Middle East Peace Talks

Over the past three decades as a trailblazing Jewish multicultural educator, I have been told that indigenous Middle Eastern Jews, like my family, are irrelevant to the Arab-Israel relationship and Middle East peace work – this despite the fact that we lived with side-by-side with Arabs and under Muslim rule for 1,300 years, and that culturally we are far more similar to Arabs than we are to Ashkenazim (Jews of Central and Eastern European heritage) – the latter of whom, with rare exception, get all the airtime on anything Jewish.

Jewish Education

Renee Dangoor, Miss Iraq, a prominent Iraqi Jew

I similarly have been told that Middle Eastern Jewish history, scholarly works, religious practice, cultural heritage, and political concerns are irrelevant for and optional to a “real” Jewish education – this despite the fact that Middle Eastern Jews predated Ashkenazim by thousands of years, and this despite the fact that Judaism originates in the Middle East, as do the Hebrew language, the Torah (Jewish Bible), the Talmud (rabbinical commentary on the Torah), the first yeshiboth (Jewish learning institutes), and every single one of the Jewish holidays that are celebrated by Jews worldwide.

Hacham Yosef Hayyim, the most revered Iraqi Jewish scholar

Hostility toward History

When I recently posted a couple simple and fun one-minute videos that told the origin story of the Jewish people in Mesopotamia, the land of today’s Iraq, the post received a spate of hostile comments by people clearly threatened by this simple assertion, because it unearths the fact that Jews are indigenous to the Middle East. Predictably, those threatened fell into two camps: 1) Arabs and 2) Asheknazim.

The Great Synagogue of Baghdad

Strange Bedfellows

Ironically, these two camps, who are typically in opposition to each other, have one shared and zelously-protected narrative that Jews are a European people – a narrative that is resolutely Euro-centric, white-washing, and ultimately, racist. Wondering why Middle East peace talks routinely fail? Look no further.

The Theater of Middle East Politics and Peace Talks

Salima Mourad, “The Voice of Iraq,” a prominent Iraqi Jew

As long as the theater of the Middle East borrows from, projects onto, and enacts scripts from European nations, contexts, and power dynamics; as long as this theater casts Jews as the white European colonizers and Arabs as the oppressed people of color; and as long as both Arab and Ashkenazi leaders conspire to shut up and shut out indigenous Middle Eastern Jews from the cast and crew, the stage of Middle East politics and peace talks will be rotten at the core, with racist ideology and practice, and therefore with hypocrisy, lies, and gaslighting – in brief, a cauldron of toxicity and uhealed trauma. And no peace can ever emerge from that.

So I ask again: Who benefits from silencing and erasing Middle Eastern Jews?

Learn through Music

Learn more about indigenous Middle Eastern Jews in my upcoming event, “Iraqi High Holiday Hits,” in which I will teach you my favorite Iraq prayers for R’shana (Rosh Hashana) and Kip’r (Yom Kippur). No knowledge of Hebrew or Judaism is needed for this event. You can be assured that I have decades of expertise teaching Eastern melodies to Western ears, and choosing sections of text that are easy and fast to break down, follow, and master! Register now to get the early bird discount, along with three gifts:

My book, The Flying Camel: Essays on Identity by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage
Free Album
Free Book
Store-Wide Discount

Become a Program Affiliate for 20% of Ticket Sales!

Organizations that share this event with their members will receive a special registration code with the option of either 1) giving members an extra 20% off ticket sales or 2) receiving 20% of ticket sales that come from that code. Find out more about becoming an affiliate by emailing me!