Is Morocco Immune to Upheaval?

November 28, 2011

Bruce Maddy-Weitzman
Middle East Quarterly
Winter 2012, pp. 87-93 (view PDF)
http://www.meforum.org/3114/morocco-upheaval
(h/t docs talk) The uprisings that swept across the Middle East and North Africa during 2011 have largely bypassed Morocco. The absence of tumult and the loudly trumpeted package of constitutional reform measures endorsed in a July 2011 national referendum[1] further strengthened Morocco’s favorable image in the West as a country that has mixed tradition with modernity and an openness to foreign cultures, and which is both politically stable and steadily evolving toward greater pluralism. Morocco’s success in having thus far dodged upheaval warrants explanation for the country suffers from many of the same underlying ills that have driven the protests elsewhere—corruption, poverty, and unemployment; the overwhelming concentration of wealth in the hands of a small stratum of elite families intertwined with the authorities;[2] the absence of real democracy; and closed horizons for its large, youthful population, suffering from disproportionately high rates of unemployment and underemployment. But Morocco’s starting point, in terms of its political institutions and political culture, is different in ways that provide some comparative advantages. Moreover, unlike other Middle East, autocratic regimes during this tumultuous year of popular intifadas,[3] the Moroccan authorities, led by King Mohammed VI, have been sufficiently proactive in their responses to the rumblings from below so as to render them manageable, at least for the time being.
Moroccan Exceptionalism
A closer look at state-society dynamics in Morocco during 2011, against the backdrop of the country’s deeper currents, reveals the extent and limits of Moroccan exceptionalism. The country possesses considerable assets: a political and societal center within a distinct geographical core stretching back more than 1,200 years; a ruling dynasty more than 350 years old whose legitimacy is based on claimed descent from the Prophet Muhammad; religious homogeneity of 98 percent Sunni Islam; and a particular material and popular culture, modes of religious practice, and linguistic configuration, much of which stems from Morocco’s large Berber population (approximately 40 percent of the total) and heritage. Of course, these factors alone cannot be said to provide immunity to social and political upheaval. If anything, Tunisia and Egypt both possess an even greater degree of social and political cohesion, which did not prevent the latest revolutions there.
Is it the legitimacy provided by Morocco’s monarchical institution that explains the lack of a massive, popular uprising thus far? To even suggest so would have been ridiculed a generation ago. Morocco in the 1960s and 1970s was wracked by political instability and attempted coups d’état. But by the 1990s, Middle East monarchies began to be viewed in a more favorable light as resilient institutions that often functioned as vital social and political anchors in times of rapid change.[4] Moreover, the last years of Morocco’s late King Hassan’s 38-year reign (d. 1999) were marked by what he liked to call “homeopathic democracy,” namely, measured, incremental steps toward political liberalization. However numbingly slow, it eventually resulted in the ending of some of Morocco’s most notorious human rights abuses, an expansion of the space for civil society organizations, and an agreement by opposition political parties to reenter the political game.
Liberal circles hoped that Hassan’s son and successor, Mohammed VI, would move toward establishing a Spanish-style constitutional monarchy, à la King Juan Carlos. Although this did not occur, the new king moved quickly to make Morocco a significantly more relaxed place, politically, socially, and culturally by combining economic modernization, political liberalization, expanded social welfare, and a tolerant Islam that employed the tools of reason sanctioned by Islamic law on behalf of the general good. These measures stood in sharp contrast to the political stagnation and retrogression that marked the Tunisian and Egyptian political landscapes and, thus, set the stage for their 2011 revolutions.
Part of Mohammed VI’s ruling formula was to allow a certain degree of Islamist political activity. The Party for Justice and Development, an Islamist party that was first brought onto the scene by his father in 1997, was allowed to grow into one of the leading political parties in Morocco’s fragmented political system (no party holds more than 14 percent of the seats in parliament, rendering them malleable for co-option into coalition governments dominated by the palace). Another part of the new king’s strategy was to balance Islamist and conservative forces by strengthening the country’s liberal current. The centerpiece of his approach was the scrapping of the country’s long-standing, Islamic-based Personal Status Code in favor of a new family law in 2003-04, which brought women significantly closer to legal equality with men.[5] Liberalizing public life also included the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission, an unprecedented act in the region, which enabled public acknowledgment of the abuses committed by his father’s minions.[6] In addition, the palace embraced and legitimized the increasingly visible Amazigh (Berber) culture movement as an integral part of the Moroccan fabric.
Real power in the kingdom, however, stayed in the hands of the palace and its affiliate circles while parliament remained emasculated and political parties mainly competed for the patronage the king was willing to bestow. Moreover, the security forces’ response to the 2003 Casablanca suicide bombings and subsequent smaller incidents of homegrown terror called the regime’s professed commitment to human rights into question as did the incarceration of Sahrawi (Saharan) activists challenging Morocco’s control of the Western Sahara.[7] In addition, the country regressed in terms of press freedom and human rights. Finally, by the end of the decade, a new political party, Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), headed by one of the king’s close associates, Fouad Ali Himma, appeared on the scene, apparently being groomed for power and thus rendering empty the promise of genuine political liberalization. Alongside this, economic growth failed to reduce the high rate of unemployment while the illiteracy rate remained over 40 percent.[8]
The Challenge…
The events in Tunisia and Egypt at the beginning of 2011 were keenly watched in Morocco. Like-minded Facebook protest groups quickly sprang up among Morocco’s Internet-savvy, mostly politically unaffiliated twenty-something generation. Unlike their counterparts to the east, their target was not the “regime,” i.e., the monarch, but the corrupt elites who benefited from the existing state of affairs. A more poignant type of emulation came in the form of a number of self-immolations, following the lead of 26-year old Mohamed Bouazizi, whose ultimately fatal act triggered the overthrow of Tunisia’s president. At least two of these Moroccans died from their burns. Fadwa Laroui, a poverty-stricken, single mother of two who lost her shantytown home to builders, was unable to acquire government allocated land because as a single mother she was not “the head” of a household. She set herself on fire after repeated complaints to local officials proved useless and recorded her last words on a cell phone camera, which were later uploaded to YouTube. Would her sacrifice, she wondered, inspire people to “take a stand against injustice, corruption, and tyranny?”[9]
By mid-February, the atmosphere became increasingly charged, and the Moroccan protest movement gained a bit more form with the establishment of the “February 20th Movement,” a cross-section of young activists running the gamut from previously unaffiliated Facebook users, members of Amazigh associations and various leftist groups, to members of the officially banned but reluctantly tolerated Islamist movement, al-Adl wa’l-Ihsan (Justice and Benevolence). Its inaugural February 20 protests sent tens of thousands of demonstrators into the streets across the country[10] and were followed by smaller, ongoing, weekly protests. The atmosphere on that day was mostly festive as participants called for bringing the country’s political and moneyed elite to account: Prime Minister Abba al-Fassi, PAM’s Himma, and Mounir Majidi, the king’s private secretary, who oversees royal business interests, were particularly targeted with corruption allegations.[11] Amazigh activists, for their part, prominently displayed their movement’s flag and advocated full linguistic and cultural recognition within a genuinely democratic state. The most delicate subject, of course, was the king’s status; slogans calling for a “parliamentary monarchy” indicated that the protesters sought a clearer, more limited definition of the king’s sweeping powers in favor of their elected representatives.
…and Response
While mild compared to upheavals in the rest of the region, the February protests raised the specter of Morocco going down the same road as so many other Arab states and unnerved the authorities. From the beginning, and right through the first half of 2011, the government adopted a multi-pronged strategy: proactive measures designed to appease popular frustration with economic conditions (e.g., increasing state subsidies on basic goods, raising salaries for civil servants, promising government jobs for recent university graduates); proclaiming the right of peaceful protests to go forward while simultaneously working to discredit the protesters; and using occasional police violence to intimidate demonstrators.[12]
Most importantly, though, was Mohammed VI’s very public promise of sweeping reforms in an effort to quell the protests. Speaking to the nation on March 9, the king outlined what he called “a package of comprehensive constitutional amendments,” centering on the strengthening of the powers of the government and the parliament.[13] Details were to be worked out over the following three months by a blue-ribbon commission headed by 67-year old Abdellatif Mennouni, a constitutional law expert and veteran of Moroccan public affairs, with the changes to be submitted to the public for approval by referendum. In so doing, the palace gained control of the public discourse of reform, enabling it to manage it better and to contain the currents of unrest. Ironically, but not surprisingly, even as the proposed reform package trumpeted the strengthening of political institutions and the implied devolution of some powers by the monarchy, the political parties themselves were, as usual, relegated to secondary status: Their assigned role was essentially to endorse the final text after a brief consultation with the king’s advisers and then to offer revisions to the commission’s recommendations.
An analysis of the new constitution reveals that while the powers of the prime minister and parliament were somewhat enhanced—the prime minister would henceforth be called the president of the government and chosen from the party that won the greatest number of seats in parliament—preponderant power remained in the hands of the king. While no longer defined as “sacred,” he remained the amir al-mu’minin (commander of the faithful), both the religious and political head of the state, the symbol of the nation’s unity, guarantor of the state’s existence, supreme arbiter between institutions, and personally beyond reproach.
A comparison between the commission’s draft text[14] and the final version illustrates the thinking of those who want to transform Morocco into a more genuine constitutional monarchy with liberal democratic underpinnings and the obstacles they face. To be sure, the final version contained specific language emphasizing a commitment to an independent judiciary, the protection of human rights, and the ensuring of equality between women and men. Nonetheless, the commission’s draft was considerably more explicit in emphasizing liberal, universal values as underpinnings of the Moroccan state while downplaying the state’s Islamic and Arab components.
These initial, more liberal formulations were altered in the final version. For example, clause two of the draft preamble declared Morocco to be a “unitary sovereign state”; the final version[15] replaced “unitary” with “Muslim,” and the country’s Arab-Islamic heritage was now referred to explicitly. In the same vein, the final version of clause three now included the goal of “deepening the sense of belonging to the Arab-Islamic umma [nation].” Article three of both the draft and final versions declared that Islam is the religion of the state but the draft version included stronger language guaranteeing the protection of religious freedom for all faiths. Clause two of article 25 in the draft constitution that guaranteed the “freedom of conscience” was dropped entirely.
Similarly, with regard to the king’s powers and prerogatives, the draft text implied certain limitations that were removed or substantially altered in the final version. For example, the final version added an additional article at the very beginning of the section treating the king’s status, which restored the traditional emphasis on his being the religious as well as the political head of the community. As “commander of the faithful,” he remained in charge of ensuring respect for Islam and would preside over the Higher Council of Ulema (religious jurists), responsible for all religious rulings (fatwas). The king’s explicit right to dismiss government ministers, inserted in previous constitutions but not in the draft text of the new version, was also restored. Overall, the king would continue to be the supreme authority on just about everything of significance: defense, religion, government (he is officially the chairman of the Council of Ministers, with the prime minister filling that role only in his absence), justice (chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council) and security (president of a newly created National Security Council).[16]
Perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of the new Moroccan constitution was its explicit recognition of Tamazight, the language of the country’s Berber-speaking populations, as an official language. Moreover, it required the passage of an “organic law” to translate that status into reality in education and other spheres of public life. It further emphasized that the Amazigh people and culture constituted an integral component of Moroccan identity, which had been forged over the course of history alongside the Arab-Islamic and Saharan-Hassanian components and enriched along the way by African, Andalusian, Hebraic, and Mediterranean currents.[17]
To be sure, some Amazigh activists failed to be excited by the new constitution. The language equalizing the status of Tamazight and Arabic had been more forceful in the commission’s draft text. This confirmed their deeply-ingrained cynicism regarding the authorities’ true intentions. For these activists, the constitutional upgrade was just the latest in a series of the state’s pseudo-embrace of the Amazigh movement in order to co-opt and neutralize it.[18] Nonetheless, from a broader perspective, the institutionalization of Tamazight, along with the explicit recognition of Amazigh identity as central to the Moroccan historical and social fabric, was nothing short of historic. The demand for official recognition has been the central tenet of their movement for decades, ever since its inception.[19] Morocco would become the only North African state, and the only core Arab League member state, in which Arabic was not the sole official language.[20]
An Uncertain Future
Having been disseminated, the adoption of the new constitution was now fast-tracked to adoption via a nationwide referendum on July 1, 2011, just three weeks after its publication. The state mobilized considerable resources in its public campaign for a “Yes” vote and allowed almost no space, physical or in the media, for opponents of the new constitution. Not surprisingly, 98.5 percent of Moroccan voters (73 percent of those eligible) voted “Yes” according to official figures.[21] While these numbers were most likely inflated, they, nonetheless, indicate that the Moroccan authorities had for the time being gained control over the pace and manner of political change.
To conclude the process, nationwide parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for fall 2012, were moved up to November 25, 2011. Voter turnout in the last general election in 2007 had been only 37 percent, indicating a general apathy with the process. Whether or not this year’s election will produce more interest remains to be seen. As for the likely results, expectations are widespread that the elections will produce a coalition government led by a member of one of the parties traditionally close to the palace, such as the National Rally of Independents (RNI). Of course, under the new constitution, the RNI would first have to win the most votes in the election, but few observers expect the authorities to abjure traditional practices of influencing the vote-counting.
Despite these apparent moves toward reform, the February 20th Movement sought to reenergize itself with a new round of protests beginning in mid-September. It had, however, clearly lost steam. Internally, divisions between secular activists and the increasingly visible and assertive members of the Islamist al-Adl wa’l-Ihsan were taking their toll, affecting the capacity to mobilize. More generally, Moroccan society, with an eye on the upheavals elsewhere in the region and with the Algerian horrors of the 1990s still fresh in its mind, appeared reluctant to rock the boat too hard. The bombing of a popular café in Marrakesh in mid-April by Islamist terrorists[22] was, for many, a chilling reminder of the consequences of disorder and instability.
Overall, then, Morocco’s new constitution reflects the country’s dual and often contradictory nature—a hereditary, Islamic-based, absolute monarchy, ruling over a modernizing, multicultural, and politically pluralist social and political order. Mohammed VI has bought more time with his latest measures. But staying ahead of the rising curve of demands for more meaningful reform, which is likely to be based on some of the more potentially innovative language of the new constitution, will demand much skill and wisdom from the country’s political elite, beginning with the king himself.
Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, the Marcia Israel Principal Research Fellow at the Dayan Center of Tel Aviv University, is author of The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States (University of Texas Press, 2011) and co-editor of Contemporary Morocco: State, Politics and Society under Mohammed VI (Routledge, 2012).
[1] National Public Radio, July 1, 2011; Al-Ahram Weekly (Cairo), July 7-13, 2011.
[2] Aboubakr Jamai, “Morocco: After the ‘Benalization,’ the ‘Tunisation?'” bitterlemons-international, Jan. 27, 2011.
[3] Intifada (shaking off) is the term widely used in the Arab world for “uprising.”
[4] Joseph Kostiner, “Introduction,” in idem, ed., Middle Eastern Monarchies (Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner, 2000), pp. 1-12; Lisa Anderson, “Absolutism and the Resilience of Monarchy in the Middle East,” Political Science Quarterly, no. 1, 1991, pp. 1-25; Michael Herb, All in the Family: Absolutism, Revolution, and Democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies (Albany: SUNY Press, 1999), pp. 1-18; Owen H. Kirby, “Want Democracy? Get a King,” Middle East Quarterly, Dec. 2000, pp. 3-12.
[5] The Guardian (London), Oct. 12, 2003.
[6] For an account and critique of the process, see Susan Slymovics, The Performance of Human Rights in Morocco (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005).
[7] See, for example, “Morocco/Western Sahara,” Amnesty International, London, accessed Oct. 6, 2011.
[8] See Paul Rivlin, “Morocco’s Economy under Mohammed VI,” in Bruce Maddy-Weitzman and Daniel Zisenwine, eds., Contemporary Morocco: State, Politics and Society under Mohammed VI (London: Routledge, forthcoming 2011).
[9] Rachel Newcomb, “One Moroccan Woman’s Fiery Protest,” The Huffington Post, Feb. 28, 2011.
[10] BBC News, Feb. 20, 2011.
[11] The Economist (London), Feb. 24, 2011.
[12] Al-Arabiya News (Dubai), May 16, 2011; “A Brave Feb. 20 Young Woman Featuring Selma Maarouf,” Moroccans for Change, May 16, 2011.
[13] The New York Times, July 20, 2011.
[14] The text has not been published; the author obtained a copy from a commission member.
[15] For the French-language text of the new constitution, see Sidi Slimane City.com, Morocco, June 19, 2011.
[16] Ali Mrabat, “La nouvelle constitution octroie de nouveaux pouvoirs au roi,” Demain online, Oct. 7, 2011.
[17] Jewish Telegraphic Agency (New York), July 6, 2011; Arab Reform Bulletin, Carnegie Endowment, Washington, D.C., July 6, 2011.
[18] Interviews with various Moroccan Amazigh activists, Rabat, al-Hoceima, Nador, Sept. 2011.
[19] Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, “Morocco’s Berbers and Israel,” Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2011, pp. 79-85.
[20] Non-Arab Somalia and ethnically-divided Sudan (which has just seen a part of its territory secede), Djibouti, and the Comoros Islands are excluded from the notion of “core” Arab states but are, nevertheless, Arab League members.
[21] Al-Arabiya News, July 2, 2011.
[22] The Guardian, Apr. 28, 2011.
Related Topics: North Africa | Bruce Maddy-Weitzman | Winter 2012 MEQ To receive the full, printed version of the Middle East Quarterly, please see details about an affordable subscription. This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

here is an analysis of something that works in the Muslim world. Repression light. it’s an improvement over the hard core real deal.


Some good news from Morocco. Parliamentry Democracy with Islam? It has never worked before.

June 20, 2011

Morocco is an interesting place. Beautiful women and an interesting culture. There is a lot more to their customs then just Islam. it is sad to note how many 911 suicide sky jackers were from Morocco… but I think this country has a European sensibility… or at least it did 50 years ago. At the very least it was a great place for Beatnics to pray on young boys.  eh… “WHAT COULD GO WRONG?”
Morocco achieved all of the goals of the protests of the so- called Arab Spring without bloodshed or instability. What sets Morocco apart is the willingness of its far-seeing king, whose legitimacy is not disputed by pro-democracy protestors, to meet his people’s legitimate demands for freedom.

Political parties are united in support for the king’s proposed new constitution, except for the radical Islamists of Al Adl Wal Ihsanne and the Maoists of Annahj.
Morocco is fortunate in its history. Its struggle for independence was coupled with demand for the return from exile of its king in the 1953. Morocco became formally independent in 1956. Thus, for more than 50 years, Moroccans have celebrated what they call the “Revolution of the king and the people.” Unlike in other lands, the king can actually be a revolutionary figure.
But, still, the Moroccan example holds lessons for other Arab lands. Rulers can either lead their people to democracy or get shoved aside by reformers. They can either live to be loved by their people or, like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, loathed and exiled.
With any luck, the July referendum on the new constitution will determine more than just the future of Morocco. via hudson-ny.org and image via telegraph.co.uk


Mr. Burns Explains U.S. Middle East Policy

March 23, 2011


UPDATED… Hillary decided not to resign…, but what is the chance of Obama winning another election?
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns

For a comprehensive statement of current U.S. Middle East policy you can’t do better than the testimony of Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns at the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on March 17, 2011.

It’s horrifying. Here’s my summary of the key point:

The United States will press for political reform and urge governments to talk to the opposition in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia. The United States will NOT press for political reform or urge governments to talk to the opposition in the Gaza Strip, Iran, Lebanon, Sudan, and Syria.

What do the governments in the first paragraph have in common? They have been friendly to the United States.
What do the governments in the second paragraph have in common? They are currently unfriendly to the United States.
In other words, the policy is to pressure your friends (they become weaker); engage your enemies (they become stronger). It is the exact opposite of what U.S. policy should be at this time.
There is a carefully thought out rationale for this policy. It is this:
If relatively moderate countries open their political process (even if it gives Islamists a chance to take power), they will become stronger and less likely to have radical revolutions. Their success will then show that the radical regimes have failed and everyone will see democracy works better. So the radicals will all decide to become moderate or be overthrown by their own people.
The above paragraph is not a joke or satire. This idea is very clearly expressed in the testimony and in other administration statements. This is a historical theme in U.S. foreign policy.
For example, this was precisely the idea regarding the Palestinians. The United States and others would pour money into the West Bank, making the Palestinian Authority a success. Meanwhile, Gaza would sink into stagnation and the people there would want to have a good life, like those on the West Bank.
Of course, the Obama Administration then pressed Israel to drop the sanctions and pumped money (indirectly) into the Gaza Strip.
What else is wrong with this policy? A lot, but briefly:
– It ignores the fact that radical dictators will kill people to stay in power.
– Reform can do more to weaken regimes than the subversion of radical oppositionists.
– Ideology is a powerful factor sometimes transcending material well-being.
– The radicals think they’re winning so why should they change? The moderates think they’re losing and are more likely to change sides or appease the radicals.
– Radical nationalists or Islamists can use the opening in politics to win power and then transform the state into an aggressive, anti-American country. To some extent, this is what happened in Iran.
A more realistic U.S. government would have put some tough language into Burns’ testimony to cover itself by saying, for example, that it would back the democratic opposition in Iran. But the Obama administration is so ideologically blinded and has been given such a free pass by the mass media that it doesn’t realize how obviously far-out it behaves.
In giving this testimony — and this is only my opinion — Burns must have been the most horrified person in the Senate hearing room. After all, not only is he the highest-ranking career person in the State Department, he’s also a veteran of three decades of policymaking on the Middle East.
Much of what he said — expressing U.S. (i.e., White House) policy runs directly counter to everything he’s believed, advocated, and implemented in his career. Let’s go through it in detail, keeping in mind that Burns is just President Barack Obama’s messenger here.
His testimony expresses wild enthusiasm for recent Arab political upheavals. There’s no hint about throwing out a 32-year-old alliance with Egypt’s regime. Nor is there any whisper of an Islamist threat (no mention of Islamism or of the Muslim Brotherhood), or of an Iranian strategic threat (except for a phrase at the very end), much less from the radicalism of the Syrian regime, Hamas, and Hizballah. There’s no mention of Turkey’s change of sides or of any strategic problems whatsoever.
In a competent administration, if only to cover itself, the testimony would have included real warnings; reservations; strategic considerations; concerns over protecting U.S. interests, stress on the need to maintain U.S. leadership and credibility; and the importance of helping allies protect themselves.
Instead we get this community organizer-style rhetoric:

“The revolutions…are about the brave, proud, and determined people of Arab societies, intent upon better governance and more economic opportunities, intent upon erasing the disconnect between the rulers and the ruled that for so long has been so stifling for so many. And they’re about the universal values that the President spoke about two years ago in Cairo–the right of peaceful assembly, freedom of speech, and the right to determine one’s own destiny….”
“It is a moment of great possibility for American policy and help; a moment when the peaceful, homegrown, non-ideological movement surging out of Tahrir Square offers a powerful repudiation of al-Qaida’s false narrative that violence and extremism are the only ways to effect change.”

Here we see another administration theme: America’s only enemy is a tiny group called al-Qaida. America’s enemy is not revolutionary Islamism, which already controls entire countries and animates movements that mobilize millions of people.
Strange, but neither al-Qaida nor any other radical Islamist force (Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hizballah, the Taliban, the Iraqi insurgents, or the Muslim Brotherhoods, as well as al-Qaida) seem the least bit worried about these upheavals. Perhaps the Obama Administration’s naive ideologues understand these things better than those who actually are Muslims, Arabs, speak the languages, and live in the Middle East.
Here is about all the lip service Burns’ testimony gives to the risks of Obama policy:

“But it is also a moment of considerable risk, because there is nothing automatic or foreordained about the success of such transitions. Helping to get them right is as important a challenge for American foreign policy as any we have faced since the end of the Cold War.”

“Helping to get them right!” Aside from being ungrammatical, do you think the Obama Administration is going to be able to help make Egypt into a moderate, stable, wealthy, happy, democratic state?
But there’s more. The administration’s policy then goes on to discredit the “war on terrorism” and battle with Islamism:

“The long-held conceit of many Arab leaders was that there were really only two political choices — the autocrats you know or the Islamic extremists you fear. That provided a convenient rationale for blocking real political outlets or broadened participation, and it ultimately produced the spontaneous combustion of Tahrir Square.”

But doesn’t that remain to be seen? That “spontaneous” combustion including a lot of anti-American far leftists and Muslim Brotherhood cadre. Those Arab leaders haven’t yet been proven wrong.
Imagine for the moment that you are a Saudi or Jordanian leader reading this. What would you say to the Obama Administration?:
You think the “Islamic extremists” are a mirage? You think Iran and its power is a conceit? Have you seen how many people were killed in Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan in such internal conflicts? They want to kill us as well. You Americans are idiots! Why should we pay attention to you?
Burns continues with phrases like “remarkable sense of public empowerment” and “a communications revolution that stripped governments of their old monopoly on the flow of information, made people more aware of what others had in other societies that they didn’t, and helped them mobilize without central leadership or conventional political organizations.”
Let’s be frank here: the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt succeeded for one reason ultimately — that the armies supported them. They failed in Iran, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and elsewhere because the security forces supported the regime. Let’s not get carried away with “public empowerment” and Facebook as the twenty-first century equivalent of Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book!
Burns continues with a lecture on political theory:

“Political systems and leaderships that fail to respond to the legitimate aspirations of their people become more brittle, not more stable. Popular pressures to realize universal values will take different shapes in different societies, but no society is immune from them. Political systems are a little like bicycles — unless they’re peddled forward, they tend to fall over.”

You see, weakening a friendly regime is always good! Change is always good! The people always want to realize “universal values” and merely do so in different ways (terrorism perhaps?).
Nobody could possibly be a radical nationalist, an Islamist, a militant anti-American or antisemite. They all want what Americans want. And unless you give the masses what they want, you fall from power, so you better give them what they want. It’s just a matter of negotiating the surrender terms.
There’s no way that Burns could really believe this stuff after three decades’ work on the Middle East.
He even calls this maxim an “inconvenient truth,” a reference to former Vice-President Al Gore’s global warming film. Yet despite Burns’ expression of guilt that past U.S. policy failed to recognize this building explosion of reformism and rebellion, the actual history of that policy shows something different. I participated in discussions with U.S. policymakers starting in the 1980s about the new generation, demographic shift, failure of Arab regimes, and other such factors. They weren’t so ignorant at all but understood the dangers involved, too.
Most obviously, there were attempts by President George W. Bush’s administration to push reform. But the current administration can’t say anything nice about its predecessor. And what about President Jimmy Carter’s push on democracy and human rights, including pressure on Iran’s shah to do precisely what the administration wants Arab leaders to do now? Oops. Better not mention that precedent or president.
But there’s more kumbaya babble instead of national interests’ diplomacy here. Burns says:

“It is in our long-term interest to support the emergence of more transparent and more responsive governments, who will ultimately make stronger and more stable partners….”

While he admits that “the short-term is likely to be pretty complicated and unsettling” Burns is basically saying that nothing can go wrong.
He refers to “a danger of authoritarian retrenchment….” In other words, the region can go “back” to a Mubarak-style regime. But how about change leading to a brand new type of totalitarianism like what happened in Iran?
Remember, no administration official can say the word “Islamism.” So instead Burns refers to how “predatory extremists” might take advantage of the situation, as if these are burglars rather than movements with an attractive ideology and mass base far stronger than the Facebook crowd.
Burns names “economic stagnation” and failure to improve people’s lives as factors which might help these unnamed extremists take over. Burns then makes solving these problems sound easy. “We can help produce private sector jobs desperately needed to keep pace with demography and expectations.” Really? They can’t even do that in America!
It’s all very well to say that an “independent media to hold people accountable” is absolutely necessary. But the media is likely to be highly partisan and often controlled by radicals.
Here’s my favorite sentence:

“Popularly elected governments sometimes taking sharper issue with American policies than their autocratic predecessors did, and elections sometimes producing uncomfortable results.”

You mean like Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hizballah in Lebanon? Might the “uncomfortable results” include throwing out U.S. bases, sponsoring terrorism, starting wars, promoting hysterical anti-Americanism, little things like that?
Yet what is most shocking of all in the new American policy is the failure even to mention support for democratic movements against the governments of Iran and Syria. Democratic reform is presented as managing the collapse of America’s Arab friends rather than an American asset to use against those who are both its enemies and the enemies of freedom.
How can the U.S. government make promoting democracy its main priority without even mentioning the idea of vigorously promoting democracy in Iran or Syria or supporting the oppositions in those countries? Why does the Obama Administration engage its enemies (Syria, Hizballah, and even the Taliban) and enrage its friends?
This is a policy that supports “serious political reform” and dialogue with the opposition only in countries friendly to the United States! Have they thought about what this means: Jordan’s government being pushed into a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian Authority pressed to set up a coalition with Hamas?
Only at the very end of Burns’ testimony, briefly and as an afterthought, comes the stuff that used to be U.S. Middle East policy before the triumph of Facebook democracy:

“Regional security: strengthening ties to the GCC states; in fighting terrorism; in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons and setting off a catastrophic regional arms race; in not losing sight of Iraq’s own crucial democratic transition and reintegration into the Arab world.”

Oh yes, almost forgot about that obsolete stuff. Is Burns’ statement the best America — the best even Obama — can do as the Middle East burns?
Perhaps Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decided to resign after reading Burns’ draft testimony. I sure would have done so if I were her.


About the author,


Barry Rubin is Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His books include Islamic Fundamentalists in Egyptian Politics and The Muslim Brotherhood (Palgrave-Macmillan); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East, a study of Arab reform movements (Wiley). GLORIA Center site: http://www.gloria-center.org His blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

Every analyst loves the day when policymakers and national leaders start echoing precisely what he’s been writing for weeks, months, and years. In this case, unfortunately, it’s about bad things happening.

Read this article in the new mainstream, establishment Internet newspaper, The Daily,  interviewing people around Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Insiders love to give  anonymous quotes about what’s really going on within government, especially when they see the water rising up to the top of the portholes (the ship is sinking, echoing the Titanic imagery of this article’s title); they are horrified by what’s happening; and they see a catastrophe they don’t want to be associated with (read: blamed for).

Guess what? They’re saying that President Barack Obama and most of his team are dangerously incompetent and ideologically deluded–“amateur night” is one memorable phrase used. This is what I’ve been warning about since the summer of 2008 and pointing out in detail since January 20, 2009, on a daily basis.

I’m not writing this article for the purpose of saying I told you so, Well, okay, yes, I’m doing that also since it’s one of the few pleasures of my craft. But what’s most important is that there’s no excuse now for anyone failing to understand that this is true.

Most of what I have written is based on material available with some understanding of the issues, good judgment, and serious research. Yet the most basic points have been missed by those far higher paid (that doesn’t say much), with big budgets (ditto), large staffs (ditto), and the prestige that opens doors (ditto).

The main reason I’m writing this article is to declare, solemnly and seriously, that as of now, March 2011, nobody can say that they didn’t know the U.S. government is set on a disastrous course internationally, throwing away American credibility, subverting U.S. allies, and helping America’s foes (and the enemies of democracy and freedom).

This is not a matter of liberal and conservative or of Democrat and Republican. It is a national emergency. One can only hope that those within the government bureaucracy, Congress, the media, opinionmakers, and the general public (also known as: voters) wake up right now this minute and take appropriate action.

The alarm bell is going off in your ears.


The Expulsion of the Jews from Muslim Countries, 1920-1970: A History of Ongoing Cruelty and Discrimination

November 5, 2010
Yemenite Jews in Yeshiva

Graduatesof Alliance Girl’s School,
Tetuan,Morocco, c. 1925
Paris,Bibliotheque et Archives de L’Alliance Israelite Universelle

Shmuel Trigano

  • Between 1920 and 1970, 900,000 Jews were expelled from Arab and other Muslim countries. The 1940s were a turning point in this tragedy; of those expelled, 600,000 settled in the new state of Israel, and 300,000 in France and the United States. Today, they and their descendents form the majority of the French Jewish community and a large part of Israel’s population.
  • In the countries that expelled Jews, a combination of six legal, economic, and political measures aimed at isolating Jews in society was instituted: denationalization; legal discrimination; isolation and sequestration; economic despoilment; socioeconomic discrimination; and pogroms or similar acts.
  • It is the custom to say that Zionism was responsible for this development. However, the region’s anti-Semitism would have developed even without the rise of the state of Israel because of Arab-Islamic nationalism, which resulted in xenophobia.
  • The fact that these events have been obscured has served in the campaign to delegitimize Israel, and therefore to a large extent, the same population that suffered this oppression. The fate of Palestinian refugees, their proclaimed innocence, and the injustice they endured form the main thrust of this delegitimization. The Jewish refugees have suffered more than the Palestinian refugees and undergone greater spoliations. However, they became citizens of the countries of refuge, especially Israel and France, while Palestinians were ostracized from the Arab nations.

Professor Trigano concludes:

The fact that these events have been obscured has served in the campaign to delegitimize Israel, and therefore to a large extent, the same population that suffered this oppression. The fate of Palestinian refugees, their proclaimed innocence, and the injustice they endured form the main thrust of this delegitimization.
About 600,000 of the Jews forced out of Islamic countries in those years attempted to reconstruct their life in Israel. They have suffered more than the Palestinian refugees and undergone greater spoliations.[2] They became citizens of the countries of refuge (Israel and France especially), while Palestinians were ostracized from the Arab nations. Unlike Israel, the Arab states have refused to integrate (Palestinian) refugees in the hopes of keeping hotbeds of conflict alive.
Today, 20 percent of Israeli citizens are Palestinian Arabs, while the few thousands of Jews still living in Arab and Muslim states (almost exclusively Iran, Morocco, Turkey, and Tunisia) are tiny quasi-dhimmi minorities, probably destined to disappear. Except in Turkey, they depend on a despotic or monarchic regime that needs them for specific interests in international politics. Since 1922, a Palestinian Arab state has already existed on the territory of Mandatory Palestine: Jordan, with 75 percent of its population Palestinian. The Palestinian Authority rules part of the remainder in what became “Cisjordania” after its annexation by Transjordan in 1948, which then became Jordan.
The Palestinians’ fate is mainly the result of the policy of their leadership, who have always rejected the further division of Mandatory Palestine (as proposed in 1937 and 1947). The creation of Transjordan in 1922 apparently was not sufficient. Arabs from Palestine were the allies of the five Arab states that attacked the newly created state of Israel: Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon, as well as the Arab League. Even today, both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas reject the division of the land, denying Israel its natural right to a national existence while defining Palestine as exclusively Arab and Islamic.
The Jewish people are a people with a long history – contrary to the Palestinians – and have the right of sovereignty in a land that has been the seat of three Jewish states since earliest antiquity. Zionism is the culmination of a process of self-determination, from a dominated nation in the Arab-Muslim world to an emancipated one within this world – that is, in the Middle East. There has been a population exchange. Israel’s “original sin” is a fiction. These are the historical and political facts on which Jewish discourse must be founded. It is time to take back the initiative and restore the Jewish narrative.

Read the whole thing
Prof. Shmuel Trigano is a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and professor of sociology at the University of Paris-Nanterre. He is director of the College of Jewish Studies at the Alliance Israélite Universelle, editor of Pardes, a journal of Jewish studies, editor of Controverses, a journal of ideas, and author of numerous books, especially on Jewish philosophy and Jewish political thought. Trigano is also the founder of L’Observatoire du Monde Juif, a research center on Jewish political life. www.shmuel-trigano.fr.

“Between 1920 and 1970, 900,000 Jews were expelled from Arab and other Muslim countries. The 1940s were a turning point in this tragedy; of those expelled, 600,000 settled in the new state of Israel, and 300,000 in France and the United States. Today, they and their descendents form the majority of the French Jewish community and a large part of Israel’s population.

In the countries that expelled Jews, a combination of six legal, economic, and political measures aimed at isolating Jews in society was instituted: denationalization; legal discrimination; isolation and sequestration; economic despoilment; socioeconomic discrimination; and pogroms or similar acts.
It is the custom to say that Zionism was responsible for this development. However, the region’s anti-Semitism would have developed even without the rise of the state of Israel because of Arab-Islamic nationalism, which resulted in xenophobia.

The fact that these events have been obscured has served in the campaign to delegitimize Israel, and therefore to a large extent, the same population that suffered this oppression. The fate of Palestinian refugees, their proclaimed innocence, and the injustice they endured form the main thrust of this delegitimization. The Jewish refugees have suffered more than the Palestinian refugees and undergone greater spoliations. However, they became citizens of the countries of refuge, especially Israel and France, while Palestinians were ostracized from the Arab nations.

Between 1920 and 1970, 900,000 Jews were expelled from Arab and other Muslim countries: from Morocco to Iran, from Turkey to Yemen, including places where they had lived for twenty centuries. The 1940s were a turning point in this tragedy; of those expelled, 600,000 settled in the new state of Israel, and 300,000 in France and Canada. Today, they and their descendants form the majority of the French Jewish community and a large part of Israel’s population.

How does one explain this exodus? It is the blind spot of contemporary political consciousness and an object of denial. There is not even an expression to name this major event. ‘The Forgotten Exodus’ is the most commonly used term. But it actually masks the nature and impact of this historical event. ‘Forgotten’ by whom, other than ideologues? ‘Exodus’ is an apt description of the situation but not of its causes, which the adjective ‘forgotten’ occults even more. For those who underwent the expulsion have not forgotten it at all. Moreover, it is also an important historical fact.

This is a major transnational phenomenon. Jewish communities were expelled either in their entirety or almost so. Communities of some significance remain in Iran, Turkey, Morocco, and Tunisia. All the countries that expelled Jews have one thing in common: they belong to Islam (including Turkey and Iran, which are not Arab countries). However, it is hard to view this exodus as a whole. It largely took place over a thirty-year period (1940-1970) and covered a huge geographical area, from Morocco to Iran, from Turkey to Yemen.

The ‘Statute of the Jews’

Nevertheless, if one compares the facts in the various countries[1] an identical model emerges: Jews were systematically expelled after a de facto ‘Statute of the Jews’ was instituted. A combination of six legal, economic, and political measures aimed at isolating Jews in society was instituted:

The Denationalization of the Jews

The Jews were isolated from their society by a legal process in many lands.

This was the preliminary stage of their exclusion, which was followed by expulsion. A number of legal measures in various countries illustrate this point.

In Egypt the most articulate evolution occurred. It began with the Treaty of Sèvres (1920), a peace treaty between the Allies and the Ottomans that dismembered the Ottoman Empire and opened the way to the further creation of Arab (and Israeli) states. It addressed the question of nationality in Egypt and can be considered the first infringement of the rights of autochthonous Jews. The notion of belonging to a race (article 105) rather than a nation was introduced, thereby dissociating Jews from the majority of the population of the country. The next step was the nationality laws of 1927 and 1929, which favored jus sanguinis (or right of blood). An Egyptian was from then on defined as somebody who had Arab-Muslim affiliation.

The London Convention (1936) granted Egypt independence under King Farouk, and it was followed by a worsening of the nationality laws. According to additional nationality laws (in 1950, 1951, 1953, and 1956), autochthonous Jews became stateless: 40,000 people were turned into ‘foreigners’ in their own country. In 1956, after the Sinai War, a new dimension was added: Egyptian nationality was taken away from anyone who committed acts in favor of enemy states or states with no relations with Egypt. In practice, all Jews were suspected of dual loyalty. This led ultimately to the accusation that all Jews were Zionists.

In Iraq, by the law of 9 May 1950, Jews who left Iraq were stripped of their nationality.

In Libya, the nationality laws of 12 June 1951 (art. 11, clause 27) decreed that the personal status of non-Muslims would be governed by their (religious) courts, in the manner of dhimmis during the premodern period. Jews were no longer allowed to vote or to hold political office.

Legal discrimination

A number of legal measures imposed restrictions on businesses and associations. Jewish communities and organizations were placed under supervision. Arabic became the sole language of public services.

In Libya, in 1953, Jews were subjected to restrictions and became victims of economic boycotts. The Maccabi sports club was forcibly opened to Arab members in 1954. A decree was issued on 9 May 1957 obliging Libyans with relatives in Israel to register at the Libyan boycott office, even though at that point, 90 percent of the Jews had already left. On 3 December 1958, Tripoli’s Jewish community ceased to be an independent entity. Thereafter it was overseen by a state-appointed commissioner. Legal exclusion worsened. In 1960, Jews were prohibited from acquiring new possessions. They were no longer allowed to vote, hold public office, or serve in the army or the police. On 2 April 1960, Alliance Israélite Universelle schools were closed.

Similar developments occurred in Lebanon. As early as 1947, Jewish students were expelled from Beirut University. Jewish ‘Zionist’ organizations (such as the Maccabi sports club) were forbidden. Jews were discharged from public service positions and Jewish youth movements banned.

In Iraq, Jewish history and Hebrew language instruction were prohibited in Jewish schools during the 1920s. Jews were expelled from public service and education in the 1930s. The Jewish schools’ curricula were censored in 1932.

In Iran, Zionist activities (differentiated from ‘Jewish’ activities) were banned in 1979. In 2000, discrimination developed in public service, universities, and public companies.

In Yemen, sharia law was instated in 1913, worsening the situation of the dhimmi. Decrees specifying forced conversion for orphans were issued between 1922 and 1928, while Jews were excluded from public service positions and the army.

In Syria, real estate purchase was prohibited to Jews in 1947, and Jews began to be discharged from public service positions. In 1967, Muslim principals were appointed to Jewish schools.

In Morocco, after independence in 1956, a process of Arabization of public services began, cutting the Jews off from the larger society. A dahir (decree) Moroccanizing Jewish charitable organizations was issued on 26 November 1958, endangering their freedom.

In Egypt, a long process of discrimination in the public service began in 1929. In 1945-1948, Jews were excluded from the public service. In 1947, Jewish schools were put under surveillance and forced to Arabize and Egyptianize their curricula. Community organizations were forced to submit their member lists to the Egyptian state after May 1948 and until 1950. In 1949, Jews were forbidden to live in the vicinity of King Farouk’s palaces.

In Tunisia, a law concerning Judaism (11 July 1958) put an end to Jewish communities, replaced them with temporary ‘Israelite worship commissions,’ and suppressed the personal status of the Jews (inherited from the dhimmi status, which obliged the Jews to depend on their religious tribunals for all matters related to their personal status). In Tunisia too, independence (1956) led to the Tunisification of public services.

Turkey under the Young Turks (1923-1945) created hard-labor battalions for non-Muslim conscripts in May 1941.

Isolation and sequestration

Administrative harassment pushed the Jews into a state of isolation: the refusal to deliver passports, holding families’ passports hostage, various boycotts by the Arab League, and interruption of postal relations with Israel created a difficult atmosphere. Jews became de facto prisoners.

For example, in July 1948, Iraq prohibited Jews from leaving the country.

By a new nationality law (12 June 1951), Libyan Jews were not allowed to have passports or Libyan nationality certificates, but only traveling documents whose renewal was not automatic. Postal relations with Israel were suspended in 1954, emigration to Israel was restricted, tourism to Israel banned.

Yemen prohibited Jews from leaving the country in 1949. Tunisia stopped postal relations with Israel in 1956. In 1973, Syria forbade Jews to communicate with people abroad. In Morocco too, starting in 1956 there were difficulties for Jews in obtaining passports (families were held hostage), and in 1958, postal relations with Israel were suppressed. In Iran it became difficult for Jews to obtain a passport starting in the 1980s. In Egypt, in the 1950s, passports were also taken away from people leaving the country. In June 1948, martial law banned Jews from leaving Egypt for Israel.

Economic despoilment

Jewish economic assets were also targeted. Their liquid assets, bank accounts, and property were submitted to sequestration and nationalization, held for ransom, and stolen when they departed.

In Turkey, capital taxation was imposed only on Jews in 1942. Iran confiscated Jewish possessions and real estate in 1979. Morocco held Jews, anxious to emigrate to Israel, for ransom in 1961, and the World Jewish Congress had to pay $250 for each Jew who was permitted to leave the country. In Tunisia, in 1961-1962, Jews who were leaving the country were allowed to take with them only one dinar (the equivalent today of three U.S. dollars). Yemen, in 1949, listed Jewish possessions and properties in order to hold them for ransom. In 1947, Syria discharged Jews from public service positions; in 1949, it seized Jewish financial assets.

Syria enacted a law to seize Jewish possessions (houses, estates, shops) in Aleppo and in Qamishli in April 1950, and to settle Palestinian refugees in Jewish quarters. From 1958 to 1961, Jews leaving the country were forced to transfer their possessions to the Syrian state and to pay considerable departure expenses. In 1960 and 1975, a Canadian Jewish sponsor paid a ransom to get people out of the country. In 1967, Jewish workers were fired in order to hire Palestinians, and Jewish doctors and pharmacists were laid off.

In Libya in 1961, Law #6 decreed that the possessions of Jews leaving for Israel be sequestrated. A general registrar was put in charge of liquidating them. In 1970, Jewish properties were confiscated.

In Iraq, considerable fines were imposed on wealthy Jews in July 1948, and in March 1951, the possessions of Jews leaving the country were frozen and the Jews were obliged to give up their citizenship.

In Egypt, in February 1949, the possessions of autochthonous Jews and those who were abroad were sequestrated.

Socioeconomic discrimination

Furthermore, the Jews suffered socioeconomic discrimination in Muslim and Arab countries. In some cases companies were made into cooperatives so that the Jewish entrepreneurs lost ownership.

In Iraq, the law of 12 January 1950 concerning bank control led to bankruptcy of stockbrokers, most of whom were Jewish.

Syria prohibited Jews from working in agriculture in February 1950.

In Libya, a ban against employing Jews in petroleum companies was instituted in the 1960s. Starting on 15 July 1961, a nationality certificate was required for every commercial action, but Jews could not obtain one.

In Morocco, starting in 1960, Jewish entrepreneurs and businessmen were obliged to have a Muslim partner.

The same development occurred in Tunisia in 1956: the national economy (industry and trade) became ‘cooperative,’ and Jewish entrepreneurs and businessmen were obliged to have a Muslim partner.

In Egypt in 1947, a law concerning companies decreed the Egyptianization of public and trade affairs: 75 percent of employees had to be ‘real’ Egyptians (Arabs or Muslims). It was, in fact, an Islamization of personnel so that the majority of Jews would lose their jobs.

In 1948, the Yemeni ruler Imam Ahmad obliged Jews to pass on their expertise in crafts and trade to Yemeni Arabs before leaving the country.

Pogroms and related events

A series of pogroms and related events, such as riots, arrests, murders of public figures, and destruction of synagogues, occurred while colonial powers and Arab state police looked on passively. That gave the Jews the signal that it was time to leave.

In Egypt, anti-British and anti-Semitic riots broke out in several towns on 2-3 November 1945. Massive arrests occurred on 14-16 May 1948; one thousand Jews were detained and accused of being Zionists. On 2 November 1948, riots and lootings took place in Cairo and on 26 January 1952, ‘black Saturday’ saw riots and acts of violence.

In Turkey, in June-July 1934, pogroms occurred in Thrace.

In Iraq, on 1-2 June 1941, in the Farhoud pogrom in Bagdad, 180 people were killed and 600 injured. In 1948, a wave of official anti-Jewish persecutions, including arrests and considerable fines, took place. Shafik Adass, a Jewish millionaire who was accused of selling surplus military stockpiles to Israel, was executed in September 1948. During 1949, Zionist-movement members were persecuted. Persecution also took place in Kurdistan in June 1950, when Jews were obliged to give up their possessions and houses. A synagogue was attacked in Baghdad on 14 June 1950; three people were killed and twenty injured.

In Libya, riots against those living in the Jewish quarters occurred in Tripoli in January 1945. Sixty percent of Jewish possessions were destroyed and 135 people were killed; soldiers acted as accomplices to the rioters. Jews were forced to evacuate. Jews in Hara, Tripoli, and Benghazi were put on remand. In 1948, there were more riots. An eighty-four-year-old Jewish leader, Halfalla Nahum, was murdered in Tripoli in 1963; during the summer of that year, other Jewish figures were attacked and injured. In 1967, riots broke out and ten people were killed. In 1969, an anti-Semitic campaign was initiated against the Jews, and Jewish cemeteries were razed in 1970. Sixty-four synagogues were destroyed in 1978, and seventy-eight synagogues were transformed into mosques, or, in the case of Benghazi, into Coptic churches.

In Lebanon, Jews were kidnapped and murdered during 1967. Following a series of kidnappings and murders of Jews, the murder of one of them, Dr. Albert Elia in September 1971, signaled to Jews that it was time to depart.

In Iran, a dramatic rise in anti-Semitism occurred in 1968. In 1979-1980,

Habib Elkanian, chairman of the Jewish community, was accused of Zionism. He and three other Jewish community figures, Avraham Brouhim, Albert Daniel, and Manotsar Kedochim, were executed.

In Syria, pogroms took place in several towns, synagogues were torched, and several hundred Jews were arrested in November 1947. The Almenasheh synagogue in Damascus was attacked on 5 August 1949; thirteen people were killed and thirty-two injured.

In Algeria, in 1929-1930, many incidents between Arab and Jews occurred in several towns in the Constantine area. On 5 August 1934, a pogrom in the name of jihad took place in Constantine. Twenty-seven people were killed, but the soldiers did not intervene. In 1957, there were murders in Oran and Medea; in March 1958, grenades in Boghari; and the day before Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement) in 1959, grenades in Bou Saada. The Algiers synagogue was ransacked on 12 December 1960. In 1961, the Oran Jewish cemetery was desecrated and famed musician Raymond Leyris was murdered in Constantine. On 2 September 1961, a Jew was murdered on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). In Oran, especially in the Jewish quarters, murders and massacres were perpetrated on 5 July 1962, the very day of Algerian independence.

In Tunisia in January 1952, riots occurred in the hara (ghetto) of Tunis, with one person killed. In 1956, attacks on Jews took place at night. The old Tunis Jewish cemetery was expropriated in 1957, and the great Tunis synagogue was destroyed in 1960. Violent acts were perpetrated after the Bizerte affair of July 1961, in which the Jews were accused of having fought alongside French troops during bloody clashes between Tunisian and French troops around the French military base. A wave of departures of Jews ensued (15,000 in 1961 and 10,000 in 1962, all to France). The Tunis Jewish quarter was plundered on 6 June 1967, and the great synagogue was ransacked. Jews were murdered in Djerba in 1982, and the Djerba synagogue was attacked on 11 April 2002.

In Morocco, the Jewish quarter of Fez was ransacked in 1912. In May 1938, pogroms occurred in Oujda (with four Jews killed) and Jerada (thirty-nine killed, thirty injured). On 7-8 June 1948, anti-Jewish riots took place in Oujda and Jerada, and on 3 August 1954, in Sidi Kassem-Petitjean (with six people killed). In January 1961, at the time of Nasser’s visit, during the ‘ten black days,’ there were twenty incidents in which police arrested and detained two hundred to three hundred Jews including twenty-five students. The kidnapping and forced conversion of a dozen young girls occurred in 1961-1962.

In Yemen, a series of riots and lootings took place in 1931 and 1947 (with eighty people killed). An accusation of ritual crime was leveled against the Jews in Sana’a in 1948.

All these events together created a massive complex of systematic – often gradual – discrimination. As a result of these abuses and violent acts, the Jewish communities were liquidated in two ways: expulsion, as in Egypt, Iraq, Libya, and Algeria, or exclusion, as in Tunisia after independence, Morocco (1956-1961), Syria-Lebanon (after 1947), Turkey (1923-1945), Yemen, and Iran (1950s and 1970s).

Causes

Anti-Semitism would have developed even without the existence of the state of Israel because of Arab-Islamic nationalism, which resulted in xenophobia. In the twentieth century, hostility toward Jews was spreading well before Israel’s creation: in Yemen, Syria, Mandatory Palestine, Turkey, and Algeria.

It is the custom to say that Zionism was responsible for this development. But Zionism is to be understood, in the worldview of the Islamic mind, in another perspective. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of intolerant Arab nationalism, long-dominated nations (such as the Armenians and the Jews) sought independence. This was understood by the Arab world as a rebellion not only against the new Arab nation-states but also against Islamic law, which puts non-Muslims in the inferior status of a dominated nation: the dhimmis.

Both the Armenians and the Jews were subjected to violent repression. The former were massacred by the Ottoman Empire in 1894-1895 – around 300,000 victims – and suffered a genocide – 1,200,000 victims – by the Turks in 1908. The latter in Mandatory Palestine suffered pogroms in 1920, 1929, 1936, and 1939. And the Jews in Muslim countries, as we have seen, were forced to leave. Hardly any Jews remain in the abovementioned countries, and the number of Christian Arabs is now dwindling in them as well.

The new Arab anti-Zionism contained classic anti-Semitic policies, as demonstrated by the ‘Statute of the Jews’ that could be compared to the Vichy Statute of the Jews, except that it developed over a long time, in a huge geographical area, and at different periods. Jews were accused of being coresponsible with Israel for the war that the Arab states declared against the new state and then lost. Regardless of their ideological affiliation – communist, nationalist, Zionist, religious, and so on – they were subjected to special laws specifically aimed at Jews. They were expelled from all Arab-Muslim countries because a collective responsibility was imputed to them. This is typical anti-Semitic reasoning.

The Jews from Arab-Muslim countries were powerless. They had no army. They did not take part in the conflict. They were not responsible for triggering hostilities between the Arab states and Israel. That the Yishuv, the quasi-Jewish state that developed in Mandatory Palestine, became a state according to the United Nations Partition Plan was not also responsible for the war except for the scandal of its existence. Instead, the cause of the situation was the intolerance and imperialism of the new Arab states: before these attained independence, there were indeed no such states. Before the Western colonial empires there was another Islamic colonial empire, the Ottoman one. Palestine never existed as a political or cultural entity. The new nation-states – Israel included – were a product of the Western colonial empires and all were ‘invented.’ Why were these Jews in Arab countries persecuted and expelled if not as a result of an anti-Semitic ideology and policy? It was a continuation of the traditional Islamic anti-Judaism but defined in reference to the symbol of the rebellion of the Jewish dhimmis: Zionism.

Toward a New Narrative

The fact that these events have been obscured has served in the campaign to delegitimize Israel, and therefore to a large extent, the same population that suffered this oppression. The fate of Palestinian refugees, their proclaimed innocence, and the injustice they endured form the main thrust of this delegitimization.

About 600,000 of the Jews forced out of Islamic countries in those years attempted to reconstruct their life in Israel. They have suffered more than the Palestinian refugees and undergone greater spoliations.[2] They became citizens of the countries of refuge (Israel and France especially), while Palestinians were ostracized from the Arab nations. Unlike Israel, the Arab states have refused to integrate (Palestinian) refugees in the hopes of keeping hotbeds of conflict alive.

Today, 20 percent of Israeli citizens are Palestinian Arabs, while the few thousands of Jews still living in Arab and Muslim states (almost exclusively Iran, Morocco, Turkey, and Tunisia) are tiny quasi-dhimmi minorities, probably destined to disappear. Except in Turkey, they depend on a despotic or monarchic regime that needs them for specific interests in international politics. Since 1922, a Palestinian Arab state has already existed on the territory of Mandatory Palestine: Jordan, with 75 percent of its population Palestinian. The Palestinian Authority rules part of the remainder in what became ‘Cisjordania’ after its annexation by Transjordan in 1948, which then became Jordan.

The Palestinians’ fate is mainly the result of the policy of their leadership, who have always rejected the further division of Mandatory Palestine (as proposed in 1937 and 1947). The creation of Transjordan in 1922 apparently was not sufficient. Arabs from Palestine were the allies of the five Arab states that attacked the newly created state of Israel: Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon, as well as the Arab League. Even today, both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas reject the division of the land, denying Israel its natural right to a national existence while defining Palestine as exclusively Arab and Islamic.

The Jewish people are a people with a long history – contrary to the Palestinians – and have the right of sovereignty in a land that has been the seat of three Jewish states since earliest antiquity. Zionism is the culmination of a process of self-determination, from a dominated nation in the Arab-Muslim world to an emancipated one within this world – that is, in the Middle East. There has been a population exchange. Israel’s ‘original sin’ is a fiction. These are the historical and political facts on which Jewish discourse must be founded. It is time to take back the initiative and restore the Jewish narrative.” (source)


Can You Handle The Truth?: Poll Shows The Shocking Reality of Arab Public Opinion [Article]

August 11, 2010

August 10, 2010

This is one of those stories about the Middle East that is totally amazing but not the least bit surprising. What, you ask, do I mean? From the standpoint of the way the region is portrayed in the West this information is incredible but if you understand the area it is exactly what you’d expect.
I’m referring here to the recent 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll conducted by Zogby International and the University of Maryland for the Brookings Institution. Note that this poll was only done in relatively moderate countries: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates,
Here are some of the main findings:
–Arab views “hopeful” about the Obama Administration policy in the Middle East declined from 51 to 16 percent between 2009 and 2010, while those “discouraged” rose from 15 to 63 percent. Why? Because while the Obama Administration tried to flatter Arabs and Muslims, go all-out to support the Palestinians, distanced themselves from Israel, and took other steps it was not deemed sufficient.
Nothing the United States did would persuade the audience because of such factors as: different ideologies and ambitions, clashes of interest, the filter of government and Islamist propaganda, and excessively high demands. While the populations are “discouraged” with the administration largely due to their radicalism, the regimes are unhappy with it because they feel the U.S. government isn’t strong enough in opposing such enemies as revolutionary Islamism and Iran.
Still, unless U.S. policy comes to resemble that of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or Jordan, many or most Arabs will continue to be bitter and angry.  Obama’s levels of support among Arabs are not that different from those of his predecessor.
–What about perceptions of threat? Same story. Those thinking Israel is a huge threat is at 88 percent (down slightly from 95 percent in 2008) showing that overall hostility just doesn’t go away. Do you think that any conceivable Israeli policy would change this fact?
Note that while it is would not be surprising if Arabs see Israel as an enemy generally or as being mean to the Palestinians, for Jordanians, Saudis, and Egyptians to describe Israel as the greatest threat to their own countries shows something beyond rational calculation is involved. The prevalent idea is that Israel wants to take over the Middle East or wipe out Islam or destroy the Arabs. This makes a lasting compromise, comprehensive, and friendly peace rather unlikely.
–What about the United States? Here, too, Obama’s efforts have failed. The idea that the United States is the other main threat to Arab countries and societies declined from 88 percent under George W. Bush at the end of his term to “only” 77 percent under Obama in 2010. Given the dramatic change in personality and policy this amounts to nothing.
–As for Iran being a threat, this view among the Arabs polled grew from 7 percent in 2008 to a “whopping” 13 in 2009 and then down to 10 percent in 2010. In other words, the Arab masses believe the United States is about eight times more of a threat than Iran. Indeed, if you add in those nine percent of the Arabs polled who view the United Kingdom as the real danger, 86 percent see Washington or London as the greatest threat to themselves. Again, the ruling elites have a different view but no wonder they are so cautious about opposing Iran or lining up with the United States.
–Asked which foreign leader they most admire, almost 70 percent name an Islamist or a supporter of that movement’s forces: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan (20), Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (13), Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (12), Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah (9), Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (7), Usama bin Ladin (6), and the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (2).
No relatively moderate Arab leader has any significant international following. And note that two non-Arab Middle Easterners (Erdogan and Ahmadinejad) score so high, showing a decline in Arab nationalism that would have been unthinkable during the 1950-2000 era.
Unfortunately, these and other findings reflect the realities of the Arabic-speaking world: the hegemony of radicalism among the masses, passionate hatred for Israel and the West, and lack of sympathy for democracy or liberalism. And the overall trend is to make things even worse, since there is so much positive feeling toward revolutionary Islamism rather than even militant Arab nationalism.
Presumably, of course, Saudis, Jordanians, Egyptians, and others would have expressed support for their own regimes, so this poll should not necessarily be read as implying support for revolution at home. Yet it certainly–like other such polls–indicates backing for terrorism, extremism, and anti-Westernism in regional terms.
The idea that appeasement, concessions, and flattery will make a big shift has been proven wrong in fact and practice, though no doubt the mythology that Obama has transformed America’s position in the region will persist among the very elites and “experts” who should know better. Indeed, this is precisely the way the poll was spun on its being released. The clear effort is to portray the problem as one of U.S. policy even under Obama being too friendly toward Israel, as if no other issue in the region existed.
If Arabs are so passionate in their belief that the United States and UK are a threat to their countries, support in large numbers the Islamist transformation of large parts of the region, think Israel is so profoundly dangerous, and are friendly toward an adventurous, expansionist Iranian regime, can someone possibly be so naive to think that bashing Israel or creating a non-Islamist Palestinian state is going to defuse that deeply and passionately held world view?
Yet this is precisely how the poll was spun by the Brookings Institution: as showing the United States wasn’t doing enough to distance itself from Israel. Forget about Islamism versus nationalism, poverty, inequality for women, corruption, repression, the war in Iraq, Iran’s nuclear weapons’ drive, nearly universal dictatorship, Kurds and Berbers,  the growing gap between the Arabic-speaking world and the West or even the faster-progressing states of Latin America and Asia, terroristic violence, and every other issue in the region. We are constantly told that the only thing of any importance is the Palestinian issue.
What are the Arabic-speaking world’s real problems?
–A failure of Arab statist dictatorships and Arab nationalist ideology which promised so much and delivered so little. The results include repression, corruption, and far lower living standards (except in low-population, high oil-production Gulf states) than might exist otherwise.
–A stifling traditional culture that clashes with modernity without finding some hybrid solution. This gives rise to the attractive slogan that “Islam is the solution” which promotes an effort to turn the clock back parallel to what happened in past Western societies (the Counter-Reformation, the post-1815 anti-democratic reaction, fascism) and Japan (the revival of feudal military ideology that led to Pearl Harbor).
–The regimes’ effort to use violence, scapegoating of the West and Israel, elements of Islamist ideology, and intransigence to win mass support. (Though when one sees the poll figures this is understandable.)
–Internal group conflicts among Sunni, Shia, and Kurds, among other group and regional quarrels.
–The failure to achieve fully integrated states which are sabotaged by pan-Arab and pan-Islamic doctrines.
This is only a partial list. Yet one thing is clear: whether by force or appeasement, seeking popularity or advertising for their own way of life, Western countries cannot solve these problems. The only solution is internal and it will take decades at best. What the West can do is to defend itself, help the most relatively moderate forces (both governments and mass opposition movements as in Lebanon and Iran), and stand up for its own values.
The worst thing it can do is to practice appeasement, a policy that seems to prove the radicals right about Western cowardice and admitted sinfulness, thus inspiring them to more aggression and a stronger popular base of support. Apology and retreat appears to confirm the dysfunctional revolutionary ideologies and favor the revolutionary forces. In the face of the radical advance and Western retreat, demoralized moderates rush to get good surrender terms or join the mob.
Transformation to something better can only come when Arabs and Iranians conclude that the revolutionary road doesn’t work and is wrong. Teaching them that it does work and that they are right to pursue it will lengthen the period of change and cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
As long as there is a huge gap between the actual Middle East and the fantasy Middle East so dear to many Western academics, journalists, and diplomats, the region will remain incomprehensible and Western policies will not engage with reality.

no she can’t handle the Truth