Tag: Leftist bias against Jewish rights

‘Arab Jew’ invention erases Mizrahi history and identity

The narrative branding Mizrahi Jews as ‘Arab’ is part of the ‘colonialism’ lie, intended to distort their identity and deligitimise the state of Israel, writes Adiel Cohen in the Jerusalem Post (with thanks: Yoel, Lily):
Adiel Cohen
Truth be told, Jews in Arab and Muslim societies kept their Jewish identity while not consider themselves Arabs, but rather Iraqi-Jew, Moroccan-Jew,  Egyptian-Jew, etc. This distinction is made clear in early Islamic writings, which refer to the Jewish tribes of the Hejaz (Saudi Arabia) as foreigners, whereas the Christian Arab tribes were considered as fellow Arabs.
For example, in Yemen, where my family spent the diaspora, Jews were prohibited from wearing their traditional headdress, because it was considered “too fancy”. They spoke a dialect of Judeo-Yemenite, which incorporated biblical Hebrew phrases and were prohibited from learning how to read and write in Arabic. Their cuisine was distinctly different from the Arab-Yemeni one, and they considered themselves nothing but Jewish.
The status of Jews under Islamic rule varied between different regions, but generally, they did not enjoy the same rights as their Arab neighbors and were often persecuted. When the State of Israel was established, those same Jews were not “Arab enough” to their neighbors to be spared from violence and expulsion. Even the Jews of Iraq, who somewhat managed to integrate into the local society, were the targets of a violent pogrom in 1941, which became known as the Farhud.
These very same struggles are often erased by anti-Zionist organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). In 2019, a coalition of Mizrahi organizations issued a statement against the appropriation and distortion of the history of the Jewish communities of the Middle East by JVP, who seek to strip the Jewish people of their indigenous origins.
However, why are anti-Israel media outlets like Al-Jazeera and antizionist groups like JVP trying to push this false narrative?
This false narrative is part of their bigger “Colonialism” lie. Anti-Israel forces have tried to delegitimize the Jewish State by calling it a colonialist project, claiming that Zionism is a Jewish-European colonialism project, despite it being a project of indigenous awakening.
Since more than 50% of Jewish-Israeli citizens are originally from families that have lived in the Middle East and North Africa, and not Europe, these anti-Israel forces had to make up a story to isolate the European Ashkenazi Jews from the broader Israeli-Jewish population, to fit their “colonialism” sham. They have totally falsified history and are spreading lies, to push their narrative of delegitimization and that the State of Israel shouldn’t exist.
Attempts to strip Jews of their Jewish identity and homeland always result in historical revisionism.
The existence of Jews in Arab societies has always been conditional, much like the existence of Jews in European societies has, not only in the 20th century, but throughout the entire history of the diaspora. Now that Jews finally have a place to rest, where we can feel safe in our indigenous homeland, we won’t let our adversaries distort our identity and history, just to delegitimize our very own existence.

Sunrise is in the dark about Mizrahi history

The false narrative put about by far-left organisations such as the Washington DC chapter of the Sunrise group that Jews are colonial interlopers runs counter to the reality for Mizrahi Jews who will resist any return to life as a minority under Arab rule. Elliot Kaufman writes in the Wall Street Journal: (with thanks: Liily)

Proponents of the ‘New Green Deal’ (Photo: Getty Images)

Justifying such a politics has always required dishonesty. In its statement, Sunrise DC asserts: “Given our commitment to racial justice, self-governance and indigenous sovereignty, we oppose Zionism.” The third plank is particularly galling, as Zionism entails the return of an indigenous people, the Jews, to sovereignty in their homeland, where they’ve had a continuous presence since biblical times.

Asked Thursday about the exclusion of Jews and about Jewish indigeneity, the national Sunrise group didn’t elaborate. It issued its own statement distancing itself from that of its affiliate: “Sunrise DC made a decision to issue this statement, and we weren’t given the chance to look at it before it became public.” On Friday, after critics noted that other pro-Zionist groups had escaped the local chapter’s notice, the national organization issued another statement: “Sunrise DC’s statement and actions are not in line with our values. Singling out Jewish organizations for removal from a coalition, despite others holding similar views, is antisemitic and unacceptable.”

Sunrise DC didn’t reply to questions. Its original statement denies the Jewish connection to the land by calling Israel “a colonial project.” Like so much anti-Zionism, this stuff is the dregs of Soviet “anti-imperialist” and Arab nationalist rhetoric. For 2,000 years, Jews have prayed three times a day for the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel. It is crude propaganda to shunt Zionism, with its anticolonial struggle against the British, into the same category as, say, French colonization of Algeria. If Jews are interlopers in Israel, where is their home? If Israel is a colony, what is the metropole?

Next, Sunrise DC complains: “Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank cannot vote in Israel, despite the fact that these territories are occupied and effectively governed by the state.” That is untrue. Israel intervenes to protect itself, but Hamas governs Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority governs Palestinian parts of the West Bank. Neither Palestinian faction has held an election in years, but Sunrise DC doesn’t mention that. That’s another anti-Zionist tendency: Don’t get worked up about Palestinian deprivation if Israel can’t be blamed.

Sunrise DC panders to American sensibilities by condemning Israeli discrimination against “Black and brown Jewish-Israelis.” These Jews may now be useful as a cudgel against Israel, but their history illuminates the necessity of the Jewish state. In the 1980s and ’90s, Israel airlifted thousands of black Jews from Ethiopia, rescuing them from famine and violence. Mizrahim, the “brown” Jews of Sunrise DC’s taxonomy, constitute a majority of Israeli Jews. They were absorbed after violent expulsions from Arab lands. Anti-Zionists now demand their return to life as a vulnerable minority under Arab rule.

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‘Arab Jew’ advocate confuses culture with politics

We’ve had Rachel Shabi. We’ve had Massoud Hayoun. Here comes the latest person to identify as an ‘Arab Jew’ : Hadar Cohen. The post-Zionist  +972 magazine  has found space for her article: ‘Zionism has no space for an Arab Jew like me’.

Hadar Cohen’s grandparents holding her father as a baby

Colonization works with our minds to distort our understanding of identity and perpetuate its own agenda. Because of this, my identity has been a great source of internal confusion that has taken me years to unpack and untangle. Recently, I began to understand how this internal self-dialogue represents a political dilemma born through the colonization of Palestine.

“I identify as an Arab Jew. My family has lived in Jerusalem for over 10 generations, and my other ancestral cities include Aleppo in Syria, Baghdad in Iraq, and Shiraz in Iran, along with a small village in Kurdistan. I grew up with primarily Syrian-Palestinian traditions and cultures. My grandmother was a feminist painter and cultural lover of film and literature. My grandfather was a prayer leader skilled in the art of maqamat, a unique Arab melodic framework, who recited prayers in the Syrian-Jerusalemite tradition. My family prayed in Hebrew and Arabic, with a thick accent rolling off our tongues as we pronounced Jewish blessings. I grew up with Mohamed Abdel Wahab and Shabbat piyyutim, Jewish liturgical poems, sung together. Until my parents’ generation, Arabic was the predominant language in my family.

In our traditional Jewish home, observing our Syrian-Palestinian heritage and culture came with ease. Jewishness and Arabness fit together cohesively — there was no contradiction. But outside our home, my faith and culture clashed. The State of Israel conditioned me to see the intersection of “Jewish” and “Arab” as non-existent or impossible, even though Arab Jews have lived at this intersection for years. I learned that in order to belong to Israeli society and participate in the Zionist project, I had to reject parts of myself — the Arab parts. Zionism teaches that “Arabs” are the enemies of the Jews, and, in doing so, it completely fragmented my identity.”

When Hadar  complains that Zonism stifles her Arab culture it is tempting to ask which planet she is living on. Arabic music has never been more popular in Israel. It is being performed in Israel’s most prestigious venues.  There is a  thriving piyyutim scene in Israel, much of it influenced by Arab popular culture. Has she ever heard of paytanim like Moshe Habusha, who sings tunes made famous by Mohammed Abdel Wahab? Has she heard that national treasure  Sarit Haddad sing ‘Unta Omri’, the Um Kalthoum classic? Has she heard of the Yemenite girl band A-WA, who sing in Arabic?  And it’s not just music. Iraqi Arabs are buying the book ‘Pictures on a wall’ written in Arabic by an Israeli called Tsionit Fattal-Kuperwasser.

Hadar labours under the false assumption that Jews in Arab countries only absorbed cultural influences from the Arabs. Yes they did,  but they also created ‘Arabic’ culture. The Jewish al-Kuwaity brothers  modernised the maqam  in Iraq. The Jew Yaakov Bilbul wrote the first novel. The Jew Yaakov Sanua wrote dozens of plays in Egypt.

Hadar confuses culture with politics. You can be an Arabic Jew without  being an ethnic Arab. The communities kept apart to the point that they spoke different dialects, had different values, and never intermarried.

The ‘Arab Jew’ concept did not exist until the invention of Arab nationalism, an artificial identity based on culture and language. However, Jews were never considered anything other than belonging to a faith  under the protection of Islam. They were never allowed into the public square.

‘Arab Jew’ is a recent construct popular with far-leftist anti-Zionists who abhor the idea of Jewish power.

Most Mizrahi  Jews would object  strenuously to being called ‘Arab Jews’.

Hadar’s family lived for 10 generations under Ottoman Turkish  rule. Does this make them Arab? Did the members of her family from Kurdistan or Shiraz identify as Arabs? Sadly, Hadar has got the ‘colonialism’ paradigm back-to-front.  Indeed, using the term ‘Arab Jew’ is an act of colonisation. It is indigenous peoples like Kurds, Berbers and Jews who have been subjugated by Arab and Muslim imperialism and colonialism.

Finally,  Hadar  manages to confuse culture with politics. The two are quite separate. Mizrahi Jews were victims of Arab politics – that is why they were driven out. That is why most now live in Israel, where for the first time they can rely on the state to protect them as Jews. Even the most acculturated Jew was forced out because of antisemitism.

One is  reminded of Albert Memmi’s seminal essay,’Who is an Arab Jew?’ ‘We would have liked to be Arab Jews,’ he writes, ‘but the Arabs prevented it through their contempt and cruelty.’

Reject the expression ‘Arab Jew’

Arab Jew:? ‘It’s like saying Hispanic countryside’

Of Jewish Arabists’ and ‘Arab Jews’

Arab Jews: ‘like mice of the feline persuasion’

Post-Zionist ‘Arab Jews’ ‘re-write history to flatter’


Progressives should support Jewish victims of Arab colonalism

One of the most persistent slurs against Israel among progressives is that it is a ‘settler colonial state’. The truth is that the only empire has been Arab and Muslim, and Israel is an example of ‘decolonisation’ . James Sinkinson pens this punchy piece in JNS News:

James Sinkinson: who are the real colonists?

Ironically, Jews are the only people in history since the brutal Arab conquest, occupation and colonization of the region who have risen up to reclaim their land. This has been considered an affront to Islam, and it is no coincidence that Hebrew, the indigenous language of the Jewish people, and Zionism, the national movement to return the people to their land, were violently repressed and banned in Arab countries.

There’s no doubt who is the colonizer and who the colonized. There is only one empire in this conflict, and it is not Jewish, a people who have never conquered any territory on the planet not their own, as opposed to the Arab world, which currently encompasses 5,070,419 square miles of land mass.

Rather than condemning Israel, progressives in the West who recoil at “settler colonial projects” should embrace the Jewish state as an example of decolonization—indigenous return and restored sovereignty. If they were honest, they would stand by the side of tiny Israel—with a population of nine million, surrounded by hundreds of millions who seek its destruction and its return to the huge Arab empire.

Just ask the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa who lived under Arab repression, discrimination and constant fear of violence for almost 13 centuries—who have finally returned home and make up the majority of the Jewish citizens of the State of Israel. Their recent history and experience of Arab imperialism, conquest and oppression reflects a sad, violent tale of Arab Muslim privilege. These Jews truly understand colonialism and what it is like to live under its yoke.

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Don’t apply US identity politics to the Middle East

A US Congressman’s attempt to brand Israeli Jews caught up in the current conflict with Hamas as ‘white’ is lambasted by Liel Leibowitz writing in Tablet. At the end of the day, American identity politics cannot be applied to the Middle East: it is about one group’s wish to murder another. 

US Congressman Jamaal Bowman

 Now, this might be confusing to you, especially if you’ve been following the news over the past day. If so, you would have heard about Soumya Santosh, a 32-year-old Indian woman who, in order to provide for her 9-year-old boy, found work in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, caring for an 80-year-old woman. The pair were ducking for cover when their home was directly hit by one of Hamas’s rockets. Santosh’s brown body was torn apart by a projectile hurled by a terrorist organization and aimed at innocent civilians, none of whom, by the way, have any use for silly and preening identity politics.

 Or maybe you know about 19-year-old Yehuda Guetta—his family hails from Libya, a country located, of all places, in Africa. Yehuda was shot and killed earlier this week by a Palestinian-American named Muntasir Shalabi, who was motivated, according to his neighbors, by equal parts Jew hatred and heavy gambling debts. 

 In general, I am loathe to deny Americans the right to play their national sports, which these days apparently include mau-mauing “white people”—though I will say that it seems creepy to use skin color as the primary way to identify human beings, like 19th century “race scientists” did. But since Congressman Bowman is being joined by a host of other elected officials including Rashida Tlaib in trying to chauvinistically transpose their own American psychodrama onto a foreign region, this is now starting to get terrifyingly dangerous—and I don’t mean for Israel, but for Jews living here in the United States, including those in Congressman Bowman’s own district.

 So let’s be clear as day: Israel isn’t America, Jews aren’t white, and Palestinians aren’t “Black and brown people.” Judaism is an identity that predates “race,” just as it predates America, and the sin of slavery, and the idea of nations and the Christian and Muslim faiths.

 Reckless, ignorant racializing, precisely of the kind that Bowman is practicing these days, has a trickle-down effect. In a statement last month, the Congressman and his fellow progressives released a statement declaring themselves shocked, shocked! by the anti-Jewish violence in their own districts. Sir, the call is coming from inside your house. 

 Moreover, if people like Congressman Bowman can’t see how being openly denigrated by powerful people—like, say, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives—makes members of a minority group feel vulnerable and targeted, then I really have no idea what progressive politics are even pretending to be about anymore. 

 Of course, Bowman is free to ignore Jewish history and all the suffering of real people in the present, and to fantasize about skin-based affinities while fundamentalist terrorists lob thousands of rockets at people who are family members, both figuratively and literally speaking, of his own constituents. But how about the other side of what’s happening in Israel? 

In the last 48 hours, thousands of Israeli Arab citizens, whose skin color is exactly the same as that of their neighbors, and who enjoy the highest standard of living in the region as well as every right to practice their religion freely and attend great universities, launched a wave of pogroms against their Jewish neighbors. They attacked and defaced synagogues in Lod—just like in Bowman’s district in Riverdale. They also beat up children in the street, bombed buses, dragged drivers from their cars, and smashed shop windows, targeting the Jewish regional minority. 

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