The Horrific 4 is a fiction series deliberately pushing to an extreme the worse prejudices seen in the Arab world, sometimes with a satirical tone. The aim is to bust the taboos around discussing the real sensitive topics fueling those prejudices. The 4 characters are not meant to represent role models. Both appreciative and unappreciative readers' comments will be published. Insults and derogatory language will be edited out.


1. Mizrahi Jews are the Ultimate Pan-Arabs

2jew

When I was approached about writing for a new project called “Free Arabs” I was not interested. It is not that I don’t like Arabs (bil3aks, ya habibi). It is that I do not want to bear the burden of speaking on behalf of the Jews to the Arabs. I mean, ya3ni, good luck with that. Most Arabs already have a fixed image of Jews, even if they have never met one in person. And let’s be honest that it’s not the most wonderful image.

So why even bother writing? I am a 100% hot-headed Mediterranean, but even I don’t have the chutzpah to think that I can change the minds of any Arabs. (“Chutzpah” is a great Hebrew word you can’t quite translate, but the way some people define it is with a man who murders his parents and then begs the judge for mercy because he is an orphan.)

Every word I am writing now is probably a waste of time. I desperately want peace and I want to extend my hand to my cousins, but I am not naïve. A little column on a website will change nothing.

Yet there is one thing that makes me pause. “Free Arabs” – this is an interesting phrase. And suddenly I realize, I am a “free Arab” – and I would argue that we in Israel are the most free Arabs in the world. Now I don’t mean that Arab citizens of Israel have more rights than Arabs elsewhere in the Middle East. That’s a provocative claim to be explored another time. No, what I mean is that we Middle Eastern Jews – who grew up speaking Arabic, who still sing songs in Arabic and watch movies in Arabic and speak Arabic with our non-Jewish neighbors – are the most free Arabs in the world.

Don’t believe me? Watch this. “Fuck you, Netanyahu. And you too Peres. You are sons of whores who belong behind bars.” Under Hosni Mubarak – and now under the new management of that teddy bear Morsi – I could get several years in jail for “defaming the president.” Here hurling nasty insults at political leaders is a sport everyone plays – and prime ministers and presidents actually get convicted of crimes by independent judges.

And if I decide I don’t like being Jewish anymore and want to become Muslim, no one can stop me and no laws will get me arrested. (Just Google “Yosef Mohammed Khatib” to learn about the Jewish kid from New York who became a salafi while studying in Israel and now lives in Jerusalem.)

But we are “free Arabs” in a much more spiritual sense as well. Israel is a huge melting pot from the Arab world. I am North African, carrying in me the distinctive dialects, mentality, and culture of the Maghreb. My wife is half-Iraqi (with some Kurdish roots thrown in) and half-Egyptian. Our friends are Yemeni, Libyan, Syrian, and Lebanese. The old man next door grew up in Sudan. Other neighbors have roots in Bahrain, Kuwait, and even Oman (check out the old Jewish cemetery in Sohar). Not to mention the Palestinians who influence the fabric of our live in all kinds of ways.

You can’t get an Arab cultural mix this rich outside of Mecca during omrah. And here it all fuses together: music, food, poetry, films, and of course our children. We have gorgeous “pan-Arab” kids, combining fine Yemeni features, distinctive Moroccan eyes (okay, a lot of that is Berber), robust Iraqi shoulders, and last but not least Syrian brains. Yes, we Middle Eastern Jews in Israel are the ultimate pan-Arabs - and we are free to explore that cross-cultural mix and blaze new identities in one of the most experimental societies in the world.

One million of us once lived amongst you. Ask your parents or grandparents, many of whom were our neighbors, classmates, and even friends. But in the last few decades we have left – some by choice, others coerced. Today, other than a few thousand left in Morocco and Tunisia and a few hundred elsewhere, we all live crammed into Israel: our new ghetto (or better, call it our mellah, hara, or qa’a).

We may be gone from your neighborhoods but we have left our mark all over the Middle East. In Cairo? Enjoy driving through the Maadi, the southern suburb built by Jewish real estate developers (along with the Helwan train line). In Alexandria? Stop by the neighborhood of Smouha City, named after the Iraqi Jew Joseph Smouha, who drained the swamps outside downtown to build a beautiful new suburb that still bears his name (Gamal Abdel Nasser expelled Smouha one night with nothing but his pajamas).

And we weren’t just in the big cities. Head out to the middle of the Sahara in Algeria, by the old Jewish trading hub of Tamentit, and you can still find the “Jews’ Casbah” – a desert storehouse where my ancestors stored their wares for centuries before they were expelled in a brutal attack in (of all years!) 1492.

But now, thanks to the Internet, we are (at least virtually) your neighbors again. Maybe we can even become friends…

Ah, who am I kidding?

 

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#17 Elka 2013-12-20 07:34
Eddy- on the contrary, we Ashkenazim have the same Jewish roots as the Sephardim and Mizrahi Jews. My family on both sides is from Eastern Europe/Ukraine (before that, who knows from where they fled) and my brother has FMF - Familial Mediterranean Fever-- a genetic mutation requiring both parents to be carriers, originating around 500 BCE (@Babylonian expulsion) in the Middle East-SE Mediterranean region and only found in people with roots there. Askenazi Jews may have wandered farther, but don't blame my blue eyes on populations full of goyim who converted to Judaism (and be persecuted, made to live in ghettos (yes, the origin of that word) & expelled throughout Europe? Whyever would they want to??), but on some Cossack who raped one of my ancestors. So yes, we all belong there. More Arabs and Berbers converted to Judaism than European Gentiles. And don't forget that Israel was called Judea long before the Roman conquerors renamed it Palaestina (from Greek, orig. the Philistines who lived side by side with the Israelites) in the 2nd century CE to minimize Jewish identification with the land of Israel after the Bar Kokhba Rebellion.
As for Israel hurting the Palestinians, yes I agree, not a great situation, but where are the Palestinian's Arab brethren rushing to their aid? Egypt has NEVER opened its border with Gaza, much less hand over a developed territory to the PA (who ruined it all by themselves) and now allow supplies, aid and everyday goods to enter daily even when Hamas shoots rockets over its borders. Why have Jordan, Syria and Lebanon NEVER allowed Palestinians in refugee camps there to move out of the camps, get jobs, become citizens in those countries? Why has the UN's unique refugee status for Palestinians allowed that to happen? Where is foreign Arab trade for the West Bank? The entire Middle East could snap its fingers and make the West Bank a thriving economic partner. The rest of the Muslim world would prefer to starve and manipulate the Palestinians if it will hurt Israel.
 
 
#16 Eddy 2013-07-09 02:55
Hi I'm not Arab or Jewish and I have mixed feelings about Israel and the Palestinian cause. I've never supported European Zionists because I believe they are by and large of European/Eurasi an (especially North Caucasus)Goyim origin but Jewish communities from Italy and Greece must have some Judean ancestry as migration during Roman times was likely. I do believe though they quite a few Greeks and Roman Italians converted to Judaism and mixed with the Judean migrants, so most should remain in Europe but could be invited by the Mizrahim. Mizrahi Jews as far as I'm concerned do belong in the Mideast and why should they not 'return' to the land they have cultural-religi ous and historic roots in? I know Palestinian Arabs will fume at this but they must remember that Palestine was a Roman Imperial creation especially during its Christian period where Jews and Samaritans faced intense oppression and the land was flooded by Christian migrants from southern Europe and the rest of western Asia. That's not to say that Palestinians have no right to the land as they must have Judean, Samaritan and other local gentile Semitic ancestry from that area but like the Jews of the Meditarrean and the Mideast they picked up a lot of other people from Asia, Europe and North Africa. I don't want to dismiss there suffering but they should recognise that since they define themselves either as Muslims or Arabs they are part of a greater culture while the Mizrahim are much smaller and could face absorbtion unless they concentrate toghether in a homeland. I know that some Arabs will point out that the Mizrahim are also descendents of converts but Judaims is part ethnic-tribal, part faith and in any case ethnicity is like religion as many people can convert to a new ethnic or national identity. Since the Palestinians generally define themselves as Arabs and welcome people from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt and the Maghreb as brothers, why can't the small 'Palestinian' Jewish community and those Jews from Egypt, Syria and Iraq who have had continuous links with ancient Judea, welcome ethnic converts from the Yemen and North Africa? What do you think?
 
 
#15 A.Essadiq 2013-03-29 12:11
Yo cos, you might have a wrong image of us. We have so many things in common. We pray, we fast and live like most of you. We really don't have nothing personal against you. Actually, my best memories in life are with Jews. There is only one big problem: it is the way Israelis are preventing Palestinians from being part of the human race. We don't really want you to call your leaders assholes, we just want you to pressure them into doing the right thing. Until then, what can I say, Cos? Btw, if you visit Morocco you're welcome to have a good glass of Moroccan mahia!
 
 
#14 naws 2013-03-26 10:49
interesting point of view, nice :)
 
 
#13 amit 2013-03-18 05:28
Abou Millal, hopefuly one day you will go out of your box. Jews are a people, whether you like it or not. Your accusations - true or not - are just not relevant to the article above. The State is one thing, and the people is another thing - who if not Arabs should know that?
 

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