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Racism Against Jews in the Arab World
Refugee Jews from Kurdistan leaving a village with a Torah scroll. (The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, UC Berkeley/Flickr)

Racism Against Jews in the Arab World

Al-Qabas, Kuwait, August 26

I wrote a while ago on the subject of racism, and how there are countries that try to limit the phenomenon by imposing severe penalties on those who abuse others on racist grounds. My article showed that the groups most often targeted with racism in the Arab world aren’t Alawites, Armenians, Assyrians, Bahais, Berbers, Copts, Ismailis, Kurds, Sahrawis, Turkmen, Yazidis, or Nubians, but rather Shiites living in Sunni societies and Sunnis living in Shiite societies. While my article was well received by many, an Iraqi colleague of mine pointed out my failure to address the historically abhorrent treatment of Jews who live in the Muslim and Arab world, particularly in Iraq. In Iraq, it was customary to take wealthy Jews hostage just so they can be released for exorbitant ransoms. One of those kidnapped, for example, was the son of the chief rabbi of Iraq. These actions led many wealthy Iraqi Jews to leave their country and move to other states, where they became wealthy businessmen. With the rise of the Nazi ideology in the 1930’s, Jews began facing growing hatred in the Arab world. The decision to revoke the citizenship of Iraqi Jews was one of the ugliest and most prominent manifestations of racism against Jews in Iraq’s history. My colleague ended his message by pointing out that Jews of other Arab countries have also suffered from racism. Had it not been for the violence and hatred directed against them, they would have stayed in their homelands, which they loved and to which they were loyal. Instead, the Arab world lost them as active contributors to their societies. In this regard, let’s not forget the Arabs of Israel, who, despite various types of racism that exists against them, may prefer to stay to live and work in Israel, rather than immigrate to any Arab country. There may be a reason for that. Perhaps, after all, Israel’s “racist hell” is dramatically better than the “paradise” of many of its neighboring countries. – Ahmed Al-Sarraf (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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