‘Our Boys’ exposes the Mizrahi-Palestinian fault line

As the younger generation of Mizrahim, we must accept accountability for and develop a new understanding of Mizrahi-Palestinian relations.

Lehava activists protest outside the wedding hall where Mahmoud Mansour, a Palestinian Israeli, and Morel Malcha, a Jewish-born Israeli, got married in Rishon Letzion

Moran Habaz writes in +972 Magazine:

As someone who grew up in Jerusalem and experienced its bloodied streets as a teenager during the Second Intifada, HBO’s “Our Boys” shook my world. It made me reflect not only on that awful time in 2014, but also on the city’s very specific internal makeup. The series manages to capture Jerusalem’s explosive tensions, revealing both the divisions and connections along national, generational and ethnic lines, showing how a point of friction in one area inevitably causes a collapse in another.

The murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir by Israelis that summer was exceptional for its brutality and for the graphic details published in Israeli media, but especially because of the identity of the perpetrators — Mizrahi ultra-Orthodox boys from Jerusalem and its surrounding settlements, some of whom were yeshiva students. Their background was, and remains, surprising.

Mizrahim — Jews whose families immigrated from Arab and Muslim countries — are perceived as the more racist group in Israeli society. But Mizrahi intellectuals and activists will point you to the acute analysis by Palestinian member of Knesset Jamal Zahalka, who makes a distinction between the vocal racism of those who cry “Death to Arabs,” and those who are more “enlightened” in their discourse but in effect oversee the occupation and the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland — who are predominantly of Ashkenazi (European) origin.

Zahalka’s assessment is all the more thought-provoking for having come from a victim of that oppression. It is especially important within the clichéd discourse on racism in Israel, which invariably relies on the loud Mizrahi right-winger as its poster child.

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