Julianne Zala ’17

Project TitleThe Intersections of Queerness and the Arab Jew
Mentor – Michal Raizen

The term Arab Jew (also referred to as Mizrahim) is extremely fraught, because they seem to have two contrasting identities. This group is not Arab or Jewish. They are not accepted by Palestinians, Arabs, or Israelis. Mizrahim are caught between two identities. In addition, not all Arab Jews want to define as such. Instead, some Arab Jews identify as either Arab or Jewish. I am using queer as an umbrella term for the LGBTIQA+ community. My project specifically looks at the intersections of these identities and the stories that exist in this community. Mizrahim are a heterogeneous group with different political affiliations, geographic locations, and migration experiences. I plan to cover some of these experiences in my presentation.

Perhaps, it is surprising to learn that these two populations lived harmoniously before the 1948 Israel-Palestine conflict. In fact, Jews and Arabs lived together in many regions of the world, but I will be using Al-Andulus and Iraq as case studies. This story does not get told often. In other words, mainstream media perpetuates stereotypes surrounding Arab Jews and people who identify as queer.

In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where do queer Arab-Jews fit?  First, what is an Arab-Jew? How do we categorize where these people fit into Israeli society? Should we strive for a static definition of this population of Israel?

These are just some of the questions I plan to answer during my presentation. I will consider the intersections of being queer while identifying as an Arab Jew. This project is based on my final paper for Refiguring the Divide: Arab and Jew Literature and Film, the senior seminar for my major in Comparative Literature. I approached this question from different disciplines, including: literary theory, linguistics, literature, and visual media.