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Responding to the Claims that Judaism is ‘Just a Religion’ and Zionism is ‘European Racism’

[additional-authors]
January 20, 2020
obama officialAn Israeli flag is pictured near the minaret of a mosque at an Israeli settlement in the the old city of the West Bank town of Hebron on June 14, 2019. (Photo credit HAZEM BADER/AFP/Getty Images)

Recently, on a friend’s Facebook page, an Arab Supremacist Israel-hater wrote the following to me:

“I respect Judaism for what it is, a religion. European Zionism is Colonialist and racist. Arab Jews and Arab Muslims lived in a relatively peaceful state of co-existence until the intrusion of European Zionism. The European Zionists sowed the seeds of hatred and mistrust between Arab Jews and Arab Muslims which resulted in hundreds of thousands of Arab Jews being forced out of Arab countries and into Palestine. It then forced hundreds of thousands of Arab Muslims out of Palestine and into the Arab countries from whence the Arab Jews came.

The European Zionists manipulated and displaced the indigenous Arab Jews and Arab Muslims for the sake of their own Colonialist ambitions. The Arab Jews(Mizrahi) soon became the silent victims of European Zionist oppression and racism.”

As this ahistorical antisemitic nonsense is often part of the talking points of the antisemitic Arab Supremacists and their allies on both the far-right and far-left (ironically), I thought I would share my response. What follows is what I wrote to him:

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What a colonialist Arab Supremacist and thoroughly patronizing screed – which is what one should expect from a racist supremacist trying to sound enlightened and trying to couch his racism and supremacism in modern politically correct rhetoric.

Let us take your above historically inaccurate and baseless claims one at a time:

First: “I respect Judaism for what it is, a religion.”

No. As I have written before – and which you have not even tried to respond to – Judaism is not just “a religion.” It is plainly and has always been a tribal faith and a peoplehood. It is why one can have Jewish atheists and why – according to the Tanach and the Talmud and the writings of all great Jewish thinkers and philosophers – that even if a Jew converts to another religion or faith, he or she remains a part of the Jewish people. It is why Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David, and the most famous person to undergo the tribal acceptance process called “giyoor” (very loosely translated to be a conversion) in order to become a member of our tribe, first and famously said, “Your people shall be my people” as literally every person undergoing a giyoor first avers to this very day. Peoplehood – joining the Jewish people, becoming a member of our tribe is literally the first oath and commitment undertaken by someone who was not born Jewish becoming a Jew. Because, Judaism is not “just a religion” it is a nationality, an ethnicity, a peoplehood. Always has been.

Second: “European Zionism is Colonialist and racist.”

Coming from someone who plainly supports Arab colonialism and wants all of the lands in the MENA to remain under the control of arguably the most racist, misoyginst, homophobic regimes in the world, where the most common way to refer to indigenous Africans is “abeed” the Arabic word for “slave” … this is particularly rich. To be clear, all Jews are indigenous to the land of Israel. The land of Israel is where the Jewish people had its ethnogenesis. Our language, culture, tribal faith, … literally everything that matters to making a Jew a Jew, originated in the land of Israel. For the Arabs occupying the rest of the MENA, everything that defines them as Arabs had its ethnogenesis in Arabia. To the extent they exercise dominion and control over any lands outside of Arabia, that is purely the product of brutal conquest and colonialization.

Also, Zionism is not “European.” Zionism is Jewish. For over 2,000 years, Jews have been saying “next year in Jerusalem” in our prayers. The centrality of the land of Israel and of a “return to Zion” has always been ubiquitous in Jewish faith, culture and literature for over 2000 years. One of the original Zionist communities that established new neighborhoods in Jerusalem in 1882 were Jews who were in the Diaspora in Yemen. The second wave of Zionist Yemenite Jews came to the land of Israel in 1907 and the third wave in 1912. For centuries through today, almost all Jews have been, and are, “Zionists.”

Regardless of where our ancestors spent their time in the exile (Diaspora), we have always dreamed of Zion and of a return to Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel. The Beta Yisrael, Ethiopian Jewish, holiday of Sigd is pure Zionism. It is literally about the yearning for a return to Israel and Jerusalem. Your claim that Zionism is somehow “European” is not only offensive because no Jews, whether we were in the Diaspora in Europe or any Arab conquered lands are either “European” or “Arabs” … we are Jews (and the Europeans certainly always made that clear to us), it is also offensive because it denies the centrality of the land of Israel and the importance of the return to Zion and Jerusalem to all other Jewish communities that were in the Diaspora outside of Europe.

Third: “Arab Jews and Arab Muslims lived in a relatively peaceful state of co-existence until the intrusion of European Zionism.”

Setting aside that there is no such thing as “Arab Jews” and the Arab colonialist supremacist dictatorships always made that clear to the Jews in the MENA, this claim by you is the most laughably ahistorical. Only a rampant Arab Supremacist or someone incredibly ignorant of the actual history of Jews in the MENA under Arab and Turkish colonial rule could make such an insulting comment.

Let’s examine some basic historical facts:

  • In 1834, the Arabs in Safed rioted and conducted a massive pogrom directed at the Jews of Safed in the central Galilee. These pogroms and massacres directed at Jewish communities spread to Ramla, Lydda, Jaffa, Acre and Tiberias, where Christian members of the local clergy noted that the perpetrators attacked and viciously robbed the Jews, who lived in these towns, of all of their property. In 1920, 1921, 1929, 1933 and 1936, Arabs in British Mandatory Palestine rioted with the express intent – as urged by Nazi Collaborator and Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini – to murder the Jews. And, they murdered Jews by the dozens and injured hundreds in these massacres.
  • Sadly, well before modern Zionism the Arabs in both Ottoman and British controlled Palestine were easily motivated to riot, attack, and murder Jews. Just as many Arabs did outside of Ottoman and British controlled Palestine during the Farhud Riots in Baghdad in 1941, the “Blood Libel” massacre of Jews in Damascus in 1840, the 1912 massacres of Jews in Fez, Morocco, or the 1941 Anti-Jewish riots in Tripolitania (where over 140 Jews were murdered during a pogrom that lasted two days and left 4000 Jews homeless and 5 synagogues destroyed).
  • In fact, in the 19th Century alone, when much of the Middle East and certainly all of the Levant was under the control of the Ottoman Empire, pogroms against Jews in the Middle East and North Africa were commonplace, including in Aleppo (1850, 1875), Damascus (1840, 1848, 1890), Beirut (1862, 1874), Dayr al-Qamar, Lebanon (1847), Jaffa (1876), Jerusalem (1847, 1870 and 1895), Cairo (1844, 1890, 1901–02), Mansura, Egypt (1877), Alexandria, Egypt (1870, 1882, 1901–07), Port Said (1903, 1908), and in Damanhur, Egypt (1871, 1873, 1877, 1891).

Plainly, many of these massacres pre-dated modern Zionism and the increased migration of Ashkenazi Jews to Ottoman and then British controlled Palestine. But to the extent you want to try and claim this mass murder and persecution of Jews by Arabs in the MENA is a relatively new phenomena that you can somehow blame on Ashkenazi Jews (which given the above facts would be a bizarre claim in and of itself) here are some more historical facts that demonstrate the inescapable conclusion/reality that Arab colonialist supremacist dictatorships and tyrants in the Middle East have been persecuting, trying to kill and killing Jews simply for the “crime” of being Jewish for almost 1400 years:

As “Dhimmis” living in most Arab and Ottoman dictatorships Jews had to pay a special tax, called a “Jizya;” we were excluded from public office, and we were forbidden to bear arms. We were not allowed to ride horses or camels, and our synagogues as a matter of law had to be smaller than any mosque. We were also not allowed to pray or mourn in loud voices, as that might offend the ruling class (similar to how the Palestinian Arabs are so easily “offended” by the notion of Jews praying at the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism). As “Dhimmi” living under Arab or Ottoman dictatorships, we were required to always show public deference toward any Muslim, including always yielding to a Muslim the center of the road. Dhimmi were not allowed to give evidence in court against a Muslim, and a Jew’s oath was not acceptable in an Islamic court, which was generally the only court available to seek redress against a non-Jew that hurt you or stole from you. To defend himself, a Dhimmi would have to literally pay for Muslim witnesses (at great expense). This left Jews with little legal recourse when they were harmed by a non-Jew under Arab or Ottoman rule.

As Dhimmis living under Arab or Ottoman rule we were often forced to wear distinctive clothing. In the year 850 A.D., Baghdad’s Caliph al-Mutawakkil issued a decree ordering that all Jews have to wear garments to distinguish them from Muslims; he ordered all synagogues destroyed, ordered that demonic effigies had to be nailed to the doors of all Jewish homes, and he prohibited Jews from being involved in any government matters. Caliph al-Mutawakkil actually designated a yellow badge that he required all Jews to wear in public, setting a precedent that would be followed centuries later in the Venice Ghetto in the year 1516 and later in Nazi Germany.

But the more than 1000 years of persecution of Jews under Arab and Ottoman rule was certainly not limited to only “Nuremberg type” laws of codified discrimination. As early as 627 A.D., there were Islamist inspired pogroms and massacres of Jews simply because we had the temerity to remain Jewish.

And while much of the world is familiar with the pogroms and massacres that were pervasive in Russia and Eastern Europe, pogroms and massacres were sadly always part of Jewish reality in the Diaspora, whether we were ruled by a Czar, Caliph or Sultan.

Some more examples:

  • On December 30, 1066 a mob inspired by the same radical Islamist ideology that today sadly inspires way too many Arabs throughout the Middle East and gives ISIS most of its recruits, engaged in a day long pogrom that led to the massacre of most of the Jewish population of Grenada, Spain. More than 1,500 Jewish families (approximately 4,000 people) were murdered in one day. A massacre that would make ISIS jealous.
  • In 1465, there was a revolt in Morocco that led to a riot in Fez, Morocco. Almost the entire Jewish population of Fez was murdered during this riot. In 1864, around 500 Jews were killed in Marrakech and Fez in another xenophobic Jew-hating-inspired riot.
  • In 1869, 18 Jews were killed in Tunis and an Arab mob looted numerous Jewish homes and stores, and burned synagogues on Djerba Island off of the coast of Tunisia. In 1875, 20 Jews were killed by an Islamist mob in Demnat, Morocco.

So much for the notion that before modern Zionism or the increased migration of Ashkenazi Jews in the late 19th Century, Jews and Arabs in the MENA lived in a “relatively peaceful state of co-existence.” Due to Arab/Islamist Supremacist dogma and indoctrination, as well as Jews being labeled for centuries as less worthy and even treacherous dhimmi, the life of Jews in Arab controlled lands was always (at best) one of a second class citizen – people who needed to know their place. And even then, the Arab supremacist colonialist dictatorships and tyrants often did not leave us in peace. Your claim is akin to a White Supremacist in the South claiming that “before the end of slavery and the civil rights movement, white people and African-Americans in the South lived in a lived in a relatively peaceful state of co-existence.” Spoken like a true racist who dreams of a day when those uppity Jews return to being stateless and powerless Dhimmi that “know their place.”

Fourth: “The European Zionists sowed the seeds of hatred and mistrust between Arab Jews and Arab Muslims”

As noted above, no such thing as “Arab Jews” there are Ashkenazi Jews, Mizrahi Jews, Sephardi Jews, Beta Yisrael Jews, and Bnei Menashe Jews. You, as a non-Jew, particularly one who wants us to return a state of Arab colonial rule over our indigenous land, do not get to define us.

But, more importantly, your fake narrative here ignores the 1000 plus years of Arab and Islamist supremacist dogma that already “sowed the seeds of hatred and mistrust” between Arabs and Mizrahi Jews. It also ignores the seeds of virulent hatred sowed by the Arab leadership before the Arab dictatorships started in the 1940’s their respective campaigns to expel the Jews from the Arab-colonized lands of the MENA.

Perhaps the best example of the “seeds” of vicious antisemitic hatred being “sowed” by an Arab and Islamist Supremacist can be found with Nazi collaborator Haj Amin al-Husseini, the ideological predecessor to the ideology that animates Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, etc. and Hamas, which also makes it is easy for anyone who is intellectually honest to understand the actual cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the expulsion of nearly 1,000,000 Mizrahi Jews from their homes throughout the MENA.

Haj Amin al-Husseini’s 1937 “Proclamation to the Muslim World,” began with this doozy of a Nazi-like claim: “Since the earliest days of their history, the Jews have been an oppressed people and there must be good reason for that.”

Just like Hitler, the Czar of Russia, and many other Jew-haters who did not need any factual reason to murder Jews, Haj Amin al-Husseini argued that the “good reason” for murdering Jews was alleged Jewish corruption as well as the Jews’ purported immoral and exploitative behavior. Notably, an argument Mahmoud Abbas (the so-called moderate President for Life of the Palestinian Authority) recently made regarding what caused the Holocaust.

In his 1937 “Proclamation” al-Husseini compared Jews to animals and to disease-spreading pathogens: “The Jews are also spreaders of diseases like the plague, the reason that the Jews are to this day called ‘microbes.’” Speaking of his kindred spirits in Germany in 1937, al-Husseni wrote: “likewise energetic measures are undertaken in Germany against the Jews and they are driven off like mangy dogs.”

After taking up residence as Hitler’s guest in Berlin in 1941, Haj Amin al-Husseini began helping Germany broadcast Nazi propaganda to the Arab world. And in anticipation of Nazi Germany defeating the British in North Africa, on July 7, 1942, the “Voice of Free Arabism” played a program titled, “Kill the Jews Before They Kill You.”

Just like the violence incited against Jews by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, this broadcast began with a lie: “A large number of Jews residing in Egypt and a number of Poles, Greeks, Armenians, and Free French have been issued with revolvers and ammunition” to fight “against the Egyptians at the last moment, when Britain is forced to evacuate Egypt.”

The hateful, antisemitic broadcast continued:

“In the face of this barbaric procedure by the British we think it best, if the life of the Egyptian nation is to be saved, that the Egyptians rise as one man to kill the Jews before they have a chance of betraying the Egyptian people. It is the duty of the Egyptians to annihilate the Jews and to destroy their property. … You must kill the Jews, before they open fire on you. Kill the Jews, who have appropriated your wealth and who are plotting against your security.

Arabs of Syria, Iraq, and Palestine, what are you waiting for? The Jews are planning to violate your women, to kill your children and to destroy you. According to the Muslim religion, the defense of your life is a duty which can only be fulfilled by annihilating the Jews. This is your best opportunity to get rid of this dirty race, which has usurped your rights and brought misfortune and destruction on your countries. Kill the Jews, burn their property, destroy their stores, annihilate these base supporters of British imperialism. Your sole hope of salvation lies in annihilating the Jews before they annihilate you.”

But you want to blame “European Jews” for “sowing” the “seeds of hatred and mistrust” between Arabs and Jews … how racist, hateful and ahistorical can you be?

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