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.

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Read more at Tel Aviv Review of Books

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

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy