universities.

          I’m afraid English is the best first choice for language acquisition. I say this not out of jingoism, but because it is so used between people when neither of them are native speakers.

          Reply to Comment
          • Baladi Akka 1948

            You didn’t miss the fact that you’re on a website dealing with Israeli matters, and that I reacted to someone speaking about Arabic in an Israeli context, did you ?
            Learning Arabic, doesn’t prevent you from learning English too, in many countries people learn two or three or even four languages (many Lebanese friends of mine are totally fluent in Arabic, French and English).

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            So, let’s see. We have literally *thousands* of academics studying it and it is used in the UN by people from Arab countries not sufficiently educated to speak French or English. Well there you go then. You have proven how useful it is. Oh, and did I forget? Linguists study it. Yeah, like they study Latin, biblical Hebrew and Sanskrit. Next you will claim it is useful because archaeologists study it. Is that the best you can do?

            I repeat. For Israelis and for every single other person including in the Arab world Arabic is a useless language and they would be better off learning English or French or German or Chinese. You know.. Countries that actually produce goods and that actually have thriving cultures where books are produced that are actually read by a literate population.

            Indeed. This is the Zionist mindset. We will do the pragmatic thing. We will study useful languages. We will build startups. We will invest in industry and science. We will invest in studying cultures that worship life rather than death. That look to the future rather than the past.

            And if our neighbors want to speak to us they are welcome to use the universal language – English, which thanks to us being Zionists we have taught our children to speak to a level where they can economically compete on a global level despite being geographically located in this cultural and economic wasteland.

            But you know, you do you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Baladi Akka 1948

            “For Israelis and for every single other person including in the Arab world Arabic is a useless language (…)”
            Thanks for exposing what arrogant pieces of s*** Zionists can actually be. Arabs are not going to give up their native langage, and if Arabic is useless, what to say about Hebrew …
            And maybe you should educate yourself on the 6 official languages of the UN, and why they are official languages: Arabic is not only the native language of hundred of millions of people, but understood by many others, it’s a vernicular language is many parts of the Muslim world.

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            Hahaha. Hebrew is an absolutely useless language too. See how easy it is to be honest?

            But at least when an Israeli learns Hebrew he is actually learning how to read and write his own vernacular. He learns the letters and boom he can pick up a book, read it and enrich himself. Arabs spend years learning how to read and write in a language that they don’t actually speak amongst themselves. You can study Modern Standard or Koranic Arabic for years and not be able to order falafel. Children will be laughing at you if you try to speak to them in that language. Ana uridu falafel will get you laughed at. And then you have your colloquial Arabic which is useless outside of your home country. Biddi falafel will get you laughed at outside of Greater Syria. What is the Arabs’ “native language” exactly? Learning MSA for an Algerian is like studying Latin for an Italian. Sure he can waste his time doing it, but it certainly isn’t his “native language”. And sadly he is never going to read a book in his “native language” because of this pretense that colloquial is just a dialect of the one and united Arabic language.

            So, Arabs study a foreign language (Modern Standard Arabic) so that they can then proceed to study languages that are actually useful like English and French. It is a giant waste of time and resources. The silly Arab attempt to pretend to have a common language is one of the prime reasons their societies are so far behind. Way over half of the Arab population wouldn’t be able to read a book in Arabic even if they wanted to and people ideologically tiptoe around the fact that they can’t read a book because it is written in a foreign language. And instead of mastering MSA large chunks of the Arab population (especially in the Gulf, but also in Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria) are doing the prudent thing – mastering English or French – that is, actual living useful languages.

            Man your arguments are so facile that I am forced to ask.. do you even speak Arabic? Because the claim that “Arabic is the native language of hundreds of millions of people” only makes sense to me coming from someone who either has no idea what they are talking about or someone so stuffed full of ideology that he doesn’t care that he gets caught spouting genuine nonsense.

            Reply to Comment
          • Baladi Akka 1948

            Just got to admire the chutzpah of an Israeli lecturing me on Arabic, at least you’ve adopted sharmouta !

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            Apparently I know more about Arabic than you do because you are spouting complete nonsense. I think you are just some 12 year old in Scotland pretending to be a Palestinian. shu inta bitfaker? inta ma btehkish arabi, mazbout?

            Reply to Comment
          • Baladi Akka 1948

            Yeah, you sure do. Israeli Jews always know more about everything Arab, don’t they ? They even regularly lecture us on the translitteration of Arabic letters. And I’m a female, ya himar ! !

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            Kif ana baqder aarif? Ana lissa bafaker inno inti mish filastiniyeh wa inno inti mish btaarifi wala ishi al arabi.

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            * ma btaarifi

            Arabic is an annoyingly hard language.

            Reply to Comment
          • Baladi Akka 1948

            Haha, is that supposed to impress us ? I don’t give a shit whether you don’t believe I’m a Palestinian, I couldn’t care less.

            Reply to Comment
          • Mark

            Sorry m8. I am working on the principle that if it ain’t useful in UK it’s hardly likely to be any more useful in Israel. It’s not as though Israel’s neighbours are particularly talkative. English would do very well when it’s needed, and it’s often perceived as neutral.

            Reply to Comment
        • Firentis

          Well this is somewhat obnoxious. 972mag doesn’t publish my replies. I presume freedom of expression and debate is a foreign concept on the Israeli Left.

          Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Saramango: Here in the U.S. it’s fair to say that the Civil War never really ended – 150 years later issues of race continue to torment our society. In Israel the original sin is the Nakba, and it won’t go away until Israel manages to bring it into the light of day and deal with it. This proposed legislation is just another attempt to push the whole thing back into the collective unconscious of Israel, and it won’t work – these kind of attempts to deny reality never work, not in the long run.

        Reply to Comment
        • Laura

          Truth. Excellent comment.

          Reply to Comment
        • Firentis

          I read that comment and can’t help seeing some sort of silly Christian moralism. We are not Christians. We do not believe in original sin. We certainly do not believe that returning to our country or surviving the Arab attempts to wipe us out was a sin. We don’t need it to “go away”. It is like the tooth fairy and Santa Clause. — Non-existent.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Yes, well, some people say that about the Holocaust too–they say it is like a belief in the tooth fairy or dismiss it as at most “a detail of history.” And some other people say the same thing about the occupation. And about the Nakba. All of these kinds of statements belong to the same broad class of mental and ethical phenomena.

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            There is no sin in existence or survival. The search for a historical ‘original sin’ is a Christian obsession that derives from their theology. That concept transcended Christian doctrine to become really annoying moralistic forms of historical and political analysis whereby collective guilt is assigned on the basis of who happens to be stronger at any particular moment rather than on historical facts and some “original sin” is sought out as if history is some kind of morality play.

            There was no grand sin in 1948. They failed to destroy us. We survived. Nasty things were done as usually happens in war.

            I am not even going to bother with the Holocaust denial provocation.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            There is no sin in survival but you are deploying “survival” to bear more structural explanatory weight than it can. Bruce was using “original sin” in an ordinary, non-theological way, simply as a shorthand for things not accounted for and owned up to. Everyone understands what he means. All your remonstrating about moralizing is a way of side-slipping. That Jews don’t subscribe to the doctrine of original sin does not mean that Jews, or Israelis, are absolved of mutual historical accountings and coming to terms with things that would be in the service of truth and reconciliation and obtaining peace. But you’d have to want to obtain peace. You say “nasty things” are done in war. Simple as that. This does not do justice to events. It is cavalier and dismissive. And, if we set that aside, still, the 50-year occupation is a nasty thing being done in real time and in the absence of war. (You will predictably say “we are at war” but this is not true in the way you mean it to be true.) The Holocaust reference is simply to say that offensive, cavalier minimizing of historical events comes in various forms, some of which you would find offensive. If that provokes you it should.

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            There is no non-theological way to use “original sin”. If “everyone” understands what it means around you that means you are surrounded by people that have internalized Christian moralizing. You should seriously step out of that bubble.

            No, I am not stretching “survival”. You are pretending other options were on the table simply because it suits you to do so in retrospect. It also suits you to pretend that there are good options to continuing the status quo. There aren’t. And the war most certainly continues and will continue as long as the Palestinians insist that they will not accept the permanence of their defeat in 1948. They continue to insist that quite explicitly. Do you know how we know what they would have done had we lost in 1948? Because when they are speaking honestly they let out what it is that they wish would still happen – that we disappear, that our country is eliminated and that they create an Arab Muslim state in all of this territory. So, “survival” is very much the right term and there is no need to stretch it.

            Nasty things will continue to happen until peace is achieved and our survival is assured. And until that happens whatever we need to do to survive will not be a sin, just as most certainly whatever we had to do in 1948 was not a sin.

            Reply to Comment
          • duh

            You are pretending other options were on the table

            The obvious alternative in 1947-early 48 would have been for the Zionists to terminate their colonial project altogether and offer to halt all immigration in exchange for a cessation of Arab attacks and a timetable for the naturalization of those settlers in the country illegally if they couldn’t find a third country to relocate. During the Nazi-era it would have been prudent to ask the AHC for admittance of a certain amount of refugees provided they don’t attempt to create a “Jewish” state after the war. This would have required swallowing their pride on a grand scale, but they brought the situation on themselves.

            From 1908 on it had been explicit policy of the WZO to create an immigrant-settler majority in Palestine. This aim had been reiterated by Ruppin, Nahumm Sokolow, Weizmann and DBG (and Jabotinsky for good measure). Here’s a newsflash: Under normal conditions, this would have been a war aim (I would be amazed if you could name any historic example of organized mass immigration into an existing state until the foreigners were a majority without any conflict or breaking the laws of that state – and no, the partition of India and Pakistan doesn’t count). The Zionists were not only taking advantage of the British rule over the country but also sought their help before they captured Palestine (Of course British and Zionist contacts go back to Herzl). Their movement from the start was prepared to employ violence so long as it came from a sympathetic third-party.

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            Indeed. The Arabs and their supporters could never accept the idea of Jews freely moving and living in the Jewish homeland and could only accept that Arab Muslims would permanently have exclusive primacy over all the land. This hasn’t changed.

            In the face of such opposition we have and will continue to do what we need to do in order to survive in our homeland.

            As for the historical narrative. Strange that you start the story with the British. The British only showed up in 1917. Rishon was founded in 1882. Tel Aviv was founded in 1909. Ben-Gurion was fluent in Turkish, studied law in Istanbul and the Zionist movement lobbied the Sultan at least as much as they did the British. So, apparently the Zionists were also “taking advantage” of Turkish rule. Funny how they never had to take advantage of Palestinian rule.

            Reply to Comment
          • duh

            There was never going to be a “Jewish” state (or autonomous area) with a settler majority while the Ottomans were in power. It was due to the abuse of the Capitulations (treaties between the Ottomans and European states that granted certain protections to European nationals in the Empire) that the Zionists were able to flout Ottoman law and gain a foothold before 1914 with most of them not becoming Ottoman nationals (Ben-Gurion was a notable exception). Germany saved the New Yishuv during the war from decimation by the Three Pashas.

            Herzl repeatedly offered the Ottomans a bribe in the form of cash or debt consolidation which he wouldn’t have been able to deliver immediately in any case; that wasn’t necessary with the British.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            ‘There is no non-theological way to use “original sin”’

            This is simply not true. Those with a secure knowledge of American English usage know that Americans use “original sin” in its secular, secondary meaning, in an ordinary colloquial way that is non-theological. Bruce is an American, and he strikes me as being much farther outside of bubbles than most people, American or Israeli. You are simply misunderstanding Bruce and trying to tie us up in imaginary pseudo-theological knots that are simply not relevant.

            https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/original%20sin

            Definition of original sin

            1: the state of sin that according to Christian theology characterizes all human beings as a result of Adam’s fall

            2: a wrong of great magnitude – the original sin of slavery

            (And guess what, by pure coincidence, the Word of the Day for May 23, 2017 at the Miriam Webster Dictionary is “Nudnik”! Uncanny.)

            On “survival”:

            Ehud Barak (May, 2017): “In contrast , the right wing, whose deep, true motivation is the “wholeness of the land” before – and even at the expense of – the “wholeness of the people,” seeks to evade political decisions until construction outside the “settlement blocs” has created an irreversible situation. The chimes of imminent redemption resonate in their ears. They are voiding the “security principle,” which they adopted, of many of its components, by reducing its contents to issues of weapons emplacement and topography; by shutting their eyes to other aspects of security and to the aspect of time; and by ignoring the broad expert agreement on the compatibility of Israel’s security needs and interests with the paradigm of the “two-state” solution, when the time comes. Above all, the right wing is at fault in ignoring the fact that a security concept should stem from a realistic, expert comparison of alternatives and risks, subject to the reality principle, and not a thrust for a predetermined faith-based solution.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            correction: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            Yep. Keep pretending there is a non-theological non-religious way to use the words ‘original sin’ or for that matter ‘sin’.

            Ehud Barak’s arguments from authority are meaningless to me. He is likely one of the worst people to make them. The withdrawal from South Lebanon created a bigger problem than it solved. The second intifada was primarily a result of the belief amongst the Palestinians that violence would bring about an Israeli withdrawal and that was based on the Lebanon example. And when the second intifada broke out Barak had no idea what to do. He was paralyzed. It took Sharon, Yaalon and Mofaz to shut that down. So, the man that brought about a threat of 100,000 rockets from the north and brought about the second intifada and the murder of a thousand Israelis has no credibility when he starts talking about security.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Yes, well, what you find meaningful versus “meaningless” is born out here by your denial of evidence presented to your face. By an authoritative American dictionary. And you can’t put over on native American English speakers how Americans really use their language. And by an authoritative ex-Defense Minister who whatever else he is, knows what Israel’s true versus concocted defense needs are. It tells me where you are coming from that you apparently think Israeli troops should still be occupying and dying in Lebanon. Barak uses the words “shutting their eyes…ignoring.” Precisely.

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            Hahahahaha. If you only knew.. My English is significantly better than most Americans and I am thoroughly familiar with American culture and how Americans use “their language”. You know I am right and that this phrase is tinged with theological content. You are just arguing for the sake of argument and I don’t have time for it.

            Barak was a failed Prime Minister with a failed defense policy. 100,000 rockets/missiles on the border, an additional war in 2006 which was fought to a draw, a strengthened Hezbollah, a multi-year suicide bombing intifada and a thousand dead Israelis testify to his failure. He has no credibility on defense policy.

            And I am done in this thread. Enjoy.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Firentis if you are a transplanted American you lived in some kind of bubble yourself if you think Americans don’t use “original sin” in a loose, non-theological way to mean “a wrong of great magnitude” committed a long time ago. It is most often used to describe slavery. As the Merriam-Webster dictionary of the English language stipulates. Bruce I am sure had in mind this non-theological connotation. For you personally it *seems* drenched not tinged in irremovable theological content because you are who you are and you alone are trying to divert into making a militantly pro-Jewish-nationalist contra “Christian morality” statement, itself a kind of theology of yours; but just because you cannot remove this “tinge” from your private mental representations does not mean that Americans do not use “original sin” as Bruce did without meaning to truck in all sorts of heavy duty theological import you want to stand on the barricades and declare yourself against.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      I come from a Turkish, Lebanese, Egyptian Jewish family which has been thrown out of Egypt like 1 million Jews living in the Arab countries in the 50′. For me Arabic is an ugly language and I am more than happy if it is no more an official Israeli language. The schools in Israel should teach in priority English or French. We do not have to prove that we are in the middle-East. We are and that’s all. In fact Israel is a light in an under-developed, wild and violent middle-east. I really think that Israeli Arab should adopt our culture. By adopting our culture and our traditions and by giving up theirs, the Arabs of the Middle-East would go out of their under-development.

      Reply to Comment
      • duh

        If every Middle Eastern state was like Israel, there would still be conflicts in which civilians are targeted. You occupy the moral highground in your own head.

        Reply to Comment
      • Mark

        As you well know, Izchak, the day your family settled in Israel you became a white European colonialiser of Khazar origin with no connection to the biblical Jews or the land of Israel.

        Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordin Halevy

          Yes, absolutely… The first day in Israel, we lost our dark hair to become blond vikings..

          Reply to Comment
    3. Djerba Rising

      Wow, as the child of a 100% Mizrahi father, and 100% Ashkenazi mother, I find this analysis utterly insulting and disappointing that such views are held.

      You’re a little off mark my fellow Mizrahi. Let me give you a lesson in history, one that pretains to Yemen in particular. Arabic my dear, is not the original language of Yemen. Listen to songs by Ofra and Zohar, to name two of the more famous ones (from the past). Arabic, was a colonial language imported to your grandparents country of Southern Arabia (i.e. known as Yemen today), from Northern Arabia (i.e. what is today Saudi Arabia). While it is entirely possible your whole lineage is in fact southern Arabian and converted to Judaism via spread that came whenever Jewish presence came to the area. It is also possible you had somw original levintine Jewish ancestors.

      Now let me give you a history lesson from my family. They came from Djerba, the island of Kohanim, who according to oral tradition arrived on the heels of the first temples destruction by Nebuhadnezer. Archeology shows definitive presence assuredly by the time of the second temple period, with Romans. There is no real reason to doubt the oral traditions placing us even earlier. The lingua franca was most assuredly not Arabic. Arabic came about with the conquests of Islam, period. My ancestors spoke judeo-arabic as well.

      Don’t speak for all Mizrahim, and if you feel you are an ethnic Arab who adopted the Jewish faith centuries/millenia ago, congradulations to you.

      We are Jews. We pray facing Jerusalem. We are not Arabs, and while we share cultural traits and linguistic commonalities, our ancestors once spoke aramaic and greek as readily as they most recently spoke arabic, judeo-arabic, ladino, etc… You’d be absurd to call them Greeks.

      I’ll not discuss the merits or flaws of the bill. I strongly condemn the drivel you have written.

      Tell it to Persian Jews who speak Farsi, and are considered Mizrahim as well. Tell it to Sephardic Turkish Jews who speak Turkish and are considered Mizrahim.

      There were plenty of languages operating long before Arabic ever spread as the lingua franca. Stop being a mouth piece for the ancient colonial masters.

      There is only one tragedy with modern Hebrew. Our revivor (forgot his name and too lazy to check it up) of the language, wanted the pronounciation to be Sephardic, which it should have been. But unfortunately Ashkenazi pronounciation won out.

      I am not an Arab, my father is not an Arab, my grandparenta from the bloodline of true Kohanim from the holy island of Djerba were never Arabs. They were Arabcized, period. I have due to respect to the language, but do not pretend that it is the native language of Mizrahim. You select only a narrow slither of history.

      So unfortunate how some Temanim are so weak and malluble by Ashkenazi Leftists. We North Africans have a reputation for being “primitive” and so forth, but our national pride and complete rejection of leftist ideology is to be absolutely admired.

      May Israel, the Jewish state, with Hebrew our true language, as remain strong, and remain eternal in the grace of our glorious rich history, and our beautiful religion, which has been persecuted for generations untold.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Djerba Rising, what is off the mark here is this twisted, intemperate, reactionary attack on Netta Amar-Shiff. You don’t say whether you support the nation-state bill but one assumes you do because behind it is the same reactionary, all or nothing jingoism, the same extreme nationalist mindset. Your attack here shows just why the bill is a bad idea.
        Nowhere does Netta Amar-Shiff insult you.
        Nowhere does she say Arabic is “the original language” of Yemen. If ancient Arabic is a colonial language so is modern Hebrew.
        Nowhere does she say her whole lineage is southern Arabian and converted to Judaism or that racial genetics is the point. That would be *your* obsession.
        Nowhere does she impugn Judeo-Arabic.
        Nowhere does she say she speaks for all Mizrahim, or says she is “an ethnic Arab who adopted the Jewish faith.”
        Nowhere did she say she is not Jewish or that Jewish and Arab are mutually exclusive and to be kept divided. That is *your* ideology.
        Nowhere does she say Aramaic and Greek and Judeo-Arabic and Ladino are not worthy linguistic and cultural streams. Whether someone wants to call themselves Greek or not is up to them but Greek is not a living language of 25% of the Israeli populace and of the people Israel occupies. Israel is not occupying Greece. It is occupying the West Bank.
        Nowhere does she call Persians Arabs or Turks Arabs.
        Nowhere does she become a “mouthpiece for ancient colonial masters.” But you are here a mouthpiece for modern colonial masters. Think about it.
        Nowhere does she say that Hebrew should not remain “strong” etc.
        That modern Hebrew has Ashkenazi not Sephardic pronunciations is “the only tragedy”? All of a sudden you’re a sensitive linguistic and genealogical philosopher? But you deny Netta-Amar-Shiff the right to have her own feelings? That’s how that works?
        With your ostentatious, anxious advertising of your “true Kohanim bloodline” juxtaposed to your derogation of Netta Amar-Shiff’s connection to her past you are implicitly trafficking in racial genetics and implying that you are superior in some sense to Netta Amar-Shiff and this is quite obnoxious. It reeks of just the kind of racial insecurity and lording it over others Amar-Shiff transcends.
        With “weak and malleable” juxtaposed to “primitive,” “national pride,” “complete rejection,” and “absolutely” you come across as extreme nationalist, quasi-fascist and totalistic. It is a display of the just the kind of reactionary thinking behind the nation-state bill. You have given us a lesson in what is wrong with this bill.

        Reply to Comment
        • Djerba Rising

          Ben,

          You’ve not really disputed anything I’ve stated. All you’ve done, is basically state I am fascist, blah blah blah, in well written “prose”.

          Perhaps you should read history books, study genetics, and actually have a cognate discussion. Don’t try to disparage what I write, because I assure you, it is based on actual fields of intellect and study.

          My annoyance is with the portrayal of Jews who lived in Arabicized countries, as Arabs. Indeed they are not mutually exclusive, but there is a definite movement that tries to paint us as such, and this leads to the persecution of indigenous peoples in this region. So yes, I will not support ancient colonialism. You say the west bank is occupied? I’m not sure what the truthful number is, but I’ve heard people quote 600 000 “settlers”. They’re not going anywhere.

          You have a point that I did not say whether I support the bill or not. Truth be told, I have not seriously looked into, nor do I care. My issue with articles like this, are with Mizrahim supporting narratives that we are Arabs. I am afraid we are not.

          Please really do look into the genetic studies that have been done on these people, before you try labeling me and my positions.

          Anxiously advertising my “true” (as you define it) Kohen genes. Take a look at history. North Africa is not a far cry in distance from Israel, geographically. You dispute history that there is archeological proof of Jewish presence since the time of the Romans? How many generations from Aharon, brother to the prophet Moses, and first priest, to that period? My claim to genuine blood is stronger then plenty others, but is by no means absolute. It could also be entire bunk, and even I can point holes in my belief, easily so.

          You attribute very rigid beliefs to me, without comprehending I can be highly flexible in my thinking.

          With regards to insulting Netta, as you perceive it. I do absolutely respect an individuals rights to their views. She posted on a public platform. I would gather, it is also my right to place counter views.

          Historically, Mizrahim (remember I’m half Ashkenazi), have always been more towards the right and nationalistic. Is every leftist a communist? I doubt it. Is every rightist a fascist? I doubt it.

          I’ll say it again. Arabic is not my ancestral language, and it is colonial for regions outside of Northern Arabia. For people in the countries that use the language as well as the religion, it is now their identity, great. If tomorrow a Berber said, I refuse to speak Arabic, it is not my language, Amazigh is, you would have a problem with that? If a Mizrahi refuses to accept Arabic as their ancestral identity, and they feel in their heart, speaking Hebrew is their true identity, good on them.

          Reply to Comment
      • i_like_ike52

        My compliments to Djerba Rising on his fine explanation of why the idea of calling Jews from Arabic speaking countries “Arab Jews” is preposterous. The Arab population of those countries never, ever considered the Jews of those countries “fellow Arabs”. The one exception to this was the tiny group of Communists who were in the countries for some years after the Russian Revolution and who tried to create some sort of new identity that transcended the dominant sectarian, confessional and clan identities of the Arab world. However, we have all seen that already by the 1960, this small group was evaporating and the traditional identities fully reasserting themselves.

        Djerba also is alluding to the fact that the Arabs, in the largest example of military aggression and imperialism, burst out of the Arabian peninsula in the 7th century and imposed BY FORCE, their religion, culture and language on most of the Middle East. Although the Arabic language was forced on these Jews, no doubt have some sort of nostalgia for it, just as American olim in Israel may still have sentiments towards English and American culture, or French olim in Israel having the same towards French language and culture, but it certainly doesn’t mean they view themselves as “Americans” or “Frenchmen” who happen to be living in Israel.

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    4. Paranam Kid

      Thank you Netta Amar-Shiff for writing this article. It is refreshing to read that there are Mizrahi who do not deny their roots, who are not ashamed of the Arabic language being part of their heritage, all of that to pretend to be in that same upper crust category of israelis that the Ashkenazis have carved out for themselves. It is refreshing to see someone who can show that not every israeli has turned into a zio-fascist.
      Keep up the good work, in spite of some of the scurrilous comments below.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben

      Djerba Rising, I have disputed everything you’ve stated.

      Netta Amar-Shiff did not portray herself “an Arab,” she is not in a class of nefarious “Jews who portray themselves as Arabs.” This is your totalistic, black and white, either/or, portrayal. Netta is talking about her heritage, and is doing it in a flexible and open-minded and rich way. You and Ike52 can’t wait to rush in here and tell her where to get off, tell her she is a Jew and don’t you forget it, as if she needed that hypernationalist, impoverishing lecture.

      We know there are 600,000. And we know that it always was and is now Israel’s express purpose to make them immovable. But Israel has efficiently absorbed larger batches of immigrants than the 150,000 or so it would need to reabsorb from the areas not kept in a 2SS. This is no true obstacle to a 2SS.

      Ike52 wants to emphasize 7th century invasions. But you and he studiously ignore the 21st century invasion of the West Bank. Take a look at yourselves: basically insisting people forget Arabic and adopt Hebrew and English. This occupation and linguistic/cultural erasure project of yours is carried out at the point of a sword, basically, as well, not intrinsically different from 7th century invasions.

      You say it is I who perceive you as insulting. You called Amar-Shiff’s writing “drivel.” I stand by my assertion that that is insulting.

      Djerba Rising it is you who called your “Kohanim bloodline” a “true” one, not me. You are the one who brought that into the discussion to make a point. I stand by what I wrote about your emphasis on elitist racial genetics or bloodlines. *You* used the word “bloodline.” *You* are the one trying to transmogrify Amar-Shiff’s *cultural* argument into something basically *racial.* When we dispense with the euphemisms. You are the one introducing all this angry contentiousness into what was her thoughtful, open-minded essay. All the rest of what you and Ike52 write seem like contentious interpretations and distortions meant to euphemize and dance around this essentially Feiglinist political position:

      A ‘truly’ Jewish democracy: On the ideology of Likud’s Moshe Feiglin
      https://972mag.com/a-truly-jewish-democracy-on-the-ideology-of-likuds-moshe-feiglin/62170/

      Now, you say, amazingly, that you simply don’t know about and don’t care about the nation-state bill your own legislature wants to make the law of the land. Which then makes your tirade against Amar-Shiff a kind of seething, sputtering pile of emotions divorced from some more intelligent and politically informed context. Divorced from knowledge of what is at stake. It is politics as emotions without context. It is a form of the standard Likud manipulation of Mizrachim, all primitive emotion, and no reason. Trump does the same thing with his incitement against “Mexicans” in the American context.

      Reply to Comment
      • i_like_ike52

        You seem to have a fixation on Feiglin recently, for some reason. I can’t imagine why. He never had a mass following in the Likud, he was booted out of the Knesset in their last party primaries and he then left the party. He is attempting to resurrect his political career, but he will fail, because he does not have the personality needed to be a politician.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          It’s not a fixation. It’s a realization I came to that explains a lot. It is a realization I came to in trying to understand people like you and JeffB and Firentis and Halevy and Lewis from Afula. And I came to the further realization that with the clear exception of Lewis and Halevy, you guys don’t really understand yourselves; that is, you tell yourselves and others you are something more pleasant and reasonable than Feiglin, and you dress things up in all sorts of euphemisms. (‘JeffB’ took this euphemizing to absurd lengths at the same time he dropped the mask at times and this really opened my eyes.) At bottom I think you are all Feiglinist “popular democrats.” And perhaps you don’t even know it. You differ among you in how extreme and aggressive and end-game-advancing versus deferring and “conflict-managing” and long game-playing you are willing to be about it, but your goals are basically the same.

          It’s clarifying to realize this. You are quite right that Feiglin failed as a politician, because he is too blunt and too straightforward and coherent about what he is about, and too urgent. (And Netanyahu felt threatened by him for various political mechanical reasons.) But my realization is that the rest of the Likud and other right wing parties are not essentially different than Feiglin. They just (1) shroud it to varying degrees in polite window dressing and evasions and their own confusions and (2) engage in a deferring or stretching out of the mission. Feiglin has a “Hundred Days Plan.” Likud has a sort of hundred year plan.

          I take seriously Moshe Feiglin and I take seriously what Tomer Persico explains about Moshe Feiglin, about the differences between “popular democracy” and “liberal democracy,” and the relation of those two political forms to the priority given the will of the majority versus human rights and the rights of the individual. And the ethical implications thereof. And it is clear to me that the Likud is a party of ”popular democracy” and so in this context becoming “‘right-wing nationalistic-Judaistic tyranny.” So I think I understand what you are, in part, doing whether or not you understand what you are doing or whether you take ownership of what you are doing. Read Persico’s article closely. You will recognize yourself in it all over the place, and perhaps understand yourself better. I can’t say. But make no mistake, this is what all the disagreements between right and left here are really about.

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