Monday, October 20, 2014

Israel’s non-European, Middle Eastern Jews

“In all, there were nearly a million Jews living throughout the Middle East only 70 years ago, members of one of the region’s ancient native religious communities. Beginning in the mid-20th century they were forcibly displaced en masse, never to see their homes again. Most of them became concentrated in one minute slice of the region. There they developed the ability to defend themselves and have thus survived and thrived, unlike every other religious minority in this part of the world.”

“Today, these Jews and their descendants can be said to make up, according to the Israeli demographer Sergio DellaPergola, 50 percent of Israel’s total Jewish population of just over six million …”

“Zionism initially found relatively few adherents among Jews in Muslim lands. It was a European movement dominated by people who might have an ethnographic interest in eastern Jews but did not regard them seriously as political actors.”

(European Jews developed political Zionism, while Middle Eastern Jews dreamed of the biblical return to Zion.)

And for Americans to understand: “(T)he way things work in the Middle East …tells you that words spoken by opponents are not important and promises not to be trusted, that you do not easily give up things that are yours, and that if you do, you should expect not a grateful and reconciled adversary but scorn and further exploitation.”

Words spoken by opponents are not important. Promises are not to be trusted.

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