Were sephardim discriminated against in the early years of the State of Israel?

Ethnically cleansed Iraqi jews waiting for transfer to a tent camp after arrival in Israel 1950
Did ashkenazim act badly towards sephardim in the early years of the state? The so-called ashkenazi-sephardi split has over the years been the subject of much arab propaganda aided by the mass media. Indeed the last conflict between Israel and Hamas showed the BBC working as an arm of Hamas propaganda. There was little or no attempt by the BBC to preserve journalistic ethics of independence and impartiality. This is in addition to the influence arab oil money that continues to subvert whole university departments and their professors.

When searching on the internet it is not easy to find information relating to the jewish refugees from arab lands. Search results come up mainly with references to the 'naqba', the self-inflicted disaster created when arabs living in Israel rejected the UN Partition Resolution to divide the country beetween jews and arabs on November 30th 1947 and immediately began their war against the jews (The next morning jews were taken off buses and killed in the Jaffa and coastal area, a pogrom happened in Jerusalem).

So are arabs really worried about the welfare of sepharadim, around a million of whom were expelled from arab countries? This interest in the welfare of jews is the sasme as that shown towards christians presently fleeing from Egypt, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the middle east.

I'm sure that the suffering of sepharadi newcomers to Israel was not imagined despite being reflected and magnified through the distorting lens of arab propaganda. But essential to understanding this suffering is to know about the context in which this suffering happened. And of course the suffering was directly linked to the ethnic cleansing of a million jews from arab countries. Of course the same thing is happening now to christians with barely a hoot of protest from the established churches (they are usually too busy attacking Israel and obsessing about gays to worry overly much about christians being accused and murdered because of their religion)

The government chronically occupied with security and the business of surviving economically into the next day meant that the reception of unending waves of newcomers often proceeded with little planning. Immigrants were thrown together higgledy piggeldy in all parts of the country and communities were often mixed. The living conditions were at first often atrocious with people needing to live in tents until more permanent accommodation could be built.

The suffering of sepharadim in the early years in Israel does not however mean that they were discriminated against. That they suffered greatly also does not necessarily point to this. Most of the population of Israel suffered greatly.

So there is need to understand the context firstly of a population of approximately 700,00 Israelis in a state that had just been founded having to absorb a million refugees from arab lands. Within a few short years Israel more than doubled its population. This was after having fought a brutal war in which 1% of the population had been killed (10% of the army died in 1948). No other country has ever faced this problem let alone deal with it. Western countries such as the UK have had strong reactions by their peoples to large influxes of immigrants, with extreme racism and even violence shown to those immigrants in the 1970's. The British National Front/BNP or the French Front Nationale come to mind. But the percentage influxes of immigrants to those countries were as nothing compared to what Israel dealt with successfully in 1948 until the early 1950's.

The Israeli economy burdened by a heavy defence commitment had to find shelter, food and accommodation for all these immigrants and at first there was no money available to build shelters and also employ the immigrants. Golda Meir recounts travelling to the USA to ask jews there to find the means to help the jews thrown out of arab lands. You will see from her writing that she cared for these people, tried her utmost to find the means to help absorb them, find them shelter and work. And those Israelis who were living in the country suffered rationing in order to feed the newcomers.
I'm sure it is possible to find stories of resentment and of rejection, Golda Meir's account sounds sincere.
Likewise personal stories recounted in Deborah Dayan's 'Pioneer' which I will also quote from paint a picture of the life of immigrants from someone who was involved in helping them as a sort of voluntary social worker.

There is a need to rebalance the accounts of discrimination made by those who suffered. They were so deep in the forest they were unable to see the bigger picture. Sepharadim suffered just as did ashkenazi immigrants recently arrived because of the fact that they left their countries penniless and were usually uneducated. The educated sepharadim and those with means, when thrown out of arab countries made their way to western countries, France, the USA and Britain.
The impoverished sepharadim arrived in a new country that they didn't always want to be in (with the exception of Yemenites), a country which had just fought against arabs intent on genocide. That war forced on Israel by local arabs who shot up the roads already from November 1947 whilst the British were still ruling the country became an invasion of five arab countries on 15th May 1948. The war was supported, armed and even led by the British who left Israel by one door and attempted to return to a country defeated by the armies of puppet arab governments.

And when the war ended arab terrorists made the whole country unsafe.

In his autobiography “Warrior” Ariel Sharon recounted that in the evening all life stopped. People barricaded themselves in their homes. Arab terror gangs ruled the night in the early years of the state and until 'unit 101' was formed Israel had no answer.

It must be remembered that the immigrants, sepharadim as well as holocaust survivors from europe were victims of an extremely difficult situation in the early years of the israeli state.

Arab propagandists still like to play up the supposed splits in Israeli society, most notably of the so-called 'Ashkenazi-sepharadi' split, with ashkenazim taking the role of the bogeyman. The BBC even managed recently to distort the awarding of a national singing competition to an arab woman as emblematic of the discrimination allegedly suffered by arabs. Upon this hook was hung the imagined sufferings of sepharadim at the hands of ashkenazim nowadays. The BBC will always manage to twist positive news about Israel into an example of Israel's nefariousness.
Of course if it ever was a real problem, the Ashkenazi-sepharadi division is a thing of the past. Intermarriage, education together in schools and universities as well as serving together in the army has relegated this problem to history.

That arabs still obsess over a supposed Ashkenazi-sepharadi division and derive pleasure from the thought of an Israel that will implode is not necessarily a bad thing. A distorted understanding of Israel by its enemies lessens their ability to harm it.

As I don't possess a working OCR scanner i'll need to type up the relevant extracts from the following two books over coming days/weeks:
  1. My Life – Golda Meir
  2. Pioneer – Deborah Dayan
If you are able to get them these books offer an excellent insight into the early development of Israel, of the trials and tribulations, of buying and settling the land in the face of a corrupt and murderous turkish administration, of the often good relations between jews and arabs living side by side in villages, but also of arab marauding, of grazing cattle in the fields of kibbutzim as a provocation (being repeated nowadays by Negev beduin in the south and also in the galilee), of how the country was developed out of virtually nothing in the face of great natural and man made adversity without reading the autobiographies of people such as Rabin, Begin and Allon.

I must admit not having a great interest in a problem I believe was more manufactured than real (I'm not saying that the perception of discrimination was not a potent factor in the election of the Likud in 1979 because it was) but if you have any interesting sources i'll be happy to read and review them.

To be Continued

Ethnically cleansed Iraqi jews waiting for transfer to a tent camp after arrival in Israel 1950


16th January 2013 - Were there forced adoptions of yemenite children in Israel?
Cathy Come Home - working class poor in Britain had their children taken away and sent to Australia to be used as free labour
A reader's comment included a Haaretz link but the article is behind a paywall so have not read the article linked below (I have no intention of helping the anti-zionist Haaretz newspaper with its financial problems. Haaretz recently had one of its columnists Daniel Leby take up the apartheid calumny, much to the delight of Israel's enemies. Haaretz with its disappearing Israeli readership (less than 5%) has a long record of publishing selective and distorted news about Israel and is understandably the paper of note only for foreign Ngos, the hard anti-zionist left in Israel and lazy foreign journalists happy to have their anti-Israel articles written for them).

The reader's comment was as follows:
I accept some of the premise on which you make this claim. Everybody suffered. But you overlook the removal of Yemenite children from parents who were told their children had died.
There is plenty of proof for that. Try starting from here. http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/facebook-campaign-seeks-to-keep-missing-yemenite-children-issue-alive.premium-1.493285
There is plenty more in the way of discrimination going on, but things are much, much better nowadays. Seeking to cover early Israel in glory is counterproductve to presenting an honest face to the Jewish State.
on Were sepharadim discriminated against in the early years of the State of Israel (part 1)?
The Haaretz article introduction says that only 69 yemenite children were unaccounted for after deaths had been traced. If that is the case then Israel has little possible case to answer. 69 adopted yemenite children will be covered by abuse, violence and simple inability to cope cases. Maybe i'm wrong, so if you have information beyond the 69 please email me it.

It is of course possible that when the general state of illiteracy was seen by social workers, and the sometimes shocking hygiene of some in communities which immigrated to Israel (read more about this in coming weeks) children may have been forcibly adopted. With such low numbers of forcible adoptions in contention, it is hard to take a position on such happenings, whether there was justification or not.

But when comparisons are made with other european countries of the time such as Britain and europe it is possible to gain a better perspective. For example Britain has had a long and sorry history of taking working-class children away from parents and having them adopted out, even sending them away to Australia after telling the children their parents had died.

(O..C - The British 1960's,Ken Loach dir.,classic film ) Cathy Come Home raises big questions like this, as well as the more specific, such as whatever became of the thousands of children the closing credits tell us wereremoved into state care as a result of their parents' homelessness

….... the case of 130,000 British children from working-classhomes, often falsely told their parents were dead, who were sent toAustralia....... they were sent to do forced labour at places such as Bindoon, in Western Australia, for organisations such as the Christian Brothers and St Bernados.
…...with 903 applications made by local authorities in January 2012, it is estimated that 10,500 children will be subject to care proceedings by the end of 2012, which indicates a trend towards the removal of children from their parents. A forced adoption culture and silencing of birth mothers has existed across some decades of the 20th century.

Sweden and Norway had a differentpolicy with regards to minority Sami People, Kven and gypsies, one ofextermination. The policy of forcibly aborting single parents and 'feeble minded' was carried on until the 1970's.
Sweden is only now giving in to pressure to end the forced sterilization of LGBT people, after a campaign in the European Parliament.
Sweden likewise only in recent times gave up its forced sterilization of gypsies and Sami women begun in the 1930's by eugenicists and doctors seeking to rid the 'pure' swedish gene pool of 'untermenschen'.
As far back as 1919 Herman Lundborg took his racist “People Types Exhibition” on tour in Sweden which became the foundation of the Institute of Race Biology (wikipedia writes: "Swedish racism was an important ideological precursor for the later Nazism").

These european countries with their racist eugenicist beliefs attempted either to wipe out 'impure' races or in Britain's case deport working-class children seen as lesser beings into effective slavery abroad when they were surplus to requirements in Britain.

A policy in Israel may or may not have been adopted that was misguided, and social workers may or may not have taken children without justification. But one needs to understand the that they were working in a different age, and were thinking that what they did was the best for the child's own future rather than as a result of any intention to discriminate against or harm sephardim. That attitude seems to be still adopted in the UK today.

Whilst every one of those 69 yemenite children are obviously an open wound to their parents, even if every one of them was a terrible mistake, it is as nothing to the untold misery being practised on children in supposedly enlightened european countries today. 

I wonder if you have ever heard of the Sami People? Did you know about the British deportations to Australia? And as a last thought, about the hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi children sold as slaves (sexual and otherwise) in India? Media is very selective, focusing and magnifying the least bit of truth about Israel and we who care about Israel need to be aware of it. That does not mean sweeping mistakes under the carpet, just having some sense of proportion that Israel although in so many respects a light to the world, needs to be given a little slack, needs some understanding even of its imperfections.

I will continue the series of articles on the ingathering of sephardim to Israel. Forgive me if I still see this as a glorious episode in Israel's history, a feat unmatched ever, anywhere in the world.


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