Search Results for: Georges bensoussan

Historian Georges Bensoussan is acquitted

After a trial for incitement to hatred, the prominent historian and author of a study of Jews in Arab countries, Georges Bensoussan, was acquitted yesterday (7 March) by a criminal court, according to Le Monde.

During the trial a fine of 1,500 Euros was demanded.

The groups bringing the prosecution against Bensoussan were the following:  Mouvement contre le racisme et pour
l’amitié entre les peuples (MRAP)), la Ligue internationale contre le
racisme et l’antisémitisme (LICRA), la Ligue des droits de l’homme
(LDH), SOS-Racisme and le Collectif contre l’islamophobie en France
(CCIF) .

The anti-Islamophobia organisation CCIF has announced it will appeal the decision.

 The trial divided members of LICRA, some of whom are Jewish.

 Full article (French)

Background on the Bensoussan case

Georges Bensoussan explodes idyll myth

With thanks: Dominique

It’s a well-worn paradox: on Sunday, a Jew from an Arab country swears that he lived happily alongside Arabs. On Thursday, he says life was awful. So which is the truth?

The Moroccan-born historian Georges Bensoussan (pictured) imagines he has found the answer in his ground-breaking new book Juifs en pays arabes – le grand deracinement 1850 – 1975 (not yet available in English). The two experiences are not contradictory, they are complementary.

What passes for the story of Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews in the West is actually folklore, says Bensoussan in thismust-see Akadem video, which I will try to summarise for non-French readers.

The Jews themselves spread the myth of the Jewish idyll in Arab countries because they were children at the time, and childhood is associated with happy memories. And the further you went up the social scale, the happier the memories. But Bensoussan cross-references available historical sources – the Zionist archives in Jerusalem, the Alliance Israelite Universelle archives in Paris and the French national archives in Nantes, travellers’ diaries, such as that of Charles de Foucault (1883) in Morocco, and diplomatic reports. Although the Arab archives remain closed, the overwhelming weight of evidence points to the fact Jews in Arab and Muslim lands lived in misery and fear.

Yet the myth of the enchanted history of the Jews refuses to die. In May Bensoussan issued a rebuttal via the CRIF, the organisation representing Jews in France, to an article in Telerama suggesting that antisemitism arrived in Morocco with the French and that Zionist agents made the Jews leave against their will. Bensoussan also find it irritating that Jewish sources lay great store by historians such as Moroccan Mohammed Kenbib without having read his work. According to Bensoussan, who read every line of Kenbib’s doctoral thesis, Kenbib blames the Jews for their own misfortunes.

Historians usually say that the definitive break between Jews and Arabs took place with the establishment of Israel in 1948. But for Bensoussan, the post-1948 exodus was not a break, it was an ‘aggravated divorce’. The process began a century earlier when Jews began educating their children in western schools; half a million Jewish children passed through the Alliance Israelite Universelle school system. What started as a crack became a gap, then a chasm. The Muslim Arabs lagged behind in literacy by at least a generation. This of course explains why the Nazis found it easy to brainwash the illiterate masses in Arab countries through intensive radio broadcast propaganda during WW2.

Jews were actually expelled only in 1956 in Egypt. Everywhere else, says Bensoussan, ‘the Arab states did everything in their power to make the Jews leave’.

In the 20th century Arab nationalism took on a Nazi-style blood-and-soil character which excluded Jews, in spite of their huge contribution to culture and society (one third of all writers in Iraq were Jewish). Then Jews were viewed as an ethnicity – today they are seen as a religion.

Bensoussan is one of the few historians to write about Jews in Arab lands as a whole, without treating each community country-by-country. Coexistence with the Muslims was only possible on the understanding that Jews accepted their inferiority as ‘dhimmis’. ‘The Jews were the colonised of the colonised,’ he says.

Juifs en pays arabes: le grand deracinement, 1850 – 1975 (Librairie du memorial de la Shoah)

Bensoussan: ‘Ashkenazim do not understand Arab antisemitism’

It may take another 15 years before French Jews living in their Ashkenazi bourgeois bubbles begin to  appreciate the full extent of Arab and Muslim antisemitism, warns historian Georges Bensoussan in this Israel Hayom piece questioning what the future holds for Jews in France. (With thanks: Lily)

Georges Bensoussan: Ashkenazim don’t know the Arab world 

 Moroccan-born French historian Georges Bensoussan was one of the first ones to warn of the Arab-Muslim antisemitism in France in a book he published in 2002. He was and continues to be boycotted in France due to his academic views on the matter. 

“The dividing line among French Jews in terms of experiencing antisemitism is connected to each person’s individual situation,” he said.

“Firstly, there is an economic dividing line: a Jew in Sarcelles felt the danger 20 years ago, and a Jews who live in Paris’ bourgeois neighborhoods will need 15 more years in order to understand the new face of antisemitism. 

 “There is also a Sephardic-Ashkenazi dividing line, which is must stronger than people think. Ashkenazis live with the memory of the Holocaust, while Jews who came here from North Africa are much more open and happy. 

 “The level of religiosity is also a dividing line: children who go to Jewish schools and Jews who go to synagogues are clear targets for antisemitism. Whoever does not have a Jewish appearance, is not observant, who has an Ashkenazi name and lives in a bourgeois neighborhood, cannot understand what antisemitism is. 

 “They don’t know the Arab world, they have not heard of the Farhud pogroms in Iraq, and therefore, when they talk about Arab antisemitism, they don’t understand what they are talking about. Moreover, compared to the Holocaust, Arab antisemitism does not look terrible.

Here in the neighborhood, there are Jewish schools, students walk around in kippahs and do not see an atmosphere of terror,” said Bensoussan, whose interview was conducted not far from where the Halimi murder occurred. 

 “The situation is worrying. In modern history, there always were Jews who chose to look the other way and not see the situation for what it is. The rise of Arab antisemitism caused Jews to congregate with themselves and separate from French society

Read article in full

More about Georges Bensoussan

Bensoussan’s comprehensive history of Jews in Arab lands

At last, Georges Bensoussan’s groundbreaking book: Juifs en pays arabes: le grand deracinement is available in an English translation by Andrew Halper. Here is a review by Aaron Howard in Jewish Herald Voice, a newspaper published in the Houston area.

The history of Mizrahi Jews is largely silent, writes French Jewish historian Georges Bensoussan. One reason is that most Jewish historians take a Eurocentric view of history; Jewish history is the narrative of Ashkenazi Judaism. Second is that Anglo-American Jewry is overwhelmingly Ashkenazic. In contrast, about 60 percent of French Jewry is from North Africa and the Middle East.

Third is Arab archives are, for the most part, closed or not accessible unless the historian in fluent in Arabic.

Bensoussan is the author of “Jews In Arab Countries” (Indiana University Press). Originally published in France as “Juifs en Pays Arabes, le Grande Racincement 1850-1975,” the book is now available in an English translation.

 Much of the author’s source material comes from the archives of the Alliance Israélite Universelle. As the most important Jewish philanthropic organization of its day, the AIU first tasked emissaries to examine the state of the Jewish population and report on their needs. The AIU also established a comprehensive educational system in North Africa and parts of the Middle East.

 The narrative begins in the middle of the 19th century when Western nations began colonizing the Arab world. Granted, AIU agents carried certain prejudices with them. Yet, in location after location, agent after agent recorded a Jewish population marked by fear and submission to the point of “internalizing the idea that he was the natural inferior of the Arabs.”

 What emerges from these accounts, writes Bensoussan, “is the sense that humiliation had become so all-encompassing, so omnipresent, that words failed to express it.”

Jews lived in the context of being a minority in an Islamic world, where tolerance was not a recognized value.

 But, there’s a deeper level of subjugation going on.

Islam is fundamentally a religion of submission. Man submits to G-d’s authority. The ruled submits to the ruler. Women submit to men and so on in a highly hierarchical society. Freed slaves and dhimmis (Jews and other People of the Book) were next to the bottom rung, a status of inferiority.

 The general picture of Mizrahi Jewry, just prior to European colonization, with a few exceptions, is one of extreme poverty, filth, alcoholism (Jews distilled and consumed their own anisette), disease, ignorance and “diffused violence” suffered at the hands of local rulers and the general Muslim population, who had barely a leg up on the Jews.

 Read article in full

More about Georges Bensoussan

Historian Bensoussan wins hate speech appeal

The historian Georges Bensoussan won his case in the Paris appeal court and was acquitted of all charges of racism and incitement to hatred yesterday.


The case was originally brought against him by the CCIF (Committee against Islamophobia in France) and other human rights bodies. The CCIF had appealed against his original acquittal in March 2017.

 The March 2018 appeal was heard in an atmosphere noted for its aggressiveness towards the historian, who ,among other works, wrote an 800-page volume on Jews in Arab lands.

Bensoussan confessed to feeling very angry, not just against the Islamists and their leftist apologists, but against all those who had supported the case against him.

While the acquittal came as a relief, Bensoussan is not out of the woods yet.

 His relationship with the Memorial de la Shoah, where is the director, has been rocky in recent months and his future there may not be assured.

Read article in full (Marianne – French)

Anti-Islamophobics to appeal Bensoussan acquittal


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