[Marxism] The Oriental Jew

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jan 15 16:11:40 MST 2018

The Oriental Jew clearly represents a problematic entity for European 
hegemony in Israel. Although Zionism collapses the Sephardim and the 
Ashkenazim into the single category of "one people," at the same time 
the Sephardi's  Oriental "difference" threatens the European ideal-ego 
which phantasizes Israel  as a prolongation of Europe "in" the Middle 
East, but not "of' it. Ben Gurion,  we may recall, formulated his 
visionary utopia for Israel as that of a "Switzerland  of the Middle 
East," while Herzl called for a Western-style capitalist-democratic 
miniature state, to be made possible by the grace of imperial patrons 
such as  England or even Germany. The leitmotif of Zionist texts is the 
cry to form a  "normal civilized nation," without the myriad 
"distortions" and forms of pariahdom typical of the Diaspora. (Zionist 
revulsion for shtetl "abnormalities," as  some commentators have pointed 
out, is often strangely reminiscent of the very  anti-Semitism it 
presumably so abhors.) The Ostjuden, perenially marginalized by Europe, 
realized their desire of becoming Europe, ironically, in the Middle 
East, this time on the back of their own "Ostjuden," the Eastern Jews. 
Having  passed through their own "ordeal of "ordeal of civility," as the 
"blacks" of Europe, they now imposed their civilizing tests on their own 

Ella Shohat, Social Text, 1988

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