(Above) David Shasha. (Left) Lucette Lagnado
Look no further that the comments below David Shasha’s article in the Jerusalem Post ‘When Arab Jews forget who they are’ to understand that Shasha’s views outrage and even disgust Mizrahi/Sephardi Jews. They object to the problematic expression ‘Arab Jews’. Is the Jerusalem Post going the way of the anti-Zionist Haaretz, they wonder? Shasha’s article was meant as a rebuttal to a piece in the Wall St Journal by Lucette Lagnado, whose family came to the US as Egyptian-Jewish refugees in the 1960s. I shall merely ‘fisk’ a few of Shasha’s arguments (in italics).
course the matter is rooted in her distorted understanding of the
Egyptian-Jewish experience and its illustrious history from Philo of
Alexandria to Edmond Jabes.
This argument is akin to saying that an article on Hitler’s persecution of the Jews must always mention the contribution to German culture of Heine, Mendelssohn and Marx. Apologists for Arab persecution of Jews seem to make the common error that cultural points of connection between Jews and Arabs attenuate, or cancel out, the points of division.
What we see in the article is the usual lachrymose sense of Arabs
and Jews that is connected to the Zionist mission. The argument in the
article is ostensibly premised on her identity as an Egyptian Jew and
what that identity means in socio-historical terms.
Any reader of Lucette Lagnado’s ‘Man in the White Sharkskin Suit ‘ will know that the family was not ‘connected to the Zionist mission’. How then can Shasha explain away the persecution that they suffered in Egypt as Jews?
Tellingly, there is no mention of the so-called “Lavon Affair” in which the Israeli government engaged native Egyptian Jews as spies for a bombing mission that targeted prominent sites in the country.
By invoking the 1954 Lavon Affair, Shasha blames the persecution of the Jewish community on the ‘Zionists’. The Lavon Affair was a botched attempt to damage US-Egyptian relations. Nobody died. A cinema, library and US cultural centre were hardly ‘prominent targets’. What is Shasha’s explanation for the mass exodus of 14, 000 Jews six years beforehand, and the further expulsion of 25,000 Jews two years later?
than this, there is no mention of the hardships and persecution that
Arab Jews faced when they arrived in Israel. To the contrary,
anti-Sephardi racism is magically transformed into praise of Israel for
so warmly opening its arms to those fleeing the Arab-Muslim world after
1948. No mention of what lay ahead for those who came to this new and
forbidding Ashkenazi land.
The classic bogeyman of ‘Ashkenazi ‘ discrimination beloved of anti-Zionists and radical leftists. If the racism in Israel against Sephardim and Mizrahim was worse than the conditions these Jews fled from, why did they not return to their Arab countries of birth? In spite of the very real discrimination of the 1950s, Egyptian Jews are amongst those Mizrahim whose resettlement in Israel was most successful. But Shasha is only interested in making blanket generalisations.