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Editorial Article

Mistress of the Oxymoron: New York University: Professor Ella Shabiba Shohat invents the “Arab-Jew”

By Lee Kaplan,

Meet Ella Shabiba Shohat, Professor of Cultural Studies and Women's Studies at New York University.

Shohat was born in Israel to a Jewish father from Bagdhad, but currently lives and teaches in New York.

Shohat has a pet obsession, creating something she calls the “Arab-Jew.” "I am an Arab- Jew. Or, more specifically, an Iraqi Israeli woman living, writing and teaching in the U.S…. To be a European or American Jew has hardly been perceived as a contradiction, but to be an Arab Jew has been seen as a kind of logical paradox, even an ontological subversion [leading to] a profound and visceral schizophrenia, since for the first time in our history Arabness and Jewishness have been imposed as antonyms…"

Now it goes without saying that very few Jews from Iraq call themselves “Arab-Jews,” while quite a few might punch you in the nose for calling them that.

Ms. Shohat could use a history lesson:

Israel’s “Mizrahi” or Sephardic Jews, know how Jews were treated under Islamic regimes. It was not pretty. In the1940s Jews in Iraq were subject to pogroms organized by the regime.  Shohat not only prettifies and romanticizes Jewish life under Islamic regimes, she recruits her status of “Arab-Jew” and promotes anti-Zionism and the end of a Jewish state. She writes articles frequently for the pseudo-scholastic Journal of Palestine Studies, a propaganda screed now put out by UC Berkeley with PLO and Saudi funding, edited by a former PLO official named Rashid Khalidi who now teaches at Columbia University. Khalidi is chair of a department there also funded by the PLO.

Oriental or Mizrahi Jews in Israel remember the “Farhoud” massacre of Jews in Baghdad in 1941. Baghdad was at one time 40% Jewish. Today there are no Jews to be found. The “Farhoud” and the Iraqi pro-Nazi terror regime of the 1940s conducted public executions of Jews, forced the entire Jewish population to flee. Most fled to Israel, along with hundreds of thousands of other Oriental Jews who escaped to Israel from Moslem countries as refugees, often with just the clothing on their backs.

Shohat has a very different take on history, complete with PC nonsense terms and post-modernist gibberish:

“War, however, is the friend of binarisms (sic), leaving little place for complex identities. The Gulf War, for example, intensified a pressure already familiar to the Arab-Jewish Diaspora in the wake of the Israeli-Arab conflict: a pressure to choose between being a Jew and being an Arab. For our families, who have lived in Mesopotamia since at least the Babylonian exile, who have been Arabized for millennia, and who were abruptly dislodged to Israel 45 years ago, to be suddenly forced to assume a homogenous European Jewish identity based on experiences in Russia, Poland and Germany, was an exercise in self- devastation. To be a European or American Jew has hardly been perceived as a contradiction, but to be an Arab-Jew has been seen as a kind of logical paradox, even an ontological subversion. This binarism has led many Oriental Jews (our name in Israel referring to our common Asian and African countries of origin is Mizrahi or Mizrachi) to a profound and visceral schizophrenia, since for the first time in our history Arabness and Jewishness have been imposed as antonyms.”

Actually, the Iraqi Jews living in Israel were too busy ducking the SCUDS fired at them by Saddam Hussein to worry about their “Arabness.”

Aside from such gobbledygook, Shohat once helped organize the so-called “Black Panthers” in Israel (not to be confused with the US Black Panthers other than as another Marxist oriented anti-American and anti-Israel militant group). These “Black Panthers” were Oriental Jews who claimed to be discriminated against by the Western Jews or Ashkenazim. Most eventually joined the communist party. Later Shohat became active in a far-leftist semi-communist group of Oriental Jewish academics (mainly Iraqi Jews), the so-called “Oriental Rainbow (or Keshet Mizrach), now largely defunct.

Since then, Shohat has been building her academic career by reciting the mantra that she and other Oriental Jews in Israel are “Arab-Jews.”  That terminology now appears commonly on anti-Zionist and Arab websites, and here and there in “academic” publications. It was used by that great admirer of Jews, the Saudi Foreign Minister Feisal al-Turki. He and Ms. Shohat insist that converting Israel into yet another Arab state will solve all the Middle East problems. The “Arab-Jews” will be allowed to breathe there, alongside other Arabs.

If that ever happens, Shohat will still be off safe and sound in New York, unconcerned with the persecution and mass murder her “ideas” produced.

According to Shohat, “Although I in no way want to idealize that experience--there were occasional tensions, discriminations, even violence--on the whole, we lived quite comfortably within Muslim societies.” Perhaps she also think dem darkies had a nice quiet life on the Georgia plantations?

In pre-Israel Iraq, Jews could not ride horses or camels so as to be taller than some Muslims and had to ride donkeys that they had to dismount when a Muslim passed by. No Jew could own a house taller than a Muslim’s. Jews paid the jizya tax in a humiliating ceremony in which the local official struck them on the head. They lived in ghettos.

Shohat continues, “Stripped of our history, we have been forced by our no-exit situation to repress our collective nostalgia, at least within the public sphere. The pervasive notion of ‘one people’ reunited in their ancient homeland actively disauthorizes (sic) any affectionate memory of life before Israel. We have never been allowed to mourn a trauma that the images of Iraq's destruction only intensified and crystallized for some of us. Our cultural creativity in Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic is hardly studied in Israeli schools, and it is becoming difficult to convince our children that we actually did exist there, and that some of us are still there in Iraq, Morocco, Yemen and Iran.” (click here for more “affectionate memories” of Jews in Iraq.)

Ah, but let us not forget that Shohat teaches “Women’s Studies.” Her feminism is forgotten though when it comes to celebrating and supporting Arab nationalism, which invariably is linked to misogynist repression. Here she is again:

We “…not only call for a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians, but also for the cultural, political, and economic integration of Israel/Palestine into the Middle East. And thus an end to the binarisms (sic) of war, an end to a simplistic charting of Middle Eastern identities.”

If Shohat would have her way, no pesky “binarisms” would be around any longer to disturb the peace of the Middle East, because Israel would be annihilated and its population exterminated.


Op-Ed articles appearing on are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinion of