Between Homeland and Exile: Iranian Jewry in Zionist/Israeli Political Thought

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6 Scopus citations


This article explores the contingent nature of Zionist/Israeli understandings of Iranian Jewry, a particularly important "Oriental " (Mizrahi) group that has not yet received the attention it deserves in critical scholarship. Central to the Zionist project has been a juxtaposition of the opposition between East and West, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, between Exile and Land of Israel. These oppositions can be read as extreme expressions of the desire to assimiliate the Jews into the Western narrative of enlightenment and redemption. When applied to Iranian Jews, however, these oppositions become replete with tensions and ambiguities. First I show how, during the first three decades of the state of Israel, Israelis situated the Shah's modernization programs as part of the "West ", thereby removing Iranian Jewry from an "exilic " space. I then explore how the 1979 Iranian revolution further challenged these axiomatic oppositions. Iranian Jews living in Israel posed a serious challenge to Zionism's axiomatic assumptions. Nurturing a distinct ethnic (Mizrahi) identity within the Jewish state, they resisted the majoritarian and homogenizing tendencies of Israeli hegemony and demonstrated the fractured nature of Jewish identities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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