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 solidifed 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 fght 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 stratifed 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.

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