Obama helps promote myth of racially integrated Israel

I imagine the White House think it’s good to help promote the status of an African first — Israel’s first African-born Miss Israel. And no doubt Israeli leaders welcome a photo-op that is sure to be used to counter the charge that Israel functions as an apartheid state. Look! No apartheid here — as Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres sit with beaming smiles alongside Barack Obama and Yityish Aynaw. (Of course there won’t be any Palestinians at the table.)

The Guardian reports: It will be one of the hottest tickets in town. When the US president, Barack Obama, arrives in Israel on an official visit next week, one of the highlights for the country’s dignatries will be a dinner hosted at Israeli president Shimon Peres’s home. And among those set to dine with the two presidents is the first black Miss Israel, Yityish Aynaw.

When the president’s staff called to invite her to the dinnerAynaw, who was crowned just a few weeks ago, was understandably taken aback. “I didn’t believe this was happening,” she told the Jerusalem Post.

Aynaw arrived in Israel from Ethiopia when she was 12 years old. The beauty queen, who has worked as a sales assistant since leaving the army, has admitted that it was initially difficult for her to assimilate into Israeli society. Despite being 100,000 strong, the Ethiopian Jewish community is marginalised in Israel, where some rabbis have questioned the authenticity of their Jewish faith.

Meanwhile, in preparation for his Holy Land vacation, Obama has been busy playing the mood music: “In his interview Thursday on Channel 2, Obama made a supreme effort to let bygones be bygones and show friendship when he called Netanyahu ‘Bibi’ at least 10 times.”

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