In this new history, French author Georges Bensoussan retells the story of what life was like for Jews in the Arab world since 1850. During the early years of this time, it was widely believed that Jewish life in Arab lands was peaceful. Jews were protected by law and suffered much less violence, persecution, and inequality. Bensoussan takes on this myth and looks back over the history of Jewish-Arab relations in Arab countries. He finds that there is little truth to the myth and forwards a nuanced history of interrelationship that is not only diverse, but deals with local differences in cultural, religious, and political practice. Bensoussan divides the work into sections that cover 1850 to the end of WWI, from 1919 to the eve of WWII and then from WWII to the establishment of Israel and the Arab Wars. A new afterword brings the history of Jewish and Arab relations into the present day. Bensoussan has determined that the history of Jews in Arab countries is a history of slowly disintegrating relationships, increasing tension, violence, and persecution.
Part One: The Gradual Erosion of Tradition, 1850 – 1914
1. "Barbaric Lands"
3. From the Enlightenment to the Alliance
4. Jewish "Subjects"
Part Two: The Disintegration of a World, 1914 – 1975
Section One: The Echo of the Great War, 1914 – 1939
5. "A New Jewish Man"?
6. Between Europeans and Arabs: Finding a Space?
7. The 1930s: Years of Tension
8. A Turn for the Worse
Section Two: Shock and Collapse, 1939 – 1975
9. In the Wake of War, 1939 – 1945
10. The Turning Point, 1945 – 1949
11. Captive Communities: From 1948 to the 1960s
13. The Final Act
There have been a number of attempts to tell this story in historiographically sound ways, and to show that the common 'narrative' of the tolerant Arab world and the relatively peaceful existence of the Jews in its midst is historically inaccurate. These attempts have not had much success in changing the common perception of the story of the Jews in the Arab countries. Georges Bensoussan's contribution to this discussion is probably the most comprehensive and most important to date. The story he tells is compelling, enormously rich, and well documented.
Elhanan Yakira, author of Post-Zionism, Post-Holocaust: Three Essays on Denial, Forgetting, and the Delegitimation of Israel>