To be a European or American Jew has hardly been perceived as a contradiction, but to be an Arab Jew has been seen as a kind of logical paradox, even an ontological subversion. This binarism has led many Oriental Jews (our name in Israel referring to our common Asian and African countries of origin is Mizrahi or Mizrachi) to a profound and visceral schizophrenia, since for the first time in our history Arabness and Jewishness have been imposed as antonyms.I remember getting a sense of the complex identities involved in the region through a close Palestinian Christian friend in college, but this was still surprising. It seems that "Arab" is more of a geographical/cultural term like "European" or "American", thus it's perfectly normal to have "Arab Jews", "Arab Christians" and "Arab Muslims". The fact that the words "Arab" and "Muslim" are practically interchangeable in Anglo-America only shows how poorly the region is understood by most people.
Intellectual discourse in the West highlights a Judeo-Christian tradition, yet rarely acknowledges the Judeo-Muslim culture of the Middle East, of North Africa, or of pre-Expulsion Spain (1492) and of the European parts of the Ottoman Empire. The Jewish experience in the Muslim world has often been portrayed as an unending nightmare of oppression and humiliation.
Friday, January 14, 2005
Link: Reflections By An Arab Jew
Via Juan Cole, an incredibly interesting comment on the dilemmas faced by an Arab Jew: