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October 28, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9614

Egyptian Journalist On Jewish Wedding In Bahrain: The Jewish Citizens Of Arab Countries Are Loyal And Have Equal Rights; Pluralism Is A Source Of Social Strength, Not Weakness

October 28, 2021
Bahrain, Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 9614

In an article in the London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Egyptian journalist Suleiman Gouda writes with nostalgia about the Jewish presence that once existed in the Arab countries. Noting that Bahrain recently saw its first Jewish wedding in 52 years, he uses this as an opportunity to express his views on Jews from Arab countries, on normalization with Israel and on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mentioning that this wedding was momentous not only because it was the first Jewish wedding in Bahrain in over a century, but also because the groom was the son of Houda Noono, Bahrain's former ambassador in Washington, he states that Jews in high-ranking positions used to be a fairly common phenomenon in Arab countries. This is perfectly natural, he says, because Jews are citizens of these countries, no different from other citizens.   

According to Gouda, the reversal in the attitude towards the Jews in Arab countries was caused by Israel's policy, and that today there is confusion between a Jew, namely a follower of the monotheistic religion of Judaism, and an Israeli Jew, who espouses a political ideology that harms the rights of the Palestinian people. Stating that the true homeland of the Arab Jews is not Israel but rather the Arab countries in which they were born and raised, he contends that social pluralism is a source of strength and not a source of weakness.     

Gouda notes that the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco established diplomatic ties with Israel only after clarifying that this was meant to serve the Palestinian cause rather than harm it, and that they expected Israel to find a serious solution to this issue –- which may cause other Arab countries to establish ties with Israel.


The Jewish wedding in Bahrain (Source: Twitter.com/Hnonoo75, October 11, 2021)

The following are translated excerpts from the article:[1]

"A few days ago, several newspapers and news agencies reported on a Jewish wedding which took place in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, noting that it was the first event of its kind to take place there for over half a century. Moreover, the groom was the son of former Bahraini Ambassador to the U.S. Houda Nonoo, which generated media interest in the event. The reports on the event indicate that there is a degree of connection between the holding of the wedding the way it was held and the characteristics of the new phase in the relations between Manama and Tel Aviv, in which the two countries have exchanged ambassadors.

"In 2008-2013, when Houda Nonoo served as her country's ambassador in Washington, it seemed a little strange that the Bahraini Kingdom's ambassador in the world's greatest capital wasn't just a woman but  a Jewish woman. This isn't [really] strange, of course, for she is a Bahraini citizen first and foremost, before she is a Jew and an ambassador. But the events, the ideas, the views and the developments we have witnessed in this region [compel us to view] this event not as a natural fact but a rare and shining example.

"In the past, a Jew serving in a high-ranking position in an Arab country didn't provoke astonishment, as evident from the fact that the finance minister of Egypt before the 1952 revolution was the Jewish Joseph Cattaui Pasha, and this is just one example of many in pre-revolution Egypt. Not so long ago, Tunisia's minister of tourism was a Jew. So what exactly happened to make something that used to be an ordinary and natural part of our lives into something that is a source of amazement? What happened is Israel's behavior in the region and especially in Palestine. This was the main reason for the reversal, which created a confusion between simply being a Jew, a member of a monotheistic religion… and being an Israeli Jew, with a political ideology that permits unjustly [taking over] the land of another.

"[But] in the past year, Bahrain, the UAE, Sudan and Morocco established diplomatic relations with Israel, and there was hope – which still remains – that the government of Israel will understand this and respond to it [by adopting] a serious solution to the Palestinian issue. Only this will cause the train of establishing relations [with Israel] to proceed from the capitals of these four countries to a fifth and sixth [capital], and perhaps even  a tenth.

"Although the pronouncements of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett do not inspire much optimism, the governments of the four countries are likely to continue pressuring the Israelis to move towards a serious solution [to the Palestinian issue]… Upon the establishment of the relations, each of these four governments clarified, clearly and unequivocally, that [the establishment of relations] would serve the Palestinian cause and would in no way come at its expense!...

"The [last] Afghan Jew, Zablon Simintov, lived in the capital city of Kabul, but  when the Taliban government was established there he immediately decided to leave… Asked about this, he replied that he wasn't afraid of the Taliban but rather of ISIS, which carried out an attack at Kabul airport just before the Taliban came to power, in which many were killed, among them 13 Americans… [However,] his stated reason for leaving is not convincing. What better explains his departure is the declaration by the Taliban spokesman that his movement would establish [diplomatic] relations with every world capital, except Tel Aviv… Perhaps [Simintov] thought that the absence of diplomatic relations with Israel meant that the Taliban government would be antagonistic toward every Jew – which is illogical in itself, for we must distinguish between a Jew who is [just] a member of this monotheistic religion and an Israeli who wraps his religion in political ideology.

"Early this year there was talk in Baghdad about an Iraqi Jew, [the physician Dr.] Dhafer Fuad Eliyahu, who died in March [2021]. His death was an opportunity to renew the discussion on the Jews of Iraq, who today number a few dozen, at the most! The hope today is that they will not leave Iraq following Fuad's death… for they are Iraqi citizens with the same duties… and rights as all other Iraqis.

"This is exactly what the Taliban should have considered, not only with regard to Simintov, who has already left, thereby putting an end [to the Jewish presence in Afghanistan], but with respect to the members of every nationality… For [Afghanistan] always has enough room for everyone, without  exception on any basis. Citizenship is an umbrella which includes everyone, granting everyone an equal connection to the homeland, regardless of the differences at any [other] level.

"I say this inspired by the Jewish wedding in Bahrain, which sparked sorrow because it reminded the Bahrainis… of something they haven't heard in their country for the past half-century, and because it reminded us, the Arabs outside Bahrain, of something we must not ignore or forget! We must not forget that pluralism is a source of social strength, not a source of weakness or frailty. Had that one Afghan Jew remained in his country, where he had chosen to live, it would have added to the Taliban's credit rather than detracted from it. The same applies to [the Iraqi Jew] Dhafer Fuad, had he still been alive today, and to all other Jews in every Arab and Islamic country…

"I imagine that this is what Ambassador Nonoo thought when she decided to hold her son's wedding in his and her homeland, the homeland of all Bahraini Jews. Even if the wedding in Manama ended that evening, [its memory] will remain after that evening and continue to remind us that the homeland of the Arab Jew is the country where he grew up, and not Israel, and that his national loyalty is given to the place where he matured and his consciousness developed, and not to [Israel], where the monotheistic [Jewish] religion is jumbled together with the political ideology."

 

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 21, 2021.

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