Friday, January 13, 2006

Joe Golan, saviour of Algerian Jewry?

On 30 December, the revisionist historian Tom Segev published an article in Haaretz magazine about the late Joe Golan, based on his memoirs.

In 1962 Israel had refused to renew the passport of this Egyptian-born roving diplomat and Arab affairs adviser to the World Jewish Congress: Golan, whom Segev casts as a saviour of the Algerian Jews, had disobeyed Israeli government policy and advised them to leave.

On the other hand, Golan was a scathing critic of Israel's 'discriminatory' policy towards Moroccan Jewish immigrants. Although Golan 'does not say explicitly that it would have been better for the Moroccan Jews had they stayed in Morocco', to Segev it is an open question whether Israel caused the destruction of the Jewish community there.

Not surprisingly, Segev's article has been eagerly reprinted by the Arab and anti-Zionist press.

In the 13 January edition of Haaretz magazine there appears a letter refuting at least part of Segev's thesis.

Regarding "The Joe Golan affair," Haaretz Magazine, December 30

"I didn't know Joe Golan, except through hearing stories about him, but I do have personal knowledge when it comes to the history of the Jews in North Africa in general, and Algeria in particular, during the period under discussion, as someone who was there during those difficult years − as a person in a commanding role, with my people being emissaries from Israel.

"During the second half of the previous century, when the winds of independence began to blow in the Maghreb countries, accompanied by various levels of violence, the members of Israel's Prime Minister's Office began to worry about the welfare of the Jews. Thus, various defense frameworks were set up in North Africa, composed of the Zionist youth movements and the Scouts, with the addition of adults who had served in the French army, as well as most of the community leaders and rabbis who, like me, had never heard of Joe Golan.

"The Jews of Algeria were in no need of Golan's warnings, and had been aware of their sensitive situation as French citizens since the Cremieux Law in 1870. The members of FLN, the Algerian rebels, tried in various ways and through violence to convince Jews to join their struggle. The height of the harassment was in the city of Constantine. The organized Jewish community of the city repeatedly warned against harming the Jews, and when things went too far, the response from the defense groups was a military operation that brought
quiet to the community.

"Jews began to leave Algeria already in late 1958 for France, Canada and Israel, and once again, were in no need of Joe Golan's warnings. The defense frameworks included hundreds of well-trained young people and adults. They were the ones who operated a sophisticated system for organizing Aliyah Bet ?(the (the second wave of clandestine immigration?) and brought tens of thousands of Jews to Israel without any selection process, in order to rescue them. Of the 150,000 Jews of Algeria, only about 5,000 remained after the French evacuation.

"Joe Golan's claim to have been the rescuer of the Algerian Jews is incorrect and uncalled for."

Eliezer Duvdevani, Ganei Tikva

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