Friday, October 22, 2010

Gilbert's book takes a panoramic approach

Sir Martin Gilbert's long-overdue history of Jews in Muslim lands is a panoramic and clear account of an important story, Aryeh Tepper writes in Jewish Ideas Daily (with thanks: Ken):

In the two decades following the establishment of the state of Israel, approximately 850,000 Jews were forcibly driven out of Arab lands. Their expulsion marked the beginning of the end of 2,500 years of Jewish life in North Africa, the greater Middle East, and the Persian Gulf. Until recently, their story has been largely unrecognized and untold in the English-speaking world. That is the task undertaken by the British historian Martin Gilbert, known for his multi-volume biography of Winston Churchill and many works on Jewish history, in his new book, In Ishmael's House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands.

Ambitious to a fault, Gilbert begins his saga a full millennium before the birth of Muhammad in the late 6th century C.E., and by the end of his first 100 pages has covered the first centuries of Islam, the age of the Crusaders, and the spread of the Ottoman empire. The remaining two-thirds of the book are devoted to the past 100 years. Here he traces the competition between the Jewish and Arab national movements during World Wars I and II, the various reactions to the 1947 UN partition resolution and the creation of Israel, Jewish life in Muslim lands since 1948, and the integration of Jews from Muslim lands into Western countries and, of course, Israel.

What saves Gilbert's narrative from a deadly superficiality, if not always from monotony, is his tight focus. Throughout, he poses one question to his material: was the Jewish minority protected, or persecuted? When Muslim rulers treated their Jews as a "protected people," the Jews, he shows, repaid the favor by contributing immensely to Muslim culture and society. When the Jews were persecuted, not only they but the society they lived in suffered. By proceeding in this fashion, Gilbert succeeds in exploding the myth, manufactured by Islamic ideologues and peddled by left-wing apologists, to the effect that pre-modern Jews always lived harmoniously with their Muslim hosts. Sometimes this was the case; often it was not.

Another virtue of Gilbert's panoramic treatment is that it helps the reader to see patterns missed by more detailed studies. Take the much-written-about case of Haj Amin al-Husseini, one of the more poisonous figures to have emerged in the 20th century's plethora of world-class thugs, gangsters, despots, and tyrants. From the beginning of his career, this "Grand Mufti of Jerusalem" was closely associated with the radical Muslim Brotherhood. In 1929 he orchestrated the Arab-Muslim pogroms in which the ancient Jewish community of Hebron was massacred. In 1937, moving on to Baghdad, he helped stir up the passions that ultimately issued in a two-day anti-Jewish pogrom. While in Iraq he also initiated contacts with Nazi Germany, and in 1941, now living in Berlin, he created a Muslim SS division to abet Hitler's war in Bosnia.

Gilbert's bird's-eye conspectus of Husseini's career prompts a number of questions. One has to do with the relatively recent emergence of the terrorist group Hamas on the Palestinian political scene. Hamas is a branch of the same Muslim Brotherhood to which Husseini adhered, and it is worth recalling that, during the 20's and 30's, Palestinian opposition to Zionism was indeed deeply Islamic in character. From this larger perspective, might the rise of Hamas be more correctly seen as a re-emergence, and the previous dominance of the Palestinian movement by the PLO—another extremist organization but a secular nationalist one—as but a passing interval in an essentially Islamist continuum?

Another question pertains specifically to Iraq. Gilbert describes how deeply Nazi agitation had penetrated Iraqi society in the 1930's, even before Haj Amin al-Husseini's arrival. The mufti's soft spot for Nazi-style anti-Semitism only added to the mix. Post-World War II Iraq was known for state brutality, and one can't help wondering about the Nazi contribution to it. In one particularly grotesque case from 1969—ten years before Saddam founded his sadistic regime—nine Iraqi Jews were hanged on trumped-up charges; a national holiday was declared and a million people went to see the bodies—as Gilbert writes, "dancing, chanting, and even picnicking." How can one account for this sort of frenzied mass barbarism, unparalleled in the rest of the Arab-Islamic world? Gilbert notes that even the Egyptian government, an ardent enemy of Israel, felt compelled to protest.

Academic historians will surely find much to criticize in Gilbert's book. Although the work is copiously footnoted, his favorite source appears to be the Encyclopaedia Judaica, not your standard scholarly fare. But academic criticism has blinded itself to the crucial role that general histories play in educating the public, a role even more necessary in an age when too many historians conceive their mission as the "deconstruction" of overarching narratives. In Ishmael's House is a clear account of an important story, and whatever its deficiencies, Gilbert is to be thanked for writing it.

Read article in full

More reviews here

21 comments:

Sylvia said...

This is one of the most dishonest reviews of the book I've read so far.

Anonymous said...

Forgot all those argument that you try to enforce them as a historical fact and let give one major story that you ignored with your untruthful author:

During Othman Empire many Jews seek refuges form Sultan Abdul hammed who grand them welcoming peaceful settlement in Islamic empire land to live lived between Muslims.

There are many stories that give more and more truth that your untruthfully book which seamers hatred and faking the history.

Just last thing talking about:

Post-World War II Iraq was known for state brutality, and one can't help wondering about the Nazi contribution to it.

Post-World War II Iraq was known for state were the minister of finance was Haskell Sassoon who was an Iraqi Jew lead Iraq financial difficulties during difficult time.

bataween said...

Sassoon Heskel served as Finance Minister of Iraq after World War 1, not WW2.It cannot be denied that Iraq showed brutality towards Jews in the 1941 Farhud (180 Jews killed) and that conditions began to deteriorate for Jews from 1947 on.

Anonymous said...

The Jews of Iraq

Anonymous said...

Sassoon Heskel served as Finance Minister of Iraq after World War 1, not WW2



Read my comment gain...

Iraq was gain his first Monarchy state in 1921 he was lead Iraq in the default time running to WWII.

حسقيل ساسون

Sylvia said...

Anonymous is right in the sense that Jews in Iraq held high office and labored for her well-being well through the Farhoud and WWII and beyond. That's what the book says too. The Farhoud wasn't a breaking point for those well-to-do families, since those attacked are usually those families and businesses who live in mostly Jewish and crowded neighborhoods.
Many Iraqi Jews were against Zionism and were very patriotic and committed Iraqi nationalists, just like uther Jews in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and other Arab countries.
Anonymous, you seem to be confusing what the reviewer says and what the author said. I am prepared to bet that this reviewer at best went through the table of contents and relied on other reviews to write his own.

bataween said...

Anonymous
Naeeim Giladi wrote lies and propaganda
http://jewishrefugees.blogspot.com/2010/06/challenging-naieem-giladis-farrago-of.html
Sylvia
I disagree with you in that the Golden Age for the Jews of Iraq was really Emir Faisal's reign - the 1920s. From the time his som Ghazi took over and came under the influence of Nazism, the Jews of Iraq began to be marginalised and many were sacked from public service. They may not have suffered physically but well-to-do families got a terrible shock. Many left immediately after the Farhoud in 1941 for Iran or India, and my family for one regretted returning after two or three years. The post-Farhoud honeymoon period was short-lived.

Sylvia said...

There is no contraction. By well-to-do I was referring to those in government positions since that is what was discussed (Hezkel was no longer around but there were many others). Until they got robbed and kicked out by government edict just like everyone else.
Gilbert has the two vintage points. The experience is of course never the same for everyone.

A propos, did you know that the family of Avi Schlaim, the historian who claims that they left because of the " atmosphere of panic" and "hostility at popular level to the State of Israel" in fact fled through Iran after the Revocation of Citizenship for Jews of March 1950. Imagine. A historian who can't connect cause and effect.

Sylvia said...

contraction=contradiction

bataween said...

Avi Shlaim never ceases to amaze with his mental contortions: I've heard it claim his family were not refugees and that it was all Israel's fault that the Jews had to leave. A bad case of Stockholm syndrome, if you ask me.

bataween said...

heard him claim

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you seem to be confusing what the reviewer says and what the author said.

Sylvia, yes and thank you for your attentions.


Naeeim Giladi wrote lies and propaganda

Yap, as always this is common replay, may I help you more in this, he is anti-Semitisms hate mongering so forth.

But back to serious talk, if an Iraqi JEWS “Naeeim Giladi” as you tagged why you think he doing or telling this, he is Jews not Muslim, I don’t think he got paid by any “Israeli’s enemies” or regimes in ME, he did not paid bay any agencies you may think of, so what about you Orchestration your post as truthful not hatful with all your twisting nut picking historical facts, what the difference between you and him can you tell? Unless you are one of those boggers that paid by Israeli government for spreading their lies.

In same talking in regards the treatment of Jews, Non-Muslims treated Jews more harshly and hatefully than Muslims in France and east Europe which triggered The Balfour Declaration.

So if the Jews have their right from 2000 old dream to be claims then as Iraqi/ Babylonian we should have our right also, isn’t? Also as Iraqi we have the right to claim our history when Harun al-Rashidr times then the distraction of Baghdad by Mogool?

The recent one US/UK invasion and occupying Iraq the distraction of state with heavy lose in human life on a big lie of freedom & democracy, do we have the right to distract both in long waiting future, isn’t?

As for the farhood you talking about look not fat the farhood done by American to the assets of Iraq from 2003 till now, so how much Iraqis should ask for compensations? you should be very well informed that the farhood in 5o’s last for three days although its wrong and unlawful but let be clear here that was due to lack of security forces and control inside Iraq in those day although you should keep in mind the Britt’s were having military bass also advisors around Iraq just as these day US/UK on the ground inside Iraq.

Finally you should as Iraq Jew, read those very moving stories of real Iraq no matter what religion they believe the story was “Passover in Baghdad” by Tim Judah

And enjoy these readings

The Truth About Jewish Assets In Iraq

The proclamation of Baghdad

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you seem to be confusing what the reviewer says and what the author said.

Sylvia, yes and thank you for your attentions.


Naeeim Giladi wrote lies and propaganda

Yap, as always this is common replay, may I help you more in this, he is anti-Semitisms hate mongering so forth.

But back to serious talk, if an Iraqi JEWS “Naeeim Giladi” as you tagged why you think he doing or telling this, he is Jews not Muslim, I don’t think he got paid by any “Israeli’s enemies” or regimes in ME, he did not paid bay any agencies you may think of, so what about you Orchestration your post as truthful not hatful with all your twisting nut picking historical facts, what the difference between you and him can you tell? Unless you are one of those boggers that paid by Israeli government for spreading their lies.

In same talking in regards the treatment of Jews, Non-Muslims treated Jews more harshly and hatefully than Muslims in France and east Europe which triggered The Balfour Declaration.

So if the Jews have their right from 2000 old dream to be claims then as Iraqi/ Babylonian we should have our right also, isn’t? Also as Iraqi we have the right to claim our history when Harun al-Rashidr times then the distraction of Baghdad by Mogool?

The recent one US/UK invasion and occupying Iraq the distraction of state with heavy lose in human life on a big lie of freedom & democracy, do we have the right to distract both in long waiting future, isn’t?

As for the farhood you talking about look not fat the farhood done by American to the assets of Iraq from 2003 till now, so how much Iraqis should ask for compensations? you should be very well informed that the farhood in 5o’s last for three days although its wrong and unlawful but let be clear here that was due to lack of security forces and control inside Iraq in those day although you should keep in mind the Britt’s were having military bass also advisors around Iraq just as these day US/UK on the ground inside Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Apologies I don't know but I forced to cut my comment due to problem sending it in one hit.

Finally you should as Iraq Jew, read those very moving stories of real Iraq no matter what religion they believe the story was “Passover in Baghdad” by Tim Judah

And enjoy these readings

The Truth About Jewish Assets In Iraq

The proclamation of Baghdad

bataween said...

Hello Anon


I don't care if Naim Giladi was paid or not, he still writes rubbish. Yehuda Shenhav's is a minority view - Israel can argue that it took in destitute refugees, housed and fed them, and this does not exonerate Iraq from its responsibility in causing their dispossession and exodus in the first place.
Tim Judah is a good friend and his piece very moving.
The US invasion of Iraq is a separate issue - you can certainly make a case against the US.

Anonymous said...

Then Naim Giladi, he is NOT a lair his views represent “Yehuda Shenhav's is a minority” …that’s great we see the tied changing….. I can add representing Arab View then?

As those what you call those “destitute refugees” I think they paid back very quickly as most of the Arab Jews are highly educated at that time who took every part in setting Israeli / Zionist project in Palestine befitting from the Arab Jews skills gained when they are living in their home countries, NOT like those Jews from Europe were their dresses tagged, they were not allowed to enter public school to learn and gain education opposite what the case in ALL Arab/Muslim land.

Israel can argue that?
Off course if US / UK and other powers behind them, but you remember Iraq was under British mandate when those Iraqi citizens striped from their citizenship? In Iraq most of Jews Assets was frozen under government control, although those assets were rented to public till 2003.. I don’t know after that what US did with those Iraqi government assets as usual look to frozen Iraqi assets in US what they done with it.

But let NOT forgot what Israeli done to the assets of Palestinians in 1948, 156, 1967, and in all the distraction war in all along, where is you justices in all of those cases, or your are justice working in one direction?


The US invasion of Iraq is a separate issue - you can certainly make a case against the US.

AND UK……….

bataween said...

Naim Giladi is a liar, and so is Yehuda Shenhav - I was just being polite.
Very few Jews were publically educated in Arab countries. Most went to Jewish schools run by the community. There were quotas restricting Jews in universities, especially medicine and law. After 1948 it became virtually impossible for Jews to pursue higher education. Whatever Jews achieved in Israel was by their own efforts but many struggled and still struggle on the periphery of society (Sylvia can tell you about that...)However, Jews in Israel do have one thing - freedom to be Jews.

Iraq was not under British mandate when Jews were stripped of their citizenship. This was by law of the Iraqi parliament. whereas 90 percent of blocked Palestinian bank accounts were returned by Israel, Iraq and other Arab countries never returned Jewish assets. As for property claims, Jews who left in 1950 are specifically excluded from claiming back their property by the IPCC property claims commission.

Whatever rents may have accrued from frozen Jewish property would not have reached the owners in Israel.
Whatever the US and UK did in Iraq is a separate issue entirely.

Sylvia said...

"but you remember Iraq was under British mandate when those Iraqi citizens striped from their citizenship?"

The Revocation of Citizenship Bill was introduced in Parliament by Saleh Jabr, the Iraqi Interior Minister at the yime, on March 2, 1950. The Jews had to relinquish their nationality permanently if they wanted to leave. The Iraqis wanted them to leave as fast as possible.

Law no. 5 of 1951 (introduced by Nuri Said) froze all the assets of the Jews and put them under government control while there were still more than 80 000 Jews in the country with no nationality and no access to their money and wealth.

Anonymous said...

especially medicine and law. After 1948 it became virtually impossible for Jews to pursue higher education.

I can assure you this NOT true.

My sister was in Statistic department in Baghdad University she finished her MSc late 1970s she hade here friend Iraqi Jews studding with here in same years when she was study here BSc.

I worked in University of technology I had one student was in the department he was an Iraqi Jews student.

I think you are far from reality or you don’t know as you type of people who don’t like to understand or believe what on the ground, you are more a prison of the past with very conservative views.

Sylvia , Yes I know that although all looks all right and with law, but let presume that government set by British Occupier in 1921, as same as today Iraqi poppet government I thing you can argue that neither the British in 1921 nor US in 2010 have no say whatsoever what happening on the ground inside Iraq.

bataween said...

I'm talking about the period immediately after 1948 when Jews could not travel, go to university or work - not 1970.
Yes, in 1970 Jews were studying at university (my cousins among them), but shortly after the 1969 hangings, they were made to stay away for weeks. Where are your sister's Jewish friends now? They all had to leave because life was made unbearable for them in Iraq.

bataween said...

Of course you could have come across a Jew at your institute but by the late 1970s there were only 200 Jews left.