“A British educated Iraqi Jew recently transplanted to Tel-Aviv, Shabi is well placed to catalogue the ongoing woes of Mizrahi Jews … Shabi’s book tugs the cultural map of Israel back towards a more accurate version of history, paying homage to the musical, literary, theatrical and academic traditions of Arab Jews … On the evidence of her own lively intelligence, Shabi will do the Mizrahi cause proud…’
Marina Benjamin, Evening Standard
“Rachel Shabi’s revealing examination of Mizrahi culture, and its dismissal by the Ashkenazi – or European – elite of Israel, is a timely reminder that the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict is as much about culture as it is about land … [Shabi’s] account of [the Mizrahi’s] vibrant culture is fascinating.”
Siona Jenkins, Financial Times
“… an eye-opening book … Not The Enemy is … a disturbing and important document, which should be read by everyone worried about what its author calls the “corrosive, entrenched polarity” of the Middle East.”
Gerald Jacobs, Daily Telegraph
In this remarkable, page-turning book, Rachel Shabi lays bare the painful division within Israeli society between Ashkenazi Jews, whose families come from Eastern Europe, and Sephardic or Mizrahi Jews, who come from the Arab countries of the Middle East. Herself from an Iraqi Jewish family, Shabi explores the history of this relationship, tracing it back to the first days of the new state of Israel. In a society desperate to identify itself with Europe, immigrants who spoke Arabic and followed Middle Eastern customs were seen as inferior; David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, famously described them as lacking the most elementary knowledge.Sixty years later, Mizrahis are still much less successful than Ashkenazis, condemned, often, to substandard education, low-quality housing and mockery for their accents, tastes and lifestyles. Through a combination of archival research and personal interviews, Shabi brings to light the prejudices that permeate Israeli society and demonstrates how they affect Mizrahi lives and hopes. Even more importantly, she argues that the treatment meted out to Mizrahis reflects a wider Israeli rejection of the Middle East and its culture, a rejection that makes it impossible for Israel ever to become integrated within its own region.