A British author from the silent generation traveled to explore a North African Muslim land, and he depicted eloquently a painful and heartbreaking scenes of extreme misery and frightening livelihood hardships that he witnessed first-hand behind the walls of a Jewish Mellah.
He related the classic falsehoods and stereotypes that had been circulating around the Jewish community — made-up stories which the fertile imagination of their Arab neighbors and European settlers had long promulgated.
Some 80 years later, a millennial Somali woman fled her war-torn Islamic country in search for freedom and prosperity and sought refuge in the capital of the civilized world. However, obsessed with Israel, she became the hot potato of the US political life inciting ferocious debates in newspapers and social media about her concealed anti-Semitism.
Rep.Ilhan Omar, the freshman congresswoman, seems to have brought along the old nasty anti-Semitic pandora box packed with the very prejudices and dark rumors that the British man had revealed with great pain and sorrow in a memorable essay.
That man is George Orwell and he wrote:
“When you go through the Jewish quarters you gather some idea of what the medieval ghettos were probably like. Under their Moorish rulers the Jews were only allowed to own land in certain restricted areas, and after centuries of this kind of treatment they have ceased to bother about overcrowding.
Many of the streets are a good deal less than six feet wide, the houses are completely windowless, and sore-eyed children cluster everywhere in unbelievable numbers, like clouds of flies. Down the centre of the street there is generally running a little river of urine.
In the bazaar huge families of Jews, all dressed in the long black robe and little black skull-cap, are working in dark fly-infested booths that look like caves. A carpenter sits cross-legged at a prehistoric lathe, turning chair-legs at lightning speed. He works the lathe with a bow in his right hand and guides the chisel with his left foot, and thanks to a lifetime of sitting in this position his left leg is warped out of shape. At his side his grandson, aged six, is already starting on the simpler parts of the job.
I was just passing the coppersmiths’ booths when somebody noticed that I was lighting a cigarette. Instantly, from the dark holes all round, there was a frenzied rush of Jews, many of them old grandfathers with flowing grey beards, all clamouring for a cigarette. Even a blind man somewhere at the back of one of the booths heard a rumour of cigarettes and came crawling out, groping in the air with his hand. In about a minute I had used up the whole packet. None of these people, I suppose, works less than 12 hours a day, and every one of them looks on a cigarette as a more or less impossible luxury.
As the Jews live in self-contained communities they follow the same trades as the Arabs, except for agriculture. Fruit-sellers, potters, silversmiths, blacksmiths, butchers, leather-workers, tailors,water-carriers, beggars, porters—whichever way you look you see nothing but Jews. As a matter of fact there are 13 thousand of them, all living in the space of a few acres. A good job Hitler isn’t here. Perhaps he is on his way, however. You hear the usual dark rumours about the Jews, not only from the Arabs but from the poorer Europeans.
‘Yes, MON VIEUX, they took my job away from me and gave it to a Jew. The Jews! They’re the real rulers of this country, you know. They’ve got all the money. They control the banks, finance—everything.’
‘But,’ I said, ‘isn’t it a fact that the average Jew is a labourer
working for about a penny an hour?’
‘Ah, that’s only for show! They’re all money-lenders really. They’re cunning, the Jews.’
In just the same way, a couple of hundred years ago, poor old women used to be burned for witchcraft when they could not even work enough magic to get themselves a square meal.”
Since I read George Orwell’s “Marrakech” — written in the 1930s with all what it alludes to this period that saw the ascendancy of xenophobia, antisemitism and authoritarian regimes — a couple of years ago, it caught my imagination; I kept coming back to it and reflecting on its melancholic aura and tragic imagery.
Orwell had drawn a vivid and detailed picture of Morocco of the interwar era in his essay (from where this appalling account about the Jewish quarter was extracted). It is a very touching piece, relevant, and worthy of musing; narrated by a wise pen and based on close observation.
However, we are witnessing the civilized world grapples again with the emergence of white nationalist and Islamist powers who overshadowed the ethos of the after World War One epoch, and they have put world peace on a slippery slope towards a new Dark Age.
I thought to myself that Jew-hatred episodes are like plague in human history: repetitive, cheap, and easy to contract, and it generates itself generously; everyone around can wear it and give it to others without losing the vitality, quantity, and magnitude of hatred, and it doesn’t go away until it damages a huge chunk of souls.
In Morocco, we still hear now and then people in popular neighborhoods insulting each other with formulas like “oh, you son of a Jew!,” or describing a tight-fisted woman as having a “Jewish blood in her veins” as if calling someone a Jew denotes the highest sense of disgust and revulsion one could evoke.
In Spain I heard some of them commonly ranting “judio—!” when slanging one another, and I came across signs of swastika scribbled on city walls, metro wagons, and under bridges.
Once I read along a pathway close to the famous Santiago Bernabéu Stadium: “pura raza blanca”( pure white race) graffitied over and over on the ground with white spray paint (kind of troubles one could face when walking with the head down). yet the laws in Europe are rigorous regarding anti semitism activities. …
In order to understand Rep.Ilhan Omar abominable comments vis-à-vis israel, one have to consider her background and childhood education. Somalia is deemed the second wahabi country after Saudi Arabia. Wahhabi antisemitism is a peerless one; it’s a deep and crude creed similar to oil underneath the sand dunes; it’s rigid and uncompromising like the heat of The Rub’ al Khali desert. However, it’s dull and tedious; unlike the otherwise clever and sophisticated antisemitism of the so-called moderate Islamist movements.
Wahabis’ hatred for the Jews is more worshipped and practiced rather intellectually through books of Tradition, commentaries of the Quran, and books of ‘Maghazis’ — a detailed chronicles of battles and incursions of the early days of Islam in Arabia.
Modern-day israel literally represents for them the Banu Nadir and Banu Qurayza’s Jewish tribes of Medina, whom the prophet Mohammed had fought and slaughtered. And while marrying one of their leaders’ daughter, Safiyya bint Huyayy, he executed her husband and her father, a long-time opponent of Muhammad, according to the authoritative Ibn Hisham’s biography of the prophet ( the revisionists scholars in the field of Islamic studies do not consider the Islamic Traditional account and literature valid or effective for luck of historical-critical method to examine the veracity of the historical records included within them.)
For the wahhabis (aka salafis) Jews are an “alien” entity that travels in time; the old ones who allegedly fought Mohammed in the 7th century CE are the same as today.
However, Wahabis are less engaged politically; they are concerned more with the historical “plots” of the Jews of Makkah and Medina against Islam, while Islamists of the political movements — who are familiar with the Western milieu, who drinks Starbucks beverages in the morning and adher pragmatically to Western values — are more obsessed over the Jews of Israel and the diaspora.
Omar shouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt. Pretending that she didn’t know what she was doing when she uttered her antisemitic statements as some of her backers claimed, is an excuse worse than the deed itself, for dealing with cynical Islamists from “The Children Are Innocent” perspective only pave the way for more provocation.
In my opinion, Rep.Omar can not be separated from the clever antisemitic sanctuary where Islamists dwell and seek protection — Islamophobia trench, nor from her wahhabi primitive and rudimental creed. She is therefore a microcosm that encapsulates the basic apolitical doctrines and ideals of Wahabism and the more elaborated political ideology of modern Islamism.