Verslagen uit Spanje

De Amerikaanse journaliste Virginia Cowles, die in 1936 voor de Engelse Sunday Times naar Spanje vertrok om verslag te doen van de Spaanse Burgeroorlog, bekende later – in haar indrukwekkende oorlogsmemoires Looking for Trouble (1941) – niet in alle opzichten goed voorbereid te zijn geweest op haar werk als correspondente. Ze arriveerde in een door de Franco-troepen belegerd Madrid, in kleding volstrekt ongeschikt voor een oorlogssituatie. Strompelend op hakken en gekleed in rok bracht ze onder meer een bezoek aan republikeinse loopgraven. Ondanks de ernst van de situatie levert haar informatieve verslag van dat bezoek daardoor hilarische momenten op.

Madrid werd vanaf oktober 1936 continu belegerd door de nationalistische troepen van generaal Franco. Vrijwel dagelijks werd de stad beschoten door kanonnen en mortieren. Honderden gebouwen lagen in puin, duizenden bewoners waren de stad ontvlucht. De aanlevering van voedsel naar de stad was minimaal, een hongersnood stond op uitbreken.

Virginia Cowles

Correspondenten
Virginia Cowles boekte een kamer in Hotel Florida aan de Plaza de Callao in Madrid. Het was de plek waar de internationale oorlogscorrespondenten zich hadden verzameld om van daaruit verslag te doen van de belegering, Ze ontmoette er onder anderen Sefton Delmer van de Daily Express, Ernest Hemingway en Martha Gellhorn (de latere Mrs. Hemingway), die beiden schreven voor Collier’s Weekly en schrijver John Dos Passos. Oorlogsfotograaf Robert Capa verbleef er diverse malen, meestal in gezelschap van zijn vriendin Gerda Taro, de fotografe die later aan het front om het leven zou komen. De Nederlandse regisseur Joris Ivens was er met zijn cameraman John Fernhout om de film Spanish Earth te draaien.
Correspondenten Jay Allen van de Chicago Herald Tribune, Mikhail Koltsov (Pravda) en de journalisten Louis Fischer en George Steer waren frequente gasten van het hotel.

Toevluchtsoord
De eerste vraag die Cowles door haar collega’s werd gesteld was: heb je wat te eten meegenomen? In Hotel Florida was nauwelijks voedsel voorhanden. Hemingway maakte zich bij de anderen populair omdat hij er vaak in slaagde bacon, eieren, koffie en marmelade te regelen, bovendien was whisky en gin op zijn kamer ruim voorradig. De kamer van Hemingway was tijdens beschietingen van de stad, sowieso een toevluchtsoord voor de andere correspondenten: Hemingway had, zeer uitgekiend, de kamer genomen die net buiten het schootsveld van het geschut lag.
De correspondenten in Hotel Florida werkten onder moeilijke omstandigheden. Door de belegering was normaal werken vrijwel onmogelijk. Het verblijf in de stad en het reizen naar het front leverde voortdurend gevaren op. Bijna dagelijks was het een worsteling een telefoon of telegraafapparatuur te bemachtigen in het gebouw van de censoren van de republikeinse regering. Het contact met de censoren leverde ook nog eens talloze aanvaringen op, omdat niet ieder bericht wat het land uit zou gaan hun goedkeuring kon wegdragen.

Martha Gellhorn in Spanje

Anti-Franco
Voor de meeste correspondenten lag de sympathie duidelijk bij de republiek Spanje en niet bij de opstandelingen van Franco. Meer en meer raakten degenen die het beleg meemaakten overtuigd van de legitimatie van de strijd van de republiek.
Journalisten met een dergelijke opvatting, van wie juist verwacht werd dat zij een objectief verslag zouden leveren maar die toch blijk gaven van loyaliteit met de republikeinse zaak en dat in hun artikelen probeerden uit te drukken, kwamen daardoor soms in een lastige positie.
Gezien de anti-interventie politiek van Engeland, Frankrijk en de VS – de weigering van deze landen wapens te leveren aan de republiek – hielden veel krantenredacties er een behouden standpunt ten opzichte van het Spaanse conflict op na. Het kwam vaak voor dat artikelen die prorepubliek of anti-Franco waren, werden gewijzigd, of niet werden geplaatst. Zo waren de kranten van de conservatieve Amerikaanse persmagnaat Randolph Hearst fel tegen de republiek. Journalist Jay Allen werd door de Hearst-krant The Chicago Herald Tribune ontslagen, omdat hij in zijn artikelen te veel de kant van de republiek koos.
Soms ging de sympathie van correspondenten voor de republiek heel ver. Sommigen van hen, zoals Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, Louis Fischer, Jay Allen en George Steer, stelden zich min of meer in dienst van de republiek, soms voor hand- en spandiensten, soms voor wezenlijke zaken zoals wapenaankopen. Zij waren bijna partizanen in dienst van de republiek, constateert de Engelse historicus Paul Preston in zijn werk over oorlogscorrespondenten in Spanje.

Mikhail Koltsov (rechts) in gesprek met de anarchistische leider Durruti

Contrarevolutionair
Zo schreef de Russische schrijver en journalist Mikhail Koltsov in 1936 en 1937 vanuit Spanje een serie artikelen voor de Pravda, die hem in de Sovjet-Unie erg populair maakten. Voor zijn serie sprak hij onder anderen met de Spaanse president Azaña en met de anarchistische voormannen Durruti en Juan García Oliver. Er is veel gespeculeerd over Koltsovs werkelijke rol tijdens het Spaanse conflict, want hij functioneerde tevens als politiek adviseur voor de Spaanse regering en bleek in meerdere kringen invloed te kunnen uitoefenen. Vermoedelijk was hij een hoge ambtenaar bij de geheime dienst of luchtmacht van de Sovjet-Unie. Zijn wekelijkse telefoongesprekken met Stalin wijzen in die richting. Als beloning voor zijn werk in Spanje werd hij bij terugkeer in de Sovjet-Unie in 1938 benoemd tot lid van de Opperste Sovjet. Tijdens de golf van arrestaties van ‘contrarevolutionaire elementen’ werd hij echter nog datzelfde jaar gearresteerd en geëxecuteerd.

Louis Fischer

Wapenembargo
Ook de Amerikaanse journalist Louis Fischer van het tijdschrift The Nation, werd er van beschuldigd een Sovjetagent te zijn. Dat was hij echter niet, ook al woonde zijn gezin in Moskou. Fischer had aanvankelijk sterke sympathie voor het communisme en hij steunde de Spaanse republiek waar mogelijk. Hij had contacten met politici en diplomaten in Spanje, de VS en de Sovjet-Unie, was bevriend met de Spaanse president Azaña en de socialistische leider Largo Caballero. Hij sprak Russisch, Duits en Spaans en hij werd geroemd om zijn levendige en altijd zeer informatieve artikelen. Politici vertrouwden hem omdat hij altijd betrouwbare informatie wist te geven. In Spanje ging hij bijna wekelijks op bezoek bij de Spaanse premier Juan Negrín. Terwijl deze ’s ochtends in bad zat, zat Fischer op het toiletdeksel met een notitieblok en bespraken zij de situatie in Spanje en de wereld. Fischer was fel tegen het door de VS afgekondigde wapenembargo tegen Spanje. In zijn contacten met diplomaten en politici, waaronder Amerikaanse congresleden, maar ook met first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, probeerde hij – tevergeefs – de VS op andere gedachten te brengen.

Wapenaankopen
Verslaggever Jay Allen, volgens velen de best geïnformeerde journalist destijds, probeerde in diplomatenkringen zijn invloed aan te wenden om het wapenembargo op te heffen. Allen had in augustus 1936 naam gemaakt met een ijzingwekkend verslag over wat hij had aangetroffen in de arena van Badajoz, waar enige dagen daarvoor honderden mensen door de Franco-troepen waren geëxecuteerd. Bovendien maakte hij het laatste interview met de falangistische leider José Antonio Prima de Rivera, voordat deze werd geëxecuteerd. Jay Allen poogde tijdens de burgeroorlog in Londen wapens te kopen voor de republiek. In de jaren veertig zette hij zich aan een gedetailleerde geschiedschrijving van de Spaanse burgeroorlog, geassisteerd door de jonge Amerikaanse academicus Herbert Southworth en de latere historica Barbara Tuchman, een werk dat helaas nooit is voltooid.

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Riches To Rags To Virtual Riches: The Journey Of Jewish Arab Singers

Shoshana Gabay. Ills. Joseph Sassoon Semah

Some of the most revered musicians from the Arab world moved to Israel in the 1950s and 60s, where they became manual laborers and their art was lost within a generation. Now, with the advent of YouTube, their masterpieces are getting a new lease on life and new generations of Arab youth have come to appreciate their genius. Part one of a musical journey beginning in Israel’s Mizrahi neighborhoods of the 1950s and leading up to the Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf.

The birth of the Internet awakens our slumbering memory. Sometime in the 1950s and early 1960s, the best artists from the metropolises of the Levant landed on the barren soil of Israel, from: Cairo, Damascus, Marrakesh, Baghdad and Sana’a. Among them were musicians, composers and singers. It didn’t take them long to find themselves without their fancy clothing and on their way to hard physical work in fields and factories. At night they would return to their art to boost morale among the people of their community. Some of the scenes and sounds which at the time would not have been broadcast on the Israeli media have little by little, been uploaded to YouTube in recent years. Through the fall of the virtual wall between us and the Islamic states, we have been exposed to an abundance of footage of great Arab music by the best artists. This development has liberated us from the stranglehold and siege we have been under, allowing us to reconstruct some of the mosaic of our Mizrahi childhood, which has hardly been documented, if at all.

We should remember that in the new country, as power-hungry and culturally deprived as it was in the 1950s and 1960s, the impoverished housing in the slums of the Mizrahi immigrants was a place for extraordinary musical richness. The ugly, Soviet-style cubes emitted a very strong smell of diaspora. At night, the family parties turned the yards, with the wave of a magic wand, into something out of the Bollywood scenes we used to watch in the only movie theater in our neighborhood. On the table, popcorn and a few ‘Nesher‘ beers and juices. At a Yemenite celebration one would be served soup, pita bread, skhug and khat for chewing, and at that of the Iraqis,’ the tables would have kebabs and rice decorated with almonds and raisins. A string of yellow bulbs, as well as a beautiful rug someone had succeeded in bringing from the faraway diaspora, hung between two wooden poles. There were a couple of benches and tables borrowed from the synagogue, and sitting on the chairs, in an exhibit of magnificent play, were the best singers and musicians of the Arab world.

It is worthwhile to reflect upon those rare times, just before the second generation of Mizrahim began trying to dedicate itself to assimilating in the dominant culture. Those were the days when the gold of generations still rolled through the streets of the Mizrahi neighborhoods and through its synagogues. We should step back for a moment and allow ourselves to look at what we had, what was ours, and what ceased to be ours.

An example of the musical paradise in which we lived can be seen in a video recording from a little later – apparently from the early 1990s. At that time, Mizrahi musicians of all origins were already mingling at each other’s parties, which we see here in a clip of a Moroccan chaflah. The clip, uploaded by Mouise Koruchi, does not tell us where and when the event took place. The musicians in this clip are: Iraqi Victor Idda playing the qanun, Alber Elias playing the Ney flute, Egyptian Felix Mizrahi and Arab Salim Niddaf on violin. One of the astonishing singers is the young Mike Koruchi, tapping the duff and singing with a naturalness as if he never left Morocco, a naturalness that our own generation in Israel has lost. Indeed, it turns out that back then he used to visit Israeli frequently but did not actually live there.

Following him, we see some older members of the community appear on the stage: Mouise Koruchi sings ‘Samarah,’ composed by Egyptian singer Karem Mahmoud; after him comes Victor Al Maghribi, the wonderful soul singer also called Petit Salim (after the great Algerian singer Salim Halali); Mordechai Timsit sings and plays the oud; and Petit Armo (father of the famous Israeli singer Kobi Peretz) rounds out the team. This performance could easily be included in the best festivals in the Arab and Western world, complete with Al Maghribi’s beautiful clothes and the rug at the foot of the stage.
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Riches To Rags To Virtual Riches: When Mizrahi Artists Said ‘No’ To Israel’s Pioneer Culture

Shoshana Gabay. Ills. Joseph Sassoon Semah

Upon their arrival in Israel, Mizrahi Jews found themselves under a regime that demanded obedience, even in cultural matters. All were required to conform to an idealized pioneer figure who sang classical, militaristic ‘Hebrew’ songs. That is, before the ‘Kasetot’ era propelled Mizrahi artists into the spotlight, paving the way for today’s musical stars. Part two of a musical journey beginning in Israel’s Mizrahi neighborhoods of the 1950s and leading up to Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf.  Read part one here.

Our early encounter with Zionist music takes place in kindergarten, then later in schools and the youth movements, usually with an accordionist in tow playing songs worn and weathered by the dry desert winds. Music teachers at school never bothered with classical music, neither Western nor Arabian, and traditional Ashkenazi liturgies – let alone Sephardic – were not even taken into account. The early pioneer music was hard to stomach, and not only because it didn’t belong to our generation and wasn’t part of our heritage. More specifically, we were gagging on something shoved obsessively down our throat by political authority.

Our “founding fathers” and their children never spared us any candid detail regarding the bodily reaction they experience when hearing the music brought here by our fathers, and the music we created here. But not much was said regarding the thoughts and feelings of Mizrahi immigrants (nor about their children who were born into it) who came here and heard what passed as Israeli music, nor about their children who were born into it. Had there been a more serious reckoning from our Mizrahi perspective, as well as the perspective of Palestinians, mainstream Israeli culture might have been less provincial, obtuse and mediocre than what it is today.

Israeli radio stations in the 60s and 70s played songs by military bands, or other similar bands such as Green Onion or The Roosters. There were settler songs such as “Eucalyptus Orchard” with its veiled belligerence, and other introverted war songs, monotonous and stale, inspiring depressive detachment. For example, take “He Knew Not Her Name,” sung here by casual soldiers driving in a jeep through ruins of an Arab village, or the pompous “Tranquility.” When these songs burst out in joy, as is the case with “Carnaval BaNahal,” it comes out loud and vulgar. “The Unknown Squad,” composed by Moshe Vilensky, written by Yechiel Mohar and performed by the Nahal Band in 1958, always reminded me of the terrifying military march music I used to hear on Arab radio stations as a child. As far as the Arabs were concerned, these tunes represented trivial propaganda, not the cultural mainstream. However, in Israel, the Nahal Band was lauded as the country’s finest for more than two decades. Thanks to YouTube, we can now revisit the footage and see them marching, eyes livid and intimidating, faces blank.

Shoshana Damari’s voice, which was supposed to cushion our shocking encounter with this music, only made it worse. Every time her voice would boom out on early 70s public television my father would stretch an ironic smile under his thin Iraqi mustache and let out an expressive, “ma kara?” (“what’s the big deal?”), in sardonic astonishment of the wartime-chanteuse’s bombastic pomp.

It’s not hard to understand why revolutionary Zionists would have their hearts set on a patriotic military musical taste, complete with marching music and Eastern European farming songs fitted for a newfound belligerent lifestyle. But this dominating attitude would prove shocking to Mizrahi Jews, and the musicians among them, who took an active role in the greater Arab music scene (for more on the topic read part one of this series). These musicians were accustomed to the cultural freedoms they enjoyed in the cosmopolitan atmospheres of Marrakesh, Cairo and Baghdad before the military coups. And contrary to popular belief, our ancestors carried no sickles or swords. From Sana’a jewelers to Iraqi clerks under British rule, Persian rug merchants and Marrakesh textile merchants, the majority of Mizrahi Jews lived in urban areas.

In Israel, Mizrahi Jews found a political rule that penetrated all aspects of civilian life, controlling and demanding full obedience even in matters like culture and music. Everyone had to conform to the idealized Sabra figure who sang “Hebrew” music – as in, Eastern European music with Mizrahi touches, celebrating the earth-tilling farmer and the hero soldier. The Broadcasting Authority’s Arab Orchestra, where only an small portion of the musicians were employed and paid meagerly, was established for the sole purpose of broadcasting propaganda to Arab audiences, never with a thought toward domestic consumption.

Patriotic songs that tried going Mizrahi weren’t of any greater appeal. We didn’t get what was so mizrahi about their monotonous drone. On rare occasions, a moving song like “Yafe Nof” slipped through. Written by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi and composed by the talented Yinon Ne’eman, a student of songwriter Sarah Levi Tanai, the song plays like an ancient Ladino tune, sung in Nechama Hendel’s beautiful, ringing voice. The delightful Hendel, who had also been shunned by the cultural establishment for a time, sings the magical Yiddish tune “El HaTsipor” (To the Bird), a diasporic soul tune that occasionally snuck its way on to the radio. At the time, I thought this song seemed more adequate in relation to the sorrows of Ashkenazi Holocaust survivors living in my neighborhood than what “Shualey Shimshon” (Samson’s Foxes) had to offer.

There were exceptions, such as Yosef Hadar’s timeless “Graceful Apple” and the internationally acclaimed “Evening of Roses.” Most of the several-dozen versions of this song circulating on the net were not posted by Israelis or Jews, but rather by music lovers in general.

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Paul Simon en de Lage Landen

Het songwriters-duo Boudewijn de Groot-en-Lennaert Nijgh wordt wel beschouwd als de Nederlandse Lennon-and-McCartney. En niet geheel ten onrechte, want alleen al hun album Picknick (1967) is op een aantal punten te zien als de Nederpop-tegenhanger van Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band uit 1967: het nummer Picknick is, net als de eerste track van Sgt. Pepper, progammatisch voor het hele album, Mensen om me heen is qua thema het equivalent van With a little help from my friends, Cinderella is de Nederlandse Lucy in the sky with diamonds, de jaren dertig sound van When I’m sixty four keert terug in de Ballade voor de vriendinnen van één nacht, in de Ballade van wat beter is klinkt Getting better door en de orchestrale climax van A day in the life weerklinkt in het slotakkoord van Megaton. Om maar een paar voorbeelden te noemen.
Het tweetal is ook de Nederlandse Bob Dylan genoemd, niet alleen omdat het een vertaling van The times they are a-changing opnam – Er komen andere tijden stond al op de lp Boudewijn de Groot (1965) -, maar ook, of vooral, omdat die titel hun motto werd, in ieder geval tijdens wat – overigens onder protest van Boudewijn de Groot – als hun protestsong- periode wordt gezien. Op Voor de overlevenden (1966), bijvoorbeeld, staat in Ze zijn niet meer als toen (de tekst is van Boudewijn zelf):

Er is gezegd: er komen andere tijden.
Er is gevochten voor een nieuw fatsoen.
Er is niet geluisterd naar wat anderen zeiden,
ik heb geen zin het nog eens over te doen.

Merkwaardig genoeg zijn Boudewijn de Groot en Lennaert Nijgh zelden vergeleken met Paul Simon, terwijl daar wel reden voor is. Al op hun eerste album stond Nijghs vertaling van The Sound of silence: Het geluid van de stilte. Overigens een abominabele vertaling van iemand die in diezelfde periode met Liefde van later een perfecte vertaling van Jacques Brels Chanson des vieux amants zou maken.

Toen Boudewijn de Groot, na de dood van zijn tekstleverancier in 2002, vaker zelf de pen ter hand nam, dook Paul Simon op in enkele van zijn teksten. Hij verzamelde en becommentarieerde die in de bundeling Hoogtevrees in Babylon. Alle eigen teksten van 1963 t/m 2006 (Baarn, 2007). Het nummer Hoogtevrees op het album Van een afstand (1980) ‘beschrijft een droom die zo duidelijk was en me ’s morgens nog zo helder en compleet voor de geest stond, dat de tekst er een letterlijke weergave van is. (..) Ik hoefde alleen maar uit bed te komen, te gaan zitten met pen en papier en de woorden kwamen vanzelf, compleet met rijm.’
In het eerste couplet dicht hij

Ik werd vergeleken met de groten der aarde,
ze zeiden ook dat het op Paul Simon leek.
Eerst was ik verrast toen begon het te hinderen,
maar niemand nam aanstoot,
hoe kwaad ik ook keek.

En in Hoogtevrees in Babylon op de cd Lage landen (2007) vinden we een terugverwijzing daarnaar in dit citaat

Paul Simon was degene
die vroeg waar ik mee bezig was
hij gaf me een paar stenen
en ging liggen in het gras
hij zei: wordt dit de hoogste toren
ooit door mensenhand gemaakt
dan weet je van tevoren
dat je wordt afgekraakt

hooggegrepen zinnen
theatrale melodie
het lijkt heel wat daarbinnen
maar blijkt een parodie
achttien trage kraaien
vlogen cirkels boven ons hoofd
je moet de leugen niet verdraaien
of je wordt niet meer geloofd

en

ik metselde mijn muren
duizend stenen in het rond
het kon niet lang meer duren
tot ik in de wolken stond
mijn moeder kon ik niet meer horen
Paul Simon schudde ‘t hoofd
ik dacht: je moet je niet laten storen
door wie niet in je gelooft

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Chomsky: We Must Not Let Masters Of Capital Define The Post-COVID World

Noam Chomsky

The global outbreak of COVID-19 has many thinking that a new economic and political order is inevitably under way. But is that so? In the U.S., the moneyed class, which has thrived under Donald Trump, won’t go down without pulling all stops to make sure that popular pressures for radical reforms will be blocked, says world-renowned public intellectual Noam Chomsky. Chomsky also reminds us that overt racism has intensified under Trump, and that police violence is a symptom of the underlying white supremacy that plagues U.S. society. Meanwhile, Trump’s anti-environmental policies and his trashing of arms control treaties are bringing the world ever closer to an environmental and nuclear holocaust.

C.J. Polychroniou: It’s been argued by many, from various quarters, that COVID-19 has been a game changer. Do you concur with this view, or are we talking of a temporary situation, with a return to the “business as usual” approach being the most likely scenario once this health crisis is over?

Noam Chomsky: There is no way to predict. Those who have primary responsibility for the multiple crises that imperil us today are hard at work, relentlessly, to ensure that the system they created, and from which they have greatly benefited, will endure — and in an even harsher form, with more intense surveillance and other means of coercion and control. Popular forces are mobilizing to counter these malign developments. They seek to dismantle the destructive policies that have led us to this uniquely perilous moment of human history, and to move toward a world system that gives priority to human rights and needs, not the prerogatives of concentrated capital.

We should take a few moments to clarify to ourselves the stakes in the bitter class war that is taking shape as the post-pandemic world is being forged. The stakes are immense. All are rooted in the suicidal logic of unregulated capitalism, and at a deeper level in its very nature, all becoming more apparent during the neoliberal plague of the past 40 years. The crises have been exacerbated by malignancies that have surfaced as these destructive tendencies took their course. The most ominous are appearing in the most powerful state in human history — not a good omen for a world in crisis.

The stakes were spelled out in the setting of the Doomsday Clock last January. Each year of Trump’s presidency, the minute hand has been moved closer to midnight. Two years ago, it reached the closest it has been since the Clock was first set after the atomic bombings. This past January, the analysts abandoned minutes altogether and moved to seconds: 100 seconds to midnight. They reiterated the prime concerns: nuclear war, environmental destruction and deterioration of democracy, the last of these because the only hope of dealing with the two existential crises is vibrant democracy in which an informed population is directly engaged in determining the fate of the world.

Since January, Trump has escalated each of these threats to survival. He has continued his project of dismantling the arms control regime that has provided some protection against nuclear disaster. So far this year, he has terminated the Open Skies Treaty, proposed by Eisenhower, and imposed frivolous conditions to block the re-negotiation of New Start, the last pillar of the system. He is now considering ending the moratorium on nuclear tests, “an invitation for other nuclear-armed countries to follow suit,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

The military industry can scarcely control its euphoria over the flood of gifts from the public to develop new weapons to destroy us all, encouraging adversaries to do likewise so that down the road, new grants will flow to try to counter the new threats to survival. A hopeless task, as virtually every specialist knows, but that is not pertinent; what matters is that public largesse should flow into the right pockets.

Trump also has continued his dedicated campaign to destroy the environment that sustains human life. His FY 2020 budget proposal, issued while the pandemic was raging, called for further defunding of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health-related components for government, compensated by increased support for the fossil fuel industries that are destroying the prospects for survival. And, as usual, more funding for the military and for the [border] wall that is a central part of his electoral strategy. The corporate leaders Trump has installed to supervise environmental destruction are quietly eliminating regulations that somewhat constrain the damage and that protect the population from poisoning water supplies and the air they breathe. The latter reveals sharply the malevolence of the Trump phenomenon. In the midst of an unprecedented respiratory pandemic, Trump’s minions are seeking to increase air pollution, which makes COVID-19 more deadly, endangering tens of thousands of Americans. But it doesn’t much matter. Most have no choice but to live near the polluting plants — [those] who are poor and Black, and who vote the “wrong” way.

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Daniel Klein ~ The Status And Participation Of ‘Mizrahim’ In Israeli Society

Immediately prior to Israeli independence in May 1948, Jews of non-Ashkenazi origin made up only twenty-three-percent of the 630,000-strong Yishuv. Between 1948 and 1981 757,000 Jews immigrated to Israel from African and Asian countries, 648,000 of these before 1964, and the majority in the first few years of the state’s existence. This initial mass-immigration wave alone transformed the non-Ashkenazi segment of the population from a minority, mostly well-rooted Sephardi community, concentrated especially in Jerusalem, to a highly diversified, mostly first-generation-immigrant grouping that made up a slim majority of all Jews in Eretz Israel. Ben-Gurion referred to these uprooted individuals, who had permanently fled the hostile environment in their home countries, as “human dust” out of which it was the state’s duty to form “a civilised, independent nation”, reflecting the bureaucratic, modernist, and even authoritarian ethos of early Israeli elites.

The term ‘Mizrahi’ (‘Eastern’) first developed among Ashkenazim as a general descriptor for the non-European ‘edot (communities), owing to the perceived cultural similarity between them, and their lack of overarching, geographically-extended identifiers such as that shared by Ashkenazim. However, we shall see that, in consequence of their shared experience in the new country, a genuinely ‘Mizrahi’-identified bloc emerged in the decades following the great immigration wave, the founding event of this new syncretic ethnic-group. This is the first period I will discuss. The second begins by the 1980s and is characterised by the development of an ‘Israeli-Jewish’ ethnic-group, out of two consolidated (Ashkenazi and Mizrahi) blocs. I will argue that despite confronting harsh challenges in the first period, it is clear today that Mizrahim have affected a substantial long-term reshaping of Israeli society, whilst simultaneously maintaining its core values and stability, thus demonstrating the massive extent of their solidarity and cooperation with fellow Israelis.

The complete paper on academia.eduhttps://www.academia.edu/The_Status

 

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