The Divergence of Judaism and Islam. Interdependence, Modernity, and Political Turmoil

(Joyce) #1

4 · Michael M. Laskier and Yaacov Lev

Jewry known as the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU). The Muslims
felt more at ease with the traditional Jews who shared lifestyles similar
to theirs. With the exception of their elites, ordinary Muslims usually re-
garded European schools as centers for antireligious influences. As Jews
distanced themselves from the Muslims through European education and
adapted to French, Spanish, Italian, and English cultures and languages,
acquiring whenever feasible foreign nationalities, tensions and mutual
distancing sharpened. For not only did Jews opt for emulating Europe,
they began to support European colonial penetration at the expense of
the national sovereignty or autonomy cherished by the Muslim majority.
Besides the problems of colonialism and nationalism aggravating Jewish-
Muslim relations adversely, two other factors figured significantly. One
was attributed to European fascist currents during the 1930s and 1940s
embraced by nationalist forces in the Arab world with long-range re-
percussions. Jews were held responsible for causing the world’s ills and
were depicted as parasites. The Palestinian-Jewish struggle in Palestine
that fueled anxieties in Middle Eastern/Maghrebi nationalist circles and
wider public opinion was the other factor. The accumulated tensions trig-
gered pogroms between November 1945 and June 1948. The upheavals
in Libya and Morocco and their victimized Jewish communities are clear
indications of these misfortunes.
Since the 1950s, the transition from colonial subservience to decoloni-
zation in the age of rising sovereign Arab nation-states hardly improved
relations. The Palestine question, the reality of Israel, and the broader
Arab-Israeli conflict often bore little relevance. This holds true for Cen-
tral Asia in recent times as Russian domination of Uzbekistan and other
parts of the region drew to a close. Arab nationalist leaders frequently ad-
vocated and implemented the notion of national homogeneity whereby
non-Muslim minorities were relegated to the status of “inauthentic”
members of the nation-states, not full-fledged nationals. For their part,
the Jews found it difficult to adjust to the postcolonial setting. Many
among the educated were weary of efforts in the nation-state to promote
cultural, linguistic, and political Arabization at the expense of European
culture, which they felt would inhibit social progress. They also feared
economic marginalization. All these factors hastened the process of Ali-
yah (migration to Israel) or relocation to Europe and the Americas.
The end of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-
first held some hope for a Judeo-Muslim entente in Israel, Palestine, and

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