Biting article by Steve Plaut about the academic Menachem Klein, who is ressucitating the ‘Stalinist’ myth of peaceful coexistence prior to the creation of Israel. Klein claims that Jews considered themselves ‘Arab Jews’ and were in the forefront of local national movements. While Jews took part in the Iraqi cultural renaissance or Nahda (and some, like Leon Castro in Egypt, were nationalists) they were, unlike Arab Christians, not prominent and their nationalism was soon torpedoed by the rampant antisemitism practised by the emerging Arab states.
In recent years Klein (pictured) has devoted his energies to resuscitating the old Stalinist myth about Arab-Jewish euphoria before the rise of Zionism and especially the silly pseudo-history around the notion of the “Arab Jew.” Invented by a small group of Israeli Stalinists led by Tel Aviv University sociologist Yehouda Shenhav, these people claim that Oriental Jews are actually Arabs of the Mosaic persuasion. Never mind the proportion who would slap you silly if they hear you calling them Arabs of any sort. Shenhav has promoted his view that Asian Jews are Arabs in numerous articles and his book, The Arab Jews: Nationality, Religion and Ethnicity, won rave reviews from Arab extremists and from PLO front groups.
Shenhav considers Zionism to be a form of colonialism. Indeed, Shenhav has long argued that Asian Jews and Arabs need to unite to fight Zionism, that old “common cause” of the communist party in Iraq and “Palestine” from the 1920s onward. Asian Jews and Arabs are, in his view, two wings of the same struggle in absolutely everything – except that Shenhav has staunchly opposed the idea of compensation for Asian Jews from Arab countries for their property stolen.
Now years later, Klein tries to steal the anti-Zionist thunder from the Stalinists, but by beating the same old tune. The only difference is that Klein rewrites Jewish-Arab relations based upon the supposed euphoria in “Palestine” before Israel’s creation – not in Iraq – when the local Jews were supposedly Jewish Arabs. This tooth fairy historic revisionism is the focus of his book, ‘Lives in Common: Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Hebron.’ It is in effect science fiction focused upon the past.
Countless murders of Jews and pogroms against them notwithstanding, Klein’s proof is that in Hebron in 1929, almost half the Jews there were not massacred by the local Arabs. Klein then argues that not only were pre-Independence relations among Jews and Arabs in “Palestine” idyllic, but that the Jews considered themselves Arabs in all things. Something even Shenhav never claims. The problems only began when “nationalism” made its appearance on the scene, and you will not be disappointed to learn that he does NOT mean Arab nationalism, something presumably Jewish Arabs could embrace and join.
From the toady Haaretz review of his book:
Arab-Jewish identity, writes Klein, did not only develop in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Hebron. “It was a fact of life throughout the Arab world. By the end of the 19th century it was a self-conscious identity in the major cities of the east, such as Cairo, Beirut and Baghdad. In these urban centers Jews took part in the Arab cultural renaissance and local national movements.” …
Yet even then, in the midst of the looming nationalist conflict, the lines remained fluid. Jewish women worked in Jaffa’s cafes and restaurants as waitresses, singers and dancers. Jaffa’s young men flocked to Tel Aviv’s cafes and beaches, wide-eyed at the sight of scantily dressed women, unimaginable in Jaffa itself, and the Hebrew city’s atmosphere of sexual licentiousness. Older Arab men courted middle-aged Jewish women at the Casino Café, on the beach, which offered live music, weekly formal dance nights and a crèche.
Like a Graham Greene novel.
The fatal death blow to the bucolic paradise came in 1948, when those accursed Zionists declared Israeli independence. Clearly Klein, who wants Jerusalem to belong to the “Palestinians,” thinks the solution is for the Jews to go back to being obedient and easily-massacred Jewish Arabs.