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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter September 18, 2020

Disentangling Displacements: Historical Justice for Mizrahim and Palestinians in Israel

  • Itamar Mann


Israel’s discursive strategy for legitimizing the displacement of Palestinians in 1948 involved describing it as part of a regional “population exchange.” This argument contributed to three critical characteristics of Israeli citizenship. First, it solidified an understanding of citizenship as a negation of persecution and a haven for would-be Jewish refugees. Second, it tied Mizrahi claims against states across the Middle East to Palestinian claims against Israel. Israel thus exploited Mizrahi refugee rights for its geostrategic interests—a fight against the claims of Palestinian refugees. This had detrimental material consequences for both groups. Third, this strategy contributed to the construction of Palestinians as an “exchangeable remainder” and a demographic threat that could potentially pose a risk to the Jewish majority. Ultimately, Israel irrevocably entangled the displacement histories of three groups: Ashkenazi Jews, Mizrahi Jews, and Arab Palestinians. This Gordian knot remains with us today, and is reflected in a stratified Israeli society. But the vision that this symposium suggests we consider, that of “historical justice,” demands that it be undone. This Article therefore offers a way in which the refugee histories could perhaps one day be disentangled: a program of reparations for the Mizrahi and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

* Itamar Mann is a senior lecturer at the University of Haifa, Faculty of Law, and a principal investigator at the Minerva Center for the Rule of Law in Extreme Conditions. I presented an early draft that led to this article at Yale Law School’s Middle Eastern Legal Studies Seminar (Lisbon, January 2018), and benefited from excellent comments by Kristine Beckerle and many of the group members. Following the seminar, Prof. Yitzhak Benbaji kindly invited me to develop the article for the conference Prof. Helen Frowe and he organized at Tel Aviv University, Historical Justice in the Context of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (May 2019). I thank the organizers for including me, Prof. Daniel Statman for a set of critical remarks, and the participants, whose comments and interventions I learned from. I also presented a draft at the Minerva Center for the Rule of Law in Extreme Conditions (The University of Haifa, April 2020), and benefited from illuminating comments by Bana Shoughry and the team or researchers there. I would like to thank Alexandre (Sandy) Kedar, Kenneth Mann, Tom Mehager, Ilan Saban, Lihi Yona, and Raef Zreik for helpful informal and friendly conversations; Muhammad Abbabsi, Wessam Sharaf, and Netta Tauber for their fantastic research assistance; and the Theoretical Inquiries in Law anonymous reviewer and team of student editors, led by Alon Jasper, for their diligent and insightful assistance. Any mistakes are mine alone. Cite as: Itamar Mann, Disentangling Displacements: Historical Justice for Mizrahim and Palestinians in Israel, 21 Theoretical Inquiries L. 427 (2020).

Published Online: 2020-09-18
Published in Print: 2020-07-28

© 2020 by Theoretical Inquiries in Law

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