Anti-Arab riots in Israel and the Mizrahi question, 1948-67

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This article addresses anti-Arab riots that occurred in Israel during the “Little Israel” period − 1948–1967–and the discourse around them, both in the media and and behind the scenes. It sheds light on the tendency to emphasize the rioters’ Mizrahi descent and to attribute their violence to “Mizrahi culture” and “Mizrahi primitivism,” which dovetailed the broader array of stereotypes attached to Mizrahim: low education, a patriarchal culture and savagery. This allowed for ascribing violence to Mizrahim even when they were not involved in it and overlooking assailants’ ethnicity when Ashkenazim were behind violent attacks. This article claims that projecting anti-Arab violence on the Mizrahim while ignoring all forms of anti-Arab violence that were perpetrated by state agencies or by Ashkenazi Jews was intended to enable the Ashkenazi-Israeli old guard to maintain its own self-image as humanistic and the image of Israel as a democracy that upholds equality among its citizens. Moreover, the perception of anti-Arabness as part of the very definition of Mizrahiness was adopted not only by the Ashkenazi establishment but also by some Mizrahim themselves, to the point that it has become a part of the Israeli popular political imagery to this day.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)79-99
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Israeli History
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023


  • ethnic relations
  • Mizrahim
  • violence

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations


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