A Mixed Account of Bahrain Jewish Life Confuses
Michael Slackman renders a mixed account of Jewish life in Bahrain, one so mixed that, in summation, it is confusing.
Slackman notes that Bahrain is different from other Muslim countries in the Middle East, where “anti-Semitism is often preached from government-controlled mosques and hating all Jews has become interchangeable with hating the state of Israel” – a surprisingly truthful and sympathetic statement.
Moreover, Saudi Arabia, in contrast, “has done nothing to preserve or even acknowledge that [Jews] once lived in the Arabian Peninsula;” whereas, Bahrain sustains an open Jewish community.
So far, these points support the opening paragraphs, in which Slackman calls the claim – “It’s O.K. to be Jewish in Bahrain” – “an understatement.”
But a quote from a Bahraini businessman who spouts classic anti-Semitic declarations about money and power weakens the case that Jewish life in Bahrain is better than OK.
In addition, though the Jewish cemetery has not been defaced, the lapsed synagogue has. The synagogue is lapsed because no religious life exists, but Mizrachi Jews are not known for their indifference toward Judaism.
Finally, a history professor at Bahrain University acknowledges that he is a friend of one of the 36 Jews in Bahrain explaining that “I don’t feel he is a Jew.” The remark, a veiled insult, suggests that even educated Bahrainis view their world through anti-Semitic lenses.
With such anti-Semitic ideas and perceptions, the argument that Jewish life in Bahrain is better than OK is hardly supportable.
Note: Slackman calls the Jews of Bahrain “Jewish Arabs,” a term that few Mizrachi Jews would embrace.
(Tags: Arab, Anti-Semitism, Jews)