Memoir of a Jewish Arab: A Review of Massoud Hayoun, When We Were Arabs: A Jewish Family’s Forgotten History


In a time of resurgent populism and white nationalism in the West, Massoud Hayoun’s book When We Were Arabs: A Jewish Family’s Forgotten History is a daring and rejuvenating book. Massoud Hayoun is a young journalist based in Los Angeles who has worked for Al Jazeera English and Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown online while writing a weekly column on foreign affairs for Pacific Standard.

Written in the form of a historical memoir, Hayoun, who identifies himself as a Jewish Arab, traces his family history before and after World War II to illustrate how Jewish Arabs were maliciously separated from their societies and how their identities were used in a game of colonial domination. He argues that Jewish Arabs lived and worked alongside their Muslim and Christian Arab neighbors in relative peace until colonialism, white supremacy and Zionism disrupted Arab society and fractured it into various groups, which, among other things, separated the identity of Arab from Jew.

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