Social developmentالاصدارات

Memory, Oblivion and the Nationalization of the Jewish Identity.

Considering the changes in identity the East is experiencing, and considering the nullification of the Eastern character in all its spiritual, religious and social formative components, Barq for Consulting and Future Studies presents, once again, the special report about the issue of the Jewish Identity and imposing its nationalization as a social structure tool in the settlement occupation entity, (Israel).


Policies of “Memory and Oblivion” are considered ones of the first tools implemented by political authorities to legalize a cultural authoritative dominance that paves the way for their control and domination. These policies, in addition, form the main pillars on which the social and national liberation movements are based in building their historic memory and auto awareness as well as the establishment of their struggling resisting project.

According to the vision of these policies, the attention given to the narrative of the Eastern Jews or the Arab Jews who were brought to occupied Palestine in 1948, among the elite in the community of the settlement occupying state, Israel, can be explained. While the Israeli political authorities use this narrative as a cultural authoritative dominance tool, and while they subject it mostly to the oblivion policies, except for what suits the official Israeli narrative which is shaped according to the Zionist ideology which forces the Eastern Jews to forget their Arabic past and to dissociate from their eastern culture and build their identity according to the Western Ashkenazi pattern, the eastern Jews social liberation movements subject this narrative to the remembering policies to make it a tool of a cultural authority that helps them in producing a social discourse through which they seek to achieve their flouted rights in a society full of racism and mutual ethnicity.

This paper presents some speculations about history as a tool that participates in nationalizing the Jewish identity, viz. changing the Jewish religious concept to a civil concept through creating or inventing a historic narrative which shows certain parts of history and conceal others in a way that suits the policies of the Zionist movement and its ideology. This narrative, at the same time, lays the foundations of a social structure in which the Jews coming from Eastern Europe, the Ashkenazi, are in control and are the ones who occupy all vital administrative posts in the community. The Eastern Jews, those of the Arab and Islamic world, provide the cheap work force for the developing economy and for the army and they also provide the quantities of settlers needed to fill the uninhabited bordering areas.

First: the social structure of the remembering policies: Jews historic national memory in the Zionist peevish ideology.

The concept of the “Banished Exile” and the related concepts of “returning to the homeland” and “returning to history” play a pivotal role in forming the Zionist ideology and in building the Jews historic national memory. These three expressions form the three main memory pillars of the establishing legendary narrative of Zionism that lays the foundations of building a social national structure for the Jews. This means, transferring the Jews from the diaspora state to a national people with sovereignty possessing a certain geographical region, with self-determination and responsible for its own existence. In his book, Zionist ideologies of return, Israeli myths, policies and studies, Gabriel Peter Berg says these three expressions overlap in the official Zionist narrative so that none can be separated from the other. Regarding the functional political and ideological references, Peter Berg says that the first expression, “Banished exile”, refers to the continuity between an ancient past in which there was a Jewish dominance over Palestine and a present in which resettlement in Palestine is renewed. This is derived from a taken for granted hypothesis since the dawn of time: Jews formed a nation of a land region. The second expression completes the myth of the first expression: people reclaim of their homes constitutes a promise to start a process of normalizing the Jewish existence. The specified place to realize the ‘exit’ constitutes the place of the Biblical Story, the way detailed by the Protestant Christianity. The third expression, the return of Judaism to history, means its return to the land of Palestine and its joining of the civilized peoples and overcoming its negative succumb in the exile. The return of the Jews to history means the change of their presence from religious to civil state, as an exclusive carrier of this history. With this, the current state of the ‘Israeli’ occupation settlement in Palestine is the return of the Jews to the ‘homeland’ or to the land that, they claim, was empty before they returned to it.

Amnon Raz, in his article “Exile, History and the Nationalization of the Zionist Memory: Speculations in the Return to History as a Zionist Idea” believes that the ‘history’ the official Zionist narrative implements in shaping its national memory has theological-political dimensions that exceed the establishment to the appearance of the Zionist movement in its roles as a solution of the issue of the Jewish presence and the Anti-Semitism phenomenon to the extent of crystalizing the visions and strategies of the political and social frames on which the state of Israel is built.

Amnon Raz separates the concept of history and the return to it in the Zionist ideology through the controversy “Exile and history” which is built on the hypothesis that the Jews were out of history- in exile- until the time of the Jewish immigration and the foundation of their state on the Palestinian lands. This hypothesis has a theological Jewish Christian dimension. According to the Jewish concept, the Jewish diaspora expressed in the exile and which coincided with the destruction of the Second Temple led them to enter a period of a historic cutout which formed the end of the entire world, not that of the Jewish history. Christianity, however, saw in this diaspora of the Jews a punishment for their stubbornness and their rejection of the Bible. If the Jews are living the period of the end of history, Christianity is living the grace stage that represents the real history. Christianity also believes that the return of Jews to history requires that they accept the Bible and that they convert to Christianity.

The enlightenment context replaced the idea of ‘grace’ with ‘mind’ and that of ‘Christianity’ with ‘humanity and globalism;. The ideas of freedom, enlightenment and liberation formed the base of the idea of the no-exile of the Jews. The secularization of Christianity and the appearance of the modern state led to controversies about integrating the Jews in the European community. This explains how the condition of the Jews return to history of the theological condition of their acceptance of Christianity was replaced by the political-civil condition to integrate them in the state. With this, the oriental dimensions of this change become clear: history is only about the West and the return of the Jews to history means that history will be built according to the Western pattern.

The replacement of the secular with the religious led to the end of the Jewish Christian controversy by the victory of the Christian vision that is based on the hypothesis that the Jews come back to history by embodying the Christian Western pattern outside the European geographical borders, in the East in particular. The Western racism maintains that the Jews possess an Eastern structure that prevents them from integrating in Europe. Their embodiment of the Western pattern is a guarantee of their rehabilitation to live in old “Israel”, Palestine, as it is the origin of the Western civilization. The oriental studies seeking to achieve a racist historic knowledge contributed in legalizing this trend to establish a national Jewish existence in Palestine which started by founding the Palestine Exploration Fund in 1865. It aims at researching the archeology, geography and geology in Palestine’s natural history to prove the Biblical tradition scientifically. The maps and the field surveys the Western researchers did were a base for the Zionist project; the hypothesis of the region lining was built on oblivious remembering base; it is the invention of a people and the disintegration of another, as Palestine is a land without a people for a people without a land.

The hypothesis forces the leaders of the Zionist movement to invent a historic memory for Jewish groups who have not met in one geographical area and who did not have any common history. To achieve this end, the theological concept of the exile was replaced with the political concept in the Zionist ideology to describe the period where there was no sovereignty over Palestine, linking it with the middle period.

Despite the indications of these memorial meanings of exile, land and history to mythical narrative creations that lay the foundation of a social structure that embodied the Western pattern, the Ashkenazi in it as a dominating pattern in the Zionist identity structure and the attempt to obsolete the Arab historic memory of the Eastern Jews, as the researcher will discuss in the second part of these reviews, she kept in the Eastern memory what suits her ideological end which is the dissociation if the Arab Jews from their Arabism and the creation of enmity between them and their aborigines. The Israeli authorities are sure to commemorate the Iraqi Farhud slaughtering of the Jews in 1941. It is a name given to the riot acts in which more than 179 Jews were killed and more than 2000 Jews were injured. To achieve this, the Israeli Knesset enacted a decision in 2014 to commemorate the day of the expulsion of the Jews from their Arabic lands on November 30th every year.

Second: the social structure of the oblivion policies: the meeting between the Ashkenazi Zionism and the Eastern Jews:

The process of inventing the historic Zionist memory is accompanied by remembering the elements of the Ashkenazi pattern, such as the deletion and the oblivion of the composing elements of the Eastern pattern, and those that compose the Arab traditions and cultures in particular. David Ben-Gurion adopted this stance in public as he wrote in his diaries “European Jews formed the character of the Jewish people in the entire world and Zionism is basically the Western Jews movement”.

According to the application of the Jewish awareness in the European colonial frame as a part of Europe to face the East, which Amnon Raz sees as a clear settlement in the East that is radically similar to the West, there was the first meeting between the Zionists and the Eastern Jews- the put aside, as described by the Jewish thinker of Iraqi origins Yehouda Shenhav in his book The Arab Jews: A Postcolonial Reading of Nationalism, Religion, and Ethnicity. The return to history meant the suppression of the Eastern Jews history and dissociating it from the Zionist dating process. Sami Chetrit believes that the goal of this historic suppression of the Easterners is: “glorifying the role of East European Jews in the history of the Jewish people and sidelining of the role of the Arab countries and Islamic Jews and glorifying the legend of the survival of the Eastern Jews at the hands of the Ashkenazi Zionist movement”.

Regarding the political and ideological references of the issue of defining the identity of the Easterners by the Ashkenazi Zionist movement, Chetrit writes in his book “The Social Struggle of the Eastern Jews: between suppression and liberation between symmetry and alternative”: reforming the Eastern sects is considered the most common definition in the Zionist academic and media institution, which includes cultural hypotheses in its sociological contexts that presents the Easterners as groups that came from the world; other than the European, the other, the late and the backward. These hypotheses are no more than copies of original oriental Euro-central hypotheses, such as the hypothesis of the degradation of the Eastern man.

To interpret the “cultural backwardness” of the Eastern Jews, the Israeli orientalist Karl Frankenstein linked between the oriental theory concerning the degradation of the Eastern man and the psychology of the egos according to Freud and Jung. Frankenstein concluded that the degradation of the East causes cultural weakness and degradation to Easterners, both Arabs and Jews alike. Backwardness, as he writes, originates from “the freeze or what is like a mass nap, which keeps man hanging in a vacuum concerning the contents and the non-personal values and leads to shrinking and atrophy”.

Zionism reproduced orientalism that was practiced on it in the West, on the Eastern Jews. To integrate them in the Zionist community, they were asked to reform and to abandon their Arab culture and accept the culture of the Ashkenazi dominant elite. They were subject to the process of Israelization and the erase of memory. After their arrival to the settlement occupation state, Israel, they were taken to temporal camps where the coercive rehabilitation process starts. The largest and most official legend was that of “comprehension by modernization” by the Israeli authorities, which Chetrit sees as a process of justifying the inequality policy the state follows, no more. According to the modernization concept, the orientalists came from a ‘backward’ society to a ‘civilized western’ society. Therefore, they suffer an objective inferiority, but, with time and with the process of modernization, they can integrate with the higher ranks of the society.

In his book ‘the Israeli Community’, Afifa Afif maintains that the meeting of the immigrants coming from the East with the Israeli state community was a shock; they suddenly discovered that their Jewish religious culture formed a barrier between them and the new community, instead of being a bridge for communication, as they are inferior to their counterparts, the Ashkenazi. They are as Ben-Gurion likened them: “negroes as those brought to the US as slaves”.

The Israeli authorities in their attempts to conceal the Eastern identity resorted to hide it from the school curricula adopted in the Israeli schools. The Jewish thinker from Moroccan origin says: “the school curricula are what determine the identity, so we have to suppose they are chosen and written with great attention and accuracy and aim at serving noble and significant goals. My question is in particular about the nature and position of the history and the Eastern Jewish culture in the school curricula which were originally written by Ashkenazi Jews”.


The process of nationalizing the Jewish Identity and changing it from the religious to the civil state requires the invention of a historic narrative of Jewish groups who have never met in one geographic location and were not joined in a certain historic phase. This narrative depends on its formulation on memory and oblivion by showing and enlarging certain parts of the Jewish Euro- Ashkenazi history and deleting the Arab Eastern history from the official historic narrative, except for what serves the Zionist agenda movement.

Policies of “Memory and Oblivion” adopted by the Israeli authorities contribute to saving a structure of a society in which the Jews coming from Eastern Europe, the Ashkenazi dominate and occupy all the vital administrative posts in the society. The Eastern Jews, those of the Arab and Islamic world, provide the cheap work force for the developing economy and for the army and they also provide the quantities of settlers needed to fill the uninhabited bordering areas.

This systematic discrimination against the Eastern Jews and which is basically built on an oriental concept by describing them as people who came from the non-European, the other, the late and the backward world led to social liberation movements that seek to achieve a number of civil rights and demand justice and equality. They depend on their struggle on resisting policies of the Zionist oblivion ideology so they try to prove and remind of the narrative of the Eastern Jews that is denied by the dominant Ashkenazi authorities.

Bibliographical References:

First: Arabic References

  1. Shenhav, Yehouda (2015) Arab Jews: The Arab Jews: A Postcolonial Reading of Nationalism, Religion, and Ethnicity. Ramallah: The Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies (MADAR).
  2. Afif, Afifa (1998) the Israeli Community. Cairo. Oriental Studies Center.
  3. Chetrit, Sami (2005) The Eastern Stuggle in Israel. Translated by Saeed Ayyash, Ramallah: The Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies (MADAR).
  4. Ahmed, Nahed (2010) Ideological Issues in Al-Ashdudiyah poems by poet Sami Shalom Chetrit, Cairo, Philology Magazine, No. 53.
  5. Krakotzkin, Amnon Raz, an article: «Exile, History, and the Nationalization of Jewish Memory: Some Reflections on the Zionist Notion of History and Return». An electronic copy:
  6. Abdul Hameed, Muhanned (2015) Inventing a people and disintegrating another: factors of strength, resistance, weakness and submission. Ramallah: the Palestinian center for policies researches and strategic studies, Masarat 1st
  7. Nassar, Mohammed, rejection poetry between resisting the Arab and being fair to the Jewish: Amal Dunqul and Sami Shalom Chetrit. Dr. Mohammed Nassar blog Retrieved on January 12th
  8. Al kasim, Anas, Arab Jews in Israel: a struggle for identity. Anas Al Kasim blog
  9. Arab Jews, unheard voices. Al Jazeera Net

Second: References in English:

  1. Chetrit , Sami. Intra-jewish conflict in Israel.London: Routledge,2010.
  2. Chetrit, Sami.The black panthers in Israel- the first and last social intifada in Israel. Manifesta Journal.
  3. Krawitz,Cole.Interview with Sami shalom Chetrit on Mizrahim on Israel. JVOICES.COM


  1. Mizrahi Politics in Israel: Between Integration and Alternative -Sami Shalom Chetrit. Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 29 No. 4, Autumn, 2000; (pp.

51-65) DOI: 10.2307/267656 ..t

Back to top button