Article: Israeli Jews from Muslim Countries: Immigrant Associations and Civic Leverage
Author: Paula Kabalo
This article sheds light on the salient and far-reaching pattern of association-forming among Jewish immigrants from Muslim countries in Israel during the 1950s and 1960s. They were formally established associations that operated by means of representatives and spokespersons and strove to mediate between the population group that they represented and the state authorities that dealt with immigration and its integration. Interestingly, although few of the members or leaders of these entities have lived under democratic regimes, they established organizations that operated on the basis of democratic principles: election of representatives, holding members’ assemblies, and freedom of expression. They articulated their positions publicly and openly and were not deterred from criticizing policymakers, even those in the highest of echelons.
The extent of the phenomenon challenges the conventional image in research on immigration to Israel from the Islamic countries—that of a passive, dependent population that has no voice of its own. Additionally, it suggests that the volunteer organizations’ pressure and contacts with the authorities paid off and influenced policymakers’ agendas—leading to an additional assumption that immigrant absorption policy was crafted via exchange and interaction and not solely in a “top-down” manner.