“What race is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?”
“What race is former President Barack Obama?”
“What race are German Jews?”
“What race is activist Ahed Tamimi?”
“What race is famous golfer Tiger Woods?”
“What race are Ethiopian Israelis?”
“What race is Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas?”
These are the taboo-filled questions being whispered in the white-on-white, exclusive halls of power throughout Israeli society and around the world. There is an obsessive-compulsive need to place human beings into racial, ethnic, religious, and national categories.
In Israel, some refer to people of black African descent as: “Kooshim” or “Schvarze” (darkie in Yiddish) or “Shekorim” (blacks) or “Kofim” (monkeys).
In the racially-divided United States, ever since Eldrick “Tiger” Woods’ remarkable first victory at the Masters golf tournament, social media has been abuzz while desperately searching for a racial label to impose on Tiger.
The fact that Tiger happens to be an incredible athlete is not enough. There exists a strong desire to racially categorize Tiger.
“Are you black or white?” “Are you Jewish or Arab?” “Are you Israeli or Palestinian?” “Are you religious (dati) or secular (chiloni)? Some people create false categories to strengthen their own personal sense of ego identity and fan the flames of conflict and war.
Spiritual thinker and bestselling author, Eckhart Tolle, writes in his book Stillness Speaks:
“Built into the very structure of the egoic self is a need to oppose, resist, and exclude to maintain the sense of separateness on which its continued survival depends. So there is “me” against the “other,” “us” against “them.” The ego needs to be in conflict with something or someone. That explains why you are looking for peace and joy and love but cannot tolerate them for very long. You say you want happiness but are addicted to your unhappiness. Your unhappiness ultimately arises not from the circumstances of your life but from the conditioning of your mind.”
Too often in Israel, people are labeled by their racial, ethnic, tribal, religious, or national identity.
There are myriad “socio-cultural identity clans” throughout Israel: “Ashkenazim”, “Sephardim”, “Parsim”, “Tehmanim”, “Mizrachim”, “Haredim”, “Chilonim”, “Hasidim,” “Lita’im”, “Ethiopim”, “Russim”, “Tzionim“, “Neturei Karta“, and the list of categories continues.
The social fabric of the state of Israel may rupture due to internal inter-ethnic conflict and socio-cultural fragmentation.
There is a leader and thinker in the United States named Ward Connerly who proposes creating a “colorblind” and “race-blind” and “ethnic-blind” world. Connerly, who was an official at the University of California system, wants to eliminate ethnic and racial labels completely.
Should the state of Israel become a “colorblind” society? Should Judaism become a “colorblind” religious tradition? Should Israel eliminate tribal and national labels such as “Jews” and “Arab” and “Druze”? Should Israel eliminate religious labels such as “religious” and “secular” and “Masorti”?
The vicious and unnecessary cycle of racism, extremism, and ultra-nationalism provokes fear, distrust, division, bloodshed, terror, and war. The recent protests by Ethiopian Israelis expose a racial wound and racial injury on the heart and soul of Israeli society.
It is foolhardy to reduce complex Israeli society to something as simplistic as racial categories and ethnic labels and religious divisions.
Every small child knows that “one should not judge a book by its cover.” Racial categories inevitably evaluate people based upon outward appearances. Israel’s racial and ethnic obsession “judges the book by its cover” by overly focusing on outward traits.
This is the fundamental injustice and danger to Israeli societal cohesion. It’s time for a new world order of race in Jerusalem. It’s time to end racism, religious hostility, national warfare, and hatred in the Promised Land.
Racial hostility, Ashkenazi supremacy, extreme nationalism, and tribal hatred must not shout down the merciful voices of the people. Let us create justice, mercy, fairness, and freedom in the Holy Land.
Barack Mandela, Esq, a licensed attorney, earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law which is the oldest law school on the West Coast of the United States. He was an international student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law.