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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Can the Ethiopian Change His Skin? The Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews) and Racial Discourse
Author:Kaplan, Steven
Periodical:African Affairs: The Journal of the Royal African Society
Geographic terms:Israel
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Religion and Witchcraft
Ethnic and Race Relations
Urbanization and Migration
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/723891
Abstract:The immigration to Israel of over 55,000 Beta Israel (Falasha) from Ethiopia since 1977 has produced a situation whose social implications extend well beyond the borders of a single State. The arrival of a 'black' African group in a predominantly 'white' country with virtually no previous experience with such a population is unusual in the second half of the 20th century. This article examines the Ethiopian encounter with Israeli society through the exploration of racial concepts. The exploration of the racial discourse about this specific population is used to demonstrate the way in which global and local racial categories exist side by side. The author shows that Ethiopian Jews have been characterized as 'black' to a (for them) unprecedented degree and have also been depicted as 'not black' in a number of subtle and significant ways. They vehemently reject being labelled as 'cushim', a term which is applied by them and other Israelis to Africans, African Americans and Ethiopian Christians. The author suggests that the situation of the Israeli Ethiopians as 'becoming white' is similar to the experience of the Irish, Italians and Jews in America. Notes, ref., sum.