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North African Jewry in the Twentieth Century: The Jews of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria

Michael M. Laskier
Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 416
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    North African Jewry in the Twentieth Century
    Book Description:

    Before widescale emigration in the early 1960s, North Africa's Jewish communities were among the largest in the world. Without Jewish emigrants from North Africa, Israel's dynamic growth would simply not have occured. North African Jews, also called Maghribi, strengthed the new Israeli state through their settlements, often becoming the victims of Arab-Israeli conflicts and terrorist attacks. Their contribution and struggles are, in many ways, akin to the challenges emigrants from the former Soviet Union are currently encountering in Israel. Today, these North African Jewish communities are a vital force in Israeli society and politics as well as in France and Quebec. In the first major political history of North African Jewry, Michael Laskier paints a compelling picture of three Third World Jewish communities, tracing their exposure to modernization and their relations with the Muslims and the European settlers. Perhaps the most extraordinary feature of this volume is its astonishing array of primary sources. Laskier draws on a wide range of archives in Israel, Europe, and the United States and on personal interviews with former community leaders, Maghribi Zionists, and Jewish outsiders who lived and worked among North Africa's Jews to recreate the experiences and development of these communities.Among the subjects covered:--Jewish conditions before and during colonial penetration by the French and Spanish;--anti-Semitism in North Africa, as promoted both by European settlers and Maghribi nationalists;--the precarious position of Jews amidst the struggle between colonized Muslims and European colonialists;--the impact of pogroms in the 1930s and 1940s and the Vichy/Nazi menace;--internal Jewish communal struggles due to the conflict between the proponents of integration, and of emigration to other lands, and, later, the communal self-liquidiation process; - the role of clandestine organizations, such as the Mossad, in organizing for self-defense and illegal immigration; - and, more generally, the history of the North African `aliyaand Zionist activity from the beginning of the twentieth century onward.A unique and unprecedented study, Michael Laskier's work will stand as the definitive account of North African Jewry for some time.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6536-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    Few in-depth historical studies have been written heretofore on North African (Maghribi) Jewry which, at mid-century, numbered approximately five hundred thousand in Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria combined. The recent excellent studies that survey aspects of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish heritage include Norman A. Stillman’s following two books, published by The Jewish Publication Society of America:The Jews of Arab Lands(1979) andThe Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times(1991). Other important surveys include the voluminous work edited by Shmuel Ettinger, in Hebrew, entitledThe History of the Jews in the Muslim Countries(Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Center,...

  7. Part One Political Developments during the Years 1900–1948/49
    • Chapter 1 North African Jewry in the Twentieth Century: A Sociopolitical Analysis
      (pp. 23-54)

      In order to understand the sociopolitical factors and concerns of twentieth-century North African Jewry, several components are explored, the most important being: the political status of the Jews in the new colonial setting; the politics of education with emphasis on Morocco; the penetration of Zionism; and the conflict between local Zionists and their opponents.

      Colonial policies affecting Jews, particularly French policies, differed from one country to another. This was mainly true regarding the French citizenship question. On 24 October 1870, by virtue of the Crémieux Decree, the French government granted French citizenship status to Algerian Jewry, collectively, irrespective of the...

    • Chapter 2 Under Vichy and the Nazi-German Menace: The Jews of North Africa during the 1930s and 1940s
      (pp. 55-83)

      In June 1940, the Germans conquered France. They occupied most of the country and left the “unoccupied zone” to be administered by Field-Marshal Philippe Pétain at Vichy; the Vichy regime retained France’s overseas possessions. On 3 October 1940, the Vichy government enacted its first anti-Jewish law. At the end of March 1941, a special commission headed by Xavier Vallat, was created to deal with Jewish affairs. These developments seriously affected the situation of the Jews in French Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.¹

      Of the three important North African Jewish communities, the Algerian had the most to lose, in political status at...

    • Chapter 3 Zionism, Clandestine Emigration to Israel, and Its Impact on Muslim-Jewish Relations: The Case of Morocco, 1947–March 1949
      (pp. 84-114)

      The political events that preceded World War II intensified Maghribi Jewish political awareness, among Zionists and non-Zionists alike. When in May 1939 the British government published the White Paper, stipulating the restriction of Jewish emigration to Mandatory Palestine (mainly from Europe) to 10,000 per year for five years, Jewish educated opinion in Morocco and Tunisia expressed strong disapproval—regarding this move as the final betrayal of Britain’s obligations to the Jewish people under the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate. In Morocco, for instance,L’Avenir Illustréwarned in this connection, “[There] is no hope without Zionism…. The fast pace of anti-Jewish...

  8. Part Two Political Developments from the Late 1940s to the Early 1990s
    • Chapter 4 Emigration to Israel in the Shadow of Morocco’s Struggle for Independence, 1949–1956
      (pp. 117-157)

      As noted, beginning in 1948–49, France was one of the main centers for processing ʿaliya;Italy was another. At the time the Jewish Agency’s Immigration Department also opened one of its most important operations in Marseilles. Even prior to 1948–49, several major Jewish Agency and he-Ḥaluts (an apparatus responsible for training Zionist pioneer youths for life in Israel) branches were created in Paris or Marseilles, or in both regions. France served as a convenient center for the Mossad Le ʿAliya and the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem to maintain contact with ʿaliyaorganizations in Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. What...

    • Chapter 5 International Jewish Organizations and the ʿAliya from Morocco: The Early and Mid-1950s
      (pp. 158-185)

      We noted in chapter 1 that despite its generally anti-Zionist attitude until 1939, the outbreak of World War II, the German occupation of France in June 1940, and the rise of Vichy had a devastating impact on the AIU. It could no longer remain indifferent to Zionist goals. Under the presidency of René Cassin, a distinguished jurist and member of Charles de Gaulle’s government-in-exile, and the vice-presidency of Jules Braunschvig, the organization took a new position. Though it did not become Zionist-oriented, after the war the AIU spoke of the need for Jewish emigration to Palestine, and particularly of settling...

    • Chapter 6 The Self-Liquidation Process: Political Developments among Moroccan Jewry and the Emigration Factor
      (pp. 186-217)

      The inauguration of the new era of Moroccan independence was in the midst of political uncertainties. Still, for all that, and highlighting the instability and fluidity of the times, when Muḥammad V returned to Morocco, the Istiqlāl and the Parti Démocratique d’Indépendance (PDI) invited the Jews to demonstrate together with them. There was an exchange of receptions and speeches, and the Jews were addressed as Moroccan brothers and called upon to build the new Morocco together with the Muslims. In several cities, Jewish leaders were invited by the Istiqlāl or the PDI to officially join their ranks.¹

      Politically, the situation...

    • Chapter 7 The Israeli-Directed Self-Defense Underground and “Operation Yakhin”
      (pp. 218-253)

      Thus far, the discussion has focused on the behind-the-scenes political and tactical maneuvers exercised by Israel, the Jewish Agency, and the WJC to pressure Morocco to relax emigration restrictions. These were high-level talks that did not pertain to the Israeli emissaries, at least not until Alex Gatmon negotiated with the Moroccans over “Operation Yakhin,” or to the local Jewish activists involved with illegal actions. Moreover, “Operation Yakhin” of 1961–64 has been mentioned only too briefly. This chapter focuses on these aspects.

      We have already noted previously that the Israeli-directed North African underground—theMisgeret—was an elaborate and complex...

    • Chapter 8 Tunisia’s National Struggle and Tunisian Jewry: Jewish Anxieties, Muslim-Jewish Coexistence, and Emigration
      (pp. 254-286)

      As in other societies in the Middle East and North Africa, the expanding colonial presence in Tunisia alienated a growing segment of the indigenous elite. This included graduates of the orthodox Zitouna College and the privileged elements trained at Sadiqi College. Strong signs of dissatisfaction were evident during the 1920s and 1930s, with the emergence of the Destour party (1920) which sought a greater participatory role for Tunisian Muslims in the colonial administrative apparatus as well as increased civil liberties; the Tunisian labor movement (CGTT), established in 1924, which advocated improved social conditions for workers; and the secularly oriented Neo-Destour...

    • Chapter 9 From Internal Autonomy to Full Independence: The Post-Independence, Decolonization Era in Tunisia
      (pp. 287-309)

      Following the Mendès-France visit to Tunis, the general opinion prevailing at the Israeli embassy in Paris was that the Jews in Tunisia might now be compelled to yield their positions in the liberal professions and trade to Muslims. Furthermore, although the violence was hitherto largely directed against the French, the Jews could become victims.¹ Would segments of the population refrain from harming the Jews? Would the nationalists succeed in restraining their followers?

      As events unfolded, these speculations proved to be largely unfounded for the first two or three years of the decolonization process. Autonomy in 1955 led to full independence...

    • Chapter 10 Algeria’s Political and Social Struggle: Algerian Jewry’s Dilemmas
      (pp. 310-344)

      As in Morocco, Jewish population growth in Algeria was significant after the conquest of the country by the French. In 1830 there were only between 30,000 and 35,000 Jews whereas in 1881 the Jewish population climbed to 35,563, as compared to a European settler population of 432,252 and a Muslim community of 2,842,497. In 1931, however, the Jewish population reached 110,127 as compared to 850,279 Europeans and 5,593,045 Muslims. Based on the data, it is evident that between 1881 and 1931, the European population had augmented by 97 percent while the Muslim and Jewish populations had increased by 97 and...

  9. Conclusions
    (pp. 345-350)

    This work has highlighted the major developments in the Maghribi Jewish communities of this century. These conclusions may suggest some directions for future research.

    1. There can be no doubt that modern and secular education and the influence of European precolonial and colonial encroachment constituted major reformist agents in these communities. Though felt stronger in Algeria and Tunisia through the state, Protectorate, and other European schools to a greater extent than in Morocco, where the AIU emerged as the prime force, the three Jewish communities benefited from the type of Euro/French education that influenced their milieu from the latter half of...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 351-384)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 385-390)
  12. Index
    (pp. 391-400)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 401-401)