No Historic Duty toward Other Men Should Prevent Jews from Attending to Their Own Difficulties

June 10 2020

A brilliant novelist and political thinker, Albert Memmi was one of the most influential theorists of anticolonialism, as well as a proud Jew and a defender of Israel who painted vivid portraits of North African Jewish life in both his fiction and nonfiction. Memmi, who was born in Tunisia in 1920, died in Paris last month. In 1962, when some 120,000 Jews left Algeria following its independence, he wrote an essay in Commentary about the Jewish future in the newly independent states of North Africa, which begins with a provocative question:

Am I a traitor? It is a question I could not have avoided facing indefinitely, one which has been asked by my former North African compatriots—Tunisians, Algerians, Moroccans. It had to be asked. Here I am, living in France, the country of the colonizers of North Africa. I, a Tunisian Jew, have gone away, left behind those young, newly independent nations, whose independence I had so fervently desired.

Memmi never refutes this accusation, but his reflections lead him to more profound, and very relevant, conclusions:

If anyone has given a false picture of what the Jews of North Africa think and feel, it is the Jewish intellectuals, particularly of the left, who have done nothing but imitate the kind of thinking characteristic of the French left in general.

Such blindness, conscious or unconscious, is not, alas, new in the history of Jewish communities. It would certainly be easier, for thought and for action, if the lot of Jews could coincide exactly with that of their neighbors. It would be pleasant if history were always rational and manageable. How fine to be able to work for the good of all men at once, including Jews! I really believe this to be the great dream of every Jewish intellectual: to fight for all humanity, and in so doing to save his own people, without suspicion of self-interest, Alas, history abounds in contradictions. Not that the history of the Jews is independent of that of the Others; on the contrary, everything that happens to the Others also affects the life of the Jews, but in a special way.

In any case, the destiny of the Jew too often carries with it a hard nucleus that cannot be minimized. No historic duty toward other men should prevent our paying particular attention to our special difficulties. It is not wrong for the Jewish elite to take positions in advance of the majority of their people, but at the same time they must never forget to listen to the voices of their people. Jewish leaders have not performed their historic mission simply by fighting for the coming of a universal morality. For, beyond the solidarity with all men, there exists a more humble and often less comfortable duty: to come to grips directly with their special destiny as Jews, without worrying too much about being called a traitor by anyone.

A few months after the article was published, Algeria passed a law denying citizenship to non-Muslim citizens. Within a decade, barely anything was left of this nearly two-millennia-old Jewish community.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Albert Memmi, Algeria, Mizrahi Jewry, Postcolonialism, Tunisia

 

The Attempted Murder of Salman Rushdie Should Render the New Iran Deal Dead in the Water

Aug. 15 2022

On Friday, the Indian-born, Anglo-American novelist Salman Rushdie was repeatedly stabbed and severely wounded while giving a public lecture in western New York. Reports have since emerged—although as yet unverified—that the would-be assassin had been in contact with agents of Iran, whose supreme leaders have repeatedly called on Muslims to murder Rushdie. Meanwhile U.S. and European diplomats are trying to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran. Stephen Daisley comments:

Salman Rushdie’s would-be assassin might have been a lone wolf. He might have had no contact with military or intelligence figures. He might never even have set foot in Tehran. But be in no doubt: he acted, in effect, as an agent of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Under the terms of the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini in February 1989, Rushdie “and all those involved in [his novel The Satanic Verses’s] publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death.” Khomeini urged “brave Muslims to kill them quickly wherever they find them so that no one ever again would dare to insult the sanctities of Muslims,” adding: “anyone killed while trying to execute Rushdie would, God willing, be a martyr.”

An American citizen has been the victim of an attempted assassination on American soil by, it appears, another American after decades of the Iranian supreme leader agitating for his murder. No country that is serious about its national security, to say nothing of its national self-worth, can pretend this is some everyday stabbing with no broader political implications.

Those implications relate not only to the attack on Rushdie. . . . In July, a man armed with an AK-47 was arrested outside the Brooklyn home of Masih Alinejad, an Iranian dissident who was also the intended target of an abduction plot last year orchestrated by an Iranian intelligence agent. The cumulative weight of these outrages should render the new Iran deal dead in the water.

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Read more at Spectator

More about: Freedom of Speech, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy