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Ben-Gurion University
IAM's first in the series on BGU Oren Yiftachel class for overseas students in English entitled "Selected Topics in the Geography of the Middle East"

IAM's series on BGU's Oren Yiftachel is written by a student in this Geography of the Middle East class for overseas students, which is entitled in English as "The Selected Topics in the Geography of the Middle East"

 

SELECTED TOPICS IN THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE MIDDLE EAST

Oren Yiftachel's class

Oren Yiftachel is co-teaching a class with Nir Cohen for overseas students, which is entitled in English as "The Selected Topics in the Geography of the Middle East."  

I missed the first class. Keep in mind that this course can be especially damaging for Israel because it is being taught to international students living in Israel, some of them whom are not Jewish.   So far, I got the following objectionable quotes from a reading they assigned entitled "Towards Ethnographies of the Future" by James Clifford, published in Cultural Anthropology Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 302-338.  This article basically compared anti-Zionist Jewish communities in the Diaspora to the Black community in Great Britain, although it also mentioned other Diaspora communities here and there.  Here are the most objectionable quotes from the article:
 
1) "It is certainly debatable whether the cosmopolitan Jewish societies of the 11th to 13th century
Mediterranean
[...] was oriented as a community, or collection of communities, primarily through attachments to a lost homeland."
 
The problem with this quote is that the author is implying that while other diasporas maintained feelings for a lost homeland, the Jewish Diaspora did not.   In other words, he questioned whether Jews prior to Zionism living in the Diaspora had feelings for
Israel
.
 
2) "They stress the ambivalence in Jewish tradition from biblical times to the present, regarding claims for a territorial basis of identity.   Return [...] is not the authentic outcome of Jewish history."
 
In this quote, the author asserts that having Jews longing for a return to
Israel
is alien to the Jewish tradition and what should be the outcome of Jewish history.    In other words, the author is implying that Zionism is alien to Judaism.
 
3) According to Jonathon Boyarin, "When liberal Arabs and some Jews claim that the Jews of the Middle East are Arab Jews, we concur and think that Zionist ideology occludes something very significant when it seeks to obscure this point.   The production of an ideology of a pure Jewish cultural essence that has been debased by Diaspora seems neither historically nor ethically correct.   Diasporized, that is disaggregated, identity allows the early medieval scholar Rabbi Saadya to be an Egyptian Arab who happens to be Jewish and also a Jew who happens to be an Egyptian Arab."
 
In this piece, the author claims that Jews from the
Middle East are really Arabs that have more in common with their Muslim neighbors than Jews from Europe.   He accuses Zionism of alienating Mizrachi Jews from their Arab origins.   He also asserts that Jews in the Diaspora were not a united people from the same location, Israel that lost their homeland and thus lived in Diaspora for this reason.  He also falsely asserts that Rabbi Saadya Gaon, who always maintained strong links to his Jewish Israelite origins, was really an Arab.   He also falsely calls Rabbi Saadya Gaon Egyptian, when scholars debate whether he was born in Egypt or Yemen
.  
 
4) According to Jonathon Boyarin, "We propose Diaspora as theoretical and historical model to replace national self-determination.   To be sure, this would be an idealized Diaspora generalized from these situations in Jewish history when the Jews were relatively free from persecution and yet constituted by strong identity."   He then goes on to give the example of Jewish life in
Spain
during the Golden Age.
 
In other words, the author believes that Israel should give up on self-determination and return to the Diaspora, in the hopes that Jews will experience something along the lines of the Golden Age of Spain, without guarantees that this will be the case of course and conveniently forgetting that even during the Golden Age of Spain there were outbreaks of anti-Semitism, as the Granada Massacre so well demonstrated, which killed 4,000 Jewish souls.
 
5) "The Sephardic strand offers a specific counter-history of Arab-Jewish coexistence and cross-over.   Sephardic/Mizrachi histories may also generate diasporists critiques by Arab-Jewish exiles within the Israeli homeland."
 
In other words, this author believes that Jewish life in the Muslim world was rosy and peachy.   Evidently, the conditions of dhimmitude mean nothing to him.     He also falsely believes that the true homeland of the Mizrachim is the Arab countries, so thus he refers to Mizrachis living in
Israel
as living in a sort of exile.   Regarding Mizrachi critiques of Zionism, he was probably referring to a select few of Mizrachi anti-Zionist intellectuals, like Chetrit, who don't represent most Mizrachi Jews.
 
6) "In Israel, a minority of European Jews have taken a leading role in defining an exclusivist Jewish state-----predicated on religious, ethnic, linguistic, and racial subordinations."
 
In other words, the author believes that
Israel
is an apartheid state where only an Ashekanazi elite hold any kind of say in what happens in the country.   Evidently, he has not witnessed Israeli politics since the 1970's, when Mizrachi started to become a political force to be reckoned with.   I suppose that he has never met Ahmad Tibi, who has managed to do quite well in the Knesset despite being Arab.  
 
7) "Max Weinreich's historical research has shown that the maintenance of Ashkenazic Jewishness was not primarily the result of forced or voluntary separation in distinct neighborhoods or ghettos."
 
In other words, he believes that Ashkenazi Jews don't need their own separate communities to maintain their Jewishness.   He obviously has never been to the
US
, where the break-down of distinct neighborhoods has led to a fifty percent intermarriage rate and a general decline in the Jewish population.
 
8) "The defining loyalty here is an open text, a set of interpretative norms, not to a homeland or even to an ancient tradition."   The author stated this in reference to the Talmud and Jewish tradition in general. 
 
In other words, the Talmud and Jewish religion does not demand loyalty to
Israel
or even an ancient tradition, but certain norms and practices, and that is all.     
 
As you can see from these quotes, the professor is teaching lies about Judaism and Israel, and is not offering a counter perspective in the other readings either.   The other reading he assigned for this class was on assimilation practices in the
US.   While that article is good in that it is not anti-Israel, it offers no counter-perspective by showing what Zionists thought about the topic of Jews in the Diaspora. 

 

 

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