Wednesday, July 23, 2014

1948: 150 Cairo Jews killed or 'disappeared'

 Cairo as it looks today


During the month of July 1948, Cairo was sizzling with anti-Jewish unrest, tacitly encouraged by the Egyptian government. Levana Zamir stumbled upon this fascinating report from JTA:
 
"The situation of the Jews in Egypt was termed today as "highly alarming" by a Frenchman who returned from Cairo and gave the first detailed and uncensored report of the pogroms, mob violence, mass looting and terrorism which is now taking place throughout Egypt against the Jewish population.

"Egyptian mobs, he revealed, killed three rabbis by splitting their throats, after dragging them into a Cairo slaughter house. He estimated that at least 150 Jews had either been killed or had "disappeared" in Cairo incidents during the last four weeks. A substantial number of Jews had been wounded, he said. The pogroms and anti-Jewish terrorism are tacitly encouraged by the passive attitude of the Egyptian Government, he charged.

"The gravest single incident, he reported, occurred on July 20 at one of Cairo’s chief street car junctions, in Malika Farida Placo. An organized group of Egyptians ejected all the European passengers from several trolleys. All passengers suspected of being Jews were savagely killed on the spot, and many had their eyes pierced or were knifed, while non-Jews and Europeans were robbed of all cash and belongings. The police made no effort to intervene, the French visitor emphasized.

"Of the large number of Jews in Cairo who have been wounded, he continued, 120 are now undergoing treatment in the Jewish hospital there and an unannounced number are in government or private institutions. Scattered incidents of knifing of Jews are repeatedly reported in various parts of the Egyptian capital, he said. The killing of three rabbis in the slaughter house took place on July 21, he reported.

"Both Jews and Europeans were attacked earlier in July when they left large motion-picture theaters, the French traveler stated. The most violent of these attacks, he declared, occurred near the Odeon and Rivoli Theatres, in the center of Cairo, on July 17. The fury of the Arab mob sent 20 persons to hospitals. It was in that assault that one Henri Gaillard, a French national and an Olympics trainer, was fatally wounded by seven knife stabs. Gaillard fought back and succeeded in killing four of his assailants before he collapsed and died, the informant said.

 "On July 26, the Frenchman asserted, Jews living in Cairo in the neighborhood of the Royal Palace or in government-owned houses were ordered to move out within 48 hours. That order, he said, provoked a considerable number of "panic-stricken removals" in the course of which an Arab mob stole or destroyed the belongings of those evicted.

"Since July 28, the informant reported, there has been some tightening up of security measures, apparently after strong representations were made to the Egyptian Government by Jefferson Patterson, the United States charge d’affaires, following the writer of Stephen Haas, a Philadelphia Jew. The informant revealed that Haas body was found knifed to death, castrated, with the nose and ears severed, at a point near the Citadel, although initial reports from Cairo stated that the Philadelphian had been stoned to death by an Arab mob.

"Emphasizing that, in general, the position of Jews and Europeans in Egypt continues to be highly alarming, the Frenchman asserted that only those Jews who are now in Egyptian concentration camps feel comparatively safe. It was his impression that the Egyptian and other Arab military failures in Palestine had resulted in bitterness not against the Egyptian Governments and its leaders who were responsible for the Arab military fiascoes, but against the Jews who are their hostages.

"Mass detention of Jews is continuing, he said, under the pretext that one or another Jew had insulted King Farouk or even because they had been found in possession of some Hebrew literature. There was widespread speculation among Europeans in Cairo over whether the continuing bombing of Jewish enterprises was committed by the Moslem Brotherhood or other non-official groups or by Egyptian Government agents, he declared.

Monday, July 21, 2014

It's déjà vu for Arab-born French Jews

The Sephardim of Sarcelles in Paris  have been re-living the violence which chased them out of the Maghreb a generation ago.  On 19 July,  a banned pro-Palestinian demonstration got out of hand, Nidra Poller writes in New English Review.


Paris burns as rioters rampage in 'little Jerusalem', an area of the city with a large population of Maghreb-born Jews (photo: Thibaut Camus)


The demonstration scheduled for Saturday July 19th was banned. Unless I am mistaken, France is the only country that took this step. The organizers appealed, their appeal was rejected. So what did they do? Stay home and write op-eds? Send pizzas to the harassed citizens of Gaza? No, they proudly and publicly declared they would demonstrate anyway. Loudly proclaiming their democratic right to march, they trampled on the duty incumbent on law-abiding citizens. This time the stampede didn’t get far past its starting point in Barbès.

 Riot police hemmed them in [they are complaining about police brutality]. They weren’t rounded up and sent to jail for breaking the law. So they showed their appreciation by going wild, tearing up the asphalt and throwing chunks at the police; injuring 15. They set fire to cars, garbage cans, wooden pallets, and Israeli flags, smashed whatever was in reach, wreaked havoc for hours on end. And there were no Jewish Defense League boys to blame it on.

 An informative article in Le Point describes the assault on the Lariboisoière Hospital. The security guards were outnumbered [disproportionate force?], ran for cover. An elderly man shouted at the mob, “Are you crazy, that’s a hospital.” “It’s a Zionist hospital,” they shouted.

But didn’t burn it down…this time around. Today, they did a repeat performance in Sarcelles, known as little Jerusalem because a large contingent of the Sephardic Jews chased from the Maghreb settled there in public housing. For which they were grateful. From which many moved on to successful careers. And those who still live in neat and clean Sarcelles are constantly harassed by their Muslim neighbors in Gonesse.

Many Jewish men have been attacked at the train station that serves the side  by side Again, riot police were locked in battle for five hours while residents hunkered down in their homes.
How is the government going to deal with this flagrant and ever more violent disrespect? What will be the consequences for the  New Anti-Capitalist Party, the NPA, the extreme radical far left anti-capitalist party that got about 1% of the vote in the last municipal elections, and suddenly appears as an organizer of these stampedes? In 2005 the insurrection was almost exclusively confined to the banlieues, on the other side of the péripherique [ring road]. 

This time it penetrates to the center of Paris and it is fired with murderous hatred of Jews. Many who fled the Maghreb say it reminds them of those times. Some observers are saying this looks like the early stages of “pogroms” but I think the appropriate term would be “farhud.” [“ violent dispossession” in Arabic, a reference  to the 1941 Nazi–inspired jihad pogrom in Baghdad].

Read article in full

Paris feels like Tunis all over again

Number of French  Jews emigrating rises sharply (NY Times)

Bensoussan gives paper at Yale

 With thanks: Ahuva

Georges Bensoussan

Nine months after it took place at the Yale Center for the Study of Antisemitism, here is a video of the morning session of the conference: Exodus or exile: the departure of Jews from Muslim countries, 1948 - 1978.

Twenty-nine minutes into the clip, the French historian Georges Bensoussan gives a paper in English (19 minutes): hostages to the Palestine conflict, Jews in Arab countries in the 1930s. 

He describes how Arab nationalism excluded the Jewish population, increasingly perceived as a national minority. It could not tolerate such national minorities - witness the massacre of Assyrians in Iraq as soon as the country became independent.

The Jews were better educated than the Muslims, and were identified with colonialism. The Jews, on the other hand, feared the return of 'dhimmi' oppression if the Arabs became independent.


A branch of Arab nationalism was fascinated by Nazi Germany: paramilitary groups flourished. In the 1930s Palestine became the vessel into which Arab frustrations were poured. Zionism and Judaism became increasingly blurred, as the Palestine cause took on an increasingly islamic hue.

But Iraq and Yemen prove that antisemitism could thrive in countries no longer under the colonial yoke.

Nazi Germany financed antisemitic groups in the Arab world. The Jews became scapegoats as Nazi propaganda, such as the 1925 Arabic edition of the Protocols of Elders of Zion, gained influence.

The Mufti was not alone in spreading antisemitism. There was a nazification of Arab nationalism and a marginalisation of Jews, 40 percent of whom were denied nationality in Egypt, and subject to quotas and excluded from the army and diplomatic corps  in Iraq.

It is interesting that in the Q&A, questioners cast doubt on Bensoussan's use of the term 'nazification', and accused him of being an activist, not a bona fide historian.  

More about Georges Bensoussan


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Iraq's a land that devours its inhabitants

With thanks: Janet

Few video clips by Corey Gil-Shuster are quite as remarkable as his interview with Eva, who was born in Basra, Iraq, and left for Israel in 1966.

Eva remembers the terrible events of the 1958 revolution, when members of the Iraqi government and the royal family were brutally murdered with unspeakable cruelty. They included her best Muslim friend and her sister. The prime minister Nuri Said tried to disguise himself as a woman, but was given away by his pyjamas protruding from beneath his abaya. He was lynched and his body cut up into tiny pieces. Eva saw it all.


 Eva's father moved from Basra to Baghdad to escape being hanged. We are not given many details, but he may have been involved in the Zionist underground. Eva was smuggled out of Iraq via Iran. She helped plan the escape of an arabised Jewish woman with 'clear eyes' flee her Muslim husband. Another 'blond with light eyes' which she met en route to Israel complained that she had been kidnapped from her Jewish family. We are not clear exactly what happened, but Eva lifts the veil on what one suspects was a significant issue for Jewish women in Iraq (especially beautiful Jewesses): the ever-present threat of being abducted or forced into a marriage with a Muslim.

 The arabised woman made it to Israel, possibly with her son by the Arab. She was thought to be living on a kibbutz, but Eva has lost contact with them. Corey Gil-Shuster includes an appeal for information about them at the end of the video.


"It is impossible to live with Arab Muslims", Eva tells Gil-Shuster. "Iraq's a land that devours its own inhabitants"...." One minute they can be your best friends,  then, if they get mad, your worst enemies."

Friday, July 18, 2014

'Paris feels like Tunis all over again'

 
The view from inside the Don Abravanel synagogue in rue de la Roquette

On 12 and 13 July a pogrom by antisemitic demonstrators against Jewish worshippers and wedding guests at synagogues in Paris was narrowly averted; the French authorities have now banned further demonstrations. One Tunisian-born Jewish eyewitness was shocked by the sheer Arab hatred of Jews, which he had not experienced since the torching of the Great Synagogue in Tunis in 1967. Michel Gurfinkiel writes in Commentary (with thanks: Veronique):

On July 13, Bernard Abouaf, a French Jewish journalist, posted on his Facebook wall: “I just passed through one of the truest moments in my life.” A bit earlier, he had been an eyewitness to a pogrom attempt.


About one hundred Muslim thugs had gathered in front of the Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue in Central Paris, a few blocks away from Place de la Bastille (Bastille Circle), and threatened to storm it. Two to three hundred worshipers, who had gathered for a pro-Israel religious service, were locked inside. There were five police officers to protect them–and two dozen Jewish youths trained in martial arts who were members of the Jewish community sponsored Security Organization or of the more militant Jewish Defense League.

For Abouaf, whose family is of Tunisian Jewish descent, the whole scene looked like a reenactment of the storming and torching of the Great Synagogue in Tunis during the Six-Day War in 1967: a traumatic event that accelerated the flight of Tunisian Jews to France or to Israel.

“What I have seen today,” he remarked, “is Arab hatred against Jews. Pure hatred. Right in the middle of Paris. Don’t try to ‘explain’ or ‘understand’, it was hatred, period.” Irving Kristol famously said that a neoconservative was a liberal mugged by reality. Something similar was befalling Abouaf. This was the “truth” he was so eager to share.

The Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue was not stormed. Its bunker-like shape (it was built in 1962) and its strong, straight, iron gates were probably helpful. Even more effective were the young Jewish defenders*, who did not shy away from confronting the Muslim rioters. Older Jewish men and women, some in their late forties or early fifties, fought back as well. “The whole thing looked like street guerilla (warfare),” one witness said. At least two of the synagogue’s defenders–including a young Chabad chassid–were severely wounded and rushed to a nearby hospital.

Read article in full 

Report on the disturbances by Veronique Chemla (French)

The Tablet: :it reminded my father of Algeria (with thanks:Michelle)

*The UK Daily Mail has published a perverse account of these events, misleading readers into believing that these young defenders were attacking the keffiyah-clad mob, and not the other way around.

Wiesenthal questioned on exhibit omission

 Levana Zamir sees off Dr Shimon Samuels with a reminder that 50 percent of Israelis are Jews from Arab lands

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, whose mission is to fight antisemitism, faced questions last week at a B'nai B'rith symposium in Israel about its failure to include Jews from Arab countries in the UNESCO exhibition, People, Book, Land: the Jewish people's  3, 500 year-old relationship with the Holy Land.

Dr Shimon Samuels, director for International Relations, explained that the exhibition marked the first time since 1947 that a UN agency had recognised  Israel as a Jewish state. It was an occasion to 'put our cards on the table'.  He admitted that Wiesenthal had lost its fight to include the words 'Land of Israel' in the title. He blamed Arab-Israeli politics.
The exhibition, which Arab countries had tried to get cancelled altogether, was only one battle of many.

Of the failure to include a panel on Jews from Arab countries, however, Dr Samuels said nothing.

 Levana Zamir, Justice for Jews from Arab countries (JJAC) representative and president of the association of Jews from Egypt, asked Dr Shimon Samuels why he had journeyed to Israel without expressing one word of regret to the 50 percent of Israeli citizens who are Jews from Arab countries.

Dr Samuels declared that he had worked for 25 years on the Holocaust, that he knew of JJAC's work and had been part of the (now defunct) World Organisation of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC). "There are many subjects,"he said." I cannot deal with all of them."

Dr Samuels' approach contrasted with that of the author of the exhibition, Professor Robert Wistrich. The historian gave a long and apologetic presentation. His work was subject to scrutiny from a 'surveillance committee'." It was clear that certain themes could not be accepted," he said," especially the plight of Jews from Arab countries after the creation of the state of Israel."

The panel on Jews from Arab countries was completely removed because of UNESCO's relationship with Arab countries, he said.  All text had to be 'scientifically proven.' UNESCO asked that Professor Wistrich include a source reference to support a single sentence on emigration statistics from Arab lands. They also demanded proof that Andrei Gromyko, USSR foreign minister, had spoken of the link between the Jewish people and the land of Israel.

Professor Wistrich expressed his hope that the missing panel on Jews from Arab countries would be restored in exhibition venues with no association to UNESCO.

The UNESCO exhibition caused consternation among JJAC delegates who happened to attend its inauguration in Paris on 11 June. JJAC pledged to follow up on the absence of Jews from Arab lands from the exhibit with the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

What we can learn from UNESCO's silence 

UNESCO: Jewish refugees are too hot to handle

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gaza: ' Turkish Jews must apologise'


A demonstration in Turkey against Israel

Update: violent demonstration outside Israeli embassy in Istanbul (Algemeiner)

Jews in Turkey are feeling threatened as never before as a Turkish daily affiliated with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls on the country's Jewish community to apologize for the Palestinian casualties of the Israeli operation in Gaza. Meanwhile,  calls on social media to boycott Israel intensify. Ynet news reports (with thanks: Akusia) 

"You came here after being banished from Spain," Yeni Akit correspondent Faruk Köse wrote Wednesday in an open letter to Hakham Bashi, the chief rabbi of Turkey's Jewish community. "You have lived comfortably among us for 500 years and gotten rich at our expense. Is this your gratitude – killing Muslims? Erdogan, demand that the community leader apologize!"

In the right-wing newspaper's editorial, Ali Karahasanoğlu wrote: "After the barrage of missiles which hit the capital city of Tel Aviv, Israel has been pushed into a corner and is crying out for a ceasefire, which at the moment only serves Israel and the United States.

"The IDF is using forbidden weapons, intentionally killing children and murdering Muslims for the sake of murdering Muslims. Hamas is unprepared to accept dictations from Israel and the US, and will only lay down its weapon after its understandings are accepted.

"While all this is happening, the journal of the Jewish community in Turkey, 'Shalom,' is referring to the murder of children in Gaza as 'taking care of terrorists.'"

(...) "I have never felt as threatened as I have in the past year," says Linet, a textile importer. "The government is inflaming the hatred and anti-Semitism and we are simply living in fear.

"Many of those who have not left yet – and the vast majority of Jews immigrated to Europe and Israel a long time ago – are weighing their options," she adds.

Read article in full

A whole country in a single dish

Claudia Roden tells the Daily Telegraph how nostalgia for the food of her country of birth - notably ful mesdames bean puree - set her career off as a food writer. As a Jewish refugee from Egypt, she was the first generation of Jewish women forced to go out to work - a source of embarrassment for her father.


 Claudia Roden in her London garden (photo: Laura Hynd)

But the convivial, leisured life of the Cairene haute-bourgeoisie was not without its restrictions, especially for girls, though Roden, a keen swimmer and a national backstroke champion when she was only 15, was more outgoing than some.

“None of the women worked,” she says. “They just sat around playing cards and gossiping all day long. Nobody read a book, and you were never alone. Even going to the cinema, we would have to call people to come too, and then on to Groppi’s [a chic café in Cairo] afterwards for ice cream.”


The champion swimmer (second from right) in the 1950s

People also came together to prepare food. “When there was a party, friends all came to cook. The whole day would be spent in the kitchen, and we children would help with making little pies. My mother didn’t cook every day, but she taught our cook, who was from a village in Upper Egypt, how to cook in the Ottoman [grand Turkish] style – that was how we ate then.”

In those days Cairo was home to Arabs, Jews, Turks, Armenians and Copts, who all co-existed peaceably, but food culture was divided more on class than national lines. The family would rarely have eaten ful medames, a purée of brown beans that was sold and eaten in the street, yet this was the dish that started Roden, unwittingly, on her career as a food writer.

In 1953, at the age of 15, she was sent to boarding-school in Paris, and every Sunday she and her brothers were invited to the home of relations to eat this humble bean purée, the Egyptian national dish, which reminded them so intensely of home. The homesick Roden immediately tried to find out how to make it. The lesson was not lost on her – you could evoke a whole country and a way of life in a single dish.



Claudia with her parents and brothers, Ellis and Zaki, in Cairo in the early 1950s
 
Evading her parents’ attempts to marry her to a rich cousin (“He had a yacht, and it seemed an attractive idea – for about a day,” she says), Roden travelled to London and enrolled in St Martin’s School of Art. “The food was awful – mock cream, ghastly cauliflower cheese – but I was free and happy.”

Then, in 1956, Nasser expelled the Jews from Egypt and her parents, Nelly and Cesar, arrived penniless in London. Roden left art school and took a job at Alitalia to earn money for the family. “My father was ashamed that a woman in his family was working. He felt he should be the family provider,” she says.

A stream of visitors from all over the Middle East joined the family for Friday-night suppers, where they would talk nostalgically of the taste of home and all the dishes that reminded them of everything they had lost. Roden started hoarding their recipes, written on scraps of paper, intending just to cook them herself. These were to be the germ of A Book of Middle Eastern Food.

Read article in full

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My Jewish family's roots in Gaza

 King David plays his harp - a floor mosaic from an ancient synagogue in Gaza

Gaza is all over the news headlines - but here's one story you won't hear about. Read Steven Plaut's heartwarming article from the Jewish Press, first published in 2009. (With thanks: Eliyahu)


My family has roots in Gaza. We were there a century ago.
OK, technically it is my wife’s family. I am married to the granddaughter of Nissim Ohana, the rabbi of Gaza City. 
But let’s back up a bit here.
In Genesis, Gaza is explicitly listed as part of the Land of Israel promised to the Jews. It was conquered by the tribe of Judah during the era of the Judges, though it was later recaptured by the Philistines. It was captured again by the Jews during the time of the Maccabees, only to be seized by the Romans, who handed it over to King Herod. 
Gaza had a small Jewish community during the era of the Talmud. A synagogue was erected near the Gaza waterfront in 508 CE. A survey of the town in 1481 found about 60 Jewish households there, many producing wine. Later, quite a few followers of Shabbtai Zvi lived there, including the famous Natan of Gaza. There was a thriving Jewish community in Gaza when Napoleon arrived in 1799 via Egypt, but a plague followed his troops and the Jews abandoned the city. 
The modern Jewish community of Gaza got its start in 1885. The initiator of the community was Zeev Wissotzky, scion of the Wissotzky tea company (founded in 1849 in Moscow and still to this day Israel’s largest tea producer).
In 1907 a young rabbi named Nissim Ohana, educated in the Sephardic yeshivas of Old Jerusalem, arrived in Gaza. He set up a school in Gaza named Talmud Torah whose language of instruction was exclusively Hebrew, an unusual and controversial decision at the time.
           Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the initiator of the use of Hebrew as the language of communication in the pre-state yishuv, was so impressed that he paid the school a personal visit.
           In those days, Muslim-Jewish relations in Gaza were cordial, even warm. Rabbi Ohana maintained a close relationship with the local mufti, Sheikh Abdallah al-’Almi. The rabbi was well versed not only in Judaic sources but also in the Koran and the New Testament, and occasionally the mufti would consult with him concerning judicial questions arising in Islamic law.
The mufti was particularly worried at the time about the influence of Christian missionaries on local Muslims and he asked Rabbi Ohana for help in countering the missionaries’ claims. Later, Rabbi Ohana compiled his anti-missionary arguments in a book titled Know How to Respond to an Apikores, still one of the best such volumes.
When World War I broke out, the ruling Ottomans ordered all “foreigners” to leave their territories. Rabbi Ohana had a French passport (his father having been born in Algeria) and was forced to leave. Rabbi Ohana served for a while as the rabbi of Malta, then as rabbi at a small Syrian synagogue in Manhattan. He went on to head the rabbinical court in Cairo before moving to Haifa, after Israel became a state, to serve as chief Sephardic rabbi of Haifa.
The Gaza Jewish community was destroyed by rioting Arabs in 1929, with surviving Jews fleeing to other towns in what would become Israel. Jews returned to the area after the Six-Day War, but when Israel adopted the Oslo “peace process” as national policy, Gaza terrorism exploded and the Jews in the renewed Gaza communities faced mortal danger. Their actual eviction, however – the third ethnic cleansing of Gaza Jews in less than a century – was perpetrated by the government of Ariel Sharon, years after the collapse of Oslo.
But back to Rabbi Ohana of Gaza. In the early 1980s, one of his granddaughters met an American who was teaching at the Technion. Convinced that American men were far too goofy for her to have any romantic interest in any of them, she agreed to go on a date with him only so that she could tell him about her available single American girlfriend.
But she never got around to introducing the American to her girlfriend. And while her opinion about the goofiness of American men is undeniably correct, she married me anyway in 1985.

One last strange twist: A grandson of the mufti of Gaza is today a leading Hamas terrorist, and has served as the Hamas representative in Damascus. Some of Rabbi Ohana’s grandchildren in Israel are in possession of manuscripts written by the mufti. It is their hope that once Hamas is finally defeated and peace is established, the manuscripts will be turned over to the descendants of the mufti, Rabbi Ohana’s close friend.  

Read article in full

The long Jewish history of Gaza

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mufti condemns destruction of Jonah's tomb

 The tomb of Jonah dominated the city of Mosul, now in the hands of ISIS


Confirmation that ISIS, the Sunni jihadist terrorist army sweeping across Iraq, has destroyed Jonah's tomb in Mosul*, has come to us in a roundabout way. The Mufti of Egypt has condemned ISIS in strong terms for the destruction. According to a report in the Arabic press, the Mufti declared that the destruction of holy sites has 'nothing to do with Islam or any religion'. (With thanks: Maurice)
 
News Online - "The Mufti (the Muslim spiritual leader who issues religious edicts) of the Republic of Egypt, Dr. Shawki Alam, denounced the ISIS (The Islamic State) terrorist organization act of demolishing the shrines and the sites of the prophets and righteous people in Iraq, and most recently the demolition of the tomb of God’s Prophet Younus (Jonah), peace upon him.

 The Mufti of the Republic stressed that assaulting the sanctity of the prophets and the inviolability of the shrines, and digging up the graves of the prophets and the righteous by this terrorist organization is not recognized by any Muslim doctrine.

"It is an act that has nothing to do with Islam or any religion, and also exceeded all the limits of normal human nature that respects the sanctity of the dead (people) and exalts their holy sites. The Mufti of the Republic indicated that these extremists are ignorant of the spirit of the Islamic religion and did not read the biography of .... prophet (Muhammad) ……, which mentioned that the prophet,… lived for 13 years in Mecca and came nowhere near the idols of the infidels, which were in the hundreds, so how could (he come close) to the tombs of the prophets and the righteous?! "

 The Mufti of the Republic appealed to the responsible authorities in Iraq, the international organizations that are concerned with the humanitarian heritage such as UNESCO and others to quickly and urgently intervene to protect the Islamic holy sites, which are among Iraq’s cultural, historical and archaeological monuments." 

Original article (Arabic) 

ISIS pledges to destroy shrines 

Appeal to UNESCO to save shrines (French) 

*Misleading video: A video purporting to show ISIS destroying the tomb of Jonah has been circulating recently in the western press. It bears an uncanny  resemblance to this 2013 video, disseminated by the Iranian Press TV, showing the destruction of so-called Jewish tombs in Syria. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Israel behaving in Gaza 'like Nazis': MP

Siamak Marreh Sedq, Iran's only Jewish MP

Strong language from Siamak Marreh Sedq, Iran's only Jewish MP - if indeed he said those words attributed to him by the Iranian News Agency FNA of his own volition.


TEHRAN (FNA)- Representative of the Jewish minority at the Iranian Parliament Siamak Marreh Sedq condemned Israel's recent attacks on the Palestinians, saying that Tel Aviv's criminal acts reminds everyone of the crimes committed by the Nazis during the first and second World Wars.
“The Zionist regime's crimes are reminiscent of the actions taken by the German Nazis during the first and second World Wars,” Marreh Sedq told FNA on Monday.

He added that Israel's crimes against the Palestinians are also a reminder of the mistreatment of Shiites by the executed Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.
Chairman of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission asked his world counterparts today to break silence on Israel's savage attacks on the defenseless Palestinian people in Gaza.

In separate letters to his counterparts in 46 countries of the world, including Russia, Mexico, Venezuela, Palestine, Yemen, Ecuador, Algeria, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, the Philippines, Uganda, Belarus, Ireland, China, Brazil and Jordan, Chairman of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi blasted the international bodies which claim to be supporting human rights for their inaction vis-a-vis the killing of the defenseless and fasting Gaza Muslims by the Zionist regime.

Also, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani in separate phone conversations with his Malian and Sudanese counterparts on Monday underlined the need for holding a troika meeting of the Parliamentary Union of Islamic Cooperation (PUIC) to discuss the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip and slaughter of the innocent Palestinians.

Read article in full

Times of Israel article (with thanks: Lily)

Iranian Jew 'ready to help injured Gazans'

When Jews mark Ramadan

Muslims far outnumbered Jews at the Iftar meal at Cairo's Adly Synagogue (Photo: Ahmed Hamed/Aswat Masriya)
It is all the rage, apparently, for Jews to be observing Ramadan.  But when the last few Jews of Egypt held an Iftar meal at a Cairo synagogue, it felt more like a validation of ethnic cleansing than a demonstration of interfaith harmony. Lyn Julius blogs in the Times of Israel:
 
The BBC carried a report of Jews and Muslims breaking the Ramadan fast with a ‘Kosher’ Iftar meal in a London synagogue. According to the Times of Israel, another London rabbi, Natan Levy, ‘ stunned members of the Jewish community by observing the Islamic month of fasting after witnessing first-hand the lack of engagement between the two faiths’.

Then Yachad, dubbed the British J-Street, announced its Tisha-b’Av/Ramadan fast dedicated to ‘non-violence’ and to ‘peace’, a ‘choose life’ fast: “All over the world Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians, will be fasting together, against violence, and for peace. “ 

And now we hear that the Adly synagogue in Cairo hosted an Iftar meal. This is the meal eaten at sunset at the end of a day’s fasting. In the comments thread to an item in the Egyptian press, Omar gushes: “This is such a great thing, dispelling the absolute hatred for Jews and showing us “Hey, we’re all Egyptians too!” Another reacts approvingly: “This is the true spirit and teaching of all three monotheistic religions. A beautiful step in the right direction and I hope it doesn’t stop there and it’s not just during Ramadan but throughout the year and years to come! Salam, Shalom and Peace to all!”

The latter demonstration of ‘interfaith harmony’ is the saddest of all.
The Egyptian Jewish community comprises just 15 people, mostly widows or elderly women married to non-Jews. They are led by the fiercely anti-Zionist Magda Haroun, 62. She is her father’s daughter. So fanatically patriotic was Shehata Haroun that he chose to let another daughter die of leukaemia rather than forfeit his Egyptian nationality to seek medical treatment abroad. 

Since becoming leader of the Jewish Community Council in April 2013 on the death of her predecessor Carmen Weinstein, Magda has not done much to celebrate her own faith: at least Carmen marshalled what was left of Egypt’s Jews, together with Israeli diplomats and interested tourists and well-wishers, to mark Jewish festivals. Since Carmen’s passing, the Jewish community has not celebrated the Passover Seder. It was cancelled this past year – ostensibly out of respect for Magda’s sister Nadia, who died suddenly aged 59. Similarly, the community found excuses not to mark Rosh Hashana in 2013. 

Magda wants to show that Jews are good Egyptians; they built Egypt. They must not be confused with Zionists. But the spurious distinction between Jews and Zionists did not save a thriving 80,000 strong community from being expelled. Jews were targeted not for what they believed, but what they were. Neither can Zionism be the pretext for the persecution of Egypt’s other harassed minority – its eight million Coptic Christians.

As if it is not enough for the Jewish presence to be wiped out across the region, Jewish history is being erased, synagogues are being demolished, and ancient shrines with a distinctive Jewish character converted to mosques. 

This does not mean that Jews and Muslims should not share each others’ festivals. These well-intentioned grass-roots initiatives humanise Jews and Muslims to each other, especially during times of war. After all, more and more Gentiles, all the way up to the White House, are celebrating the Passover Seder. Why should Jews not mark the most important month of the Muslim religious calendar? 

There is a difference, however. Whereas Natan Levy belongs to a robust Jewish community with the self-confidence to practise its faith, Magda Haroun is a beleaguered ‘dhimmi’. She has failed to call Muslim Egyptians to account for driving her community to extinction. Instead they are allowed to feel good about themselves and their ‘ tolerance’ of others.

The sun is setting on the Jewish community of Egypt. Soon there will be ten, or five Jews left in Egypt. How few do there need to be for someone to hail them as proof of Egyptian ‘pluralism’? 

Magda, as the youngest Jew in Egypt, will be the last person to turn off the light. At the Iftar celebration at the Adly synagogue in Cairo, Muslims by far outnumbered Jews. After three thousand years, Egyptian Judaism is on its last legs, and Jewish life reduced to empty synagogues without Jews. This Iftar celebration marked the triumph not of ’tolerance’, but of capitulation, humiliation, and ethnic cleansing.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Kanoon player Abraham Salman dies

 

 Abraham Salman, one of Israel's greatest Kanoon players has died, aged 83.

Ynet News reports:

 Salman immigrated to Israel from Iraq in the Fifties and played in the Israel Radio Arabic orchestra until the late Eighties. He would show up wearing dark glasses because of his blindness.

 Among other things,  Salman produced an album of his old recordings from the sixties. He also worked with Danny Sanderson.

"I was privileged to grow up with such a father," Gili, his son, eulogized him."I grew up with the band Kaveret. They used to rehearse at our Galilee home with my father.Thanks to him I led a special life. "

Salman is survived by a wife, three children and six grandchildren.


Point of No Return adds: Salman was a product of the School for the Blind in Baghdad. The school trained the Jewish blind as musicians so that they would not have to beg on the streets. Jews dominated music in the early part of the 20th century and all but three of the 250 members of Baghdad Radio Orchestra in the 1930s were Jews, many of them blind.

Read article in full (Hebrew) 

Take a bow, Kanoon player Yusef Zaarur  

When illiterate Jews dominated Iraqi music 

The al-Kuwaity brothers are back!

Gaza fallout: Casablanca rabbi beaten

 Jewish community members worship at the Great Synagogue, Casablanca


Here we go again: attacks on Jews outside Israel always spike after violence escalates in the Middle East.  Jews still in the Arab and Muslim world remain particularly vulnerable. Report in Arutz Sheva on the latest outrage in Morocco:

The rabbi of the Jewish community in Casablanca, Morocco, Rabbi Moshe Ohayon, was badly beaten on Friday as a retaliation by locals for Israel’s airstrikes in Gaza.
Rabbi Moshe Ohayon, before his beating (with thanks: Michelle)

According to Channel 2 News, a young man whose identity is known to the police, waited for the rabbi as he was walking to synagogue, then confronted him and kicked him.

The assailant then continued to beat the rabbi, breaking his nose and causing serious injuries in his ribs. The rabbi said that he begged for help but the passers-by ignored his cries.

The Jewish community in Morocco condemned the incident and said that its members fear a rise in anti-Semitism as the IDF continues Operation Protective Edge.

"Since the recent incidents in Judea, Samaria and Gaza began, there is an increase in harassment of Jews. It has become really scary to live here," a member of the Jewish community was quoted as having said.

It was also reported that, in the wake of the rabbi’s beating, the heads of the local Jewish community have asked the police to beef up security around Jewish institutions in Casablanca.

Read article in full 

Tel Quel article (w/t: Ahuva) 

Yabiladi article (w/t: Ruth)

Israeli diplomat smuggled out of Morocco 


Fez Jew beaten to death

Here it comes again: the Muslim backlash

Friday, July 11, 2014

Cairo synagogue iftar is a triumph for Islam

Compare these two events: Jews and Muslims break the Ramadan fast in a synagogue with an iftar meal. The first in London, England. The second in Cairo, Egypt (reported in Egyptian Streets). The difference is that such demonstrations of interfaith harmony in Egypt are a shocking admission of defeat: Islam has won. The misguided message  -'two legs (Zionists) bad'; ''four legs (Jews) good' - rings hollow when all but 18 Jews out of 80, 000 have been chased out of Egypt for being Jews.  Jews are no longer celebrating their own festive meals in Egypt, such as the Passover Seder. (With thanks: Lily)

The iftar, the breaking of the fast at sunset during the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan, had been called for by the Egyptian Alliance for Minorities.

“This is an event of importance, especially that we here, in Egypt, are not foreign to the idea of uniting Christians, Muslims and Jews,” said journalist Karina Kamel to Aswat Masriya.

During the iftar, Magda Haroun, President of the Jewish Community, described the importance of changing Egyptian mentality towards Judaism.
“One guy was asked: ‘Do you like Laila Murad?’ He said: ‘Yes, I do very much.’ He was asked again: ‘Do you know that she is Jewish?’ He then replied saying: ‘If so, then I don’t like her.’ This is the ideology that I am trying to change,” said Magda Haroun to Aswat Masriya, “We [the Jews] have lived in Egypt and we have built in Egypt.”

Credit: Ahmed Hamed/Aswat Masriya

(Photo: Ahmed Hamed/Aswat Masriya)

‘Al-Azharoun for a Civil State Movement’ member Sheikh Mohamed Abdullah Nasr, who also led a prayer for Muslims at the Synagogue, expressed similar sentiments.

“Firstly, this great initiative comes from a community and a time that is very sensitive. A time to show us that there is a difference between Zionists and Jews (my emphasis - ed),” stated Sheikh Mohamed Abdullah Nasr.

“Not every Jewish person is a Zionist, just like not every Muslims is an extremist or is involved with Islamic political parties. Secondly, It came [the initiative] at a time where the Middle East is dividing on a racist, doctrinal and religious basis.”
Credit: Ahmed Hamed/Aswat Masriya

(Photo: Ahmed Hamed/Aswat Masriya)

Despite the iftar being the first of its kind, the Egyptian Alliance for Minorities asserted that this is simply the start of many similar events planned in churches, mosques and other community centres.

“We are all Egyptians. What concerns us is our nation’s benefit,” declared Jewish Community leader Magda Haroun.

Read article in full

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Telling the stories of the 'other' Jews


 An Iraqi-Jewish family at the turn of the last century


The Sephardi Voices project to record the lives of Mizrahi and Sephardi witnesses to Jewish history will create a sense of pride and continuity,  Professor Henry Green, the man behind the project, tells Haaretz.

Since Green launched his Sephardi Voices project in 2009, he has filmed around 300 Mizrahi Jews who immigrated to Britain, Canada, France, the United States and Israel. They have told him about their prosperity living in Arab lands as well as the persecution and expulsion.

Until the establishment of Israel in 1948, 1 million Jews were living in Arab countries, most from ancient communities. After 1948 the persecution worsened until most were forced to leave their property behind. Many moved to Europe and North America; most came to Israel. Green estimates that about 70 percent are no longer alive.

Green has interviewed people describing pogroms and other atrocities: 150 Iraqi Jews killed in June 1941, 130 Libyan Jews killed in Tripol in 1945, and dozens of Jews killed in Egypt in 1948.

In the 1970s Green studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, when he heard about the travails of Mizrahi Jews — in Israel, where they protesting injustices at the hands of the Ashkenazi establishment. If Green meets his goal, within a few years he will have filmed interviews with around 5,000 people.

In the countries involved, Sephardi Voices is being carried about by local staff. Most participants are volunteers who take donations that pay for the film crews. The project joins a number of others around the world over the past two decades that have documented the lives of witnesses to Jewish history.

“None of these projects have dealt with the experiences of the displaced Jews from North Africa, the Middle East and Iran who left their homes,” says the Sephardic Voices website. “By recording the stories of the Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews, the memories of individuals who grew up in communities which often no longer exist will be passed on to the next generations and create a sense of pride and continuity.”

In Israel there are two projects documenting the War of Independence and its veterans. Holocaust survivors have been recorded by Yad Vashem and Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation.

Tens of thousands of people have been interviewed, most of them Ashkenazi. Green’s efforts represent a different Zionist story that expands the Jewish identity that we’re familiar with, he says.

Green is in contact with the National Library about the possibility of making his work available to the public. In the meantime, the testimonies can be viewed at the British Library in London. They are not available on the Internet.

Only five Israelis have been interviewed for the project so far. The project in Israel will now include cooperation with the Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University’s Division of Oral History and the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center.

Read article in full (subscription required)

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

ISIS threatens Jewish Holocaust

16th century illustrated Turkish manuscript showing Jonah and the whale (top) and Jeremiah in Jerusalem. The fate of the tomb of Jonah in Mosul, now under ISIS control, is not known

One cannot escape the irony that there are no Jews left in Syria and Iraq to massacre: Syrian Jews number a handful, and there are just five Jews in Iraq. Nevertheless, threats of a Jewish Holocaust are a useful recruiting tool, the Algemeiner reports:

A Twitter post Thursday by supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), now calling itself the Islamic State (IS), has promised a Holocaust against the Jews.

“The Real Zionist Holocaust is Predicted in the Hadiths! The Hour [resurrection] will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill them, and the tree will say: “Oh, Muslim, servant of God, there is a Jew behind me, kill him! THE PROMISED Holocaust,” a graphic posted on the @ISIS_Conquests’s Twitter account said.

This hadith has proven popular with Islamic extremists of all stripes, ranging from IS to Hamasand even on television in the Middle East.

Daniel Pipes, an expert on jihadism, said the hadith likely was a recruitment tool.
“​Yes, ​calling for a Holocaust against Jews refers to a violently anti-Semitic strain among jihadis and will surely appeal to some of them,” Pipes said in an email to the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

Anti-Semitic propaganda has played an important role in the terrorist group’s recruitment efforts. Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, placed Jews on the side of evil in a speech posted last Tuesday on the Internet in which he called on Muslims to join him.

“O ummah of Islam, the world today has been divided into two camps and two trenches … The camp of Islam and faith, and the camp of kufr (disbelief) and hypocrisy … all being led by America and Russia, and being mobilized by the Jews,” al-Baghdadi said.

In another such video released on Twitter, IS told jihadists to “Break the crosses and destroy the lin­eage of the grand­sons of mon­keys.”

Read article in full 

ISIS pledges to destroy shrines 

ISIS to destroy Biblical artefacts in northern Iraq

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Archive: possession is not ownership

 Drying books and archives in the Baghdad sun (photo: Harold Rhode)


The US and Iraqi governments have agreed to extend the Iraqi-Jewish archive's stay in the US by two years. But its ultimate ownership has still not been established.  Barbara Trainin Blank brings us up to date on the current state of play in B'nai B'rith International Magazine. (With thanks: Edwin)
 
Finding and salvaging these artifacts were merely the first steps in what would become a diplomatic dispute, not over provenance but over possession. At the root of the debate is a nagging question: Who owns history? Is it the state—in this case the Iraqi government? Or is it the people who helped make it, the expatriate remnants of Iraqi Jewry? In accordance with an agreement between the Coalition Provisional Authority—essentially a branch of the United States—and the U.S. State Department, the items were to be returned to Iraq in June. But, forceful voices in the Congress, along with groups representing—and supporting—Iraqi Americans, strongly objected. As this is written, the Iraqi government has agreed to extend the Archive’s stay in the United States temporarily, while still asserting ownership over them.

At the time of the discovery, dictator Saddam Hussein had been toppled from power, creating a vacuum into which would be installed the Provisional Authority, funded and created by the U.S. Defense Department. Unsure of what to do with this historic cache, the Authority turned to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for help. A week later, Doris A. Hamburg, NARA’s director of preservation programs, and Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler, chief of conservation, flew to Iraq.

With limited options in Baghdad to treat the artifacts, NARA shipped them in 27 metal trunks to the United States for preservation. They were freeze-dried in a special facility in Fort Worth, Texas, to prevent further deterioration, then sent to College Park, Md., home to NARA’s largest archival and preservation facility.

NARA proceeded, over a decade, to assess, catalogue, photograph and preserve the materials, mending torn pages, replacing book bindings, digitizing, setting up a website and making plans to exhibit them, at a total cost to U.S. taxpayers of $3 million. The preservation work, Hamburg said, was difficult but also “moving and meaningful.”

When she arrived in Iraq, Hamburg faced a sharp learning curve. “I knew there had been a significant Iraqi Jewish community, and it didn’t exist anymore,” she said. “What was found connected to the community that was no longer there—and that in itself was something special.”

Curator Corinne Wegener, then an Army reserves major who was overseeing the trunks holding the material, recalled landing at the U.S. Naval Station Rota, in Cadiz, Spain, for refueling and a change of crew. “We had to make sure to maintain the frozen temperatures and needed electricity to get the generator going,” she said. “It was 100 degrees.” When the base commander demanded to know if the plane contained human hearts, Wegener, who is not Jewish, noticed his yarmulke and replied, “It’s what’s left of Iraqi Jewish culture.” The electricity and crew came quickly, she said.

Fast forward to November 2013. An exhibit entitled “Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage” opened Oct. 11 at the National Archives in Washington, remaining there to Jan. 5, 2014. The exhibit featured 24 representative items from the Archive, including a Bible with Commentaries from 1568 and a Zohar—the basic text of Jewish mysticism— from 1815. The exhibit then moved to New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, where it was to be on display through May 18, after which it would be stored in College Park, Md., while discussions continued over its future.

At the New York opening, Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily referred to it as the Iraqi National Jewish Archive, adding the word “national” to underscore his government’s position that the items were only on loan. “For us as Iraqis, it is important to recover this precious piece of our cultural heritage,” he said. “These documents tell us what humanity can accomplish when we live together in mutual respect.” Further demonstrating his respect, Faily had attended the burial ceremony in New York in December of 49 Torah scroll fragments from the Archive deemed too damaged to save.

For some Iraqi Jews, the Archive is, more than symbolic, personal. Edwin Shuker, who lives in London and viewed the exhibit in Washington, found his school record from Frank Iny, the main Jewish school in Baghdad. Born there in 1955, Shuker and his family managed to escape across the northern border of Iraq after years of persecution.

“It is difficult to describe the impact of finding my school certificate at the exhibition,” he said. “It instantly brought to the fore[front] memories of a childhood spent in fear and uncertainty. After more than 40 years of abandoning all records relating to our identity as individuals and… [our] community, we suddenly had to face them staring back at us from behind the exhibit glass as if to remind us [of] who we are.”

While the exhibit continued, Congress reacted to the growing movement to keep the Archive here. On Feb. 6, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution urging the State Department to renegotiate its agreement. A similar bipartisan resolution was introduced in the House on March 6, with 24 sponsors and referred to a subcommittee.

“The bottom line is that the Iraqi Jewish Archive belongs to the Iraqi Jewish Community,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), an early sponsor of the Senate resolution. “This is a very important issue to me, and that’s why I personally spoke with Secretary [of State John] Kerry to express my concern. I’ve been in close contact with the World Organization of Jews from Iraq, and I will continue to push the State Department until this injustice has been resolved.”

B’nai B’rith International has also participated in a contact group that has met with representatives of NARA and the Iraqi Jewish community “throughout this process,” noted Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president. The “ideal solution,” he said, would be to keep the Archive in this country, where Iraqi Jews have access to it. “It needs to be cared for and cherished,” he said. “My educated guess is that the current Iraqi government, or its successors, will not establish such a museum in Baghdad.”

Publicly, the State Department continued to express its intent to return the Archive. In March, it issued a statement that it remained committed to the terms of the agreement. Spokesperson Michael P. Lavelle added, however, that State is “aware of the sensitivities surrounding the return of the material” and was in discussions with its Iraqi counterparts and other interested parties to find a “mutually agreeable approach.”

Maurice Shohet, president of the World Organization of Jews from Iraq (WOJI), founded in 2008 and based in New York, was born in Iraq and immigrated to the United States in 1970. He was among the experts who helped the NARA decipher the collection and opposes its return, saying it should probably stay in New York. “I am adamant that the Archive was confiscated, the way artwork and artifacts were confiscated from Jews during World War II, and should be returned to us,” he said. “What happened in 2003 was like the United States signing an agreement with itself, since the Iraqi government didn’t really exist…Iraqi Jews have always expected the Archive to be returned to them.”

Cynthia Kaplan Shamash, an Iraqi-born board member of the organization who practices dentistry in Queens, N.Y., said the organization is seeking other venues for the exhibit, but there are issues of cost to mount and maintain it. It is possible, she said, the artifacts could be kept in storage—but not exhibited—at the U.S. National Archives facilities in suburban Washington. While the collection contains some items of historic and monetary value, she said, “the main issue is it’s a validation of our exile. It’s more emotional. It doesn’t do justice to 2,700 years of contributions [to Iraq], but it’s a hint of it. That’s more important than anything. That’s the value to us.”

Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA), based in San Francisco and founded in 2001, agrees. “Iraq has done little to preserve the remnants of Jewish history in Iraq,” said Sarah Levin, its director. “On the contrary, there are verified reports that Jewish holy sites and tombs in Iraq have been defaced and even converted into mosques. JIMENA urges Iraq to do what is right—allow Iraqi Jews in the United States to reclaim their communal and private patrimony and heritage.”

David Dangoor, former president of WOJI, appealed to President Obama. Several individuals wrote to Secretary Kerry, including Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, as well as Rep. Stephen Fincher (R.-Tenn.), on behalf of an Iraqi Jewish constituent. A larger issue, said Stan Urman, executive vice president of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, established in 2002 and headquartered in northern New Jersey, is the precedent that might be set for other Arab countries, which had illegally seized Jewish treasures and offer no access to Jewish scholars or to descendants of the Jews who once lived there. “The Iraqi Jewish Archive is a test case,” he said.

In April, Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries reported that the State Department and senior Iraqi leaders were “currently hammering out the legal details of a new arrangement with a view to extending the archive’s stay” in the United States.

On May 14, Iraqi Ambassador Faily said his government would allow the exhibited items to remain in the United States for a time, to be displayed in other undetermined locations, but when and for how long were uncertain. “Items that are not part of the exhibit will return to Iraq in the very near future, as originally agreed,” he said. It was not immediately clear whether he meant that only the 24 items on exhibit could stay from the entire massive collection that had been flown to the United States.

Schumer, the New York senator, insisted that the entire Archive should not be sent back to Iraq. “We will not rest until the collection is made accessible to the Iraqi Jewish community indefinitely,” he said. WOJI’s Shohet reiterated his position that the Iraqi Jewish community are the “rightful heirs of the Iraqi Jewish Archive, our precious patrimony.” Lavelle said discussions would continue between the State Department, NARA and WOJI “on the details of the materials that would be returned.”

Who owns history? For the time being at least, in the case of the Iraqi Jewish Archive, possession was clear. Ownership, not so much.

Read article in full

Monday, July 07, 2014

This war was always against Jews 'per se'


 A Jewish victim of the 1929 Hebron massacre



Motorists were recently stopped in an Arab-Israeli town and asked if they were Jewish. Those who answered in Hebrew had their cars set on fire. This case presents Shimon Ohayon MK with a teachable moment, namely:  "They hate us not for what we do, but for what we are". Such hatred is familiar to Jews from Arab countries, and constitutes an age-old negation of Jewish rights, unclouded by the pseudo-intellectualism surrounding the Israel-Arab conflict today, he writes in The Jerusalem Post. (With thanks: Michelle)



It is surely no coincidence that one of the most popular rallying calls at anti-Israel demonstrations around the world is “khayber khayber ya yahud, jaysh Muhammad saya’ūd!” (“remember the Khyber, oh Jews, the army of Mohammed is coming now”). This genocidal chant recalls perhaps the first massacre of Jews under Islam as the ancient Jewish community of Khayber (in present day Saudi Arabia) was almost wiped out by Muhammad and his first followers. Those that did survive had their land confiscated, were humiliated with oppressive laws and forced to pay the jizya tribute tax.

These enforcements, meant to hold the Jews collectively in an endless inferior status, set the standards for Jews who found themselves under Islam during the Arab conquest and occupation of the Middle East and North Africa over the next almost millennia and a half.

During this time, tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Jews were massacred across what became known as the “Arab world,” in places like Granada, Fez, Algiers, Damascus and Sana’a. All of this long before the rise of modern political Zionism.

In Hebron, the oldest Jewish community in the Land of Israel, during 1929, 67 Jews, many of whom were yeshiva students, were hacked to death, disemboweled and burned.

These types of attacks occurred throughout the Arab world long before the reestablishment of Jewish statehood in Israel, and decades before a single Israeli settlement was built.

Although it is hard to accept, the roots of the conflict are a negation of the rights of the Jewish People to equality and liberation from the yoke of Arab torment. The highest insult to the Islamist sensitivity was the reconstitution of Jewish sovereignty in the heart of dar al-islam, an area which was theologically assigned to Islam in perpetuity.

This is what fueled the wars against Israel and still fuels the hatred against Jews around the world. The war has never been against Israel per se, it has been against the Jewish People, and its major front is directed against the Jewish state.

This is nowhere stated more clearly, proudly and openly than in Article Seven of the Hamas Charter, which aspires to a religiously-inspired war of genocide, not against Israelis or Zionists, but against Jews everywhere.

That is why the murder of Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse, France, or of tourists at the Jewish museum in Brussels, Belguim, are targeted as much and as vehemently as are students trying to hitch a ride home for Shabbat in Gush Etzion. The same hatred is at the root of these geographically distant but ideologically similar murders.

Last night, in and around the Israeli Arab city of Qalansawe and elsewhere, motorists were stopped and asked if they were Jewish. When they answered in Hebrew, their cars were attacked and set on fire by mobs. These near-lynchings did not distinguish between ideology, religiosity or background. You were simply a target if you were Jewish.

The simple question “are you a Jew?” has once again reaffirmed the age-old animosity of those who seek to kill, not in the name of nationalism or an ideology but out of pure, unadulterated hate.

Those Jews whose origins are in the Arab world know this question well. It was frequently the precursor to attacks, riots and lynchings in and around the Mellahs and Jewish Quarters throughout the Arab world.

As then, we as Jews are not targeted because of our Zionism, our ideology, or out of some sense of revenge. The question is so refreshingly yet hauntingly simple it breaks down all the pseudo-intellectualism that surrounds our conflict and simply wishes to identify a potential victim to fulfill an ancient bloodlust.

Of course, not all Arabs or Muslims are to be tarnished by these acts. Just as throughout the ages, many Arabs and Muslims sought peaceful coexistence with Jews and even came to their aid during the pogroms, many have nothing but disdain for the actions for those who purport to act in their name.

The radical medievalist strain of Islamism does not just target Jews, as is witnessed by the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria, the crucifixion of Christians in Syria and execution of Baha'is in Iran.

However, our conflict throws up the greatest confusion and anger, perhaps because the Jewish state is the greatest negation of the supremacist strain of Islamism. The Jews were the first and mortal enemy that was meant to be subjugated, enslaved and reduced, not sovereign.

For those who throughout history have sought to identify Jews for attack, the latest outrages in Qalansawe are markedly different. Today, we have a sovereign state, army and enforcement agencies that can defend Jews and take action against the perpetrators.

Nevertheless, this episode should remain as a “teachable moment” for all of us, especially those who see racism only in the Jewish sphere. These particular Arab citizens of the State of Israel have demonstrated once again why there is a need for a greater discussion around loyalty and citizenship.

Read article in full

Defeat by dhimmis is intolerable

Suspects in Arab murder 'are Mizrahim'


The suspects are associated with La Familia, a racist gang of supporters of the Beitar Jerusalem football club

Israel announced yesterday it had arrested six Israeli Jews wanted in the murder of Palestinian youth, Mohamed Abu Khdeir. 

The leader of the suspects is apparently Ezra Batzri*, the grandson of a well-known Jerusalem rabbi and a member of the Jerusalem Beitar racist fan club, La Familia.  Batzri is from Har Nof,  a primarily Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem with a large Mizrahi (oriental) population.

Murder is murder, whether of a Palestinian youth or the three Jewish teenagers last week near Gush Etzion. If found guilty, these members of La Familia would represent the most extremist fringe of the 'bad boys' of football. The reprehensible activities of La Familia will have caused a wave of popular revulsion in Israel. They can never be condoned or rationalised. They must be condemned in the strongest terms.

 If only the great mass of Palestinians would condemn the kidnapping and brutal murder of the Jewish teenagers as vigorously - instead of gleefully putting up the three-finger salute of approval and handing out sweets in celebration.

The alleged involvement of Mizrahim in the despicable murder of Mohamed Abu Khdeir is utterly deplorable. Might persecution in Arab countries just have something to do with their anti-Arab racism? While it can never excuse it, it might explain some of their behaviour.

Passing the Buck on the Bad Boys of football 

* Update: the original source implicating Batzri has now been deleted. No suspects have officially been named. 

Soccer thugs who 'burn buildings will burn people next' (Tablet)






Sunday, July 06, 2014

Moroccan Jews' history goes online


A US academic stumbled upon a Geniza, or store, of  Jewish papers and documents in a Moroccan synagogue. The collection, revealing important Jewish history, is being translated and digitised, The Tablet reports:

Kosansky got permission from the synagogue to remove some of the documents from the genizah, sorting through the documents and donating those he felt contained historical and cultural relevance to the Jewish Museum of Casablanca, Morocco. The collection at the museum consists of documents both sacred and secular from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries; items range from canonical Jewish texts to community records and public notices.

Something that stood out to Kosansky was the geographical breadth of the documents he found. “We have texts from Vienna, Paris, Jerusalem, Constantine, Algiers, Tunisia,” Kosansky explained. “This collection allows us to better appreciate how much modern Jewish Moroccan history was embedded in global history. There are these important Jewish networks of learning, commerce, travel that linked Jewish Morocco to Jewish communities throughout the Mediterranean Basin and all over the world.”

But Kosansky’s work didn’t end with the physical preservation of these documents. Funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Kosansky created a digital archive of this historical collection. The Rabat Genizah Project, which launched online last month and is currently in its preliminary stages, provides images of some the documents found in the Moroccan synagogue.

Read article in full

Saturday, July 05, 2014

'Smuggled Jews' story does not stack up

 Damascus house on the Barada river


Press reports of the recent arrival of a 'Syrian-Jewish' family in Israel are not as straightforward as they sound, warns Adam Blitz, our resident 'Syria watcher'. Read his  Times of Israel blog:

On Wednesday 3 July 2014 The Israeli YNetnews, part of  Yedioth Media Group  ran a story, “Jewish family secretly smuggled into Israel from Syria”.  This was substantially different from the coverage in The Jerusalem Post or The Algemeiner of the same day, both of which acknowledged that the individuals concerned were part of a “mixed” Jewish-Muslim family.

Were Jewish-Muslim relations in Syria ever that simple. There were isolated cases of conversion to Islam and of marriage beyond the confines of faith. However these individuals, cited in the press, did not constitute the 16 strong (or weak) Jewish community left in Damascus. 

The news could not have come at a more opportune time. With a nation in mourning over the loss of three of its youths, Ynet’s exclusively Jewish coverage generated responses to the effect, “Finally! Some good news! Welcome!”, “Welcome home!” and “Ham Israel Hai” “The nation of Israel lives”). One might well ask whether the same responses would have ensued had it been known that the issue of Jewishness, a routine stumbling block for many, was pertinent.

The “rescue”, as it has been called, occurred more than 6 months ago. The individuals involved travelled cross-border from Syria to Turkey and then to Istanbul. At the time I questioned why 7 Jews, (as was then stated), would elect to journey through rebel-held territory and travel North to Turkey. It would have been substantially easier to exit via the Beirut-Damascus Highway, avoid the worst of the war zone and head to Lebanon: a relatively short distance from Damascus where the last remaining Jews lived. Equally, I questioned whether the former practice of restricted movement was remotely applicable and why those involved needed to be “smuggled”. Other Jews, albeit few, had left Syria once the conflict had erupted.

Somewhere in the mix the Jewish Agency became involved in a story that didn’t quite stack up. From Turkey a “three-generation family” gained access to Israel. Yet, the last three generational Jewish family departed Syria approximately 8 years ago when the remaining two children in the community, together with their parents and grandparents, left for the US.

In addition, Moti Kahana, the American-Israeli who had been instrumental in leaking the tale of the debacle of Jobar synagogue and its much sought-after artefacts, was central to the story. It was he who facilitated the operation, we are told. A rebel-sympathiser cum humanitarian, Moti Kahana forged relations with the rebels and, at some stage, ensured the safe passage of this “mixed” family.

Given Israel’s track record on immigration, asylum and what can best be termed an evolving refugee policy, the new arrivals are extraordinarily lucky.

Read article in full

Nine Syrian 'Jews' smuggled to Israel