thanks for your great service to the Jewish Community all
over the world, I present to you my booklet.
Tribute to Elie Kedourie
Professor Shmuel Moreh
KEDOURIE, CBE., FBA 1926-1992
by Sylvia Kedourie
Philosophy, Politics. London, Portland-Oregon:
Frank Cass Publishers 1998, , 132 pp., ISBN 07146 4862
above title, by Sylvia Kedourie, is a collection of essays
published as a memorial for the fifth anniversary of the
untimely death in 1992 of the celebrated Orientalist and
scholar Prof. Elie Kedourie. He was Professor of Politics,
specialist in the History of the Middle East at the London
school of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the Founder
and Editor of the well-known journal Middle Eastern Studies
(1964), and the author and editor of many outstanding books
on the Middle East.
an old friend of Prof. Kedourie I feel an obligation to
write in memory of this great scholar and friend who was
proud of being a descendant of the glorious Jewry of Babylon.
It was after the Farhud (pogrom) of 1941, when I first met
Elie Kedourie. I used to accompany my elder brother Jacob
to Elies home in the old Jewish quarter in Baghdad.
The Oriental classical architecture of Elies huge
two storey-house with its square courtyard in its centre,
the cellar with its well and its conventional system of
ventilation was in sharp contrast to the new architecture
of our house in the Battawiyyin (a new mixed quarter outside
old Baghdad). These differences were striking and unforgettable.
The conventional Jewish family ties and religions values
were more observed in the old Jewish quarter than in the
new ones. This fact might illustrate why Prof. Elie Kedourie
was identified by some of his "Eurocentric colleagues"
as being "conservative, or reactionary, or right-wing."
reason for my accompanying my brother was that danger awaited
any Jewish child or young man who would dare to walk alone
in the streets, not only of Baghdad, but in the whole of
Iraq, especially through Muslim quarters. Already, before
the Farhud and the rise of Zionism, we were then indeed,
"victims of ideological tyranny " The persecution
of minorities in Iraq with the establishment of the national
regime, confirms Prof. Kedouries conclusion that "nationalism
is anti-individualist, despotic, racist, and violent."
brother was then a classmate of Elie Kedourle during their
primary and secondary studies at the Alliance Française
school and later on at the Shammash High School in Baghdad
in the late 1930s and 1940s. In these two schools
the French and then the English languages were, respectively,
the languages of instruction. This fact can shed light upon
Elies writing on the Farhud and his attitude towards
British policy in the Middle East after the disintegration
of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of national Arabic governments
in the Middle East.
decisive and traumatic pogrom against the Jews of Baghdad,
(June 1941), initiated by pro-Nazi Iraqi and Palestinian
elements (cf. Peter Robertss remark) who received
refuge in Iraq, was haunting Prof. Elie Kedouries
memory, and his generation. The Farhud became rooted in
the collective memory of the Jews of Iraq, yet he was the
first scholar to write about its scholarly researches on
the background of the Farhud and its repercussions. Nowadays
it is a well-known fact that the Farhud was the main reason
for the mass exodus of the Jews of Iraq during the 1950s.
His writings on this tragedy, together with Mr. Naim Kattan,
his colleague at the Alliance school in Baghdad, made European
and American scholars aware of this massacre which Arab
historians and writers deliberately ignored and about which
they kept conspiracy of silence.
and Jacob were the best pupils in their classes. They read
English, French and Arabic books extensively, and their
discussions and conversations spared nobody from their critical
and sarcastic comments and comic remarks. They criticised
various subjects including their teachers, their manners
and habitual remarks, their teaching methods and their friends.
Their history lessons, especially on Arab history and literature,
were the object of their parody. Their jokes were concentrated
upon police behavior towards the Jews, the Iraqi Government,
the Iraqi Parliament and the behaviour of its members; the
way in which laws were passed by its MPs while asleep, etc.
Later on, Elies articles, before and after their publication
in Baghdad newspa-pers, were discussed. Their discussions
were full of humour, sometimes with ironic, absurd and sharp
remarks mingled with high bursts of laughter or sardonic
smile, which even after some decades were observed by Oliver
Letwin in Prof. Kedouries conversations and writings.
One notable example that they would repeat was that of a
tribal chief M.P. who repudiated the censure of the traffic
police with the boast of thousands of tribal gunmen
at his disposal.
after the massive immigration to Israel, during what was
termed in Iraq as "the exchange of population",
i.e. the Jews of Iraq with the Palestinian refugees, did
we hear of Elie Kedouries renown. This exchange took
place after the 1948 War and the 1950-1951 Jewish mass immigration
of the Jews of Iraq to Israel. Although we lived in
tents in temporary camps we managed to study at the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem, and obtained our M.A. degrees.
I was sent by the Hebrew University to continue my studies
in Arabic literature at SOAS-University of London while
my brother Jacob decided to continue his studies at LSE.
By then, the defiance of Elie Kedouries Ph.D. degree
at Oxford supervised by Prof. Gibb had become a "venerated
legend of academic heroism" in Israel, especially among
his friends and admirers comprising mainly Iraqi Jews. Thus,
the first person to whom we would turn for advice on deciding
to study at the University of London was our good friend
Prof. Elie Kedourie. Our letter from Jerusalem to Elie was,
to our surprise, promptly answered with a positive reply.
Elie proved to be, as always, "a friend in deed".
Afterwards, our meetings with him and his wife Sylvia became
frequent. Our conversations were always in our Baghdadi
Jewish dialect in which we all enjoyed its folkloric humour
and special idioms.
am recounting all these reminiscences because what one feels
missing in this condensed and well-presented book, is the
testimony of one of his personal friends who studied
with him during his schooldays. This task others could do
better than I, such as his friends Dr. Jacob Moreh and Mr.
Nissim Dawood, both living in the U.K. However, this book
covers all aspects of Professor Elie Kedouries personal
and university life, i.e. as a student, a scholar, an academic
researcher, a teacher and his devotion to his mentor and
colleague Prof. Michael Oakeshott. His achievement as a
supervisor to his Ph.D. students, a commentator in journals
and radio and T.V., political advisor, colleague, and other
roles he played, are also covered here by some friends and
admirers. The essays are written in an excellent English
style worthy of one of the greatest Orientalists and scholars
of our time, who was considered one of the outstanding masters
of English style. All these aspects of Elies life
were discussed in full detail by authoritative personalities.
In fact one can understand Elies unique personality,
achievements, greatness and the special traits of his books
only after reading thoroughly the nineteen essays written
by his publisher, his wife and devoted friends (the three
other essays were written by Prof. Kedourie; this book was
edited by his devoted wife, Dr. Sylvia Haim-Kedourie, who
is bearing alone, with dignity and capability, the burden
of the great legacy of her late husband).
his essay, Kenneth Minogue commented with great accuracy:
"Indeed, so far as Britain and France were concerned,
Elie was culturally ambidextrous, and I have always thought
we were lucky to get him ... He could easily have become
an adornment of the Seine rather than the Thames."
In fact, we, i.e. his friends in Israel, used to say that:
"if Elie would have immigrated to Israel he would not
have achieved what he had achieved in England. He has escaped
many years of torture to master the Hebrew language to the
level of writing his research." This is beside the
fact that since 1947 onwards, the nascent State of Israel
was engaged in a series of wars with its neighbours, which
would have rendered concentration on his research very problematic.
Moreover, Israel at that time was alreadv inclined towards
the study of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany, and not in
the philosophical history or Britains policy towards
the Arab countries. This fact explains why my brother and
I started our Ph.D. studies long after Elies submission
of his thesis in 1953.
read in this book eulogies in homage to Elie written by
first rate scholar fills the heart with pain and sorrow
at the untimely passing away of a devoted friend and great
scholar. Such homage includes: "What one admired in
the act of a young Elie Kedourie-defying the Oxford establishment,
willing to pay a price for his truth-is a quality that remained
throughout (Itamar Rabinovich, [Israel former Ambassador
to the USA], p. 42); "Elie Kedourle leaves a rich and
diverse legacy many of us have benefited in a variety of
ways from both his great learning and personal kindness".
"Kedourie was the scholar par
excellence" OSullivans second remark: "the
sustained philosophical rigour, range of imaginative sympathy,
and depth of historical insight, displayed in his reflections
on Hegels proposed synthesis and Marxs critique
of it ensure that this volume will confirm his status as
one of the greatest political thinkers to have emerged during
the second half of the twentieth century"; "One
of the obituaries ... pointed out that Elie was an observant
Jew, ... In any event, I consider Elie Kedourie to have
been a great man, and ... have played ... an important role
in the formulation of United States foreign policy at a
key juncture in our post-Cold War history." "He
was a sage dedicated to wisdom. He lives on, not just in
the memory of his friends and students, but in his contribution
to the store of wisdom which should regulate the conduct
of human affairs". Such praise, couched in the usual
idiom of English understatement, only serves to emphasize
the deep feeling of loss sustained not only by Orientalists
and historians in general, but by the entire Jewish people.
He was indeed a great scholar, and humanist, who could enrich
Oriental studies with his devoted research and intellectual
integrity and deep insight, joined through the personal
experience of having lived under Arab national governments
Elie Kedouries Oriental heritage, personality and
academic integrity can be better understood and deeply appreciated
after reading this book. He proved himself a worthy descendant
of those Jews who came to Babylon with Yehoyachin"
and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour,"
who later on compiled the Talmud Babli.
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