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Historian Avi Shlaim: Memoir of an Arab Jew

“By the time we arrived in Israel in the early 1950s, the Arabs were the enemy, and Arabic was considered the language of the enemy. I was hugely embarrassed when my father spoke to me in Arabic in the street in front of my friends because I internalized the values of my new society. Everything Arab was considered hostile, foreign, alien, and primitive. What I didn’t understand at the time is that we don’t choose our identity for ourselves. I had a clear identity when I arrived in Israel at age five: I was an Arab Jew. But our identities aren’t informed just by us or by forces that are benign, but sometimes by other forces that are not so benign, as in this case, Zionism. Zionism is about erasing my Arab Jewish identity and giving me a new identity as a new Israeli, with which I’ve never felt really comfortable with. At school, I learned a lot about Jewish history in Europe and about the Holocaust, but I was never told anything about the history of the Jews in the Arab lands. The Ameri
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