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.
© 2020 by Theoretical Inquiries in Law