The Contrast between the Concept of Citizenship and the Sense of Belonging in the Israeli Democracy
How it works
According to the Democracy Index study, the state of Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Besides the Jews who immigrated from the diaspora, making the so-called Aliyah, which represents one of the tenets of the Zionist ideology, as well as their descendants, a considerable Arab minority dwells in the country making up 22 percent of the Israeli population.
Despite this Arab minority benefits from the Israeli citizenship and civil rights, they find themselves sidelined by the fundamental keystone of the creation of the State where they reside: The Zionist ideology and the memory of the Holocaust.
This essay seeks to discuss the compelling difference between the concepts of citizenship and sense of belonging which underlies the inequality between the Arabs and the Jews in Israel. Besides, this essay aims to relate the ongoing discrimination against the Arab minority and the cultural alienation of which Mizrahi Jews were victims at the time of their establishment in Israel.
First part/ Arab Jews: a threat to the Israeli identity
The creation of Israel in 1948 represented the fulfillment of the Zionist movement purpose, that is to say the creation of a Jewish nation. However, the steady decline of the Jewish population in terms of percentage symbolized a source of concern for the Israeli government, inasmuch it could have jeopardized its legitimacy as a Jewish state. Another threat to the Zionist ideal and to the Israeli identity was found in the arrival of the Mizrahim, the Jews coming from Arab lands. In the immediate aftermath of independence, Arab governments started to persecute the Jews living in Arab countries, who, in order to escape from such discriminations, emigrated to Israel in huge numbers. The issue of Arab Jews racism in Israel was accurately discussed during the lecture given by Karen Grumber.
As Doctor Grumber underlined, the state of Israel was founded by the Ashkenazi Jews who were raised on European ideas of nationalism and socialism. They identified the Mizrahim as backward and primitive with low levels of education whose culture and traditions were similar to the neighbor enemies: The Arabs. This concern was expressed by Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban in 1957: “”One of the biggest fear…is the danger that the large amount of immigrants of Mizrahi origin will force Israel to compare how cultured we are to our neighbors”” (Article from +972, “”The roots of anti-Mizarhi racism in Israel, published in December 2, 2015). This negative perception led to systematic discrimination against Arab Jews, who had to face arduous living conditions in transit camps and political alienation. Building on from the suspicion that comes along with the Arab background, Mizrahim had to constantly prove their Jewishness in order to feel integrated in the Israeli society.
Notably, they were encouraged to conform to the Ashkenazic culture and identity, as well as to the Zionist ideal and the memory of the Holocaust, embedded in Israeli creation mainstay. In spite of the efforts to defines itself as a Jewish and democratic state only democracy in the Middle East where besides the Jews that decided to defines itself as a Jewish and democratic state. However, it seems not to favor social equality because the concept of Jewishness overwrites the Israel citizenship. Its creation in 1948 was the fulfillment of the Zionist movement purpose, that is the creation of a Jewish nation. We have to analyze the difference between the concept of nationality and social identity. The steady decline of the Jewish population in terms of percentage was a source of concern for the Israeli government, because it jeopardizes its legitimacy as a Jewish state. However, the Jewish majority cohabits with a considerable Arab minority which makes up 22% of the Israeli population.
The pivotal point of the Israel creation was not only the sense of belonging to the Jewish identity, but also the memory of the Holocaust and the Zionism idealism, which were not shared by the Jews who arrived from Arab lands.