Israel Education System Disses Arab Students
I have often half-jokingly written here that Israeli nationalists and apologists will only be truly happy with Arabs when they get down on bended knee and sing Ha-Tikva, Israel’s uber-Zionist national anthem. Little did I know that right-wing Education minister, Gideon Saar, literally has this in mind. He decreed that all schools and all students, of whom 1 in 4 are Arab, will study a curriculum about the anthem. This despite the fact that Israeli Arab citizens detest the song and feel it disparages their identity and very existence:
Mr Saar’s initiative is widely seen among Israel’s 1.3 million Arab citizens as a further indication of the rising nationalistic tide sweeping policymakers.
…Arab citizens are unhappy with its heavily Zionist lyrics, which speak of how the “soul of a Jew yearns” to return to Zion, as well as referring to “The hope of two thousand years, To be a free nation in our land”.
…Abir Kupty, today an elected official with the Nazareth municipality, produced one of Israeli TV’s most talked-about moments four years ago when she was filmed sitting down when the anthem was played. She was the only Arab contestant in a show to find Israel’s future leaders.
Ms Kupty said: “This decision by the education ministry is part of the current hysterical right-wing mood in Israel. They hope they can erase our Palestinian identity by making us love the anthem.”
She added that Arab pupils were already deprived of the chance to learn about their own history, culture and identity. “The curriculum in Arab schools is heavily controlled by Jewish officials and by the security services.”
This is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with Israel: a pig-headed unwillingness to understand that if it wishes to be a democracy it must embrace, and not erase, the culture and ethnic identity of all citizens. If Israel wishes to be a nation based on Jewish supremacism it should accept that it is not really a democracy. Rather, it is a democracy only for its Jewish citizens. For the 20% who are not, it is a deeply dispiriting, second class existence. This is illustrated perfectly by the attitude toward Israeli Arabs within the education system:
Figures released by the education ministry this month show that only 32 per cent of Arab students passed their matriculation exam last year, compared to 60 per cent of Jewish students. The pass rate was a dramatic drop from the 50.7 per cent of Arab pupils who matriculated in 2006.
Yousef Jabareen, head of Dirasat, a Nazareth-based organisation monitoring education issues, blamed the poor results on growing cultural bias in the Israeli education system as well as severe budgetary discrimination.
He said the increasing weight placed on Jewish heritage and Judaism lessons put Arab pupils at a severe disadvantage, and that further alienation was caused by the state’s refusal to allow the Arab education system any autonomy in selecting its own curriculum.
A report published in March, he added, showed that the government invested US$1,100 in each Jewish pupil’s education compared to $190 for each Arab pupil.
If this were America, there would be an outcry from liberals about the inequity in such a system. Laws would be passed and court cases filed forcing a state to spend equally in every district and for every student regardless of ethnic background.
But where are the Jewish liberals now? Where is Jeffrey Goldberg? Where is David Harris? Where is Eric Yoffie? Where are the Jewish federations who claim they support Israel, as opposed to Jewish Israel?
Further evidence of Israel’s willful amnesia about the history and experience of its Arab citizens can be seen here:
Last week the ministry also announced that textbooks recently issued to Arab schoolchildren would have expunged the word “nakba”, or catastrophe, to describe the Palestinians’ dispossession at Israel’s founding in 1948.
What is the worth of a country that denies its history in such a way? How has America’s similar denial of its racist past beggared ourselves as American citizens? The truth is that every citizen must know the good and bad about his or her nation’s history if one is to be a full-fledged member of the polity. A society which denies the existence of such a large number of its own members is truly impoverished.
H/t Rupa Shah.
244 thoughts on “Israel Education System Disses Arab Students – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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“Israeli Arab citizens detest the song and feel it disparages their identity and very existence”
As it obviously does. Why would a non-Jewish Palestinian who happens to be a citizen of Israel feel anything but disconnection with this song as their national anthem?
And by the way, most Palestinian citizens of Israel, not all of whom are Arabs, also despise the term Israeli Arab.
I didn’t realize they despised the term but I did realize there were more precise ones to use as you point out. ‘Palestinian citizens of Israel’ takes a long time to type, which is why, out of laziness I usually use the term Israeli Arab. But I’ll try to be more precise in future.
I probably overstated it a bit. Most dislike it, many despise it would be more accurate, I think. And yes, it is a bit cumbersome to use a more acceptable and accurate term, but the majority of Palestinians who are citizens of Israel identify as Palestinian, and do not want that identity erased by being called simply “Arabs”. And as I pointed out, not all Palestinians, including Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, ARE Arabs. There are also those, who I suspect are a majority, who do not want to be called “Israeli” at all.
They may despise the term Israeli Arab and I think it’s a misnomer, but that’s the name they want to go by.
That’s the name they use for their umbrella organization: va’adat hama’akav shel ‘araviye israel.
“that’s the name they want to go by.”
Who appointed you to speak for them?
“…if it wishes to be a democracy it must embrace, and not erase, the culture and ethnic identity of all citizens.”
If it wishes to be a democracy it must either relinquish its identity as “The Jewish State”, which means it must deny its raison d’etre, or complete the ethnic cleansing of 1947-49. There is no way on earth it can be “The Jewish State” and a democracy unless its population is 100% Jewish.
“Where are the Jewish federations who claim they support Israel, as opposed to Jewish Israel?”
This is a logical impossibility. Israel was created to be and is by definition “The Jewish State”. If Israel were not Jewish it would not exist. Therefore Israel is by definition Jewish, so there is no way to support Israel without supporting Jewish Israel. People who claim they support Israel as opposed to Jewish Israel are trying to have their cake and eat it too.
Not so fast. Israel was created to be a democracy. You’ve pretty much thrown out the baby with the bathwater by dismissing this little part of Israel’s history. Israel does not HAVE to be an exclusivist Jewish state though it is now. That is what I am working toward.
Jewish federations do, by the way, support Israeli Arab (or whatever you prefer to call them) communities in Israel. It may be symbolic support rather than substantive support. But it is real financial support nonetheless.
Richard, if I understand you correctly, then we are not far apart at all on this. My point is that in order to be a true democracy Israel must do one of two things. It must either relinquish its identity as The Jewish State, or it must complete the ethnic cleansing begun in 1947-48 and (actually, the ethnic cleansing began well before that, but it is convenient to pinpoint it at the time of the Nakba). You seem to be saying that you can accept the former, and I assume that, like me, you find the latter utterly unacceptable. Therefore it seems we do not really disagree. Or did I misunderstand you?
As for Israel’s history, as you know, the sole reason for Israel’s conception and creation was for it to be The Jewish State. Except for that there was no reason for it to be created, and it never would have come into being. Israel was created to be an ethnocracy where people elect their leadership, not a true democracy. A country cannot be a democracy if its very definition excludes a portion of its citizenry. Israel was created and is known as The Jewish State or The State of The Jews, not the state of the people who are its citizens. As long as that continues and it has non-Jews among its citizens it cannot be a democracy.
And the fact that Jewish federations support Palestinian communities in Israel is irrelevant to whether or not Israel is a democracy (and it is not what I prefer to call them, it is how they wish to be identified). You know as well as I do that Israel’s non-Jewish citizens are not full citizens. The very symbols of the country, as banal as they are – the flag, the anthem, the minorah, and even the official language – remind them of that every day. And of course, we must add to that the irony of the fact that the creation of Israel necessitated the subjugation of the Palestinians and the obliteration of their rights in favour of a group of colonists from another continent.
Palestinian citizens of Israel are not now and have never been full citizens with equal rights and privileges. They are second-tier citizens at best by the very fact of being non-Jews in The Jewish State, and as long as Israel is The Jewish State they will remain so. That is not democracy, that is, as I said, ethnocracy.
But, as I said in the beginning, it seems we are not really so much at odds about this. Unfortunately, I don’t see Israelis giving up Israel’s “Jewish character” and becoming a state for all its citizens any time soon. Do you?
“But, as I said in the beginning, it seems we are not really so much at odds about this. Unfortunately, I don’t see Israelis giving up Israel’s “Jewish character” and becoming a state for all its citizens any time soon. Do you?”
No chance of that happening I don’t think … It may improve in various arenas to allow the minorities a legitimate shot at being an even more active part of the society, but it will always be a Jewish State with a flag with a ‘Jewish symbol’, a national anthem in Hebrew, etc …
There’s a few ways that can change – but hey ho, another post for another day.
“it will always be a Jewish State with a flag with a ‘Jewish symbol’, a national anthem in Hebrew, etc … ”
Then it will always be an ethnocracy where minorities will be, at best, well tolerated, never a democracy. And by the way, it is not so much that the national anthem is in Hebrew, it is what it says. Imagine yourself as a citizen of a country whose national anthem is something like “Onward Christian Soldiers” (sorry, I don’t know a lot of Christian songs), or “Arab Hearts United”.
I think that Israel should be a state for all its citizens. But I don’t believe Israel needs to completely eliminate or discount the ethnic identity of its Jewish (or Arab) citizens. In other words, Israel would not be THE Jewish state, but a Jewish state just as it would be an Arab state. For each community the state would express a fundamental aspect of their ethnic identity.
All the symbols you mentioned are of course problematic & would need to be reimagined. Arab citizens would have to be guaranteed equal rights. Citizens of ea. ethnic group would have their identities & rights protected in some fundamental way (perhaps by constitution). The key thing is not to allow an ethnic majority group to run roughshod over the rights of the minority whether that be Arab or Jewish.
I think we are fundamentally in agreement. What I am suggesting is that the root problem is the definition and concept of the State as an ethnically/religiously specific state, which automatically sets it up as an ethnocracy, and defines members of the named group as first tier citizens and all others as, at best, second tier with tenuous claims to citizenship, and lesser rights and privileges. The symbols of the State are a natural result of the way the State is defined, so while of course those DO need to change, the first thing that must change is the relgious/ethnic specificity of the definition and the concept of the State. The rest will follow more easily.
I think I see where Richard is coming from on this. To take a different angle on it, if you think of West European democracies, they often have a national culture that is tied to a dominant ethnic and linguistic identity. Some of the key ingredients for democracy in this context are that the rule of law be both paramount and universal, and applied universally, with the explicit protection of minority rights and minority freedom of religion, freedom of expression, universal suffrage, to be able to live in security and so on, written into the laws of the land.
Take 3 western European democratic countries like France, Germany and Norway. All three have dominant cultures and ethnic majority populations in the sense that one could talk about a ‘German state’ or a ‘French state’ or a ‘Norwegian state’. Yet they are also democracies (to the extent that one can talk of democracy existing today), pluralistic, multi-layered, with judicial due process, supposed equality under the law, governments responsive and accountable to the people, and the rest. The crucial thing here is that the national cultural identity must be loosely and flexibly defined and understood. The contemporary French or Germans don’t go around demanding pledges of allegiance from all their citizens to “the French state” or “the German state” (the subtext here being ethnicity/culture), to do so would be not only bizarre but totalistic and exclusionary. The dominant culture cannot essentialize itself this way in a democracy (but that’s NOT the same as saying a dominant culture doesn’t exist). This is the important distinction.
Listen, Germans’ “national” icons by definition tend to be ethnically/linguistically German: Bach, Goethe, Schiller, Beethoven, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Brahms and on down the long list, the French: Baudelaire, Balzac, Flaubert, Rousseau, Debussy, etc. etc. I don’t think you have to necessarily dislodge dominant cultures to make room for other peoples, other stories within the framework of a particular nation. They can fit alongside each-other, co-exist, this is one of the necessary substrates for democracy.
Warren, thanks for your thoughtful remarks, but I am just not buying your analogy. You are comparing apples to bananas, and it just doesn’t fit. The European ethnicities, cultures, and languages, and nationalities (ethnicities is really inaccurate) you cited have evolved naturally in more or less the same geographical locations over centuries. That is clearly a very different case than Israel both historically and in the present day.
Good point, Shirin. And you’re right, ‘nationality’ would be a more accurate term in the context of what I was trying to say than ‘ethnicity’. After all, one can partake of and identity oneself with a nation and a culture without having to be a particular ethnicity. That’s a very crucial, important point, particularly when speaking of democracy.
And you’re right, the analogy is rather strained. When considering the history of ethnic cleansing and displacement of the Palestinian (vast)-majority population in the formation of the state of Israel in ’48 and add to that the 40+ years of Occupation and the slicing up of the West Bank into bantustans, via the exclusivist Jewish settlements, so that it is not a whole, contiguous Palestinian territory, there’s no way the analogy works. I guess I got caught up in my own train of thoughts, there. Well, wouldn’t be the first time. Considering the history and present day reality of Israel and the occupied Palestinians, the only viable model for Israel is some kind of American one (in its ultimate IDEALIZED formulation, I should say) of total pluralism where there is no one dominant national-cultural identity, or where the national identity/identities is open to flux and change based on demographics, right-of-return, or whatever.
See, this is why I blog here! I like to have my opinions/positions nuanced and modified through dialogue.
Pluralism – that is exactly the concept/word I have been grasping for in this discussion. Don’t know why that wouldn’t come to me, but you helped me out. Thanks Warren!
Great piece Richard, thank you.
I would like to heartily endorse Shirin’s comments with regard to Palestinian Israelis. To refer to them as Arab diffuses their identity and heritage. It always refers to Palestinian Israelis whilst obscuring the fact that they are Palestinian rather than Moroccan or Iraqi. Worst of all it supports the myth that Palestinians are interlopers in their own land. There are indeed many Arab citizens of Israel from outside Palestine but they are all Jewish.
To write Palestinian Israeli is the same number of words as Arab Israeli, although there are an extra seven letters.
With regard to Warren’s comments on democracy: The key feature of a functional democratic state is that it cherishes all its citizens equally without favour or discrimination regardless of religion, ethnicity or any other consideration. We in the West, particularly the Anglo-Saxon countries are inclined to confuse democracy with majoritarianism. Northern Ireland had a ‘democratic’ government for half a century after Partition but it was grossly dysfunctional, systematically discriminating against the Nationalist minority with predictable results.
In this sense the State of Israel is ‘democratic’ (neglecting the ethnic cleansing necessary to create a Jewish majority) but it is dysfunctional. Whilst Jewish Israelis apparently gain from the discrimination of the state it is also the source of their fearfulness and insecurity. How can they trust the Palestinians they cheat of dignity to treat Jewish Israelis with respect other than by continual subjugation? The silence of Mira Awad says as much as the volubility of Noa.
You make good points, Miles. I agree with you about majoritarianism vs. democracy. I was not arguing for the former in my comment, merely un-packing how one navigates democracy in the context of a majority ethnicity/dominant culture as you have in many European countries (and the issue is relevant for Israel, particularly in the context of a two-state “solution”).
However, some degree of majority rule, at least in terms of the electoral process, is ONE of the ingredients of a democracy. The crucial thing is that it cannot be the whole package. Pure majoritarianism will likely lead to some form of fascism as well as anything else. Your point regarding democracy is fundamental, “it cherishes all its citizens without favor or discrimination regardless of religion, ethnicity or any other consideration”. I covered some of the same points in my previous comment, but you encapsulate it perfectly right there. The enshrinement of minority rights, and equality under the law and equality of opportunity for ALL the people/citizens of a nation, is fundamental to democracy.
Hatikva also discriminates against Iraqi, Yemeni and Persian Jews. Their eyes were not “turned toward the East” during the 2,000 years in which they yearned for Zion.
“Hatikva also discriminates against Iraqi, Yemeni and Persian Jews. Their eyes were not “turned toward the East” during the 2,000 years in which they yearned for Zion.”
Funnily enough, that is true. However, while my friends and I joke about this all the time, it was written to ‘belittle’ the Mizrachi/Farsi communities at all …
I want to read more into your last sentence but alas, I’m sure there’s nothing there.
I was just pointing out that Hatikva is, to some extent, a representation of the twofold racism going on in Israeli society: a “soft” discrimination against Mizrachi Jews, and a very harsh discrimination against Israeli Arabs. It is somewhat insulting to have to say that you were looking East when you were looking West (or nowhere at all); but it is much more insulting still to have to say that your soul is Jewish when you’re an Arab.
If you say so mate … The Mizrachim, as you probably know, include Egyptian, Libyan, Tunisian, Algerian, Moroccan & Lebanese/Turkish Jewry. They all looked ‘east’. So I guess the composer was defo being racist, but selected only a certain group of Mizrachim to single out.
I’m sure however, that you’re well aware of where Jews normally face when praying (& the rules behind it) and why the composer settled on ‘East’.
“It is somewhat insulting”
Doesn’t bother any of my friends, many of whom are 1st/2nd generation descendants of Iraqi and Persian refugees. Maybe you know of some people who it does bother I guess?
“but it is much more insulting still to have to say that your soul is Jewish when you’re an Arab.”
You should re-write that statement considering where “Arab Jewry” came from.
Do you believe Arab Jews consider themselves Arab? As far as I know, they’re quite busy shouting mavet le’aravim (“death to the Arabs”). Do you think they’re calling for mass suicide?
If you know what I’m talking about, why do you pretend not to?
Many of them consider themselves of Arab ancestry, but because of the many factors (be it their expulsion, the political climate of Israel, etc) will not ever be called Arabs Jews.
“As far as I know, they’re quite busy shouting mavet le’aravim (”death to the Arabs”)”
This is your 2nd generalization against Sefradim/Mizrachim I’ve seen you post on this site (I guess you also sadly believe all Arabs shout itbach al yahud too?) … Interesting how you pretend to care about them & ‘defend their rights’ in one post, and then slam them a few posts later. But I guess you’re right – all Mizrachim shout that phrase, and don’t forget, they all eat charif food and drink sachlab.
“If you know what I’m talking about, why do you pretend not to?”
Because Arab Jewry still comes from the ‘Arab world’ and when you call them Mizrachim/Sefardim, you yourself acknowledge that. Their food, their music, their customs are very much influenced by the ‘Arab’ world. I’m sure you get what I’m talking about it … but hey, I’ll play along with you and pretend the culture of Mizrachi Jewry is entirely Israeli. You have me convinced.
I think you’re on very thin ice here. This sounds more like hasbara than real history. We can talk about discrimination against Jews in Arab lands. But expulsion??
Thanks Richard. I am very familiar with Iraqi Jewish history, and less so with Syrian Jewish history, and the Jews absolutely were not expelled from either country. What did happen in Iraq is absolutely shameful both on the part of the Iraqi government and on the Zionists who engineered the exodus without real regard for the identity, wishes, and welfare of the Iraqi Jews involved, but there was absolutely no expulsion. On the contrary, the governments of Iraq and Syria did not want to lose their Jewish communities, if only for the intellectual, cultural, and economic wealth they would take with them. It was only after the Zionists made it personally very profitable for Nouri Sa`eed and his family that the Iraqi government agreed to allow unlimited emigration for Jews for the period of one year. And even then Jews were not exactly signing up in droves until a series of other events encouraged them to believe they would be better off elsewhere.
Expulsion. From Casablanca to Karachi.
“Many of them consider themselves of Arab ancestry”
As someone born and raised in an Arab country, I probably would have been beheaded had I claimed there to be an “Arab Jew.”
In those countries, “Arab” is not merely an identity, it is also a social status that Jews, as well as the muslim native populations, certainly didn’t enjoy.
I defy anyone to find anywhere, at anytime in our traditions or records that we have called ourselves “Arab Jews.”
Nor have we ever called ourselves “Mizrahi”.
I don’t know where you find the arrogance to call people by names they never gave to themselves.
Silvia – Are you saying in the Arab world or Israel (it isn’t very clear)?
My goodness, Silvia! You certainly have some stereotyped ideas about Arabs, don’t you? Beheaded? For claiming to be an Arab Jew?
Well, how interesting that our experiences in this regard have been so very, very different. How can we account for that, i wonder.
Over the years I have personally counted quite a number of Iraqi Jews among my companions and people with whom I interacted in business and other contexts, most of them in Iraq. I have also met and known Arab Jews from other countries than Iraq. They have all self-identified as Arab Jews, and the Iraqi Jews I have known were indistinguishable from any other Iraqi, and felt more connected to Iraq than to Israel. None of them ever shouted “death” to anyone.
“Do you believe Arab Jews consider themselves Arab?”
I know for a fact that many of them do. I also know for a fact that they are widely considered Arab by their fellow Arabs. I know that they are culturally far more Arab than they are anything else. There might be some in Israel who shout “death to Arabs”, but so what? Those sad, sick hate-filled people do not characterize Arab Jews any more than the sad, sick hate-filled members of any other group characterize that group.
Arabs in Palestine occupy 85% of the land mass; Jews ARE KEPT IN bANTHUSTANS AND ENCLAVES.
tHEY MAY ONLY SING AND aRABS DANCE.
What are you smokin’???
Go on Richard … Finish the sentence … (and where can I get some?!? 🙂 )
Do you really want to partake of the drug that guy’s imbibing??
ha ha I didn’t say it was for me … !
“the Iraqi Jews I have known were indistinguishable from any other Iraqi, and felt more connected to Iraq than to Israel.”
Shirin – that is most likely because you met them IN Iraq. I’ve met hundreds of Iraqi Jews, both here (Israel) and the US and many are very aware of their Arab heritage. They all (be it Iraqi, Syrian or Egyptian) obviously felt a connection to the home they were expelled from – but were as strongly connected to the new ‘home’ (be it the US, or Israel).
They are culturally more Arab – I agree, be it food, music etc (I’m not sure dress as I don’t know how I would define that in the Arab world) … but as I said earlier, due to their massive presence (number wise) in the 1950s in Israel, Israeli culture is very ‘Arab’/Middle Eastern …
Well, when people emigrate they do tend sooner or later to connect to the new place. And everyone is different, of course. Some adapt and connect right away, some never do, some connect closely, some very little at all, and most are no doubt in between. But Iraq never leaves you no matter where you go or how long you stay there.
No doubt the second and third generation Iraqis, whether Jews or not, are “aware of their Arab heritage”, but those Iraqis, Jews and others, who have lived in Iraq are more than aware of it. They are Arabs and it is embedded in their being and informs everything about them whether they are happy about that or not. :o}
Of course, the Jews I knew in Iraq were deeply connected to Iraq, all the more since they and their families had resisted the pressure to emigrate in 1950-51. So were most of the Jews who left during the exodus of 1950-51, and I believe most of them remain very deeply connected to Iraq, even if they are also connected to their present homes. I have one friend born in Israel to Iraqi parents who himself feels quite connected to Iraq despite never having been there. His mother is from Mosul, and I happen to speak the dialect of that city so I have sent her messages through him in that dialect, and he tells me it makes her cry to hear her home language. Last year he learned I would be in Amman during Passover, and he begged me to join them for a traditional Iraqi Seder and some real Iraqi meals, but I cannot go into Israel, so I sadly declined.
The inner sense of Iraq versus the new country as home might be stronger in the people you have met than it appears to you, though certainly that varies with the individual.
Many of the Iraqi Jews I have met emigrated to Israel at some point, found it impossible to connect to that country at all, and left. Some of them, especially among those who went in the late ’40’s and ’50’s, are committed and even active anti-Zionists as a result of their experience. Others, including quite a few who have stayed in Israel, have mixed feelings. Many feel a closer connection with the Palestinians than they do with Jewish Israelis. I find this natural, others might not.
No doubt second and third generation Arab Jews in Israel are culturally less Arab and more Israeli (whatever that is) than their parents – that’s always how it goes.
Being culturally Arab transcends just food, music, or dress (which is mostly western, and often very impeccable among urban educated/professional Iraqis). It is much more a mentality and a set of habits.
“Israeli culture is very ‘Arab’/Middle Eastern”
I am not well qualified to say, having never been there, but having met, been friends with, and worked with a number of Israelis (Amira Hass among them, I am very pleased to say), and having kept up with Israeli media, my strong impression is that it is more a not-very-refined European culture with a bit of Middle Eastern seasoning thrown in for flavour. Eating falafel and hummus and calling it Israeli cuisine does not make you culturally Arab. :o}
I do have a couple of CD’s of Arabic music from a second generation Mizrachi group (sorry, forgot the name and too lazy to go to the other room to look at the CD) that is very nice, though some of their pronunciations are “interesting”, such as the extremely grating habit of Israelis to pronounce the hard Arabic H as kh, which in one song results in changing the word Hayyati, “my life” to KhayaTi “my taylor”. :o}
For the record, Iraqi and Syrian Jews were never expelled. On the contrary, for years the Iraqi and Syrian governments imposed unfair restrictions on Jews intended to prevent them from emigrating. The bulk of Iraqi Jews left in 1950-51 largely as a result of multi-pronged effort on the part of Zionists, which included bribery of government officials, including Nouri Al Sa`eed on several levels, and some even less honourable activities than that. The exodus of the Iraqi and Syrian Jewish comminities was a terrible loss to those countries. As I am sure you know the Iraqi Jewish community was there continuously since the Babylonian exile, and so predated the Arabs by millennia. The Jewish community was an essential part of the fabric of Iraqi society on many levels, and was quite well integrated into society, and the same for the Syrian Jewish community. Shamefully, Egyptian Jew WERE expelled, though Zionist activities played a significant part in that too.
Wrt the Iraqi expulsion – I’ve talked to some Iraqis Jews who were involved with the ‘unrest’ of the time, and most say many were eager to live (note, NOT ALL). Was even more pressure applied by Israel? Sure. Would that have stopped a mass emigration had it not been around? No chance … Surely you remember what happened in Iraq during WWII … I’ve talked to enough Iraqi JEws, born and bred there, to know it was a very difficult existence at times – but they still loved the country.
“that it is more a not-very-refined European culture with a bit of Middle Eastern seasoning thrown in for flavour.”
Well when you hang out with people like Amira Hass, that is what youll obviously get. This country is far more ‘Arab’/Mizrachi in its attitude and ‘way of being’ than European. That probably shifted more in the 1990s with Russian Jewry’s arrival …
“Many of the Iraqi Jews I have met emigrated to Israel at some point, found it impossible to connect to that country at all, and left. Some of them, especially among those who went in the late ’40’s and ’50’s, are committed and even active anti-Zionists as a result of their experience. Others, including quite a few who have stayed in Israel, have mixed feelings. Many feel a closer connection with the Palestinians than they do with Jewish Israelis. I find this natural, others might not.”
I’ve been a part of many communities where the dominant group were Iraqi Jews who had left/expelled in the 1950s. I can count on two fingers the amount how exhibit opinions such as the above. Do they exist? Sure. Are they a minority? Yup … Despite the treatment of Mirzachi Jewry in the 1950s (which many, including myself, fail to realize similar treatment metted out to most immigrant classes in that time – be it Bulgarians or Romanians), most Mizrachi Jews are still very very attached to Israel (or the country they currently live in). That doesn’t mean they don’t care/ have a connection to Iraq and the world they, and their families, left behind.
“It is much more a mentality and a set of habits. ”
Which I see a lot of – considering I interact with the people with ‘proper’ Arab mentality (Palestinian Israelis or Palestinian Palestinians!) and ‘non proper’ mentality (Israeli Jews)
We can agree that we have been exposed to different things when it comes to Iraqi Jews. Maybe they express different attitudes with each of us due to our different backgrounds, maybe we have met different people with different experiences, most likely a bit of both. Certainly most of the Iraq Jews I have known have not chosen to go to or stay in Israel, so of course they would have a different point of view. So, Iraqi Jews are not a monolithic entity any more than any other human group is – big surprise.
Your somewhat snide remark about Amira Hass is misplaced. In any case, I did not form my opinion of Israeli culture and society on my acquaintance with her. On the contrary, I believe she is quite exceptional, not only as an Israeli but also as a human being. It is my view that if there were more human beings like Amira the world would be better off.
“most of the Iraq Jews I have known have not chosen to go to or stay in Israel”
I would say that’s still the case for most Jews … So no biggie.
“Your somewhat snide remark about Amira Hass is misplaced”
Sorry, but she doesn’t spend most of her time in Israel and I have issues with her ‘false reporting’ (We’ve discussed it here before, so I won’t go into it further).
“allow the propaganda that they were expelled to go unchallenged.”
If you say so – I’ve seen enough from the ‘other side’ (which you call propaganda) that says differently, most from the Iraqi Jews who left the country themselves. So if you’re claim they’re lying, I have no issue with that – to each his own.
I believe Iraq, like most of the Arab world which Jews called home for over 1000 years, has always been ‘ok’ to Jews (compared to Europe, even better than ok) but there’s many black marks (Iraq for example: Jews were forced to wear yellow stars in the 1000s, The Baghdad Synagogue was burned down a few times (not the only one obviously), the pro-Nazi government & riots, public hangings etc … and I’m not even touching everything). The base was set in Iraq (& other countrys) to allow the movement of almost a million Jews in the 1950s – Wheter it wasn’t motivated at all by Israeli agents, I’ve said it was in situations. But to say they ‘were not expelled’ (ie, implying all) is wrong … considering the definition is “the act of driving out”.
The Baghdad synagogue was burned down a few times in several thousands of years? I don’t want to make light of that, but Baghdad has been sacked, destroyed and rebuilt numerous times in less time than that, its most recent sacking and destruction beginning in the year 2003. And shall we talk about the tens of mosques and churches destroyed and desecrated just within this last supposedly enlightened century? Again, not to make light of it, but it is the way of the world.
And are you seriously citing events that took place more than a thousand years ago as evidence for your spurious claim that the Iraqi Jews were expelled in the mid-20th century?!
I studied this issue as well. The pro-Nazi government of Iraq cannot be divorced from the British colonial presence.
As for me, I do think there was a FUNCTIONAL expulsion, if not a de jure one. They would certainly have done the same to the Assyrians.
PS The Iraqi Jews were not expelled, period. If you want to discuss the reality of what happened I am prepared to do that, but I will not allow the propaganda that they were expelled to go unchallenged. The reality is unfortunate enough that there is no need to pretend it is anything other than it was. The Iraqi government acted badly, though in some ways understandably (though that does not mitigate it), and the Zionists acted badly, and Iraqi Jews were caught in the middle. But Iraqi Jews were never expelled.
A few more things Richard/Shirin …
The whole idea of ‘kicking out’ Jews from Iraq was in fact an idea floated about by Nuri Al-Said in 1949 (though this was in exchange for the Palestinian refugees). This can be found in an essay called, “The break between Muslims & Jews in Iraq” by the late Iraqi-Jewish historian Elie Kedourie. Israel was disinterested (To quote Eshkol, “no tents”).
The law that allowed Jews to renounce their Iraqi citizenship and leave for Israel gave most Jews an out (If this was passed say in Israel for Palestinian Israelis or Israeli Arabs, I’m sure we’d have an ‘expulsion tone’ piece on it) – I’m not sure if Nuri Al-Said thought so many Jews would willingly leave, but he certainly helped ‘push’ the flow with the ‘freeze’ of Jewish property. By the time this happened, Israel became involved and at Iraq’s approval, airlifted Jews out (I’m not sure if it’s true, but I’ve read that Israel had to ransom each Jew at 10 dinar a head) …
Now why would they want to leave? Who knows but let’s look at a few events of these people
1918-1920 – A petition to the Civil Commissioner of Baghdad to grant Iraqi Jewry British citizenship fails (Wonder why they do that?)
1935 – Hebrew and Jewish history instruction is banned
1936-1938 – some 500-600 Jewish clerks were dismissed from the govt
1939 – The Iraqi Chief Rabbi blasts Zionism and yet, attacks occur against Jews … Inspired by the Nazi wave sweeping the country.
1941 – The Farhoud massacre (179 Jews called, 900+ homes looted)
1947 – Iraqi foreign minister threatens the expulsion of Iraqi Jewry if the partition of the Mandate goes into effect
1948 – 300+ Jews are court martialed
Sept 1948 – Ades, Iraq’s richest Jew, is hung
1948-1949 – Anywhere from 800-1500 Jews are dismissed from public service and a host of other restrictions on Jews (banks, students etc) – this despite a 100k+ dinar donation to help the Arabs in their war against Israel. Fines that year collected against Jews total 80 million USD.
Can anyone honestly tell me that these events, and I’ve missed many, didn’t set up the necessity for Iraqi Jewry to flee their homes? Surely, this amounts to a ‘push’ by the Iraqi govt (and those who worked with her) to rid themselves of this population …
And while we’re on ‘propaganda’, people should read Haaretz (which I know Richard loves) reporter Tom Segev (A ‘new’ historian)’s take on the famous ‘Jews threw grenades at synagogue to help force Jews away from Iraq’:
And the fact remains that the Jews were never expelled from Iraq.
This discussion is clearly going nowhere, and has long since grown tiresome, but this list deserves at least some comment.
First, you present this list of incidents as if it is the sum total of the Iraqi Jewish experience during those years, and you present it completely without context, explanation, or nuance.
Each of these incidents is worth a discussion, but there is not sufficient time or space – or probably interest at this point.
The Farhud is a very good case in point, though. You present it simply as a massacre, and it certainly was, but hardly simply so. What you do not say is that it was a singular incident made possible by a very unusual set of circumstances culminating in a power vacuum that spanned several days during which Iraq did not have a government at all. What you also do not say – perhaps because you do not know – is that the Farhud was initiated by one Younis Sab’awi, a rogue member of a rogue government that lasted for only a few weeks, who stayed in Baghdad after the rest of the government fled to Iran. You also say nothing about the fact that the Farhud was not a generalized popular riot against the Jews, as it is often portrayed (and probably have felt to many of the Jews), but an organized attempt by Sab’awi to round up and kill Jews, and that among the dead and injured were Muslim and Christian Iraqis who attempted to protect their Jewish neighbors, friends, and colleagues (often successfully) from those who had been sent to harm them. And finally, you do not mention the fact that the Farhud had two main phases. The first, instigated by the aforementioned Younis Sab’awi, was performed mainly by forces, including youth forces, under his command, and that was the phase during which most of the murders occurred. The second phase consisted mainly of opportunistic looting by people from the poorest sections of the city, who took advantage of the disorder and destruction in the wake of the murderous and destructive first phase to grab what they could.
The above is not intended to excuse or mitigate the Farhud or anything that happened as part of it, so please don’t try to go there. My intention is merely to give it some context to show that it did not just simply happen as part of a normal course of events. And there is a lot more context as well that illuminates the event, what led up to it, and what followed it, which includes the execution of a number of Iraqis who had been involved in the attacks, including police, army, and civilians.
Oh – and the meaning of the word Farhud, for those who are interested, refers to a break down of law and order, which is exactly what happened during those terrible few days between the flight of the short-lived Rashid ‘Ali government and the return of the legitimate government.
And finally, finally – and I really mean it this time – you do not address at all the degree to which the British colonialist’s calculated divide and rule strategy created and contributed to many if not most of the issues Jews had during the period in question.
“Then it will always be an ethnocracy where minorities will be, at best, well tolerated, never a democracy.”
I’m not sure about that – time will tell
“Imagine yourself as a citizen of a country whose national anthem is something like “Onward Christian Soldiers” (sorry, I don’t know a lot of Christian songs), or “Arab Hearts United”.”
I don’t know enough national anthems to compare but of the few i know, I find far worse than ours …
On the first point, time will tell indeed, but as long as Israel is defined as The Jewish State it will remain an ethnocracy, which will obviate its being a democracy in any real sense of the word.
On the second point, I happen to find national anthems in general banal in concept, with unfortunate messages expressed in bad poetry made worse by truly awful music – in other words, I am not entranced by any of them – but I think you have sidestepped the point. Certainly you, clearly a Jew, do not find a national anthem about Jews facing East and longing for Zion all that objectionable. Try pretending you are an Israeli citizen who is a Palestinian Christian, Muslim, secular, or “other” with all that means historically and in the present, and try to sing those words with feeling and see what feelings come out. Unless you are devoid of any ability for empathy, I think you might gain a different perspective.
As I did in the US, or when I was in Turkey, I stood up and respected it – though I had no connection whatsoever to the words …
I didn’t sing the words, but I did show them respect because it’s the country I was in. That’s how I see it. I would stand and respect a Palestinian National Anthem, even when it talks about blood/martyrs etc.
Bar Israel, I am a citizen of a European & African country. Their national anthems mean NOTHING to me and don’t represent me in the slightest. I still stand and respect them because that’s the way I feel about it.
Do I understand what you’re saying? Sure – I’m not an idiot. But I’m not asking them to sing, or ‘feel connection to’ or anything like that. Do what Mahmoud Abdul Rauf did in the 1990s during pre-game sessions in the NBA (sat and got blasted, and then decided to stand and pray respectfully), or what my Druzi mates in the army did.
You are still sidestepping the point, and I find your attitude, as summed up in the last paragraph disappointingly and very deeply cavalier. That is all I will say about it. that should be all I need to say about it.
I didn’t really … but ok.
Yes, you absolutely did. In fact, you did worse than that. You went on for several paragraphs about how YOU, presumably a citizen of at least two countries, are willing to get up off your ass and onto your feet “respectfully” for the national anthems of countries which are not your own and which therefore presumably have no personal meaning to you. Then you talked about how little your own national anthem(s) affect YOU one way or the other – big surprise that you, a Jewish citizen of Israel, do not find anything troubling about Hatikvah.
So, the first three quarters of your comment was not at all about the point, which is how non-Jewish citizens of Israel – Palestinians specifically – might feel about the fact that their own national anthem explicitly excludes them. Instead it was all about YOU.
Then, when you finally got around to addressing my point – sort of – you first made it about YOU again, and not how they might feel, but about what you are and are not asking of them (kind of revelatory, actually). Then you flippantly blew off the feelings of Israel’s Palestinian citizens by cavalierly suggesting that they should simply get drunk and pray, which by the way is specifically forbidden to the majority of them, who are Muslims, in verse 4:43 of their holy book, the Qur’an: “Draw not near unto prayer when ye are drunken. So, now you add to the offense of cavalierly blowing off the feelings of your fellow “non-Jewish) citizens the even more offensive suggestion that the way for Israel’s Muslim citizens to deal with the reality that they are explicitly not included in their country’s national anthem is to act in a manner that is specifically forbidden to them in their holy book.
Way to demonstrate just how much respect you have for your fellow citizens, Avram!
“I think you’re on very thin ice here. This sounds more like hasbara than real history. We can talk about discrimination against Jews in Arab lands. But expulsion??”
Richard – going by how the word is defined in any English dictionary, it was an expulsion. 800,000 – 1,000,000 people were forced from their homes, that is fact. How it happened in every instance is obviously well documented, but they were forced to leave their homes, lives and assests. I’ve talked to enough Arab Jews (ie, many were members of synagogues I’ve attended throughout the world) who hold this opinion – and considering they were the ones leaving their homes, I don’t think I’ll call them ‘hasbaranikim’.
One more time, Iraqi and Syrian Jews were not expelled. Nor, as I recall were the majority of North African Jews. Egyptian Jews, as I recall, WERE expelled as a pretty direct result of Zionist actions.
When it comes to Iraq, of course, I have a slight disadvantage over you in that I am personally acquainted with people who were present and involved in events, as members of the Jewish community, various other communities, and as officials in the government.
To quote someone who is far more knowledgeable than me:
“She can nitpick about whether it was actually expulsion, but the truth is that the Jews of Iraq were driven out by the Iraqi government. They could not work, travel, send their kids to university and at any moment could be arrested on charges of being Zionist spies. The ‘coup de grace’ was that all those who wanted to leave having all their property stolen from them in March 1951.
The 5,000 who did not leave in 1951 ended up being smuggled out of Iraq in 1970 after 9 Jews were executed and 50 had disappeared. Was this the Zionists’ fault too ? There are seven Jews left.”
“When it comes to Iraq, of course, I have a slight disadvantage over you in that I am personally acquainted with people who were present and involved in events, as members of the Jewish community, various other communities, and as officials in the government.”
If you think you’re at an advantage, ok. I’ve still talked to many Iraqi Jews who left in the early 1950s. Not one ‘blames the Zionists’ (Which is your token line it seems, sad really) … And none exactly said, as you have implied continually, that the Iraqi government wanted them to stay or made any effort in making the life of the Jews in Iraq tolerable….
You can repeat it as many times as you want in as many different ways as you want, but the facts do not support your claim that the Jews were expelled from Iraq. What the Iraqi government did do was shameful, but they did not expel the Jews.
Oh – and how interesting that you mention the travel restrictions as evidence of expulsion – huh? You expel someone by barring them from leaving the country? Well, THAT makes a lot of sense. And the fact is, as I have stated at least two or three times here already, that the government imposed unfair travel restrictions on Jews precisely for the purpose of preventing them from emigrating.
It is very unlikely that the majority of Jews would have left were it not for the machinations of the Zionists. In fact, when the Zionists did persuade the Iraqi government to allow the Jews to emigrate – largely by offering handsome personal incentives to government members, principally Nuri Sa’eed and his family – relatively very few Jews stepped forward, and the great majority of those who left waited until the last minute to sign up.
And now I notice that you are increasingly putting words into my mouth -a standard hasbarista tactic, I am afraid.
– I have not “blamed the Zionists”, I have merely assigned them their fair portion of responsibility. I have also, inconveniently for you, condemned the behaviour of the Iraqi government .
– I have NEVER suggested in any way that the Iraqi government made an effort to make the Jews more comfortable, although there were times that it did, such as the period following the Farhud.
One of the differences between you and me is that I view events and circumstances within a large, complex, and nuanced context while you distill an entire history down to a handful of specific, carefully chosen events without context, without complexity, and without nuance.
“Oh – and how interesting that you mention the travel restrictions as evidence of expulsion – huh?”
Let’s look at it simply. You can never leave the country but if you choose to leave, you have to relinquish your citizenship and lose all your assets and property. Why would ‘citizens’ of a country not be allowed to leave it for travel?
“In fact, when the Zionists did persuade the Iraqi government to allow the Jews to emigrate – largely by offering handsome personal incentives to government members, principally Nuri Sa’eed and his family”
Again, you’re twisting history. Al-Said (You say Sa’eed, I say Al-Said, the same person obviously)’s plan to TRADE Iraqi Jews for Arabs after 1949 was REJECTED by Sharret and Levi Eshkol. When it became evident that it was going to happen, a 10 dinar ‘fee’ was put on every Jew airlifted out of Iraq. I think by 1951, 100k had signed up to leave.
Now if you can, please explain what exactly those Zionist Jews did to ‘force’ Iraqi Jewry to leave (if they had the option obviously to stay) – This is due to “It is very unlikely that the majority of Jews would have left were it not for the machinations of the Zionists.”.
“I have not “blamed the Zionists”, ”
Yet you say, “It’s unlikely the majority of Jews would have left were it not for the machinations of Zionists.” That is blaming the Zionists for the majority of Jews leaving (you’re insinuating a minority would have left anyways).
“One of the differences between you and me is that I view events and circumstances within a large, complex, and nuanced context while you distill an entire history down to a handful of specific, carefully chosen events without context, without complexity, and without nuance.”
Thanks for your holier than though posting there ma’am, much appreciated.
“Let’s look at it simply.”
No, let’s not. One of the problems with you in this discussion is that you insist upon trying to translate a complex situation with lots of dimensions, many facets, and tons of context into a very simple uni-dimensional thing. Maybe that is due to a mixture of what you want desperately to believe, and the fact that you apparently have received only a very limited set of information that presents only one facet with very little of the context. I don’t know you, so I can’t say.
“You can never leave the country but if you choose to leave, you have to relinquish your citizenship and lose all your assets and property.”
Except that is not how it was at all, and in fact you are pretty much making that up. It was never “you can never leave the country”. And more to the point, “you cannot leave the country” and “you have to relinquish your citizenship and lose all your assets and property” took place at different times. It is important to know why Jews who left during that one year period had to relinquish their citizenship. In all honesty, this is one of the few decisions of the Iraqi government that seems completely reasonable and consistent to me. How many states would knowingly allow their citizens to emigrate to an enemy state where they would automatically become citizens and at the same time retain their citizenship in the state they were leaving? Few, if any is the correct answer. And rest assured that the Iraqi government was 100% aware that the emigrating Jews were being transported to Israel, since that was the agreement the government had made with the Zionists. In the beginning they required the Zionists to fly the emigrating Jews to Cyprus in order to conceal reality, but toward the end they said “what the hell”, and the flights went directly from Baghdad to their destination in Israel with the full knowledge of the government.
It is also worth knowing that it is not only the Jews in 1950-51 who lost their assets if they left the country. During the ’90’s and the 21st century, at least prior to March, 2003, any Iraqi who left the country would have cash over certain amount and valuables, such as jewelry and even things like Persian carpets seized at the border and handed over to the State. I myself successfully smuggled some valuable carpets and gold jewelry out of the country when I left (and would not have managed to leave at all had we not been able to call on some friends in high places as our plane waited on the tarmac), and during much of the ’90’s and 2000’s Iraqis who were emigrating did not even try to take their cash and valuables with them for fear of losing them to the state altogether.
“Why would ‘citizens’ of a country not be allowed to leave it for travel?”
As I have said at least four times on this page already, they were not allowed to leave the country for travel in order to prevent them from emigrating. What part of that is so difficult to absorb, especially given that I have stated it explicitly here at least four times in less than 48 hours?
1. As I have stated repeatedly here, I have never made any reference at all to your so-called “Nuri Al Sa’eed plan”, which was a suggestion for population exchange, and am not referring to it now. I am talking about the fact that the Zionists bribed Nuri Al Sa’eed and other members of the government with very attractive personal incentives in order to persuade them to lift the travel restrictions and allow emigration to Israel for Jews for a period of one year. So no, I am not twisting history at all, I am merely talking about something different.
2. Once again, you put words into my mouth. I have never stated or implied that the Zionists “forced” the Iraqi Jews to do anything. In fact, my use of the word machinations pretty much obviates any implication of force.
3. How boringly typical to play the “you are blaming Israel/the Zionists/The Jooz” card. No, saying that the majority of Jews would not have left without the machinations of the Zionists does not add up to “blaming the Zionists”, or anyone else for that matter. This is not about about assigning blame. As I have already said, I assign to the Zionists their portion of the responsibility, and to the Iraqi government and other entities their portions. Had the Iraqi government not acted in the shameful ways it did it is unlikely the majority of Jews would have left. It was not any one single thing that caused Iraq to lose its Jews and Iraqi Jews to lose their country, it was a fatal combination of things.
“Thanks for your holier than though posting there ma’am, much appreciated.”
If you are going to resort to a non-specific ad hominem parting shot, at least spell it correctly.
“going by how the word is defined in any English dictionary, it was an expulsion.”
You have to really stretch that definition to make it fit what happened in Iraq, Syria, most of North Africa, Yemen – in fact, all but a very few Arab countries.
“On the contrary, the governments of Iraq and Syria did not want to lose their Jewish communitie”
So explain all the events I’ve listed that I listed before … Surely you cannot claim those were to ‘keep their Jewish communities”
“It was only after the Zionists made it personally very profitable for Nouri Sa`eed and his family that the Iraqi government agreed to allow unlimited emigration for Jews for the period of one year.”
This is incorrect. The ‘Zionists’ refused involvement at first when Al-Said’s first plan came up.
“And even then Jews were not exactly signing up in droves until a series of other events encouraged them to believe they would be better off elsewhere.”
100,000+ isn’t droves, you’re right.
What ‘other events’? The grenades thrown by Iraqi Muslims as per Tom Segev? Or are you going to say he’s lying?
“And the fact remains that the Jews were never expelled from Iraq.”
Kill them, hang them, don’t let them learn their history or study in Hebrew, fine them heavily, fire them from govt positions, loot their property – no no, we want you here guys! We’re not really forcing you out, we’re just uuuuh trying to make you earn your Iraqi stripes! But if you want to leave, we’ll help you get on the first plane to that Zionist Entity. But don’t call it expulsion .. Heaven Forbid!
I’m still rather shocked (but unsurprised?) an intelligent person, who definitely is very well aware of Iraqi Jewish history, can use the same term when comparing what the Iraqi government and ‘Zionists’ (though you’ve really given me no proof, bar the Al-Said plan that was rejected by Sharett and Eshkol originally) treatment of Iraqi Jewry (“What did happen in Iraq is absolutely shameful both on the part of the Iraqi government and on the Zionists”) – there is no comparison whatsoever.
Again, you put words into my mouth. I have never so much as thought about, let alone cited what you call the “Al Sa’eed plan”.
And neither have I compared the actions of the Iraqi government and the Zionists except to call them both shameful, as they both were. That does not mean they were shameful in the same way, or even equally shameful.
You’ve talked continuously about Nuri Sa’eed and his ‘work’ with the Zionists.
You look at it in the last stage (ie When Israel offered to pay for each Iraqi Jew), I look at it when it when the plan was first hatched:
“The whole idea of ‘kicking out’ Jews from Iraq was in fact an idea floated about by Nuri Al-Said in 1949 (though this was in exchange for the Palestinian refugees). This can be found in an essay called, “The break between Muslims & Jews in Iraq” by the late Iraqi-Jewish historian Elie Kedourie. Israel was disinterested (To quote Eshkol, “no tents”).”
(Unless you want to call Elie Kedourie a liar, or ‘hasbara’ propagator)
You look at it from a very conveniently very limited view, and ignore the majority of the events, the circumstances, and the context. I can’t help you with that.
And I am almost as close to being done with this conversation as I imagine every one else except you and I are.
Shlomo Hillel vehemently denied that Iraqi Jews had been expelled.
Surely he knew better than any of us?
Incidentally, Avram, you do it quite reasonably until you go into Hasbara mode. Please don’t cut and paste those lists of events that “prove” that Iraq was catastrophically evil vis-à-vis the Jews. Take into account that a similar list could be compiled “proving” that Israel “expelled” Israeli Arabs:
–Israeli Arab villagers were thrown out of Iqrit and Bir’im, their houses were demolished, they were never allowed to return.
–Israeli Arab CITIZENS were stripped of their property by the Absentee Property Law of 1950. Even though they lived in Israel, they were given the Kafkaesque title of Present Absentees!
–In 1956 51 Israeli Arab CITIZENS were machine-gunned by the IDF at Kafr Qassem after failing to abide by a curfew they were unaware of.
–Israeli Arabs were not fired from government positions: they were never appointed to them in the first 50 years of Israel’s existence.
–The Israeli Arab town of Ein Hod was transformed into a Jewish artists’ colony. The mosque was desecrated into a posh café. The original inhabitants live in a nearby impoverished village.
–In the year 2000, the Israeli police mercilessly shot 13 unarmed Arabs.
–In 2008, two Arab teens were savagely beaten by 60 Jews at a Jerusalem boulevard. The incident is recorded on video.
–In 2005, a Jewish soldier got onto a bus and killed 4 Israeli Arabs with his rifle.
–In 2009, the Israeli housing minister accused the Arabs of wanting to take over the Galilee and stated that Jews and Arabs should not live together in Israel.
You see: Israel “expelled” Israeli Arabs!
Yet Israeli Arabs didn’t flee.
There’s a difference between making life hard for someone and expelling them. And what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
I replied below in my response to Shirin but a few little points:
There is quite a big difference in comparing Israel 1948-1956 (and we did a LOT of wrong, and you’ve only noted a bit obviously) to Iraq 1920-1951 …
““proving” that Israel “expelled” Israeli Arabs”
But 100,000 Israeli Arabs didn’t leave … and until these events, whichever era you pick, there weren’t 30-50 Arabs fleeing secretly (without anything) into a neighboring state (as Jews were leaving to Iran to get out of Iraq DAILY).
(I’ll assume that would have given more information on some of your examples above if you had time …)
One very, very key difference between the so-called “Israeli Arabs” and the Iraqi Jews was that the “Israeli Arabs” did not have a group of activists urging them to leave, engineering their departure, providing their transportation, and promising them a life of milk and honey in a new country established just for them.
Still, it is a little-acknowledged fact that Israel DID continue the ethnic cleansing of 1948 well into the ’50’s and even beyond.
“Then you flippantly blew off the feelings of Israel’s Palestinian citizens by cavalierly suggesting that they should simply get drunk and pray”
Sorry, that’s pure BS and I really don’t think I need to reply to such a deliberate twisting of my words.
Hasbara Buster – “Cut and Paste” historical facts about Iraqi Jewry really bothered you that much that you resort to your typical “Hasbara mode” line? Even Shirin acknowledged everything I said … Nice to try and divert the discussion away from the conversation at hand! Didn’t expect you to do that.
Oh, come on! Your words speak eloquently for themselves. No twisting is necessary. You haven’t even tried to address the concerns your fellow citizens might have when they hear a national anthem that explicitly excludes them. Instead you talked about yourself, and then flipped them off. Give me a break!
For someone who claims ‘Hasbara’ folk put words in people’s mouths, what does that make you?
When did I mention anything about ‘drunks’ and ‘prayer’? I understand 100% why the Israeli Arab cannot related to the national anthem and why he feels it excludes them. I understand if it’s a Druze or a Bedouin or a Christian Arab or a Christian Russian too. But if you want to carry one with your word twisting, go ahead ma’am.
Sorry, rereading what you wrote more carefully I realize that I mistakenly conflated your remarks about “getting blasted” (which I understand as meaning getting drunk), and standing and praying. For that my apologies. Nevertheless, your comment, taken in toto was a cavalier dismissal of the concerns of your fellow supposedly equal non-Jewish citizens when they hear “their” national anthem which explicitly excludes them.
If, as you say, you “understand”, you have have absolutely not expressed any sense that you give a flying rats rear end, or feel any empathy or even compassion for how it must feel to them to be explicitly excluded from any single symbol of the state of which they are citizens, or that you even remotely sense the significance of that to them or to the ethnocarcy of which you are a tier one citizen. On the contrary, you have blown off their concerns in a very flippant and somewhat ugly manner.
I haven’t blown off their concerns – If I was a non-Jew, I would almost certainly not sing the Israeli national anthem or relate to it. But I wouldn’t sit down during it either.
“Shlomo Hillel vehemently denied that Iraqi Jews had been expelled”
Shlomo Hillel has said that he came to Israel as a Zionist, not as a refugee. At the same time if you read his book he clearly says that one of the factors that made him realise that there was no future for the Jews in Iraq was the massacre of 600 Assyrian Christians in 1933.
Whether you call it expulsion or not, Shirin, the Iraqi Jews arrived in Israel as refugees. They had got to the point where life had been made intolerable for them, as Avram so eloquently explains. They were desperate to leave. My parents fled Iraq in 1950 leaving all their property behind. Other members of my family stayed on until the 1960s but by then they were banned from leaving. That didn’t mean they were content to stay – they were hostages. Things got so desperate for them, after 1967 they were not allowed to work, their phones were cut off, their bank accounts frozen, they were under police surveillance and they lived in a state of utter terror because Jews were being arrested and executed at random. I have close family who risked their lives and escaped on donkeys over the mountains of Kurdistan rather than endure that hell.
Shirin, you cannot deny the facts – the Jews (and they are now 41 percent of Israeli Jews) left the Arab countries because of antisemitism. The Arabs need to acknowledge this fact if we are to move on.
Your account is far more realistic than Avram’s, and you are right that 1967 was an important turning point. I remember it well in part because it was only in May and June, 1967 that I realized that some of my friends were Jews (believe it or not, most Iraqis typically were less interested in someone’s etho-religious background than whether they were decent, honourable, interesting people with whom one had common interests). However, the problem was not anti-Semitism per se. It is not a coincidence that 1967 was a turning point.
When you distill the calamities that happened to the Iraqi Jews in the 50’s as anti-Semitism, you ignore the historical contexts in which the events ocurred. And that does a tremendous disservice to the people who were there at the time.
We agree on this point.
“And finally, finally – and I really mean it this time – you do not address at all the degree to which the British colonialist’s calculated divide and rule strategy created and contributed to many if not most of the issues Jews had during the period in question.”
It contributed to it – but ‘many if not most’ is an exaggeration in my opinion.
If these ‘examples’ were only seen in English colonies where Arabs & Jews lived together, I’d tend to agree with you. But as that’s not the case, I’ll stick to the ‘contribution’ part but not to the ‘many if not most’ part.
You are entitled to your opinion, of course. And there is no denying the effect on Jewish-Arab relations of the elephant in the room. The shame of it is that the Arab governments and some of the citizens of Arab countries held their Jewish citizens, the overwhelming majority of whom were not at all
interested int Herzl’s Zionist vision, as scapegoats for what was happening in Palestine. That, tragically, and shamefully, is politics.
I don’t think there was ever a ‘Zionist’ movement (as per Herzl) in the Arab Jewish world (Though a Tunisian Rabbi was presnet at Herzl’s conference in Basle).
However, no one can deny that due their faith (a large part of Arab Jewry was ‘shomer masoret’, observant to an extent), they felt a deep connection to the land … Due to the many differences in Europe and the Arab world, I doubt a ‘Zionist movement’ would ever have grown in the Arab world …
On this we agree – al hamdulillah, at last! Arab Jewish culture and social/cultural/religious customs and sensibilities were and are very different from those of Europe, and few could identify with Herzlian Zionism or any other sort of “practical” Zionism. That they got sucked/pushed into it by different forces is in my mind tragic.
Whether or not Mizrachi Jewry could have developed their own ‘Herzl’ is as answerable as whether the Palestinians could have built a state side by side with Israel in 1949 had everyone found a peace treaty. It’s just assumptions and ‘wise men & women thinking out loud’ …
“That they got sucked/pushed into it by different forces is in my mind tragic.”
I don’t agree with the tragic part, but to each his own. There’s a lot of what ifs when debating history so as long as the debate can be done respectfully, it’s always interesting to hear someone with a different point of view to your own.
“Except that is not how it was at all, and in fact you are pretty much making that up.”
Really? Read what Bataween said and then tell me if her family made it up …
“It is also worth knowing that it is not only the Jews in 1950-51 who lost their assets if they left the country”
I agree. But was there such a large % of other people who left in the process?
“Zionists “forced” the Iraqi Jews to do anything.”
Ok Shirin – help me out here.
The Zionists paid Al-Said to allow Jews to leave. As far as I know, you say that most of Iraqi Jewry is not ‘Zionist’ nor wanted to leave Iraq. And yet 100,000 Jews left under this ‘profit making’ scheme for Al-Said. It’s not adding up …
Also, do you think Al-Said & his government made more money off the Zionists than the 80 million USD they got off fining Jews in the late 1940s? Somehow, I don’t think money was the real issue.
“Had the Iraqi government not acted in the shameful ways it did it is unlikely the majority of Jews would have left.”
“If you are going to resort to a non-specific ad hominem parting shot, at least spell it correctly.”
It really wasn’t a ‘parting shot’ – you were just talking from a pedastal at me, so I decide to call a spade a spade. Sorry for the spelling mistake.
Look, Avram, I have grown weary, frustrated, and bored with this conversation, and I am sure most people have stopped reading it. It just might be that we are both reasonable people with different sets of information who could come to some kind of resting point on it if we kept on long enough that we really started listening to each other, but I am not up for it right now, and frankly I have neglected preparations for a talk I must give very soon in favour of sparring with you. So, I am going to try to let it rest for now, and hope I can manage to ad lib enough of my talk that it will be valuable to the audience. I think I can it is a subject I can manage in my sleep (and sometimes do!).
I do understand where you are coming from, and I think at the end of the day you care about human beings, and so do I, so I will leave it there for now. We can take each other on in the future, and hopefully can do so vigorously, and with at least a measure of mutual respect.
sababa, or mabruk as you say.
Mabruk? For what, exactly, are you congratulating me?
that we can discuss things respectfully even though we don’t hold the same view … while i don’t think we hold the same ‘views’ of my country, i still funnily enough think we want the same ‘final outcome’ for both people (well I want two countries where both people can co-exist peacefully, and essentailly remain however they want to remain)
There is quite a big difference in comparing Israel 1948-1956 (and we did a LOT of wrong, and you’ve only noted a bit obviously) to Iraq 1920-1951 …
I can understand that, to you, bad things that happen to Jews are always more grievous than bad things that happen to Arabs.
Many of the items on your list actually prove that the Jews of Iraq were, in fact, far better treated than the Arabs of Israel. For instance, you cite the dismissal of Jewish civil servants from the Iraqi government. Well, this proves that Jews had secured government jobs in the first place! That was not the case with Arabs in Israel. Even now, Arabs face many of the restrictions that, in your view, prove that the Jews were expelled from Iraq. How many Arab engineers do you think are employed by the Israeli Electrical Company? Can an Arab freely move to a Jewish town, or must he petition to the High Court?
“Cut and Paste” historical facts about Iraqi Jewry really bothered you that much that you resort to your typical “Hasbara mode” line?
Hasbara mode is when you only cite, in knee-jerk fashion, facts that paint the Arabs as catastrophically evil without any counterbalancing facts or consideration to context. Can events in a highly underdeveloped society be compared to those in a European-style country? When you cite massacres of Jews or Assyrians in Iraq, you fail to notice that such kinds of massacres happen all the time in third-world countries, even democratic ones like India, where Christians or Sikhs have been killed in vastly higher numbers than the Jews ever were in Iraq. Incidents of discrimination or violence, however numerous, are not tantamount to expulsion.
“I can understand that, to you, bad things that happen to Jews are always more grievous than bad things that happen to Arabs.”
Great point there. Totally false, but hey, don’t let that get in the way of your busting.
“Well, this proves that Jews had secured government jobs in the first place!”
After being a part of the ‘country’ for how long? Was Arabic ever banned in Arab classes in Israel?
” Arabs face many of the restrictions that, in your view, prove that the Jews were expelled from Iraq. ”
Uuuh the Jews did leave Iraq, and as I said, their treatment (be it the public hangings, the refusal to allow them to travel, the heavy fines, etc) set up the plank from them to work off
“Hasbara mode is when you only cite, in knee-jerk fashion”
Considering the discussion I was having with Shirin, this – like the first statement in your piece – is BS … Well Done.
“paint the Arabs as catastrophically evil ”
Who called them evil? There was some disgraceful treatment of the Jews from Day 1 … That anyone with half a brain can acknowledge. Was it like that all the time? Nope. Did everyone do it? Nope. I’d still probably rather be a Jew in their world than in the European Christian world. But nice try again in trying to put words in my mouth. You’re good at that.
“you fail to notice that such kinds of massacres happen all the time in third-world countries”
You’re right, so it’s excuseable. My bad!
“Incidents of discrimination or violence, however numerous, are not tantamount to expulsion”
Did they lead to expulsion?
I don’t think anyone was asked whether they agree with their country’s anthem or not. It all comes together: Anthem, passport to enable the holder to travel abroad (which I was denied to have in Iraq just because I was a Jew), Health care, social security, right to study at university (which many of us-Iraqi Jews were denied in Iraq just because we were Jews). You cannot enjoy the services and luxuries of a country and refusing to be part of it. No one is forcing anybody.
In you article (“She added that Arab pupils were already deprived of the chance to learn about their own history, culture and identity” Just for clarifications although Jews in Iraq history go back to 2600 years and they were the largest minority in Baghdad in the early years of 20th century but we did not “learn about our own history, culture and identity” as the curriculum was mainly about all the FTUHAT (the occupations of the Muslim armies). The same was done to all other non Muslim groups and the same was done in most Arab/Muslim countries.
You also mentioned “Yousef Jabareen, head of Dirasat, a Nazareth-based organisation monitoring education issues, blamed the poor results on growing cultural bias in the Israeli education system as well as severe budgetary discrimination.” In Iraq this actually pushed us to excel and work much harder so please don’t use this excuse
And “Last week the ministry also announced that textbooks recently issued to Arab schoolchildren would have expunged the word “nakba”, or catastrophe, to describe the Palestinians’ dispossession at Israel’s founding in 1948.” I will personally write, demonstrate and do whatever it takes to call for putting the word Nakba back in the textbooks, if it is describing the whole issue in its proper meaning and not partly as the Jews of the Arab countries had their own Nakba and they lost everything and become refugees. If you want sympathy, you have to be sympathetic to others and maybe then there will understanding and peace.
“If you want sympathy, you have to be sympathetic to others and maybe then there will understanding and peace”
I think that’s the bottom line …
Surely you can’t deny that Iraq’s Jewish population was FAR better off than Palestine’s Arab population, even with the latter’s nascent middle class.
Of course, if you’re falling from such a high perch, the impact of the fall would be greater.
Iraqi Jews held positions among the professional, intellectual, artistic, and commercial elites of Iraq, were part of the growing middle class, and there were also Jews among the poor. They occupied every stratum of Iraq’s very diverse society. It was impossible to know whether someone was a Jews or not unless they had an obviously Jewish first name, came from a prominent Jewish family, or told you they were Jewish. I did not know that many of my associations were with Jews until just before Israel began the 1967 war. What religious group someone was from was simply not something you thought about much if at all.
“held positions among the professional, intellectual, artistic, and commercial elites of Iraq”
In what Arab country didn’t they? Perhaps Yemen if memory serves me well, but there were always Jews who did well in the Arab world … NO ONE can honestly deny that.
I wonder if we can take a cue from Uri Avnery and instate “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” as the national anthem instead? Despite its connotations in the RZ world, it IS very neutral in comparison.
“When you distill the calamities that happened to the Iraqi Jews in the 50’s as anti-Semitism”
I don’t think I claimed they were Anti-Semitism. But if, as you say, this was more the work of a “pro-Nazi government of Iraq”, then surely that had some motivating factor. To be honest, what caused the difficulties for Jews in Iraq pre 1920, or 1920-1940, or 1940-1951 wasn’t really what I was debating. I was debating what I think was a deliberate ‘move’ to push Jews away, I guess what you call a “FUNCTIONAL expulsion”.
“Surely you can’t deny that Iraq’s Jewish population was FAR better off than Palestine’s Arab population”
Depends what time period, I’d say you’re right. However, there’s a difference (as I told HB) between Israel in her pre-early days and the many wrongs she committed to a rather stable “Hi we’ve known you Jews forever” state.
“I wonder if we can take a cue from Uri Avnery and instate “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav””
I doubt the national anthem will ever be changed, however, there was a movement in the 1980s to change it to ‘Anashim Tovim’ (the hit song). Thankfully, that failed miserably.
But 100,000 Israeli Arabs didn’t leave … and until these events, whichever era you pick, there weren’t 30-50 Arabs fleeing secretly (without anything) into a neighboring state (as Jews were leaving to Iran to get out of Iraq DAILY).
Cubans have risked their lives to flee Castro’s Cuba because they wanted freedom, a better standard of living, etc.
But Castro hasn’t expelled a single Cuban.
Hard conditions do not equal expulsion. Get over it.
Another really poor comparison … but hey, whatever floats your boat.
Try see what BarNavi means by ‘functional expulsion’ –
Shirin: ” I also know for a fact that (Iraqi Jews) are widely considered Arab by their fellow Arabs. I know that they are culturally far more Arab than they are anything else. There might be some in Israel who shout “death to Arabs”, but so what?
Have you asked any Iraqi Jews how they feel? As one of them, I certainly don’t feel Arab. We may seem Arab on the surface – we speak Arabic – but we have a different culture, religion and history. Even our Arabic is a Jewish dialect using a different accent, interspersed with Hebrew expressions and Turkish words. To call us Arabs or Arab Jews is your way of denying that we are a separate people deserving of our own country.
If Jews from Arab countries in Israel shout ‘death to the Arabs’ it is because of the way they were treated by Arab Muslims, because they felt humiliated and betrayed. We won’t get anywhere as long as people like you Shirin deny that the ‘bad stuff’ ever happened.
I have not had to ask Arab Jews, including Iraqi Jews, how they feel, they have revealed it in the many conversations I have had with them, and I have heard them refer to themselves in that way, both directly and indirectly by referring to “we” in the context of discussions about Arab issues.
As for dialect, the Iraqi Jews I associated with were indistinguishable from other Iraqis in every way, so much so that in some cases we did not know they were Jews unless they told us or we found out in some other way. In other cases we knew because they bore the names of well-known Jewish families, or had Jewish first names.
Iraqi Arabic, particularly the Muslawi dialect, is interspersed with Turkish words and sounds that occur in Turkish but not Arabic, so that is hardly unique to Jews.
The fact that you feel differently from some other Iraqi Jews only proves the obvious – that Iraqi Jews are no more monolithic in their experience, beliefs, feelings, and sense of identity than any other group of human beings.
Oh – and your views and feelings do not explain an experience that is shared by many Iraqis living or travelling outside of Iraq. Many of us have at least once in our lives been approached joyfully, sometimes tearfully, by Iraqi Jews who, overhearing someone speaking Iraqi dialect, wanted to reunite at least briefly, with fellow Iraqis. They don’t care whether it is Muslims, Christians, or Jews they are approaching, just that it is Iraqis. The incident nearly always results in at the very least a pleasant hour or so over tea, and often an invitation to a meal.
I am sorry you feel the way you do, but you do not represent all Iraqi Jews.
PS Even all Iraqi Jews who ended up in Israel, or were born there do not feel as you do, as I know from personal contacts, as well as from the existence of Israeli peace activists and advocates of Palestinian rights who happen to be Iraqi.
If Jews from Arab countries in Israel shout ‘death to the Arabs’ it is because of the way they were treated by Arab Muslims
So let me ask you: those Israeli Arabs who were expelled from their own villages, who were dispossessed by the Absentee Property Law, who were systematically discriminated against during all these 60 years, who know that certain jobs and places are for Jews only, who see cabinet ministers continually spewing hate of Arabs — would they be justified to shout “death to the Jews”?
What would be really interesting HB, but I think impossible to truly find out, would be to see where each statement (mavet la’aravim and itbach al yahud) started becoming ‘heard’ and the reasons behind it …
“I am sorry you feel the way you do, but you do not represent all Iraqi Jews”
“PS Even all Iraqi Jews who ended up in Israel, or were born there do not feel as you do, as I know from personal contacts, as well as from the existence of Israeli peace activists and advocates of Palestinian rights who happen to be Iraqi.”
Shirin – While I honestly find you very knowledgeable and respectful, these kind of comments amaze me. So you know a few Israeli peace activists and a few Iraqi Jews who DO feel the way you feel, and suddenly they represent the majority? I can tell you, it’s the extreme minority of the Iraqi Jews I’ve interacted with.
I’ve been a part of many Mizrachi/Sefardi congregations where many of those involved were Iraqis, I feel that your statement is not very accurate. None of us ‘really’ know the %s here, but I somehow doubt many hold similar opinions to yours (as we’ve seen already 3 in this conversation – Sylvia, iraqijew & bataween – differing with you on this)
Avram, I am sure you are not doing this intentionally, but you consistently construct positions for me that are in no way expressed by what I have said. Where have I EVER said that any Iraqi Jewish point of view about anything represents the majority? On the contrary, what I have explicitly stated several times is that like every human group, Iraqi Jews are a diverse lot whose experiences, views, and feelings, and even sense of identity, vary. Never have I suggested that the Iraqi Jews I have encountered in my life, or that you have encountered, or any others represent the majority. To the best of my knowledge there has never been any kind of study or survey, so the fact is we really have no way of knowing.
Taking the Farhud as just one example, the Jews who were protected from the murderers by their Muslim and Christian neighbors, friends, and colleagues, a few of whom were killed protecting them, had a very different experience of that event than did those, undoubtedly the majority, who received no protection from anyone. In just one of the incidents I am aware of, a group of the murderers were barred by non-Jewish doctors, nurses, and other employees from entering a hospital. Their demand to bring to them the Jewish doctors and other Jews who were in the hospital there was refused, and they eventually went away empty handed. I doubt very, very much that any of the Jews who were in that hospital at that time believed, as is consistently represented, that the Farhud was a generalized popular riot against Jews, or that they ever wanted to shout “death to the Arabs”.
We really don’t know how the majority of Iraqi Jews feel about Arabs, or think about their own identity. Based on what I know about Middle Eastern people, about Iraqis and Iraqi Jews, and about human beings in general, I expect that for most individuals it is complicated, nuanced, and very dependent on the context in which the questions are asked.
Sorry if I misrepresented your views – that’s what I got from what you were saying. I’ve re-read the posts I quoted and it comes off that way though going by the post I’m now replying too, you seem very honest and up front about it all – so apologies.
Thanks, Avram. I appreciate this.
I have actually been fairly careful in the way I have stated things so as not to appear to be speaking about the majority. Here is one example: “The fact that you feel differently from some other Iraqi Jews only proves the obvious – that Iraqi Jews are no more monolithic in their experience, beliefs, feelings, and sense of identity than any other group of human beings.” My insertion of the word “some” there was not an accident, it was intended to clarify.
A few further thoughts:
To be accurate, only two commenters here, only one of whom claims to be an Iraqi Jew, but who clearly never lived in Iraq, have differed with me on this question. Silvia claims to have been born and raised in an unnamed Arab country, and I have no solid reason to either believe or disbelieve her story, but her repetition of the standard post-9/11 beheading stereotype along with a couple of other really odd remarks do make me wonder. It is also interesting that Silvia found it quite reasonable for her, presumably NOT a Palestinian, to state that “Israeli Arab” is what Palestinians who are citizens of Israel wish to be called while unleashing a stream of vitriol when you suggested that many Jews from Arab countries do consider themselves as having Arab ancestry.
In answer to Silvia, off the top of my head I can think of several prominent Iraqi Jewish citizens of Israel who have publicly self-identified as Arab Jews and who have also publicly referred to other Jews from Arab countries the same way. Three who come immediately to mind are Nissim Rejwan, Sasson Somekh, and Ella Habiba Shohat. Ella Shohat, by the way, is one of many, many Jews who were, without consulting their wishes, stripped of their Arabic names and given Hebrew names upon entry into Israel. Ella chose to reinstate her Arabic name by using as her middle name.
You do like to take shots at Israel non-stop eh? I guess the country makes it rather easy for you … If you want to go over how (& why) Israel stripped names (though I think this is the minority again, many were happy to revert to their Hebrew names) or why Holocaust survivors had their identities hidden or issues with the Religious early on, we can … It has little to do with ‘what’ these people were, or what they had just overcome, but more to do with what Israel was trying to do in the 1950s to build the ‘Israeli’ (I’ve written before on this – not here – using Arik Sharon’s quote in Warrior … Where he essentially says that these actions, plus the attitude of the pioneers who’ve arrived in the early 1900s, laid the foundation for the ‘Israeli’ which doesn’t put much emphasis on his Jewishness as as an ‘identity driver’)
Shirin, I am an IRAQI JEW as the name means. I was BORN in Iraq and had to leave at the age of nearly 16 because life was unbearable. My father could not work and therefore our finances were deteriorating very quickly; we were not allowed to join certain clubs or societies simply because we were Jews; we were not allowed to have telephone at home, our houses were constantly watched and we were followed wherever we went, we became isolated as other Iraqis were be frightened to be in contact with Jews in case they would be accused as Zionist spies, same excuse used to hang in the centre of Baghdad, kidnap men and women from their house or work, as happened to my classmate and her family whose bodies were mutilated and put in suitcases to be found by the remaining g member of the family. It is very annoying and incorrect to say that the Jews of Iraq were not forced to leave. Just for small comparison, the Palestinian refugees of 48 did not go through all this and in a systematic way, as was done to the Jews of Arab land and in Particular to the Jews of Iraq. The truth as it is now known even to the refugees themselves that they were falsely lead by the Arab leaders to use them as pawn to wave to their people and the prove is that they denied them to have the minimum human rights in the other Arab countries, the same human right and equalities they ask from Israel to do their Arab (refusing to be called Israeli) citizens.
My last point: Nissim Rejwan, Sasson Somekh, and Ella Habiba Shohat represent the minimal percentage of the Jews of Iraq, actually they do not represent any of the people that I speak to, and believe me I am very active in the Iraqi Jews community.
You mentioned “Many of us have at least once in our lives been approached joyfully, sometimes tearfully, by Iraqi Jews who, overhearing someone speaking Iraqi dialect, wanted to reunite at least briefly, with fellow Iraqis.” Yes, you are right, this is the HANEEN- Nostalgia. I myself have a lot of Iraqi Muslim and Christian friends but still have many Jews Iraqi friends who cannot understand how can I make peace with them because as they say “how can you forget how they treated us”.
“In answer to Silvia, off the top of my head I can think of several prominent Iraqi Jewish citizens of Israel who have publicly self-identified as Arab Jews and who have also publicly referred to other Jews from Arab countries the same way. Three who come immediately to mind are Nissim Rejwan, Sasson Somekh, and Ella Habiba Shohat.”
Nissim Rejwan and Sasson Somekh belong to a tiny group of Jews who grew up and were educated in Arabic at the height of Iraq’s accelerated arabization program. We’re talking 1940s and apparently they were of school age at the time. They were exposed not only to Arabic, but also to Arabism as an ideology. Save loyalty to the Arab League (one of the required conditions for non-ethnic Arabness), they are the closest thing to an Arab Jew and if they so want they can call themselves Arabs. But that was by no means the experience of Iraqi Jews.
As to Ella Shohat, she has never lived a single day in Iraq and she is apparently third generation Israeli. In her case, “I am an Arab Jew” is a political statement -as it is with all those you say you know: all extreme left with a marxist tilt, and all one-state-for-two-people types who are carrying their ideology on their sleeve. They are also a very tiny minority mostly of Hebrew-speaking ex-Israelis.
Finally, the two best known “I am an Arab Jew” activists were Albert Memmi of Tunisia who fought French colonialism and Abraham Serfaty of Morocco who wanted to implement an agrarian reform in that country.
Memmi in later years explained that he didn’t mean it literally, but it was the right thing to say at the time.
As to Sarfaty, it was the late Moroccan King Hassan II who set him straight, declaring over the public waves: “There are no Arab Jews in Morocco. Moroccan Jews are either Berber or Castillan.”
With all this – and because calling people “Arab Jews” is a political statement rather than fact, I don’t expect anyone here to refrain from using it. Nor do I expect anyone to question “they” shout “mavet la’aravim” unless they were holding a sign stating their national origin while shouting it. Or perhaps it was the color of their skin that tipped you off.
Whenever I read such a lazy, self-serving paraphrase of another person’s argument my antennae go up. Why don’t you provide an actual quotation of what Memmi said & not expect us to take your word for it. I don’t trust you as an honest scribe as far as paraphrasing Memmi’s actual views.
See below from Bataween … It seems she was being honest.
It seems Shirin’s descriptions of the world Iraqi Jewry lived in is far different from the world 4 Iraqi Jews, who have posted on this thread, lived in …
Very interesting thread overall.
I have not attempted to negate anyone’s experience, or invalidate anyone’s memories, views, or feelings. What I have pointed out is that the experiences, memories, views, and feelings expressed here are not universal among Jews from Arab countries. I have cited Jews from Iraq and other Arab countries, some well known, some not, whose experiences, memories, views, and feelings are quite different from, generally far more nuanced, and every bit as real and valid as those expressed here.
What is quite interesting is the sometimes almost frantic contortions some people here have gone through in an effort to negate and invalidate the experiences, memories, views, and feelings of their fellow Jews. It is as if in their minds Jews from Arab countries, unlike every other human group on earth, MUST be monolithic, at least in all things pertaining to their lives in Arab countries.
“Whenever I read such a lazy, self-serving paraphrase of another person’s argument my antennae go up”
Shame your antennae stay down when it comes to your countless inaccuracies.
And how does my paraphrase not reflect “the term Arab Jew was not a good one. I adopted it for convenience”? Particularly coming from the person who has coined the term “Arab Jew” and went as far some twenty years earlier as write a novel to prove Arab Jewish “blood” ancestry?
Touchy, touchy. All I did was ask you to provide a source, which you did. But you needn’t have added the unnecessary snark.
BTW, I’m not sure your paraphrase “but it was the right thing to say at the time” is the same thing as Memmi’s actual quote “I adopted it for convenience.” Convenience can mean a lot of diff. things. Your insinuation that he was attempting to be politically correct isn’t borne out by Memmi’s actual words.
“As to Ella Shohat, she has never lived a single day in Iraq”
That is factually incorrect. Ella Shohat did indeed live in Iraq, and immigrated to Israel from there.
As for your comments about Nissim Rejwan, Sasson Somekh, and others, it seems rather – ahem – “convenient” to attribute their identifying as Arabs to having been indoctrinated by – why, Arabs, who else?
But really, the main thing your comment above has accomplished is to confirm what I have been saying all along, which is that Middle Eastern Jews are no more monolithic than any other group of people, and that they represent a variety of sets of experiences, views of Jewish history, points of view about Arabs, and senses and feelings about their own identity and their relationship to Arabs.
“That is factually incorrect. Ella Shohat did indeed live in Iraq, and immigrated to Israel from there.”
That was the coup de grace to whatever little credibility you may have had.
Why don’t you look it up? And once you do, be sure to come back and apologize.
Why don’t you prove that you’re right by producing a bio that says what you claim?
Ella Habiba Shohat is an Israeli author, activist, orator and Professor of Cultural Studies and Women’s Studies at New York University. She is of Iraqi Jewish descent. Ella Shohat was born in Israel to a Baghdadi family.
Ella Shohat is a scholar, critic, and professor of cultural studies at New York University. … Ella Shohat was born in Israel to a Baghdadi family. … [ http://www.holyfly.com ]
מודבק מ <http://pipl.com/directory/name/Shohat/Ella
And, as I said, third generation Israeli; in her own words:
"Reflections of an Arab Jew
by Ella Shohat
"I am an Arab Jew. Or, more specifically, an Iraqi Israeli woman living, writing and teaching in the U.S. Most members of my family were born and raised in Baghdad …
When my grandmother first encountered Israeli society in the '50s, …."
So here is a third generation Israeli who is preternding to teach ME – someone born and raised in an Arab country where I lived until AGE TWENTY- who I really am.
Where do they find that arrogance? Where?
Silvia: You’ve quoted Wikipedia and a website which appears to have paraphrased the wording & information fr. the Wikipedia article. You’ve linked to what appears to be a Dutch website, not a language many of us know. You’ve claimed she’s a 3rd generation Israeli when Shirin has presented evidence from several books and magazine articles that she was actually born in Iraq. The quality of his (if Shirin is a “he”) sources far outweigh yours. Maybe you owe him an apology (not that you’ll be getting one anytime soon, Shirin)?
That business about Ella Shohat being a third generation Israeli is almost as big a laugh as her earlier comment about being subject to beheading for calling oneself an Arab Jew. I am certainly willing to try to confirm Ella Shohat’s place of birth once and for all since there do seem to be two different stories about it, but I also do not think it is a critical question at all in terms of her qualification to speak on the subject of Arab Jews. In fact, I might just cut through all the nonsense and go to the most authoritative source of all. But there is no doubt that both her parents did come from Iraq. In fact, it is temporally impossible for her to be third generation Israeli since she was born in the ’50’s. Applying a little logic can sometimes help one avoid making a fool of oneself.
And I did not have a chance to comment on Albert Memmi, and do not have time now except to say that I do not remember having the feeling that he was so terribly bitter and negative. I would want to reread him, since it’s been a while, but it seems to me that his views were not all one way or the other, but were, as with most of the Arab Jews I have known and studied, much more nuanced, and dependent on context.
Oh – Shirin is most definitely a female name, Persian/Kurdish in origin. Think Shirin Ebadi (no, of course I am not she!).
My apologies for getting that wrong! Of course I know of Shirin Ebadi.
I’m sorry you are so bitter and angry, Silvia, and I hope this bitterness does not extend into all aspects of your life.
This is what Albert Memmi actually says:
The term “Arab Jews” is obviously not a good one. I have adopted it for convenience. I simply wish to underline that as natives of those countries called Arab and indigenous to those lands well before the arrival of the Arabs, we shared with them, to a great extent, languages, traditions and cultures. If one were to base oneself on this legitimacy, and not on force and numbers, then we have the same rights to our share in these lands – neither more nor less – than the Arab Moslems. But one should remember, at the same time, that the term “Arab” is not a happy one when applied to such diverse populations, including even those who call and believe themselves to be Arabs.(…)
Yes, indeed, we were Arab Jews- in our habits, our culture, our music, our menu. I have written enough about it. But must one remain an Arab Jew if, in return, one has to tremble for one’s life and the future of one’s children and always be denied a normal existence? There are, it is true, the Arab Christians. What is not sufficiently known is the shamefully exorbitant price that they must pay for the right merely to survive. We would have liked to be Arab Jews. If we abandoned the idea, it is because over the centuries the Moslem Arabs systematically prevented its realization by their contempt and cruelty. “
Richard & Shirin:
“Ella Habiba Shohat is an Israeli author, activist, orator and Professor of Cultural Studies and Women’s Studies at New York University. She is of Iraqi Jewish descent. Ella Shohat was born in Israel to a Baghdadi family. In the past she was an activist in a number of Mizrahi leftist movements. ”
Shirin – This is from wiki. Please find something that disproves the below as it seems you were wrong. If that’s the case, I think you should apologize for distorting the truth.
I think again it is rather interesting how the Iraqi JEWS who are posting here all disagree with the rather positive light you spin their existence in Iraq …
Avram, I am sure you realize that Wikipedia is not exactly the most definitive source going, can in fact be quite unreliable, and should always be verified. I also noticed in that Wiki entry that there is no footnote reference to substantiate her place of birth.
This is a blurb from her book, Taboo Memories, Diasporic Voices:
“Born in Iraq and raised in Israel, Ella Shohat is an internationally renowned theorist of trans-national feminism and anti-colonialism, known not only for her scholarship but also for her activism.”
This is from a college textbook, Beyond Borders by Paula Rothenberg, a professor of Ethnic Studies:
“Ella Shohat was born in Iraq and…now lives and works in the United States.”
This is from a magazine article on Arab Jews:
“…Ella Habiba Shohat, an Iraqi-born Israeli university professor.”
From another magazine article:
“Jewish writer and activist Professor Ella Shohat, who was born in Baghdad, bemoans the disappearing culture of the Arab Jew.”
Now, I am not presenting the above as the definitive word, either. They and all the other examples I have seen could be wrong, and Wiki could be correct, but it should be clear by now that at the very least not all sources agree. As for me, my memory could be faulty, but I was sure I remembered hearing and/or reading that she was born and lived in Iraq. I have pretty clear recollections of her descriptions of her experiences with the immigration process, but it has been a long time, and suppose I could have confused her in my mind with someone else. I will check it out, but don’t have time right now to read through what I have here, so it will remain an open question for now.
And no, I will most emphatically NOT apologize for “distorting the truth”, though it WOULD be nice if you would apologize for all your nasty insinuations – several in one very brief comment, I notice.
As for how “interesting” you find my understanding of Iraqi Jews’ very varied and nuanced experiences, memories, views, and feelings about their own identity and their relationship with Muslim and Christian Arabs, I think I have made myself sufficiently clear enough times that I do not need to keep repeating myself over and over again, even if you feel a need to repeat incessantly how “interesting” you find it all.
Oh – and speaking of distorting truth, it would be awfully nice if you would do me a courtesy and comply with my repeated requests to stop misrepresenting my positions in an effort to make your argument stronger. It doesn’t, and in any case, YOU might be here to try to win debating points by hook or by crook, but I am not, and it gets really boring after awhile.
Now, that’s research the way it’s supposed to be done! As for Wikipedia, it can be authoritative or not. It really depends on the quality of the research of whoever wrote the article & whoever fact-checked or updated it. In articles about more obscure individuals, issues or movements, in which fewer Wikipedia editors may have knowledge, the articles can sometimes be pretty bad. But then again, they can sometimes be excellent.
I haven’t misrepresented you as you’ve cleared yourself up on numerous points which you were rather ‘blurry’ on. There are other points where I think you’re towing a really poor line, but as you said, it gets boring after a while.
Wrt Ella Shohat … It seems there’s a big confusion (I’m surprised Richard has directly accepted your stance) between where she was born:
“To counter the male interviewees he travels to New York City to chat with Ella Shohat, an intellectual college professor and writer of a recent book on Israeli films depicting Arab Jews. Born in Israel of Iraqi parents, she generously reflects on her alienation growing up in Israel and suffering from racism”
NYU Professor Ella Shohat ( Iraqi Jewish descent) Mizrahi activist born in Israel
Basically, I guess no one will know until we ask Ella herself!
Are you really as poor a listener as you have appeared to be in our discussions?
Are you really as cocky and unreasonable as you have appeared in our discussions?
See we both can play this game …
You are absolutely right, Avram! It is really unreasonable of me to state over and over again that Jews from Arab countries are not monolithic borg-like creatures, but human beings who have differing life experiences and have derived differing beliefs, views, and emotions from their life experiences. And it is even more unreasonable of me to suggest that beliefs, views, and emotions can differ and still be valid.
And it is terribly cocky of me to point out when someone makes an obviously outlandish claim, or is just plain making stuff up. Shame on me.
And finally, perhaps an important difference between you and me is that you are playing games here.
“Ella Shohat was born in Israel” and you get 259 returns of that exact sentence
“Ella Shohat was born in Iraq” and you get a handful of returns – most irrelevant -by some booksellers or websites mentioned here by Shirin. They understandably thought that to speak with such authority on her Arab identity, one had to be at the least an ID card carrying member of Iraqi citizenry – or at least have been raised there. Again – and that’s perhaps the most outrageous to me – she draws all her knowledge of Iraqi Jewry from her immigrant grandmother.
As to Memmi, I started writing an answer to Richard regarding my alleged “insinuations” because the question was extremely intriguing and very relevant for our days. But then I realized I’d have to write an entire dissertation and I have pressing work to do at the moment. Another time.
Nonetheless, I must clarify a few concepts:
The “Arab Jew” construct proposed by Memmi was inspired by the “Arab identity” which was developed in the early 20th century by Lebanese Christians. Both are ARTIFICIAL identities. They are based on a commonality of language and culture, nothing else. But they are useful in the sense that they allow for the equality of rights otherwise not afforded by a Muslim religiously defined society to peoples of other creeds.
While it seems to have worked for Christians in the Middle East (up till recently), the proposed “Arab Jewish” identity was never put to a test and never really got off the ground. Immediately after the independences (in North Africa and the Middle east), the Jews were forced out of their countries. Needless to say, memmi was disullusioned -to say the least. People such as Memmi, Fanon, Sarfaty, were not content pointing out the immorality of colonialism, they were also greatly concerned by the nature of the new independent society of which they intended to be part and parcel They were not just perorating from the safety of their New York backyard.
By the way – It would be legitimate to speculate that had Fanon lived to read the new 1962 Constitution of the newly independant state of Algeria, he would have been greatly disappointed as well (a Muslim grandfather clause was introduced that stripped non-Muslims of the Algerian nationality). As to Sarfaty, he went back to Morocco after years of jail and exile to find a country empty of its Jewish population and he is still grappling with “what happened?”.
In this particular article (“Qu’est-ce qu’un Juif Arabe – Questions a Qaddafi”) written roughly a uarter of a century after he coined the term “Arab Jew”, Memmi was responding to Qaddafi’s invitation to “Arab Jews” to return to Libya.
I know it was her grandmother
Silvia, you remind me of little school kids who think you can decide a question of fact by voting on it.
Her place of birth is not of any great consequence to me personally, but I dislike carrying around and conveying incorrect information, so I intend to confirm it for myself one way or another. I am not, however, going to decide the truth based on the number of Google hits. My criteria are just a bit more rigorous than that.
And if I want to discuss Albert Memmi and similar subjects I will find someone more qualified, not less qualified than I am with whom to discuss it. You pretty much disqualified yourself with your first comment on this page – the beheading thing was classic! – but it was with your adamant assertion that Ella Shohat is 3rd generation Israeli that really did yourself in.
Google finds information. It doesn’t necessarily find accurate information. To use the number of links that Google finds to ascertain whether yr claim is accurate is foolish. I was trained in academia, & there the worth of a claim is based on the value of the research. A published reference work is always more credible than a website or Wikipedia. Even Wikipedia acknowledges this in its own research guidelines. Shirin has provided two published books as sources and a magazine article. Silvia has produced websites & Google. No contest.
Again, as Shirin notes, she could still be wrong. But I doubt she is & the onus is on you to prove it. Can you find a published book that says she was Israeli-born?
This is patently false. Can you produce any evidence whatsoever for this? Even if her grandmother is A source that doesn’t mean she is the SOLE source. You’re treading on treacherous ground.
This is a historically false claim. It may be convenient to yr political-ideological narrative, but it is simply untrue. There were some countries in which Jews either were forced out or felt they had to leave. But there were many other countries in which the nations’ leaders preferred that the Jews stay & they elected to leave. Shame on you for letting yr ideology blind you to fact. The facts & truth are more complicated than you allow them to be.
Morocco is not “empty” of its Jewish population, though most Jews did leave. But the reason they left is quite more complicated once again than you allow. The king did not want them to leave. Israeli shlichim spent much time & effort persuading them to leave & many did leave for Israel.
That was a great reply Shirin.
Notice how almost everything you wrote, I had agreed with presently (this after you stated at first that there was no expulsion, and then realized many Jews who left felt quite differently).
I am not playing games … I just responded in kind to your claim, which I thought was unnecessary.
“after you stated at first that there was no expulsion, and then realized many Jews who left felt quite differently”
1. There was no expulsion of Jews from Iraq or Syria or in fact from most of the Arab countries no matter how you or anyone else with a superficial, limited, unidimensional view of events tries to spin it. And the direct role played by the Zionists in the emigration of Arab Jews is significant, despite your collective refusal to admit it.
2. Funny, I didn’t notice you agreeing with much of anything I said. On the contrary, you accepted without question anything that confirmed your preconceived ideas, in particularly apparently Silvia’s obviously very imaginative versions.
2. This is an example of one of the reasons it is frustrating to try to have a discussion with you. I did not suddenly “realize” many Jews who left felt quite differently. I am not a newcomer to the subject of Arab Jews in general, Iraqi Jews in particular, or to human society and behaviour. On the contrary.
What is particularly galling about this little remark of yours is that you are playing a game of opposites here. It is not I who did not realize there are others who felt differently, it is you and your cohorts who absolutely refuse to accept or acknowledge that there are others who feel differently than they do, and will in some cases will go to absurd lengths to try to deny it.
3. You do sometimes come across in our discussions as a poor listener who is more interested in trying to score cheap points and get in snarky digs at your opponent than to conduct a mutually respectful discussion of differing ideas. That makes it more difficult to take you seriously. If that is not the way you want to come across then maybe you should consider what you can do to avoid giving that impression.
And finally, in the past couple of days I have pulled out some old videos I have here of interviews with Iraqi Jews, including some who immigrated to Israel in the ’50’s and lived their lives there (at least one I know, a well-known writer, is deceased now). I haven’t watched these interviews in a number of years, and it is amazing how accurate my recollections of them were. If this thread were not so far off the page by now I would transcribe some of the interviews and put them here. Ditto some of the books and articles in my personal library that were written by Iraqi and other Arab Jews, including, by the way, Albert Memmi.
1. I’ve said a number of times the ‘Zionists’ were involved in part of the push. As I’ve repeated a few times (which is where i disagree with you), the Arab governments and people who committed the crimes against their Jews are far more to blame than anyone else.
2. I was going more with Bataween, IraqiJew and BarNavi. I noticed you barely acknowledged what they said and instead went after Silvia because she was far more ‘attacking’ in her posting nature.
2. (though 3.) Not sure who my ‘cohorts’ are (though, two of them are Iraqis, so maybe they’re ‘your’ cohorts, they just don’t agree with you) – but I understand there’s people who feel differently about this. Just like there are Palestinian Arabs who feel differently about 48/49 and Jews who feel differently about 39/45. There is no ‘one line’ on any story … That you try and make it seem as if I don’t is one of your tactics which I try to ignore for the sake of the dialogue.
3. (though 4.) Cheap points or ‘snarky digs’ do nothing for me, or you. So I don’t try to do anything. As I sarcastically implied in my last post to you, you come off as a person who views ‘her’ understanding of history as the only one. Then you explain yourself better and are more open. Hence, what you think are ‘digs and cheap shots’.
Lastly, I wonder how most of Arab Jewry would look at their ‘push into Israel’ had Israel been more able to accommodate them. Much like other immigrant classes in the 1950s who were forced into the ma’abarot/border towns, they had a very very ‘eh’ existence. That, coupled with ‘typical’ European treatment of those different (or the ‘religious’ clash between Ashkenazi/Mizrachi) made their experiences very difficult. I talked to an Iraqi Jew yesterday – He said many things that fall more in line with Bataween and others. He did say it wasn’t an ‘expulsion’ like history tends to views expulsions however …
Shirin – It’s not related at all to what we’re discussing but I wanted to see your opinion on the above piece.
Don’t worry, I have NO opinions on this right now, I’ve just read it once and wanted to hear your opinion. (just curious)
Avram, I will wade through it and try to comment, but do not have time now. I must tell you that the name “Fouad” (should be Fu’ad) `Ajami is not respected at all by most Arabs or most Middle East scholars outside of adherents to Bernard Lewis-style orientalism, a western-oriented view that is largely discredited. People like Daniel Pipes love `Ajami because he mostly tells them what they want to hear. In other words, I don’t have a great deal of respect for him or his ideas. It is not that there is no room for self-criticism, and it is certainly not that Arabs are not very self-critical, which they are on many levels and sometimes brutally so, it is `Ajami’s pandering to the often silly, always self-serving western orientalist notions of Arabs that destroys his credibility. In any case, I will try to set aside my prejudices about `Ajami and evaluate the piece on its merits or demerits, but please give me a day or two.
Ok – I have never heard of him before, so I have no issues if you don’t want to comment on that ground (I have a few Israeli commentators where I feel the exact same way, so I can relate)
What you were not told – which might help you understand both some aspects of the article and Shirin’s answer to you – is that Ajami is not liked by most Arab scholars simply because he is a Shia from Lebanon. When he says “the Arabs” – he usually speaks of the Arab sunni majority.
Incidentally, the name “Ajami” means stranger – i.e. non-Arab.
Silvia, please stop making things up.
No, I have no objection to commenting on what he wrote, it is just a matter of getting the time to read it, and write my comments.
Perhaps the interest in the question of oriental Jews has faded a bit since August. But just now a very interesting article by Reuven Snir has been published that might throw some light
a) on this debate
b) on the involved feelings and emotions
c) on the history of the term and the concept “Arab Jew”
It can be found here:
Fascinating. Thank you.
My pleasure! Reuven Snir is a fascinating person. The Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin, was really lucky to have him as a guest.
Thanks. I haven’t had time to finish the article, but seems right on so far.
Samir Naqqash is one of the Iraqi Jews living in Israel who are the subject of the documentary film Forget Baghdad. I recommend it. It was made by an Iraqi who recalled his Communist father reminiscing about his Jewish comrades who had left Iraq. The young man went to Israel to try to find them. He failed, but he was able to find other Iraqi Jews there, including Samir Naqqash, who are the subject of the film.
Also, by the way, a significant percentage of the Iraqi Communist party members were Jews, and so it is not surprising to find that quite a few of the Jews who emigrated to Israel in the ’50’s were also Communists. As a matter of fact, many if not most of the Iraqi Jews who were, according to the hasbara, hanged for being Jews, were actually hanged for being Communists, and were tried and executed at the same time as, and even side by side with their Muslim and Christian comrades who were killed for the same reason. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to get away with claiming it was because they were Jews, so this has become the “received truth” in the manner of the Goebbels principle of repeating a lie until it becomes “the truth”.
Yes, I love the film “Forget Baghdad”.
And most of the communists from Muslim families were Shiites. The grandfather of Samir, the maker of the film, was a Shia theologian.
Although the film features Ella Habiba Shohat, it does not feature Naeim Giladi.
Gosh, where were you when I was swatting the gnats like the tragically bitter Silvia, and Avram. We’d have made a great team!
Naeim Giladi is an interesting character. I read his book carefully, and found it interesting, but wanting in a number of ways. In quite a few instances I found myself needing something much more solid than he presented in order to be convinced. There is no doubt of a lot of Zionist hanky panky in Iraq, including some violence against Jews, but I don’t think he presents a solid case for all of his claims.
During their brief period in power in Iraq the Communists were so brutal and became so despised that after they were defeated it could be dangerous in Iraq to wear red or even drive a red car. If they had anything of value to offer Iraqis, they did not have a chance to show that. Nevertheless, just as there were many fine and deeply idealistic Ba`thists, so there were many fine and deeply idealistic Communists. It is the Communists and the Ba`thists who offered the most pluralistic ideology to Iraq,l and the Ba’thists who did the best job of distributing the oil wealth to the people. But that is quite another discussion.
nice comment there Shireen.
Richard – I’m glad you allow people to call posters like Silvia & myself ‘gnats’.
II’ve talked probably to more Iraqi Jews in the last year than you have – and continue to do so (especially considering the disgraceful treatement of Ezekiel’s grave). Your believe your stories and the minority of Jews who stand by them (you must love the CiF lady – the name escapes me, something with a S). I’ll stick to mine. To each his own.
I have no idea what CiF is or who the CiF lady is.
CiF=Comment is Free. But I have no idea who the “lady” in question might be.
If I could leap in here, I note that of the people you cite here – Snir and Shohat – are radical leftists who do not represent most Jews from Arab countries, Giladi is a bitter and twisted man who blames Israel for all his ills and the late Naqqash is an odd-bod author who never quite fitted into Israel because he wrote in Judeo-Arabic. Mainstream views are represented by Shmuel Moreh and Eli Amir who you do not cite.
Claiming that Iraqi Jews were not expelled becomes a question of pedantry – when the children of Israel who were slaves in Israel were let out by Pharoah, they were not technically expelled either, but were driven out by the human rights abuses inflicted on them: likewise Iraqi Jews left because they feared for their safety (the Farhoud claimed 180 Jewish lives in 1941) many were sacked from public service and had no means of earning a living; there were arrests, torture, beatings and executions. The fact that Communists were hounded as much as Zionists shows that this regime brooked no dissent and respected no human rights.
Shirin, it is beneath your dignity to call commenters who disagree with you gnats.
I am so sorry. I didn’t want to stoke the flames of this emotional debate again. Quite the opposite: I had hoped that some insights and analysis of the feelings involved might help to explain why everybody got so emotional and – G’d willing – might help to get some understanding of both sides and especially “the other side”.
Well, this hope was obviously in vain and I can only repeat myself: I am very sorry.
Concerning Ella Habiba Shohat you might be right that she is from the left wing of the political spectrum. I don’t know if you regard that as a blemish.
As to Reuven Snir, I had the impression that he is a rather apolitical person, a literary scholar rather in the ivory tower of academia whose forte is rather analysis than taking sides in political fights.
As to Naeim Giladi, I only mentioned that he was *not* part of the film “Forget Baghdad”, implicating “may-be for good reasons”.
But what am I talking? Obviously everybody is already too bitter to keep cool, even less to hear other voices apart from one’s own, so I guess we best end it for good.
Please don’t be sorry, Outsider. You contributed something of value from an excellent source. The fact that not everyone is prepared to accept that not all Arab Jews have shared the same experiences, or processed what they have experienced in the same way is not your fault, nor is the fact that not everyone is prepared to accept that differing viewpoints on the part of Arab Jews are legitimate, or that if Naeim Giladi is bitter, and Samir Naqqash felt alienated in Israel, they might have excellent and perfectly valid reasons.
I am somewhat troubled by this from you: “Obviously everybody is already too bitter to keep cool, even less to hear other voices apart from one’s own…” I hope you do not include me in that “everybody”. First, I am not bitter, second, I have kept cool, if not always completely polite, and third, if you read through my comments here, I repeatedly allude to the differing experiences and differing feelings and views of Arab Jews.
I knew and worked with, and shared recreational activities with many Jews in Iraq. I have worked with and shared thoughts with Arab Jews in the U.S. and Europe. I am working now on a project with some prominent Arab Jews in the U.S. and Britain, including an Iraqi Jewish writer. I have studied Arab Jewish literature and history in the Arab world, and in Israel, including looking below the surface of events. I feel confident that I have a good set of information that leads me to a well-rounded point of view. The bottom line is that Arab Jews are no more monolithic in their experiences and views than are members of any other human group.
And of course, by dismissing and delegitimizing the likes of Ella Shohat for being too lefty; Naeim Giladi as “bitter and twisted”; and the great Arabic writer Samir Naqqash as an “odd bod writer” our interlocutors are simply telling us that they have no real, substantive argument.
“The fact that not everyone is prepared to accept that not all Arab Jews have shared the same experiences”
No one said that … It’s you who sadly rests on the testimony of a minority over a majority … But don’t let that bother you.
“Nor is the fact that not everyone is prepared to accept that differing viewpoints on the part of Arab Jews are legitimate”
Again … you completely ignore the fact you ignore testimony of many Arab Jews who feel they were expelled, namely many (not all) from Iraq. Every person’s ‘experience’ and opinion is legitmate as long as they don’t lie (they may see things differently – which is also valid”
“if not always completely polite”
You call me a gnat … If that’s polite, I shudder to think how far you sink when you get ‘rude’
“you completely ignore the fact you ignore testimony of many Arab Jews who feel they were expelled, namely many (not all) from Iraq.”
The fact that many Iraqi Jews feel they were expelled from Iraq is only relevant as to their feelings about the experience. It is not relevant and has no bearing on the question of whether the Jews were in fact expelled from Iraq. Feelings and facts are two very separate matters. People are entitled to respect for their honest feelings, but feelings do not change reality.
“You call me a gnat…”
I apologize for calling you a gnat. I should have said that the effect of your collective behaviour with your comrades here was gnat-like.
Yes, you kept cool… and I think it would have been preferable to keep also polite (adab!).
But when Bataween writes „you Iraqi Muslims blew it“ (two postings further down), then the debate between individuals turns into something about constructed collectives (you Israelis, you Palestinians, …) and then all hope gets lost it might still turn into something constructive or enlightening.
Experiences are always very subjective. If they were stamped into ones memory so deeply that it leaves its mark in the mind forever, it’s difficult to acknowledge other people might have other experiences, or might have experienced things in a different way. Every mentioning of possible diversity then becomes an endangering of or at least a challenge to the self and then people react like they were being threatened. They feel threatened indeed.
I guess that’s the time for tea and baklava and sympathy. Arguments don’t help in that situation, no matter how striking they may be. Or rather: the more striking they are, the more they are felt as strikes against a precarious self.
It’s not sensible to carry on at that point, it only aggravates injuries and hardens standpoints.
I have enough experience and background in this matter to hold at least a somewhat nuanced view. I have no need, political, social, or emotional, to make anyone into a hero or anyone into a villain. Therefore, I do not need to overly simplify the situation, or overlook critical factors in what actually happened. There were numerous actors in both the exoduses and the situation in Israel, few of whom really cared about what the Arab Jews wanted, let alone what was in their best interest. And the events and the situation were different in each of the Arab countries, as were the reasons for the events. It’s so very easy.
I am not convinced by people, particularly by Ashkenazim, who try to dismiss those who challenge their dearly and passionately held prejudices as “fringe” elements, nor am I terribly sympathetic toward the notion that they feel “threatened”. In any case, it is fruitless to attempt to change deeply entrenched prejudices and beliefs. These discussions are useful, however, in that they may serve to bring others to at least reconsider and look more closely into the one-sided stories they have always heard and believed.
You won’t find that to be the case with Bataween whose website proclaims itself to be about “Jewish refugees” when all he seems to care about are alleged Jewish refugees from Muslim lands. Look over his blogroll as well, replete w. the most vile rightist pro Israel blogs. Seems to me this guy has something to prove rather than an interest in portraying things accurately & in a balanced fashion.
Sorry for the incomplete thought. Meant to say that it is so very easy to pare one’s story down only to those elements, and to create additional elements that will justify the ugly feelings one wants to feel.
Outsider – it’s not that, it’s that Shirin refers to people who disagree with her as gnats. I guess it’s better than being referred to as Dogs …
It’s ok to read what the fringe element of a the ‘political spectrum’ say … But the reaction you’re likely to get is the same reaction I get when I look into what ‘fringe’ Muslim groups (be it extreme right or left) say … Mizrachim who (rightly or wrongly) feel blighted by their experiences in the 1950s and are on the left (or extreme left) political spectrum will no doubt tow a line that represents what Shirin wants to believe. I will say that of the hundreds of Iraqi Jews I’ve talked to, very few show ‘resentment’ for Iraq as a country or the world they left behind. They are however very open about the many hardships and issues they suffered being a minority in the country.
Avram, I do not refer to people who disagree with me as gnats. I refer to people as gnats who buzz around in swarms constantly making the same annoying noises and never changing their noises or their swarming in response to those whom they are assaulting.
You can try to dismiss important figures such as Ella Shohat, Samir Naqqash, Reuven Snir, Avi Shlaim, Ammiel Alcalay, and even Naeim Giladi as well as many, many well-known, less-well-known, and completely unknown individuals all over the world as a “fringe element”, but all your are doing in fact is revealing the paucity of your argument
However nostalgic Iraqi Jews might feel about Iraq, the bottom line is that only seven Jews are left. For all your wishful thinking about ‘Arab’ Jews and how Arab they feel and how they hate the Zionists and feel connected to the Palestinians, you Iraqi Muslims blew it – you got rid of them all. Those Jews you knew – presumably in the late 60s – all left, even if they had to cross the northern border on foot, even if they risked being thrown into jail, even if their belongings were stolen on the way. Ask any one of your Jewish friends if they would move back to Iraq – the answer is clearly NO.
Come on! Everyone who could find a place that would take them left Iraq as the situation deteriorated, and that included most of the Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and other intelligentsia. Since 2003, the exodus accelerated exponentially. And I don’t know any Iraqi, Jewish, Christian, Mandaean, Muslim, or even Kurd who would move back to Iraq if they could possibly avoid it, so your argument is useless.
And one has to wonder why, if there are still seven Jews in Iraq, they have chosen to stay there and endure conditions that are horrific for everyone outside the Green Zone instead of running to the Promised Land. I would love to talk with one of them and find out why they are still there.
And your argument is that Christian nations were more accommodating to Jews???? Crusades? Inquisition? Holocaust? Pogroms? I don’t know the history of Jews in Iraq but I wouldn’t trust yr version of it if it was the only one that existed.
“For all your wishful thinking about ‘Arab’ Jews and how Arab they feel and how they hate the Zionists and feel connected to the Palestinians…”
Pardon me? Where did I say the Arab Jews hate the Zionists? In fact, I have never said any such thing. I have also never said that Arab Jews in any general sense feel connected to the Palestinians, although some do. Putting words into the mouth of ones interlocutor is a very dishonest way of arguing, and when you engage in it it reveals the weakness of your argument very clearly.
Yes everyone does have different experiences and these experiences are subjective to some extent. But when enough people of a certain ethnic/religious group share the same experience of being hounded out of their country of birth then I think one can objectively say that their experience was one of collective persecution and expulsion.
Al the rest is denial and obfuscation.
“I do not refer to people who disagree with me as gnats. I refer to people as gnats who buzz around in swarms constantly making the same annoying noises and never changing their noises or their swarming in response to those whom they are assaulting.”
You make whatever excuse you want Shireen. It was often time a debate between me and you, and others came in and out for both sides. If you say that’s buzzing and swarming, ok. Whatever floats your boat. At least you didn’t call me a dog.
“You can try to dismiss important figures such as Ella Shohat, Samir Naqqash, Reuven Snir, Avi Shlaim, Ammiel Alcalay, and even Naeim Giladi ”
Again, put words in my mouth. I said they’re in the minority (and that’s the reason you stand by them so passionately and dismiss what most Iraqi Jews talk about).
Putting words in my mouth really does wonders for an argument eh?
“I have enough experience and background in this matter to hold at least a somewhat nuanced view. I have no need, political, social, or emotional, to make anyone into a hero or anyone into a villain”
I think that’s a bit dishonest. Our political points of view do sway us, whether we like it or not.
“You won’t find that to be the case with Bataween whose website proclaims itself to be about “Jewish refugees” when all he seems to care about are alleged Jewish refugees from Muslim lands. Look over his blogroll as well, replete w. the most vile rightist pro Israel blogs.”
So any right winger can just come to you and say, “Look over his blogroll as well, replete w. the most vile leftists anti Israel blogs.” ‘Alleged’ Jewish refugees too? That’s pretty disgusting. I guess you’d also call most Arab refugees ‘alleged’ too (especially considering the UNRWA definition)?
Lastly, I’m fairly disappointed that you’ve allowed Shireen to insult me for no reason whatsoever. Can I call her names too? Or do you allow those who have a different pov to be called names and protect those who share your pov?
Avram, you really ought to read through your own comments so you know what you have and have not said before accusing someone of putting words into your mouth:
No, they can’t because I don’t link to vile blogs of any kind. If you’d like I can review ea. blog in his blogroll I find objectionable & tell you why. I assure you I have valid reasons for characterizing those blogs in that way. But you conveniently omitted my main objection to the blog, it focuses on only one class of Jewish refugee and not even the Jewish refugees who suffered the most in Jewish history. Blogs like this are propaganda vehicles for the anti-Muslim, pro-Israel forces.
There are some. But not nearly as many as the propagandists I referred to above would have us believe. I would never claim that life for Arab Jews was idyllic just as life for European Jews was far fr it. But I don’t see any websites demonzing Chrisitianity or Europeans for their genocidal treatment of Jews today. But I do see right wing propagandists doing that to Muslims & I object to it.
This is the 4th time you’ve repeated that you’re PO’ed that Shirin referred to you as a gnat. Would you get over it, please. I’ve been called a lot worse as has Shirin here. She argues passionately for her position just as you do. If she ever goes over the line I will let her know. Gnat isn’t the most decorous term to use to refer to another person, but you’re being far too thin skinned to make a big deal out of this.
Arab Jews were not segregated in shtetls, let alone forced to live in walled ghettos, but were free to live anywhere in their countries of residence. They were not limited to certain ways of earning a living, but had all professions open to them, and in some cases they dominated certain professions. They were particularly prominent and respected in law, medicine, music, literature, and academia. The best and most popular bookstore in Baghdad was owned and run by a Jewish family.
Contrary to attempts to claim otherwise, Arab Jews were not subjected to regular pogroms as European Jews were. They were much better integrated into society.
Shireen, how come the Mizrachi/Arab Jew sources you like are those who slant to the political left, and some to the extreme left? I have NO ISSUES with reading those opinions (I haven’t read two of them I think, but I hopefully will in the next few days/weeks), who those on the far spectrum. I’m fairly open to reading most stuff (even stuff that I find sickening – be it left or right) just to get a better understanding of what most/all people see.
“I don’t link to vile blogs of any kind.”
Richard, I remember once there was I found 2-3 anti-Semitic (to do with ‘Vows’ and Judaism/Yom Kippur) comments on your blog. When I told you, you deleted it straight away and warned the user. I’ve seen similar posts in Mondoweiss … They are rarely deleted. There’s others but again, I don’t really care. I still read your view even though I disagree on stuff. I just find that ‘closing’ off information due to ‘blog roll’ is something that would infuriate you if it was the other way around. For example, a guy I used to call my friend once gave me hell for linking my blog to a Iraqi blogger I really liked. Now granted, that blogger wasn’t the most friendly in his critique of Israel or the US, and I disagreed with him but I really bonded with his honesty and his way of writing.
“it focuses on only one class of Jewish refugee and not even the Jewish refugees who suffered the most in Jewish history.”
That Ashkenazi Jewry suffered more in the Holocaust is true. That Sefardi Jewry had as equally a difficult time during the Inquisition is true. However, that blog is dedicated to the Arab Jew (an issue that was rarely talked about from what I understand until the 1970s). Last year, you slammed some poster on Magnes Zionist for not asking Jerry to post about Gilad etc, “It’s his blog, he can write what he chooses about and just because he doesn’t, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an opinion” (I’m paraphrasing obviously but you get the point). It’s the same thing here I think.
“Blogs like this are propaganda vehicles for the anti-Muslim, pro-Israel forces”
I think you’re generalizing here big time. It would be like me saying that your blog can be used by anti-Israel forces. Sure it can, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t read what it has to say.
“But I don’t see any websites demonzing Chrisitianity or Europeans for their genocidal treatment of Jews today”
I think that’s a valid point BUT I would say European Jewry has moved on and developed itself rather nicely (hasn’t, and never will, happen in the Arab world) and the Mizrachim still (like the Ethiopians) still have yet to properly get over the hump (in my opinion at last) themselves in Israel (but they’re well on their way).
“Gnat isn’t the most decorous term to use to refer to another person, but you’re being far too thin skinned to make a big deal out of this.”
Richard, if it was in the middle of the arguement. I would understand because I’m sure we’ve both said, or had leveled at us, harsher terms. But it came well after the discussion had ended and was more of a ‘low blow’ because she thought I wasn’t paying attention to my e-mail warnings. I think debates, even between those who disagree, should be done as respectfully as possible. But point taken, I’m over it!
Agreed. But I’m not Shirin. I respect both her pt of view & the way in which she expresses herself. I have been known to go off on some of my more annoying right wing commenters here. Even my wife chides me for it sometimes. Shiron too has gone off on some folks here who were quite deserving of her opprobrium imo. But “gnat” was one of her less offensive epithets.
I’d venture to say that the blog is really dedicated to scoring pts for Israel in its unending holy war with Islam (others’ opinion, not my own). I have no problem & in fact would encourage any blog truly dedicated to studying & understanding Arab Jewry. That’s not what this blog does.
What is wrong, Richard, with a blog that focuses on Jewish refugees from Muslim lands? Someone has to. When did you ever give a damn about them?
As for my blogroll there are listed sites of all political leanings and none. It’s news to me to learn that Meretz is a vile, right-leaning site!
As for Shirin’s point that no exiled Mandaean, Kurd or member of the Iraqi intelligentsia would set foot in Iraq, of course the Jews are not alone. You reinforce my point that what begins with the Jews never ends with them. Iraq was for a long time a fear society and everyone was oppressed. But the Jews were the first minority to be ethnically cleansed from Iraq; the Assyrians are not far behind.
The seven Jews left behind are nothing to be proud of – they are elderly and poor, the pitiful remnant of a once great community numbering 150,000.
Betaween, this entire comment of yours is fundamentally dishonest, but your placing the refugee label on Arab Jews who emigrated to Israel is so far beyond dishonest that it is hard to know how to characterize it. There were hundreds of thousands of European Jews who were refugees in every sense of the word, but the situation of the Arab Jews was completely different beginning with the fact that their troubles were almost entirely the result of Zionism in Palestine, and in many cases of Zionist undergrounds operating in their home countries. For the most part they were less pushed out than they were pulled out, and the pushing that did take place was almost entirely a reaction to the events in Palestine.
And how interesting that you say the Jews were the first minority to be “ethnically cleansed” from Iraq. How do you explain that the Jews were there as a very successful and integral part of Iraqi society for thousands of years, and it was only in the mid-20th century after a group of European Jewish nationalists began to make serious trouble in the Arab world that things began to change for Iraqi Jews?
As for the seven who are left, the question is why have they chosen to stay there even now in the face of the horrors that all Iraqis have encountered since 2003. Why have they resisted efforts on the part of Israel to bring them to their supposedly “true homeland”? Especially since they are elderly and poor, you would think that they would jump at the chance to live in a relatively comfortable, peaceful place, where their basic needs would certainly be subsidized. Why have they chosen to turn all that down to stay in such a hell hole as Iraq has become?
Your right-wing pro-Israel blogroll: Israpundit, Normblog, Christians Standing with Israel, Anglican Friends of Israel, Dry Bones, MEMRI, Solomonia, Israelly Cool, Harry’s Place. Oh, do you include Meretz? How kind of you to do a little slumming in the liberal pro-Israel blogosphere. Do you think one liberal blog compensates for yr obvious rightist pro-Israel bias?? BTW, I’m prepared to concede that you may not know there are progressive Zionist sites out there that you could link to & prepared to offer you suggestions if you want to expand yr perspective. Until then, your blogroll speaks volumes about yr biases.
This is a lie. Read my comment rules. If you feel you must engage in slogans and grandstanding save it for yr own blog. I reserve phrases like ethnic cleansing for events that merit that profound & profoundly disturbing phrase. Whatever suffering the Iraqi Jews endured–calling it ethnic cleansing is an abuse of history. Do not try that again here.
“The fact that many Iraqi Jews feel they were expelled from Iraq is only relevant as to their feelings about the experience. It is not relevant and has no bearing on the question of whether the Jews were in fact expelled from Iraq. Feelings and facts are two very separate matters. People are entitled to respect for their honest feelings, but feelings do not change reality”
I don’t agree with this 100% Shireen … but it’s not relevant to discussion for now, so we’ll discuss it at a later date if/when it pops up.
“I have no idea what CiF is or who the CiF lady is”
Serious? That is surprising to be honest!
“Contrary to attempts to claim otherwise, Arab Jews were not subjected to regular pogroms as European Jews were. They were much better integrated into society.”
THe pogroms were not regular – but there were many of them. And I think your write up about residence (there weren’t not in ghettos, but they could not live everywhere) and professions (they were limited in various sectors during various tiem periods) is a bit generalized. You make it seem as if they were living in a society as equals, when that wasn’t the case for many.
When you have to go back more than a thousand years to list pogroms, against Jews, I would say that is more that merely “not regular”. And, of course, you ignore the fact that Jews were not the only ones subjected to violence during those periods, and that in fact Muslims were subjected to their share if not more than their share.
Maybe, if you want to go back a couple of thousand years you will find periods during which Jews in some areas had limitations on professions or where they could live, but then so did others during those times, including many Muslims. During my lifetime and for a long time before it Jews could, and did, live anywhere they wanted to, including in any town or city, including in the most elite neighborhoods. They also belonged to the best clubs during a time when Jews were barred from most country clubs in the United States. Most of us had one or more Jewish neighbors who were simply part of the neighborhood, and not seen as somehow separate.
“you have to go back more than a thousand years to list pogroms, against Jews, I would say that is more that merely “not regular”. And, of course, you ignore the fact that Jews were not the only ones subjected to violence during those periods, and that in fact Muslims were subjected to their share if not more than their share.”
I think you’re being dishonest Shireen. 1000 years? Tell me, is 1941 1000 years ago? When did the Baghdad Synagogue get burned down last? I could go on but it’s irrelevant. You preach to Bataween not to be extreme but then you take the exact stance on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Who said I ignored the fact? Are you putting words in my mouth … again?
“Maybe, if you want to go back a couple of thousand years you will find periods during which Jews in some areas had limitations on professions or where they could live, but then so did others during those times, including many Muslims.”
Couple of thousand years? Are you for real?
“During my lifetime and for a long time before it Jews could, and did, live anywhere they wanted to, including in any town or city, including in the most elite neighborhoods.”
No one ever said ‘no Jews’ … Of course some Jews had those privileges. That you again claim it was an option available to all of them shows tremendous bias. I know you ‘ignore’ the feelings of many Iraqi Jews on their feelings of expulsion from their homeland – I wonder if you also ignore them when they say they couldn’t live everywhere or work in any profession they wanted …
“They also belonged to the best clubs during a time when Jews were barred from most country clubs in the United States.”
All Jews belonged to the best clubs Shireen? Or just a select few of very wealthy and powerful Jews …
“Most of us had one or more Jewish neighbors who were simply part of the neighborhood, and not seen as somehow separate”
That sounds like the “Oh I even had a black friend” line. Again, no one is denying a % of Jews did very well in the Arab world. It would be insanity do say they didn’t – and it reached a wide scope too, from entertainment to politics to banking. But that was not the norm …
1. So, you can name one pogrom against Jews that took place in Iraq within the last century. And of course you are not interested in considering the context in which that singular event took place and what led up to it; the fact that the second day consisted mainly of the kind of opportunistic looting that takes place after any disaster when there is a complete breakdown in law and order. You also would perhaps prefer to overlook the reaction of the majority of Iraqis to the event. Considering all of that might require you to look at the Farhud from a nuanced point of view. Unfortunately for you and others who try to use the Farhud to score points, I have studied it, what led up to it, and its aftermath in some detail from several points of view, have known Jews and others who were there at the time and remember it.
2. Jews were as free to live where they wanted to as were members of any other group. Those Muslims, Christians, Jews, Mandaeans, Kurds, Turkomens and “others” who had more means also had more choices. That is the way of the world everywhere in the world, like it or not.
3. Are you suggesting that the best clubs were available to any Muslim, Christian, Mandaean, Kurd, Turkman regardless of their socio-economic level, and that only Jews were required to be elites in order to join? If so, please do share whatever it is you are smoking. Again, it is the way of the world that elite clubs are the province of elites. It might be unfair, but that’s how it is. The thing is that in Iraq elite Jews were not barred from joining clubs while in the U.S. they were.
4. Are you suggesting that it was the norm for Muslims, Christians, and others to do “very well” in the Arab world, but not for Jews? If so, I really want to have whatever you are smoking because that doesn’t fit with any reality I know about. In fact, in the Arab world the large majority of every group, including Muslims, lived in poverty, often at a bare subsistence level. Based on data I have seen, Jews if anything did a bit better economically overall than other groups, including Muslims, in countries like Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Tunisia, etc.
5. Your snide remark about “I even had a black friend” doesn’t deserve the dignity of a response.
Avram is right – 1941, the year of the Farhud in which 180 Jews were murdered is not a thousand years ago. In fact the biggest fear among Jews who left for Israel in 1950 was that another Farhud would break out.
As for Jews doing so well and being so well integrated, this is only true for the period 1917 – 1933. In the 1930s Iraq introduced quotas on higher education – not every Jew who wanted to study medicine or law was allowed to do so – and hundreds of Jewish civil servants were sacked from their jobs. Later, Jews in the private sector were also not allowed to work. In the late 60s their telephones were cut off and bank accounts frozen – and these were the Jews who had chosen NOT to go to Israel, but stay in Iraq.
Shirin have you heard of the word dhimmi? This is what Jews were until the late 19th century. According to David Sassoon’s diary, visiting the shrine of Ezekiel in 1910, the Jews of Hillah were still ‘dhimmi’ – and Sassoon could hardly be accused of a political agenda:
“The Jews are very poor and oppressed by the Sheikhs. Till a few years ago the Jews had limited rights. They had to wear a red patch on their outer garments. They were not allowed to ride on a donkey or horse in town. They were not allowed to walk in the streets on a rainy day in case they would splash water on a Moslem. They were not allowed to wear green – the holy colour of the Moslems. If they would, the Moslem would take it from him and give him a good beating. When they walked in the streets they had to keep a good distance away from the Moslems in case their clothes would touch and defile them. They were not allowed to touch the fruit or vegetables in the shop before buying and if they did touch anything it was considered defiled and they had to buy it. They were not allowed to build their houses higher than the Moslems or to build a balcony over the streets because a Moslem could not walk under a Jewish house and other similar restrictions.”
If this is not institutionalised discrimination, what is?
First, you’ve described the situation in one community in Iraq. What was the situation like in the largest community, Baghdad? Second, you’ve used a western, non-Iraqi observer as yr source. I don’t know enough about Sassoon to say whether he is realiable or not. But I’d vastly prefer to read what Iraqi Jews had to say about the same situation if there were any such sources.
Richard, come to an Iraqi shul in Jerusalem next time you visit. Or go to one in the US. Ask the people who don’t get published what they saw/felt – I think the answer will be quite telling …
I would like to hear about it from Iraqis as well. I certainly was not around in 1910, and I never spent much time or knew any Jews in or from Hilla, but I never saw or heard of anything remotely like this from any of the Iraqi Jews I have known. I am not going to believe this story just based on this one account, especially coming from our friend betaween whose agenda is and always has been very, very clear.
Oh, god, not the old dhimmi canard again! Please do give it a rest. Dhimmi is an antiquated concept and word that went out of use centuries ago, and was recently revived by Israel hasbarists and islamophobes who have transmogrified it into something quite different than it was. Dhimmi is derived from the Arabic word Dhimma, which means to protect. Dhimmis were free non-Muslims living in the Islamic empire during a particular period in history. They were mainly Christians, Jews, Mandaeans, and Zoroastrians, also referred to as Ahl Al Kitab, People of the Book (the Bible); that is fellow Believers in the one God. Zoroastrians were added as “People of the Book” later in history for reasons that are a bit obscure.
I want to see something that confirms this story about Hilla.
PS The dhimmi concept was actually quite progressive for its day.
I tI think most blogs look to score points one way or another. If I was to be honest, a few articles I post are to score points for Israel and then a few I guess take away! But still, the point is what blog doesn’t push forward a point of view? Surely you look to score points too – be it with one group or another. We all do.
The CIF lady is Rachel Sh…. (I don’t remember the spelling of her last name) – she’s very angry still at what happened in the 1950s in Israel with the arrival of Mizrachi Jewry and acts as if they’re still living in ma’abarot and have no chances to advance in our society.
I think her name is Rachel Shabi or something similar to that.
As for scoring pts, I don’t agree. We all seek to persuade, but not all of us are scoring pts. That’s akin to propagandizing & it rings hollow. I’ve learned to sense it immediately when I read someone’s comments here.
I have no problem with argument and persuasion. But grandstanding or treating the issues like its a left-right debate society is just plain boring.
Yes, Rachel Shabi. I am actually working with an Arab group on having her come to our area as part of a presentation on Arab Jews. I look forward to meeting her.
Shreen, Rachel Shabi is a second generation of Iraqi Jewish parents. she wasn’t born in Iraq and did not experience what the Jews of Iraq experienced. She cannot represent the Jews of Iraq based on a second degree experience.
I know who Rachel Shabi is, and I know her history. No one has said she represents the Jews of Iraq. She is certainly qualified to write and speak about Iraqi Jews and the Iraqi Jewish experience, and she is without a doubt more qualified to do so than some Ashkenazi Israeli with an axe to grind against Arabs.
It may be boring but I think it rings true most of the time.
Again though, as long as we debate it honestly (as there’s very definitive ‘groups’ on this site, or any comment board for that matter) and respectfully, at least we can enjoy time spent on it.
David Sassoon was not a western Jew – he was an Iraqi Jew from India. The situation he describes existed all over the Muslim world until the colonial era and still exists wherever Sharia law operates today.
In Iraq, Iran and northern Yemen where there are large populations of Shia Muslims, there is this additional prejudice that the Muslim must not touch the Jew who is unclean or ‘najas’. Jews were even known to be executed in 19th c Persia if they went out in the rain and brushed against a Muslim.
You have merely presented evidence that such practice existed in one Iraqi town at one particular historical time. Yet you extrapolate globally fr. that & illegitimately so. You present anecdotes w/o any support for them. Anecdotes are interesting if true. But they aren’t decisive in painting an accurate overall picture of anything.
This vast overstatement diminishes yr argument if it has any validity (which is arguable). It may convince those who already are pro-Israel in the lowest sense. But it turns off anyone who has a more balanced approach to the issues. If you want to grandstand using such odious overstatement you’re going to do it somewhere else.
How do you know there are 7 Jews left in Iraq? Who told you so? Who counted them? Besides, Jews leave a country for thousands of diff. reasons not all of which correspond to yr ideological diagnosis of ethnic cleansing. I have never read any serious scholar or journalist use this term, which indicates just how far out in right field you are.
Personally, I think your alleged census numbers are not accurate. Pls. provide some authentification of them.
I’m not going to allow you to use the term again here. If you do, you’re outa here. Follow the rules or don’t bother.
“The situation he describes existed all over the Muslim world until the colonial era and still exists wherever Sharia law operates today.”
That is utter crap. Furthermore, you do not have even the remotest clue what Sharia law (sic) is.
“Jews were the first minority to be ethnically cleansed from Iraq”
This is not grandstanding, this is the truth. What do you call the fact seven Jews are left out of 150,000? I call it ‘ethnic cleansing’ and so would many others. Not a single Jew in Libya. Only 30 in Egypt out of 80,000. 50 in Syria out of 30,000. (Not a single Jew allowed to live in Jordan oreven enter Saudi Arabia)
One million Jews lived in the Arab world. Today there are only 4,000. That’s ethnic cleansing.
” Besides, Jews leave a country for thousands of diff. reasons not all of which correspond to yr ideological diagnosis of ethnic cleansing”
What are the thousands of different reasons the Jews left the Arab world in the 1950s?
It’s odd. I had an Iraqi taxi cab driver yesterday in Ramat Gan. He left the country when he was 10. He doesn’t remember it all that clearly. But he recounts stories passed on by his parents etc. He said his parents, and I quote, “had to leave, staying in Iraq wasn’t an option” (חייבים לעזוב, לאשאר שם לא הייה אופציה). Funnily enough, he still talks rather warmly, or even romantically, about the country. He’s the norm …
“How do you know there are 7 Jews left in Iraq? Who told you so? Who counted them?”
I’ve yet to see you knit pick on such details with people who have a more ‘left wing’ approach Richard. It again highlights what I said earlier about ‘scoring points’. 7 isn’t a bad number – I thought the immigration after the beginning of Gulf War II left Iraq Jew ‘free’.
” I have never read any serious scholar or journalist use this term, which indicates just how far out in right field you are.”
Let’s look at the definition of Ethnic Cleansing from thefreedicitionary.com:
“The systematic elimination of an ethnic group or groups from a region or society, as by deportation, forced emigration, or genocide.”
… Now since it was done rather systematically (look at the rights that were Jews were deprived of in the 1930s onwards for example) and since they were removed from Iraqi society (probably permanently), then the last thing to debate is ‘the method’. Now the dictionary gives ‘three’ options of which the 2nd is debatable (it will depend on who you ask – and I don’t know if there’s a ‘polling’ of Iraqi Jews to get a ‘majority viewpoint’), though other options (be it forced by Zionists like some propagandists go on about or whatever) are obviously a possibility too. The term cannot be used if you reserve ethnic cleansing say for ‘cleansing’ like what happened in the Balkans in the ’90s – which it seems that’s what you’re doing (for the exact same reason it seems that you won’t use Bataween use the term)
Bombings orchestrated by Zionist agents & perhaps even legitimate lobbying by Israeli agents seeking to persuade Arab Jews to make aliyah. Economic reasons–the belief they might do better in Israel. Family reasons–they may have family members already in Israel & want to join them.
Perhaps you can parse the “real” meaning of this statement. I can’t. It could mean 100 diff. things. Besides, this man was 10 when he left. Admittedly, he doesn’t know firsthand anything of his parents specific reasons nor do you provide them except in generalized terms. I’m prepared to concede life was hard to many Arab Jews. But I’m not prepared to concede there was a massive physical expulsion on the order of the Israeli Nakba. You can work on that all you want but you can’t legitimately get there I’m afraid.
You call my demand that someone verify their claims “knit picking.” I’m sorry but anytime an ideologue makes a claim around here they have to justify it. If they can’t then the claim isn’t worth a pot of borsht or whatever the Iraqi Jewish equivalent would be. I’m waiting for evidence fr. you or him for the claim.
I’m not talking about a dictionary definition. I’m talking about whether a credible, serious scholar of Arab Jewry has ever used the term. You know as well as I none would have except someone who buys the anti-Muslim pro-Israel narrative. Sure you’ll find Daniel Pipes or Judea Pearl & his ilk endorsing this. But not anyone serious.
And the emigration of Arab Jews doesn’t even fit the definition you’ve offered since there was so “systematic elimination.”
This is the end of this debate. No more discussion of ethnic cleansing in this context. If you need to advance this bogus theory go to Harry’s Place or some suitable den of pro-Israelism.
Richard- Do you think that hanging the bodies of 9 Jews in the centre of Baghdad is the works of Zionism as well, or maybe the disapearing of many Jewish men and women in the seventies was the work of Zionism or not allowing the jews to work or study in universities is another of the zionist agents.
Israel has done more than its share of black ops in Arab countries to spook Jews into emigrating. Do you deny the history? Am I saying Jews weren’t mistreated at certain times in certain countries? No. Beyond that, what’s yr pt?
Ah yes! When Jews are hanged in the center of Baghdad, or disappeared, etc., it can only be because they are Jews, but when even larger numbers of Muslims, or Christians, or Kurds, or Turkmens are hanged, or disappeared, etc., it is not at all about their identity, of course.
By the way, just as an FYI, we knew Muslims and Christians who were murdered or disappeared in the ’70’s, and did you know that after the Ba’th party took over the Americans gave them lists of Iraqi Communists the Americans wanted liquidated? A lot of Iraqi Communists were Jews, but I suppose in those cases they were not liquidated because they were Communists, but because they were Jews. Only the Muslims and Christians were liquidated for being Communists.
Seven Jews in Iraq – we know who they are.
There’s the ex-accountant himself, plus the nephew with whom he shares a rented house in Baghdad’s central Karrada district. There’s the man who lives near them, the man who leads the community, the very old woman, the male doctor and the female dentist. And the man whose brother was a goldsmith.
The goldsmith married the dentist a few years ago. A few months later, he was abducted by gunmen.
So that leaves eight.In fact one has since left. Seven Jews in Iraq.
You’ll be even gladder to know I’m not going to respond to you any more, Richard. You are so deeply in denial about things you find it inconvenient to believe that I won’t be wasting any more time here.
No, do you understand what evidence is? Not your listing the supposed occupations of specific Jews, but a credible piece of evidence that confirms yr claim.
Bataween knows that there are 7 Jews in Iraq as I do. Do you want there names and addresses and maybe their telephone numbers; or maybe even if we do this, you will accuse us that we fabricated the names, addresses and numbers. These people are old and they live in poverty but they fear changes. Is this really the issue or it is that there were 150,000 Jews in Iraq and now there are only seven.
This is sophistry. Find a credible source that says there are 7 Jews left in Iraq. I put it to him & I put it to you.
And are you claiming that Jews were singled out and deliberately exiled out of Muslim Jew-hatred? If so, you’re smokin’ some powerful weed. Every ethnic group esp. minorities suffered terribly in Iraq, not just Jews. But certainly Jews suffered as well. Many Kurds, Shiites and Sunni have wanted to leave but couldn’t. The fact that Jews could get out is lucky for them.
I have seven Jewish neighbors. There is the young rabbi across the street and up one, her husband and their two kids, a girl three and a boy just under a year. Then there is the retired dentist and his wife, who still teaches math part time at the local community college. They live right around the corner from me. He’s kind of boring, but she is really fun to be around and interesting to talk to. And then there is the single mom and her five year old son. They just recently moved in, so I don’t know them very well. I think she told me her ex is Japanese. The kid looks Asianish, anyway. Is that seven? One, two, three, then four and five, then six and sevenh. Yeah, that’s it, seven.
Bataween, the unanswered question is still if there are seven Jews in Iraq, why have they chosen to stay in what has become a true hell hole, especially for minorities, instead of allowing the Israelis to take them out of there and fly them for free to the security and relative comfort of the Promised Land where they would live freely, surrounded by other Jews, and where their needs would be subsidized by the State for the rest of their lives. What holds them there when they clearly have the opportunity to leave and have a much better situation? Why haven’t you even tried to pretend to answer that?
They are old and fragile and fearfull of any change.
But not fearful enough of losing their lives to leave.
Then it looks like they have some attachment to their homeland, Iraq, and reasonable confidence that they are not in any more danger than any other Iraqi. And how do you explain the fact that they did not leave before they became old and fragile?
By the way, I do recall seeing some articles in the mainstream U.S. press after the 2003 invasion about the handful of Jews still in Iraq, and recall how they spoke to how their non-Jewish neighbors were looking after them, and protecting them and their property along with their own. Who knows? Maybe that’s why they prefer to remain where they are among the people they have lived with and known all their lives.
“Bombings orchestrated by Zionist agents”
The ‘famous’ one was proven false I think – I only say I think because I cannot remember the source (and you may challenge it’s veracity). It had to do with the police report and the grenade type it said was used (The report said that at the time, the Israelis didn’t have those kind of grenades).
“I’m not prepared to concede there was a massive physical expulsion on the order of the Israeli Nakba”
Ok – I never said it was physical as a ‘whole’ (it may have been for various families). It was an expulsion though because the situation was created – and by who/how/why etc is the debate it seems – where most Iraqi Jews felt they needed to leave. Not related, I would be interested to see how you see the mass emigration of European Jewry AFTER the Holocaust (45-48) to the US/the Mandate etc – was that an expulsion? or how would you define that?
“If they can’t then the claim isn’t worth a pot of borsht or whatever the Iraqi Jewish equivalent would be”
I think Chamin or some meaty rice dish will suffice.
“I’m waiting for evidence fr. you or him for the claim”
If it’s the 7 Jew claim, I didn’t make it. As I said, I thought there were ZERO Jews after the last wave during the 2nd Gulf War. That there are 7 was new to me.
“I’m talking about whether a credible, serious scholar of Arab Jewry has ever used the term. ”
So what term do you want to use? The tragic end of Arab Jewry? I think this sounds to me like the ‘Holocaust’ argument where people get upset if I say what happened in Cambodia or Rwanda were ‘small’ Holocausts.
It wasn’t elimination – Heaven forbid. It was something that was systematic in that it was planned (rights removed, etc etc)
“This is the end of this debate.”
This kind of comment disappoints me. I’ve not commented on the blog for a while, but I’ve defended it on other blogs (be it left/middle/right) where you’ve been slammed for being x y z and not allowing any honest debate to continue if it doesn’t follow your viewpoint. As long as we’re respectful and discussing things maturely, there’s no need to stop the discussion.
I resent the position into which you are trying to force me & you should know better if you honor truth and accuracy. But you know as well as I that no matter how much Jews suffered that “feeling you need to leave a country” is not the same as ethnic cleansing. Period.
So you’re claiming that this alleged ethnic cleansing of Arab Jews was preceded by the slaughter of 6 million of them, after which most of the rest who survived fled?
You “thought” zero, he claimed seven. That’s why I like facts & evidence rather than what one person thinks or another claims.
I don’t believe I’ve ever asked you to defend me anywhere. I don’t imagine the types of places you’re talking about are places where I much care what is said about my views.
You can discuss whatever you want, except making the claim that the plight of Arab Jewry was the result of ethnic cleansing. What the people you’re referring to mistake is the important function I serve in facilitating discussion so that it doesn’t veer off into cloud cuckoo land of conspiracy theories & wild claims. My aim is to keep commenters far to the right or left honest. Ethnic cleansing is a dishonest claim because it isn’t supported by real evidence. Frankly, I don’t give a crap if some twit (not you) moans about this being censorship or whatever the hell they want. This is editing, an honest profession and important to the quality of a book, magazine or blog.
What do you call: Not to allow a Jew to attend university just because of his religion; not allowing a Jew to have a membership in a social club; not allowing a Jew to have a telephone line; not to allow the Jews to leave their city; not to allow a Jew to have a passport and therefore travel abroad; not to allow a Jew to work in the public sector to lead to not being able to work in the private sector; not to allow a Jew to sell his assets; not to allow a Jew to access his monies at the bank; not to allow a Jew to have a business or open an LC under his name; Jews held a different documents than the rest of the population; people just disappeared from their homes, from the street. Some even were killed in their homes. Some didn’t even receive a proper burial because their bodies are still missing and many other examples.
I say this because I left Iraq in 1973 and I experienced all this and I know people who lost their lives because of the ethnic cleansing.
Why the suffering of the Jews of the Arab countries is always minimized? Why do you think 900,000 Jews had to leave their place of birth and be refugees if they weren’t targeted? If this is not ethnic cleansing, what is it then?
Regarding the number of Jews in Iraq, I know that there are 6 people left, the seventh died recently.
I’m going to say this loud and clear. The next person who uses the term ETHNIC CLEANSING here will be banned. Your comment is anti-Muslim propaganda plus it repeats what has already been written here. DO NOT repeat verbatim arguments already raised. Hearing something five times doesn’t make it any more true after the 5th time.
Richard, this response is unlike you but I’ll reply nonetheless.
“I resent the position into which you are trying to force me”
I’m not trying to force you into anything. If you don’t feel it’s right, disagree and that’s it.
So you’re claiming that this alleged ethnic cleansing of Arab Jews was preceded by the slaughter of 6 million of them, after which most of the rest who survived fled?”
No Richard, I didn’t say this. I was asking a question to see if I can better understand how you view movement of people that DOESN’T fall under your definition of ethnic cleansing. That comment though is really uncalled for –
“You “thought” zero, he claimed seven. That’s why I like facts & evidence rather than what one person thinks or another claims”
Again, a totally unnecessary comment. That’s what I think – and I never claimed it’s truth NOR brought into any debate with you. Again, your ‘tone’ in these comments is totally uncalled for.
“I don’t believe I’ve ever asked you to defend me anywhere”
Oh well, I won’t continue. I’m sorry.
“Ethnic cleansing is a dishonest claim because it isn’t supported by real evidence.”
How do YOU define it then?
“The next person who uses the term ETHNIC CLEANSING here will be banned. Your comment is anti-Muslim propaganda”
I doubt anyone blames the ‘Arab masses’ or ‘Muslim Masses’ for this. This was pushed by governments – ie individuals with power and agendas – this is NOT an anti-religion or anti-nation thing (at least not with me). To be honest, it seems you’re more anti the word because you don’t want to equate the Palestinian refugee issue with the Jewish refugee issue (ie political).
Actually, the supposed “Jewish refugee” issue is a means of torpedoing the Right of Return. Rightists & their fellow travelers on this issue (like you) hope that by raising this issue Palestinians will be forced to abandon their efforts for the Right of Return. But it won’t work because the moral issues are of diff. orders of magnitude.
I just lost my whole response – so I will paraphrase.
– I think you’re again assuming what people think when they took about historical events. I’m rather startled that you cannot call them “Jewish Refugees” now.
– Right of Return will never happen the way I assume you (or UNRWA) want it to happen. It will probably be on the Olmert/Abbas scope.
– I’ve met a few ‘characters’ who say those who criticize Israel is anti-semitic propaganda. Yah, I know, I sometimes don’t know if they’re being serious or just oblivious to the fact that governments / individuals make mistakes. Any discussion about the Mizrachim is not ‘anti-Muslim propaganda’ (if anything, it would be anti-Arab because it had little to do with Muslims all around the world), it’s about decisions made by governments / individuals that ended ancient communities. If I were to talk about the ‘Orphan Law’ in Yemen, is that ‘anti-Muslim’ propaganda? Or is that talking about a historical fact that was pushed by a minority? You get the point. It has nothing to do with having ‘a go’ at Islam – just like suicide bombers aren’t ‘Islam’, but a wraped interpretation by radicals within the faith.
“PS The dhimmi concept was actually quite progressive for its day.”
I’m not arguing with you here at all – I just want to know why you think this (in other words, I’m curious).
“Yes, Rachel Shabi. I am actually working with an Arab group on having her come to our area as part of a presentation on Arab Jews. I look forward to meeting her”
I wish you could actually talk to people who represented the ‘majority’ with Arab Jewry … She doesn’t and I guess she’ll say everything you guys want (need?) to hear, but hey, every group does this so ‘no harm, no foul.’
I don’t think it Avram, it is accepted as an advancement in the status of minorities in that historical period. You need to judge past periods in the context of the world view of the time, not today’s world view. The concept of dhimmi in the context of today’s world view would be backward, but in those days it was a step forward.
We are Muslims, Christians, and secular persons who wish to meet with and get to know Arab Jews who are interested in inclusiveness and unity, as we are. We wish to talk with Arab Jews who are interested in creating positive relationships, as we are. We wish to talk with Arab Jews who will help us deepen our knowledge and appreciation of our mutual history and culture. We are not interested in talking to those who seek conflict. The event we are working on is about sharing our common history, experience, and culture, and hopefully forming bonds and cooperative relationships. Therefore we seek out Arab Jews who share our goals.
“advancement in the status of minorities ”
“To know Arab Jews who are interested in inclusiveness and unity”
Then why are you meeting her? She’s made quite wrong allegations about Israeli soceity and the influence of Arab Jewry. Any one who studies their history IN Israel will know that they were mistreated and there was many issues (we’re seeing the same thing with Ethiopians now). But to say this still ‘really’ exists bar in various small communities (ie extreme elements within the Ultra Orthodox world) is ridiculous. Israel’s food culture is almost entirely what the Arab Jews bought over – the Music, politicans etc … Are there still a few barriers to cross? Sure, PM for example (but look how long it took America to have a black prez) but we’ve had a mizrachi chief of staff (albeit a terrible one), a mizrachi defense minister etc etc … She has an agenda Shireen. If you’re really interested in what I quoted, you’d see it too.
“The event we are working on is about sharing our common history, experience, and culture, and hopefully forming bonds and cooperative relationships.”
That is obviously doable – and honorable.
This is what I so dislike about this kind of discourse. A blanket statement is made w. absolutely no proof offered to support it. That’s not the way I work over here. If you want to attack someone who has something serious to say, you must offer support & evidence & not generalizations as you have.
Are you really claiming all is honky dory for Israel’s Mizrahim? You’re not really claiming that are you? Can you be oblivious to all the academic & sociological evidence to the contrary? Can you be oblivious to the continuing ethnic anger & hostility bet. Ashkenazi & Sephardi within Israeli society? What you’re claiming is akin to claiming that Blacks have it made in U.S. society and racism is basically a thing of the past. Any serious person would have to laugh at you for making such a ridiculous claim.
Richard – there are still issues in this society re: Mizrachim/Asheknazim. The country isn’t even 70 years old, there’s still a LOT to work on. That there’s been improvements since the 1950s is undeniable – and it’s improving, though I still see the issues. The ‘ethnic anger’ & ‘hostility’? Most of my friends are Mizrachim, children of immigrants etc and I don’t see it. I served in the army, the units were obviously mixed – nothing of what you say. Does it exist? Yes Richard, is it as bad you claim it is? No.
Siona Jenkins in the FT review of Shabi’s book said, “Shabi’s conclusion is that Israel’s inability to come to terms with its own connections to the region can only hinder any future peaceful coexistence within it.” Now how are we not coming to terms with our ‘past’? Food? Music? Politics?
She also claims this, “After so many years of learning to hate their own rejected Arab features and having to hide them, the Mizrahis simply projected all that revulsion on to the neighboring Arab community.” Now a) this proves my point earlier (that most Arab Jews are not as you/Shireen claim) b) I don’t know how she can say they ‘hate’ their Arab features (many still speak Arabic, their foods, their ‘nigunim’ at shul etc) – can you perhaps tell me?
I know there’s many issues still – I’ve said that and I get really pissed off when people say it’s been ‘dealt with.’ It hasn’t, and I struggle to see HOW it will be in the coming decades as the ‘security issue’ paper over ALL the other issues we have here it seems (be it the social clashes, or the religious clashes, or our piss poor education system) … It’s a young country – I hope I live to see us right these wrongs (as well as live side by side in peace with a future Palestine).
I actually agree with most of what you wrote. But I think Shabi is correct in her analysis. I don’t think anyone here claimed that Mizrahim are flaming leftists. There are some, but they are a (significant) minority. As for hating their features, she’s talking about internalizing the oppression meted out to them every time they watched a TV show w/o any that looked like them or went to work w/o seeing a boss that looked like them, or…I think you get my drift. To embrace their own features, culture and values would have had to be difficult considering the prevailing consensus for so many decades. And I maintain that there is much work still to be done on this just as in America.
Again with the food and the music?! Is that what you think constitutes the core of Jewish Arab culture? If you just claim the food as your own (even though you mispronounce the name of it) and listen to Arabic music, then everything is headed on the right track and you will soon be one people. My god!
“Food culture”?!!!! You have got to be kidding. Now I understand on what level you are thinking in terms of this subject. You think that calling it fullawful or huhmuss and trying to claim it as Israeli cuisine is significant? You think incorporating elements of Arabic music erases anti-Arab (including Jewish-Arab) discrimination or makes Israel culturally Middle Eastern (as if Arabic rhythms and sensibilities haven’t been part of western pop music for decades – ever listen to Queen’s Bohemian rhapsody)? You sound like the guy who says “oh, yeah, I really understand and dig Jewish culture. I like klezmer, and my Jewish friends served me matzo ball soup a few times, I know what a dredl is, and anyway, I think Israel is really cool”. Superficial is putting it mildly.
You have your opinion about Rachel Shabi and I have mine (and for the record, I have never read anything of hers in CiF), just as I have my opinion about the views of my Arab Jewish present and former colleagues, companions, and friends (including my fellow elite club members), and the Arab Jewish writers and thinkers with whom I am acquainted.
One of my goals is to introduce the local Arab community to its Jewish members, and to reach out to members of the Arab Jewish community . I know what is needed to make this happen in an effective way, and I have the connections to do so. For you to try to tell me how to bring something new to my community is pretty arrogant, no?
Shireen – look at Israel in the 1960s and 1970s. And look at Israe today. You may look at food/music/culture as something unimportant, but I don’t because I’m very well aware of how it was nothing part of Israeli culture in those decades. Is that ‘all’ I hope for? No, but if you want to talk about the rise of Shas (whom I have many issues with – but that’s a different story) or stories like David Levy or Mofaz or Halutz or other Mizrachi Jews (be it professors, or business men) who’ve made their ways up to the upper echelons of Israeli society, we can. ‘Change’ (I hope I can use that without copyright infringement (; ) is not something that happens in 40-50 years in general. Look at the African Americans in the US, or the Pakistani (or for a more ‘modern’ take, I guess the Polish minorities?) in England. Much wrong was done and to correct it will take a while BUT that doesn’t mean you need to ridicule the many positive strides that have been made as the ‘Arab Jew’ has become more and more integrated into his ‘new’ society.
“For you to try to tell me how to bring something new to my community is pretty arrogant, no?”
I don’t think it’s arrogant. Shabi suits your political leaning. If she didn’t, you wouldn’t bring her. If you were to bring someone else to offer balance (even if we have ‘different’ political views – it doesn’t there cannot be respect or connections made) to her view, then I’d have no issue. It would be like someone bringing in the Palestinian JPost writer (the name escapes me now, Khaled something) to a conference and claiming he’s a way of ‘reaching out to Palestinians,’ etc.
If slapping an Israeli label on huhmuss (sic) and fullawful (sic) is the best you can do, then you haven’t come as far as you think you have.
Oh, and folks in the US, please do not buy Sabra brand fullawfull. It’s one of the products we should be boycotting, and frankly it’s mediocre at best anyway. Find an Arab-owned place and buy their felafel. Even the less good stuff with be better.
Oh, yes, it is arrogant. And by the way, so is your assumption that this is about political leanings on my part. You don’t have the slightest clue what it takes to successfully introduce the idea to my community of joining hands with Arab Jews, or why. You have no clue about the dynamics of this community, and yet you have the arrogance to try to tell me how to manage something like this based on your ideology, and your preference. I’ll tell you what, Avram. I won’t tell you how to manage things in your community if you will agree not to tell me how to manage things in mine. Deal?
There are many Sephardi Jews here in Seattle. They tend to be pretty conservative. But I would love to do a similar program here in Seattle if you ever decide you’d like to try to do something up here. It could be done at the Univ. of Wash. which has both a Jewish studies program & ME Ctr. that might co sponsor.
I had actually thought about talking with you about this. I will e-mail you.
If they’re like Azoze, they’re more Spangoli/Sefardi than Mizrachi.
How do you determine who represents the majority among Arab Jews? Do you vote on it? Conduct an opinion poll?
I don’t know much about Rachel Shabi, but I do know she’s a regular contributor to CiF, where I used to publish, & that makes her a serious figure in her field as far as I’m concerned.
“How do you determine who represents the majority among Arab Jews? Do you vote on it? Conduct an opinion poll?”
My question exactly. How does he know that the Jews he says he talks to represent the majority, and not the Jews I have counted among my colleagues, companions, and friends, and the writers I read, and the experts whose opinions I respect, not to mention those like my Israeli-born Iraqi-Jewish friends who are not on either one side or the other? For me they are all part of a spectrum of feelings, views, and opinions.
And then there are the facts of what happened and the context in which it happened.
You’re deliberately ignoring what I’m saying – and I don’t know how far we’ve come, it’s all relative. I saw bad racism (& anti-semitism) in New York while in High School & Uni – and people tell me the US has come far too.
I’ve never had ‘Sabra brand’ falafel but when I’m back there, I’ll make sure to buy it. I’m glad you’re all for boycotting – good way of building connections.
I am not ignoring what you are saying at all. I am just putting some of it into its proper perspective.
Feel free to buy whatever you like. If you like mediocre huhmuss you will like this brand. I prefer the one I buy at the local farmers market that is made by a Tunisian guy, but then I am used to the real thing.
Oh, and I am not in the least bit interested in building connections with Israel, so I am perfectly comfortable boycotting Israeli products as I have for decades. I am especially comfortable boycotting products that illegally exploit the occupied territories outside of the legitimate boundaries of Israel, such as the OPT and the Golan heights, and I proselytize heavily on that issue with anyone who will stand still long enough to hear me.
” I won’t tell you how to manage things in your community if you will agree not to tell me how to manage things in mine. Deal?”
“If you like mediocre huhmuss you will like this brand”
If it’s as average as their humus, I’ll probably agree. But I’ll give ’em a go … I prefer ‘freshly’ made Humus, so I tend to make my own but I haven’t come close to perfecting it.
“the Golan heights”
You don’t buy Druze apples? They’re the bestest Israel, I mean Syria, has to offer!
“I have for decades”
Yikes, I had you down for a 30 year old … I guess I’m off.
“And I maintain that there is much work still to be done on this just as in America.”
I agree whole heartedly … I think unfortunately it’s a problem that plagues many countries …