Ashkenazi Jews Must Stop Identifying As White/European

Posted By on February 27, 2023

In an ideal world, race, skin color, and ethnic origin would have no relevance.

But that is not the world we live in. Racism is and remains alive and well throughout the globe.

Anti-Semitism is a potent and deadly breed of racism, having nestled itself comfortably within the guise of anti-racism, anti-colonialism, minority rights, and social justice.

As with past anti-Semitic paroxysms, it has infiltrated the most pressing and relevant conversations of our day, transforming them from the inside out and deftly harnessing their power to cast us as the arch-villains once more.

Thats why this conversation is super important.

White Europeans have dominated the world over the past 500 years through colonialism, conquest, slavery, and genocide of indigenous populations.

They may hate being guilt tripped over the actions of their past ancestors, but history is history. It cannot be changed and it cannot be willed or wished away.

Most white people today may not be colonizers themselves, but they still benefit from the power structures put in place by their ancestors.

The effects of these structures and the crimes that created them continue to be felt by those historically and presently victimized by them including the Jews.

European civilization did a lot of good for the world by introducing industry, technology, modernity, and enlightenment, but it also slaughtered millions, introduced new diseases to races that had no immunity, and wiped out countless indigenous cultures throughout the world.

For Ashkenazi Jews (and also Sephardi Jews, but thats another topic), it was European colonialism that destroyed our Second Temple, robbed us of our homeland, renamed it so that it bore the names of our worst enemies, carried our ancestors to Europe on slave ships, and forced us into a state of exile for nearly 2000 years.

Our people were persecuted, tormented, slaughtered, and kept in a state of virtual captivity on the European continent for generations, and were driven to the point of near extinction less than 100 years ago in our grandparents lifetimes.

We still havent recovered from the damage wrought by the Holocaust, let alone everything else Europeans have done to us over the centuries.

Anti-Semitism is and remains a pervasive part of all white-majority societies, along with any society touched by European colonialism.

So the white-European identity today carries all sorts of negative connotations as a result.

And from there I proceed to my main thesis, which is that how people identify Jews especially Ashkenazi Jews really matters.

Identifying Ashkenazi Jews as white-Europeans creates many problems and ultimately leads to a misdiagnosis of who we are, our reality, and our lived experience.

There are 8 reasons why Ashkenazim should never be identified as white/European, and why other Ashkenazim need to stop identifying themselves as such.

It erases Ashkenazi Jews who are visibly of color

You, individually, might be white-passing. You might know other Ashkenazim who are white-passing, and this may lead you to the conclusion that your experience is normative.

But its not.

There are countless Ashkenazim who are visibly Middle Eastern. And I dont mean Ashkenazim who have a Sephardi or Mizrahi grandparent or two. I mean full, 100% Ashkenazi Jews whose grandparents and great-grandparents all hail from the Pale of Settlement across Eastern Europe.

That is because we are a Middle Eastern diaspora population, indigenous to the southern Levant. Ergo, there are many of us who unsurprisingly look the part.

Someone like Oded Fehr, or Idan Raichel, or Jeff Goldblum, or Sacha Baron Cohen, or 70-80% of the people in this gallery (which is fairly representative of what full Ashkenazi Jews tend to look like) will NEVER be white. No matter how hard they try to be.

Even if they were to accept the delusion that Ashkenazi Jews are not Middle Eastern, they will never be able to walk through society as anything BUT Middle Eastern.

So by identifying Ashkenazim as white Jews or Euro ethnics, you are (perhaps inadvertently, perhaps not) erasing their existence and reality.

The notion that Ashkenazi Jews are some overwhelmingly Swedish-looking collective of Orientalist Europeans LARPing as Levantines is an anti-Semitic myth no different from the lie that we killed Jesus and kidnapped white babies to bake matzah.

In truth, the phenotypic gulf between Ashkenazi Jews and other populations of the Levant (particularly Samaritans and Lebanese Christians) is minimal to non-existent. So if you wouldnt call non-Jewish Levantines white, you shouldnt be calling Ashkenazim white either.

Some of us, due to our light complexion, may pass for white/European (the same way light-skinned Amazigh, Arabs, Turks, Samaritans, Iranians, Kurds, Afghanis, Pakistanis, and Indians may also pass for white/European), but we are a totally separate entity and you have 2,000 years of white-European racism against Ashkenazi Jews as proof of that.

It erases our Middle Eastern origin, culture, and heritage

Ashkenazi Jews are a Levantine diaspora population, indigenous to the land of Israel.

That is where our ethnic identity, core culture, and civilization were born, and the traditions we carried with us in exile all either originate in that land or center on our ethnic and cultural ties to it, as well as our yearning to return home.

And those traditions that were robbed from us or which we were unable to preserve in exile (e.g. turbans, robes, hummus, pitas, hamsas, certain forms of art, jewelry, carpets, pottery, and music) are still rightfully ours, and we have every right to return to and reclaim them. Ashkenazim who partake in these customs are not appropriating anything. They are simply indigenous Levantines remembering and re-embracing their native traditions. In other words, they are decolonizing. That is a GOOD thing.

We are a Middle Eastern people. A historically exiled and colonized Middle Eastern people, but a Middle Eastern people nonetheless.

We are not part of European civilization, and we never were. As ethnic Jews, we already have a civilizational identity of our own and its Levantine.

Individual Ashkenazim (and other non-European immigrants to Europe) may have contributed to European culture and society at various points, but thats obviously not the same thing. For example, none would argue that black Africans in Europe are ackshually white-Europeans/no longer African or that African civilization is no longer their own because Andre Dumas penned the Three Musketeers or because his father, Alexandre Dumas, was an important French general.

We also do not share their history of conquest, colonization, genocide, and white supremacism, nor are we beneficiaries thereof. On the contrary, weve been continuous victims of these things for more than 2000 years.

The idea that Ashkenazi Jews should be thought of as white people/ethnic Europeans is fundamentally oppressive, and essentially tantamount to whitewashing and cultural erasure. It is colonization of our identity.

On the subject of culture, many have argued that were not Middle Eastern anymore because our diaspora culture (diaspora being the key word here) is European-influenced, and because its too different from Arab, Sephardic, and Mizrahi culture. These are actual arguments that Ive heard. From other Zionists, no less. And they are complete nonsense.

For one, as mentioned previously, only our diaspora culture is significantly European-influenced. Our root culture (i.e. pre-diaspora Jewish culture), which is still rightfully ours, is Middle Eastern. Diaspora is only one slice of our history and heritage. It doesnt define us as a whole.

Furthermore, European-influenced does not mean not Middle Eastern. Although Ashkenazi diaspora culture was clearly impacted and filtered somewhat by exile to an alien climate, it is still Middle Eastern at its core.

Second, many non-European cultures especially those impacted by European colonialism (like ours was) have European influences. For example, African-Americans are very Westernized in terms of culture, and most have no memory of where in Africa their ancestors came from as all records were destroyed by white slavers. Yet no one would ever deny them the right to identify as 100% African. Nor should they. Why should it be any different for us?

Ashkenazim identifying as Middle Eastern does not erase our history of exile in Europe. All it does is recognize exile and diaspora for what they are: exile and diaspora. It acknowledges our indigenous Middle Eastern ethnic origins and puts them front and center, as is our right. Non-Ashkenazim (and non-Jews) who are so concerned about us silencing our own history in Europe should take a seat. We are the ones who decide how we identify and talk about our history. No one else gets to do that. Only we do.

Third, there isnt one pure Middle Eastern culture shared by everybody in the region (except us, apparently). Theres always been European influence, especially in the Levant.

Fourth, using Mizrahi, Sephardi, Arab, or Persian culture as some kind of yardstick falsely presents the latter groups as standard-bearers of Middle Eastern culture a sort of litmus test by which all others should be measured. It also acts as though Mizrahim and Sephardim were not themselves influenced by foreign cultures (especially southern Europeans, Arabs, and Persians). Lastly, it betrays an Arab-normative view of the Middle East which fails to account for the diversity of the region.

It is a given that our root culture let alone our diaspora culture will be different from Arab culture, and that is because were not Arabs. We never were. We are Jews a Levantine people whose homeland is thousands of miles away from the Arabian Gulf.

Not all Middle Eastern cultures are the same. For example, Kurds and Saudis are both Middle Eastern peoples, but they have very little in common with each other.

That we were exiled into Europe and acquired ancient Greek/Italian admixture (which is still less than half of our overall genome) in the process does not make us white-Europeans either. There are plenty of non-white/non-European populations that carry European admixture, and for the same reasons we do: European colonialism.

African-Americans have significant European (primarily English and French) ancestry, as do many Native American tribes. South Americans are mixed with Spanish, Portuguese, and possibly French and Italian as well. Non-Jewish Levantines carry Greek and Roman ancestry (albeit not quite as much as we do), in addition to English, Germanic, and French (from the Crusaders). Turks have significant Greek, Roman, and East European ancestry.

And yes, many people from these same populations could easily pass as white: Helen Thomas (Lebanese), Ralph Nader (Lebanese), Rami Malek (Egyptian Copt), Justin Amash (Palestinian), Bashar Assad (Syrian), Ahed Tamimi (Palestinian), Linda Sarsour (Palestinian).

Thats without getting into the vast numbers of Samaritans, Iranians, Afghans, Berbers and others who can pass as white, despite these populations having very little, if any, European admixture.

None of this makes them white, and I imagine very few people would argue that it does. But in our case, these things are used as insurmountable proof that we are white and thus foreign to the Middle East.

Terms like white Jews/European Jews are tossed around regularly (and inaccurately) to suggest that we are not ethnically pure enough to be linked to our own ancestors.

Its a horrifying and transparently anti-Semitic double standard aimed at disenfranchising us from our own heritage and erasing our ethnic Levantine identity. It is, as mentioned above, a colonization of our identity.

And when we allow this to happen, we allow ourselves to be deemed appropriators when we partake in Middle Eastern traditions (even including those that are, in fact, rightfully ours), accused of whitewashing if we land non-Jewish Middle Eastern roles (see: the half-Ashkenazi Jake Gyllenhaal as Prince of Persia), and even mocked for identifying as Jews at all (the notion that Ashkenazim are fake Jews being a well-worn trope).

At this point, I wont be surprised if Ashkenazi Jewish actors are accused of whitewashing if they ever land a role as, say King David, or Jesus, or even Moses. Is that what we want to happen?

If not, then we need to let the world know that we are Middle Eastern. We may have lived among Europeans for a time (and even contributed to their society at times), but we are not them. And they are not us.

It enables the argument that we dont belong in Israel

The implication of saying were white goes far beyond forcing us to account for the legacy of European colonialism, which is not ours.

The minute we classify as white, we allow ourselves to be seen and treated as foreign colonizers in the Middle East. Ashkenazi Jews who identify as white Europeans, and refuse to own their Middle Eastern identity, are opening *themselves* up to delegitimization.

Arguments about Israels Mizrahi majority can only take you so far. We cant keep using Sephardim and Mizrahim as shields. We need to own who we are, and to tell the Palestinian (and the Lebanese, and the Syrian, and the Mizrahi, and the Sephardi) that we are every bit as indigenous to the region as they are. Not one iota less.

Exile in Europe and colonization did not transform us into Europeans. We are still ethnic Jews, and therefore still Levantine. We should not be deprived of our indigenous Middle Eastern ethnic identity and the rights entailed therein for the fact that we were taken away from our homeland against our will. To argue that is to argue we should be punished further for the crimes that were committed against us, and is a crass exercise in victim-blaming.

So long as we keep thinking of ourselves as white, the Palestinian Arab will have every right to look at us as colonizers. Remember, its not our skin color that necessarily bothers the Palestinian for there are plenty of Palestinians who are quite white-skinned themselves (Linda Sarsour, Ahed Tamimi) its the connotation that comes with it.

So if they see us as white, its not our skin tone, its the connotation of being white Europeans and therefore unwelcome colonizers in the Middle East. Thats the narrative we all need to change, and change right now.

It encourages progressives to ignore anti-Semitism

When we identify as white, we deny our own marginalization and victimization under white supremacy and shut ourselves out of the conversation on race, which absolutely does pertain to and affect us. We deprive ourselves of the resources and solidarity we need to combat anti-Jewish racism while giving progressives (including the countless anti-Semites that have infiltrated the left) a license to ignore us completely and shout us down when issues of anti-Semitism arise. Because if were really a group of privileged white people (as many have claimed), why would they care at all what we have to say?

They wont.

Because were allowing them to see us as just another group of whites crying about their privilege and presenting themselves as the victims, just as non-Jewish whites always do. We are giving them permission to gaslight us into silence. Is that what you want?

Make no mistake, the insistence that we are white is why progressives refuse to take anti-Semitism seriously. They dont see us as genuine ethnic minorities, but instead as white people with funny hats and lots of money. If we want that to change, we must shed this false consciousness weve developed about ourselves.

We are not white people and our whiteness is entirely illusory, designed to keep us complacent, oblivious and, above all, useful just like the court Jews of old.

It perpetuates anti-Semitism in the mainstream and facilitates its growth

For a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of this subject, its important to look at the mainstream media as well as the media consuming public and analyze its attitude towards Jews, Jewish culture, and Jewish representation.

The American media tends to infantilize most peoples of color (a problem in its own right, but outside the scope of this article). But not Jews. We are instead treated as court jesters or as stand-ins/substitutes for white people. I imagine this is why they are so invested in calling us white. They get to have all of the joys of bashing white people, but the wounds appear on OUR bodies, not theirs thereby keeping the existing power structure intact (i.e. white people on top, and Jews at or near the very bottom) while maintaining the pretense of challenging it.

It also means they can make us completely invisible whenever they want, either by treating us as a subcategory of white-European (which were not) or by ignoring us all together. After all, white people dont need extra representation, and they dont need protection or any other special considerations. This means we are the only non-white group whose mockery and vilification is seen as acceptable even progressive.

All the while, were expected to suffer in silence. Because Jews complaining about this treatment is nothing more than white tears, of course.

Were not only cast as white people, but as SUPER white people. The whitest of the whites. Were being set up to take all of the blows on white societys behalf, while the justice and equality we still seek (as a minority group) eludes us.

And what better way to vilify us to silence us and ensure we have no power nor any say or agency in the way we are treated than to forcibly situate us in the bete noire of the day: whites.

The parallels with past anti-Semitic epochs could not be more striking.

In medieval Europe, it was non-Christians. In Muslim lands, it was non-Muslims. In Enlightenment Europe, it was religious institutions and barbaric non-Westerners. In the 19th and 20th century, it was non-whites. Today, it is white people.

In medieval Europe, we were the non-Christian bete noire, in league with Satan himself. In Islamic lands, we were the very same non-Muslims who rejected Muhammad. In Enlightenment Europe, we were that backward Asiatic people who opposed progress and were incapable of grasping science. In the 20th century, we were the non-white race polluting Western society and undermining its very foundations.

Today, we are white people. Not only white people, but the most privileged white people of them all. The ultimate beneficiaries of white privilege, if not the ones in charge of it all and the brains behind the entire system (see: anything written by Nation of Islam).

No matter the circumstances or the time period, we are constantly cast as the epitome of all that is bad. And today is clearly no different.

The only way to circumvent this fate is to tackle anti-Semitism and show the progressive that were not white either, and that we are marginalized as well. By calling us white, they are upholding the very forces that seek to keep us in a permanent state of subordination.

And by calling ourselves white, we perpetuate our own subordination.

It ignores our marginalization under white supremacy

The belief that Ashkenazi Jews have white privilege is a popular one, but nevertheless false. We were never accepted as white throughout history. The entire concept of Jewish whiteness is, in fact, very recent and in todays climate, perpetuated primarily by anti-Semites.

There are many who will quickly (and justifiably) point out that most Jews dont have to worry about deadly encounters with police, or being followed around in stores, or the school-to-prison pipeline.

This is absolutely true.

It is also true for East Asians, South Asians, Arabs, and just about anyone who isnt black, Hispanic, or Native American.

But heres what we do have to worry about

* Airport profiling and detainment

* Institutional and public scapegoating

* Orientalism and conspiracy theories

* White supremacist and racist violence

* Under-representation and typecasting in media

* Biased criminal justice system and other institutions, especially universities

* Cultural marginalization in general

* The very real and present fear that this country may one day become inhospitable to us, forcing us to flee

* Being one of the most hated ethnic groups *on Earth*, not just in America

Does that sound like white privilege to you?

Continue reading here:

Ashkenazi Jews Must Stop Identifying As White/European

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