A battle has been raging over the hearts and minds of California schoolchildren.
A draft curriculum introduced in 2019 met with an outcry from Jewish and other minority groups when the section on “Middle Eastern peoples” only referred to Arab Americans. Yet 60 percent of the state’s schoolchildren with roots in the Middle East descend from non-Arab minorities: Coptic Christians, Assyrians, Armenians, Berbers—and Jews.
Indeed, the non-profit representing Mizrahi Jews—JIMENA—has been vocal in its criticism, claiming that the draft does not adequately represent California’s Jewish community, including Middle Eastern Jews.
These mostly came to the United States as refugees from Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism. To draw attention to any form of anti-Semitism against Mizrahi Jews in the Arab world is branded “Mizrahi washing”—a distraction from Israel’s supposed crimes against the Palestinians. In this topsy-turvy world, the mere mention of Arab and Iranian anti-Semitism invites accusations of racialization or “Islamophobia.”
The battle over the California school curriculum is a microcosm of the culture wars being waged in the West, where postmodernism now dictates that only “people of color” can be victims.
But not only are non-Arab and non-Muslim Middle Eastern minorities pointedly not deemed worthy of consideration, but Jews in general are not considered a Middle Eastern people. The latest iteration of the curriculum aims to include a module on the history of the assimilation of Jews and Irish people into “whiteness” in the U.S.
Jews, who were not white enough for the Poway and Tree of Life white-supremacist terrorists, are therefore being considered as white Europeans, despite their origins in the Levant and their bitter history of suffering from anti-Semitism in Europe. Clearly, the curriculum-drafters have absorbed current absurd categorizations, based on purported power structures, race and gender.
Most Jewish immigrants to the U.S. came as huddled masses fleeing European oppression. Past generations fought long and hard for acceptance and opportunity in American society, while relatives who remained in the Old Country were brutally murdered in the Holocaust.
Such is the current vogue for identity politics, however, that Ashkenazi Jews in the United States are being gaslighted into identifying as “white” if they personally have not experienced marginalization and discrimination.
The majority of Ashkenazim have been made to feel guilty for “Ashkenormativity” and unconscious bias towards “black” Jews and “Jews of color.”
But infighting between sections of the Jewish community, real or imagined, pales before the experience of Mizrahi Jews, driven from the Arab and Muslim Middle East. Their oppression is the key to understanding the main drivers of the conflict with Israel—an Arab and Muslim inability to tolerate differences and co-exist with minorities, as well as an abhorrence for any exercise of Jewish power. Yet teaching about Arab and Muslim anti-minority bigotry is taboo.
In the Western progressive mind, bound into the postmodern conceptual straitjacket, only Palestinians can be victims. Mizrahi Jews, who now comprise the majority of Israeli Jews, are airbrushed out of public discourse.
Universities already ignore, or distort, Mizrahi-lived experience, unless Mizrahi Jews can be weaponized against Zionist Ashkenazim. Now they are in danger of being erased from school curricula.
But the war over the California curriculum is not yet over. Let’s hope that, in the end, truth and common sense will prevail.
Lyn Julius is the author of “Uprooted: How 3,000 years of Jewish Civilization in the Arab World Vanished Overnight” (Vallentine Mitchell, 2018).