Bensoussan gives paper at Yale

 With thanks: Ahuva

Georges Bensoussan

Nine months after it took place at the Yale Center for the Study of Antisemitism, here is a video of the morning sessionof the conference: Exodus or exile: the departure of Jews from Muslim countries, 1948 – 1978.

Twenty-nine minutes into the clip, the French historian Georges Bensoussan gives a paper in English (19 minutes): hostages to the Palestine conflict, Jews in Arab countries in the 1930s. 

He describes how Arab nationalism excluded the Jewish population, increasingly perceived as a national minority. It could not tolerate such national minorities – witness the massacre of Assyrians in Iraq as soon as the country became independent.

The Jews were better educated than the Muslims, and were identified with colonialism. The Jews, on the other hand, feared the return of ‘dhimmi’ oppression if the Arabs became independent.

A branch of Arab nationalism was fascinated by Nazi Germany: paramilitary groups flourished. In the 1930s Palestine became the vessel into which Arab frustrations were poured. Zionism and Judaism became increasingly blurred, as the Palestine cause took on an increasingly islamic hue.

But Iraq and Yemen prove that antisemitism could thrive in countries no longer under the colonial yoke.

Nazi Germany financed antisemitic groups in the Arab world. The Jews became scapegoats as Nazi propaganda, such as the 1925 Arabic edition of the Protocols of Elders of Zion, gained influence.

The Mufti was not alone in spreading antisemitism. There was a nazification of Arab nationalism and a marginalisation of Jews, 40 percent of whom were denied nationality in Egypt, and subject to quotas and excluded from the army and diplomatic corps  in Iraq.

It is interesting that in the Q&A, questioners cast doubt on Bensoussan’s use of the term ‘nazification’, and accused him of being an activist, not a bona fide historian.  

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