Speaking with a colleague born in Iraq, he told me how many Jewish people used to live in Mosul, where he's from. He said 20% of the population were Jewish prior to 1948 (when Israel was formed by UN agreement). I was surprised. Of course I know that Jewish people lived in that area but 20% seemed high - very high. No where in Europe did Jewish people make up such a large percentage of the general population and I said this.

I have my suspicions that it wasn't 20%, but as usual with minorities, people imagine that we make a larger percentage of the total population than we do, just because we are "visible". I know I've made that mistake myself, over-accounting for Bengali people in the area where I live.

But he also gave me the mean stereotype of Jews as if I would agree that it's true. Like I would find it familiar. I understand how Jewish people came to be seen as mean in Europe. I know it was because we were barred from trades or professions and were only allowd to practice usury - lending and borrowing money. Consequently, the rest of the population saw us as money-obsessed or mean... and this has stuck. Also, like other poor populations, when we lived in ghettos or shtetls there wasn't much to go around, so we made the most of what we had. Other cultures that came from hardship and poverty, like Scottish culture, have a similar trajectory and stereotype.... But I don't understand what happened in the middle east, in Arabic countries because that isn't how Jewish people lived there. They weren't persecuted in the same way so they weren't confined to one way of earning money or living in ghettos...

Maybe he's just taken on the old European stereotypes and has mistaken them for truths...?

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