This paper examines the process of “acting ethnic”, and demonstrates that, in certain circumstances, people act in keeping with an ethnic identity. Based on a study of two infantry brigades in the Israeli army (the IDF), the paper shows how organizational ethnic culture forms the basis of the process of “acting ethnic”. This paper highlights the tendency in certain situations to suspend nonethnic privileges by adopting an ethnic identity and in addition, to exaggerate ethnic performance. Moreover, it is argued that “acting ethnic” is a collective performance, aimed not only at belonging to the group, but also as a means of maintaining and reproducing ethnic identity and asserting a legitimate alternative to the hegemonic identity.
Through developing of the concept of hitmazrehut, the article highlights avenues for decolonializing and de-orientalizing sociopolitical theory and practice in Israel/Palestine. Hitmazrehut (literally ‘becoming of the East’) is understood as the transformation of relations between space, identity, and narrative through an intersectionality framework of social movement activism and intellectual counter-discourse. Exposing the intersections among sites of marginality as well as cultivating localized interpretations of identity (delinked from the orientalist positing of Israel in the ‘West’) would contribute to the possibility of the formation of transformative coalition building across national boundaries. Hitmazrehut is both an outcome and a necessary process for enabling geopolitical reframing. The article begins with the ahistorical and orientalist biases of sociological inquiry into the region. It continues with an analysis of efforts to localize and re-orient Jewish identity as well as the Mizrahi discursive critique of epistemological violence guiding sociological scholarship, double consciousness and patterns of ethnic passing.
In this paper I examine how Arab-Palestinians who teach Arabic in Jewish schools appropriate performative identity strategies through passing as hybrid to gain inclusion into the schools. The paradox is that although these teachers are recruited specifically because they are Arabs, they are expected by teachers and students to conceal their Arabness. I argue that because of the ethno-national bright boundaries in Israel, which do not encourage integration but hybridization into roles defined by the state, Arabs cannot and mostly do not want to pass as Israeli-Jews but as good Arabs who do not reside beyond the binarism Jew/Arab but are in-betweens.