Participatory destigmatization strategies among Palestinian citizens, Ethiopian Jews and Mizrahi Jews in Israel
As a body of literature, the research on race and racism, together with nationalism and ethnicity, has been fragmented along disciplinary, substantive as well as regional lines (Brubaker 2009). The present study attempts to avoid this pitfall by examining these concepts in one sociopolitical context, that of the Israeli nation-state. By exploring
how ordinary people belonging to three minority groups Arabs, Ethiopian Jews and Mizrahi Jews articulate their daily responses to stigmatization and exclusion, we show that the use of these notions is moulded by a powerful state ideology and social structure. (We view state ideology as part of the collective narrative used in daily sensemaking to shape and reshape people’s moral experience; see Kleinman and Hall-Clifford 2009.) Within the Israeli academic and public discourse, the three selected groups are perceived as variously stigmatized. What we show in this paper is that working-class members of Israeli
society differentially apply notions of nationality, race and ethnicity as rhetorical markers of social inclusion/exclusion. In the Israeli case, nationality is the primary key to participation in various social domains. Whereas phenotypical and ethnic markers are highly meaningful within the Jewish segment of society regarding the Ethiopians and the Mizrahim, they are eclipsed by Jewishness as the key to firstclass citizenship. Jewishness functions as the primary sociopolitical marker dividing Arabs and Jews. Yet, it is nationality that creates the crucial symbolic and social boundaries separating communities in many spheres of social participation (e.g. education, residence, marriage and the family, language and naming). The paper describes how working-class members of these three groups employ the available cultural repertoires to make sense of their situations and form effective destigmatization strategies while retaining their dignity. As a prelude to the analysis, we provide brief descriptions of the three groups studied.