Two weeks ago*, Anshel Pfeffer published a column in Haaretz entitled Israeli society is tainted by racism. My reaction to the article was something in the vicinity of ‘הזוי’**, and I believe that yours would be similar. That’s fine. Clearly, everything I write isn’t going to be a chiddush – it’s enough that I draw your attention to some of the more bizarre works of man. So with that out of the way, let’s take a look at what Pfeffer wrote.
He devotes his opening paragraphs to a description of the typical attitude toward racism:
We don’t think of ourselves or the ones we love as racists… Racism is a heinous crime, like being a murderer. Only twisted and depraved individuals are capable of it, not people like you and me.
He goes on describe an instance of apparent racism in Kiryat Malakhi (sister city, represent):
The very idea that 120 homeowners in Kiryat Malakhi, ordinary mainstream Israelis, signed a secret undertaking not to sell or rent their apartments to Israeli-Ethiopian families – as reported by Channel 2 last week – is so awful that I really want to believe the denials, as faint as they are.
The next few paragraphs are devoted to possible rationalizations for the agreement, a discussion of allegations of racism against Israelis in general/a historical context, and current attempts to brand it an apartheid state. If you’re interested in Pfeffer’s thoughts, feel free to check out the article for yourself. The details aren’t important, so let’s skip ahead to his conclusion:
But while you can oppose the two-state solution for legitimate and nonracist reasons, discrimination of Israeli-Ethiopians has no political or national basis. It can stem only from racist feelings. And since almost none of us do anything about this, we are all at least tainted by racism.
Or so one might reasonably conclude. Had Pfeffer ended here, I would have filed the article away without further comment. But Pfeffer wasn’t done. Just when his article seemed over, a header appears from nowhere
and is followed by the following paragraph:
There are different theories and opinions regarding the actual historical connection of the Beta Israel to the Jewish people. From what I have read and seen, I think this was tenuous at best. After covering this issue closely, I don’t think the Falashmura still in Ethiopia have any claim to Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. And on a totally different level, after eating at Ethiopian restaurants in Israel, the United States and Ethiopia, I have to say that it is one of my least favorite cuisines.
Yes, I understand the paragraph’s place in context – Pfeffer acknowledges that his personal opinions ‘resemble racist tropes that you can hear today around Israel’ – but the article would have been absolutely complete without Pfeffer going out of his way to dis Ethiopian food and suggest Ethiopians are not really Jews. In short, he could have left those ‘racist tropes’ un-repeated.
This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed questionable judgment on the part of Haaretz (and I’ll admit up front, this may not be entirely fair):
*I started this post only a few days after the article came out but have since been distracted by snails and such
**Sorry for the Hebrew – I know that doesn’t help everyone. Google translates הזוי as ‘hallucinatory‘, so something has apparently been lost in translation