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University of California Berkeley and Beit Berl College: Professor Smadar Lavie makes sure Israel is accused of racism even if it ain't so

By Lee Kaplan. www.IsraCampus.org.il

Professor Smadar Lavie is an anthropology professor who describes herself as "an Arab Jew residing in Israel." Yes, she has invented the "Arab Jew," not to be confused with the Jewish refugee from Arab lands, the Mizrahi/Oriental Jew (which is a term she only uses if she is fulminating about alleged racism against Mizrahi Jewish women by the government of Israel). The Mizrahim are Jews whose ancestors fled Arab lands where Jews were literally murdered before and after the founding of Israel. Few people today know that Baghdad was once 40% Jewish, whereas today there are no Jews at all there.

The cultural differences between Mizrahim and Ahskenazim Jewry have pretty much disappeared over the last 60 years, especially among the highly-mobile and successful Iraqi Jews. Jews of all cultures co-mingle and intermarry today in Israel.

But demonstrably un-oppressed college professors, in this case the anthropologist Smadar Lavie, still try to build up reputations and fame for themselves by whining about how badly the Mizrahim, particularly women, are victimized by evil Israel. Their favorite nonsense word is "racism" (Mizrahim are hardly a "race."). Lavie's obsession about "Arab Jews" is a bit of an anomaly. For the Arabs, Jews are not Arabs and never were, except in propaganda designed to deny to Jews any right of self-determination. The Arabs are, in fact, the worst racists in the world and the worst oppressors of women, a little matter about which ultra-feminists like Lavie have little interest or concern. Like others of her ilk, she finds sinecures in the "Women's Studies Department" at colleges where lesbians always band together in support of the misogynist Arabs. Teaching a course in Transnational Feminism at the University of Virginia she purported that "Third World Feminist organizations" cure "the bankruptcy of their states." One supposes that letting lesbians rule the world would make it all peaceful for mankind.

Much of her research concerns the Bedouin community in Israel, but she classifies the Israeli Mizrahim as victims of the big bad Ashkenazim too. Of interest is the fact that Lavie's mother was Mizrahi, but her father was an Ashkenazi Jew! One has to wonder at the parental dynamics and if father issues played a part that made a woman who had a child with a man then converted to lesbianism (that certainly aided her career advancement) has an axe to grind. Her passion for writing about alleged victimhood of Mizrahi women (after all, men can't be victims, can they? They are just part of the oppression of women) and the Bedouin in Israel apparently came from a pleasant one-on-one experience she had with some Bedouin while doing some field research as a young woman. That she was treated nicely by some Bedouin hardly justifies her unrelenting attacks on Israel's Ashkenazi population that includes her own father.

A word about the Bedouin in Israel: they are given allotments by the government and as good Muslims can have up to four wives which can provide a nice revenue stream so many do not have to work as babies are churned out. The Bedouin have been repeatedly squatting on government lands that do not belong to them, but which they claim ancestral ownership and Israel's radical left like Smadar Lavie fall all over themselves to get them what they want. They are also given preference in Israeli universities. The reality is not the same as Lavie would have the world believe about the moral "bankruptcy" of the Jewish state.

Here's one example of how she thinks: Quoting Lavie on another feminist's work attacking Israel as a racist state: "This essay thus challenges the modes of textualization (sic) of the gendered ethnographic experience, and questions not only the older "reflexive" style of feminist ethnographies but also the new genres of feminist ethnography that call for, yet problematize (sic), the ethnographer's commitment to bear public witness to suffering (Colvin 2004; see Das et al. 2001; Desjarlais 2000; Ross 2003; Scheper-Huges 2004). It presents modes to dehegemonize (sic) the methodology and practice of anthropological fieldwork and ethnographic writing. It thus offers a means to undo the power relations inscribed in standard anthropological process of inquiry and to create accessible texts. These texts can be read both across disciplines and by the general public, linking academe, public sphere, and feminist activism. Nevertheless, writing up the somatic is intricately elusive, precisely because somatic pains cut to the bone. It is an arabesque; an attempt to capture unspeakable torture through the intricate recapitulation of the horrifically lived."

Her verbose language (funny how pseudo-academics always use verbose language to sound really, really smart) is saying that feminist ethnographies (her stock and trade) have to become the new way for anthropologists to "fight the power" and create texts that must be accepted across all academic disciplines. She claims this is elusive to do this because her feminist victims are leading such horrible existences and "torture" at the hands of Israeli and even western society (the Ashkenazim) to their very bodies that they cannot find the words to describe it. Others might say it's an excuse for the paucity of research to back up what she says.

Lavie spent time as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California - Davis, where she came to the attention of the local anti-Israel urchins after signing a petition for "Jewish Solidarity with Muslim and Arab Peoples of the Middle East." The petition is in fact a document of support for Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists, the Arab/Muslim organizations dedicated to destroying all of world Jewry.

Smadar Lavie lists on her curriculum vitae her long membership in the anarchist lesbian group, Black Laundry, founded by transgendered anarchist Dalit Baum, who leads the worldwide movement to boycott and starve the Jewish state. Baum once described Black Laundry's demonstrations in Tel Aviv as "great fun" and the catalyst from which she launched her Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions worldwide campaign. Lavie has also been active in the semi-communist "Democratic Rainbow," a group of far-leftist anti-Zionist Mizrahi and she founded Ahoti ("Sistah") a group that represents Mizrahi women that even objected to an all women's panel at Bar-Ilan University that dealt with women's issues as having too many "white" (Ashkenazi) women on the panel. She belongs to a clique in Rainbow that claims Anthropology professors in Israeli universities need to include more Mizrahi women solely due to their ethnicity. One wonders if she recuses herself because she is half-Ashkenazi. Nevertheless, she called for international intervention in the academic community in Anthropology News in the November 2006 issue because "In Israel, processes of change that require the dismantling of the Ashkenazi-Zionist domination and hegemony do not occur by themselves. Such processes prevail only when aided by outside pressure from the international community." The fact that she attributes the idea of Jewish self-determination and nationality as solely an Ashkenazic movement (one finds most Mizrahi Jews are ardent Zionists) shows Lavie's true agenda and dislike for the Jewish national homeland. Few Mizrahi women enter Lavie's field because culturally in their own families Mizrahi women are encouraged to pursue traditional women' s roles. Is Lavie trying to clone more Smadar Lavies where a true academic need doesn't exist?

Smadar Lavie was in the California media a few years back when she allegedly kidnapped her own child from shared custody with the father. She had earlier come to the United States to promote her "academic" career. The courts sided with the father on custody issues. Today she is back in Israel, although claims to keep her professorial affiliation with UC Berkeley. She also claims to be a professor at Beit Berl College in Israel. She was once active in the so-called Israeli Black Panthers, which later morphed into a communist front. Today, she advocates for the academic boycott of Israel, including of her own college.

Lavie was recently featured on the anti-Semitic blog "Mondoweiss" with regard to her new manuscript, "The Knafo Chronicles," which she apparently shopped to the University of Minnesota and an Irish university. It concerns the bimbo street protester Vicky Knafo, who led protests demanding a unilateral Israeli capitulation to the Hezb'Allah in southern Lebanon. Knafo later also made headlines for posing nude for an internet web site. Lavie's abstract reads thus:

"In summer 2003, Vicky Knafo marched 125 miles from her desolate development town to the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem to protest welfare cuts for Israel's single mothers. Single mothers from all parts of Israel joined her. Most of the mothers were Mizrahim—Jews with origins in the Arab and Muslim World. They constitute 50% of Israel's citizenry. But like the 20% Palestinian Israeli citizens, they are treated as a racinated (sic) minority by the ruling 30% Ashkenazim (European Jews of Yiddish-speaking origins (sic)."

That Vicky Knafo is Mizrahi has little to do with her supposed poverty. Lavie also tries to suggest that Arab-Israeli citizens (note she calls them "Palestinian Israeli citizens") are victims of evil Ashkenazi Zionists.

Anthropologists are supposed to research human behavior, so maybe Smadar Lavie needs to take a hard look at herself. She can best be described as a pseudo-intellectual whiner who attempts to pass herself off as an academic while spouting the rhetoric of the "dispossessed" Mizrahi who she also identifies with as "Arabs." If all else fails, she can fall back on her being an oppressed woman. A fascinating article by her in which she tells everyone academics like her should be able to go straight from graduation to tenure (no need to work then) instead of doing hard research, has her even attacking other feminists who have achieved this in her field of Anthropology because they are of Ashkenazi descent. She then attributes their success to "rich mommies and daddies" (unlike her half-Ashkenazi self) rather than their personal initiatives. Where departments in some Israeli colleges do have Mizrahi faculty, she whines they are men as further examples of oppression. Even when women are given extra stipends to help them prosper in the University system in her field, she then whines about their having to pay taxes as these Mizrahi "Arab" women have to contend with children being raised (cry us a river). At the end of the article she claims she could not get a job because she is an incompatible Mizrahi and is now a welfare mom. Of course, she doesn't mention the legal problems of her taking her son from his father and fleeing the country, her legal woes through the Israeli and American court systems that required her to return the kidnapped boy to his father, the real reason she returned to the land of what she considers racism against "Arab Jewish women." She claims she just came back to Israel for "family reasons" in the same article. Perhaps faculty reviewers were not sure she could be trusted to stay. She is so goofy and lacking in genuine scholarship that she could not get a job (understandable) so decided to attribute that to "academic apartheid" in the entire college system in Israel based on the ranks of a sample of only 27 anthropologists.

If Smadar Lavie considers this research, then by all means she should never hold any academic position!