The Story of North African Jewry Doesn’t Fit into Academic Narratives about Colonialism

For many years, conventional wisdom held that North African Jews were beneficiaries of European colonialism, given a favored status by French rulers over their Arab compatriots. Lyn Julius notes that this version of events, which draws on the work of Arab nationalist historians, leads to the claim that, in her words, “Jews are responsible for their own plight.” More recently, a new generation of historians have argued that Maghrebi Jews were victims of colonialism. To Julius, neither approach comes close to capturing the truth:

Arab nationalist historiography says Jews were colonists or collaborators with colonists, but how then does one explain ambivalence to European citizenship in certain sections of the community? Take the case of Algeria, part of metropolitan France since 1830. It took until 1870 for [Algerian] Jews to attain French citizenship. The Jewish religious establishment resisted it for 40 years, fearing it would lead to secularization and assimilation. Then the Décret Crémieux imposed French citizenship on the entire community, [thus putting them in a different legal category than Algerian Muslims]. Incidentally, Muslims were also offered French citizenship [in] 1865. However, they overwhelmingly rejected it, as it would have meant compromising their personal status, which was governed by Muslim law.

More importantly, the “Jews-as-colonists” narrative cannot account for the fact that Jews were victims of European colonial anti-Semitism. Equal rights did not mitigate anti-Jewish abuse. Indeed, paradoxically, as Western influence increased, the tropes of European anti-Semitism were spread by local Christians. . . . The pieds noirs [French settlers] in Algeria, led by the notorious anti-Dreyfusard Edouard Drumont, parliamentary representative for Algiers, were a repository of European anti-Semitism. They resented the Jews for acquiring an equal status—French citizenship—they did not deserve. The pieds noirs even incited anti-Jewish riots.

However, if Jews were as anti-colonialist as [the newer group of historians] wants us to believe, why did they nevertheless work with the Europeans, seek European citizenship, or emigrate? If Jews resisted European encroachment, why did they actively seek Western consular protection? The answer is pretty clear: to offset their insecure dhimmi predicament.

Read more at Tel Aviv Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, France, Jewish history, Jewish-Muslim Relations, North African Jewry

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security