The institution of the United Nations Holocaust Remembrance Day and the UN outreach program to promote the worldwide teaching of the Holocaust is a dubious policy of this supra-national organization: Is the suffering of one people more significant than the suffering of another? Is the suffering of ethnic persecution a sound basis for universal morals?
Such programs are central to reinforcing the ideology of Jews as eternal victims. However, there are many aspects of Jewish history that are quite embarrassing to this view.
In this article I wish to point out Jewish complicity in colonialism. Although colonialism has been an ongoing source of guilt and reparations for the European powers, the complicity of Jews in colonialism is seldom mentioned. However, the reality is that, as so often in Jewish history, Jews came to play the role of middlemen between oppressive alien elites and the native population. This theme of Jewish history going back to the ancient world and is a prominent theme of historical anti-Semitism (see Separation and Its Discontents, Ch. 2, p. 31ff).
European colonization of North Africa
Jews had been living in North Africa for many centuries when Europeans expanded their toehold on the dark continent in the 19th century. Some Jewish communities trace their presence in North Africa from Roman times. The expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian peninsula in the late 15th century gave the local Jewish communities a demographic and economic boost, especially in Oran and Algiers. A lot of Jews kept their Iberian tongue (Ladino) as a lingua franca among themselves, similar to the function of Yiddish for their Eastern European brethren.
In 1830 the French occupied most of the coastal plains of modern day Algeria and gradually began to root their colonial occupation into local communities. Indigenous tribes supplied soldiers for auxiliary colonial troops called Harkis and the Jews were recruited as local officials. From 1845 rabbis from the French mainland were sent to local Jewish communities “to inculcate unconditional obedience to the laws, loyalty to France, and the obligation to defend it.” The French government granted Algerian Jews French citizenship in 1870, putting them on a par with the French colonists from the mainland.
During the 19th century most Jews in North Africa discarded local customs and clothing in favor of the French language, culture and dress. Their affiliation with French culture and power also brought Jews protection, as in Tunisia after 1855. After a legal dispute with the local Arab Prince about blasphemy, the French emperor Napoleon III intervened with a naval force in favor of the Jews. Jews were subsequently granted equal religious rights but more legal rights than locals: Jewish assessors were attached to criminal courts to provide input on the sentences incurred by Jews charged with crimes in order to safeguard a fair trial.
Jewish collusion with the French in the occupation of North Africa, ultimately encompassing Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, had also negative side-effects in regions which were not firmly in French control. In Morocco, which remained independent until the beginning of the 20th century, Jews were always targeted by the public when the French launched military campaigns against Morocco or other local powers defying French expansion. Jews were seen as traitors by the local population, which were deprived of the right to vote and were economically deprived in favor of French settlers and their Jewish henchmen.
In Algeria the number of French citizens reached 1.4 million in 1961 (13% of the total population), including 140,000 Jews (10% of all French citizens). Those settlers dominated public life in the big cities, enjoyed colonial privileges and were in control of the economy. Jews were often the middlemen between the French rulers and the local subjects, because they knew the country best. The local Muslim population resented French occupation, not in the least place by their display of cultural-religious power by erecting huge cathedrals and synagogues. The Algerian war of independence was an exceptionally brutal one with terrorism, torture and murder squads from both sides. It was been estimated that approximately 1,000,000 Algerians lost their lives in the struggle for independence.
The French in Algeria had the ruthless parachute general Massu and the OAS (Organisation de l’armée secret: Secret Army), which was ultimately suppressed by none other than De Gaulle. De Gaulle granted Algeria independence in 1962, which led to the exodus of French colonials (Pieds noirs: blackfeet) and their Jewish collaborators. In the newly founded Algerian republic, both Christians and Jews were excluded from Algerian citizenship in revenge for support for the French occupation.
Most Jews left Algeria for France but a substantial portion went to Israel, the post-colonial apartheid state in the Middle East. Israel was founded in 1948 by a Jewish settler-minority from Europe, which deposed the Arab majority by brutal expulsion. The remaining natives were politically disenfranchized and economically exploited, similar to the French occupation of Algeria. It was (and is) seen as an offspring of European colonial domination: for example, the Balfour Declaration of 1916 by the colonial power Britain, and the Israel’s siding with the colonial powers France and Great-Britain against Egypt during the Suez crisis in 1956.
The Six Day War of 1967 sealed the fate of most Jewish communities in North Africa as locals cracked down on them as a result of Israeli victory over Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The point here is that in the case of French colonialism and throughout their history, Jews have not only been victims but have also been deeply complicit in actions now viewed as morally repugnant by the international community. The fact that throughout the Western world Jews are seen only as victims is far more an indication of Jewish power to control their image than a reflection of historical reality.