The invention of Arab Jews erases Jewish history Mizrahi

In recent years, there has been a concerted attempt by the anti-Zionists to rewrite Mizrahi Jewish history and disconnect us from our identity, culture and homeland.

The history of Jews in the Middle East and North Africa is rich, but it is often omitted from the main discourse of Jewish history. Anti-Zionists who rarely care about Mizrahi Jews take advantage of the lack of knowledge and try to rewrite our history for their own agenda. They do this by pushing a narrative of “Arab Jews” who were brought to Israel as second-class citizens just to have their “Arab culture” suppressed.

Although you can find a handful of Mizrahi Jews today who identify as “Arab Jews,” the term itself is historically inaccurate and is rejected by the overwhelming majority of Mizrahi Jews.

The history of Jews in the Arab region dates back over 2,500 years to the Babylonian exile, after which the center of Jewish life shifted out of the Land of Israel for the first time in history. .

The presence of Jews in what is now known as Iraq predates the Arab conquest of the region by some 1,200 years.

Author Adiel Cohen (Courtesy)

So when did the Jews become Arabs? Is it only because of Arab imperial rule that Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa suddenly changed their ethnic identity? And what does that say about the other indigenous groups who live in the region, such as the Assyrians, Copts and Amazigh tribes, who have struggled to maintain their unique identity under Islamic rule, and do not identify with each other to Arab culture.

The same logic should be applied to the Jews who, under difficult conditions, preserved their indigenous culture and kept it alive in the Land of Israel and in the Diaspora.

An Al-Jazeera article published in 2017 incorrectly claimed that Jews in Arab countries “spoke Arabic, ate the same foods as their fellow Christians and Muslims, celebrated the same national events and traditions, and lived by the same social protocols.”

Truth be told, Jews in Arab and Muslim societies have retained their Jewish identity while not seeing themselves as Arabs, but rather as Iraqi Jews, Moroccan Jews, Egyptian Jews, etc. This distinction is clearly established in the early Islamic writings, which refer to the Jewish tribes of the Hejaz (Saudi Arabia) as outsiders, while the Christian Arab tribes were seen as fellow Arabs.

For example, in Yemen, where my family was in the Diaspora, Jews were prohibited from wearing their traditional hairstyle because it was considered “too fancy”. They spoke a Judeo-Yemeni dialect, which incorporated Hebrew biblical phrases, and were prohibited from learning to read and write in Arabic. Their cuisine was markedly different from the Arab-Yemeni one, and they only considered themselves Jews.

The status of Jews under Islamic rule varied between different regions, but in general they did not enjoy the same rights as their Arab neighbors and were often persecuted. When the State of Israel was established, these same Jews were not “Arab enough” for their neighbors to be spared violence and expulsion. Even the Jews of Iraq, who managed to integrate somewhat into local society, were the target of a violent pogrom in 1941, known as Farhud.

Jewish cemetery in Morocco (Credit: Flickr)Jewish cemetery in Morocco (Credit: Flickr)

These same struggles are often erased by anti-Zionist organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). In 2019, a coalition of Mizrahi organizations released a statement against the appropriation and distortion of the history of Jewish communities in the Middle East by JVP, which seeks to strip the Jewish people of their indigenous origins.
However, why are anti-Israel media like Al-Jazeera and anti-Zionist groups like JVP trying to push this false narrative?

This false account is part of their biggest lie about “colonialism”. Anti-Israel forces have attempted to delegitimize the Jewish state by calling it a colonialist project, claiming that Zionism is a project of Judeo-European colonialism, despite being an indigenous awakening project.

Since more than 50% of Israeli Jewish citizens come from families that lived in the Middle East and North Africa, not Europe, these anti-Israel forces had to make up a story to isolate European Ashkenazi Jews from the rest of the Israelis. -Jewish population, to adapt to their “colonialism” sham. They have totally falsified history and spread lies, to push their narrative of delegitimization and that the State of Israel should not exist.

Attempts to strip the Jews of their Jewish identity and homeland always result in historical revisionism.

The existence of Jews in Arab societies has always been conditional, as has the existence of Jews in European societies, not only in the 20th century, but throughout diaspora history. Now that the Jews finally have a place to rest, where we can feel safe in our native homeland, we will not allow our adversaries to distort our identity and history, just to delegitimize our own existence.

Adiel Cohen is a pro-Israel influencer on TikTok and Instagram and an Israeli Jewish rights activist based in Tel Aviv. This editorial is published in partnership with an international coalition of organizations fighting against anti-Semitism. Read the previous article by David Collier.

About Wesley V. Finley

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