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Fathom 21 | ‘Understanding the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa is the key to understanding the whole Middle East conflict’: an interview with Lyn Julius

Earlier this year Fathom’s Grant Goldberg interviewed Lyn Julius about her new book, Uprooted, which documents 3,000 years of Jewish civilisation in the Arab world and explains how and why that civilisation vanished in a single generation in the middle of the 20th century. Julius describes what brought Nazi Germany, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem into an alliance and how this impacted Jews in the Middle East and the formation of the State of Israel. 

Grant Goldberg: What prompted you to write the book?

Lyn Julius: I have a strong connection to the region. My parents arrived in Britain in 1950 as Iraqi-Jewish refugees, and throughout my childhood I was very conscious of the connection with Iraq, mainly because I still had family there. Conditions deteriorated for the remaining 3,000 Jews of Iraq after the 1967 Six-Day War and Israel’s defeat of the Arab countries. Saddam Hussein embarked on a reign of terror, executing nine Jews in Liberation Square in Baghdad. My grandparents were still in Iraq as well as various aunts and cousins and all were desperate to leave. The community’s telephones were cut off, their jobs were lost and their university entry blocked. Their very lives were in danger – some 50 Jews were arrested and never seen again.

I honestly think that understanding the Jews of the Middle East is the key to understanding the whole Middle East conflict. The way the Jews have been treated in Arab countries points to a major dysfunction in Arab society: the inability to tolerate anyone who is different from the mainstream, whether non-Sunni Muslims or minority non-Muslims.

I’ve been very involved in Harif, the UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, which I founded 13 years ago. As well as organising events to raise awareness of the history and culture of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, I’ve been blogging and writing. Eventually, I realised I had accumulated enough material for a book. READ MORE.