Rebecca A. Wall ~ The Jews Of The Desert: Colonialism, Zionism, And The Jews Of The Algerian M’zab, 1882-1962

University of Michigan, 2014. This dissertation studies the Jewish community of the Algerian M’zab during the French colonization of the Sahara from 1882 until 1962. French officials refused to extend the 1870 Crémieux Decree that emancipated Algerian Jews to the M’zab after its 1882 annexation. French administrators saw the M’zabi Jews as insurmountably different and consequently excluded them from emancipation. Despite petitions from the community and French and Algerian Jewish advocacy for extending emancipation to the south, successive French colonial and metropolitan governments declined to extend the Crémieux Decree to the M’zab. French officials justified this decision by invoking the insurmountable difference of M’zabi Jews, who were both too Jewish and too similar to Algerian Muslims to be “regenerated” as French citizens.

Within the colonial legal system, M’zabi Jews were classified as “indigènes,” or natives, alongside Algerian Muslims. M’zabi Jews faced the restrictions that bounded the lives of Muslims in French Algeria and settler antisemitism that culminated in the Vichy abrogation of the Crémieux Decree in 1940. When Free French forces reinstated the Crémieux Decree in 1943, the French again excluded the M’zabi Jews. Following this, a number of individuals and families from the community left Algeria to join the growing Jewish community in British mandatory Palestine.

M’zabi Jews were the only organized Jewish community who left Algeria for Israel. Their history challenges historiography that claims Zionism was unsuccessful in Algeria. M’zabi Jews were not ardent Zionists, but they did take advantage of the opportunities for emigration made possible by international Zionist organizations including the American Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency. In contrast to the larger history of Algerian Jews, the history of the M’zabi Jewish immigration from Algeria to Israel is part of the larger history of Jewish migrations from the Arab world to Israel after 1945. M’zabi Jews won full French citizenship in late 1961, but most still opted to make their way to Israel rather than France.

The complete thesis

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Stephanie Schwartz ~ Double-Diaspora In The Literature And Film of Arab Jews

Inspired by the contrapuntal and relational critiques of Edward Said and Ella Shohat, this thesis conducts a comparative analysis of the literature and film of Arab Jews in order to deconstruct discourses on Jewish identity that privilege the dichotomies of Israel-diaspora and Arab-Jew. Sami Michael’s novel Refuge, Naim Kattan’s memoir Farewell, Babylon, Karin Albou’s film Little Jerusalem and b.h. Yael’s video documentary Fresh Blood: a Consideration of Belonging reveal the complexities and interconnections of Sephardic, Mizrahi and Arab Jewish experiences across multiple geographies that are often silenced under dominant Eurocentric, Ashkenazi or Zionist interpretations of Jewish history.

Drawing from these texts, Jewish identity is explored through four philosophical themes: Jewish beginnings vs. origins, boundaries between Arab and Jew, the construction of Jewish identities in place and space, and, the concept of diaspora and the importance Jewish difference. As a double-diaspora, with the two poles of their identities seen as enemies in the ongoing conflict between Israel-Palestine, Arab Jews challenge the conception of a single Jewish nation, ethnicity, identity or culture. Jewishness can better be understood as a rhizome, a system without a centre and made of heterogeneous component, that is able to create, recreate and move through multiple territories, rather than ever settling in, or being confined to a single form that seeks to dominate over others. This dissertation contributes a unique theoretical reading of Jewish cultures in the plural, and includes an examination of lesser known Arab Jewish writing and experimental documentary in Canada in relation to Iraq, France and Israel.

Thesis University of Ottawa, 2012:

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The Mellah: The Historical Jewish Quarter

Mellah is the Jewish quarter in Morocco. The first official Mellah in Morocco was established in Fez in 1438. The Mellah is like a city within a city. This video takes one back to the history, via postcards, when the Mellah was inhabited by Jews and how it is different today.

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Avi Beker ~ The Forgotten Narrative: Jewish Refugees From Arab Countries

Jewish Political Studies Review – Historically, there was an exchange of populations in the Middle East and the number of displaced Jews exceeds the number of Palestinian Arab refugees. Most of the Jews were expelled as a result of an open policy of anti-Semitic incitement and even ethnic cleansing. However, unlike the Arab refugees, the Jews who fled are a forgotten case because of a combination of international cynicism and domestic Israeli suppression of the subject. The Palestinians are the only group of refugees out of the more than one hundred million who were displaced after World War II who have a special UN agency that, according to its mandate, cannot but perpetuate their tragedy. An open debate about the exodus of the Jews is critical for countering the Palestinian demand for the “right of return” and will require a more objective scrutiny of the myths about the origins of the Arab- Israeli conflict.


Why was the story of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries suppressed? How did it become a forgotten exodus?

Semha Alwaya, an attorney from San Francisco and former Jewish refugee from Iraq, wrote in March 2005 in the San Francisco Chronicle that the world is ignoring her story simply because of the “inconvenience for those who seek to blame Israel for all the problems in the Middle East.”1 As she notes, since 1949 the United Nations has passed more than a hundred resolutions on Palestinian refugees and not a single one on Jewish refugees from Arab countries. The UN makes a clear divide between the “right of return” of millions of refugees even into Israel proper (the pre-1967 borders) and the rights of these Jewish refugees.

Although they exceed the numbers of the Palestinian refugees, the Jews who fled are a forgotten case. Whereas the former are at the very heart of the peace process with a huge UN bureaucratic machinery dedicated to keeping them in the camps, the nine hundred thousand Jews who were forced out of Arab countries have not been refugees for many years. Most of them, about 650,000, went to Israel because it was the only country that would admit them. Most of them resided in tents that after several years were replaced by wooden cabins, and stayed in what were actually refugee camps for up to twelve years. They never received any aid or even attention from the UN Relief And Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, or any other international agency. Although their plight was raised almost every year at the UN by Israeli representatives, there was never any other reference to their case at the world body.

Only at the end of October 2003 was a bipartisan resolution (H. Con. Res. 311) submitted to the U.S. Congress that recognized the “Dual Middle East Refugee Problem.” It speaks of the forgotten exodus of nine hundred thousand Jews from Arab countries who “were forced to flee and in some cases brutally expelled amid coordinated violence and anti-Semitic incitement that amounted to ethnic cleansing.” Referring to the “population exchange” that took place in the Middle East, the resolution deplores the “cynical perpetuation of the Arab refugee crisis” and criticizes the “immense machinery of UNRWA” that only “increases violence through terror.” The resolution called on UNRWA to set up a program for resettling the Palestinian refugees.

Typically, the issue of the Jewish refugees was not on the agenda of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for a final settlement at Camp David in July 2000. The subject emerged only after the parties failed to reach an agreement on the issue of the Palestinian refugees. Only then did the Israelis raise the question of justice for the Jews from Arab countries.

In addition to the international constraints, there have been domestic political reasons for successive Israeli governments’ suppression of the subject. Many Israelis regarded the immigration and later integration of the Middle Eastern Jews into Israeli society as an important element in the Zionist ethos of the ingathering of exiles, and there was a reluctance to describe it in terms of a forced expulsion or, at best, an involuntary emigration. The Zionist leadership of the newborn state chose the romanticized code-name Magic Carpet to describe the immigration from Yemen, and the biblical title Operation Ezra and Nehemiah – they were Jewish leaders who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon to build the Second Temple – for the exodus of the Iraqi Jews.

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Egypt Reopens Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue After Restoration

Egypt reopened the two and half centruty old Jewish synagogue, Eliyahu Hanavi after three years of restoration. It can accommodate 700 people; however, in 2018, the Jewish community in Alexandria counted for less than 10 members.

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The Ballet Dance Of The Pita In The Hummus Plate

Ronny Someck – Ills.: Joseph Sassoon Semah

I begin in the East: East is the crown that Mohamed Abd el-Wahab placed on the head of “Cleopatra.” East is the dust left by a galloping horse on the road between Ras Mohammed and Nuweiba. East is the ballet dance of the pita on the hummus plate. East is a bag of tears hidden in the corridor of Umm Kulthum’s throat. East is Mahmoud Darwish’s suitcase. East is two lines by Omar Khayyam: “Ah could I hide me in my song, To kiss thy lips from which it flows!”. East is the space between ‘tfadl’ (Arabic for “please”) to sahten (Arabic for “well done”) חסרה שורה על סבא סלח . East is Grandmother Haviva’s plate of rice. East is a yellowing picture of palm trees on the banks of the Tigris. East is where the sun rises every day.

Umm Kulthum was the first singer I ever heard. She was the queen of the gramophone at the café on Struma Square. My grandfather had a regular table there, and he took me there every morning. It was a five minute walk from the transit camp on the border of Holon-Bat Yam. He spoke only Arabic. The black box of his memoirs contained the gap between the Tigris and the Euphrates. From time to time, he would turn his head to me and wet my lips with drops of arak. Other children, for example, learned to recognize lions from books or at the zoo. The first lions I saw were the ones printed on the arak bottle labels. My first king of the jungle had a combed mane and it was wet from the drops of the drink, which was well blended with the smell of the jasmine branches that the owner of the café placed in vases on the tables every morning. Umm Kulthum’s voice mingles in my head with the sound of the backgammon dice and the murmurs of the men who whispered every word along with her. Her picture, which hung on the wall, frightened me. She was the great woman from the dreams. Not my dreams. But my grandfather would translate lines from her songs into fractured Hebrew for me and try to fish from my eyes half of the lust that flooded his own.

My friends were in kindergarten back then. They sang Shavuot songs like “Baskets on our Shoulders” and others, which polished the Hebrew in their throats, while I was captivated by the hammering of a woman’s voice that struck a lost, distant love. Later, when she sang: “I accustomed my eyes to watch you/if you do not come one day/ that day will be erased from my life”. I believed secretly that these lines were directed at me, too.

Then I heard other voices, but the ritual of hearing her new song on the first Thursday of every month continued. My parents knew that she was Nasser’s singer, and that he was an enemy, and she would often sing to the Egyptian soldiers in order to sharpen their bayonets, which were aimed at us. But in the face of her magical voice, even reason released its grip.

Umm Kulthum is present in the poems I wrote about her as well as in the sense of power of an entire orchestra that lays out a carpet for her vocal chords. I learned from her how to unravel threads from the same carpet and how to weave poetry from them, association after association. She reminds me that I was born in Baghdad.

I wrote my first poems when I was sixteen and a half years old. The secret drawer was locked. I played basketball then and my coach asked us to shoot fifty baskets every day. When I went to the school’s basketball court, I found Amnon Navot there. We had an agreement. He brought back all the balls that didn’t touch the net, and in return I listened to the poems he recited. Thus, against the soundtrack of the bouncing balls, Amnon recited Avidan, Amichai, Guri, Dor, Ravikovitch, and Wallach, Wieseltier, Horowitz, Penn, Gilboa, Alterman and once even half a story by Kaniuk. In his school bag were poetry books and copies of the journal Achshav. Navot was the engine and I connected the cars of association. “Just a little blood to top off the honey,” he would shout, and since then I have been running on the bridge with the poems running after me.[1] I sent the first poems to David Avidan. He answered immediately, read one of my poems on a radio program, and even called me when my first poem was published in the literary supplement of Ma’ariv (edited by David Giladi). Avidan was, in my eyes, the hard asphalt that paved the “roads that take off slowly.”[2] He was the “cutting and simple fact we have nowhere to go.”[3] He was the poet who had been cut out of the dream journal. The musical scale of his songs reminded me more off a rock and roll stadium than a concert hall.

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