Jews in Arab Countries
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318 pages

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In this new history, French author Georges Bensoussan retells the story of what life was like for Jews in the Arab world since 1850. During the early years of this time, it was widely believed that Jewish life in Arab lands was peaceful. Jews were protected by law and suffered much less violence, persecution, and inequality. Bensoussan takes on this myth and looks back over the history of Jewish-Arab relations in Arab countries. He finds that there is little truth to the myth and forwards a nuanced history of interrelationship that is not only diverse, but deals with local differences in cultural, religious, and political practice. Bensoussan divides the work into sections that cover 1850 to the end of WWI, from 1919 to the eve of WWII and then from WWII to the establishment of Israel and the Arab Wars. A new afterword brings the history of Jewish and Arab relations into the present day. Bensoussan has determined that the history of Jews in Arab countries is a history of slowly disintegrating relationships, increasing tension, violence, and persecution.




Part One: The Gradual Erosion of Tradition, 1850 – 1914

1. "Barbaric Lands"

2. Colonized

3. From the Enlightenment to the Alliance

4. Jewish "Subjects"

Part Two: The Disintegration of a World, 1914 – 1975

Section One: The Echo of the Great War, 1914 – 1939

5. "A New Jewish Man"?

6. Between Europeans and Arabs: Finding a Space?

7. The 1930s: Years of Tension

8. A Turn for the Worse

Section Two: Shock and Collapse, 1939 – 1975

9. In the Wake of War, 1939 – 1945

10. The Turning Point, 1945 – 1949

11. Captive Communities: From 1948 to the 1960s

12. Flight

13. The Final Act

Appendix: Maps




Publié par
Date de parution 04 mars 2019
Nombre de lectures 2
EAN13 9780253038609
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0062€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Alvin H. Rosenfeld
The Great Uprooting

Georges Bensoussan

Translated by Andrew Halper
Indiana University Press
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Office of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
Originally published in French as Juifs en pays arabes, Le grand d racinement 1850-1975 2012 by ditions Tallandier
All rights reserved. Published by special arrangement with Editions Tallandier, France in conjunction with their duly appointed agents L Autre agence and 2 Seas Literary Agency.
English translation 2019 by Indiana University Press
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Bensoussan, Georges, author. | Halper, Andrew, translator.
Title: Jews in Arab countries : the great uprooting / Georges Bensoussan ; translated by Andrew Halper.
Other titles: Juifs en pays Arabes. English
Description: Bloomington, Indiana : Indiana University Press, [2019] | Series: Studies in antisemitism | Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2018055037 (print) | LCCN 2018055855 (ebook) | ISBN 9780253038586 (ebook) | ISBN 9780253038579 (cloth : alk. paper)
Subjects: LCSH: Jews-Arab countries-History-19th century. | Jews-Arab countries-History-20th century. | Jews-Persecutions-Arab countries. | Islam-Relations-Judaism. | Judaism-Relations-Islam. | Arab countries-Ethnic relations.
Classification: LCC DS135.A68 (ebook) | LCC DS135.A68 B4613 2019 (print) | DDC 305.892/401749270904-dc23
LC record available at
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Part One: The Gradual Erosion of Tradition, 1850-1914

1 Barbaric Lands

2 Colonized

3 From the Enlightenment to the Alliance

4 Jewish Subjects
Part Two: The Disintegration of a World, 1914-1975
Section One: The Echo of the Great War, 1914-1939

5 A New Jewish Man ?

6 Between Europeans and Arabs: Finding a Space?

7 The 1930s: Years of Tension

8 A Turn for the Worse
Section Two: Shock and Collapse, 1939-1975

9 In the Wake of War, 1939-1945

10 The Turning Point, 1945-1949

11 Captive Communities: From 1948 to the 1960s

12 Flight

13 The Final Act



D ESPITE DISSIMILARITIES, DIVERGENCES , and particularities, the Arab-Muslim world constitutes a single civilizational unit. And, taking into account its major geographic regions as well as the distinct evolution of each Jewish community, historically this was equally true of the diverse groups of Jews within that Arab world.
To understand this history-and a fortiori the history of the disappearance of these communities in less than a generation-this book will conduct a series of exploratory dives in order to survey and map out, as a marine archeologist might do, first the broad contours and then the details of this submerged world.
The book will focus on five countries, extending from Morocco to Iraq. Morocco, because it was never subjected to Ottoman rule and remained independent until 1912, and from early on was home to the Arab world s largest Jewish community. Libya, because in 1911 its small Jewish community passed from Ottoman rule to Italian colonial control. Egypt, because it presents an atypical situation, namely as a destination for Jewish immigration throughout the nineteenth century. A second particularity is that there was not a single Egyptian Jewish community but rather several, which co-existed, and of which the majority, unlike the rest of the Arab world s Jews, had only a slight connection to Arab culture. Iraq, because it was the oldest Middle Eastern Jewish community and the second most populous after Morocco s, and also because it was the most Arabized of them all. And finally Yemen, one of the most subjugated Jewish communities, in the heart of a remote and archaic country. Beginning in 1880, its Jews were to emigrate to Palestine ( Eretz Israel ), 1 to build the modern Jewish national home alongside Zionists from Eastern Europe.
The end of the Jewish world in Arab lands cannot be read solely in the light of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Rather, one must go back to the middle of the nineteenth century in order to identify the first signs of collapse, to the moment when Western modernity, even if only tentatively, was reaching the shores of the Arab Middle East s Jewries. The mid-nineteenth century is also where it is necessary to start in order to understand why Jewish modernization, born in the wake of the Haskala and colonization, 2 would come to separate these Jews from their environment while, at the same time, the rise of Arab nationalism would push Arabs and Jews toward divorce.
Arab archives are for the most part closed, although a small amount of original material has occasionally been published in academic works or documentary collections, translated into Western languages. This book therefore has drawn on the immense holdings of the Alliance isra lite universelle, 3 which cover nearly all the Arab world from 1862 to 1939. French diplomatic archives have also been consulted, as these are often essential for the Maghreb (and the Near East after 1945). Finally, we have consulted the Zionist archives in Jerusalem, for the birth of Zionist movements in the Arab world and for the post-1945 period.
On examination, Jewish worlds within Arab lands often seem stripped of the inner mental framework that structured their existence. Not that there is a complete dearth of monographs or other works on such Jewries, nor a lack of scholars or libraries dedicated to their study. Rather, the issue is the internalized consciousness of a history that places a people within a successive chain of generations, the collective consciousness that, alone, can stave off the anxiety of existence in this world by shoring up the fragility of people and things by imbuing them with meaning. The past of Moroccan, Iraqi, or Yemenite Jews has yet to become their history , has yet to constitute that fabric of civilization of which their descendants today are custodians.
Middle Eastern Jewish cultures were crushed by the narratives of a colonizing Europe, and even more by the narrative of an Ashkenazi Judaism that was itself enshrouded in the immense shadow of genocide. Thus triply alienated, those Oriental Jewish cultures were reduced to the status of folklore (captioned, for example, as Typical view of the Jewish Quarter, Traditional Bride s Dress in Morocco, or Yemenite Jewish liturgical items ). These cultures have been museumified, stereo-typified, and submerged, but have not yet emerged as history .
The eviction of 1945 to 1965 is thus only the preamble to a still-illegitimate history. The account offered in this book is for the defeated, history s orphans, that they may reclaim their past and the recounting of that past from their former masters. 4
1 . Translator s note: Generally we will use Eretz Israel to designate Palestine from a Jewish viewpoint, and Palestine from an Arab perspective. Palestine is also used in a neutral descriptive sense to denote a territory demarcated on a geographical or administrative (first Ottoman, then British) basis. The nomenclature describing the broader region (or parts of it) reflects the inconsistency that continues to characterize modern usages. Thus, we variously use Near East, Middle-East, the Maghreb, the Arab world, the Muslim world ; the meaning should be clear in context. Mirroring French usage, we also use the expression Oriental Jews, since this term reflects socio-cultural and intellectual perspectives prevalent during the period under examination in this book. Despite the controversies around the use of Oriental in the past few decades, this expression made sense to those who used it during the relevant time period.
2 . The Jewish Enlightenment ( Haskala ) was a movement among European Jews in the 18th-19th centuries that advocated enlightenment values, greater Jewish integration into European society, and increasing education in secular studies, Hebrew language, and Jewish history.
3 . The Alliance, or AIU, is a Paris-based international Jewish organization founded in 1860 by the French statesman Adolphe Cr mieux to safeguard the human rights of Jews around the world, by promoting the ideals of Jewish self-defence and self-sufficiency through education and professional development. Early on it became particularly active in promoting education through the medium of the French language for Jews throughout the Muslim world.
4 . The worst is that others-who are complete strangers to us-will write for us and in our name! And amongst these strangers we count so few friends. Isaac Leib Peretz in 1915, cited in Samuel D. Kassow, Qui crira notre histoire? (Paris, Grasset, 2011), 306.
T HROUGHOUT THE YEARS spent researching and writing this book, people at several institutions have been extremely helpful to me, and I would like to of

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