Sunday, May 17, 2020

  • Sunday, May 17, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon

This article by Malka Shulewitz published by JTA in September 1977 is not available in the JTA archives as far as I can tell; I saw it in The Sentinel (Chicago). It is one of the best, succinct articles I’ve ever seen about how Jews have been treated in Muslim lands as well as explaining why. I transcribed it from the original facsimile.

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ALGERIA — Mostaganem, May. 1897: Sacking of synagogue marks beginning of widespread anti-Jewish  violence throughout Algeria.

MOROCCO— 1833-1912: Moslem riots in Casablanca. Tana and Fez. Many Jews killed and injured; women, girls and boys abducted, raped then ransomed.

YEMEN — 1922: A special law orders forcible conversion to Islam of all Jewish orphans under 13 even when the mother is still alive —a common Muslim law reimposed.

SYRIA — Damascus. 1936-39: Work at anti-Jewish propaganda headquarters intensified after visit by Nazi officers from Germany. Jews frequently stabbed on the streets.

LIBYA — Benghazi, 1942: During German occupation Jewish quarters sacked and looted, among 2000 'Jews deported acmes the desert, as many as a fifth died.

IRAQ — Baghdad. Festival of Shavuot. 1941: During riots following the collapse of Iraq's pro-Nazi government of Rash Ali, 175 Jews were killed and 1000 injured. Many Jews were tortured and there was much looting of Jewish property.


Taken at random from a booklet of illustrated maps on Jews of Arab lands by Prof. Martin Gilbert of Oxford University, the above facts were  chosen not because they represent events more serious than. say, the massacre of more than 6000 Jews in Fez in 1033, or of more than 5000 murdered during the Arab riots of 1066 in Grenada. They even pale beside some of the persecutions and humiliation suffered by Jews throughout the Arab world around 1948.

However. they succinctly point up the situation of Jews in Arab lands during this century before the rise of modern political Zionism. They also indicate the relations prevailing between the Arabs and Nazis before and during World War II, and are particularly pertinent at time when Arabs are exploiting prestigious international forums as part of a vast propaganda campaign for the dismemberment of the State of Israel through the establishment of "a secular, democratic state in Palestine in which Moslems, Jews and Christians would live on equal terms.. It is doubtful if they would have made such great inroads were it more widely known that neither Jews nor Christians nor any other minority have ever lived on equal terms with Moslem Arabs.

This does not mean that Jews always suffered in the Arab world. There was certainly no holocaust such as that which befell them in Europe nearly 40 hears ego. Indeed, there were periods of prosperity, influence and tolerance. The objective observer must pay due respect to those Moslems who saved Jewish lives during many a rampage through Jewish quarters by their brethren; he must acknowledge that during their long autumn in the Arab world Jews were able to serve as physicians or advisors to caliphs and sultan alike and to play leading roles in the development of trade and commerce in these countries. And he must pay homage to a galaxy of Jewish scholars in the Arab world who were enabled to make major conributions to Jewish life and thought.

However, it is these good experiences that are always cited as the norm of Jewish life in the Arab world. The time has come to put the record straight and destroy the myth of a long "Golden Age" that preceded the rise of modern Zionism in the Arab world, to view the whole picture. upon which the shade exceeds the light. In order to understand why if it was sometimes relatively good, it was in general so bad, one must first examine the position of Jews under Islam which, to this day, is the state religion throughout the Arab world. except in Lebanon. And one must briefly turn back the pages of history in the Middle East and North Africa, where Jews had resided for at least a thousand years before the rise of Islam.

The conquering Arab armies of Islam, speeding like a whirlwind through this part of the world in the Seventh Century, encountered thousands of Jewish settlements. Not unlike the leaders of early Christianity, the founder of this new religion had expected the Jews to convert. But when most of these "stiff necked people" refused to abandon the faith of their fathers, Mohammed's initial admiration for the People of the Book turned to hostility, and the Jews paid dearly: many of the Jewish tribes of Medina, such . the Qurayza. perished by the sword and the survivors were driven from the Arabian peninsula. The Muslims attacked the Jewish oasis of Khaibar: here, however, the Jews were allowed to retain their land but had to pay a 50 percent tribute. Thus the pattern w set. Jews could remain Jews —at a   price. It fluctuated in accordance with the Moslem conquerors' need for Jewish expertise. Because the Jews refused to accept Mohammed as the true prophet, he branded them as adversaries of God. His sentiment. found expression in the Koran in such lines as: "And they will be tormented with degradation and suffering, and bring on themselves the wrath of Allah," thus breeding contempt for the Jews among successive generations of his followers.

So, if the pattern of the Jews' inferior position was laid down by Mohammed and recorded in the Koran, it was perpetuated by subsequent legislation attributed to the Caliph Omar, Mohammed's successor who ruled from 634 CE. Known as the Covenant (or Pact) of Omar, it comprised a series of regulations designed to separate believers from infidels. The latter became known as ahl el  dhimma or dhimmis, a ptotected people. i.e.. one enjoying the protection of Islam and the Koran while at the same time subject to the disabilities and humiliations which degraded both the individual and the community. Dhimmi is an Arabic word defining the relationship between the protector and the protected in the Muslim state; it refers to "the people of the Book" (ahl ahlkitab): Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians. All others were given the choice of conversion to Islam or death.

This basic Koranic attitude embodied in the Pact of Omar obviously affected the position of Jews in Arab lands in the present century. It was a fate shared by Christians, whose communities long ceased to exist in North Africa. As for the Christian Copts in Egypt, they suffered periodic massacres and forced conversions, and up to our own day this ancient community has been dwindling steadily as result of effective repressive measures. However, there were times when the Christians were accorded some respect by Islam because of the enormous power this religion represented in Europe.

But what was this defenseless minority of Jews to be respected for? It was not the "conquest" of the Land of Israel that brought the wrath of Islam upon their heads. And it is not the size of the territory the Jews govern that unites the otherwise fragmented Arab world against Israel today, for it constitutes only a tiny dot in the vast Arab empire of North Africa and the Middle East. The problem is rooted in the psyche of the Islamic world and the need for it to accept the fact that this people, cursed by the Koran, is now a sovereign nation capable of the ultimate sin of vanquishing the armies of Islam on the field of battle. This point should not be underestimated, for there are few examples of a faith so imbued with martial values as Islam. "The Law of the Prophet proceeds by the Sword" is not only a fundamental theological tenet of Islam. but also appropriate description of its historical evolution.

The hollowness of the Arab terrorists' slogan of "a secular, democratic state in Palestine when Moslems, Jews and Christians can live on equal terms" is fully exposed against this background. It is a "Big Lie," no less serious in its implications than that which sent six million Jews of Europe to the gas chambers less than 40 years ago. Indeed the Arab design to wipe out the Jews as a sovereign nation makes comprehensible their affinity for the Nazis before and during World War II and their use of anti-Semitic propaganda of the European vintage (including the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion). The presence of many expatriate Nazis in the Arab countries is reflected in the sophistication and content of Arab propaganda — with some finishing touches added by Madison Avenue to make it more palatable to East and West.

This includes the use of socialist slogans, which prompted the noted political scientist, Prof. Shlomo Avineri, to state in an article published in the early 70s, ''They (the Arab armies) now adopt socialist slogans with the same seriousness with which they embraced liberal ideologies under the British and the French — or fascist ideologies during World War II. Their conversion to socialist terminology is largely an outcome of the marriage of convenience with the Soviet Union caused by the Israel-Arab conflict... The same applies, under somewhat different circumstances to the various Arab Palestinian guerilla organizations also. Trained mostly by regular Arab army officers. they are — for all their left-wing rhetoric — poor substitutes for a real revolutionary force.— Imagine Castro having a tete-a-tete with the Brazilian dictators in the same may in which Yasir Arafat appears with King Faisal at an Arab summit! The most reactionary Arab rulers pay Danegeld to the proponents of social revolution — and it is a shrewd investment on the part of the Saudis — for otherwise dangerous revolutionary fervor is thus channeled into a exclusively anti-Israel direction.... The coalition between guerrillas and oil sheikhs is again a unique phenomenon, expressing the depth and strength of the conservative and traditional forces in Arab society."

Considering the conservative. xenophobic character of Arab nationalism which is rooted in Islam, it is small wonder, then, that the declaration of the State of Israel proved to be the catalyst that set whole Jewish communities on the run and brought about the virtual dissolution of what was this people's most ancient diaspora.

In 1948, there were approximately 860,000 Jews residing throughout the Arab world. Fifty to 60 thousand remain there today — mainly in North Africa and Syria. About 200.000 made their homes in such countries as France, England and the U.S. The lions share — some 600,000 — came to Israel. and today they and their descendants comprise over 50 per cent of the population of the Jewish State.

It was perhaps because this modern exodus took place while the memory of the grisly fate that befell European Jewry was still fresh that the suffering of Jews in Arab lands has left its impressions neither in the contemporary annals of the Jewish people nor on the consciousness of the free world. The fact that after nearly 2,000 years these hundreds of thousands of Jews had returned to their homeland probably cushioned the blow. Certainly an evaluation of the historic import of this event — of the meeting of Jews from East and West on the soil of the Land of Israel after millennia of separation — has yet to be made.

History has had to wait. When the Arab armies invaded Israel following the UN Resolution and the declaration of statehood in 1948, all hell broke loose in Egypt. Iraq and Syria there were arrests, interrogations and beatings of Jews; in Oujda and Djerada. Morocco riots broke out in June, 1948. in which many Jews were killed and injured. In Aleppo, Syria, April, 1948, saw a continuation of the previous December's anti-Jewish riots when many were killed, 150 Jewish homes, 50 shops, 18 synagogues and five schools were burned and many survivors went into hiding in fear of their fives.

At about the some time, the Jewish quarter, the hara, in Tripoli, Libya, was attacked; according to the noted Algerian-born Jewish scholar. Prof. Andre Chouraqui: "Moslem gangs poured through... killing young and old, women and children, hacking to pieces the bodes of their victims." On June 20. the Jewish quarter of Cairo was shaken by explosions which reduced four blocks of Jewish-occupied tenements to rubble and left 34 dead and 60 injured and much Jewish property destroyed. Attacks and rape of Jews on the streets went on for a week while Egyptian security forces did nothing.

The newly established State of Israel, hardly recovered from the war caused by the invasion of six Arab states, had to gird itself to receive wave upon wave of refugees. Of the 341,000 who landed in Israel during the first 18 months of statehood. over a third came from Moslem countries — but this was only the beginning.

Tent and hut cities known as ma’abarot (transit camps) sprang up all over the country — eyesores on an otherwise lovely landscape. They were very primitive — flooded in the winter and burning hot in the summer, but there was no other means of accommodation available at a time when Israel virtually became a country of refugees. Lawyers and businessmen from Baghdad and Tunis shared the same conditions as former cave dwellers from the Atlas Mountains.

At the same time, similar camp cities were set up in various Arab countries to shelter refugees from Palestine. Arab propagandists had promised a blood bath as soon as the Mandate ended and advised local Arabs to get out of the way of invading Arab armies. Their invasion was preceded by broadcasts from Cairo, Damascus, Amman and Beirut warning that any Arabs who stayed would be hanged as collaborators.

So the Palestinian Arabs left and the Jews from Arab countries arrived.

The tent-hut cities erected to house Arab and Jewish refugees looked much the same, but here the similarity ends. In Israel, the newcomers were immediately accorded full citizenship rights and the transit camps regarded as temporary accommodation.

By contrast, with the exception of Jordan. no Arab "host" offered the refugees citizenship and a full place in the community. Used as political pawns by their brethren, they became the world's first "professional refugees." The oil rich Arab states have. their fabulous wealth notwithstanding, done almost nothing for these, the least fortunate of their brethren. The fierce battles that recently raged around the refugee camps in Lebanon. particularly the notorious Tel el Zarta, proved the extent to which these camps had been turned into military strong-points.

Not only did Israel dissolve the camps as soon as enough permanent housing was available, the nascent Jewish State attempted to learn from its initial efforts and the mistakes made in settling Jews from Oriental countries. Those who came with the next wave from North Africa in 1955-57 (following the proclamation of Morocco and Tunisian independence and further outrages against the remaining Jewish population) went straight from the ship to new settlements. Many of these settlements were very primitive and barren in the early days and the newcomers had hardly seen a spade before, let alone tilled the earth. An intensive guidance program was introduced, whether in cultivation of the soil, domestic work or the modern organization of village institutions. Not more than 15 per cent of the original population has left; and today most of these settlements are well established. One of these settlement areas, Lachish region in the south, has long been an object of study for Africans and Asians wishing to learn the principles of regional settlement.

The full story of this pioneering effort by Jews from Arab countries has yet to be told. Suffice to say that, despite faults and shortcomings, it demonstrated Israel's desire to settle its newcomers as well as the latter’s determination to rebuild their lives in their homeland.



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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون



This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.

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