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The words “Arab” and “Jew” are like oil and water. They don’t mix… or so goes the popular tenet, a belief nurtured by Zionist propaganda. Zionism, a movement, which coveted Palestine for a Jewish homeland, took root before the Holocaust. Nevertheless, it was European anti-Semitism, which fuelled the Zionist zealots and provided the impetus for Jewish emigration to the Holy Land.

    Judging by the Zionist-influenced media today, however, Arabs are being used as scapegoats, held up as anti-Semites who persecuted Jews down the ages. Perhaps piling the blame onto the Arab world for Jewish suffering goes some way to expunging the guilt of those who took the land now called Israel by force brutally displacing the Palestinian Arabs while so doing.


    The reality is very different. Jews had lived in peace and prosperity throughout the Mid-East, Arabia and North Africa since time immemorial and were treated by Moslems with respect as fellow ‘people of the book’.


    Jewish discomfort in Arab lands did not stem from racism, intolerance or anti-Semitism but by the mistreatment of Palestinians at the hands of their co-religionists. In short, the divide between Arab and Jew is political, not inherently personal and certainly not racist.


    Those who have been unwittingly indoctrinated by Zionist propaganda may be surprised to learn that during the American invasion of Iraq Moslems and Christians protected Baghdad’s Jewish community centre from looters.


    A young Iraqi Christian Edward Benham told AFP: “We are defending the synagogue like all houses on the street and we will not let anyone touch it.”


    “The Jews have always lived here and it is only normal that we should protect them,” echoed 36-years-old factory worker Ibrahim Mohamed.


    Indeed, there have been Jews in Iraq for the last 2,500 years and according to The Jewish Museum in London Iraqi Jews formed part of “the most successful communities in Jewish history”.


    According to the Museum’s website, the early 19th century was a golden era for Iraqi Jewry when “prominent Jewish mercantile families began establishing trading posts in India and the Far East and sending money back to Iraq.”


    “Nineteenth century Baghdadi Jews shopped in open-air souks and lived in homes on narrow, shaded streets…


    “By the early 20th century, prosperous Jews moved to the suburbs around Baghdad. Baghdadi Jews often spent festival days on the tree-lined shores of the Tigris River, and where their ancient forbears wept (after being exiled from Jerusalem), they picnicked.”


    Curator Jennifer Marin says that while she was putting together the museum’s exhibits, she found herself faced with two sets of memories of Jewish life in Iraq.


     “What I found quite puzzling, and almost troubling, were two different accounts, side by side. One was that it was a wonderful life there. ‘It was fabulous. We had such wonderful times. We had parties, we went to school’. And then there are all these harrowing accounts of what happened after 1941 and you wonder what was the real version of what was really going on. Was there always wonderful coexistence and cooperation, and tolerance, or were there undercurrents of resentment all the time?”


    Most of Iraq’s Jews emigrated to the U.S., Britain, Israel and South America during the years between WW2 and just after the 1967 Mid-East war due to the dividing influence of Zionism and the political fall-out, which ensued after the birth of the Jewish state.


    At the end of July, Israel chartered a plane to fly six of Iraq’s 34 known remaining Jews to Israel. The group was mainly elderly and included a 90-years-old woman. The Jewish agency said  “while Jews in Iraq had faced some persecution and confiscation of property over the years, former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had made sure they were not harmed.” Interestingly, 28 decided to stay on despite Hussein’s ousting even amid their fears of an Islamic resurgence.




    Morocco’s 6,000-strong Jewish community is protected by royal decree. The New York Jewish Museum’s “Morocco: Jews and Art in a Moslem Land” explored the multi-cultural art and traditions of Morocco and 2,000 years of Jewish life there. More astonishingly, it was the first time an exhibit at a Jewish museum had an Arab leader – the King of Morocco – as its patron.


    Jews have long lived harmoniously alongside their Arab neighbours in Morocco as illustrated by the answer given by King Mohammed V to a Nazi commander when asked for a list of all Jews in his kingdom: “We have no Jews in Morocco, only Moroccan citizens”.


    There are synagogues, care homes for the elderly and kosher restaurants in Casablanca, Fez, Marrakesh, Mogador, Rabat, Tetuan and Tangiers while Casablanca is home to four Jewish schools, which benefit from government funding.


    Every year on special dates thousands of Jews from around the world flock to Morocco to visit the tombs of their holy men. Moslems protect such religious sites.




    In 1948, there were 105,000 Jews in Tunisia while today there are under 2,000. Most left after the country gained its independence in 1956 and by 1967 Tunisia’s Jews numbered around 20,000. Former Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba apologized to Tunisia’s Chief Rabbi when violence flared up against his country’s Jewish community in ’67 and he appealed for the Jews to stay.


    Today the Tunisian government assures freedom of worship for the Jewish community and cooperates with a Jewish council known as The Jewish Committee of Tunisia. The community benefits from five officiating rabbis, several kosher restaurants and a number of Jewish schools and kinder-gardens.




    During the centuries preceding 1948, Egypt’s Jews were prosperous and prominent members of society. From 640 until the late 900s, there were Jewish institutes of learning, Jewish judges and Jewish politicians.


    Following the Marmaluke period, when both Jews and Christians were persecuted in Egypt, 1492 witnessed the mass emigration of Jews from Spain to Egypt where they were welcomed by the Ottoman rulers and awarded high government posts.


    The Jews of Egypt suffered at the hand of Napoleon who imposed heavy taxation upon them and destroyed their places of worship but after the French retreat in 1801 legislation was introduced which provided Jews with a privileged status, including tax exemptions and legal protection as foreign nationals.


    Under the British, who arrived in Egypt in 1881, the Jews then numbering around 60,000, prospered as never before. With wealth accrued from their proprietorship of cotton processing plants, textile factories, jewellery stores, they constructed synagogues, schools, colleges and fine mansions.


    One such mansion was built by Jewish architect Jacques Coral, whose family fled Alexandria when violence flared after the birth of Pan-Arabism triggered by wars with Israel. The family left behind a fading exchange of correspondence in which they talk about visits to the Opera, masked balls and their teenage son who was studying in Paris under the watchful eye of a family friend.


    These days, Tauheeda Ahmed, an elderly former journalist and women’s rights campaigner, lives in the elegant house. She recounts how Alexandria was a cosmopolitan city in her youth and has fond memories of Italian, Greek and Jewish neighbors. As a young girl Tauheeda befriended the Sassons, a well-known Alexandrian Jewish family, and years later, purely by chance, she met up with the son of the family, now a doctor, while on a visit to a London hospital. “Mama Tuha! Is it really you?” he cried joyfully.


    There are just a handful of Jews remaining in Alexandria, several of whom are caretakers of the city’s remaining synagogue, well guarded by Egyptian security forces. Inside the temple, a wall plaque gratefully acknowledges financial contributions made by one Ramadan Bey while throughout Alexandria department stores still carry the names of their Jewish former owners.




    The Jewish community in Yemen is one of the oldest and at peace with its Arab neighbors. It numbers only around 300 nowadays, some 43,000 having been airlifted out of Aden secretly by Israel during “Operation Flying Carpet” which took place between 1949 and 1950.


    According to an article by Nasser Arrabyee published in the Gulf News last year, many of those who remained say that they “do not want to leave the homeland of our parents and ancestors”. Some maintain the Israeli leaders are “very far from the real Judaism and Torah”.


    The official tally shows there are around 400 Jews in Yemen, but other estimates put the total at 1,500, mainly based in Raydah, a town 45 kilometers north of the capital Sana’a.


    Raydah resident Yahya Habeeb told Arrabyee that “Jews live in peace with the Yemeni tribes and they are not subjected to annoyance or harassment.”


    When Israeli tanks and bulldozers rolled into Jenin, Yemeni Jews donated both money and blood to aid the Palestinian people, some eager to fight against Sharon’s troops.


    The article reports that Yemeni Jews in Israel often suffer from a sense of isolation and are discriminated against to the point where recent émigrés – seven Jewish families - asked the Israeli government to send them back to Yemen due to their inability to adapt to life in Israel.


    Israeli culture is dominated by the Ashkenazim or European Jewry, which seeks to obliterate the history and traditions of Jews from Arab lands.


    Jewish writer and activist Professor Ella Shohat, who was born in Baghdad, bemoans the disappearing culture of the Arab Jew.


    She writes: “The pervasive notion of ‘one people’ reunited in their ancient homeland actively negates any affectionate memory of life before Israel. We have never been allowed to mourn a trauma that the images of Iraq’s destruction only intensified and crystallized for some of us.


    “Our cultural creativity in Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic is hardly studied in Israeli schools and it is becoming difficult to convince our children that we actually did exist there, and that some of us are still there in Iraq, Morocco, Yemen and Iran.”


    Shohat recalls her grandmother who when she first encountered Israeli society in the 50s was “convinced that the people who looked, spoke and ate so differently – the European Jews – were actually European Christians. Jewish-ness for her generation was inextricably associated with Middle Eastern-ness.


    “My grandmother,” she writes, “who still communicates largely in Arabic, had to be taught to speak of ‘us’ as Jews and ‘them’ as Arabs. The assumption was that ‘Arab-ness’ referred to a common shared culture and language, albeit with religious differences.”


    Jews and their cousins the Arabs, both descendants of Abraham, are, indeed foes, a sad state elicited mainly by the confiscation of Palestinian lands and the misery suffered by Palestinians as a result of Zionist policies. Few Israelis will admit this fact, preferring to label Arabs as anti-Semitic, while conveniently forgetting that Arabs are Semites too.


    Zionist history books and websites have embellished history to suit their own agendas. They want us to forget the Spanish inquisition when Jews and Moslems were faced conversion to Christianity or death; they want us to overlook the anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe while using the Holocaust as the raison d’etre for a Jewish state called Israel. They want us to ignore the fact that when Jews first began emigrating to Palestine, they were often welcomed by the local population, then blissfully unaware of the devastating effect the waves of Jewish immigrants would have on their own lives.


    Blaming Arabs for injustices wrought upon them by Europeans is disingenuous and even dishonest on the part of Zionists. The Palestinians have suffered for the sins of people on another continent and it’s time that wrongs were put right and history objectively re-written.


Linda S Heard is a specialist writer on Mid-East affairs and can be contacted at questioningmedia@yahoo.co.uk



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