Hashishophobia and the Jewish Ethnic Question in Mandatory Palestine and the State of Israel

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By drawing on crime fiction, press commentaries and archival records, this article explores Jewish public discourse about hashish in Mandatory Palestine and the first two decades of the State of Israel. Fearing over-assimilation into the Levant, Jews in interwar Palestine shunned the drug, considering it a form of ‘backwardness’ linked to the realities of living among Arabs in the Middle East. Colonial knowledge about hashish (as well as Orientalist fantasies) validated these fears, appearing to confirm that hashish was an Oriental substance that animated the pathologies inhering in Arab mentalities. This knowledge survived the transition to the Israeli state by responding to new realities: the expulsion and flight of the Arab population and the country’s repopulation by Jews from the Muslim world (Mizrahim). Some of these Jews had used hashish in their countries of origin and brought the habit with them to Israel. Others began to smoke hashish in Israel due to their socio-ethnic marginalization. Although hashish smoking in Israel in the 1950s and much of the 1960s remained limited to a few thousand members of the Mizrahi underclass, it rekindled middle-class fears of Levantinization-cum-Arabicization of the Jewish state. It also assisted in further marginalizing Mizrahim in Israeli society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)832-848
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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