Self-Hating White Supremacy in Israeli Media

by Loolwa Khazzoom • May 2, 2011 • Jewish Multicultural Corner

I turned on the Israeli news network, to see how the Israeli media was responding to Osama Bin Laden’s death. I didn’t see anything on Bin Laden, but I did see a video clip of news coverage from Holocaust Memorial Day. How’s this for irony: The anchorwoman was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, extra-super-deluxe white chick.

If the white face of Israeli media was an anomaly, I would let it slide. But it is typical. Like a heat-seeking missile, Israeli media seeks out the most Aryan looking Jews in the country, all, oh, 5% of them, then shoves them front-and-center —  explicitly or implicitly commanding the Israeli public to worship them.

Disheartening. Infuriating. Boring. Same old same old. Here o’Israel: The Nazis won. They may not have annihilated our people, but they have annihilated our collective mindset and our self-respect. So that we now impose the racist chokehold on our own damn children.

Six years ago, when I was living in Israel, I was writing for the biggest, baddest periodicals in the world. Through tireless efforts, I consistently got stories about the un- or under-represented Israelis into periodicals like Rolling Stone, Marie Claire, BBC News, The Boston Globe, you name it.

Given my track record, you might think it was easy. It was not. I had to fight tooth-and-nail for every damn story. All the media wanted to hear about was how Arabs and Jews were killing each other. If you wanted to sell a story about a man who raised tomatoes, you’d have to link it to Arabs and Jews killing each other. Which is a whole other issue, about how international media feeds or, dare I say, even creates the bloodshed in the region. But I digress.

One night in 2004, my editor at Seventeen – which already had published my story on a Sephardic girl in Israel — called and asked me if I could round up an awesome teenager to profile in the magazine. They were doing a feature on girls in war-torn regions. Immediately I got on the horn with my friend Alamu, a leader in the Ethiopian community, and asked him to get me the most badass Ethiopian community activist he could find. Within a couple of hours, I’d secured the perfect person for the story.

This girl not only was an activist but also a uniquely heart-centered, thoughtful individual who was, as they say, wise beyond her years. When a blatant case of racism rocked the Ethiopian community to its core, for example, a throng of Ethiopian youth wanted to vandalize the school where the incident had taken place. This girl single-handedly stopped the mob, asserting that if they were to indulge in violence, they would sink to the level of the racists; and that instead, they needed to lead constructive change through positive example.

Well, editors are notoriously fickle, and Seventeen eventually decided to go in a different direction with the story. When I was in New York a few months later, however, visiting my editor at ELLEgirl, I convinced her – get this – to create an entirely new page in the magazine, just to feature this girl. For those of you not hip to the behind-the-scenes world of media, editors (and therefore writers) are constricted by very rigid guidelines about exactly what kinds of stories go into exactly which sections. Everything is laid out formulaically. A story idea must fit that exact mold, or the story does not, under any circumstances, get published.

But I was hell-bent on getting this girl into a mainstream glossy magazine. It was high time for a black face – a young woman’s, at that – to represent the entire state of Israel. Not a “special interest group,” not a “poor little” minority group, but the entire damn country. To, oh, tens of millions of readers worldwide. (My articles regularly were published in multiple languages, through global reprints.)

“I know you don’t have a section for a story like this,” I started off the conversation, “BUT listen to how awesome this girl is.” Bam. Bam. Bam. I launched into bullet points of all the cool stuff this girl had done by such a young age. “Wow, you’re right!” my editor replied. “She is amazing!” My editor then stuck her own neck out, to pitch the editor-in-chief with the idea of creating a special page just to profile this girl. The editor-in-chief said yes. For those of you in media, you know how insanely rare that is.

So I wrote up the story, which was approved and slotted for a certain issue. The only thing that remained was for me to provide a photo of this girl.

Being that the girl was in the army at the time, and being that she clearly had not yet lived in Israel long enough to know that you cannot under any circumstances follow the rules of Israeli bureaucracy, lest you get your entire life screwed out of you, the girl advised me that I had to get permission from the army leadership before she could provide a photo.

The army leadership was infuriatingly slow in getting back to me. I left multiple urgent messages. I pleaded that the deadline was fast approaching and that the story would die if I did not get a “yes” from them pronto. I am sad to share they stalled and stalled and stalled, until the editor in chief said (understandably so) that she could not wait anymore – that they had to kill the story and replace it with another one, because the issue was about to go to press.

I was livid. Furious. I called the army representative and gave her an earful. Her response? Get this: “We have another girl you can profile, blonde, very beautiful, the magazines will love her…” “Are you fucking kidding me with this bullshit?!” I screeched. “I am not going to lift a pinky to profile a blonde girl. You are missing the entire point!”

Even from a completely utilitarian point of view (“Use us!” the Egyptian Jewish father of a friend used to say), the army representative was a moron. The axis of anti-Israel hatred on the Left, as I explained to the representative (she still didn’t get it) is that Israel is a white, European colonizing nation and therefore a racist, apartheid state. A picture, as they say, is worth 1,000 words. An image of a black woman in Israeli combat gear would have done, could have done, wonders for Israel’s public relations campaign, never mind the social justice coup.

But the army leadership blew it. Because Israelis are blinded by the very white supremacist bullshit that annihilated 6,000,000 of its own people. Israel now continues to erase its own Jewish self – not physically, but spiritually, through effectively putting on a pedestal that which is Aryan and spitting on that which is not.

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3 Responses to “Self-Hating White Supremacy in Israeli Media”

  1. David
    May 02, 2011

    Parts of this story are so reminiscent of growing up under segregation. Many years ago, I was among the first group of Black students to desegregate the school system in my home town. I played tennis and was good enough to challenge for the top spot on our team. When it was time for team photos, my coach gave me the wrong date on purpose, to maintain the Whites Only face of the school and erasing me from school tennis history.

  2. Michael Makovi
    May 03, 2011

    Interesting. Is this an Israel thing, or just a Tel-Aviv thing? Because the image I get generally – admittedly, I live in Jerusalem and don’t stray much outside right-wing circles – is that most of the country’s leftist Stockholm’s Syndrome emanates from Tel-Aviv.

  3. Eden
    May 04, 2011

    Fantastic perspective. As a champion of Palestinian rights it will only be a benefit to everyone to see Israelis as diverse and dynamic (rather than malicious and ignorant). The simplicity with which the mainstream media etc represents all issues is making us stupid– unable to see the beauty and complexity of the world.
    Thanks for covering this topic so boldly!

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Loolwa KhazzoomLoolwa Khazzoom has worked with leading media outlets, including The New York Times, CNN, Rolling Stone, and ABC News. In addition, she has published two books and has lectured at prestigious venues including Barnard Center for Research on Women, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Harvard University. Loolwa is passionate about health, music, dance, multiculturalism, and Judaism.

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Loolwa Khazzoom is a a public relations manager specializing in holistic media, holistic marketing, holistic public relations, and holistic promotions. Her services include branding and messaging development, image and communications management, website content development and optimization, social media management, traditional media campaign management, book development, and in-house writing and editing.

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