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Young Mizrahi Israelis' open letter to Arab peers

Translated from Hebrew;  English edited by Chana Morgenstern | Arabic version here

In a letter titled “Ruh Jedida: A New Spirit for 2011,” young Jewish descendants of the Arab and Islamic world living in Israel write to their peers in the Middle East and North Africa

We, as the descendents of the Jewish communities of the Arab and Muslim world, the Middle East and the Maghreb, and as the second and third generation of Mizrahi Jews in Israel, are watching with great excitement and curiosity the major role that the men and women of our generation are playing so courageously in the demonstrations for freedom and change across the Arab world. We identify with you and are extremely hopeful for the future of the revolutions that have already succeeded in Tunisia and Egypt. We are equally pained and worried at the great loss of life in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and many other places in the region.

Our generation’s protest against repression and oppressive and abusive regimes, and its call for change, freedom, and the establishment of democratic governments that foster citizen participation in the political process, marks a dramatic moment in the history of the Middle East and North Africa, a region which has for generations been torn between various forces, internal and external, and whose leaders have often trampled the political, economic, and cultural rights of its citizens.

We are Israelis, the children and grandchildren of Jews who lived in the Middle East and North Africa for hundreds and thousands of years. Our forefathers and mothers contributed to the development of this region’s culture, and were part and parcel of it. Thus the culture of the Islamic world and the multigenerational connection and identification with this region is an inseparable part of our own identity.

We are a part of the religious, cultural, and linguistic history of the Middle East and North Africa, although it seems that we are the forgotten children of its history: First in Israel, which imagines itself and its culture to be somewhere between continental Europe and North America. Then in the Arab world, which often accepts the dichotomy of Jews and Arabs and the imagined view of all Jews as Europeans, and has preferred to repress the history of the Arab-Jews as a minor or even nonexistent chapter in its history; and finally within the Mizrahi communities themselves, who in the wake of Western colonialism, Jewish nationalism and Arab nationalism, became ashamed of their past in the Arab world.

Consequently we often tried to blend into the mainstream of society while erasing or minimizing our own past. The mutual influences and relationships between Jewish and Arab cultures were subjected to forceful attempts at erasure in recent generations, but evidence of them can still be found in many spheres of our lives, including music, prayer, language, and literature.

We wish to express our identification with and hopes for this stage of generational transition in the history of the Middle East and North Africa, and we hope that it will open the gates to freedom and justice and a fair distribution of the region’s resources.

We turn to you, our generational peers in the Arab and Muslim world, striving for an honest dialog which will include us in the history and culture of the region. We looked enviously at the pictures from Tunisia and from Al-Tahrir square, admiring your ability to bring forth and organize a nonviolent civil resistance that has brought hundreds of thousands of people out into the streets and the squares, and finally forced your rulers to step down.

We, too, live in a regime that in reality—despite its pretensions to being “enlightened” and “democratic”—does not represent large sections of its actual population in the Occupied Territories and inside of the Green Line border(s). This regime tramples the economic and social rights of most of its citizens, is in an ongoing process of minimizing democratic liberties, and constructs racist barriers against Arab-Jews, the Arab people, and Arabic culture. Unlike the citizens of Tunisia and Egypt, we are still a long way from the capacity to build the kind of solidarity between various groups that we see in these countries, a solidarity movement that would allow us to unite and march together–all who reside here–into the public squares, to demand a civil regime that is culturally, socially, and economically just and inclusive.

We believe that, as Mizrahi Jews in Israel, our struggle for economic, social, and cultural rights rests on the understanding that political change cannot depend on the Western powers who have exploited our region and its residents for many generations. True change can only come from an intra-regional and inter-religious dialog that is in connection with the different struggles and movements currently active in the Arab world. Specifically, we must be in dialog and solidarity with struggles of the Palestinians citizens of Israel who are fighting for equal political and economic rights and for the termination of racist laws, and the struggle of the Palestinian people living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and in Gaza in their demand to end the occupation and to gain Palestinian national independence.

In our previous letter written following Obama’s Cairo speech in 2009, we called for the rise of the democratic Middle Eastern identity and for our inclusion in such an identity. We now express the hope that our generation – throughout the Arab, Muslim, and Jewish world – will be a generation of renewed bridges that will leap over the walls and hostility created by previous generations and will renew the deep human dialog without which we cannot understand ourselves: between Jews, Sunnis, Shias, and Christians, between Kurds, Berbers, Turks, and Persians, between Mizrahis and Ashkenazis, and between Palestinians and Israelis. We draw on our shared past in order to look forward hopefully towards a shared future.

We have faith in intra-regional dialog—whose purpose is to repair and rehabilitate what was destroyed in recent generations—as a catalyst towards renewing the Andalusian model of Muslim-Jewish-Christian partnership, God willing, Insha’Allah, and as a pathway to a cultural and historical golden era for our countries. This golden era cannot come to pass without equal, democratic citizenship, equal distribution of resources, opportunities, and education, equality between women and men, and the acceptance of all people regardless of faith, race, status, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic affiliation. All of these rights play equal parts in constructing the new society to which we aspire. We are committed to achieving these goals within a process of dialog between all of the people of Middle East and North Africa, as well as a dialog we will undertake with different Jewish communities in Israel and around the world.

We, the undersigned:

Shva Salhoov (Libya), Naama Gershy (Serbia, Yemen), Yael Ben-Yefet (Iraq, Aden), Leah Aini (Greece, Turkey), Yael Berda (Tunisia), Aharon Shem-Tov (Iraq, Iranian Kurdistan), Yosi Ohana (born in Morocco), Yali Hashash (Libya, Yemen), Yonit Naaman (Yemen, Turkey), Orly Noy (born in Iran), Gadi Alghazi (Yugoslavia, Egypt), Mati Shemoelof (Iran, Iraq, Syria), Eliana Almog (Yemen, Germany), Yuval Evri ((Iraq), Ophir Tubul (Morocco, Algeria), Moti Gigi (Morocco), Shlomit Lir (Iran), Ezra Nawi (Iraq), Hedva Eyal (Iran), Eyal Ben-Moshe (Yemen), Shlomit Binyamin (Cuba, Syria, Turkey), Yael Israel (Turkey, Iran), Benny Nuriely (Tunisia), Ariel Galili (Iran), Natalie Ohana Evry (Morocco, Britain), Itamar Toby Taharlev (Morocco, Jerusalem, Egypt), Ofer Namimi (Iraq, Morocco), Amir Banbaji (Syria), Naftali Shem-Tov (Iraq, Iranian Kurdistan), Mois Benarroch (born in Morocco), Yosi David (Tunisia Iran), Shalom Zarbib (Algeria), Yardena Hamo (Iraqi Kurdistan), Aviv Deri (Morocco) Menny Aka (Iraq), Tom Fogel (Yemen, Poland), Eran Efrati (Iraq), Dan Weksler Daniel (Syria, Poland, Ukraine), Yael Gidnian (Iran), Elyakim Nitzani (Lebanon, Iran, Italy), Shelly Horesh-Segel (Morocco), Yoni Mizrahi (Kurdistan), Betty Benbenishti (Turkey), Chen Misgav (Iraq, Poland), Moshe Balmas (Morocco), Tom Cohen (Iraq, Poland, England), Ofir Itah (Morocco), Shirley Karavani (Tunisia, Libya, Yemen), Lorena Atrakzy (Argentina, Iraq), Asaf Abutbul (Poland, Russia, Morocco), Avi Yehudai (Iran), Diana Ahdut (Iran, Jerusalem), Maya Peretz (Nicaragua, Morocco), Yariv Moher (Morocco, Germany), Tami Katzbian (Iran), Oshra Lerer (Iraq, Morocco), Nitzan Manjam (Yemen, Germany, Finland), Rivka Gilad (Iran, Iraq, India), Oshrat Rotem (Morocco), Naava Mashiah (Iraq), Zamira Ron David (Iraq) Omer Avital (Morocco, Yemen), Vered Madar (Yemen), Ziva Atar (Morocco), Yossi Alfi (born in Iraq), Amira Hess (born in Iraq), Navit Barel (Libya), Almog Behar (Iraq, Turkey, Germany)

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Shoshi

      With all due respect, the names of the undersigned perfectly illustrate how there are no “racist barriers” between mizrahim and ashkenazim in Israel. Many of the youth mentioned have one parent who is mizrahi and one ashkenazi. Yes, there is racism in Israel toward mizrahim, but there was a (racist) ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab lands. Don’t really get this appeal to Arabs, who are mostly antisemites anyway (polls show that, I’m not generalizing based on nothing).

      Reply to Comment
    2. Abraham Warren

      there was no widespread campaign of ethnic cleansing of Jews in the Arab world. There was Operation Magic Carpet in Yemen and a nice donation of Morrocan Jews by the King of Morroco, most migrants voluntarily came and others were purchased by Israel. Please read: 1949: The First Israelis by Tom Segev.

      \

      Reply to Comment
    3. Michael Amsellem

      Typical nice text to the media and occidental world… I’m a Jew living in France of North African ancestry, and Is can only say that the writters of this letter doesn’t demonstrate a deep knowledge of there Jewish héritage, Is would bet it’s a manipulation from Arabs or Lefty Jews…
      Beyound that, I, as a member of the Jewish people, with a oriental sensitivity share their pain and praise their courage…

      Michael Am Shalem

      Reply to Comment
    4. Shoded Yam

      “…With all due respect, the names of the undersigned perfectly illustrate how there are no “racist barriers” between mizrahim and ashkenazim in Israel. Many of the youth mentioned have one parent who is mizrahi and one ashkenazi.”
      .
      Nonsense. While it may be true, that many of the signatories are a product of a “mixed marraige?”, I’ll go out on a limb and guess that the majority of mizrachim in Israel are not. The mizrachim in many cases have proven themselves to be no less bigoted than their ashkenazi brothers & sisters. That being said, one can imagine the many denizens of Beit Shean or South TA looking upon this erstwhile group of intellectuals and saying; “hishtaknazt

      Reply to Comment
    5. Richard Allen

      So much ignorance in two comments, I can’t be bothered. However, Shoshi, ask any mixed Israeli over the age of 25 which of their parents is Ashkenazi and which is Mizrahi, and you’ll see that sometimes sexism trumps racism, but the racism is still there.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Shoded Yam

      “…So much ignorance in two comments”
      .
      As opposed to what, dickey? The arrogance and sophistry in one comment that presents itself as erudition? As you can see “dick”, I can be bothered :D.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Who can please translate this letter into Arabic?? Then please post somewhere (on 972mag?) where we can repost it – it should be read by all the brothers and sisters in Arab countries who might be inspired by some new gen Israeli wisdom….

      Reply to Comment
    8. Kristen Smelser

      “Peace between the brothers and the sisters all over this world.”

      You can’t change the past. You can only change how you behave this day and age.

      The world is evolving. We are learning how small our world is and how fragile and how much we need to work together. Is the Middle East always going to be at war? Can you end the war and bring peace and love? It is that simple if you turn away from rivalries and work toward peaceful resolution on both sides. You be the first one and spread the love.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Richard Allen

      Well Shoded, I wasn’t referring to your comment at all, so calm down. And it’s not sophistry–get out there and do an informal survey–you’ll find like, one Mizrahi father for every 99 Mizrahi mothers.
      But, to respond to your assertion that the Mizrahim are no less bigoted than Ashkenazim, I believe the letter already addresses that in mentioning the Mizrahi desire to distance themselves from Arabs.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Shoded Yam

      Fair enough. My apologies.

      Reply to Comment
    11. menahem

    12. My fellow Mizrahi Jews: I am not as young as you are most likely,-I may be the age of your parents. I was lucky enough to emigrate to the US from Egypt in 1961. I was spared the denigration of having been an Egyptian Jew rather than an Ashkenazi, thus, my total intolerance to the racism which continues to this day in Israel. You make me proud that you recognize that no matter how much propaganda there is around you, you realize that your parents were organic to the lands of the Middle East, whereas the Europeans were not. So they have no understanding of the region, its culture, its mores, and dictates. How can you have a dialogue with your neighbor if you can’t even speak his language. I have been fighting against this racism with my blog since 2007. Hope you will visit Women’s Lens and find some common ground.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Dannecker

      I always see in hasbara posters “We are one” If you are one, then you can follow your ashkenazi colonizers back to Belarus and Brooklyn

      Reply to Comment
    14. Nathaniel

      The letter is somewhat incoherent. The Arab Spring has been about, in part, how a country should organize itself politically, no? Whereas the problem addressed in the letter is about the feelings of a society (no specific “racist” Israeli laws are identified). But even if Israeli society is as racist is claimed, perhaps it is worth noting that the openness and strength of its political system dulls most of those sentiments. For example, the pseudo-fascist laws proposed by Lieberman get watered down by the courts and parliamentary compromise, if they’re passed at all. And maybe it’s a testament to the Israeli way of governance that such a “racist” place can allow for an Arab judge to preside over the conviction of a former Israeli president.

      Reply to Comment
    15. guy

      There is a mistake in the 972 heading. There is nothing “young” about the signators.
      They are descendents, but not kids. They don’t say they are young, it’s just an innocent (or hopeful?) translation mistake.
      Feel free to ask them, but anyone in the Israeli active left should recognise at least some of the names – there aren’t many Gadi Alghazi and Ezra Nawi in Isreal, although we would definitely be better off if there were :)

      Reply to Comment
    16. Sylvia

      The signatories represent only themselves. They have no following whatsoever in the community of Jews from Arabo-Muslim countries in Israel.

      For various reasons they have no knowledge of the circumstances of their parents’ flight from their countries of origin and are not aware of the cultural genocide that took place there.
      My educated guess is that they will be very disappointed by the response – providing there is a response.

      Reply to Comment
    17. richard Allen

      Of which circumstances are you speaking Sylvia? The Sakhnut paying people to participate in pogroms in Iraq, perhaps?

      Reply to Comment
    18. Sylvia

      I am speaking of those circumstamcees described in historical records, not of your conspiracy theories.
      The same circumstamces that the Arab Christians in Iraq, the Copts in Egypt, and various Christian groups in Asian Muslim countries are experiencing today: killings, persecutions, pogroms, property theft. But the “Sakhnut” as you call is perhaps paying for that too?

      Reply to Comment
    19. Ali

      @Sylvia.

      Very Ironic, considering where you’re standing, Zio-supremacist Militias ethnically cleansed 900,000 Arabs in 1948 from where you’re prattling this trash, including tens of thousands of Palestinian Christians, that you’re shedding your crocodile tears on.

      You can keep spinning all you want, but no one is buying. Not this Arab anyways!.

      Historical records….what Historical Records?

      last time I checked, it was Jews who came and lived in our lands, became Administrators, Land Lords, and Accountants for Political leaders in the region. Jews like Maimonides. If they didn’t like it why didn’t they go elsewhere.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Ben Israel

      Ali-
      For your information, Maimonides was forced to flee TWO Arab/Muslim countries (Spain and Morocco) before settling in relatively more liberal Egypt. He wrote clearly that although he greatly respected the great Islamic scholars of his error, he did not view Muslims as a particularly “tolerant” people.

      Richard Allen-
      There was a massive pogrom in Iraq in 1941 called the Farhud which had nothing to do with “Zionists” or the “sochnut”. Everyone remembered that in 1949-1950 when the Jewish community picked up and left. This would have happened regardless of what the “sochnut” might have done.

      I am Ashkenazi and my son-in-law is of Yemenite extraction. I asked him if he or any of his relatives consider themselves “Arab Jews”. When he stopped laughing he said only a tiny minority of Jews from Arab countries think of themselves as that EVEN if they do have an attachment to the Arab language and culture. I also asked a friend of mine born in Iraq just before the Jews left there and he gave exactly the same response. The people behind this letter represent no one but themselves.

      Reply to Comment
    21. David

      Good to see most names coming from intermarriages. Kinda puts to rest the far lefts cabal of never ending racism and what not.
      Living in Israel I can attest to the fact that most of this inter Jewish racism is something that a few new-young blow out of proportion. And it is most often the left who fail to intermarry and that the “people” just get on with life and love who they love. By now it is more an economical-ism. The new poor are of Mizrahi or East European decent, they are black or white and they speak many languages, Hebrew being one of them as long as they are fresh of the boat.
      I will leave you with the thought of the authors expressing such thoughts in any of the surrounding countries.

      Reply to Comment
    22. This letter is extremely moving. The history of Arab Jews has been mostly erased in the Arab World. As a result, young Arabs (Muslims, Christians and Jews) have no idea that our grandparents and great grandparents lived together in peace.

      Thank you for this. Let’s pray for a brighter future.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Ali

      “For your information, Maimonides was forced to flee TWO Arab/Muslim countries (Spain and Morocco) before settling in relatively more liberal Egypt. He wrote clearly that although he greatly respected the great Islamic scholars of his error, he did not view Muslims as a particularly “tolerant” people.”

      and Yet, he SETTLED in yet another Muslim-majority Nation….yeah, that makes PERFECT sense!!!. Thank you for proving my point.

      You didn’t answer the question; why didn’t your ancestors go to Europe, if life was such a Hell for them?…life was not a Hell for them and YOU, AS WELL AS SYLVIA KNOWS IT!!!…They owned property, and had opportunity.

      And you wonder why Anti-Semitism exists?. because of people like you and Sylvia. Spitting in the platter that your ancestors ate from, when they became hungry. But then again, without the charade of “Anti-Semitism”, how else are you going to blame,blackmail, and extort Europe?…Good luck!!!.

      Reply to Comment
    24. max

      Ali, Maimonides preferred Egypt to Europe because it was closer to his background, culturally richer, and treated Jews better.
      Better didn’t mean equally, as you very well know.
      So what’s your point: that the Muslim evil was better than the Christian devil?
      Are you really that ignorant about the Jewish history in Arab countries?
      As for Antisemitism: tread carefully – what’s developing in Europe is quite Islamophobic, and I doubt it has much to do with your ancestors

      Reply to Comment
    25. Ali

      “Ali, Maimonides preferred Egypt to Europe because it was closer to his background”

      I’m sorry I don’t accept that as an answer. If I was persecuted, in the matter that Sylvia has stated, surely, I would flee with my life, regardless of where I should go, not stay because of the convenience having a culture “closer to my background”

      “So what’s your point: that the Muslim evil was better than the Christian devil?”

      No, my point is, history of Jews in the Muslim world is not the Shakespearean Drama, you people like to paint it. and there was no Muslim “evil”, otherwise, every other Jew would have left.

      The fact of the matter is, Maimonides studied in a Muslim university, Lived in Muslim Land, and was the Chief Sugeon of Saladin, of all people. THOSE ARE THE FACTS. so don’t give me that cock-and-bull, Sob story of Jews being persecuted.

      you want real evil?…how about telling me what your Moses did to the Midianites in Numbers 17? how about the Conquests of David, Solomon and Saul, and what he did to towns that rejected their God?, better yet, tell me about Yusuf Dhu Nawas. I have a feeling you don’t even know the the latter.

      You people, and your ancestors are not saints, either.

      Reply to Comment
    26. max

      “I’m sorry I don’t accept that as an answer” – it’s a free world, and specifically in Israel (some other, nearby parts of the world seem to be different), one doesn’t have to study history but can come up with one’s own version of it.
      You have one point I agree with: Jews aren’t saints, either.
      You may be happy to learn that indeed, Egypt and then Turkey were quite tolerant, relative to the times.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Richard Allen

      Ben Israel, your son-in-law can laugh and laugh all he wants, he’s still an Arab. The Ashkenazim themselves called the Mizrahim “Arab Jews” up until the politicization of the term, when suddenly it was easier to convince people to hate the other if we let them believe they weren’t the other.

      Reply to Comment
    28. Dan

      Whilst reading the comments, I was struck the fact that, like the opinions of this topic in Israel, the comments are very dichotomous and not very concillatory in any way. On the one side, there are those who, according to some are the ‘radical left’ and would have us give up all that makes us Israel in an attempt to find brotherhood with ‘the arabs’. On the other, those who say these signatories are naive fools who know nothing of the reasoning behind their families’ flights to Israel. I have to say that this makes me quite sad, as someone who is Mizrasepharazi (mizrachi, sephardic, and ashkenazi). My family is Yerushalami, Iberian Sephardic, Graeco-Turkish, and ashkenazi from the British Isles. And I like to think I have a unique perspective having family from all 3 major ‘strains’ of ethnic judaism; I was also born in Israel (though now I live in Britain) so I know what I’m talking about, I like to think. I think there is a third option, which I hold to, and I like to think the signatories do, as well. And that is one working towards a much more concilliatory position; Not forgetting the reasons for our families’ flight to Israel, nor forgetting the racism they encountered there, as well as in their ‘native’ countries. It is an attempt, I think, to move forwards, and forgive, if not forget, the past. We can forgive the ashkenazi-centric Israeli government of the 40s and 50s. We can forgive the arab world for the anti-semitism and expulsion of our people from their lands and the confiscation of their property. This is, I think, a way to try to find common ground and move towards a lasting peace, not only between Israel and the Palestinians, but between other inter-regional ethnic groups as well. And this we must do, if we are t o move forward at the forefront of the 21st century, as we must. Our cultures and societies created civilisation. We built great cities when Berlin, Paris, Rome and London were just a crude amalgamation of mud huts. It is only fitting that we, once again, are at the forefront of culture and civilisation. And in order to do that, we must first move forward to a place socially, culturally, economically and politically that we can do so.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Ahmed

      Ali, I’m an Arab, and allow me to tell you that bigotry doesn’t help. Your first comment made perfect sense, but your second one was racist (spitting in the platter stuff). Anyway, focusing on where Jews were tolerated more in the past is besides the point. What matters now, and what the letter was about is the future; dreaming of the possibility of DEMOCRACY and EQUALITY (in both Arab countries and Israel), of peaceful coexistence and maybe even integration (cultural at least), and no matter how hard it is, attempting to reverse all the wrongs that happened after the formation of the state of Israel (solving the Palestinian problem and territorial disputes). A necessary condition for Arabs and Jews to live (again) peacefully together is for both understand each other’s suffering (the Holocaust in Europe, and ethnic cleansing of Arabs in the formation of Israel, being the primary issues here).

      Reply to Comment
    30. RichardNYC

      Hmmm…who treated the “Arab Jews” worse? Arabs or European Jews? After all, the answer will OBVIOUSLY let us know who deserves Mizrahi loyalty, Zionism or the Arab world. The answer of course, is that Zionism deserves Mizrahi loyalty, because only members of a real civil society (Israel) would ever imagine there was any point in writing this letter. Wake up guys! Arabs have no desire to reconcile with you. Their hatred and sense of honor are uncompromising. Your sentiments invalidate themselves. You would never have felt a sincere desire to live in peace with your grandparent’s oppressors unless you grew up in a society that taught you values superior to those originating in the Arab world.

      Reply to Comment
    31. aamirnyc

      Richard you yourself know that each word you have put down here is brewing with hate and guilt. But the same guilt, some times, can actually work positively and make some part of the oppressor cry out loud that thats enough.

      Reply to Comment
    32. David Cohen

      Yes, “OBVIOUSLY” Zionism treated Mizrahi Jews more humanely than those “uncompromising” Arabs.

      That’s why it was necessary for the Zionist Underground to bomb Iraqi synagogues (in order to expedite the flagging immigration of Iraq’s Jews reluctant to re-settle in the Land of Milk and Honey).

      And of course, when the Mizrahim arrived, they suffered unspeakable horrors. But wait, it was rough on everyone right?!? New country, lots of wars? Well, I suppose one could naively believe that. Everyone — not just Yemenite Jews — had their children abducted and sold to barren Ashkenazi women? Right…. [See (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0uNlI8bjhY )] Everyone — not just Moroccan Jews — was transformed into a human guinea pig and had radiation pumped into their brains. [See (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJuwwwyKXjs)]

      The incomprehensible ignorance of those like the commenter above who peddle a simplistic and hateful narrative, despite the mountain of undermining evidence, merely attests to the success of the project to collectively brainwash the Jewish people.

      Bravo to the Arab-Jewish signatories of the letter. B’ezrat Hashem may their Tahrir Square arrive soon.

      Reply to Comment
    33. richard Allen

      So, if you think that tolerance and a desire for coexistence are superior values, why aren’t you espousing them? Your bigotry seems as intransigent as you believe the entire Arab world’s to be.
      And no one ever mentioned “Mizrahi loyalty” until you just did, which makes it sound like you see the Mizrahim as eternal subjects, either to their Muslim overlords or their European Jewish ones.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Sylvia

      @Ali
      “last time I checked, it was Jews who came and lived in our lands, became Administrators, Land Lords, and Accountants for Political leaders in the region.”
      As Ahmed tried to tell you, your statement shows your ignorance. Jews from Arabo-Muslim lands are indigenous to those countries where they have lived long before the Muslim/Arab conquests. There are Kurdish jews, Berber Jews, etc.
      As to Maimonides, he was driven pout by the Muwahidin (Almohads) of Spain and the Maghreb. Arab/Muslim history has never been monolithic.

      Reply to Comment
    35. aparatchik

      What a great idea. I hear that Syria has just renovated the Jewish quarter in Damascus. All they need is some token Jews to live there. You lot seem ideal candidates. I bet you would even get Syrian govt grants to move there. What are you waiting on?

      Reply to Comment
    36. Sylvia

      @Richard Allen
      “The Ashkenazim themselves called the Mizrahim “Arab Jews””
      The only valid name iss the one people give themselves. And I challenge you to find one single community record where Jews from the Muslim West ever called themselves Orientals.
      Except for Iraq in the 1940s, the honor of being called “Arab” was never bestowed on Jews.
      Even Ali here would agree with me that calling Maghrebans “Orientals” is sheer ignorance.

      Reply to Comment
    37. aparatchik

      Ahmed, good suggestion: to understand each other’s suffering. You just forgot about the ethnic cleansing of Jews by Arabs and you also forgot that the arabs started the war that necessitated their expulsion/flight from Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    38. aparatchik

      @ Dan, well said

      Reply to Comment
    39. Sylvia

      @RichardNYC
      “Zionism deserves Mizrahi loyalty”
      Interesting how some people think. So what do you say that after the Oath of Omar, those Jews be made to swear the Oath of Herzl? Still dhimmis after all these years, heh?

      Reply to Comment
    40. Sylvia

      @Ahmed
      “A necessary condition for Arabs and Jews to live (again) peacefully together is for both understand each other’s suffering (the Holocaust in Europe, and ethnic cleansing of Arabs in the formation of Israel, being the primary issues here).”
      Shouldn’t you first atteempt to come to terms with your racism, recognize the ethnic cleasing of genocidal proportions that took place in some Arab countries?

      Reply to Comment
    41. Sylvia

      @David Cohen
      “That’s why it was necessary for the Zionist Underground to bomb Iraqi synagogues (in order to expedite the flagging immigration of Iraq’s Jews reluctant to re-settle in the Land of Milk and Honey).”
      Although sounding ridiculous has never killed anyone, you might gain by reading something a little more serious.
      How about, for example

      Sir Martin Gilbert’s In Ishmael’s House A History of Jews in Muslim Lands

      Reply to Comment
    42. aparatchik

      A lot of these signatories, e.g., Nitzan Manjam (Yemen, Germany, Finland), seem not to have been born in Arab countries. I want to hear what their parents, grandparents, etc., have to say.

      Reply to Comment
    43. max

      How very Jewish this discussion! We Jews appointed ourselves to be a beacon to the world and now we want to prove we’re still holier than thou and more understanding than the next door neighbors.
      For thousands of years Jewish greats have been teaching tolerance and acceptance of the others, while many have practiced (sometimes violent) sectarianism, fanaticism and bigotry.
      In the past couple of hundred years, Jews have been in the forefront of liberal ideas of all forms, from communism to American liberalism, way above their percentage in the population.
      .
      The treatment of the Jews from Arab countries who came to Israel (note that many of the better educated ones from the Maghreb preferred to move to France) reflects the same apparent dichotomy – but is it really, beyond the noise of the numbers?
      We’ll find similar behavior in any open society, and I know none that has been formed so rapidly from people from so many cultures, when all that unites them is an old tradition and dream.
      Comparing the treatment of the immigrants from Arab countries to that which they had in the countries they left (in some places after thousands of years) is either comical or outrageous, depending on the intention. Such ridiculous claims have not been voiced by the Israeli Black Panthers, and saying that these guys were brainwashed by the government would be, well, comical. But of course, getting attention may be more important than mere facts…
      .
      I agree with what I understand from Ahmed: both sides have sins to atone for, and checking who has more, spreading conspiracy theories or accusing the Palestinians for what other Arabs have done is not conductive to peace.

      Reply to Comment
    44. Leonid Levin

      @Dan,

      While I was reading your comment, I was so happy: “Yes, yes, yes … finally somebody with a nuanced view. … Not forget, but forgive, find common ground, move forward, lasting peace.” Beautiful words! And then I read this: “Our cultures and societies created civilisation. We built great cities when Berlin, Paris, Rome and London were just a crude amalgamation of mud huts. It is only fitting that we, once again, are at the forefront of culture and civilisation.” What kind of statement is this? It seems to negate everything you said before. I don’t want to call it racist, but it feels like you would like to unite Arabs and Jews to show the rest of the world how much better you and your heritage is. In many parts of the world, people still live in mud huts (or equivalent). So what? Are they less human beings? Are they less creative, less worthy of respect and basic human dignity? It’s very sad, but with attitudes like this lasting peace is hardly possible.

      Reply to Comment
    45. Frank

      The letter is a gem of tolerance and a plea for humanity. It is disturbing to me, a non-Jew, non-Arab, to see the comments to it as bigoted, blended, boasting, and diabolic. It is interesting that Jews do not kill each other physically, but destroy each other spiritually. European Jews do both. They learned it from the anti-Semitism of Europe and North America. If descendants of former slaves, Native American tribes, Jews, Christians, white, black, brown and slant eyes can live together in peace and harmony, anyone can. The underlying racism and bigotry of America is held in check by the majority of peacniks. I have hope, but I am not audacious.

      Reply to Comment
    46. Zachary

      May of these problems would subside if there were peace. There would be if the Arabs would accept (not like) that they lost in 1948, sign a treaty with Israel and move on. The Israeli society would be freer to address the racial and color issues which plague many countries.

      Reply to Comment
    47. R.

      @Richard Allen
      ” your son-in-law can laugh and laugh all he wants, he’s still an Arab.”
      You have now idea how you just dissed Ben Israel’s son in law!And us too! It is like saying that no matter what, you are still a Khazar. Besides who made you anthropologist? You don’t get to decide how we self identify! As Sylvia said, we do. We do not use the term Mizrahi or Arab jew. I grew up in Morocco in the 60′s and 70′s and I have never heard the expression Arab-Jew until I visited Israel in the 70′s. We favour the following: Moroccan Jews. Jews of Morocco. Morocco born Jews.
      “Arab” is an insult for us! It may not be right but that’s how we were raised. That’s how it was back home. The French despised the Arabs.So since we mimicked the French, we did the same. The only ones self identifying as such are radical leftists and Pro-Palestinian activists, or those who want to suck up to the rulers of Morocco.
      Furthermore, many so called arabs reject that identity themselves in favor of Berber,Kabyle, etc. People of my generation don’t even speak Arabic and the older generation was never taught Standard Arabic. They spoke a dialect that was completely imcomprehensible to the people of the Levant. The Jews had little access to the high level Arab culture and were not literate in the language. May be it was different for Iraki Jews but for us it was just mellah (ghetto)culture and that culture was the preserve of the non educated, the unschooled.
      Arabs laughed at Jews when they spoke Judeo-Arabic. Yet others spoke Judeo Berber or Judeo Spanish. Education was western oriented since l’Alliance opened its first school in 1870.
      In conclusion: This bunch of activists only represent themselves. They have no idea what it is like to live in an Arab country. They are romanticising the past! People never lived side by side in harmony! That is total BS! If Arab countries were good places, we would still be living in them! And Morocco is the best of the lot but it is still a hell hole for 95% of the population.
      PS. What the heck does hishtaknazt means?

      Reply to Comment
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