Yehouda Shenhav, an associate professor of sociology and anthropology at Tel Aviv University, sets out to provide a social history of the Arab Jews, beginning in their countries of origin and following their settlement in Israel. The term “Arab Jews” for those Jews usually referred to as Mizrahim (Orientals), is used more by academics than by the individuals concerned or by politicians, and emphasizes the “Arabness” of these Jews and challenges the political division between Jews and Arabs. The book deals with the “discovery” of the Arab Jews and the encounter between them and the Zionist establishment and its emissaries. It also discusses issues related to Palestinians and Arab Jews, mainly population exchange, the refugee problem, and property reparations. Theoretical analysis and professional terminology abound, and reading will be difficult for those outside the discipline and not accustomed to postcolonial writings. Shenhav provides a challenging and very opinionated approach to the study of Jews from Arab countries, Zionist ideology and politics and intra-Jewish relations. Notes, bibliography, index.
Rachel Simon, a librarian at Princeton University, does research on Jews in the modern Middle East and North Africa, with special reference to Libya, Ottoman Empire, women, and education.