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Ethnic and Racial Studies
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Multicultural society and everyday cultural racism: second generation of Ethiopian Jews in Israel's 'crisis of modernization'
First Published on: 03 October 2007
To cite this Article Ben-Eliezer, Uri(2007)'Multicultural society and everyday cultural racism: second generation of Ethiopian Jews in
Israel's 'crisis of modernization'',Ethnic and Racial Studies,31:5,935 — 961
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/01419870701568866 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01419870701568866
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Ethnic and Racial Studies Vol. 31 No. 5 July 2008 pp. 935Á961
Multicultural society and everyday cultural racism: second generation of Ethiopian Jews in Israel’s ‘crisis of modernization’
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Abstract The core of this article sets out to examine the extent to which a multicultural society can prevent cultural racism, which, like multiculturalism, is by definition based on a culture of diversity and separation. The ‘first modernity’ was organized along national lines, with a centralist state that opted to create an essentialist and uncontested national identity. Immigrants, especially those who came from ‘third world’ countries, were expected to undergo a process of assimilation, and to integrate into the dominant culture by relinquishing their particular past and tradition. Multiculturalism, which emerged historically as a criticism of that perspective, aims at creating a kaleidoscope of associations and cultural communities, which inevitably presents a challenge to the one ‘truth’ of the nation-state with the argument that this ‘truth’ favours some groups over others. Within the multicultural model, identity politics of various groups is perceived as a means to achieve recognition, acceptance, respect and even public affirmation of differences. However, do multicultural society and identity-related differences provide a solution to cultural racism as well? Investigating the second generation of the Ethiopian Jews, who migrated to Israel during its transformation from ethno-national republicanism to a neo-liberal, multicultural society, can help answer this question. By presenting their patterns of association, character of protest activities and the newly formed hybrid identity that Ethiopian youth have developed as a means to liberate themselves from a discriminating reality, and by examining the Others’ reaction to that challenge, this article uncovers certain mechanisms and methods of action through which a multicultural society, having a thin and mild version of multiculturalism, does not diminish cultural racism, particularly its everyday non-institutional version, but in fact augments it.
# 2008 Taylor & Francis ISSN 0141-9870 print/1466-4356 online DOI: 10.1080/01419870701568866
When they arrived in Israel Á indigent. Government ministries devised elaborate plans to integrate them into the Israeli society and presented them with a great fanfare. typical of the first years of migration. hungry. immigration. suffering from neglect. in 1985Á6. exhausted both psychologically and physically Á they were received with an outburst of enthusiasm and joy tempered with sorrow and compassion for their condition. ethnic relations. Until the end of the nineteenth century these communities had no contact with other Jewish communities. and subject to deprivation and poverty caused in part by the civil wars and political upheavals which have battered Ethiopia in recent decades. traditions and religion. It is a Judaism that is fraught with elements dating from biblical times. crime and alienation in hostile surroundings (Ofer 2004). but that the young members of the second Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 . The second half of the twentieth century still found them in Ethiopia as villagers. like other Jews. discrimination and persecution because of their religion. multiculturalism. unemployment. In their physiognomy.936 Uri Ben-Eliezer Keywords: Cultural racism. Ethiopian Jews. they are differentiated from them in customs. called ‘Operation Moses’. However. ‘Operation Solomon’. suffered hardship. thus their Judaism differed in many respects from the customs and religious forms of the rest of world Jewry. Within a short time the Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia were shunted to the bottom rung on the class ladder and to the fringes of the Israeli society. testimonies about the existence of Jewish communities in Ethiopia exist from the ninth century and recur in the twelfth century. the second. a fifth of them had died on the arduous journey. intermixed with elements of Ethiopian Christianity Á the milieu in which they lived (Kaplan and Rosen 1994. like many Jews elsewhere. Thus they lived as ‘strangers’ in their own land and for hundreds of years. the plans were not implemented properly and the expectations went largely unrealized. By the time they reached the collection points in the Sudanese desert from which they were flown to Israel. In Ethiopia they were known as the ‘Beta Israel’ or Falasha. Parfitt and Trevisan Semi 1999). They arrived in Israel mainly in two waves of immigration: the first. in 1991. However. In time it became clear that this was not a temporary situation. which means ‘strangers’. Although their past is not entirely clear.000 Jews of Ethiopian origin now live in Israel. they developed the idea of the return to Zion. the Jews in Ethiopia resemble other Ethiopians. About 100. illiterate like almost all their fellow countrymen. lifestyle. identity politics. And. poverty.
they were not the only ones whose Judaism was doubted. Ethiopian immigrants were facing discrimination due to their different pigment composition. Yonah 2005.1 Still. Most explanations given so far of the failure of Ethiopian integration within Israeli society have been related to a number of factors or to their amalgamation: the failure of the melting-pot assimilation process that was used by the absorbing institutions. Moreover. the country has been facing an extensive transformation Á as all Israeli scholars noted (e. most of whom were born in Israel or came to the country at an early age.g. the Ethiopians were not the only immigrants to arrive in Israel with nothing but what they carried on their backs. cultural distance from Israeli society. a very high rate of single-parent families. along with the tens of thousands from Ethiopia. remained mired in the same situation. this article wishes to probe whether the transformation Israel is undergoing is likely to increase racism against the Ethiopian Jews or. More than 30 per cent of the one million Russian immigrants who arrived in Israel at the same time were not Jews at all. however. before Á already in the late 1960s and 1970s Á the assimilation ideology was perceived by various groups in the Israeli society as an instrument that was serving to subject them to discrimination and deprivation. 153). Al-Haj and Ben-Eliezer 2003. Ram 2005. was not yet considered relevant and was not in discursive use. Shafir and Peled 2002. Swirski and Swirski 2002. p. True. It seems that only when about a million emigrants from the former Soviet Union streamed into Israel in the 1990s. and instant visibility (through skin colour) (Kaplan and Salamon 2004. deriving from an attitude taken towards certain people. It did not take long. alternatively.Yonah 2005) Á when ethno-republican and assimilation principles gradually evolved into neo-liberal values amid a multicultural situation.2 The term ‘racism’. doubts concerning their Jewishness. did it become impossible to understand the Israeli reality without this term. which has not been given sufficient theoretical and empirical consideration.Multicultural society and everyday cultural racism 937 Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 generation. Peled and Ofir 2001. the low scale of human and material capital of the immigrants from Ethiopia. Given the fact that. however. Israel posited the ‘melting pot’ idea as its central ethos from its inception. Another explanation. which can serve as a contributory factor to the failure absorption of the Ethiopians. Kimmerling 2001. is that of racism. who are . From the outset. Racism takes the form of exclusionary and discriminatory practices. decrease it. since their arrival in Israel. it was the amalgamation of these factors that made the Ethiopian immigrants uniquely vulnerable. Cultural racism in the ‘crisis of modernization’ As a country of immigrant absorption. Kimmerling 2001.
Massey and Denton 1993. McDaniel 1995. Blumer and Solomos 1999. engendered by the state and its various agencies. In fact. racialization becomes racism. Fredrickson 2002. Taguieff 1990). be they real or imaginary (e. When this is manifested by negative representations and is accompanied by practices of exclusion and discrimination. the different) but on ‘heterophilia’ (love of difference) and on ‘mixophobia’ (fear of mixing) (Balibar and Wallerstein 1991. As such.3 Manifestations of cultural racism can be institutional. racism is expressed in everyday life as well. since its public presentation became unacceptable. pp. The new type of racism that appeared in the second half of the twentieth century was no longer based expressly on the idea of genetic and biological differences. overtly or covertly. in contrast to the past. whether directly or indirectly. especially for those who came to the West after the Second World War from the ‘Third World’ in a time of rapid transformation and change (Goldberg 1990. in whose image the principles of unity were created.g. The transition to a multicultural model of integration derived to a certain degree from criticism of the promise of assimilation Á a promise. multiculturalism represents another promise and an opportunity for reducing racism. Balibar 1991). Miles writes (1989). the new racism is not based solely on ‘heterophobia’ (fear of the other. Indeed. pp. can it always be realized? Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 . 1Á13). and ‘new’ because. In contrast to the past. However. the differences between ethnic or religious groups are emphasized and used as a kind of warning sign to prevent the immigrants’ integration into the society and to make clear the danger they supposedly represent to the society’s unity.4 Undoubtedly. The new racism is more suited to the immigration situation in Europe. the subalterns maintain. everyday manifestations of racism have become more widespread than institutional manifestations in democratic countries (on the difference between the two. It is known as ‘differential racism’. every phenomenon of racism. it indirectly accorded advantage and preferentiality to the strong groups in the population. Solomos and Wrench 1993. Vasta and Castles 1996). which was never fully realized either fairly or justly. 3Á17. see Essed (1991)). ‘cultural racism’ or ‘new racism’: ‘differential’ because of the element of separation it advocates. However. not only has the criterion for its existence changed but its self-denial is integral to it (Taguieff 1990. In the new racism. In various places racism often accompanied a universal conception of assimilation and the melting pot. especially after the Second World War. ‘cultural’ because of the grounds adduced for it. involves first of all a process of racialization in which certain people are judged by others as belonging to a separate category.938 Uri Ben-Eliezer perceived to belong to an inferior inclusive category based on biological or phenotypical traits.
but on cultural issues. the term ‘multicultural situation’ or ‘multicultural society’ refers mainly to a situation in which pluralism and group differentiation are recognized and become part of the democratic discourse. multiculturalism is a social policy and a set of special institutions and officials practices. Multicultural society is closely related to identity and identity politics. unshaped by a predefined social script. these terms do not practically assume an official attempt or a success. collectivistic ‘truth’ of the nation-state. described by Melucci (1985) as a sort of ‘symbolic amplifier’.g. their communal and even ‘familial’ character allows them to develop new modes of relations. ‘multicultural situation’ or ‘multicultural society’ is both a descriptive term. new forms of otherness. mutuality. Parekh 2000. such as Hall (1996).Multicultural society and everyday cultural racism 939 The phenomenon of multiculturalism has various meanings and interpretations. Thus. in their view. as exists in countries like Australia or Canada. In the way we use it. access. The ample research on identity and identity politics and on the reflexive groups that are fully aware of the significance of their activity has contributed much to the understanding of the changing. Melucci. has made the politics of equal recognition more central and stressful’ (1994. which are manifested through life-styles. Such challenge to reality is not necessarily based on class principles. that identity and identity politics may solve problems of inferiority and discrimination as well. status and respect. Wieviorka 1998. and develop claims which may offset the monolithic. 1996. equality. Unlike multiculturalism. give priority to certain dominant groups over others. Vasta 1993. which are designed to implement principles of participation. p. these groups are ready both to challenge basic frames within their nation-state and also to criticize the institutionalized arrangements which. etc. 36) and the reflections of others. rights. Johnston and Gusfield 1994. given the fact that the assimilatory project of modernization has failed. Cerulo 1997) Á thus the observation by Taylor that ‘the understanding that identities are formed in open dialogue. without fostering any dominant culture or set of rules (e. Armed with this ‘cultural ammunition’. hybrid Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 . in organizing the various groups within society on a basis of equity. discrimination and recognition (Larana. which suggests that a certain society is composed of numerous cultural groups or wellorganized communities living by their own different systems of beliefs and practices. full recognition. a plurality of ideas and even new experiences of time and space. In fact. On the other hand. Yonah 2005. in which individuals and groups freely construct their unique identity and cultural distinctiveness. Appiah and Gates 1995. and an ideology or a philosophy based on a perception about the way the society should be organized. Yonah and Shenhav 2005). equality and equity to various groups including new immigrants and subalterns.
5 More specifically. Additional information about the Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 . identity politics and cultural racism in the global era of the second or reflexive modernization. It is our claim that. In these societies. contributing to cultural racism and its by-product. This kind of racism is in no way less influential than any institutional racism. and. with the transformation of ethno-republican Israel to neo-liberal amid a multicultural society. However. an occasional practice. What for the racist is a slip of the tongue. by presenting cultural differences as essentials and by reinforcing the heterophilia and mixophobia of the others. mild. thin multiculturalism Á which is not an official policy but a situation of recognized differentiation. If the thesis of the study is proved. as the article will demonstrate. Interviews were also conducted with youths of high-school age.940 Uri Ben-Eliezer and fluid world in which we are living. are identity construction and identity politics. new norms and patterns of protest which were developed by the young generation of Ethiopian descent not only failed to improve their status. but may be having the opposite effect. even though the young Ethiopians living in Israel have developed their own identity and culture out of dismay at the manner of their absorption in the Promised Land and as a means to achieve freedom and recognition. accompanied by the transition from a monolithic society into a more diversified. it can present the difficulties of reducing cultural racism in multicultural societies. not a semi-inclusionary discrimination. cultural racism appeared in new forms as well: less as institutional racism and more as everyday racism. pluralism and the existence of claim-making groups only Á can actually exclude weak groups through their own cultural traits and encourage their being discriminated against in everyday life. Instead. who customarily gather every day at the community centre located in a neighbourhood in a southern town known locally as ‘Harlem’ because it is populated largely by Ethiopians. the solution to cultural racism? A study of the second generation of the Ethiopian Jews who migrated to Israel can help us answer this question. multicultural one. a case of inattention or even ignorance is for the victims of racism part of an ongoing life experience bearing comprehensive. The study is based on in-depth interviews conducted from 1999 to 2005 among students of Ethiopian origin at the University of Haifa Á Israel’s third largest city Á which for years has been a magnet for second-generation Ethiopians who are pursuing academic studies. long-term ramifications. cultural racism did not disappear. lastly. typical to the assimilation process. but an inclination towards an exclusionary racism. Indeed. a non-binding joke. the distinctive style of hybrid identity. exclusion. ‘societal’ racism’ more than ‘state racism’. it would call for a more careful examination of the relations between multiculturalism.
of course. that Hebrew is the language of prayer and so forth (Kaplan 1995. progressive West and backward Africa. already in early 1950s. which accompanied the processes of absorption of the immigrants from Ethiopia. or identity politics. The first part deals with the difficulties in the assimilation procedure. . in the mid-1980s. the abyss dividing Judaism and Christianity. Difficulties in the assimilation process In one sense the arrival of the Ethiopian immigrants in Israel constituted the end rather than the beginning of a process of cultural colonization. the Beta Israel learned about Jewish holy days. starting in the second half of the nineteenth century. The project of cultural colonialism reached its peak with the first wave of immigration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Kaplan and Salamon 2004). Trevisan Semi 1999. Gradually. involved the transformation of the ‘Beta Israel Falashas’ into ‘Ethiopian Jews’ who are in effect ‘modern. ceremonies and customs Á that religious male Jews wear skullcaps. laissez-faire kind of multicultural society (albeit. it nevertheless does not reduce racism but has often the contradictory effect of exacerbating it. It included the disseminating of the dichotomous conception concerning the difference between the developed. The third part of the article presents the relations between identity politics and cultural racism which is directed against ‘weak’ groups within the context of a multicultural society. in the form of identity-related differences. What follows is divided into three parts. even Western Jews’ (Halevy 1994. The second part describes the cultural modes of the young generation of Ethiopians reactive to what they called ‘racism and discrimination’. This reaction. without any substantial multiculturalist policy). which. two religions which the Falashas viewed as effectively existing along a continuum with many points of convergence (Pankhurst 1995). and. 2006).Multicultural society and everyday cultural racism 941 Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 young generation of Ethiopian descent was collected from the daily press and from weeklies which were written for and by Ethiopians. appeared at a time when Israel was undergoing profound changes from a monolithic republicanism into a neo-liberal. While identity politics may contribute to the transformation of institutional racism into daily racism. through Jewish emissaries from Israel and abroad. The various representations which appear in all these sources and the numerous practices they reveal expose the discourse within multicultural Israeli society which constructs cultural racism that is aimed at the Ethiopian Jews. These difficulties appeared in various fields in the form of an institutional racism. the idea of the Jewish state in which every Jew must aspire to settle as the solution to their condition.
Promises made by the Israeli ruling establishment that the Ethiopian young people would attend school with other Israelis were not kept. It was a semi-ethnocide situation. 895). their skin colour and their unusual quiet. whose educational level was almost uniformly low. no fewer than 90 per cent of the youngsters of Ethiopian origin would grow up and reach maturation in these boarding schools. the project was Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 . True. Moreover. The Judaism that was taught there was vastly different from their own. In contrast to the ‘European’ immigrants from the former Soviet Union. primitive or even weak. their traditions and their language (Holt 1994. exotic. alienating them from their past. the youngsters in the religious boarding schools were exposed to a process of regionalization. Even if the absorptive institutions’ purpose was to create a category of ‘white Jews with black skin’. Here lies the beginning of a stereotypical viewpoint which tends to see the newcomers in generalized terms. especially if he or she is perceived as different. In some institutions 70 per cent of the students were of Ethiopian origin. Weil 1997a. Leshem and Shuval 1998). in need of cultivation or a victim needing help. In a while. The amazement was typical of colonialist and orientalist perceptions and images. savage. the feelings of pity Á human in themselves Á which accompanied the new arrivals attested to the onset of a paternalistic attitude toward the Other. in some cases at least. their leanness (caused in part or largely by a lack of proper nutrition). to ensure that they broke with their cultural environment and acceded to modernity (Wieviorka 1998.942 Uri Ben-Eliezer Israelis doted over the ‘sweet and beautiful’ children and lavished gifts on them. had never seen ‘white’ men. The bureaucratic treatment started already at the airport when representatives of the Jewish Agency arbitrarily gave the Ethiopian children and adolescents Israeli names in place of the names they had received at birth. their community. perhaps comparable to 1950s Australia where Aborigine children were still taken from their families and fostered in homes or institutions.6 In the years that followed. the Ethiopians were immediately subjected to the bureaucratic treatment that marked their entire absorption. The bureaucracy of absorbing the Ethiopian youngsters into boarding schools had the effect of separating them not only from their parents but also from the native Israelis. who could not read or write. the passage to Israel generated culture shock and countless difficulties among people who had never before seen a car or water flowing from taps. p. most of the children and youths who arrived were separated from their parents and sent to religious boarding schools Á even though about 70Á 80 per cent of Israel’s Jewish citizens do not define themselves as religious. The result was segregation rather than assimilation. They were struck by the Ethiopians’ exotic beauty. were not accustomed to using cutlery and. By the same token.
73Á4. However. Similarly. genealogy and bloodline. State representatives declared the idea of settling the Ethiopian Jews in the centre of Israel and not in the peripheries. after all. The demand for immersion. they were made to undergo conversion to Judaism. From the moment of their arrival they were subjected by the religious establishment to practices of semi-inclusion which humiliated them and ranked them low in the Jewish status hierarchy. the gravest problem the immigrants from Ethiopia and their children encountered concerned their religious practice. The Ethiopians saw reality in a different way. they found themselves on the fringes of poor neighbourhoods characterized by high crime rate. the newcomers were given the opportunity to purchase their apartments with the aid of a government mortgage which was effectively a grant. Their homes gradually lost about half their worth. who possess a state monopoly in matters relating to the Jewish religion. which the immigrants found especially degrading. Swirski and Swirski 2002).Multicultural society and everyday cultural racism 943 doomed to failure (Weil 1997a. This included immersion in water. Ethiopian Jews were not considered ‘full’ Jews because they were cut off from Rabbinical Orthodox Judaism for thousands of years. other Jews cast doubt on their Jewishness. which was all-powerful in matters of religion in a country lacking official separation between religion and state. so they felt. The problems were especially blatant in their contacts with the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Ovadia Yosef Á indeed. a key element of the housing plan Á that they would constitute no more than 2 to 4 per cent of a neighbourhood or community Á was not implemented. cast doubt on their ethnic identity and in fact threatened to undercut the whole basis of their migration to Israel (Kaplan and Rosen 1994. Jews. when they arrived in what they saw as their ancestral land. and with representatives of the ‘Chief Rabbinate’. pp. Another aspect of that failure was fomented in housing the new immigrants. Judaism is not a matter of choice but part of one’s ethnic identity. Weil 1997b). even if symbolically. so their residence in each locale was ‘perpetuated’ (Leshem 1994. In their tradition. First. this is what made their immigration to Israel possible following the Law of Return Á they quickly discovered that informally they lived under a permanent cloud of suspicion that they were not. From the viewpoint of Orthodox Judaism. as a step which was particularly generous. Even though they had been declared Jews back in the 1970s by the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel. For hundreds of years the Ethiopians’ preservation of their Jewish identity had included special ceremonies of immersion and purification. 2004). However. Moreover. Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 . Salomon 1994. Yet now. Swirski and Swirski 2002. Mula et al.
The resulting violence went on for hours. The result was a great deal of distress and a long waiting list of couples (Rozner n. Israelis. In Ethiopia their authority within the community was absolute but in Israel they were not allowed to perform their duties. gathered for a demonstration outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. few of whom had taken the trouble to acquaint themselves with the history of Ethiopia’s Jews or understand their viewpoint. were taken aback by the ferocity of the reaction.’ A 17-year-old girl who came to the demonstration from the Haifa area. The crowd carried placards which exposed a new issue within the Israeli discourse. where she attended a boarding school. Thus. a collective manifestation of painful verities. So contradictory was it to the expectations with which they had come to Israel that they seethed with frustration. from infants to the aged.944 Uri Ben-Eliezer Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 In the course of wrenching the Ethiopian community from its special form of Judaism. of the white Jewish nation’ (Sokol 1996). close to 15 per cent of their total number. Seeman 1999). the Ethiopian Jews were asked to eradicate their heritage and their special form of religious practice. The reaction of the Ethiopian Jews was swift and fierce. dozens of demonstrators and policemen were injured.7 Only one rabbi has been authorized to perform marriage ceremonies for the Ethiopian Jews. that blood bore a crucial symbolic significance for the Ethiopians. . for example. I am ashamed of my nation. for fear that it might be contaminated with the HIV virus (Segev 1996). Politics of recognition As is often the case with such events. A newspaper report on 24 January 1996 stated that blood donated by Ethiopian Jews to the national blood bank were simply thrown out afterwards. and the Ministry of Health was probably motivated by a genuine public health interest. their traditional spiritual leaders. namely racism: ‘We are black but our blood is red’ and ‘We are Jews like you: stop the racist apartheid. the establishment totally negated the authority of the kesim. which eventually boiled over. arguing that its motives were purely medical. the trigger for the Ethiopians’ outburst came unexpectedly. In fact.000 members of the community. in the process of assimilation. The Israelis had neither the ability nor the desire to grasp how deeply affronted the Ethiopian community was. The blood bank defended its policy passionately. differentiating them in many aspects from the Christians (Salomon 1997. More than 10.d. the Ethiopians carried a statistically greater risk of having the HIV virus. They did not know. It was a rare moment of truth. said: ‘I came to protest against what is being done to the blacks because of the color of their skin.).
In certain ways these young people constituted a ‘sociological generation’. The challenge is not to remain in a condition of being absorbed but to become integrated. . the Sigd. The shifting situation in Israel. the ongoing social and political crisis of neo-liberalism. in Karl Mannheim’s (1972) term. however. against the background of the conflict with the Palestinians. In other words. ‘The young people prefer the word ‘‘integration’’ over ‘‘absorption’’’. . a traditional holy day of Beta Israel which was celebrated in Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 . This led the Ethiopians to conclude that they are being discriminated against in Israel through their blood. the director-general of the Israeli Association for Ethiopian Jews explained. exposed the cultural barriers that the assimilation process could not overcome. They went about this by diverse means. for example. The reason is that ‘absorption means taking something and making it identical to you. That is not true integration or fusion. This had the effect of attaching a broader label to the Ethiopian immigrants Á all of them. the disillusionment with many of the certainties associated with modernity Á especially in regard to the nation-state and its central vision of the melting pot Á together with the constant preoccupation with questions of identity. aren’t you Israelis?’ they immediately replied. especially ‘what constitutes Israeliness’. an interviewee said as she tried to explain the reason for the violent eruption over this issue.g. she added. ‘Of course’. not to ‘we Israelis’. they refer consistently to the Israeli ‘Others’. though it was mainly those of the young generation who drew the conclusions. . When asked. Nevertheless. in Israel. more than reflecting a racial policy by the institutions. ‘Blood is the soul’. their parents) and led them to draw conclusions and take action on the basis of their interpretation. the expression ‘those Israelis’ recurred in every interview with Ethiopian students. Thus. carriers of certain diseases. The ministry’s spokesman pointed out that there were also other ‘risk groups’ in the population that were rejected as blood donors Á homosexuals. ‘Well. drug addicts. All the Ethiopians have perceived the Israeli attitude towards them as racist. as one Á by associating them with ‘problematic’ publics. Indeed.Multicultural society and everyday cultural racism 945 The affair. their social location enabled them to interpret reality differently from others (e. The Ethiopians’ questions Á ‘Why weren’t the Russian immigrants marked as a risk group?’ or ‘Why wasn’t their blood spilled?’ Á went unanswered. to demand one’s legitimate and proper place in the Israeli society’ (Iyov 2004). For the young Ethiopians it was a moment of truth in the process of becoming a racialized group in Israeli society. ‘Those Israelis showed us what they think of our blood’. people with tattoos and others (Saar 1996). the waves of immigration and the involvement of various cultural groups in the new politics: all these developments generated appropriate conditions for protest by the young generation of Ethiopians.
Zehavi and Pargai 1997: 283Á84). Undoubtedly. Another form of collective behaviour which probably contained a protest element by those who felt they were ill-treated by a racist environment was crime. or Protest?’ 2004). Social Meeting. what occurred was a process of deconstruction and conceptualization. However. can become an effective form of protest. the drinking patterns of the Aborigines constituted part of the culture of protest against the whites’ authority (Cowlishaw 1988). finding that the army too was rife with racism (for example. crime. The reaction of the young Ethiopians to discrimination took diverse forms. the young generation of Ethiopian descent began to form a new identity. and is probably concentrated on luxurious and expensive products. These ‘tacit scenarios’ through which the group’s members articulate their common perception indirectly. In Gilroy’s (1993.946 Uri Ben-Eliezer Ethiopia. In Australia. 81). Army service. for the Ethiopian young people ‘Israeliness’ Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 . many reached the conclusion that military service might actually be aggravating their problem rather than resolving it (Ben-Eliezer 2004. the high percentage of thefts within the young generation of Ethiopian descent reflects their alienation and distress within Israeli society. similarly. which Scott (1985) called ‘everyday forms of resistance’ (see also Kaplan 1999). p. twice that of Israeli youth Á are all group phenomena. The crime rate among youths of Ethiopian origin rose steadily. Faced with this. Amir. A Pray. constituting part of a protest style (Azulai and Freda 2005). especially after the blood bank episode. p. drug abuse and alcohol consumption Á which stands at a rate of 25 per cent of the young Ethiopians. the dismantling of the monolithic neo-republican. Indeed. which is growing under neo-liberalism. they hoped and believed. It challenged the binary black/white distinction and entailed. Zarchin 2000). became also an occasion for protest against racism and discrimination by the young generation (‘The Sigd. An example is the decline in the motivation of the young generation of Ethiopians to serve in the army and excel in it. In Israel. 53) terms.8 A major aspect of racism that is based on skin colour is the authoritative construction of norms that privilege traits associated with ‘whiteness’ and the pervasive devaluation of things coded as ‘black’ (Fraser 1995. even covertly. collectivist Israeli identity and its reconstruction in a hybrid form more in harmony with the young people’s universe. they were constantly referred to as ‘Niggers’). and that the army no longer promises social capital that can be transferred to civil life. When they first arrived in Israel. eventually about 10 per cent of them had police records (Fishbein 1998. was their entry ticket to become definitive Israelis (Borokov 1994). their greatest desire was to stand out in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). indicating the hope to immigrate to the Land of Israel and to reconstruct the Holy Temple.
In a certain sense they will henceforth carry the cultural distinctions which the environment tried to foist on them. ‘In Ethiopia we were Jews. Young people whose parents in Ethiopia yearned for Zion now live in Israel and long for ‘Zion’. Many of these young people have begun to learn and speak Amharic. says Jeremy Kol Habash. both traditional and modern. though. who is considered his community’s first rapper. . ‘The time that passes will not change that’. . though now it is Ethiopia that is signified.9 Their inspiration comes from the politics and culture of Afro-America. here we are blacks. observed one interviewee. . music threaded with romantic themes evoking the way of life that exists there. then. Most of them were born in Israel but do not feel Israeli. but will imbue those representations with a different meaning. which the Afro-Americans started and which speaks to us’ (‘The Bunker Cruz’ 1998). Indeed. It is a style suited to protest. of which blackness is a prominent element. Identity politics creates global and local attachments and the group revives the diasporic elements in different ways. is often perceived as the mythological mother of all Africans. they have become black. ‘The young people today are torn between two worlds. The Ethiopians are like a ticking bomb. of Jamaica and of black Britain. They will try to convert shame into pride and forge for themselves a world which in part is theirs alone out of what Rutherford calls ‘a politics of difference’ (1990. who possessed a clear awareness of the reality in which she lived. The parents Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 . and they reply.Multicultural society and everyday cultural racism 947 gradually became a hybrid identity. even in their own eyes. Now they are also going back to Ethiopian music. ‘We are trying to change the situation through the music’. especially in the clubs. 9Á27). Music. with its growing multicultural character. In recent years groups have sprung up among them whose repertoire consists of protest songs against discrimination and racism. which were taken from them upon their arrival in Israel. . In the colour hierarchy that existed in Ethiopia. in Israel. Through the music it becomes possible to create an imagined reality. Now. Through it an image is transmitted of cohesiveness and a shared identity encompassing all the experiences of dispersal and migration. as in the songs of Bob Marley (Barkan and Avrahami 2005). fragmentation and crisis that are the lot of Africans around the world. pp. the Beta Israel viewed themselves as red (Salomon 1997). the Ethiopian Jews have discovered the Diaspora. . Stuart Hall (1990) has noted.’ Africa. of all things?’ the members of one such group are asked. ‘Why hip-hop. ‘Because it is black music that we are connected to . when they underwent ‘re-socialization’ in the spirit of the dominant values of the Israeli school system. a language they were deprived of in early life. is one means to which the young Ethiopians are resorting to underscore their singularity. Some of them are also re-adopting their original names.
I am also Israeli but I am different from these franjis [white]. placing new issues on the agenda.’ Habash also explains. such coping is both more possible and more available than it was in the past. it appeared that the identity order Á Jew. . As one student put it. ‘Through the music I am trying to create for the kids an identity of their own. So they can get to know their roots and culture. and with growing privatization (Kimmerling 2001. possess an ambivalent underpinning.’10 The young people go to clubs that are meant mainly for them alone. a claim for recognition and a culture of protest often make it possible to cope with a hostile and racializing environment. Thus the young Ethiopians in Israel can set themselves apart from other Israelis and identify with young people of African descent in other countries. after all. the children don’t know Amharic. And in regard to identity. Shafir and Peled 2002. especially in the economy. then an Ethiopian. New forms of expression and protest emerged. bypassed party politics and sought new modes of influence.11 Indeed. as individuals and groups are open for a more heterogeneous and diverse reality. global and local are intertwined in the identity of the second generation of the Ethiopian community in Israel. this time at their own will. Filk and Ram 2004). They can’t talk to each another. not only by connecting Israel to the world.’ Gradually. yet also view themselves as Israelis and as Jews. Hybrid identities. on the individual’s well-being. The reggae and the rap. In fact. ‘I am first of all a Jew.948 Uri Ben-Eliezer Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 don’t understand Hebrew. Still. as well. the question remains: have these young people found a solution to their situation by replacing skullcap with dreadlocks? Cultural racism in a multicultural society The changing character of Israel occurred as it gradually became a neo-liberal state with diminishing government intervention. . the dancing and the clothes and the hairstyles that match their status offer them a haven from the social categorizations that marginalize them. coexist. both closeness and distance. but also because under its aegis Israelis began to place an emphasis on life-style and quality of life. exercised a widespread effect. But the feeling that these are the three components of their identity was shared by most of them. is not consistent among the young generation. black and Israeli. in reflexive modernity. The demand for recognition became . Unquestionably. and last an Israeli. I am trying to make them believe in themselves. Globalization. both similarity to and difference from the near surroundings. So they continue the segregation processes that were imposed on them. and changes from one individual to the next and from one location to another. as Hall (1996) notes. rights and needs. A hybrid identity. .
Multicultural society and everyday cultural racism 949 widespread in Israel. peace movements and the greens (Peled and Ofir 2001. have become the scapegoats. in which the immigrant receives an ‘absorption basket’ in the form of a generous grant and other benefits from the state and is free to decide his place of residence and field of employment himself (Adler 1997. anti-religious movements. feminists. carried by diverse groups. The new situation was congenial to the nearly one million Russians who immigrated to the country with the hope of leaving behind the principles of constructivist socialism and a centralist police state. however. such as the IsraeliPalestinians. about factories that were shut down. the Ethiopian Jews were going to be perceived as responsible for this situation. Relatively marginal phenomena of crime. a process with a built-in neo-liberal bias. Yona and Shenhav 2005). though. The new arrivals from Russia underwent ‘direct absorption’. absence of solidarity. Zaban 1997). Others. forming and consolidating a real Russian community in Israel (Lissak and Leshem 2001. The new immigrants were part of the transformation towards a multicultural situation in which ethnic and life-style groups were then permitted to develop their singular culture. It was a different story with the immigrants from Ethiopia and their offspring. rampant individualism which engendered collective egoism. sometimes expressly. Ben-Eliezer 2003). The town has serious economic problems. The young people who were born in the town speak painfully about the flight of the local ‘go-getters’. One of them notes that he sent his children to a school outside the town so they would Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 . Some Israelis viewed these changes as a threat. and the Ethiopians. for whom the government provides housing there. the immigrants from Russia were perceived through the prism of countless stereotypes. maintained that. Before long. Sooner or later. and to distance themselves. loss of the goals and aims which had guided the state since its inception and the danger of disintegration and atomization (Kalderon 2000. They talked about the price that was entailed in cultural privatization. Al-Haj 2002). where multiculturalism was taking shape less through official coercive policy than ‘from below’. Everyday racism against them started spreading in Israel. they integrated into the changing society. The economic reform generated social disparities and drove broad sectors below the poverty line. A well-known Israeli journalist interviewed people of about 30 in a small town in which the population consists largely of ‘Mizrahim’. gay men and lesbians. drunkenness or prostitution were attributed sweepingly to all the ‘Russians’. there was a greater prospect of recognizing the right of social groups to organize their life according to their identity and their desire (Nachtomi 2003. in a changing Israel. from the assimilating and integrative model of ‘the one Israeliness’. Gutwein 2001). Initially.
pp. cooking and sleeping habits. it turns out that the residents of a certain Haifa neighbourhood don’t want ‘Ethiopians’. They claimed that this concentration of Ethiopian immigrants would create a ghetto. A neo-liberal. in the other school. It took our parents forty years to assimilate into the Israeli society. first of all in their color. the kids see others like them. it is hard for them to realize that they all suffer from the same problem in a society which is undergoing a process of transforming from a welfare state into a neo-liberal one.’ Another adds. They [the Ethiopians] are not yet ready to live as part of our life. and that they are both approaching an underclass position (on the term. This was indeed everyday racism grounded in both the economic situation and the cultural differences. which multiculturalism cannot Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 . but the residents organized to block the plan. an obligation to purify the social body and preserve personal or group identity against any form of proximity. neoliberal Israel increases rivalries between the underprivileged and encourages them to compete for every form of status. ‘I don’t want to come across as racist’. the young Mizrahi people continued to divert class problems into politics of identity. by encouraging social formations on a racist basis. for example.000 Ethiopians here and sent them all to the welfare department. ‘but there. They expressed revulsion at the Ethiopians’ eating. multicultural society clearly underpins racism. then. Researchers who studied countries with immigration have spoken of ‘moral panic’ among veteran residents (e. among other things. see Solomos and Wrench 1993.950 Uri Ben-Eliezer receive a better education and not have to attend school with Ethiopian children. Vasta and Castles 1996. Indeed. ‘Don’t be surprised if the town has an Ethiopian mayor in the future’. mixing or intrusion. And. The motif of pollution. And just when they started to stick their heads out. pervades their remarks. hurt business and lower housing values (Levi 2004). we find the other aspect of multiculturalism.12 Thus. they did not blame the government.g. ‘Look at the chutzpah Á they brought 5. Any how. in which difference becomes threatening. this racist attitude towards the Ethiopians was concentrated among those who themselves suffered from discrimination within the Israeli society (Yonah 2005). which is typical of cultural racism. Indeed. they tell the journalist. Here. a ‘cycle of evil’ is forged. Balibar (1991) notes aptly that racism includes a fantasy of separation or prevention. he explains. they had others to indict. p. The reason for that is clear cut. 36). In that way. concomitantly. the Finance Minister or the mayor for the economic hard times. recognition and rights. Multicultural. Sixty families were to have moved there. some people in the Israeli small town had the feeling of a flood that would cover everything in black. this wave of immigration was brought and sent them back to the bottom.’ Unsurprisingly. 9Á11). as though this were a mark of eternal infamy (Ben-Simon 2004).
that the Ethiopian children in the absorption centre of his community were defecating in backyards. Damage and Sifting through Refuse Bins’ 2004). Indeed. All they wanted. Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 . 2005). alleging that there was no budget to take care of them (Schwartz 1999). Kindergarten teachers in a number of cities and towns refused to accept toddlers from Ethiopia because they were ‘different’ (see The Bulletin for the Child’s Rights 1993). there had been three complaints of sexual assault (‘Gillon. parents removed their children from a school where the majority of the students were of Asian origin. in a manner. the head of the local council of Mevasseret Zion. was for their children to be inculcated with the British tradition and British values. reacted to the developments by refusing to allow the Ethiopian families to move to their towns.14 In Yorkshire. in which talk about political correctness and against affirmative action and a quota policy are common (Vasta 1993. comments like Gillon’s are characteristic in other multicultural countries. too. some of them suffered economic collapse. The Ethiopians Destroy. Educational institutions. He too chose to fight the government on the backs of children of 5 and 6 (Charmachenko et al. the government refused to transfer salaries to local governments until they streamlined their activity. His argument was that ‘he has too many Ethiopians in the school’ (Trabelsi-Haddad 2006). Unexpectedly. it took a petition to the High Court of Justice and threats of criminal prosecution by the state before the mayor agreed to allow forty-two Ethiopian children to enrol in the local school system. and gave much authority to teachers and principals. Gdera.Multicultural society and everyday cultural racism 951 repulse.13 In one instance. became a central arena for everyday racism. in the city of Ashdod. The principal of a religious school in the city of Hadera refused to register for first grade an Israeli-born 6-year-old boy whose parents are of Ethiopian origin. As part of the extreme neo-liberal reform introduced by Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In schools. the immigrants from Ethiopia again became the victims of this situation when heads of local governments. In addition. Ashdod. The mayor’s words were articulated in a pure cultural racism jargon of blaming the Ethiopians with spoiling the otherwise harmonious outlook of the well-to-do suburb. in which racism causes economic adversity (otherwise housing values would not decline) and economic adversity fuels racism. Vasta and Castles 1996). In Israel. said. vandalizing property and sifting through refuse bins. an affluent Jerusalem suburb. they said. England. anxiety about integration developed. Some mayors and local councils chose even blunter methods to fight the ‘invasion’. As a result. It is not only the residents who ‘do not want Ethiopians’. in the town of Or Yehuda. Thus Carmi Gillon. he noted. such as Netanya. which were partially privatized in Israel too.
‘It’s only cultural differences. Indeed. said Maharta Baruch. One girl asked what she thought about the separation in the school. Students of Ethiopian descent. too. who played in an Israeli soap opera. At the same time. but asserted that she was not. first. the Ministry of Education is less able to get school principals to do its bidding. A flagrant form of everyday racism was to place the Ethiopians in particular ‘slots’ ‘appropriate for blacks’ and then expect them to behave ‘accordingly’. second. the parents themselves denied what their children had made perfectly clear.952 Uri Ben-Eliezer schoolchildren of Ethiopian origin were separated and placed in segregated classes in the same school. Her documents did not interest him as much as her skin colour (Yediot Naget 2005). did not minimize the frequent use of the colour issue by other Israelis as a means of segregation. the fact that they turned it into a source of pride. had a clear opinion on the subject. because they are white. at the principal’s initiative. that they are different due to skin colour and that they are not Jews. play Israelis. that the local secretary has already left the scene. In fact. The Ethiopian Jews encountered unprecedented everyday racism through labels and stigmas. the children. Ethiopian community activists said the principal capitulated to pressure from parents who did not want their children to be in the same class as Ethiopians. just one hour after L. ‘I don’t like their skin. The woman went to get documents attesting to her Jewishness.’ In a recurrent pattern. the principal confirmed that assumption. became influential mainly through the presentation of cultural differences as essentials. she noted. started work at a falafel stand in the southern town of Arad in May 2004.. but. when she returned. For example. mentioned three typical categories of stigmatization: that they are HIV carriers. replied. whom I interviewed. Everyday racism in multicultural Israel. based on her skin colour. the local rabbi’s secretary showed up and told the new employee loudly and aggressively not to touch the food or utensils because her Jewishness was in doubt. ‘Colour does make a difference’. an actress of Ethiopian origin.15 In a multicultural age characterized by the state’s relative weakness. mayoral and parental pressure on the system becomes far more effective than it was in the past. however. The immigrants from Russia. that the stand’s owner had taken fright and had summarily fired her and. A. they maintained (Trabelsi-Haddad 2002). All three elements are presented as irreversible. we have nothing against blacks’. due to increasing local influences. she discovered. but she was considered an ‘Ethiopian actress’ and was asked to audition only for parts of distinctly Ethiopian characters. If I would be with them. Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 . I don’t like skin of blacks. an Ethiopian woman. The fact that the skin colour became meaningful in the protest culture of the young generation of Ethiopian descent. I might turn black myself. He did not even bother to ask her if she was Jewish.
In many senses. The fact that they indeed have their own discotheques. Spiner-Halev 1999). Biru’s words express a wish for a strong form of multiculturalism. in which the ‘right to be different’ involves an inversion of racist argument and is a kind of mirror image to it (Solomos and Back 1996. however. In dance clubs. The guys did not accept this and sometimes they would Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 . is farfetched. they are being told by the security guards. It does not preclude them. notably Ethiopian musicians. The soap opera in Amharic will help the veteran society integrate into the Ethiopian community’ (Baruch and Peled 2004). an actor and stand-up comedian of Ethiopian origin who has enjoyed great success within his community. As one of them said: When I finished my army service I went with my buddies [from his former military unit] to clubs. thin model of a multicultural society does not prevent some ethnic groups from using multicultural methods. 115). Indeed. as a means to discriminate against others. When it was pointed out to him that a series like this will do little to integrate the community and its actors on the country’s commercial channels. and music and unique dances. others. Shmuel Biru. Such a perspective is often based on the postcolonial analysis which maintains that ethnic hierarchies and ‘us/them’ dichotomization are outgrowths of the distinction that is drawn between the First World and the Third World. Some of the young Ethiopians understand that the multicultural situation imprisons the individual within the confines of his ‘race’ or culture. in which group membership is prior to citizenship (Yates 1992. Ethiopian youth encounter a non-formal separation policy.16 Ironically. If the veteran society wants to integrate. which overemphasize differences. the liberal. are viewed as ‘exotic’. Thus. Biru is not alone in reaching this conclusion. claims such as those presented by Biru raise another problem of multicultural contexts. mild. from discrimination. he replied: ‘Integration does not interest me. with the Ethiopians forming one centre among many. Usually they let them in and left me outside. though the idea that the balance of forces within Israel will fundamentally be altered to create a polycentric society. rational and homogeneous.Multicultural society and everyday cultural racism 953 Baruch is considered a success story. came up with the idea of writing a soap opera in Amharic which would present to the Israeli Ethiopians their culture and the stories that are unique to them. which defines itself as modern. this is ‘coerced multiculturalism’: the Others allow you to be different in areas they decide are appropriate for you. p. ‘Go to your own discotheques’. gives the guards an excuse to treat them not as ‘Israelis’ but as ‘Ethiopians’. which is often called ‘thick’ multiculturalism. and the ethnocentric conception espoused by the West. then let them try to integrate with us.
In multicultural Israel. (Shoan 2005) Nudel here gives expression to the productive ‘Comtean’ ethos which. . The Russians’ advantage compared to the Ethiopians’ lies both in their great numbers and in Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 . We have a very great culture of work. are not even Jewish.’ Nudel was referring to the racist image that was foisted on Russian women at the start of the massive wave of immigration in the early 1990s. Indeed. . . and get angry at the whole world. who was incarcerated in Soviet prison camps and became a national hero in Israel. even in a multicultural situation. . The Ethiopians are not like that. In this regard. . Most of the Ethiopians are desert people. The Russians hate Ethiopians and couldn’t care less that I did army service. Some of them. ashamed. leading to the exclusion of those who are defined and perceived as being unfit. in her view. (Puzilov and Ashkenazi 2003) Indeed. . and they. they say. characterizes the immigrants from the former Soviet Union but not those from Ethiopia. such as the military service. as Miles describes it (1993). being a soldier does not guarantee the right to enter night-clubs as long as your skin colour is ‘non-white’. Israel is no different than the European situation in which. . inevitably involves a pattern of exclusion of ‘the other’.954 Uri Ben-Eliezer tangle with the Russian security guards. on the other hand. simply despise ‘the Ethiopians’. ‘the Russians’. At Nahal Beka [a temporary mobile-trailer camp for new arrivals] they relieved themselves on the steps and in the street. I would stand to the side. You can see that even by their faces. ‘To say that we are whores?’ asked Ida Nudel. ‘Even in an anti-Semitic country people never said that about us. in ethno-republican Israel. and the struggle over identity. . such as the ‘culture of work’. However. . discrimination was often concealed under various covers. the ‘crisis of modernization’ leads to conflicts between immigrant groups trying to leave their mark on the new reality and to construct their identity. a multicultural situation creates the possibility that one migrant group might construct its ethnic culture and its particular form of identity through the negation of another group along the everyday racism line (Wieviorka 1998). by which non-European and non-modern cultural particularism will always be tested. Her remarks indicate that. We know how to work and there is no such thing as having a cup of coffee every five minutes. Indeed. the construction of identity. dominant values exist. What rankles with the young people of Ethiopian origin most is that the majority of the security guards at the clubs are of Russian origin. of the Ethiopians she says: There is a big difference. But it didn’t help.
A student wrote: ‘What’s amazing is that every time someone who is not of Ethiopian origin is hurt by an Ethiopian. the idea of multiculturalism. Thirty per cent are categorized as being ‘underemployed’ Á that is. a bus driver asked a young girl from Ethiopian descent who was about to pay: ‘What has happened to you. ‘they are sure that I am a security guard. Instantly all the other ethnic and national rifts evaporate’ (Admaso 2005). in which people realize their freedom and gain recognition through their separated frameworks and Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 . Azulai 2005). The people there said that the murderer. and another. was a victim. but with all the Ethiopians. the discourse in the Ethiopian neighbourhood of Rehovot. says a lawyer of Ethiopian origin. blacks and whites. did you become murderers?’ Indeed. The repercussions of the murder showed the scale on which the cultural differences which are encouraged by multicultural situations are rendered essentialist by everyday racism which erupts under unexpected. alcohol and glue-sniffing.17 ‘When people see me in the supermarket wearing a white shirt’. was also about the whole community. do not necessarily help. The peak (so far) came when a 15-year-old ‘white’ girl. Data show that only 43 per cent of academics among Ethiopian immigrants are employed in their fields of study. Interestingly. multicultural society appears to be good for the advantaged groups and bad for the disadvantaged ones (Wieviorka 1998). Thus. too. the Israeli reality exposes a conditioned multicultural situation. The murder heightened the Ethiopians’ denigration. Indeed. the young Ethiopians encounter constant racism. ‘Could it be that we brought murderers to Israel?’ one person wondered. they are overqualified for their jobs Á and about a quarter are unemployed.’ Many Ethiopian graduates of law faculties cannot find a law office in which to clerk (Bareket 2005. which are partly evolved from selfhelp groups such as the association called Fidel (meaning letters). In this sense. was murdered by a criminal youth of Ethiopian origin who was on home leave from a shelter for delinquents and was under the influence of drugs. and the efforts of the young Ethiopians themselves being more aware to the idea that they should be the masters of their destiny. the city in which the murder occurred. Comments about ‘the Ethiopians’ appeared on the Internet site of the school the slain girl had attended. Thus. Maayan Sapir. which in a crisis becomes a dichotomous view of reality. as in many other places. too. educational achievements. Galili 2005). the [racist] genie comes out of the bottle and turns Israel into a country where there are only two communities: Ethiopians and all the rest.Multicultural society and everyday cultural racism 955 their compatibility with the new ethos of neo-liberal economics. crucial circumstances. the informal public discourse dealt not with the one murderer only. In the labour market. and talked about how the state had completely abandoned them (Yediot Achronot 2005.
accompanied by the emergence of diverse groups and communities. from institutional racism to everyday racism. the tendency to judge the individual according to his group and through a generalized perspective. the ‘different’ from spoiling things for them or polluting them. This is especially blatant in the case of a weak group of migrants whose cultural difference will be perceived in essentialist terms and whose attempts to develop a new hybrid identity are liable to be construed as a ‘trespassing’ by a group trying to ‘exceed’ its boundaries and the confining and delimiting ‘slots’ it has been allotted. the ‘stranger’. no less important. multicultural society and cultural racism goes hand in hand. the Rabbinic Law. Notes 1. become a barrier leading to the group’s fixity in a preferential or inferior situation. which appears to be inherent in Israel’s multicultural group classification along the colour line. An analysis of the situation of Ethiopian Jews following their immigration to Israel provides an answer. these are the mechanisms of cultural racism that were highly leaned upon and supported by the multicultural society: using the desire of separation as a means to create social hierarchy. who tried to avoid discrimination and institutional racism by developing a distinctive style and a hybrid identity. reduces cultural racism.956 Uri Ben-Eliezer Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 mutual relations with the other communities. All in all. the diversion of class problems into culture and status. According to the Halacha. Conclusions This article has set out to uncover to what extent a transition from a relatively monolithic society into a more multicultural one. The young generation of the immigrants. Thus cultural differences. does not stand up to the test of cultural racism. as both are based on the same themes of difference and separation. Under such conditions. Cultural racism has not disappeared but changed its form. In this respect. the multicultural argument often becomes a means by which the preferential groups protect their way of life and prevent the ‘Other’. instead of acting as a lever for inclusion and mutuality. found itself excluded. . marginalized and segregated. the easy and smooth way of transforming constructed differences into supposedly essentialist ones and. a Jew is one whose mother is a Jew. the ability of some groups to benefit from the multicultural situation more than the others.
Multicultural society and everyday cultural racism 957 Downloaded By: [EBSCOHost EJS Content Distribution] At: 01:39 25 March 2009 2.selfhelp. 13. etc. MAJID and BEN-ELIEZER. 15. jeans. London: Frank Cass. September 2003. see Shabtai (2001) and Avraami and Barak (2005). ELI ET AL. pp. See. For more on the importance of the music for the young generation of Ethiopian Jews. for example. NRG News. Detailed reports on many instances in Kav Haofek. and was directed against the ‘Ashkenazim’. Bonss and Lau (2003). However. See also ‘Violence against Children from Ethiopian Descent’ (2004) and Sarid (2005). 6. It was not until the end of 2005 that the Prime Minister’s Ofﬁce instructed the religious councils to cease the discrimination against the Ethiopian kessim. References ADINO-ABABA.il. In www. living in the Jewish state and forming almost 20 per cent of the total population. 12. 17. MAJID 2002 ‘Identity Patterns among Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union in Israel: Assimilation vs. 18. pp. they all claimed that thefts are mainly concentrated on products that ‘the ‘Farangi [white] kids’ have. see Beck. 5. Haifa: Haifa University Press (Hebrew) AMIR. 3. A similar process of regionalization was contrived for Iraqi Jews forty years beforehand. no. In conversation with teenagers from Ethiopian origin in a southern city in Israel. DANI 2003 ‘Ethiopians? Not in our School’. the Jews who arrived in Israel from North Africa and the Arab states. vol. Ethnic Formation’. Hever. Yediot Achronot. Another cultural community which struggles for such possibility is the Israeli Palestinian community. See Wieviorka (1998) who rightly sees the possibility that non-democratic and racist groups will ﬂourish under multiculturalism. Further instances can be found in Adino-Ababa (2003) and Pomeranz-Berman (2005). The article is based on the claim that there is a new kind of racism.belaynesh. SHMUEL 1997 ‘Israel’s Absorption Policies since the 1970s’. 16. This feeling was especially potent among the ‘Mizrahim’. without questioning its validity as some researches do. On Fidel. p. 3). Some would even see multiculturalism as an intellectual movement which reﬂects the West’s reduced epistemological status after being confronted with its rebellious oriental ‘Other’. . DANI 2005 ‘No Entry to Ethiopians’.area. Many Branches: Ethiopian Youth Absorption in Youth Aliya. See Smooha (1997).il. See Joppke (1995. for example. 36Á41). it reminded me of Robert Merton’s venerable article (1938) on anomie in which he described one type as characterized by nonlegitimate means to legitimate ends. it was hard for me to decide whether these are indeed the typical types of thefts or. is a theme common to many Black Africans all over the world. Shenhav and MotzaﬁHaller (2002). Jerusalem: Magnes (Hebrew) . 40. 9. 7. of course. 2. 11. see www. On reﬂexive or second modernization. cigarettes. whose origins lay in Central and Eastern Europe. Yaakov Ro’i and Paul Ritterband (eds). wristwatches. rather. 16 June AL-HAJ. 10. 8. necklaces. see Gilroy (1993) and Clifford (1994). in Noah LewinEpstein. Which.co. International Migration. Anyway. and on the ‘crisis of modernization’. 1997 One Root. pp. Russian Jews on Three Continents. t-shirts. URI (eds) 2003 In The Name of Security. 49Á 69 AL-HAJ.org. no. it will take time to show whether the religious establishment will obey that order. See Shenhav (2003). the excuse to justify them. 4. Miles (1993. 11 June ADLER. As data on that issue are not available. 135Á44 ADMASO. 14. such as sneakers.
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