Too often I have heard Arabs and Muslims blaming their problems on 'the Jews'. I think that these prejudices about Jews stem largely from the way Palestinians have been treated by Israel since 1947 (I will write about this subject in more detail in another post), and I still believe that Arab nationalism only became popular because of the Palestinian Diaspora, but so many Arabs talk about Jews as if all Jews are evil, and in some countries like Saudia Arabia, the demonization of Jews is bizarre. Even in Iraq, where Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived together in peace for thousands of years, to call an Iraqi a Jew is insulting, as in 'le tseer Yahoodi!' (don't be a Jew). But it's not just Arabs who do this. Americans also have stereotypes about Jews, as in 'I got Jewed' – meaning 'I got ripped off'. I cringe when I hear an Arab say that this war benefits 'the Jews', but it doesn't help when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says that the Iraq war was good for Israel. Many Arabs are unable to differentiate between Jews and Israelis, or between Israelis who fight for Palestinian rights and Israeli settlers who attack olive-harvesting Palestinian farmers or human rights workers who help Palestinians.
Not all Jews think or act alike, just as not all Arabs think or act alike. I am impressed with the Arab governments that have protected their Jewish citizens. Tunisia has gone to great lengths to ensure that their Jews are safe, and if Synagogues in Tunis are damaged, the Tunisian government repairs the Synagogue. During the holocaust when the King of Morocco was asked to supply a list of Jews in his country, his response was: 'We have no Jews in Morocco, only Moroccan citizens.'
Someone recently told me about a a mosque that sheltered Jews during the holocaust.
In an account written by Annette Herskovits (today she is a champion for Palestinian human rights) she says that Algerian Muslims hid many Jewish children in their mosques. One sad message that those Muslims distrubuted amongst themselves after the Nazis arrested many Jews went as follows:
"Yesterday at dawn, the Jews of Paris were arrested. The old, the women, and the children. In exile like ourselves, workers like ourselves. They are our brothers. Their children are like our own children. The one who encounters one of his children must give that child shelter and protection for as long as misfortune - or sorrow - lasts. Oh, man of my country, your heart is generous."
Making fun of simple minded people who have prejudged all Jews can be a dangerous thing to do, and maybe only a Jew can get away with it. Two years ago I saw this skit by Sacha Boren Cohen on the Ali G Show, and I think it's his funniest. He does a good job of making fun of people who have silly preconceived notions that all Jews are bad people. Every Arab should watch it. Notice that the audience in the video is American - the skit was filmed in Tuscon, Arizona. I don't think that everybody in that crowd really believe in 'throwing the Jew down the well'. I like to believe that most people in the audience, like most people who have seen this skit, were laughing at the satire itself, and don't actually agree with what Borat was singing. I guess this is the important question: who laughs at this skit because of the satire and who laughs or ponders it without laughing because they believe it has any truth to it?
Throw the Jew down the well...