Between Exodus and Egypt
Israel–Palestine and the Break‐up of the Black–Jewish Alliance
This article argues that Martin Bernal's Black Athena occasions the opportunity to revisit the strained relationship between blacks and Jews in the US, and in particular the tendency to ‘naturalize’ the antipathy that exists between them. It explores the African American appropriation of two ancient tropes – Exodus and Egypt ‐ through the prism of the 1967 war in the Middle East. The article argues that while the war is often viewed as a switch‐point in black American identifications – from the Judeo‐Christian Exodus to the Pan‐African and Islamic Egypt ‐ and indicative of a changing climate in which blacks were increasingly identifying not with Jews but with Palestinians, as fellow victims of colonial oppression, the truth is much more complicated. Though the establishment of Israel has contributed to black‐Jewish hostility, its realization still chimes with black nationalist aspirations, and thus Exodus is still deeply implicated in the imagination of ‘Egypt’.
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