Israel is now attempting to ‘de-Arabize’ Palestinian Christians, but in the 1950s it was Jews from the Middle East

Israel/Palestine
on 55 Comments
The interior of the ancient El Ghriba Synagogue located on the Tunisian island of Djerba. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The interior of the ancient El Ghriba Synagogue located on the Tunisian island of Djerba. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Emily L. Hauser’s recent blogpost for the Forward, “How ‘De-Arabizing’ Christians Serves Israel” is another example of liberal Ashkenazi Jews showing their concern for Palestinian Arabs while at the same time ignoring Arab Jews.

The process of “De-Arabization” that is discussed in the article is actually one that began with the immigration of Jews from the Middle East in the 1950s. As I wrote in a discussion of the Yehouda Shenhav’s important book The Arab Jews:

It was here that the Jewish identification with Arabic culture began to tear apart.

The use of the term “Arab Jew” as a means of identifying those Jews who had adopted the cultural system of the Arab civilization became a political football.

Though it is completely clear that Arab Jews are identified as such because they speak the Arabic language, eat Arabic-style food, listen to Arabic music and generally exhibit the many cultural traits common to all Arab peoples, the term was isolated from the standard Jewish nomenclature – under strong Zionist influence – that had little difficulty identifying other Jews by their places of origin.

Indeed, Ashkenazi Jews continued to be identified as such with sub-divisions of German Jews, English Jews, French Jews, Polish Jews, Russian Jews, and the like continuing to be utilized as a means to name the various Jewish communities in the Ashkenazi world. In spite of the many tragedies experienced by these Ashkenazi Jews, they continued to identify themselves by their countries of origin. It is telling that even after the Holocaust Jews from the Rhineland could still be identified as German Jews.

The only nomenclature that had changed was that of the Arab Jews.

The term that was created after 1948 to identify Jews of the Middle East was “Jews from Arab lands.” There seemed to be a very careful elision of Jews from the Arabic cultural system that was marked by a strong political bias. Arabs had now become the enemy par excellence of the Jewish State which was now seen as the sole legitimate representative body of the Jewish people. With the traditional antipathy of the Ashkenazi Jews – and it should be remembered that Ashkenazi Jews dominated the Zionist movement and had once even considered making Yiddish the national language of Israel – towards the classical Sephardic culture in place, the adoption of a new anti-Gentile animus towards the Arabs similar to that sense of exclusion that had animated Ashkenazi culture for many centuries, caused the Arab nature of Jewish identification to find itself singled out for extinction.

It is for this reason that the only Jewry that has been forced to remove its adjectival prefix is that of Arab Jewry. There is no other Jewry that is called “Jews from such-and-such lands.”

The question of Arab culture and identity has largely taken a back seat to that of religion with Islam becoming the focus of the Interfaith Dialogue movement, rather than the shared Arab culture of members of the region. In my discussion of the great Arab singer Umm Kulthum I note the close ties between Jews, Muslims, and Christians of the region and present this cultural model as a more relevant paradigm for the ongoing attempt to bring a more human dimension to what has largely been a stiff and formal exchange of religious ideas. It is an approach that was adopted by Trude Weiss-Rosmarin in her article “Towards Jewish-Muslim Dialogue.”

In the context of unfolding events in the region it is important to note the reversion to a racist proclivity among Muslim religious extremists to reinforce restrictive laws and practices against non-Muslims and circumscribe Dhimmi statutes in a particularly limiting and often humiliating manner. We have seen this emerge in the ongoing oppression of Coptic Christians in Egypt (see this article by Louis Raphael Sako). There is a complex set of issues unfolding that makes this matter difficult to parse. On the one hand we have a serious threat emerging that affects non-Muslims in the contemporary Arab-Muslim world.  That threat is real and should not be ignored. And yet we have the continuing Israeli oppression against the Palestinian community, and the attempt to exacerbate religious and ethnic tensions in a Palestinian context also represents a danger to the stability and well-being of that community. Israel’s aim is to peel off the Palestinian Christian community from the Muslim community by using the religious radicals as a wedge.

There are real and actual issues that are involved in this process that speak to nationalist chauvinism in both the Jewish and Muslim spheres.  The process of “De-Arabization” is a classic ploy used by Colonialists that seeks to decouple the native culture of the region from the socio-religious communities who throughout Arab history were given what was called “Millet” status; each faith community functioned in an autonomous manner while remaining part of a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society.

Leaving Arab Jews out of the discussion of “De-Arabization” gives us a misleading sense of just how pervasive this strategy was in Zionist thought and how the rejection of Arab culture by what was essentially a Eurocentric Ashkenazi elite served to undermine native Middle Eastern culture in Israel.

Adopting an Orientalist perspective, the Zionist cultural elites sought to both stigmatize and suppress this indigenous culture, largely based on the principles of Religious Humanism, social pluralism, and hybrid concepts of identity. While European nationalistic thought sought to homogenize peoples and ultimately oppress aliens, and in the case of Germany violently eliminate certain ethno-religious identities, the Arab-Muslim world over many centuries held to an inclusive process that, though certainly favoring Islam, sought to include non-Muslims in the larger body politic.

What Israel is now doing to Palestinian Christians is what it has already done to the Arab Jews and it is crucial for us to be aware that this cultural cleansing process is part of a larger Orientalist strategy meant to affirm Israel’s alienation from the historical culture of the region it resides in.

About David Shasha

David Shasha is the director of the Center for Sephardic Heritage in Brooklyn, New York. The Center publishes the weekly e-mail newsletter Sephardic Heritage Update as well as promoting lectures and cultural events. His articles have been published in Tikkun magazine, The American Muslim, the Christian Progressive and other publications. To sign up for the newsletter visit the Sephardic Heritage Google Group at http://groups.google.com/group/Davidshasha

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55 Responses

  1. Walid
    March 11, 2014, 10:14 am

    To his credit, Mahane is an Arab Kurdish-Jew.

    • just
      March 11, 2014, 10:45 am

      ?

      • Walid
        March 11, 2014, 1:01 pm

        They zionized him, Just but they couldn’t de-Arabise him.

      • just
        March 11, 2014, 1:06 pm

        Ah, now I see! Thanks, Walid.

      • MahaneYehude1
        March 11, 2014, 2:13 pm

        @Walid:

        Thanks for the clarification but no one tried to de-Arabise me nor Zionized me. I am an independent person and a Zionist from my own free choice.

      • Walid
        March 12, 2014, 3:21 am

        “I am an independent person and a Zionist from my own free choice.”

        Spoken like other Iraqis that were pissed off at Israel for declaring that all Iraqi Jews fled persecution when in fact, many had gone to Israel to fulfill their religious duty of aliyah. The Zionists were obliviating their honourable intentions by saying they came to Israel to flee Iraq and they insisted that they had come to Israel of their own free choice.

        Mahane, from your description of things of how they are and how they should be, I don’t doubt that you are a good Jew but I doubt very much that you are a true Zionist. It’s late in the game now but your real home should have been in Iraq.

      • eljay
        March 12, 2014, 7:33 am

        >> MY1: I am an independent person and a Zionist from my own free choice.

        The Potato-man seems to think that freely choosing to be a hateful and immoral supremacist is something to be proud of; that it’s some sort of badge of honour. How very sad. :-(

  2. pabelmont
    March 11, 2014, 11:08 am

    As I understand it, many Arab Jews moved to Israel at Israel’s request, demand, under instigation — even because of Israeli terrorism — and then became 2nd-class citizens, discriminated against by Ashkenazis.

    The scandal of the Yemeni orphans was where the Yemenis were spirited to Israel by airplanes and separated from (some of) their children which were thereafter adopted by the aforesaid Ashks and brought up without the true faith. For orthodox Jews, as the Yemenis were, the scandal was this last part, not the separation (even if they really WERE orphans). Israel was destroying Judaism.

    Anyhow, it appears that these Sepharidis became sort of the rednecks of Israel, despising the Arab non-Jews in order to have someone else to look down on (as the Ashkenazis looked down on them). Also, the Ashks forced the Sephs to live on the borders with the Arab countries where they were (early on) subject to anti-Israel attack, which even more so created anti-non-Jewish-Arab feeling among these Sephs [whereas some anger should have been reserved for the Ashks who forced them to live as pariahs in the border towns].

    It is very hard for people to turn against the hand that (now) feeds them even if they had it (in some respects) better before that hand intervened. Some of the Jews of the Arab world — such as Morocco — were slow to move to Israel and IMO had done better to stay at home. There are still Jews in Iran, Lebanon, and Syria (woe betides those still in Syria, I imagine), and this seems to me proof that aliah to Israel was not EVER necessary (except where force was applied) to Jews of the Arab world. The move to Israel forced Arab Jews to give up much of their culture, and that is a profound curse of any forced exile.

    • MahaneYehude1
      March 11, 2014, 2:07 pm

      @pabelmont:

      1) Well, I don’t want to enter the debate about “how the Ashkenazis treated the Mizrahim in Israel”. I only can recommend you read the book “A history of the modern world 1917-1990s” by Paul Johnson to realize that whenever you put two different groups from different cultures in one territory to live together, problems would arose. The same happened in Israel between the two groups you mentioned. Fortunately, most of the problems were solved or just disappeared with the time. Some of the problems are still exist and I believe that time will do its job. Some problems are just “invented” problems by several Mizrahim that want to keep the impression that the Mizrahim are still deprived in Israel, mainly because they want to use this impression for political power. In long term, they won’t success because the new generation see himself as Israeli and proud to be Israeli. We call this Mizrahim as Bakhyanim (I don’t know the English term, but it means people that always complain).

      2) Several Arab countries like Libya allowed the Mizrahi Jews to return to their countries of origin. Until today, from more than two millions Mizrahi Jews, only one family returned to Iraq but escaped again to Israel (It was in the time of Saddam Hussein). What can we learn from this fact?

      3) Most of you have one big mistake: You describe the Mizrahi Jews as passive peoples that can’t decide anything in their life. You always use passive verbs like “they were forced, were spirited, were subject… etc”. No, this your big mistake!! The Mizrahi Jews didn’t come to Israel because “they were forced” (usually, by two-three bombs in Baghdad) or “they were transferred”. They came to Israel because they always dream to return to their homeland and the establishment of the state of Israel was their opportunity to leave the countries that treated them as strangers although most of them lived there for more than 20 decades. If you read the history of Israel you will learn that many Mizrahi Jews were Zionists, several made Aliyah to Israel (OK, talknic, it was Palestine until 00:01 o’clock) before the establishment of the state of Israel and many were freedom fighters that fought for the independence of my state and defended it from the aggressors who wanted to destroy it. I proud that many of them still defend my country as fighters in IDF.

      • Sumud
        March 12, 2014, 12:22 am

        The Mizrahi Jews didn’t come to Israel because “they were forced” (usually, by two-three bombs in Baghdad) or “they were transferred”. They came to Israel because they always dream to return to their homeland and the establishment of the state of Israel was their opportunity to leave the countries that treated them as strangers although most of them lived there for more than 20 decades.

        So Mahane disputes the recent claims that arab jews fled ME countries as refugees, which appeared only after the New Historians started writing about the Nakba.

        …and many were freedom fighters that fought for the independence of my state and defended it from the aggressors who wanted to destroy it.

        1. Independence from who? The British announced they were leaving before hostilities commenced so it can’t have been them. Who then Mahane?

        2. Who are these “aggressors who wanted to destroy it” Mahane? The Arab armies did not invade the Israeli partition under UN181, and only attacked jewish forces outside the Israeli partition under UN181 – ie. those undertaking aggressive action outside Israel.

        These things are beyond dispute, you do yourself nor zionism any favours by spouting obvious falsehoods.

      • Sibiriak
        March 12, 2014, 8:18 am

        MahaneYehude1:

        You describe the Mizrahi Jews as passive peoples that can’t decide anything in their life. You always use passive verbs like “they were forced, were spirited, were subject… etc”.

        I think you have a valid point there. Ilan Pappe avoids the suggestion of complete passivity by utilizing the phrases such as “self de-Arabization” , “voluntarily and by a policy from above” etc., in reference to Jews that came to Israel from Arab countries.

        In the new Jewish state a Jew became an ethnic identity and a Jew was, apparently, someone who was not an ‘Arab’ – not any Arab but someone who was not a Palestinian. Without such a definition the question of who was a Jew, a permanent source of trouble in the history of Israeli law-making and administration, would have remained an insoluble issue between religious and national definitions.

        There were of course Arab Jews, or Jews who came from Arab countries, but they were de-Arabized, voluntarily and by a policy from above: coached to Hebraicize their Arabic names, distance themselves from their Arabic language, history and roots, and adopt strong anti-Arab positions as the best means of integrating into the veteran Ashkenazi, namely European, society.16

        —————-

        In 1954, the new Jewish immigrants from Arab countries were still communicating freely with the Palestinians as new neighbours and as connoisseurs of the same culture. The first group that sensed this inevitable affinity was the poets and writers. Some of the Jews coming from Arab countries were quite well-known poets and writers in their homelands. At first they united with Palestinian writers to form their own union as Arabic writers. In March 1955, Palestinian and Jewish poets convened a conference of Arabic poetry in Nazareth, organized by Michel Haddad, a Palestinian poet and editor of the literary monthly al-Mujtama’. Three famous Jewish Iraqi poets, Zakai Binyamin, Salim Sha’shu’a and Shalom al-Kitab, took part in the event, which was attended by more than five hundred people.62

        For Jewish immigrants who had been artists in the former Arab countries – writers, poets or singers – the only ready-made audience in Israel who could consume their trade were the Palestinians. When the famous Jewish Egyptian belly dancer Zahara Yehoshua arrived in 1954 the only places she performed in were the Palestinian villages. Later she would be de-Arabized, with all the other members of her community, rename herself Dalya and desert her Arab culture.

        ———

        When a bomb exploded in the central bus station in Tel Aviv, the mob tried to lynch anyone who looked like an Arab – in some cases Jews who came from Arab countries attacked other Jews with the same origin, mistaking them for ‘Arabs’. These terrifying moments did not however help to change the attitude of the Mizrahi Jews towards the Palestinians – by and large as a political electorate they emerged as even more anti-Arab in general and anti-Palestinian in particular after 1973 (which explains their support for Menachem Begin’s Likud Party during those years).

        […]As mentioned before, their own low socio-economic conditions in comparison to the Ashkenazi Jews, their geographical location, on the borders with Arab countries where the conflict was felt more acutely, and above all the realization of many among them that self de-Arabization was the key factor that would ensure their full integration into the more veteran Israeli Jewish society, are the main reasons quoted by scholars on this subject.47

        —————

        [Begin] was voted in by an Arab Jewish, Mizrahi, electorate, who were persuaded by an appeal to their anti-Arabism, among other issues. In their eyes, if I may recap what I have pointed out earlier on, and in the political manipulation of the political right in Israel, their ticket to full integration into the Israeli society was their ability to de-Arabize themselves: to wipe out their Arab traditions, roots and language so that they would become as Israeli and Zionist as the Ashkenazi Jews. Displaying a strong anti-Arab position, including vis-à-vis the Palestinian minority in Israel, assured success in the struggle for integration and with it, maybe, personal economic prosperity. Begin unashamedly exploited this impulse and these apprehensions.

        Ilan Pappe, “The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel “

      • talknic
        March 12, 2014, 8:50 am

        @ MahaneYehude1 ” I only can recommend you read the book “A history of the modern world 1917-1990s” by Paul Johnson to realize that whenever you put two different groups from different cultures in one territory to live together, problems would arose. The same happened in Israel between the two groups you mentioned”

        The same happened in Palestine with Zionist Federation’s colonizers from 1989 til the present day

        “and many were freedom fighters that fought for the independence of my state”

        Israel’s independence was proclaimed effective at 00:01 May 15th 1948. There was no war of independence. It’s a fallacy. There was a civil war in Palestine, it ended the moment Israel became a state and transformed the war into one waged by the State of Israel over what remained of Palestine. It continues today.

        ” and defended it from the aggressors who wanted to destroy it.”

        Hogwash. Jewish forces were already outside the State of Israel on the day Israel’s independence was proclaimed effective. The Arab Regional Powers had the legal right to attempt to expel Jewish/Israeli forces from all non-Israeli territories.

        In fact the declaration on the Invasion of Palestine was the last declaration of war ever put to the UNSC. BTW there are no UNSC resolutions condemning the Arab States actions in attempting to protect what remained of Palestine from Israeli aggression

    • Walid
      March 11, 2014, 2:42 pm

      “… There are still Jews in Iran, Lebanon, and Syria (woe betides those still in Syria, I imagine), and this seems to me proof that aliah to Israel was not EVER necessary (except where force was applied) to Jews of the Arab world. ”

      It became necessary only in the case of Egypt, where Jews in large numbers were unjustly expelled in 3 separate waves. In mostly all other Arab countries, Jews left either for religious aliyah reasons or were tricked into leaving by the Zionists and in the case of Iraq, with the collusion of corrupt Iraqi politicians.

    • Tal
      March 12, 2014, 3:41 am

      I would like to second MahaneYehuda’s words.
      My grandparents made Aliya from Tunisia. They had never seen themselves as arabs. They were zionist activists for several years before they came on a boat in 1948. I am not saying that Mizrahi jews were treated well by the Israeli authorities during the first decades of the state of Israel but as Mahane says: its a common phenomenon among societies absorbing immigrants waves. See how the jews and italians and irish were treated in the beginning of the 20th century in america.

      This attempt to divide between mizrhim nd ashkenazim reminds me of how the current govt in israel is trying to divide between christian arabs and muslim arabs.

      • Cliff
        March 12, 2014, 8:24 am

        @Tal

        This attempt to divide between mizrhim nd ashkenazim reminds me of how the current govt in israel is trying to divide between christian arabs and muslim arabs.

        Your grandparents could see themselves as pineapples. Doesn’t make it true.

        Your grandparents were Arabs whose ancestors converted to Judaism.

        Denying their Arab ancestry is illogical.

        I’m sure they imagine themselves as White Jews, but they aren’t and will never be White Jews.

        Your comparison to Israel’s attempt to divide PALESTINIAN Christians and PALESTINIAN Muslims (not some amorphous blob of ‘Arabs’) is wrong.

        Both groups (Christians and Muslims) are Palestinian. They aren’t telling people they are Spanish. Their Arab identity is a non-issue. They know they’re Arabs.

        The identity that is at stake here is their NATIONAL identity as ‘Palestinians’, with Israel and Zionism attempting to drive a wedge between them using RELIGION.

        Whereas your grandparents were politically and religiously motivated and saw themselves in a different racial/ethnic make-up for those reasons.

      • Walid
        March 12, 2014, 1:19 pm

        “My grandparents made Aliya from Tunisia.”

        This at least, is one family that wasn’t expelled since it was about Aliya, like so many other others. Israel was created in 1948 and in the same year, Tal’s grandparents made their aliya without a problem by the Tunisian or French authorities. Jews continued living there until 1956 when their numbers peaked at about 100,000 and Tunisia became independent of France. That year, the departing French offered the Jews to go either to Israel or to France and become French citizens. That was 8 years after Israel’s founding and Tunisian Jews were still mostly all still living in Tunisia. Half took the offer to emigrate to France while a little less than half opted to go to Israel with a few thousands remaining in Tunisia mostly on the island of Djerba or in Tunis. This clearly shows that stories of mass persecutions of Jews of Tunisia are bogus, especially in light of the majority of Jews having continued living there 8 years after the creation of Israel.

        In Iraq, it took between 2 and 3 years to yank out the Jews from there, after the creation of Israel, which shows it as another bogus story.

        The only country from which Jews were actually expelled without any help from Zionists was Egypt.

  3. Krauss
    March 11, 2014, 11:41 am

    Thank you, David, for writing this.

    The Ashkenazi fog of Jewish and especially Israeli Jewish identity needs to be dispersed.

    The attempts to de-arabize Mizrahi and now Palestinian Christians of their Arab identity is far, far to rarely discussed.

  4. seafoid
    March 11, 2014, 12:12 pm

    Israel is not going to allocate extra resources to Palestinian Christians. It isn’t going to open the parts of Israeli society that are controlled by Jews to Palestinian Christians. The Israeli education system will still class them as inferior to Jews . So how does Israel think this is going to fly?

    • W.Jones
      March 11, 2014, 1:08 pm

      Seafoid,

      What about the Druze? Maybe the Israelis want to do a similar thing to Christians where they pervert them to obeying a society that treats them like second class? what happened to the Druze anyway to make them do this? Didn’t Druze suffer the Nakba too? (Christians are still Nakba-ized, BTW)

      • jon s
        March 11, 2014, 2:24 pm

        W.Jones, The Druze community allied itself with the Israeli side at least since the 1948 war, and the men are drafted for compulsory service in the IDF.
        https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Society_&_Culture/druze.html

      • seafoid
        March 11, 2014, 3:07 pm

        Israel shafts them all. The Druze don’t get promoted to the senior ranks. The Bedouin are used as trackers and have their villages demolished.
        Zionism is sick.

      • jon s
        March 14, 2014, 2:39 am

        Imad Fares commanded Givati Brigade.
        Yussuf Mishleb commanded Home Front.
        Rassan Alian , command of Golani Brigade.

        http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.554295

        So much for “don’t get promoted…”

      • puppies
        March 14, 2014, 3:23 am

        Jons – Thank you for the names. Should be known more widely. Addresses, too.

      • Walid
        March 11, 2014, 3:14 pm

        W.Jones, Druze go with the flow and with whoever rules the land. BTW, the Druze are Arabs and their religion is part of the Muslim one, and an offshoot of Ismaelian Shiism and for some reason, they don’t appear to have been de-Arabized but rather left alone by the Zionists; but still second-class citizens nonetheless.
        .

      • W.Jones
        March 12, 2014, 7:49 pm

        So just Druze tend to have no social independence from the ruling power? They will fight for whoever is in power, even if it means fighting other Middle Easterners?

      • Walid
        March 14, 2014, 4:58 am

        Yes, W. Jones, their ethnic survival depends on it since they don’t accept converts. The Islamic term for it is “taqqiya” which Wiki defines as:

        “… is a form of religious dissimulation, or a legal dispensation whereby a believing individual can deny his faith or commit otherwise illegal or blasphemous acts while they are at risk of significant persecution. This practice was emphasized in Shi’a Islam (Druze are an offshoot of Shia) whereby adherents may conceal their religion when they are under threat, persecution, or compulsion. Taqiyya was developed to protect Shi’ites who were usually in minority and under pressure. In the Shi’a view, taqiyya is lawful in situations where there is overwhelming danger of loss of life or property and where no danger to religion would occur thereby.

        … Because of the Druze’s Ismaili Shi’ite origin, they have also been associated with taqiyya. When the Druze were a minority being persecuted they took the appearance of another religion externally, usually the ruling religion in the area, and for the most part adhered to Muslim customs by this practice”

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taqiyya

  5. just
    March 11, 2014, 12:24 pm

    ‘de- Arabization’ of any Arab is clearly racism, and denial of their cultural identity. It’s based on a grotesque push to demonize Arabs.

    It’s wrong, and I don’t think many Palestinian Christians will embrace it, or fall to their collective knees in gratitude to the Apartheid State. I believe that the vast majority of Palestinians will choose to remain Palestinians above all else.

    • seafoid
      March 11, 2014, 3:39 pm

      “denial of their cultural identity”

      Jews in Israel are taught that the so called “Palestinians ” have no cultural identity . They all came from Syria in 1947. There was nobody in the land and Syrian culture is inferior to IDF indoctrination. It was Zionism that introduced them to tahini and hummus.

    • Walid
      March 11, 2014, 4:52 pm

      “I believe that the vast majority of Palestinians will choose to remain Palestinians above all else.”

      What if their survival depended on them playing along with the bad guys; how long would they or could they hold out? Consider the number of Christians that have left in the last 10 or 15 years as Israel is doing its best to give them the urge to leave. They will definitely remain Palestinian, as you said, Just, but not necessarily in Palestine, and that’s the problem.

      Christians are having it rough all over the Middle East. In Lebanon 60 years ago, they were over 50% of the population, today they are in the 15 to 20% range. Big problem with Iraqi Christians with roots there from 2000 years ago, having dropped by about 75% thanks to America’s introduction of freedom there. And now Syria with what’s happening, most Christians have fled. It’s almost as if there is a conspiracy by the West to empty the ME of its Christians and opening their immigration doors wide open to them is part of it. It’s not just Israel.

  6. tokyobk
    March 11, 2014, 12:30 pm

    Actually the Jews and whiteness story is as old as that racial category itself, about 500 years, Jews (both Ashkenazic and Sephardic) having been granted access to the identity in the New World (whatever religious prejudices may have endured).

    Just as the larger societies notion of race is n flux in an unprecedented way, the sense that Jewish = Ashkenazic is also loosening.

    I see Israel as adopting (at least officially) a multi-cultural Western ID (exclusive to, to say the least, Arab and Muslim) since that is the “liberal” norm or at least ideal in the West. Though as I said it reflects a changing consciousness within Judaism as well both in Israel, it seems, and surely in the US.

    In fact, demographically Israeli Jews are diverse, witness Ms. Israel and the current IDF pr campaign highlighting the color spectrum of the Jewish State.

    Cynically, this can be seen as a kind of “brown washing” in that the diversity angle is meant to harden the only category that really matters in I/P. Jewish or Palestinian.

    • American
      March 11, 2014, 1:51 pm

      ”I see Israel as adopting (at least officially) a multi-cultural Western ID (exclusive to, to say the least, Arab and Muslim) since that is the “liberal” norm or at least ideal in the West. Though as I said it reflects a changing consciousness within Judaism as well both in Israel, it seems, and surely in the US.”…..tokyobk.

      It cant be ‘multi cultural’ if they are trying to ‘de-Arabize’ Christians Arabs of their ethnic identity.

      The ‘liberal norm’ is not telling Hispanic Catholics, for instance, that they not Hispanic but just Catholic or Black Baptist they aren’t Black but just Baptist.

      Such pilpul!

      • tokyobk
        March 11, 2014, 7:17 pm

        Read and understand a post before you use fancy or foreign words or accuse someone else of being daft. Free Advice.

        Yes, it cannot be real multi-culti if it excludes Arabs and the Israel ID excludes Arabs, however diverse Jews have become there. It can be seen as a strategy that is a kind of “brown-washing” that is used to reinforce the wall between Arab and Jew, which is what I said the first time.

  7. W.Jones
    March 11, 2014, 1:03 pm

    Good article.

    Some Israeli or Palestinian Christians really are Arabs. Back in the 5th century, the Ghassanads were a major Christian tribe. They were an Arab tribe too, AND they were in Roman Palestine. If you just make a blanket statement that Christians are NOT Arabs at all, you have just made a fake ethnicity for them and deprived them of having any ethnicity. After all, if they aren’t Arabs, then what ethnicity are they?

    Indeed, there has been an ethnically Christian _Arab_ population for a very long time, like St. Isaac of Nineveh, who came originally from Qatar, where there was a Christian community in the early Middle Ages. That is definitely ethnically Arabs.

    It’s a complete mistake to do this- use political motives to relabel someone’s ethnicity based just on expediency and religious limits.

    • powzon
      March 12, 2014, 2:48 pm

      The Ghassanids and Lakhmids were tribes generally supposed to originate in Yemen. The Lakhmids migrated northeast, the Ghassanids, northwest a couple of centuries later. Both were pagan first, at least nominally Christian as time went on.

      Other notable tidbits:
      Before Muhammad, there were plenty of Christian Arabs in the Arabian peninsula.
      Ramallah was founded by Christian Arabs who have a tradition of originating in or near the west of modern Yemen.
      Jordan has Christian Bedouin tribes; I think their family names often end in and ‘at’ or ‘et’ sound.
      Here’s an ancient story about pagan bedouin converting to Christianity,
      http://www.al-bushra.org/arbhrtg/boutros.htm

      A Lebanese Shiite family today may have been Maronite 200 years ago, the converse, too.

      • W.Jones
        March 13, 2014, 2:54 pm

        I heard that the Maronites go back to the Monoethilite controversy in Byzantium.

      • Walid
        March 13, 2014, 3:53 pm

        The 7th century controversy was the Christological one about the beings and the will of of Jesus. The one that the Maronites of Syria and Lebanon adopted was Monothelitism that teaches that Jesus Christ had two natures (one human, the other divine) but only one will. It was the happy medium between the other 2 thoughts and a bit closer to the one that was eventually declared heretical, so the Maronites squeaked by. The rest of the Christians went with 2 natures and 2 corresponding wills that merged into one substance. The other ones the losers, were the Monophysites that claimed that Jesus had only one of each. They ended up being burned at the stake.

        The Maronites answer to the Vatican.

      • MHughes976
        March 13, 2014, 4:36 pm

        They didn’t all get burned, since the Egyptian Church remains monophysite – I think that they prefer ‘miaphysite’. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has said (I think) that this was little more than a matter of words and that he does not regard the Egyptians as heretical.
        The anti-Monophysite Definition of Chalcedon in 451 resulted from the efforts of the Empress Pulcheria – courageous, intelligent and patriotic, I think, though perhaps a bit fanatical – to maintain the unity of the Roman Empire. But if anything broke the unity of Roman world and paved the way for the Islamic conquests it was the insistence that there’s only one authentic kind of Christian and that’s a diphysite.

      • W.Jones
        March 14, 2014, 12:14 am

        I think Monoelithitism was considered a heresy later. Also, they did not use stake burnings with Monophysites AFAIK. The acceptance of Rome has to do with the Catholic Crusades, since the Maronites would not normally be under Rome’s territory but under Antioch’s, and as far as that divide on Monoelithitism was concerned, Rome and Antioch shared the same position.

      • James Canning
        March 14, 2014, 4:51 pm

        One might note here that the Byzantine emperor asked for Rome’s intervention in the Levant, but not expecting the “Catholics” would often slaughter other Christians as well as Muslims? And that they would not restore the lost provinces to the Byzantine Empire, as would have been the sensible course to follow.

      • W.Jones
        March 14, 2014, 12:20 am

        M. Hughes,

        The Monophysites started it when they called a council to successfully depose and exile the patriarch of Constantinople and to require Monophysitism. Pulcheria’s effort to call a council was to overturn the previous one. It did not ban Monophysitism so much as demand people accept two natures. Abp. Rowan is right that the natures debate is a word issue.

      • Walid
        March 13, 2014, 4:03 pm

        “A Lebanese Shiite family today may have been Maronite 200 years ago, the converse, too.”
        “A Lebanese Shiite family today may have been Maronite 200 years ago, the converse, too.”

        Some would find that the Shia are actually closer spiritually to the Maronite Catholics than they are to Sunni Muslims. They too have mysteries, miracles, angels, and a spiritual Imam whose interpretation of the holy writings are as sacred as the writings themselves and that come close in infallibility to that of the Catholic Pope. Conversely, as you noted, many Maronite families may have been Shia in the past and these are recognizable by the “Abu” prefix in their Christian surnames.

      • James Canning
        March 13, 2014, 7:20 pm

        Very interesting.

  8. Krauss
    March 11, 2014, 2:00 pm

    One critical comment, though.

    the Arab-Muslim world over many centuries held to an inclusive process that, though certainly favoring Islam, sought to include non-Muslims in the larger body politic.

    This is a remarkable understatement. If the Holocaust is your yardstick, then sure, anything in the Islamic world and beyond will look flowery. But the Holocaust was a one-off event even in Europe. Most European nationalisms didn’t go that route but we don’t remember it because German nationalism overpowered all other nationalisms in Europe.

    Still, the jizya tax in the Islamic world is only the beginning. Non-muslims were incorporated only as servants with the ultimate aim of conversion over the longer time horizon. And today, the region is more intolerant than ever of ethnic and religious minorities.

    And not just non-muslims, but increasingly minority sects within Islam. It’s like the 17th century Europe and its 30 year war with the overtly religious overtones.
    The difference is that that war was almost 400 years ago, but the Middle East is starting to look like it today.

    While I make no apologies about my previous comment about the necessity to disperse the Ashkenazi fog of Jewish identity, to allow a more diverse and varied identity to take shape, we do nobody a favor by writing outright delusional claims about the Arab muslim world, which is going backwards in time if anything judging by the rise of the Islamists over any other major faction in the Middle East.

    • Taxi
      March 11, 2014, 4:08 pm

      Krauss,

      Islamists are a minority in the islamic world. They’re louder than all other moslems because they’re the ones carrying the guns (he who holds the gun is heard first and only).

      Islamists would have but a bare whisper on the global stage if not for their extensive arming over decades by the axis of evil.

    • gamal
      March 11, 2014, 5:18 pm

      “Still, the jizya tax in the Islamic world is only the beginning. Non-muslims were incorporated only as servants with the ultimate aim of conversion over the longer time horizon. And today, the region is more intolerant than ever of ethnic and religious minorities.”

      “we do nobody a favor by writing outright delusional claims about the Arab muslim world” well, how apposite, how nice you doing us all a favour.

      and yet Arnold E Franklin who studies the medieval Muslim world seems to have missed it,

      “Davidic descendants were a source of national pride for the Jews as a whole. They derived a kind of “collective, vicarious legitimization from the biblical lineages we have been documenting”.[4] We encounter enthusiasm for biblical lineages by those with little or nothing to gain from them. Jews sought proximity to Davidic dynasts and welcomed their visits.

      This pride was refracted off the Muslims. It was important how the Muslims related to them. As Benjamin of Tudela points out, the exilarch was greeted by the Muslims in Baghdad with the cry: “make way for our lord, the son of David”. In this way the Jews experienced “a kind of collective ennoblement through their proximity to members of their own noble, pure, and prophetic lineage”.[5]

      One reservation that I have relates to the place of the priests in this picture. As Franklin fully recognises, in communal politics they shared centre-stage with the Davidic dynasty. But in the scheme of this book they have been largely consigned to the margins. Furthermore, the continuity from pre-Islamic times is a little more pronounced with respect to the priesthood than Franklin explains. Polemical contestation between Davidic dynasts and priests appears in the post-Mishnaic rabbinic literature.[6] Jewish society also seems have been cultivating a preference for priestly lineage in its communal leadership offices and elsewhere already in the pre-Islamic era.[7] Although Franklin has preferred a monarchical model, focusing on the pre-eminence of the Davidic line in imitation of the ‘Alids, the fundamentally diarchical character of Jewish politics deserves more consideration.

      In sum, this erudite and highly readable volume is impressive in its mastery and exposition of such diverse and complex sources. More significantly, in its genealogical shift it makes a vital contribution to our understanding of Near Eastern medieval Jewish society, and particularly to our appreciation of the depth of the Jewish-Arab symbiosis.”

      http://intertwinedworlds.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/review-jewish-descendants-of-king-david-in-the-medieval-islamic-east/

      • gamal
        March 11, 2014, 5:53 pm

        and as to the Jizya, 1stly did Jews and Christians pay Zakat?

        and many Muslims also paid the Jizya and they had to pay Zakat as well, how can that be? some one who had taken the trouble to study the subject would know. You clearly have a bug up your arse but havent even bothered to read any scholarly treatments, as always Sterns “Fatimid decrees” is a good place to start, or any scholarly work.

      • Walid
        March 12, 2014, 2:15 am

        “… the exilarch was greeted by the Muslims in Baghdad with the cry: “make way for our lord, the son of David”.

        In this way the Jews experienced “a kind of collective ennoblement through their proximity to members of their own noble, pure, and prophetic lineage”.

        Gamal, the tie-in you describe is also taken up by the Roman Catholics that have as part of most of their daily Eucharistic liturgy, mention of Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem and sort of guru for Abraham., During celebration of the Eucharist, the priests prays::

        “Look with favor on these offerings and accept them as once you accepted the gifts of your servant Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the bread and wine offered by your priest Melchisedech.”

  9. gamal
    March 11, 2014, 3:35 pm

    ok so if they can de-arabise the Chrisitians can we re-arabise the Irish.

    In his 1977 film Poitin, the first entire film in Gealic, Quinn, who was nursing a theory, has a brief scene where the immortal Niall Toibin turns on a radio and then dances to the Jig that is being played, not one person noticed that the music was not in fact an irish jig but a piece of Moroccan traditional music, and thus the Atlatean project was launched.

    “The project began innocently enough when, nearly thirty years ago, an Irish film maker, Bob Quinn, set out to show that the singing style of his neighbours in Gaelic-speaking Conamara in the West of Ireland was much more than a debased and incomprehensible version of ballad-singing – which was the attitude of anglophones.

    Over the following thirty years he showed how similar it was to North African and Afro-Asian singing and daringly went on to discover historic, religious, artistic, archaeological and linguistic similarities with Hamito-Semitic cultures.”

    http://conamara.org/index.php?page=atlantean

    • gamal
      March 11, 2014, 3:56 pm

      stuff like this, debased indeed,

      http://youtu.be/fUWVB3yQxBA

    • RoHa
      March 11, 2014, 9:27 pm

      “We can re-Arabize the Irish.”

      And why not?

    • Taxi
      March 12, 2014, 11:57 am

      Gamal,

      Ever read The White Goddess by Robert Graves?

      Through the analysis of ancient epics, he deduces that the Celts originated from Greece. A pacifist tribe that worshiped the pagan Triple Goddess, they kept moving camps whenever a warmongering tribe would target them, eventually splitting into two caravans: one going north and ending up eventually in Ireland, the other headed south and eventually ended up in Spain’s Basque region. Robert Graves claimed to have written his immense 470 page book in just two weeks – under his muse’s spell – and no academician has thus far debunked his ‘poetry as archeology’ theory.

      The origins of the Celts in Greece would sure explain why the Irish have more in common with faraway Mediterraneans, temperamentally, culturally/musically, than they do with their Anglo Saxon neighbors.

      http://www.amazon.com/The-White-Goddess-Historical-Enlarged/dp/0374504938#reader_0374504938

  10. seafoid
    March 11, 2014, 4:28 pm

    “British prime minister ‘coming as a friend’ on first official visit to Israel
    Cameron’s tone will be friendly, say analysts, gently reminding Netanyahu that chance of two-state solution is disappearing”

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/11/uk-prime-minister-david-cameron-visit-israel-netanyahu-friendly

  11. MahaneYehude1
    March 11, 2014, 7:04 pm

    I enclose here the video “The forgotten refugees” tells the story of the Mizrahim Jews in Arab countries. I hope many of you will watch it in order to understand better how the Jews were treated in most Arab countries in the 20th century.

  12. James Canning
    March 11, 2014, 7:46 pm

    There are Arab Christians. Arab Muslims. And, of course, Arab Jews. Perhaps even some Arab Buddhists?

  13. talknic
    March 12, 2014, 6:24 am

    And of course the notion that Israel has only 20% Arabs is a blatant falsehood.

    By 1950 the population of Israel was 1,370,000. There were some 156,000 non-Jewish Arabs in Israel and some 500,000 Arab Jewish refugees from the Arab states.

    That’s 656,000 Arabs of a population of about 1,370,000, which is about 47% not including the indigenous Arab Jews of Israel!

    The closer you look the more bullsh*t you’ll find

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