Thursday, November 04, 2010

Report: Modern Arab anti-semitism not because of Israel

Prof. Shmuel Trigano has written a fascinating, and all too short, monograph on the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries in the 20th century.

One of his theses is that the Jew-hatred that became endemic in Arab lands during this time was not a reaction to Zionism, but rather because of the new concept of Arab nationalism and the xenophobia that resulted. He documents that many of the anti-Jewish laws in Arab countries pre-date modern Israel.

The Jews were isolated from their society by a legal process in many lands.

This was the preliminary stage of their exclusion, which was followed by expulsion. A number of legal measures in various countries illustrate this point.

In Egypt the most articulate evolution occurred. It began with the Treaty of Sèvres (1920), a peace treaty between the Allies and the Ottomans that dismembered the Ottoman Empire and opened the way to the further creation of Arab (and Israeli) states. It addressed the question of nationality in Egypt and can be considered the first infringement of the rights of autochthonous Jews. The notion of belonging to a race (article 105) rather than a nation was introduced, thereby dissociating Jews from the majority of the population of the country. The next step was the nationality laws of 1927 and 1929, which favored jus sanguinis (or right of blood). An Egyptian was from then on defined as somebody who had Arab-Muslim affiliation.

The London Convention (1936) granted Egypt independence under King Farouk, and it was followed by a worsening of the nationality laws. According to additional nationality laws (in 1950, 1951, 1953, and 1956), autochthonous Jews became stateless: 40,000 people were turned into "foreigners" in their own country. In 1956, after the Sinai War, a new dimension was added: Egyptian nationality was taken away from anyone who committed acts in favor of enemy states or states with no relations with Egypt. In practice, all Jews were suspected of dual loyalty. This led ultimately to the accusation that all Jews were Zionists.
A number of legal measures imposed restrictions on businesses and associations. Jewish communities and organizations were placed under supervision. Arabic became the sole language of public services.

In Libya, in 1953, Jews were subjected to restrictions and became victims of economic boycotts. The Maccabi sports club was forcibly opened to Arab members in 1954. A decree was issued on 9 May 1957 obliging Libyans with relatives in Israel to register at the Libyan boycott office, even though at that point, 90 percent of the Jews had already left. On 3 December 1958, Tripoli's Jewish community ceased to be an independent entity. Thereafter it was overseen by a state-appointed commissioner. Legal exclusion worsened. In 1960, Jews were prohibited from acquiring new possessions. They were no longer allowed to vote, hold public office, or serve in the army or the police. On 2 April 1960, Alliance Israélite Universelle schools were closed.

Similar developments occurred in Lebanon. As early as 1947, Jewish students were expelled from Beirut University. Jewish "Zionist" organizations (such as the Maccabi sports club) were forbidden. Jews were discharged from public service positions and Jewish youth movements banned.

In Iraq, Jewish history and Hebrew language instruction were prohibited in Jewish schools during the 1920s. Jews were expelled from public service and education in the 1930s. The Jewish schools' curricula were censored in 1932.

In Yemen, sharia law was instated in 1913, worsening the situation of the dhimmi. Decrees specifying forced conversion for orphans were issued between 1922 and 1928, while Jews were excluded from public service positions and the army.

In Syria, real estate purchase was prohibited to Jews in 1947, and Jews began to be discharged from public service positions. In 1967, Muslim principals were appointed to Jewish schools.

In Morocco, after independence in 1956, a process of Arabization of public services began, cutting the Jews off from the larger society. A dahir (decree) Moroccanizing Jewish charitable organizations was issued on 26 November 1958, endangering their freedom.

In Egypt, a long process of discrimination in the public service began in 1929. In 1945-1948, Jews were excluded from the public service. In 1947, Jewish schools were put under surveillance and forced to Arabize and Egyptianize their curricula. Community organizations were forced to submit their member lists to the Egyptian state after May 1948 and until 1950. In 1949, Jews were forbidden to live in the vicinity of King Farouk's palaces.

In Tunisia, a law concerning Judaism (11 July 1958) put an end to Jewish communities, replaced them with temporary "Israelite worship commissions," and suppressed the personal status of the Jews (inherited from the dhimmi status, which obliged the Jews to depend on their religious tribunals for all matters related to their personal status). In Tunisia too, independence (1956) led to the Tunisification of public services.

Turkey under the Young Turks (1923-1945) created hard-labor battalions for non-Muslim conscripts in May 1941.

...A series of pogroms and related events, such as riots, arrests, murders of public figures, and destruction of synagogues, occurred while colonial powers and Arab state police looked on passively. That gave the Jews the signal that it was time to leave.

In Egypt, anti-British and anti-Semitic riots broke out in several towns on 2-3 November 1945. Massive arrests occurred on 14-16 May 1948; one thousand Jews were detained and accused of being Zionists. On 2 November 1948, riots and lootings took place in Cairo and on 26 January 1952, "black Saturday" saw riots and acts of violence.

In Turkey, in June-July 1934, pogroms occurred in Thrace.

In Iraq, on 1-2 June 1941, in the Farhoud pogrom in Bagdad, 180 people were killed and 600 injured. In 1948, a wave of official anti-Jewish persecutions, including arrests and considerable fines, took place. ...

In Libya, riots against those living in the Jewish quarters occurred in Tripoli in January 1945. Sixty percent of Jewish possessions were destroyed and 135 people were killed; soldiers acted as accomplices to the rioters. Jews were forced to evacuate. Jews in Hara, Tripoli, and Benghazi were put on remand....

Anti-Semitism would have developed even without the existence of the state of Israel because of Arab-Islamic nationalism, which resulted in xenophobia. In the twentieth century, hostility toward Jews was spreading well before Israel's creation: in Yemen, Syria, Mandatory Palestine, Turkey, and Algeria.

It is the custom to say that Zionism was responsible for this development. But Zionism is to be understood, in the worldview of the Islamic mind, in another perspective. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of intolerant Arab nationalism, long-dominated nations (such as the Armenians and the Jews) sought independence. This was understood by the Arab world as a rebellion not only against the new Arab nation-states but also against Islamic law, which puts non-Muslims in the inferior status of a dominated nation: the dhimmis.

Both the Armenians and the Jews were subjected to violent repression. The former were massacred by the Ottoman Empire in 1894-1895 - around 300,000 victims - and suffered a genocide - 1,200,000 victims - by the Turks in 1908. The latter in Mandatory Palestine suffered pogroms in 1920, 1929, 1936, and 1939. And the Jews in Muslim countries, as we have seen, were forced to leave. Hardly any Jews remain in the abovementioned countries, and the number of Christian Arabs is now dwindling in them as well.

The new Arab anti-Zionism contained classic anti-Semitic policies, as demonstrated by the "Statute of the Jews" that could be compared to the Vichy Statute of the Jews, except that it developed over a long time, in a huge geographical area, and at different periods. Jews were accused of being coresponsible with Israel for the war that the Arab states declared against the new state and then lost. Regardless of their ideological affiliation - communist, nationalist, Zionist, religious, and so on - they were subjected to special laws specifically aimed at Jews. They were expelled from all Arab-Muslim countries because a collective responsibility was imputed to them. This is typical anti-Semitic reasoning.

The Jews from Arab-Muslim countries were powerless. They had no army. They did not take part in the conflict. They were not responsible for triggering hostilities between the Arab states and Israel. That the Yishuv, the quasi-Jewish state that developed in Mandatory Palestine, became a state according to the United Nations Partition Plan was not also responsible for the war except for the scandal of its existence. Instead, the cause of the situation was the intolerance and imperialism of the new Arab states: before these attained independence, there were indeed no such states. Before the Western colonial empires there was another Islamic colonial empire, the Ottoman one. Palestine never existed as a political or cultural entity. The new nation-states - Israel included - were a product of the Western colonial empires and all were "invented." Why were these Jews in Arab countries persecuted and expelled if not as a result of an anti-Semitic ideology and policy? It was a continuation of the traditional Islamic anti-Judaism but defined in reference to the symbol of the rebellion of the Jewish dhimmis: Zionism.
This is a fascinating line of reasoning, but I think it needs to be greatly expanded and organized better, on a country-by-country basis. The paper is a good first step in showing that Arab anti-semitism followed a continuum that more closely corresponded with Arab nationalism/xenophobia than with Zionism.