Friday, August 28, 2015

Yazidis demand proof of Jew's rescue mission

Vice News is questioning whether the 'Jewish Shindler', a Moroccan-born Jew living in Montreal called Steve Maman, has indeed rescued as many Yazidis and Christians as he said he has. His partner in the rescue mission, Canon Andrew White, has poured scorn on the suggestion that Maman is dishonest or is misusing his funds. (With thanks: Gina)


 Steven Maman (Photo: Brigitte Noel)

A group of Yazidi spiritual and political leaders, activists, and aid workers are demanding an inquiry into the work of a Montreal man who claims to have rescued 128 Yazidi and Christian women and children enslaved by Islamic State militants.

Steve Maman has attracted international attention for his Canadian non-profit group, The Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq (CYCI), which on its website claims to have "single handedly helped save over 120 Yazidi and Christian women and children from ISIS [Islamic State, or IS] controlled territories in Iraq" through a network of volunteers. Headlines affectionately dubbed the Moroccan-born Jew and luxury car and crystal dealer the "Jewish Schindler."

As of Tuesday, a GoFundMe page he set up in early July had swelled to more than $580,000 from donors around the world.

But now, concerned members of the Yazidi community in Iraq and the United States — including their top spiritual leader Baba Sheikh — have issued a written statement calling on Maman to cease taking donations until he proves that he's doing the work he says he's doing.

Read article in full 

Moroccan-Jewish saviour for Yazidis and Christians

Israel warns citizens not to visit Morocco

 Moroccan tourism  will be hard hit by an Israeli security alert warning Israeli tourists to avoid visiting the kingdom, Actu-Maroc reports.

A synagogue in Morocco

Israelis come to Morocco at different times of the year to visit family or take part in pilgrimages to saints' tombs, or simply to see the country of birth of their parents.

This bonanza will dry up in view of the Israeli authorities' firm insistence, on the basis of its information sources, that terrorist attacks are increasingly likely.

Moroccan tour operators have been pinning their hopes on increased Israeli tourism for the festival of Hanucah between 6 and 15 December. Whole families have tended to come to Morocco at that time to visit the graves of their ancestors.

Read article in full (French)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Iran: Holocaust denial contains an appeal to repeat it

Holocaust denial  is one of the the three key sides of an ideological triangle, together with elimination of Israel and demonisation of Jews, espoused by the Iranian regime. in this important interview by Karmel Melamed of the Jewish Journal, German academic Matthias Kuntzel says that current Iranian antisemitism has undoubted parallels with Nazism.


 Dr Matthias Kuntzel


Karmel Melamed: Can you please explain why the current Iranian regime for nearly 20 years has had such a massive public and overt obsession with the subject of Holocaust denial? Why do they keep bringing up this topic as a part of their foreign policy?
 
How can you wish to get rid of Israel and at the same time acknowledge the truth of the Holocaust? That is impossible. Anyone who accepts the reality of the Holocaust can’t at the same time believe that the Jews are the rulers of the world and that Israel of all countries is the root of all evil. These three items: elimination of Israel, demonization of Jews and Holocaust denial – are interwoven and belong together. They form what I call an ideological triangle. If any of the three sides of this ideological triangle is absent, the whole structure collapses.
Holocaust denial is at the same time antisemitism at its peak. Whoever declares Auschwitz to be a “myth” implicitly portrays the Jews as the enemy of humankind, who for filthy lucre has been duping the rest of humanity for the past seventy years. Whoever talks of the “so-called” Holocaust suggests that over ninety percent of the world’s media and university professorships are controlled by Jews and thereby cut off from the “real” truth. In this way, precisely the same sort of genocidal hatred gets incited that helped prepare the way for the Shoah. Every denial of the Holocaust thus tacitly contains an appeal to repeat it. And that is what the Iranian leadership does.
From the former Iranian president Ahmadinejad, to Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei and others in the Iranian regime, they unapologetically deny the Holocaust, embrace Holocaust deniers, sponsor Holocaust denial conferences and Holocaust denial cartoons which have caused an uproar in the West. Do you think they do not care about the negative public relations image this creates? Or is there another motivation?
They care about their negative image. That is why the tone of Holocaust denial has changed since President Rohani and Foreign Minister Zarif entered office. Previously, denial of the Holocaust was the leitmotif of Iran’s foreign policy. Today it is still an undisputed part of Iran’s state ideology, but is no longer the centerpiece of its public diplomacy.
However, even the internationally presentable Rohani is still far from acknowledging the Holocaust. Asked, for example, whether the Holocaust was real, Iran’s new president responded: “I am not a historian. I’m a politician.” To pretend that the facts of the Holocaust are a matter of serious historical dispute and available only for historians is a classic rhetorical evasion.
Later Rohani maintained that “a group of Jewish people” had been killed by the Nazis during WW II. But again: Holocaust deniers commonly acknowledge that Jews were killed while insisting that the number of Jewish victims was relatively small and that a systematic effort to wipe them out did not place.
In your new book, you discuss the role Radio Berlin broadcasted into Iran played and the works of Nazi academics played in exporting their form of anti-Semitism to Iran during World War II. Can you please shed light into why this is important for us to understand today regarding the current Iranian regime’s hatred for Jews?
In defending the nuclear deal with Tehran, President Barak Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry gave the impression that they view the regime’s anti-Semitism as an incidental problem; to take it seriously would be a waste of time. Others believe that Iranian anti-Semitism is merely a response to Israel’s policies. I show in my book, that both assumptions are wrong.
On the one hand, there was in the Shiite tradition always a strong anti-Jewish tendency. And there is, on other hand, still the after-effect of Nazi propaganda: Between 1939 and 1945 the Nazi’s anti-Semitism was exported via a daily Persian-language broadcast from Berlin to Iran. This broadcast was popular and its main radio speaker, Bahram Sharokh, a celebrity during those years.
The Nazis based their antisemitic incitement in Persian language on Islamic roots. They radicalized some anti-Jewish verses of the Koran and combined them with the European phantasm of a Jewish world conspiracy. Ruhollah Khomeini was, according to Amir Taheri, a regular and ardend listener of “Radio Berlin”. His claim of 1971 that “the Jews want to create a Jewish world state” mirrored a classical trope of Nazi antisemitism.
For more than 30 years the Iranian “propaganda ministry” has repeatedly marched out Iran’s sole Jewish members of Parliament and individual Jewish leaders in front of Western media outlets to claim the Iranian regime “loves Jews and treats Jews equally”. As Jews who fled this regime in Iran, my community in America knows these claims are false and the Iranian regime has no love for Jews. I believe the Iranian regime has taken a direct page out of Josef Goebbels propaganda play book in trying to spin a false media image of Jews being treated nicely to cover their true evil. What is your assessment of this phenomenon?
It is true that the Iranian regime distinguishes between Zionism as a menace and Judaism as a legitimate religion and at holiday time, wishing all Jews, especially Iranian Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashana. However, a “Jew” is here characterized as someone who is willing to support Tehran’s antisemitic program and Israel’s elimination. Only this kind of Jew – the fanatical followers of the Neturei Karta sect, the intimidated leaders and members of the Iranian Jewish community, or the useful idiots of the Jewish radical left – are acceptable to Tehran. All other Jews are fair game.

The killing of five Jewish tourists in Bulgaria in 2012 and the attacks or planned attacks in Thailand, Georgia, and India perpetrated by Hezbollah terrorists and Iranian agents made headlines. Other Iranian attempts to kill Jews in Kenya, Nigeria and Bangkok are less well known.

The 1994 suicide bombing of the Jewish AMIA-Center in Buenos Aires caused the death of 85 persons and injured more than 150. This was the most deadly terror attack against Jews since World War II and it was the Iranian leadership including Khamenei and Rafsanjani that made this decision and instructed Hezbollah to commit the crime. The sole reason was the fact that Argentina did not want to continue its nuclear co-operation with Iran. Who, however, should be blamed and punished for Argentina’s independent decision? The AMIA example clearly shows that Iran’s anti-Jewish paranoid pattern contains a call to kill.
The Iranian regime and its leadership, spews hatred against Israel and “the Zionists” instead of using the word “Jews”. The regime’s leaders claim they have no “ill will” against the Jews but only hate for Israel. Is their hatred really against just Israel, or is this just a cover-up for a deeper rooted anti-Semitism?
You’re right. Though the regimes distributes thousands of antisemitic brochures such as the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” it rarely mobilizes openly against “Jews” but agitates against the “Zionists”. It is important, however, to understand that this regime invests the word “Zionist” with exactly the same sense as that with which Hitler once invested the word “Jew”: namely that of being the incarnation of all evil. Destroying Israel is in their understanding the only way to stop that evil. Or in Ahmadinejad’s words: “The Zionist regime will be wiped out, and humanity will be liberated.”

This sentiment—liberation through destruction—is the one for which the Holocaust historian Saul Friedlaender coined the term “redemptive antisemitism”. It is not so far from that expressed in a Nazi directive of 1943: “This war will end with antisemitic world revolution and with the extermination of Jewry throughout the world, both of which are the precondition for an enduring peace.”

The regime’s hatred of Jews resembles Hitler’s ideology in this aspect: Both have a utopian element. Just as Hitler’s “German peace” required the extermination of the Jews, so the Iranian leadership’s “Islamic peace” depends on the elimination of Israel. It is high time that the White House recognizes this utopian element and takes it seriously.

Read article in full

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Canon White partners Moroccan Jew in Yazidi rescue



 Steve Maman and his family: saving children is Tikkun Olam and Kiddush Hashem

In this interview with Moroccan World News the Moroccan-Jewish Canadian benefactor Steve Maman reveals that his partner in saving Christians and Yazidis from Da'esh (Islamic State) is Canon Andrew White. Point of No Return followers will be familiar with Canon White's devotion to the protection of Jews and their heritage in Iraq - before his stint as Vicar of St George's Church, Baghdad became too risky and he was relocated to Jerusalem. Maman's quid-pro-quo for the publicity is to pay tribute to Morocco as an 'example of tolerance to the world'.

Could you tell us about your foundation in few words and the choice of Yazidis and Christians?
Steve Maman: On June 26, 2015 I created a nonprofit organization called “The liberation of Christian and Yazidi children of Iraq (CYCI)” to support my mission.  Its goal is to negotiate the liberation of children held hostage and used a sex slaves in Mosul. We chose Christians and Yazidi because they are the ones held hostage after a fatwa authorized them to be used and sold as sex slaves for the benefit of ISIS (Daesh) combatants. I would have definitely added the Muslim children to my mission if they were part of this horror.

Does your foundation have other objectives?
Steve Maman: Our unique objective is to liberate as many children as possible. The project has been going on for 8 months now, and the role of this organization is to provide us, in our work, with donations. Until now, I had carried the project on my own and have moved multiple families out of harm’s way.

What made you come up with the idea for this project?
Steve Maman: Well, I as a Moroccan Jew, I found this cause to engage in a true world responsibility. The Torah talks about two things: “Tikkun Olam,” repairing the world, and “Kiddouch Hashem,” to make God’s presence respected.  As a Jew, it was a way to make this world better through actions of goodness and kindness. The goal here is for children to come out alive from this horrible war.

There is no question of religion, race, or nationality being discussed here. There are innocent children that are powerless, caught in the crossfire. But worse, they are being exploited in the crossfire, as if that alone were not enough pain to endure. The exploitations are beyond understanding.  Children beheaded, raped, beat, underfed, left to live in cages!  Why? Because they are Christian or Yazidi, and therefore this does not constitute a sin in the eyes of Islamic law in the way ISIS interprets it.  This is not Islam. I refuse to accept, as a Jew, that this is Islam. This is a deformation, a distortion of Islam. This has to be decried and it has to be fixed. The fixing starts with giving them a chance at life.

I need support. One year has gone by and it has been long enough for world leaders to react and plan a solution, yet we see little being done for those left behind at the mercy of ISIS.

The heroic Government of Canada, with its Prime Minister Stephen Harper,who has gone to Iraq and pledged nearly 140 million dollars in aid to the humanitarian cause, as well as sending Canadian troops, is sending a message to the world. I wish to see more world leaders unite forces in order to find a solution to end this.
May god bless my mission with world leaders being aware of what I do and of what can be done. My mission is centered on the ones who are held hostage. I refer tothe ones kept in cages being hurt, abused molested and raped. The ones I truly wish to help are praying to God after every rape that he ends their pain and humiliation. It is reported they wish they be killed rather than live with such a fate.

God give them the strength to hold on to life for a bit longer until I get to them, God willing.

How much is the amount you have collected until now?
Steve Maman: This is a question that I cannot answer and won’t disclose. But things are moving very well. Jews have been incredibly supportive of the mission, the majority being Moroccan Jews.

How long do you expect this project to last?
Steve Maman: One year maximum is my estimate. I figured that Mosul will be taken back and carnage will befall these children if they are not freed prior.

Does it have supporters and other funders? If so, who are they?
Steve Maman: Yes, until now, I have been funding the project myself. I founded CYCI in order to raise funds.  Jews can relate to this cause,since they lived a similar fate during the Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis. They can relate to what it is to be saved and liberated, therefore granted freedom. I cite Oskar Schindler or Sir Winton as examples. They inspired me to act and do what I am currently doing, but I am definitely a long way from attaining their results.

Which means of communication did you use to approach donors?
Steve Maman: We use Facebook to create awareness.

Are there well known personalities (in Morocco, perhaps) who support this project?

Steve Maman: From Morocco, nothing yet, but God willing my country shall surprise me.
The most important aid I currently have is Canon Andrew White. He is a world-respected humanitarian figure, with many world leaders openly supporting his foundation that assists refugees and the persecuted.

How did you get in touch with him?
Steve Maman: I met Canon Andrew White through Facebook. We became very close. He actually travelled to Montreal and stayed with us. We planned this mission. I was already involved with him 8 months ago when I saved two complete families and moved them to Ankara,amongst numerous other missions. I am currently renting them a house and providingfor all their needs in Ankara. Canon White admired my actions, as he knew the family well. This strengthened our bond.

How did Canon Andrew White help in your work?
Steve Maman: He is instrumental to my success. He has a platform in Kurdistan and in Jordan with camps for handling the children I liberate.

Have you made concrete achievements together?
Steve Maman: Together we have saved more than 102 children so far, and it increases every day. Canon Andrew White has nothing to do with the liberation aspect. He handles and provides support after they are liberated.

Do you have any facilities for rescuing children? Do you make any negotiations there?
Steve Maman: I will explain it this way: I have, on the ground in Iraq, someone I call a brother. He is an Iraqi Christian. He is my hero. He is a young soldier, decorated by the US army and by the Iraqi Government. He is connected to every possible figure inIraq (Sunni, Shiite and Kurd, as well as all factions).

There are some people that seek means to make money around this war. I exploit that to my advantage. Tribal leaders are very helpful.
We never meet ISIS. We never negotiate with ISIS.

For the first time a Canadian Sephardic delegation was formed to be given, as Radio Shalom journalist Charles Lugassy says, its “title of nobility”. In what context was your meeting with the government and its leader organized? For what reason did you meet the Prime Minister? Do you have concrete political support?

Steve Maman: Well, the agenda of the day was specifically to honor Sephardic Jews that are influential.
The delegation was made up of people that make a difference in our world, by Sephardic Jews of all origins. I was chosen for my involvement in this project and mission. It was part of a group of 27 people from Canada.

I met the politicians in a context where the first delegation of Sephardic Jews was invited to Ottawa in a historical context (Purim day). We were greeted witha lunch, a tour, and exchanges with ministers while the Prime Minister was reserved for a select 7 people.

Has the constitution of this delegation been helpful for example in the fight you lead to rescue child victims of ISIS?

Steve Maman: Not at all. There was no relation with the agenda of that day.

You give in your video on YouTube the example of the Jordanian pilot. What was its impact on your project?

Steve Maman: Yes, this moved me very deeply. I wanted to act and not remain a spectator. I basically looked at my watch, and noticed how many lives I could save if I were to sell what was on my wrist. The next morning, I decided I would help children out, using my contacts in Iraq.

What message do you want to send to the world?
Steve Maman: This project is directed by a Moroccan Jew that was born in a country where there is tolerance for all religions that permits them to express themselves openly.

Morocco should serve as an example to the world. I could be more proud to be born to such country. My Moroccan identity is what makes me who I am, someone who cares, who loves and gives to strangers. This character is typical of Moroccans. We are definitely givers. The land inspired us with love for others. The land made us who we are: in my case, a Moroccan Jew with an attachment to my land that is irreproachable. This is proven again through the generosity of Moroccan Jews who are clearly standing with me in my fight to save and liberate these innocent girls and women.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Jews don't trust Iran, with reason



Writing in Jewish Journal, Sarah Levin of JIMENA finds that Iranian Jews have good reason not to trust Iran to keep to the nuclear deal negotiated with the Obama administration +5.

Karmel Melamed, an Iranian-born JIMENA speaker and award-winning international journalist, seems to sum up the sentiments of many Iranian American Jews. “The nuclear agreement between the P5+1 and Iran is very disturbing for Iranian American Jews like myself,” he wrote, “because our families experienced first hand the sheer evil as well as random terror of anti-Semitism carried out by this Iranian regime for more than 35 years.”

Deeply concerned that the lifting of sanctions will have grave consequences, he continued: “We [Iranian American Jews] shudder at the thought of what chaos and destruction this regime will unleash on Jews, Christians and others worldwide who they consider ‘infidels,’ through their terror proxies Hamas and Hezbollah, once the regime is infused with $150 billion of their frozen assets after this deal is approved by Congress.”

The mistrust, anger and extremely negative sentiments of Iranian American Jews toward the regime, in the context of the nuclear agreement and beyond, are justified. Iranian Jews compose an ancient, culturally rich community that was subjected to severe human rights abuses by a regime that continues to treat them as second-class citizens. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, 90 percent of Iran’s Jews fled, often under duress with just the shirts on their backs. JIMENA has interviewed Iranian American Jews who risked their lives by illegally escaping through treacherous deserts to become homeless refugees in Pakistan.

This story is not uncommon. We’ve interviewed individuals whose family members were executed by the Revolutionary Guards simply for asserting their Jewishness and their right to their property. Despite the regime’s publicity-minded efforts to showcase themselves as a government that is tolerant of its Jewish citizens, JIMENA’s Iranian members continue to share stories of the discrimination, dispossession, torture and murder of Jews simply because of their faith.

George Haroonian, an prominent Iranian Jewish activist and friend of JIMENA, told me: “This regime, no matter how the personalities are branded as conservative or moderate or radical, has hegemonic plans for the Middle East and the world. … All agreements are only steps in achieving their long-term goal.”

Some of JIMENA’s Iranian members take a nuanced view of the nuclear agreement, but remain critical of the regime’s dismal human rights record. However, Elliott Benjamin, JIMENA advisory board member and Iranian American Jewish communal leader, expresses the opinion that seems to be shared by the majority of our membership: “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran deal, is a catastrophic mistake of historic proportions.

Read article in full 

Iranian Jews in US 'against Obama deal'

Monday, August 24, 2015

Israel's Moroccan youth project likened to Da'esh


Le récent voyage effectué par une trentaine de jeunes juifs marocains en Israël dans le cadre d’un programme sous le patronage du ministère de la Défense a relancé la campagne des milieux anti-normalisation au royaume. Ils demandent dans une lettre adressée au chef du gouvernement Abdelilah Benkirane d’ordonner l’ouverture d’une enquête « sincère » et « transparente » sur cet incident.
Les signataires de la missive réclament « d’identifier les responsables » derrière l’organisation de ce programme « et d’en prendre les mesures qui s’imposent ». Ils demandent également de « tout mettre en œuvre afin d’éviter que de nouveaux déplacements de ce genre ne soient enregistrés (…) et de poursuivre en justice tout personne ayant participé ou compte commettre des crimes de guerre et de crimes contre l’humanité en Palestine occupée ».
Poursuivre les jeunes avec la loi antiterrorisme comme ceux de Daesh
Les ONG qui qualifient l’Etat israélien de « régime d’apartheid », affirment que la visite est « aussi dangereuse que rallier l’organisation Daesh ». Elles expliquent que « la constitution d’une bande armée par des individus marocains menace la sécurité nationale quelque soit la partie terroriste qui les recrute et les entraine ».
Jouant à fond la carte sécuritaire, les auteurs de cette lettre affirment qu’ « il ne faut en aucun cas sous-estimer les entrainements militaires dans l’entité sioniste sous couvert de considérations politiques ou autre lorsque la stabilité et la sécurité dans notre pays sont en danger ». Ils rappellent également les révélations en octobre 2013 du général Amos Yadlin, ancien directeur des services secrets de l’armée « Aman », à une chaîne de télé de son pays affirmant qu’Israël compte un réseau d’espionnage et de subversion capable, en cas de besoin, de déstabiliser le Maroc.
Le chef du gouvernement est donc face à une nouvelle interpellation des milieux opposés à Israël lui demandant d’agir. Il y a une année, quasiment les mêmes ONG avaient adressé une lettre à l’homme fort du PJD sollicitant son intervention pour interdire les activités de la compagnie israélienne ZIM, une propriété d’un holding public, dans les ports marocains. Une requête jetée aux oubliettes. Le même sort sera-t-il réservé à cette nouvelle doléance des anciens amis de Benkirane ?


...Suite : http://www.yabiladi.com/articles/details/38365/maroc-demandent-benkirane-poursuivre-jeunes.html
Le récent voyage effectué par une trentaine de jeunes juifs marocains en Israël dans le cadre d’un programme sous le patronage du ministère de la Défense a relancé la campagne des milieux anti-normalisation au royaume. Ils demandent dans une lettre adressée au chef du gouvernement Abdelilah Benkirane d’ordonner l’ouverture d’une enquête « sincère » et « transparente » sur cet incident.
Les signataires de la missive réclament « d’identifier les responsables » derrière l’organisation de ce programme « et d’en prendre les mesures qui s’imposent ». Ils demandent également de « tout mettre en œuvre afin d’éviter que de nouveaux déplacements de ce genre ne soient enregistrés (…) et de poursuivre en justice tout personne ayant participé ou compte commettre des crimes de guerre et de crimes contre l’humanité en Palestine occupée ».
Poursuivre les jeunes avec la loi antiterrorisme comme ceux de Daesh
Les ONG qui qualifient l’Etat israélien de « régime d’apartheid », affirment que la visite est « aussi dangereuse que rallier l’organisation Daesh ». Elles expliquent que « la constitution d’une bande armée par des individus marocains menace la sécurité nationale quelque soit la partie terroriste qui les recrute et les entraine ».
Jouant à fond la carte sécuritaire, les auteurs de cette lettre affirment qu’ « il ne faut en aucun cas sous-estimer les entrainements militaires dans l’entité sioniste sous couvert de considérations politiques ou autre lorsque la stabilité et la sécurité dans notre pays sont en danger ». Ils rappellent également les révélations en octobre 2013 du général Amos Yadlin, ancien directeur des services secrets de l’armée « Aman », à une chaîne de télé de son pays affirmant qu’Israël compte un réseau d’espionnage et de subversion capable, en cas de besoin, de déstabiliser le Maroc.
Le chef du gouvernement est donc face à une nouvelle interpellation des milieux opposés à Israël lui demandant d’agir. Il y a une année, quasiment les mêmes ONG avaient adressé une lettre à l’homme fort du PJD sollicitant son intervention pour interdire les activités de la compagnie israélienne ZIM, une propriété d’un holding public, dans les ports marocains. Une requête jetée aux oubliettes. Le même sort sera-t-il réservé à cette nouvelle doléance des anciens amis de Benkirane ?


...Suite : http://www.yabiladi.com/articles/details/38365/maroc-demandent-benkirane-poursuivre-jeunes.html
The fallout from the report that 30 young Moroccan Jews had been on an IDF-sponsored training course in Israel was going to be inevitable. The Jerusalem Post pulled the original article, but the damage had already been done. Not content with smearing the IDF, anti-normalisers in Morocco have gone a step further, accusing Israel of being no different from Da'esh (Islamic state), and plotting to subvert the Moroccan regime itself. This report in Ya Biladi takes a swipe at the Islamist PJD party, who are behind the campaign.
Abdelilah Benkirane, head of government and leader of the Islamist PJD

The recent trip made by thirty young Moroccan Jews in Israel as part of a program sponsored by the Ministry of Defence has renewed the anti-normalization campaign in the kingdom. They have written a letter to Abdelilah Benkirane, head of government asking him to order a "sincere" and "transparent" investigation into the incident.

 Signatories of the letter demand "to identify those responsible" behind the organization of this program "and to take the necessary measures." They are also asking him to "make every effort to prevent further projects of this kind (...) and to prosecute any person involved in committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in occupied Palestine."

 NGOs that call the Israeli state an"apartheid" state say that the visit is "as dangerous as allying with Daesh ."

They explain that "the formation of an armed group by Moroccan individuals threatens national security, regardless of the terrorists who recruit and train them."

Playing the security card, the authors of the letter say that "it should in any case not underestimate the military training in the Zionist entity under the cover of political or other considerations when stability and security in our country is in danger ".

They also recall the revelations in October 2013 by General Amos Yadlin , former director of the army secret service unit "Aman", to a TV channel in his country, saying that Israel has a network of espionage and subversion capable, if necessary, of destabilizing Morocco.

The head of government is facing new calls from circles opposed to Israel asking him to act. A year ago, almost all the same NGOs had sent a letter to the strong man of the PJD seeking his intervention in prohibiting the activities of the Israeli company ZIM, a public company, in Moroccan ports. The call was consigned to oblivion. Will this be the fate of this new protest by Benkirane's old friends ?

Read article in full (French)


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Jews went on hunger strike in 1950s Iraqi prisons

 In spite of the moral equivalence with a Palestinian terrorist hunger striker in the final paragraph, this article in +972 magazine by Orit Bashkin gives an interesting insight into how  Jews and Communists went on  hunger strike in the Iraq of the 1950s, leading, she claims, to 'regime change'. One Jewish hunger striker, Regina Lukai, was the subject of an Israeli TV film. (with thanks: Janet)

Many Jews were imprisoned for political reasons, because of anti-Semitism, or because of their connections to radical or Zionist organizations (including this writer’s own great grandfather, who was imprisoned in Russia because he was a Zionist and escaped to mandatory Palestine in 1927). And even in the prisons of mandatory Palestine, communists and revisionists used hunger strikes as part of their political battles.

In Iraq, the subject of my research, Jewish prisoners used hunger strikes in the 1950s.

Since the mid-1940s, two illegal underground organizations had been growing in influence in Iraq among Jewish youth and students: the Zionist and the Communist. The Zionist movement was smaller, in contrast to the Communists, who exerted influence throughout all of Iraq and included all faiths.

The Iraqi government brutally repressed both movements. Many Jews who were, in fact, neither Zionist nor communist, were arrested by the state in 1948 on the false accusations that they were members of those organizations.

One of the most infamous prisons in Iraq was Nuqrat al-Salman, a fortress in the desert where Jewish and non-Jewish political prisoners were kept. In 1951, Nukqat al-Salman held 50 Jewish prisoners out of the 162 political prisoners; 8 Jews had been stripped of their nationality. Paradoxically, moreover, the jails in Iraq became a hotbed for political activity, given that they contained such a concentrated number of Communists.

In July 1951, the prisoners began a hunger strike, which quickly became a nation-wide event. The political prisoners argued that the court which judged them did not have the authority to do so—part of them were, in fact, judged by emergency laws imposed in 1948—and demanded that the prison be closed.
The Iraqi opposition, from both the left and the right, reported on the hunger strikes and the tortures through their newspapers. Protests broke out in Baghdad and in Basra to display support for the hunger strikers. Until today, the 1950s hunger strike protests are remembered as one of the critical aspects of what became a wave of protests against the regime.

Another case relates to a 16-year-old girl, Regina Lukai (now Herzliya Lukai) from Irbil in northern Iraq, who had been arrested because she simply had a letter in Hebrew. She recalls being imprisoned in Irbil with male prisoners who protected her from the police guards.  She was then transferred to Baghdad, interrogated and, though she was not provided an attorney, was sentenced to a two year imprisonment on charges of cooperation with Zionism.

She served six months in Baghdad, and then was again transferred to a prison in Irbil, where she joined communist female prisoners and needed to pretend to be a communist in order to be in their graces. Together, the women began a hunger strike, and Regina was on her 21st day when she was force fed along with her fellow inmates. On the way to the force feeding, the women screamed that they were political prisoners. The strike itself was covered in the press.

Regina, who was ultimately released and celebrated in her city of birth, was the subject of a film shown on Israeli television in 1989 called “Tsamot.” The hunger strike frames the narrative and appears in the beginning and the end of the story.

I assume that at this point many readers might be annoyed, and rightly so. After all, there is nothing alike in the Zionist and Communist undergrounds and the Islamic Jihad of which Mohammad Allan is allegedly a member. The undergrounds in Iraq were secular and modern. The communists encompassed all religions and protested sectarianism. These organizations have nothing in common with Islamic Jihad in their world view or their tactics.

However, all hunger strikers – Iraqi and Palestinian, Muslims, Christians, and Jews – raised similar claims: that prisoners are entitled to the right of a fair trial, that an attorney present their case, that their imprisonment conditions be fair, and that torture would not be a part of their “interrogations.”

Read article in full

Friday, August 21, 2015

Iranian Jews score Sharia successes

Operating within the limits of 'sharia' law on minorities, Jews in Iran have managed to get equal 'blood money' compensation - except in cases where a Jew murders a Muslim,  the penalty being execution, and not 'blood money'. The community also seeks to tackle the ban on Jews in senior posts in the government and military and the issue of Muslims serving as heads of Jewish schools. The issue of Israel is still out-of-bounds. Larry Cohler- Esses reports for the Forward:


The community is vocal about the multiple forms of discrimination under which its members live — but without questioning the legitimacy of the regime or the system of Sharia, or Islamic law, by which it governs.





Image: Larry Cohler-Esses
Their approach could be seen in what community leaders consider one of their biggest recent victories: gaining equality in “blood money” compensation. That’s the amount a person must pay to a family when he is responsible for an accident that caused a family member’s death.

“We succeeded in getting blood money compensation equalized for minorities,”
Motamed said. “Before, there was a big difference between the money for minorities and the main population…. It was a very big achievement.”

But the community’s approach did not involve any criticism of Sharia, which rules on such matters. Instead, Motamed, recalled, “We consulted a lot of ayatollahs and took testimony from high-ranking clerics to show there must be equality” under Sharia.

Pleased as he was, Motamed noted that blood money compensation for non-Muslims remains unequal in cases of murder — and that they are continuing to push on this.

“Under Sharia… if a Muslim kills a Jew, there will be blood money payment. But if a Jew kills a Muslim, the penalty is execution,” he said. Here, too, “we’ve consulted with a lot of ayatollahs and gotten letters. But it’s still not solved.”

Other unresolved issues the leaders cited involved access to high-ranking posts in government ministries and the requirement that a Muslim serve as principal at Jewish schools.

“We have five schools,” Najafabadi said, “and the principals in all of them are Muslim. There’s no enmity. They’re very cooperative. But it’s kind of insulting.”

Then there is inheritance law: Under Sharia in Iran, if one sibling in a non-Muslim family converts to Islam, he inherits the entirety of his parents’ assets. This, too, community leaders are pushing to change.

Shiraz Jewish compound.



Shiraz Jewish compound. (Photo: Larry Cohler-Esses)
On Israel, the community’s leadership must be more circumspect. But it is no secret that many in the community have family there, or that a significant number of Jews in Iran have visited Israel themselves. One teenager in Shiraz told me how excited he had been to visit three years ago.

“There are people traveling to Israel,” Najafabadi volunteered. But since the Gaza War of last summer, the government had clamped down, he said. Some who go are imprisoned, fined and interrogated. Two community members had been sentenced to 91 days, though this was later reduced to 20 days. Travel to Israel “is declining now because of these problems,” he said.

Moreh Sedgh even voiced concern for Israel, in his way — his way being to criticize Israel’s policies as harmful for Israel’s own interests.

Speaking about Israel’s policy of opposing Syria’s regime under Bashar al-Assad, which Iran supports, Moreh Sedgh said, “The main enemy of Israel today is Daesh” — a reference to the extremist Islamic State fighting to oust Assad. “Of course, the Assad family are not the ideal leaders for Syria,” he said. But he noted that if Assad is ousted, they “must be ready for ISIS. What benefit for Israel would that be?”

Despite all these issues, those Iranian Jews who choose to stay can live a very active Jewish religious and communal life. My second-to-last night in Iran, I was invited to meet with the local leaders of the Shiraz community in the large open-air compound that serves as their community center. About the size of a football field, the compound is surrounded by high walls that ensure the privacy of those who come. Tables were spread out with ample food, and by 11 p.m., Jewish families totaling some 50 or 60 individuals, including children, were dining and moving around from table to table to catch up on the local gossip.

Iranian Jews in US ' against Obama nuclear deal'

An overwhelming majority of Iranian Jews in the US, many of whom were driven out of Iran after the 1979 revolution, are against President Obama's nuclear deal, according to the International Business Times.

Many in Iranian Jewish communities throughout the U.S. said their experiences with the regime during and in the years since the Islamic Revolution have provided them with unique insight into the current political situation in the country. As the broader American Jewish establishment remains split over the Iran nuclear agreement Congress is preparing to vote on next month, members of the Iranian-American Jewish community have come out overwhelmingly opposed to it.

“I look at this deal and I say, ‘Who knows better what Iranians are like than Iranians?’,” Sassouni, an active member in her community, said. “I live with people who have firsthand knowledge of what that regime is like.”

Sassouni, who believes the deal is a dangerous one, is not a lone voice in her community. In interviews with International Business Times, numerous leaders said their community members, some of whom have not lived in Iran for years, or ever, as well as more recent arrivals, widely stand against the deal. They said it would legitimize an unjust regime and pose a threat to world peace.

“Almost all of [my congregants] are against it,” said Jeremy Rosen, a rabbi of the Persian Jewish Center, a Manhattan congregation of several hundred mostly Iranian Jews, who is not himself Iranian. “There are of course nuanced opinions ... [but] most of them think [President Barack] Obama is deluded in thinking that this will improve things.”

Iranian Jews Praying According to a recent Iranian census, about 9,000 Jews remain in Iran. Above, Iranian Jews pray at the Yousefabad Synagogue in Tehran, Iran, Nov. 23, 2006.  Reuters/Raheb Homavandi
 
The deal reached last month between Iran, the United States and five other world powers would see Iran commit itself to abandoning its nuclear program in exchange for gradual relief from international sanctions that have crippled the country’s economy. The agreement has come under intense scrutiny by Republicans in Congress, as well as by the Israeli government, who say Iran cannot be trusted to abide by the agreement.

Several prominent Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, have heavily protested the accord. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been among the deal’s most vocal critics internationally. A recent poll, however, found 63 percent of American Jews support the nuclear deal.

Obama has sought to convince the American public – as well as Congress – that the agreement with Iran ultimately will prevent the country from obtaining nuclear weapons and will improve security for both the U.S. and its regional allies. He has reiterated that the deal is built on unprecedented access for inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities – not trust.

But some Iranian-American Jews, many of whom continue to hold the regime accountable for uprooting their families, are not so sure. The U.S.’s largest Iranian Jewish organizations have come out harshly opposed to the deal, and some synagogues and community organizations have encouraged community members to lobby against the accord.

“We think it’s a disaster, it’s an extremely bad agreement,” said Sam Kermanian, a senior adviser for the Iranian American Jewish Federation, a national organization based in Los Angeles that is opposed to the deal. “We do not believe that it will stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but at the same time it gives legitimacy to a tyrannical regime that is suppressing its own people at home and embarking on dangerous adventures abroad.”


Under the U.S.-backed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who led the country from 1941 until his overthrow in 1979, the Jewish community of more than 80,000 flourished in Iran. As Jews in other Middle Eastern countries flocked to Israel between the 1940s and 1970s, Iran’s Jews widely chose to remain. Community members recalled close ties, even respect from Muslim neighbors and classmates.

Their success under the Shah’s regime backfired, however, when following the 1979 revolution, young revolutionaries and the newly installed government placed part of the blame for the Shah’s repression and the country’s economic woes on the prosperous Jewish minority.

Today, only about 9,000 Jews remain in Iran, according to Iranian census data, and they keep a generally low profile. They distance themselves from Israel, which Iranian leaders continue to characterize as an enemy state.

Read article in full 

Iranian Jews : 'We blame ourselves'

Thursday, August 20, 2015

How poor were the Jews of Damascus?

Blogging in the Huffington Post Sami Moubayed takes issue with a book by Israeli professor Yaron Harel, Zionism in Damascus. Moubayed, who lived in Syria until the 1990s, feels that Harel exaggerates the poverty suffered by Syrian Jews. Yet it is well known that Syrians of all faiths were leaving the country in the 19th century to seek economic opportunities abroad.  

Wealthy Jews like Haim Farhi, owner of Beit Farhi in Damascus, hardly figure in the book

Harel's book tells the story of Damascus Jews story from 1875 until the early 1920s. His main theme is that they found solace in Zionism not as a religious/political movement, but as social and economic life jacket to save them from persecution and humiliation under Ottoman rule, and within their greater Syrian environment. He claims that class segregation, economic woes, religious/political bias against them by Muslims and Christians, were all behind their support for the Zionist project. The book implies that Damascene Jews never actually felt that Damascus was their home, and that it was the fault of Damascus society. I won't debate the well-documented research that the book offers into the covert and over activism of Zionism in Damascus from the late nineteenth century onward, or the persecution that they faced under Ottoman rule. Both are true and well-said in the book, making it a very important addition to the Middle East library. Simply, nobody has done the Herculean task before.
I have to differ with the author, however, about the status of Damascus Jews.

 Denying their persecution at certain epochs of Syrian history would obviously be incorrect, but so would to claim that Damascus was hell on earth for its Jewish community. That exactly is what the book tries to push through the reader's mind, quit intentionally. Without shadow of a doubt, the Damascus Jews had their problems, like being prohibited from building grand synagogues like the Ben Ezra one in Cairo, because Ottoman law obliged non-Muslim houses of worship to be inconspicuous, and they were forced to wear color-specific outfits to differentiate them from Muslims and Christians. They did not, however, live in misery.

The book starts with a quote by prominent Jewish musicologist and composer Abraham Zevi Idelsohn, who was born in Latvia and came to Palestine to set up a school for Jewish music in 1919. Speaking after World War I, Idelsohn sets the mood by saying says that the street life of the Damascus Jews reminds people "of the ancient ghettos from the Middle Ages." The author starts with the wide agony that swept throughout the Jewish Quarter of Damascus when the Ottoman Government went bankrupt in 1875, refusing to repay Jewish creditors who had invested in Ottoman bonds. The extreme wealth that the community enjoyed before 1875 is completely ignored. The Ottoman Government owned them 20 million French francs, and in 1877 it annulled all debts to Damascene Jews, "reducing them to overnight paupers."

The book then gives a horrifying statement, "In 1903, it was reported that no wealthy individuals remained in the (Jewish) community and that the veteran established families had either left Damascus or been completed impoverished. Some of them fell into such indigence that left them scraping for bread to feed their children. By 1904, there remained in Damascus only one Jew described as affluent." One Jew -- not a handful -- not a "few" but one single Jew who remained affluent in Damascus! The author, of course, does not name him, but adds that when the Great War started in 1914, the number of wealthy Jews who stayed behind in the city amounted to no more than "three or four." Meaning, the number of wealthy Jews in Damascus rose from one in 1904 to 3-4 by 1914, at a pace of three over a ten year period.

The author explains that the vast majority of Damascus Jews were poor, working in metal and wood engraving, weaving, painting and silk-weaving. He contradicts himself, however, saying that in the 1880s, some Jews were employed in the Ottoman Government in Damascus, which by all accounts, was a well-paying and respectable job. He states: "At the start of the 20th century, those few educated Jews who had not left Damascus found employment in the civil service, working for the Ottoman Railway Company, the Imperial Ottoman Bank, and as supervisors for the tramways that began running on the streets of Damascus." The state was reluctant to hire them, he adds, because they observed Sabbath and would not work on Saturdays, meaning that does who did work and make money were un-observant Jews. Among the Jews who worked in high places were Nissim Beik Ades, chief director of the Hejaz Railway, Yakov Moshli, its chief inspector, and the lawyer Josh Abbadi, a jurist at the trade court of Damascus. These men were the upper-crust of Damascus; well-educated and refined working professionals living in beautiful homes, addressed as "beys" by the Damascenes, who mingling well with Syrian high society.

Professor Harel describes the status of Damascus Jews at the late 19th and early 20th century as living in "grinding poverty," saying that in 1881, 25% were living in "abject poverty" while 50% were just poor, and 25% were lower middle class. This makes no mention of the bankers, money-lenders, and wealthy businessmen who owned some of the most magnificent mansions of Old Damascus, like Bait Lisbona, Bait Niyaden, or Bait Farhi, owned by Haim Farhi, one of the richest men Damascus ever know who was the banker of Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar, the governor of Sidon and Damascus in the late 18th century. He also fails to mention the beautiful three courtyard mansion of Yusuf Bey Anbar, another wealthy Damascene Jew who started construction in 1870 but eventually sold the property and it became Maktab Anbar, the elite school of Damascus -- named after him.

There is hardly any mention of wealthy and prominent Damascene Jews like the physician Ishak Totah, one of the most prominent doctors of internal medicine in Syria in the 1950s whose clinic on Abed Street was frequented by everybody who was somebody in Damascus, or the three-time Damascus MP Yusuf Linadu, who ran for parliament with President Shukri al-Quwatli on a National Bloc list in 1943. He actually served on every Syrian Chamber since 1928. The author dismisses all of them one shot, saying: "The few who had wealth weren't considered rich" by the standards of Damascus, which of course is utterly untrue.

Read article in full

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

'Moroccan Jews in Israel' story pulled?

This piece from the Jerusalem Post was picked up by Moroccan World News, but the JPost page seems to have been pulled. Could it be that the close identification of Moroccan Jews with the IDF was not a wise thing to highlight in case it puts Morocco's remaining Jews in jeopardy? The 'military training' aspect certainly plays into the hands of those who claim that Moroccan Jews are fair game for murder 'because they will soon be killing Arabs as IDF soldiers'. 

Moroccan Jews training in Israel ( Photo: Moroccan World News)

The program aims to prepare the Moroccan Jewish youth for their eventual immigration to Israel and service in the ranks of the IDF, according to the Jerusalem Post, citing organizers.

The group flew from Morocco to Israel via Rome, Italy last month to participate in the summer program. They will undergo physical and mental training organized by the Amichai pre-military academy, the Israeli Zionist Federation and the World Zionist Organization (WZO).

During their stay in Israel, the Moroccans visited various sites, including the Western Wall, the City of David, Mount Herzl, Palmah museum in Tel Aviv, and Masada.

“Thousands of youth, of our people, who live in the Diaspora have to deal every day with the challenges of anti-Semitism,” Yaakov Hagoel, head of the Department for Activities in Israel and Countering Antisemitism at the WZO was quoted as saying.

“We must strengthen and encourage our brethren in the Diaspora, young people who came to Israel from Morocco…We must open our doors to them,” he added.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish community in Morocco has been largely safe from the turmoil that engulfed the Arab world.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Arab singer finds it hard not to be a hypocrite

" Difficult to be an Arab," is a catchy oriental song with a political message. It's just been released on to the Israeli market by Jowan Safadi, an Arab-Israeli singer - sorry, Palestinian.

Our Jowan is clearly having a hard time in the video, gyrating his hips in a plush limousine, with a pretty girl on each arm.

 The problem, according to Jowan, really lies with Mizrahi Jews in Israel who literally wear their Jewishness on their sleeve. The one in the video supports far-right anti-assimilationist organisations like Levava, which tries to save Jewish girls from the clutches of Arab men.

 Jowan knows best: Mizrahim are hypocrites,  they paid the bloody price of being 'blacks ruled by rich whites' in a 'racist' state. Mizrahim lock themselves in a cupboard. They are just fooling themselves, thinking they are Jews: they are really Arabs.

A Mizrahi Jew, 'dragged from an Arab country'(presumably by criminal Zionist gangs), took his place, sings Jowan from an Israeli beach.

Except that the land is not Israel, it is Filastin, according to the song's punchline.

Congratulations Jowan, for spotting that Arabs have a problem with Mizrahim and their support for 'oppressive' policies.

Perhaps if you knew more about Jewish identity and how Jews were treated in Arab countries, you might understand why Mizrahim were 'imported' into Israel and why they hold the hardline views they do.

And while you're at it, try looking sexy on a Syrian beach and see how far it gets you.



Jowan Safadi, 'oppressed' on a Israeli beach


Stepfeed blog reports:

"Palestinian singer Jowan Safadi last week released a new song calling out Mizrahi Jews – Jews hailing from Arab nations – for not supporting fellow Arab Palestinians.

These Mizrahi Jews have come from countries such as Iraq and Morocco to live in the state of Israel. They often align themselves with Israeli policies that oppress and deny rights to Palestinians.

Safadi’s song points out the hypocrisy in their actions, with the lyrics, “Listen to me, dude. You need to know where you came from. And where you’re going to. And what you’re gonna find. Standing in the street chanting: ‘Death to Arabs’ and such sh*t. You’re an Arab man!”

The lyrics go on to add, “Hey you imported Arab! Take it from a local Arab: You were dragged here… to take my place.”

Read article in full 

Arab rappers cleared of incitement to violence

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sir Sasson Heskell tops loyalty list in Iraq

With thanks: Janet and Lisette

(Updated): Spotted at a demonstration today in Baghdad,  a placard ranking Iraq's finance ministers; three have served since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. 

Well, what do you know.

In top place for loyalty and honesty comes Sir Sasson Heskell, who was Finance Minister five times since 1923.

Under the column marked 'religion', the placard says 'Jewish'. Under  the column marked 'accomplishments' it says:"established the payment of oil by the price of gold " 

Then are listed the names of three ministers of finance since  2003:

Bayan Baqer Jabber. Religion: Muslim Shi'a. Race: Arab. Accomplishments: Zero.
Rafeh el Issawi. Religion: Muslim Sunni. Race : Arab. Accomplishments: Zero. 
Hoshiar Zibari. Religion: Muslim Sunni. Race: Kurdish. Accomplishments: Zero.
The placard concludes: "devotion and service to the people is not through wearing religious garb."

This is a rare public acknowledgement of the essential role Sir Sasson Heskell played in shaping modern Iraq.

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the advent of 'democracy', Iraqis are nostalgic for the contribution their Jews made to the country - and are not afraid to show it.

Sir Sasson Heskell (born 17 March 1860 – died 31 August 1932) was an Iraqi statesman and financier. Also known as Sasson Effendi ( from the Turkish Effendi, a title meaning Lord). Regarded in Iraq as the Father of Parliament, Sir Sasson was the first Minister of Finance in the Kingdom and a permanent   member of Parliament until his death. Along with Gertrude Bell and T.E.Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), he founded the nascent Iraqi government’s laws and financial structure. It was he who tied Iraq's crude oil revenues to the Gold Standard.
He was knighted by King George V in 1923. King Faisal conferred on him the Civil Rafidain Medal and he won the highest medals from the Shahinshah of Iran and the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He also received a number of posthumous decorations among which was one from Saddam Hussain of Iraq!

Sir Sasson is a scion of an ancient and distinguished Jewish family in Baghdad - the Shlomo Davids. His father Hakham Heskel Ezra Shlomo David travelled to India in 1873 to become the Chief Rabbi of the thriving Baghdadi community there. In 1885 he returned to Baghdad as the leading rabbinical authority and a great philanthropist. He built the  Hakham Heskell Synagogue which was considered one of the most prominent synagogues in the city.

Sasson Eskell and the House of Dreams




Sunday, August 16, 2015

'Intimate strangers' promotes reductive history

 A documentary series, a companion to the Encyclopedia on Jewish Muslim relations, promotes an idealised view of Arab-Jewish relations. In June the Woolf Institute in Cambridge, which encourages interfaith dialogue, screened this work by the French-Mauritanian director Karim Miske. See my comment below.

Excerpt from the Woolf Institute's blog: Karim Miské on directing Jews and Muslims: Intimate Strangers.

"When I was entrusted with the task of directing this ambitious documentary series, I first felt a weight fall on my shoulders. How was I to find a way of telling such a trapped story that would be both fair and balanced, when those ‘identity snipers’ from both camps would like nothing more than to ambush me? I decided that it was up to me to place myself within this millennial history to find out from which perspective to approach it. Half of my ancestors are Muslims, I myself have no religion and what’s more, I have always refused to associate myself to a given identity. Nevertheless, my heritage was bound to affect my perspective. I had to somehow approach the subject from the inside; to become both Jewish and Muslim, to use historical empathy to the greatest of my capacity in order to win over the spectator to this bizarre family saga in which ones origins are lost in the mists of an Abrahamic myth. This empathy was synonymous with a good dose of irritation if not outright anger: for the Medieval injustices relating to the Dhimma status in conversation over the centuries, with those, more recent, suffered by the Palestinians. But my anger was greater still towards the contemporary ideologies that erect mental prisons around those, both Jewish and Muslim, who can no longer see the Other as anything but an adversary; thus re-painting these last 1400 years in the most sombre of colours.

For my journey, Hannah Arendt became my provider and talisman, since the thorniest part of this history is situated in the 19th and 20th centuries. Arendt has, to my mind, elaborated a concept that could be applied perfectly to both Zionism and Arab Nationalism and to their contemporaneous religious corollary: tribal nationalism. Consequently, in the film, I treated these two ideologies like two faces of the same coin*, explaining how they both work towards the constitution of politics from 'identity, methodically destroying the millennial bond that unites Jews, Christians and Muslims of the Near East. Such is the tragic story of our age. It is the history of Irish Catholics and Protestants, Indians and Pakistanis, Hutus and Tutsis. The list, alas, could be extended out further. To tell this story, for me, was to show that which was necessary to distend and then to destroy, as much as it was possible, this ancient bond. To make the Jew as much as the Muslim believe that he, who was yesterday a brother (and brothers face one another often, but always remain attached), has today become not just an enemy, but a stranger.

My comment: while presenting his credentials  as an 'objective' observer, the central theme of Miske's film 'Intimate strangers' is that outside forces destroyed the brotherly bond between Jews and Muslims. These forces are Zionism and Arab nationalism, which Miske labels 'tribal nationalism' , adopting Hannah Arendt's terminology. 

The central flaw in Miske's presentation is the whitewashing of Muslim antisemitism. Thus, the injustices of Jewish 'dhimmitude' are brushed aside in one sentence, and rendered equivalent to the 'more recent injustices' suffered by the Palestinians. In other words, they cancel each other out. There is no hint that another outside force, European colonialism, was instrumental in abolishing the dhimmi status. 

The film even attempts to blame events such as the 1934 pogrom of Constantine, Algeria on the French.  It argues that the Decret Cremieux drove a wedge between Jews and Arabs by conferring on the Jews French citizenship. But when I argued that French citizenship was also offered to Muslims, I was told that they were deterred by bureaucratic hoops from applying for it.



By reducing both Zionism and Arab nationalism to a tribal nationalism which breeds intolerance of the Other, Miske fails to distinguish between the democracy  that is Israel and the Arab autocracies which have marginalised and expelled their minorities.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Being Mizrahi is cool, say hot band A-Wa

A Yemenite-Israeli band, made up  of three sisters,  has been taking the Middle Eastern music world by storm. The Forward 'bigs it up' for A-WA:

The Haim sisters sing in what they call “Yemenite,” a nearly extinct dialect of Arabic spoken by the Jews of Yemen. “Our dad, who’s the Yemenite one, was not sure at the beginning how people would embrace this kind of music,” said Tair. “He said ‘Ah, I love Greek music, make something Greek,’ but we said, ‘No, this is what we feel in our souls.’” The Haim sisters say singing in Yemenite is a way to understand their heritage and connect with their grandparents. From 1949 to 1950, Operation Magic Carpet brought 50,000 Jews from Yemen to the newly established state of Israel.

Yemenite songs like “Habib Galbi” were passed down through generations, but only as recently as the 1950s and ’60s were they recorded in Israel. The Haim sisters wanted to rejuvenate these songs, but needed a producer. They sent a demo of “Habib Galbi” to Tomer Yosef, the lead singer in the electronic Gypsy punk band Balkan Beat Box. The sisters felt a kinship with Yosef because he also comes from a Yemenite background. Yosef gave the demo to “his tribe” of elder Yemenite women. They loved it and even mistook the sisters as being from Yemen.


Like their father, the sisters were initially unsure about how the public would react to them singing in Arabic. They say they were nervous but optimistic. “You have to go with your guts and stay connected to where you come from,” said Tair, who learned to sing jazz at the Rimon School of Music, where she earned her degree. Now their hit single “Habib Galbi” has been viewed on YouTube over 720,000 times, and they have played concerts all over Israel and Europe.

Appealing to Arab and Israeli Ears:
 The members of A-WA donned pink hijabs for a music video in which they perform a dance called the ‘Yemenite Step.’
Appealing to Arab and Israeli Ears: The members of A-WA donned pink hijabs for a music video in which they perform a dance called the ‘Yemenite Step.’(Photo:A-wa)
In the past, however, Arabic — the language of Israel’s Mizrahi Jewish immigrants — has often carried a stigma since it was the language spoken by Israel’s adversaries. Former President David Ben-Gurion’s “melting pot” policy of creating an Israeli identity meant shedding and suppressing Diasporic languages like Ladino, Yiddish and distinctly Jewish dialects of Arabic. So while Ashkenazim have made up the majority of the Israeli government, Mizrahim have historically been among the poorest and most disenfranchised of Israel’s population.

A-WA is part of a movement that celebrates Jewish-Israeli cultural roots in Arabic. Now, after decades of discrimination, the younger generation of Mizrahim is rediscovering their Jewish ethnic identity as Middle Easterners and reclaiming their heritage. Being Mizrahi is cool, the Haim sisters say.

A-WA and Tomer Yosef aren’t the only musicians to revive Yemenite Jewish identity. The sisters point to a 1960s recording of “Habib Galbi” by Shlomo Moga’a , who immigrated to Israel from Yemen after World War II. In the 1980s, Israeli pop singer, Ofra Haza, also sang in Yemenite. Known as the “Madonna of the East,” she helped bridge the divide between Jews and Arabs. Achinoam Nini, Yemen Blues, and other mainstream Israeli bands, as well, merge Yemenite tunes with melodies from Israel, the West, and other places around the world.

In their appeal to “Arab ears,” Gaar Adams points out in an article in Foreign Policy that “A-WA is seeking fans in a market where even the slightest hint of Israeli involvement in a commercial project could incite boycotts.” But the sisters have fans everywhere, including Muslim countries. “Lots of Yemenite people feel proud that we preserve the culture. Not only in Israel, but also in Yemen, both Jews and non-Jews,” said Tair. The Facebook group “Mipsterz—Muslim Hipsters,” which has over 12,000 followers, featured the “Habib Galbi” music video a few days after its release.

“It’s amazing that people know that we’re from Israel, and still, they like the music, and they feel connected and they enjoy it,” said Tair. “We feel like our music is sort of a bridge to connect people from Arab countries and from Israel and from all over the world. They relate to the music, the groove, and the story of liberation.”


A-Wa: cultural bridge
“Habib Galbi” is a song about freeing yourself from the chains of a bad relationship, the Haim sisters say. With lyrics such as, roughly translated, “My love, my eyes, who turned you against me? who will hear me cry?” the sisters have transformed a sad story into an upbeat hit. “I think that the music video is completing another angle of the story that you don’t find in the text,” said Tair. “We do something with that, we free ourselves, we take this Jeep and we drive away into the desert.” Featuring 12 songs, including “Habib Galbi,” inspired by Yemenite folk music and poetry, their first album debuts this summer.

“[A-WA] is sort of a calling… It’s like yalla, let’s celebrate, let’s have fun. It cheers you up,” the sisters explained, finishing each other’s sentences. “I really love that people would come to us after a concert,” said Tair, “and say, ‘I didn’t understand a word but I don’t care because the music was so moving and it somehow touched me and I couldn’t stop dancing.’”



Thursday, August 13, 2015

Jews are not viewed as 'real' Iranians

Most Iranian Jews are against the proposed nuclear deal: most Iranian Muslims are for it, but this should not make Iranian Jews any less Iranian, writes Gina Nahai in the Jewish Journal. Gina's article is the latest flagged up in JIMENA's new series 'Eyes on the Middle East ', which focuses on the experiencesand opinions of Mizrahi Jews, one country at a time.

Gina Nahai....patriotic Iranian

 Time was, you could claim to be a patriotic Iranian, a supporter of Israel and a lover of the United States all at once and be believed by most Iranians. You could say you were all three things without pretense or contradiction, or the need to rank your loyalties in order of intensity, or to distinguish between your support for Israel as a nation, as opposed to any one of its governments. That’s what we thought anyway, we Jewish Iranians whose ancestors had lived in Iran for 3,000 years.

 The mullahs had always said differently — that Jews were not “real” Iranians; that our existence was a threat to the rest of the nation; that we had lain in wait for a millennium and a half for the Arabs to come and convert most Iranians to Islam, only so we could use the blood of Muslim children in the baking of matzahs. The mullahs said this, and the large majority of Muslim Iranians believed them.

Then, somewhere between the late 1920s, when Reza Shah’s government began to protect us against the mullahs and their troops of believers, and late in 1978, when his son, Mohammad Reza Shah, was forced out of the country, Jewish Iranians were allowed to be both things at once, in equal degrees, and to be patriotic Iranians as well as supporters of Israel.

Then the mullahs returned, and unless we actively denounced Israel and claimed support for the Palestinian cause, we all became Zionist spies, a fifth column in Iran whose only goal was to enslave and humiliate God-fearing Muslim Arabs. You could be a Jew who despised Israel, or you could be an enemy of God, Islam and Iran. The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said this, and the large majority of Muslim Iranians believed him. Never mind the age-old enmity between Iranians and Arabs, Shia and Sunni; the collective Iranian memory of conquering Arab armies laying waste to any signs of civilization; the stereotype of the “insect-eating Arab” as primitive and intellectually challenged.

When it came to the matter of a bunch of Jews getting the best of a sea of Muslims, just about every Iranian mullah became a human rights lawyer.

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