Tikkun Winter 2019 (34.1) - Page 129

Image below: Lavie reminds us that the foundation for Israel’s bureaucracy was an Ashkenazi racial formation. nor for an aspirational horizon of cross-racial coalitions of resistance, nor to map potential transnational lines of solidarity. Rather, Lavie is interested in revealing the somatically-ex- perienced predicaments of everyday intimate interactions with a state that radically delimits the capacity for poor Mizrahi women to per- form and sustain agency. Mizrahim are approximately 50% of the Israeli population, while Ashkenazim are about 30% and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are about 20%. Yet, as Lavie argues, Mizrahim are a “majoritarian group that cannot exercise majoritarian rights.” Political Zionism has historically limted ac- cess to the polity for non-Jews and has prioritized Ashkenazi Jews and their experiences and needs. The state increasingly displays Mizrahi and other non-Ashkenazi forms of cultural difference (such as Yaso’s performance) without attaching them to a policy of redistribution; such limited modes of multicultural- ism are plainly unable to curtail either the state’s propensity for sovereign vio- lence or the routinized suffering enacted by its bureaucracy. The state reproduces a form of institutionalized racism that serves, through serpentine processes of what Lavie provoca- tively terms “bureaucratic torture,” to obligate those it stigmatizes to nevertheless embrace its nationalist presentiments. Witness, for instance, how the Druze are obligated to serve in the IDF even as they are treated like second- class citizens, a stigma now codified in the new Nation-State law. Lavie reminds us that the foundation for Israel’s bureaucracy was an Ashkenazi ra- cial formation. Until 1977, with Menachim Begin’s election, the bureaucratic structures of the state were generally maintained by Ashkenazi elites. “Still today,” Lavie argues, VOL. 34, NO. 1 “disenfranchisement, poverty, Arab phenotype, Arabic accent, and Arab name discrimination are still integral to the lives of Mizrahi women.” Yet, as the second edition’s afterword elabo- rates further, with the specter of war haunting everyday life, poor Mizrahi women can’t help but to embrace a nationalist project that repro- duces their political marginality. “In striving to prove themselves to be just as Israeli as the Ashkenazi elite,” writes Lavie, “many Mizrahi are the staunchest supporters of Israeli ultra- nationalism and, by extension, all of Israel’s wars against its neighboring Arab states and Palestinians— from the 1948 Nakba to Gaza 2014.” Wrapped in the Flag of Israel is a rigorous refusal of those desires common on the Euro- American Left to see agency as integral to the life activ- ity of those, like Mizrahi single mothers, who sit at the vertex of intersecting oppressions. Rather, “the mothers’ totalistic love for the state of Israel nullified the agency im- manent in that act of identity politics.” In the bureaucratic functioning of a state that conceives of its citizens through the frame of “chosen people, chosen land,” and that dis- penses its minimal social safety net through a “divinity of chance,” Mizrahi single mothers are locked out of any substantive agential politics capable of articulating dissent. Lavie calls this the work of “GendeRace,” “the calcified amal- gamation of gender and race that, in the case of Israel, have become foundational classifica- tions.” GendeRace “petrifies the amalgamation of ‘the intersection.’” Mizrahi protests, like the Single Mothers’ March in 2003 led by Vicki Knafo, raise the visibility of anti-Mizrahi rac- ism and its links to neoliberal capitalism and settler violence before being squelched by a © 2019 TIKKUN MAGAZINE 129