Friday, November 30, 2007

The refugee from Cairo who works for peace

Photo: Wendy Blumfeld

The inveterate peace campaigner and champion of the rights of Jews from Arab countries, Professor Ada Aharoni, is profiled in
The Jerusalem Post: from Cairo to Haifa - 1949.

"In spite of her experiences of exile and displacement, the theme of Ada Aharoni's work has been building bridges for peace. She is also fiercely proud of the culture of the Jews of Egypt and, as organizer of an international conference on conserving their history, culture and literature, she also relives the coexistence between Muslims and Jews that thrived prior to 1948. In her biography of the amazing Jewish German nurse Thea Wolfe, who headed the Jewish hospital in Cairo during World War II, she highlights the efforts of the Muslim police and customs authorities to cooperate in the rescue of Jewish refugees who escaped to Egypt.

"Aharoni lived in comfort with her family in Cairo. Her father sent her to the English convent school for girls because he wanted her to be his secretary, but she so thrived in the language that she soon declared that she wanted a career in English literature. "At the age of 10 I was going to be a writer, not a secretary." she reminisces. At 13 she co-edited the school magazine with an Arab student and their motto was: Abolish wars forever. At 15 she was a counselor in the Maccabi Zionist Youth movement, but when she was 16 her father's work permit was rescinded because he was Jewish and the family prepared to leave for France.

"We arrived in Marseille to find that the Egyptian authorities had confiscated the money that my father had transferred to a Swiss bank and we were left penniless and without financial resources, apart from land he had bought in Herzliya," she says.

"They moved to Paris and her father then suffered a heart attack and was unable to work again. Her mother, who was a piano teacher, went to work punching tickets on the Metro but later succeeded in business after taking a cashiers' course.

"Nevertheless, her parents wanted her to take up a place offered at the Sorbonne. By this time, Aharoni was concerned about the rising anti-Semitism in France and enrolled for a year's agricultural training in Israel, promising to return after that to study in Paris.

"She did not return to France to study because as a 17-year old coming to Kibbutz Mishmar Ha'emek, she fell in love with the land and with Haim, also of Egyptian origin. (...)

"Aharoni believes in starting from one's own neighborhood. She and Ruth Lys, the co-founder of The Bridge: Jewish and Arab Women for Peace in the Middle East, knocked on doors in the Arab neighborhoods of Haifa inviting women to the first meeting. At the same time, they corresponded with Jehan Sadat and roused interest for the group throughout the region. Lys, herself a prime example of the bravery of these women, was a Holocaust survivor who lost her husband and four children. She remarried in Israel and her only son was killed in the Yom Kippur War.

"It is through the mothers that we will make peace," she declares. In 1999 she founded IFLAC: Pave Peace, the International Forum for the Literature and Culture of Peace, of which she is still president.

"In this context grew the idea of organizing a conference this year at the University of Haifa jointly sponsored by the World Congress of Egyptian Jews and the Herzl Institute on Conserving the History, Culture and Literature of the Jews from Egypt. "There is so little awareness of the life of the Jews in Egypt prior to 1948," she says, explaining why in 1983 she wrote her historical novel The Second Exodus, describing the forced exile of Jews from Egypt. "We do not expect any material benefit but we want to recapture our cultural heritage."

She believes that the stories on both sides should be told. "This was our nakba - disaster," she says. "We lost everything, but I never had any hatred for anybody. I never took a gun and tried to kill anyone. We just started over again." Unlike so many refugees who fester in hatred and revenge, Ada has used her experiences to work for peace.

Read article in full

The forgotten exodus - by Irwin Cotler

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the UN Partition Resolution of Nov. 29, 1947. It is sometimes forgotten that this was the first ever blueprint for an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution. Regrettably, while Jewish leaders accepted the resolution, Arab leaders did not, and by their own acknowledgement, declared war on the nascent Jewish state. Now it is time for a sea change in the conflict's narrative, writes Irwin Cotler, human rights lawyer and ex-Canadian minister of justice in the Canadian National Post (with thanks: Jerusalem Posts):

Had the Partition Resolution been accepted, there would have been no Arab-Israeli war, no refugees and none of the pain of these last 60 years. Annapolis could now be the site of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of an Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Yet the revisionist Mid-East narrative continues to hold that there was only one victim population, Palestinian refugees, and that Israel was responsible for the Palestinian naqba (catastrophe) of 1947.

The result was that the pain and plight of 850,000 Jews uprooted and displaced from Arab countries -- the forgotten exodus -- has been expunged from the historical narrative these past 60 years. Moreover, the revisionist narrative has not only eclipsed the forgotten exodus, but denies that it was also a forced exodus, for the Arab countries not only went to war to extinguish the fledgling Jewish state, but also targeted the Jewish nationals living in their respective countries. The United Nations is preparing, yet again, to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on this 60th anniversary of the UN Partition Resolution, but will ignore the plight of Jewish refugees.

Indeed, evidence contained in a recent report, Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights And Redress, documents for the first time a pattern of state-sanctioned repression and persecution in Arab countries -- including Nuremberg-like laws -- that targeted Jews, and resulted in denationalization, forced expulsions, illegal sequestration of property, arbitrary arrest and detention and the like.

These massive human rights violations were reflective of a collusive blueprint, as embodied in the Draft Law of the Political Committee of the League of Arab States. This is a story that has not been heard. It is a truth that must now be acknowledged.

The UN also bears express responsibility for this distorted narrative. Since 1947, there have been 126 UN resolutions that have specifically dealt with the Palestinian refugee plight. Not one of these resolutions makes any reference to the plight of the 850,000 Jews displaced from Arab countries. Nor have any of the Arab countries involved expressed any acknowledgement, let alone regret. What, then, is to be done?

The time has come to rectify this historical injustice, and to restore the "forgotten exodus" to the Middle East narrative. Remedies for victim refugee groups -- including rights of remembrance, truth, justice and redress -- must now be invoked for Jews displaced from Arab countries, as mandated under human rights and humanitarian law. In particular, each of the Arab countries and the League of Arab States must acknowledge their role in the perpetration of human rights violations against their respective Jewish nationals.

Read article in full

Thursday, November 29, 2007

'The two refugee situations are incomparable'

In the wake of the deathly silence surrounding the issue at Annapolis, Ashley Perry of The Sephardi Perspective blog tackles the Jewish refugees. Of course the two sets of refugees - Arab and Jewish - were produced in quite different circumstances, the Jewish case being the more egregious. But I would argue that it is not disingenuous for Israel to use the resulting 'de facto exchange of populations' to quash Palestinian claims of 'a right of return', once and for all :

"The meeting taking place in Annapolis between the Israelis and Palestinians is one that hardly anyone from the left or the right is holding much hope for. There has been little agreement on any of the major issues, and as Israel provides more and more ‘confidence-building measures’, the Palestinians become entrenched in their positions.

"The Jew who was driven out from an Arab land before and after the State of Israel was proclaimed can only look on in wonder at the Palestinian position on their refugees. The Palestinians fictitiously created ‘right of return’ (a right is a legal term, and there is no binding legal apparatus for such a return) and it has now become a sacred cow that dare not be rejected or ignored.

"The Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh declared succinctly recently "No one is authorized to compromise the right of return.” Even members of Fatah will not talk of negotiation without the refugee issue being addressed. Abdullah Abdullah, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank, recently described the right of return as sacred. "The right of return cannot be ignored or surrendered," he said.

"UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which is the main source for the Palestinian ‘right’, never mentions who the refugees are and does not make a distinction between the nationality and ethnicity of the refugee. That Jews who fled Arab lands were also considered refugees by the UN is beyond question.

"The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees recognized the refugee status of Jews from Arab and Muslim countries in the report of the UNREF Executive Committee, Fourth Session – ‎Geneva 29 January to 4 February, 1957. Likewise, Dr. E. Jahn, Office of the UN High Commissioner, United Nations High ‎Commissioner for Refugees, Document No. 7/2/3/Libya, July 6, 1967, recognized the refugee status of these Jews.

"So why has the issue of the Jewish refugees never been brought to the attention of the world by the Israeli government?

"Many reasons and no easy answer. The first is the idea that all Jews arrived in Israel because of Zionism and a yearning to live in the Land of Israel. These Jews were returning to Israel as citizens and not as refugees became the official line.

"Even in the early years of the state the survivors of the Holocaust did not receive acknowledgment of their suffering as the myth of the ‘new Jew’ set about disassociating itself with the old Diaspora Jew who was persecuted. The Eichmann trial that began in 1961 changed all of that, as the true horrors of the Holocaust permeated every transistor radio in many households.

"The Israeli sabra now understood the true horrors of Diaspora persecution, but still few knew or cared to find out about the persecution of the Jews from Arab lands.

"Another major reason the Israeli government never addressed the issue is to make an unstated gesture to the Palestinians; if you forget about your refugees, we will forget about ours. This reason, coupled with those who now expose the Jewish refugee story for political gain as a trade-off with the Palestinians, are being both disingenuous and inaccurate.

"Of course, not all Palestinian Arabs were involved in bellicose actions against the Jews and a few were indeed pushed out by the Israel Defense Forces. However, this was war and it was started and declared by the Arabs themselves. History has shown that those nations or people which start a war and lose do not warrant concessions or a return to the status quo.

"The situation of the Jewish refugees was markedly different. None of the Jewish refugees were in the theater of war when they fled or were forced out. Although many had allegiances to Israel and belonged to Zionist movements, none were involved in aggression towards the local population or their leadership.

"Thus, the two refugee situations are incomparable and the Jewish refugee issue cannot be used as a bargaining chip with the Arab refugees who were part of a war. (my emphasis - ed)

"The Israeli leadership has refrained from even mentioning the issue of the Jewish refugees in the lead up to the Annapolis meeting. Even when Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni referred to the Arab refugee issue she did not mention the Jewish refugees. (This is not strictly true - ed)

"Silvan Shalom, a prominent Sephardi political leader who served as Israeli foreign minister from 2003 to 2006, said he believes the Olmert government is "not committed" to the issue.

"To counter the ignorance or lack of commitment to the issue in the lead up to Annapolis, the JJAC organization (Justice for Jews from Arab Countries) organized a two day conference of some 40 delegates from 10 different countries to focus on the Right of Redress campaign for Jews from Arab countries.

Read post in full

Iranian TV Holocaust drama IS antisemitic

The BBC's Today* programme became the latest of the western media to fall for the lie that the Iranian TV soap opera 'Zero Degree Turn' represents an about-turn on official antisemitism. Iranian-Jewish journalist Karmel Melamed puts the record straight:

"The Christian Science Monitor in its article today regarding the Iranian Television Series "Zero Degree Turn" became the latest U.S. publication to inaccurately report on this fictional drama on Iranian state-run television with the Holocaust as its back drop. The show has been hailed by reporters at the AP, Wall Street Journal, and NPR as sympathetic to the issue of Holocaust-- a supposed change of rhetoric coming from Iran in light of the anti-Semitic comments spewed by Iran's president in the last few years. But as a responsible journalist who has covered this story before, I'm here to say that these news media outlets have totally been inaccurate in their coverage of this TV program!

"To the contrary, my own accurate article last month in the L.A. Jewish Journal revealed that "Zero Degree Turn" in no way sends a positive message about the Shoah or Jews. It is clear that the AP, Wall Street Journal, NPR and other reputable news outlets failed to properly review and translate the program with the help of experts. My investigation of the new Iranian program revealed that "Zero Degree Turn" is nothing more than the same old anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda put out by the Iranian government. The following is the truth indicated in my article about this TV show that the Monitor and AP failed to pick up on:

"This TV program lists in its credits a man named Abdollah Shabazi, who was an ideological strategist for the Iranian government, and he gave this idea to make this propaganda film to show that Iranians are 'good with the Jews,'" said Bijan Khalili, a Los Angeles-based Iranian Jewish activist and Persian-language book publisher. "But in reality, this man is the author of many anti-Semitic and anti-Bahai [Persian-language] books."

"One of the objectives of this program is to show that Jews are corrupt, because they are shown as both giving bribes and accepting bribes," Khalili said. "The story includes a character called Homayoun Talab, an Iranian diplomat, who accepts bribes in order to provide false papers to Jews."

Talab, Khalili said, is loosely based on Abdol Hossein Sardari, Iranian ambassador to German-controlled France during World War II, who forestalled the deportation of 200 Iranian Jews living in Paris at the time.

Fariborz Mokhtari, a professor of Eastern studies at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., recently completed a book on Sardari's life. He said "Zero Degree Turn" egregiously misrepresents Sardari, who never accepted money for giving Jews in France Iranian passports.

"Sardari was duty-bound to look after the interests of Iranians. Whether they were Zoroastrian, Christian, Jewish or Muslim was not very important to him," said Mokhtari, who is Muslim and has been researching Sardari since 2002. "As he was quoted having told his inquiring nephew, 'It was his duty to his country and to God.'"

Khalili also said that other episodes of "Zero Degree Turn" make repeated references to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which are historically out of place, because the issue was not prevalent in the 1940s. Likewise the Jewish characters in the series are shown in a poor light, because they speak an improper form of the Persian language, as compared to the Muslim characters, Khalili said.

"We have a responsibility as Iranian Jews living outside of Iran to reveal to the rest of the world how anti-Israel and anti-Semitic the Iranian government is through this program and others like it," Khalili said.
"Shame on the Monitor's editors and shame on the reporter Scott Peterson for failing to do better research to expose the REAL TRUTH about "Zero Degree Turn". Instead, Peterson and the Monitor in this story continued to spread the one-sided propaganda feed to them by the Iranian government concerning this show! Supposedly the Iranian leaders are now "good people" after producing this show that does not deny the Holocaust. What a bunch of hog wash! When articles like these fail to expose the "spin" put out by Iran's radical leaders this is a discredit to journalism and in a way helps the Iranian regime continue to help cover up their President's anti-Semitic comments about the Holocaust. While reporters in Iran cannot freely cover the news in Iran without being imprisoned, tortured or executed by the regime's leaders, U.S. and western journalists have a duty to expose the truth of what is going on in Iran and not help to cover it up.

"If you don't believe me about the anti-Semitic nature of "Zero Degree Turn", just view this clip accurately translated by The Middle East Media Research Institute!

Read post in full

*See 7.40 slot, Thurs 29 November

Update: the story is now on the BBC website

Jews should claim right of return to Mecca, Medina

Applying UN and Palestinian logic to the refugee problem, Jews would be within their rights to demand to return to Mecca and Medina, argues Joseph Klein in Front Page magazine:

"Several key facts are left out of this fictional Palestinian narrative. First and foremost, the very essence of the Jewish state – based on reason, openness and a democratic system of government that believes in freedom of conscience – stands in sharp contrast to the absolutist, repressive strains that permeate the closed societies of its Islamic neighbors.

"Then there is the history of the conflict that the Palestinian narrative so conveniently ignores. The Palestinians could have had their own independent state sixty years ago if the neighboring Arab countries had not forcibly rejected the UN’s original plan for partition of the British Mandate territory of Palestine into a Jewish state, an Arab state and a small internationally administered zone including the religiously significant towns of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The Palestinians are still refusing any such solution today.

"In the days after the General Assembly vote approving the partition plan, various Arab attacks left Jews dead and wounded. There were shootings, stonings, bombings, arson and rioting, including attacks on the consulates of Poland and Sweden who had voted for partition. Little has changed. If the Palestinians do not get everything they ask for, they immediately resort to violence.

"The Palestinian narrative on the refugee situation is also misleading. As documented by eyewitnesses and by statements of Palestinian and other Arab leaders themselves at the time, most Palestinians who left their homes in 1948 did so voluntarily. They were following the advice of the Arab leaders who promised that they would only have to be away from their homes a few days until the Jews were driven into the sea. For example, the Jordanian newspaper Falastin wrote on February 19, 1949:

“The Arab States encouraged the Palestine Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies.”

"As one refugee was quoted as saying, “The Arab governments told us: Get out so that we can get in. So we got out, but they did not get in.”

"The 156,000 Palestinians who did stay behind and their offspring became full Israeli citizens, with voting rights and representation in the government irrespective of their minority non-Jewish status. Arabs have been elected to the Knesset, served on the Israeli Supreme Court and held other high government positions. If their rights are violated, they have recourse to the Israeli courts to seek redress. Arab citizens living in Israel share nothing in common with the blacks who lived in apartheid South Africa, no matter how hard the Palestinian propagandists insist otherwise. The blacks living in apartheid South Africa were excluded altogether from any participation in governing the country in which they made up the majority of the population. They lived and worked under strictly segregated conditions with no legal recourse for the wrongs that were inflicted on them daily.

"As for the refugee situation, there were more Jewish refugees who were forcibly expelled from the Arab countries than there were Palestinian refugees who had left behind their homes in Israel. According to United Nations statistics, 856,000 Jewish residents fled their Arab homes in 1948 as compared to an estimated 711,000 Palestinian refugees who fled Israel in 1948. Many more Jews were forced out of Arab lands since. In Egypt, for example, there were around 75,000 Jews living there in 1948. Today, there are no more than 100. There were around 135,000 Jews living in Iraq in 1948. Today there are around 15. There were about 35,000 Jews living in Libya in 1948. Today there are none. The United Nations has not spent a dime on Jewish refugees from the Arab countries, while the annual budget for taking care of Palestinian refugees through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency is approaching a half billion dollars a year.

"Few of the estimated 711,000 Palestinian refugees who fled in 1948 are still alive. Yet, in an exception to the normal definition of who qualifies to be considered a refugee, the United Nations has characterized all of the descendants of these refugees as refugees themselves. This redefinition has swelled the total number of Palestinian refugees to more than 4 million. Rather than be accepted as full citizens by their Arab ‘brothers’ in the surrounding Arab states, they live on the UN dole as stage props for the Palestinians’ melodramatic narrative of suffering at the hands of the Israelis.

"All we hear about in the Palestinian narrative is the right of return for these descendants to move back to the homes of their parents, grandparents or great grandparents in Israel proper. We hear nothing about the right of Jewish refugees and their descendants to return to their centuries-old Jewish homes in Egypt, Iraq, Libya and other Arab countries. Indeed, if we were to apply the UN’s open-ended definition of a Palestinian refugee to the Jews forced out of Arab lands, the descendants of Jews whom Mohammed forcibly expelled from the Saudi peninsula should be allowed the right of return to their ancestral homelands in Mecca and Medina."

Read article in full

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Livni makes fleeting mention of Jewish refugees

At the Annapolis conference Israeli Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni made a fleeting mention of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, but did not stress that they had been resettled by Israel, only that they 'longed for Israel'. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not mention Jewish refugees at all, but empathised with 'Palestinian suffering'.

Update: Livni's worlds now appear to have been misreported by Ynet News. See Canadian Jewish News of 6 December.

"I did not come here to argue whose cause is more just," said Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni to the audience of high-profile delegates in one of the last speeches delivered at the Annapolis peace conference."Our hands are extended in peace to the entire Arab world without exception," she continued, going on to ask Arab nations to relinquish the use of the 'Naqba' (The Disaster) in referring to Israel's birth.

Do not weep for the creation of Israel, she asked of the Palestinians, build your nation and Israel will join you in your joy for its establishment. (...)

"Livni spoke of the "thousands of years" of history tying "my ancestors" to Israel and her personal belief to the Jewish people's right to the land – "now it is time to talk of another right – the right of our children to live in peace."

The foreign minister noted that the two-state solution was far from being a new idea and recalled the 60-year anniversary of the historic UN vote to partition then British-mandate Palestine into two nation-states.

Palestinian refugees, wherever they may be, she said, long for this nation-state just as all the Jewish refugees forced out of Europe and Arab countries longed for Israel.

Livni also urged Arab nations to step-up efforts to combat terrorism. "That should be the main focus of the world leadership in general and the Arab and Muslim world in particular. This is a decisive moment, a moment where we must all choose sides. And this is no longer about Arabs on one side and Jews on the other. In this one camp are all those who sit here today; Jews, Muslims and Christians, Israelis, Arabs, Americans and Europeans.

"Those who chose not to come here, those are the nations that support terror and radicalism; those who invoke God to sow hatred and send children to be killed."

Livni said that while Israel is interested in normalized relations with all Arab nations, it would not be forced into paying for recognition. "I have heard those who say that Israel must pay for normalization of ties with Arab states. That concept - where normalization is a prize of sorts, which has to be 'given' to Israel only after a comprehensive peace is achieved between it and its neighbors – that, gentlemen, is a mistake," she said.

Read article in full (Ynet News)

In The Jerusalem Post David Horovitz reported that Ehud Olmert's words empathising with 'Palestinian suffering' marks the first time any Israeli leader has shown 'understanding for Palestinian terrorism':

"Israeli leaders down the decades have rightly blamed the Palestinian leadership and the wider Arab world for the ongoing plight of Palestinian refugees and their descendants in blighted refugee camps. But Olmert, strikingly, empathized with their suffering - their "wallowing in poverty, neglect, alienation, bitterness and a deep, unrelenting sense of deprivation." He even said he knew that this "pain and deprivation is one of the deepest foundations which fomented the ethos of hatred towards us."

"This is a remarkable statement, and certainly comes closer than any other mainstream Israeli leader has ever moved toward showing understanding, though not justification, for the Palestinian argument about the roots of terrorism."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bernard Lewis: no compromise likely on refugees

The incomparably lucid Bernard Lewis, grand old man of Islamic scholarship, cuts through all the punditry surrounding the Annapolis summit with this priceless piece in The Wall St Journal: (with thanks: Lily)

"If the issue is about the size of Israel, then we have a straightforward border problem, like Alsace-Lorraine or Texas. That is to say, not easy, but possible to solve in the long run, and to live with in the meantime.

"If, on the other hand, the issue is the existence of Israel, then clearly it is insoluble by negotiation. There is no compromise position between existing and not existing, and no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist.

"PLO and other Palestinian spokesmen have, from time to time, given formal indications of recognition of Israel in their diplomatic discourse in foreign languages. But that's not the message delivered at home in Arabic, in everything from primary school textbooks to political speeches and religious sermons. Here the terms used in Arabic denote, not the end of hostilities, but an armistice or truce, until such time that the war against Israel can be resumed with better prospects for success. Without genuine acceptance of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State, as the more than 20 members of the Arab League exist as Arab States, or the much larger number of members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference exist as Islamic states, peace cannot be negotiated.

A good example of how this problem affects negotiation is the much-discussed refugee question. During the fighting in 1947-1948, about three-fourths of a million Arabs fled or were driven (both are true in different places) from Israel and found refuge in the neighboring Arab countries. In the same period and after, a slightly greater number of Jews fled or were driven from Arab countries, first from the Arab-controlled part of mandatory Palestine (where not a single Jew was permitted to remain), then from the Arab countries where they and their ancestors had lived for centuries, or in some places for millennia. Most Jewish refugees found their way to Israel. (My emphasis - ed)

"What happened was thus, in effect, an exchange of populations not unlike that which took place in the Indian subcontinent in the previous year, when British India was split into India and Pakistan. Millions of refugees fled or were driven both ways -- Hindus and others from Pakistan to India, Muslims from India to Pakistan. Another example was Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, when the Soviets annexed a large piece of eastern Poland and compensated the Poles with a slice of eastern Germany. This too led to a massive refugee movement -- Poles fled or were driven from the Soviet Union into Poland, Germans fled or were driven from Poland into Germany.

"The Poles and the Germans, the Hindus and the Muslims, the Jewish refugees from Arab lands, all were resettled in their new homes and accorded the normal rights of citizenship. More remarkably, this was done without international aid. The one exception was the Palestinian Arabs in neighboring Arab countries.

"The government of Jordan granted Palestinian Arabs a form of citizenship, but kept them in refugee camps. In the other Arab countries, they were and remained stateless aliens without rights or opportunities, maintained by U.N. funding. Paradoxically, if a Palestinian fled to Britain or America, he was eligible for naturalization after five years, and his locally-born children were citizens by birth. If he went to Syria, Lebanon or Iraq, he and his descendants remained stateless, now entering the fourth or fifth generation.

"The reason for this has been stated by various Arab spokesmen. It is the need to preserve the Palestinians as a separate entity until the time when they will return and reclaim the whole of Palestine; that is to say, all of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israel. The demand for the "return" of the refugees, in other words, means the destruction of Israel. This is highly unlikely to be approved by any Israeli government.

"There are signs of change in some Arab circles, of a willingness to accept Israel and even to see the possibility of a positive Israeli contribution to the public life of the region. But such opinions are only furtively expressed. Sometimes, those who dare to express them are jailed or worse. These opinions have as yet little or no impact on the leadership.

"Which brings us back to the Annapolis summit. If the issue is not the size of Israel, but its existence, negotiations are foredoomed. And in light of the past record, it is clear that is and will remain the issue, until the Arab leadership either achieves or renounces its purpose -- to destroy Israel. Both seem equally unlikely for the time being. "

Read article in full

Article in French

SYs and J-Dubs: the closed world of Syrian Jews

This long feature by Zeev Chafets in The New York Times magazine is a rare insight into Brooklyn's SYrian Jews, who have done well since leaving their homeland, but prefer to keep themselves to themselves. (With thanks: Lily)

The SY’s, as the community members call themselves (pronounced “ess-why” — it’s a shorthand for “Syrian”), live in a self-created entrepreneurial and mercantile empire whose current sources of wealth are found everywhere from Coney Island to Shanghai. They are rich beyond the dreams of their immigrant forebears. Many live in multimillion-dollar mansions in the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn, summer in fabulous seafront homes on the Jersey shore and repair to winter enclaves in Florida. They have their own synagogue in China. Businessmen from the community spend so much time on the road that a small shop called Seuda’s in the Brooklyn enclave prepares packages of kosher Syrian delicacies that can be picked up on the way to the airport.

Yet no matter how far they roam or how worldly and successful they become, the SY’s of Brooklyn are bound by an invisible fence known as the Edict — a rabbinical threat of excommunication so dire and so powerful that it has fixed the true parameters of the community for generations.

The Edict was issued in Brooklyn by five Syrian rabbis in 1935. They had a simple goal: to preserve the age-old Syrian Jewish community in the New World.

This was not a unique challenge. Every immigrant group in the United States has faced something like it. Most struggle for a generation or two to maintain some sense of identity and solidarity and then make their peace with the assimilative power of America.

The Syrian Jews might have done the same. They arrived in New York at the start of the last century and settled on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. But the Eastern European Jews who dominated the Lower East Side at the time disdained them as Arabische Yidden — Arab Jews. Some of the Ashkenazim openly doubted that these foreigners from farther east were Jews at all. The Syrian Jews were deeply insulted. They are a proud people; community legend boasts that King David built the first synagogue in Aleppo, in what is now Syria. The SY’s came to derisively refer to the Ashkenazim as “J-Dubs,” a play on the first and third letters of the English word “Jew.” As soon as they could, the Syrians moved, en masse, to Brooklyn.

This independence was, in a way, natural. Back in the Ottoman Empire, religious communities that paid their taxes and kept out of trouble were generally allowed to live with a fair degree of autonomy. Why should the New World be different? But the Syrian Jews soon learned that in America, self-sufficiency alone did not ensure their survival. They hadn’t reckoned on the additional risk posed by the allure of the open society.

In the old country, the Syrians had been merchants for generations, and they started off in America as peddlers. As they prospered, they began opening stores in Manhattan. Conducting business outside the enclave meant meeting and dealing with non-Syrians, speaking proper English and demonstrating at least a rudimentary understanding of the customs and practices of the new land. These were skills worth learning. SY kids were sent to public schools to assimilate — though only up to a point. The goal was to produce children who, in the words of a community maxim, were “100 percent American in Manhattan and 100 percent Syrian in Brooklyn.”

In school, though, the SY kids mixed with other children, not only J-Dubs but also gentiles. The gentiles posed the gravest concern. Friendships with them developed, love affairs sprouted. There were intermarriages. Some Christian partners even volunteered to convert to Judaism.

Enter the rabbis with their Edict, in 1935. They wanted to build an iron wall of self-separation around the community. They couldn’t do this the Hassidic way, dressing the men in costumes of ancient design, physically segregating women and making sure that children received nothing in the way of useful secular education. After all, the Syrian men couldn’t be expected to make money if they looked like figures from 18th-century Poland.(..)

Read article in full

Monday, November 26, 2007

Annapolis agreement ignoring refugees 'prejudicial'

(November 26, 2007) In the context of the upcoming Annapolis Conference, "The exclusion and denial of rights and redress to Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries will prejudice authentic negotiations between the parties and undermine the justice and legitimacy of any agreement," stated a Declaration issued by Justice for Jews from Arab Counties, a coalition 76 Jewish communities and organizations based in 20 countries.

On November 27, the United States will host Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, Palestinian Authority President Abbas, along with the Members of the Quartet, the Arab League, the G-8, the permanent members of the UN Security Council, and other key international actors.

The Annapolis Conference, held on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Partition Resolution of November 29, 1947, reminds us that the displacement of Jews from Arab and Muslim countries has, for the past 60 years, been expunged from the Middle East peace and justice narrative.

As Canadian MP and former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, stated: "Let there be no mistake about it. Where there is no remembrance, there is no truth; where there is no truth, there will be no justice; where there is no justice, there will be no reconciliation; and where there is no reconciliation, there will be no peace - which we all seek."

For PDF text of JJAC declaration see here (click on 21 November entry)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

150 Iranian Jews leave 'home' for the 'homeland'

A surprisingly sympathetic article by Rory McCarthy in The Guardian about young Iranian Jews leaving for Israel:

On Benjamin's 18th day in Israel he stands in the shade of a palm tree in the paved courtyard of an absorption centre that will be his home for the next six months. On his head he wears a kippah and around his neck a chain carrying his name in Hebrew lettering.

He is one of the latest young Jewish Iranians to leave their homeland in search of a new life in Israel at a time of growing tensions between the two nations.

Once Benjamin, 23, was teaching Hebrew and running a shop in Iran. Two years ago he was arrested by Iranian intelligence agents who threatened to kill him and his family.

"They put a gun in my head and forced me to sign that I was a spy for Israel and they said: 'We will kill you'. I thought: 'I'm going to die just for being Jewish,'" he said.

He will not give his real name or have his face photographed for fear of reprisals against his elderly parents who are still in Iran, but he has taken Benjamin as his new name in Israel.

Eventually Benjamin escaped, using an old passport that was no longer registered on Iranian government computers and made his way to Israel with the support of the Jewish Agency, which is responsible for arranging immigration for Jews from across the world in what is known in Hebrew as Aliyah, or the ascent.

Around 20,000 Jews make Aliyah to Israel every year, most arriving under the Law of Return under which the state grants citizenship to anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent.

Not all the new Iranian arrivals have had such harsh experiences. Others in the same absorption centre in east Jerusalem, where they live and take Hebrew classes for six months, say they simply felt suffocated by the current Iranian regime and unable to live freely.

There remains a large Jewish community in Iran of around 25,000 people. Synagogues still function and the Jewish community has a representative in parliament. Yet large numbers from the community have left and settled across the world, particularly in Los Angeles, and this year around 150 are expected to head to Israel.

"This is my country, I feel at home," Benjamin says. He intends to join the Israeli military and serve as a career soldier.

The Jewish Agency, which is funded by donations, has for years helped bring Jewish Iranians to Israel. But only recently, at a time when fevered speculation about the possibility of war with Iran dominates the Israeli media, has it begun to talk openly about its work.

Many elements remain secret, particularly the routes travelled between Iran and Israel.

"In the past year there has been a major increase in immigration from Iran," says Yossi Shraga, the Jewish Agency's expert on Iran who helps bring the immigrants - known as Olim - to Israel.

He says others stay behind partly because the size of the Jewish community in Iran provides a sense of security but also because of the cost of leaving.

Most of those who leave cannot take the money they have earned during their life and if they leave their homes empty the state will eventually confiscate them.

"It's very difficult for them to leave this behind," he says. "That's one of the reasons there's no mass exodus."

The Jewish Agency provides a basket of goods for the new arrivals including free Hebrew lessons, tax exemptions, free healthcare and rent subsidies for the first six months.

Now this year a wealthy Jewish-Christian evangelical organisation has stepped in to encourage more Jewish Iranians to make Aliyah to Israel by offering an additional $10,000 per person.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is run by an American-born rabbi, Yechiel Eckstein, who has spent years working with the Christian Evangelical community in the US, encouraging them to donate to Jewish causes, particularly Aliyah.

Rabbi Eckstein says the group takes no political stance and he notes that some of their money supports the Arab Bedouin community in Israel, although funds also go to the municipality at Ariel, one of the largest Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Some in the Jewish community have criticised his relations with evangelical Christians, among them a number of high-profile rabbis who issued a ruling against accepting money from his fellowship.

However, Rabbi Eckstein says his Christian supporters share his goals.

"They believe, and I believe, that they have a very important role in helping facilitate the in-gathering of the Jewish people as foretold and promised by Isaiah and the prophets and this is part of the messianic redemptive process," he says.

His group's money has supported Jews from across the world to make Aliyah, but is now focused on Iran where he suggests the Jewish community is threatened as it was in Hitler's pre-war Germany.

But he also says Aliyah has a clear political dimension within Israel, particularly to ensure a Jewish majority persists in a country that has a 20% Arab minority, not counting the 4 million Palestinians who live in the occupied territories.

Relations between Israel and Iran have not always been so bad. Before the Islamic revolution in 1979 there was close co-operation between the two governments.

Even now, amid the hostility surprising links remain, not least a daily radio programme produced in Jerusalem for the past 48 years and broadcast into Iran in Farsi.

Every Sunday evening, after reading the news, Menashe Amir takes calls from Iranians on his 90-minute show.

On one recent broadcast Amir, 67, who himself emigrated from Tehran in 1959, had dozens of listeners, all apparently Muslim Iranians, calling in to condemn the capture of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979 and the 444-day hostage crisis that followed. Often they are also highly critical of the Palestinians and other Arab nations.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

The exodus of the silent refugees: an overview

Although this American Thinker article by Andrew G. Bostom was written in July 2007 at the time of the first ever US Congressional hearings on Jewish refugees from Arab countries, it provides a useful and comprehensive overview of the events leading up to their mass exodus, and right up to the present (with thanks: Lily):

Addressing the Political Committee of the U.N. General Assembly with regard to the proposed Partition Plan for Palestine (Resolution 181), on November 24, 1947, Egyptian delegate Heykal Pasha, a "well-known liberal" threatened,
The United Nations...should not lose sight of the fact that the proposed solution might endanger a million Jews living in the Muslim countries.
The Baghdad pogrom (the "Farhud") of June,1941-- fomented by Hajj Amin el-Husseini, during his WW II sojourn in Iraq -- was followed by three outbursts of anti-Jewish violence in November, 1945 in Egypt, Libya, and Syria. Baghdad (1941) and Libya (Tripolitania, 1945) experienced major pogroms: hundreds of Jews were killed and thousands wounded, accompanied by widespread devastation to Jewish homes, synagogues, and businesses. During the Farhud, Stillman maintains 179 Jews (including women and children) were murdered, 242 children orphaned, 586 businesses looted, and 911 buildings housing 12,000 individuals were pillaged. Estimates for property damage ranged from 680,000 to 2,700,000 pounds. (...)

Elie Kedourie has written that 600 Jews were murdered during the May, 1941 Baghdad Farhud, (in support of (the author Naim) Kattan's implication that many more than 300 had been killed), noting, the figure of 600 " the official figure which was kept confidential at the time."

Recurrent anti-Zionist/Antisemitic incitement from 1943 to 1945 culminated in a series of anti-Jewish riots during November of 1945. Egypt was the sight of the first of these riots -- in both Cairo and Alexandra -- fomented by Islamic groups including the Muslim Brotherhood and the Young Men's Muslim Association. Hundreds were injured during the rioting and looting of some 110 Jewish businesses in Cairo, while the disturbances in Alexandria claimed the lives of 5 Jews. Thomas Mayer has observed, "the critics of the riots did nothing to prevent the distribution of anti-Jewish propaganda in Egypt," and "the Egyptian Jews continued to be harassed by Pan-Arab and Islamic societies, as well as by Government officials, and pressed to make anti-Zionist declarations." Thus in the aftermath of the riots, neither the Egyptian Chief Rabbi's protestations of loyalty, nor the expressions of regret and sympathy by Egyptian government officials could restore Egyptian Jewry's sense of security, as the general atmosphere of hostility towards Jews remained unchanged.

One day after the rioting in Egypt subsided much more extensive and devastating anti-Jewish violence erupted in Libya. A minor altercation between Arabs and Jews near the electric power station outside the Jewish quarter of Tripoli was followed the next day (November 5th) by an anti-Jewish pogrom.
The historian (Norman) Stillman assessed the toll of the pogrom in lives and property, as well as its psychosocial impact:
When the pogroms -- for that is what the riots essentially were -- were over, 130 Jews were dead, including thirty-six children. Some entire families were wiped out. Hundreds were injured, and approximately 4,000 people were left homeless. An additional 4,200 were reduced to poverty. There were many instances of rape, especially in the provincial town of Qusabat, where many individuals embraced Islam to save themselves. Nine synagogues -- five in Tripoli, four in the provincial towns-had been desecrated and destroyed. More than 1,000 residential buildings and businesses had been plundered in Tripoli alone. Damage claims totaled more than one quarter of a billion lire (over half a million pounds sterling). The Tripolitanian pogroms dealt, in the words one one observer [Haim Abravanel, director of Alliance schools in Tripoli], "an unprecedented the Jews' sense of security." Many leading Arab notables condemned the atrocities, but as the British Military Administration's Annual Report for 1945 noted, "no general, deep-felt sense of guilt seems to animate the Arab community at large; nor has it been too active in offering help to the victims."
Minor anti-Jewish violence also occurred on November 18, 1945 in Syria (coinciding with the Muslim holiday al-Id al-Kabir, the culmination of the hajj (pilgrimage) rites at Mina, Saudi Arabia), when "...a mob broke into the Great Synagogue of Aleppo, smashed votive objects, burned prayer books, and beat up two elderly men who were studying there."

Shortly after Heykal Pasha's November 24, 1947 speech and the November 29, 1947 U.N. vote which adopted the "Partition Plan" for Palestine, demonstrations were held (December 2nd to 5th) throughout the Arab Muslim world to protest the U.N. decision. These demonstrations sparked anti-Jewish violence in Bahrain, Aleppo, and the British protectorate of Aden. The riots in Aleppo and Aden were severe -- many Jews were killed, significant physical devastation occurred, and roughly half of Aleppo's Jewish population fled.

Such violent anti-Jewish outbursts following the November 1947 U.N. vote to partition Palestine further demoralized Jews living in eastern Arab countries whose confidence had already been shaken by the 1941 Baghdad Farhud, and the 1945 riots in Libya, Egypt, and Syria. The steady re-emergence of Islamic (or its corollary "Arab") national identity in these countries also subjected the Jews to chronic discrimination in employment.

The ongoing isolation and alienation of Jews from the larger Arab Muslim societies in which they lived accelerated considerably after the establishment of Israel on May 15, 1948, and the immediate war on the nascent Jewish state declared and waged by members of the Arab League. A rapid annihilation of Israel and its Jewish population was predicted and savored by Arab leaders such as Azzam Pasha, the secretary of the Arab League, who declared:
[T]his will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the crusades

Such widely held expectations may have subdued violent mob reactions of the Arab masses against Middle Eastern and North African Jews at the outset of the war. However, once the Arab offensive in Palestine experienced setbacks, several weeks after the war began, anti-Jewish violence erupted in Morocco and Libya. On June 7 and 8 in the northeastern Moroccan towns of Oujda and Jerada, 42 Jews were killed and roughly 150 injured, many of them seriously, while scores of homes and shops were sacked. One day after the first truce was declared between the Israeli and Arab forces in Palestine, on June 12th, Muslim mobs attacked the Jewish Quarter in Tripoli, Libya, and upon being repelled by Jewish self-defense units-which had been organized there as in other cities that had suffered pogroms in recent years-turned upon undefended neighborhoods outside Hara, murdering thirteen or fourteen Jews, seriously injuring 22, causing extensive property damage, and leaving approximately 300 families destitute. Jews in the surrounding countryside and in Benghazi were subjected to additional attacks.

These events were followed by a series of violent disturbances in Egypt, despite a second truce in Palestine declared on July 18, 1948. During the next three month period Egyptian Jewry was under siege, as bombs destroyed Jewish-owned movie theaters and large retail businesses, including the Ad├Ęs, Gategno, and Benzion establishments. Overall, these attacks on the Jews of Egypt claimed approximately 50 lives in the summer of 1948, accompanied by enormous property losses. Hundred were left injured, homeless, and unemployed.

The signing of Arab-Israeli armistice agreements in the spring and summer of 1949 rekindled a cautious optimism among many upper, and some middle class Egyptian, Iraqi, and Syrian Jews. This optimism quickly faded for the Jews of Syria and Iraq, lasted perhaps until the 1956 Suez War among Egyptian Jews, and never existed for Libyan or Yemenite Jewry. French disengagement from colonial rule in North Africa between 1954 and 1962 created anxiety in the Jewish populations of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria.

These tensions and fears are mirrored in the waves of mass exodus of Jews: almost immediately and completely for the Jews of Libya and Yemen (between 1949 and 1951); a slightly delayed mass exodus of Iraqi Jews by the end of 1951 (after which only 6,000 remained out of ~ 140,000, circa 1945); the rapid attrition of Syria's population, "...of mass proportions in relation to the smallness of the community", by 1953; the flight of 60% of Egyptian Jewry within 12 months after the 1956 war, despite being required to abandon almost all their assets except for some items of clothing; a dramatic rise in Jewish emigration from Morocco and Tunisia in anticipation of their independence from France, which continued steadily once independence was achieved; and a precipitous and nearly complete exodus of Algerian Jewry in anticipation of Algerian independence, July 1962.

The "best case" scenarios of Morocco and Tunisia may be most instructive. Muhammad V (of Morocco) and Habib Bourguiba (of Tunisia) -- relatively progressive leaders -- each initially appointed a Jew to their respective cabinets, and allotted Jews positions within their government bureaucracies. A Muslim-Jewish group promoting interfaith understanding named al-Wifaq (Entente) was even created in Morocco within the (nationalist) Istiqlal party. Despite these "goodwill gestures", no sustained policies were implemented to combat anti-Jewish discrimination, and the exodus of Jews continued apace. Stillman summarizes these failed efforts:
Neither Jewish minister survived the first reshuffling of their respective cabinets. More significantly, no Jew was appointed again to a ministerial post in either Morocco or Tunisia. The proponents of intercommunal entente made little impression on the Jewish and Muslim masses from whom they were totally removed. The cordiality shown to Jews in some of the highest echelons of government did not percolate down to the lower ranks of officialdom, which exhibited attitudes that ranged from traditional contempt to outright hostility. The natural progression in both countries toward increased identification with the rest of the Arab world (first Morocco, then Tunisia entered the Arab League in 1958) only widened the gulf between Muslims and Jews. Furthermore, government steps to reduce Jewish communal autonomy, such as Tunisian Law No. 58-78 of July 11, 1958, which dissolved the Jewish Communal Council of Tunis and replaced it with the Provisional Commission for the Oversight of Jewish Religious Matters, having far more circumscribed authority, had negative psychological consequences for Jews, who saw their traditional structures under siege. The official pressure on Jewish educational institutions for arabization and cultural conformity only succeeded in feeding the Jews' worst fears, rather than fostering integration.
The ongoing steady departure of Jews from Tunisia picked up momentum following violent clashes between the French and Tunisian governments in 1961 (during which "Jews" were accused of disloyalty in the Tunisian press) over the naval base at Bizerte. Widespread anti-Jewish riots in Tunis on June 5, 1967 during the Six-Day War reduced Tunisian Jewry to a small remnant population within a year.

Despite the prohibition of mass legal emigration from Morocco in 1956, organized clandestine efforts by the Israeli Mossad continued throughout the remainder of the decade and into the early 1960s. Even during the four years following the dissolution of Cadima [the local Moroccan Zionist organization ordered to "dissolve itself" in 1956] and the imposition of the ban on aliya activities, almost 18,000 Moroccan Jews were spirited out of the country, as Moroccan officials frequently ignored this underground exodus. However during the premiership of Abd Allah Ibrahim (December 1958 to May 1960), who represented the radical wing of the Istiqlal party, there was a serious effort to clamp down on illegal movement, and a special emigration section was established in the police department that made numerous arrests of Jews attempting or even suspected of planning illegal emigration.

Muhammad V reversed the ban on Jewish emigration just prior to his sudden death in February 1961, motivated by pragmatic considerations, including the negative international publicity generated by the drowning of 44 Jews, whose small boat, the Pisces, foundered off the northern Moroccan coast on the night of January 10, 1961, while the passengers were attempting to flee the country.

Once mass emigration was allowed to resume, within three years 70,000 Jews left Morocco. In 1965, Moroccan writer Said Ghallab described the attitude of his fellow Muslims toward their Jewish neighbors:
The worst insult that one Moroccan can make to another is to call him a Jew....My childhood friends have remained anti-Jewish. They mask their virulent antisemitism by maintaining that the State of Israel was the creation of Western imperialism. My Communist comrades have fallen into this trap. Not a single issue of the Communist press denounces either the Antisemitism of the Moroccans or that of their government ...And the integral Hitlerite myth is cultivated among the popular classes. Hitler's massacre of the Jews was acclaimed with delight. It is even believed that Hitler is not dead, but very much alive. And his arrival is awaited -- like that of the Imam el Mahdi -- to deliver the Arabs from Israel.
Moroccan Muslim attitudes such as these, likely exacerbated by the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973, may have contributed to the steady decline of Morocco's Jewish population throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Nearly a quarter million Jews lived in Morocco (almost 300,000 including Tangier) after World War II. By the early 1970s that number had dropped dramatically to 25,000. With continued attrition, less than 4,000 Jews remain in Morocco at present.

David Littman recently summarized the remarkable demographic decline of all the populations of Jews living in Muslim countries, especially the Arab nations, since 1945:
In 1945 about 140,000 Jews lived in Iraq; 60,000 in Yemen and Aden; 35,000 in Syria; 5,000 in Lebanon; 90,000 in Egypt; 40,000 in Libya; 150,000 in Algeria; 120,000 in Tunisia; 300,000 in Morocco, including Tangier-a total of roughly 940,000 (and approximately 200,000 more in Iran and Turkey). Of these indigenous communities, less than 50,000 Jews remain today -- and in the Arab world, their number is barely 5,000-0.5% of the overall total at the end of the Second World War.

The Jews of Arab Muslim lands have been reduced to (an exceedingly) "small, vestigial and moribund remnant.", as Stillman has observed. Devoid of political and economic power (or even aspirations) -- unseen, unheard, and certainly unarmed -- they are the ideal dhimmis, worthy of the benevolent and tolerant treatment ostensibly afforded them in the idyllic era before European colonization, as described in this October 1991 address to the U.N. General Assembly by then Syrian Foreign Minister, Farouk Shara:
For hundreds of years Jews have lived amidst Muslim Arabs without suffering. On the contrary they have been greatly respected.

At the outset of Hafez al-Assad's accession to power in the early 1970s, these were the conditions under which Syrian Jews lived:
Jews were required to live in ghettos and not permitted to travel more than 3 or 4 kilometers from their homes. (By contrast 500,000 Muslims visited Lebanon in 1971 alone.) Anyone attempting to flee the country could be jailed and tortured for three months or more. Jews were required to carry identity cards with the word Mussawi (follower of Moses) broadly scrawled in red ink. In Al-Qamishli, Jewish homes and stores were required to bear a red sign (the color connoting uncleanliness). Under a law drafted February 8, 1967, all government employees and members of the Syrian armed forces were barred from trading with any Jewish establishment in Syria. A list of boycotted businesses was supplied by the government. In some instrances, Jews were barred from making food purchases themselves and had to rely on Syrian friends to keep them from starving. Jews could not own or drive automobiles or have telephones.
Jews could not serve in the Syrian armed forces, but had to pay $600 to secure exemption certificates. Jews could not sell property. In the event of death or illegal emigration, property was transferred to the state, which disposed of it either through sale or grant to Palestinians. Mmebers of saiqa, a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) faction favored by the Syrians, openly strutted through the streets of Damascus ghetto, intimidating people with arms and beatings. Al Fatah also maintained an office in this ghetto where in one week in 1971 seven Jewish homes were torched.(..) In a land where annual per capita income is less than $1,000, the Muhabarat [Syrian Secret Police] still require a deposit of $5,000 or $6,000 for any Jew temporarily leaving the country.

The plight of Syrian Jewry notwithstanding, vestigial Jewish populations in Muslim countries far removed from the battlegrounds of the Arab-Israeli conflict continue to be targeted with attacks -- recent examples being the jihadist bombings of the ancient al-Ghariba synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia on April 11, 2002 (which killed 21, and seriously wounded many others, most being elderly German tourists), as well as the simultaneous jihadist bombings of two Istanbul synagogues in November 2003. And during January 2007, even the infinitesimal remnant population of Yemenite Jews (some 200 or less) living in the province of Sa'ada, was under duress. Reports indicated that these Jews were being forced to make apparent jizya payments, had been falsely accused of selling wine to Muslims, and were threatened with killings, abductions, and lootings. A letter delivered to the Jewish communal leader, believed to have been composed by disciples of the Yemenite Shi'ite cleric Hossein Bader a-Din al Khouty, stated:
Islam calls upon us to fight against the disseminators of decay...After accurate surveillance over the Jews [in Sa'ada province] has become clear to us that they were doing things which serve mainly global Zionism, which seeks to corrupt the people and distance them from their principles, their values, their morals, and their religion.
Today's (7/19/07) CHRC hearings provide a unique window on the legacy of dhimmitude and Islamic antisemitism which caused the tragic exodus of some 900,000 Jews from the Arab (and non-Arab Muslim) nations, liquidating most of these ancient communities. But the occasion of these hearings should also serve as a clarion reminder that this is a living legacy for those vestigial remnant Jewish populations still living within the Arab Muslim world, as well as the larger populations of Jews in both non-Arab Iran (in particular), and even Turkey. Finally, it must be acknowledged that this same animus -- born of general anti-dhimmi attitudes and specific Islamic antisemitism -- has reached genocidal proportions when directed at the Jews of Israel, nearly half of whom are Oriental Jewish refugees and their descendants.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Fact: Arabs persecuted Jews

As the Annapolis summit approaches, it is vital to keep alive the memory of the state-sanctioned persecution of Jews in Arab countries, writes Geoffrey Alderman in The Jewish Chronicle:

"In a few days’ time we shall celebrate the 60th anniversary of the passage, by the General Assembly of the United Nations, of Resolution 181. This was the resolution that authorised the division of Mandate Palestine (or, more accurately, Western Mandate Palestine) into a Jewish state and an Arab state, with Greater Jerusalem under international control.

"Prior to this historic vote, the head of the Egyptian delegation at the UN, Dr ""Muhammad Haykal (a relatively liberal intellectual and politician), had warned that, "were the western portion of Mandate Palestine to be so partitioned, there would "inevitably follow a wave of anti-Jewish feeling in the Arab world, and that Jewish blood would be spilled. And so it was.

"The UN’s historic decision to re-establish a Jewish state in Palestine was taken on November 29, 1947. On the very next day, a number of Jews in Palestine were killed by Islamic militants. Elsewhere in the Arab world, no distinction whatever was made between Jews and Zionists. There followed a campaign of harassment and violence against Jewish populations that had lived in these areas for centuries, if not for millennia. As a result, between 1948 and 1951, around 850,000 Jews fled from Arab countries to the re-established Jewish state. These are indeed the “forgotten refugees” of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

"Some months ago, appearing at a panel discussion on this conflict, I drew attention to this ethnic cleansing, only to be told by my opponents that the story that Jews had been forced to flee Arab lands was a myth — another piece of mischievous Zionist propaganda. No Jew (I was told) had been forced to flee. Zionists deliberately planted bombs in synagogues and Jewish commercial property in order to “stimulate” a Jewish exodus to Israel. In Iraq (I was told) Zionist agents paid Jews to emigrate, whilst in Libya the government made desperate attempts to persuade its beloved Jews to stay put. If there were genuine attacks against Jews, these were few and far between, and no effort was spared to protect these unfortunates from the wrath of local Islamists.

"The truth is very different. There were bloody pogroms against Jews in Syria and the Yemen. In Libya, Jews were stripped of their citizenship. In Iraq, Jewish property was confiscated.

"Recently, evidence has come to light suggesting that these collective persecutions were carefully planned and co-ordinated. Earlier this month, at the New York offices of the American Jewish Committee, Justice for Jews from Arab Countries presented a report on the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab lands. Within the report, new evidence is published drawn from the UN’s own archives.

"Amongst these is advice, drafted by the Arab League in 1947, on how Arab countries might systematically discriminate against their Jewish citizens: all Jews, save those who were citizens of non-Arab countries, were to be considered and treated as members of the Jewish “minority state of Palestine”; their bank accounts were to be frozen so as to permit the funds in them to be used to finance resistance to “Zionist ambitions in Palestine”; Jews believed to be active Zionists were to be interned as political prisoners and their assets confiscated; only Jews who accepted service in Arab armies or who placed themselves at the disposal of these armies were to considered “Arabs”, with the rights and protections that went with this classification.

"It is now clear that the guidance of the Arab League was followed very closely by a number of Arab governments, whose legislative discrimination against Jews mirrored — and still mirrors, sometimes almost verbatim — the advice that the League offered.

"How will the UN mark the 60th anniversary of the partition resolution? Well, in a typical and typically spiteful perversion of the truth, November 29 is officially recognised by the “modern” UN as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. This year, as in past years, the UN will hold special meetings in New York, Geneva and Vienna to cement this “solidarity” and to call to mind the “inalienable” rights of Palestinian Arabs.

"The decision to so designate November 29 was taken in 1977. No mention whatever was made, when this decision was taken, of the inalienable rights of the Jews forced from their homes and deprived of their property and even of their lives as a result of institutionalised harassment in the Arab counties in which they lived 60 years ago.

"As the peacemakers gather in Annapolis, it is vital to keep alive the memory of this state-sanctioned persecution.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

UN rewarded rejectionism and ignored refugees

In her blog, Petra Marquardt Bigman eloquently explains how the UN's one-sided treatment of the refugee question has rewarded the rejectionists in the Arab-Israeli dispute:

"The notion of a “right of return” remains one of the most intractable issues bedeviling any attempt to achieve a peaceful negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And perhaps no other issue demonstrates so vividly that by rewarding the rejectionists, the UN contributed precious little to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Instead, it encouraged those who have never given up their ambition to turn back the clock and consign the UN partition plan for Palestine to the dustbin of history.

"It is noteworthy in this context that some recent media reports paint an even more depressing picture of the UN’s utterly biased treatment of refugees. The issue was actually already raised in Chaim Herzog’s response to the UN’s “Zionism is racism” resolution when Herzog noted: “The Arab delegates talk of racism. What has happened to the 800,000 Jews who lived for over two thousand years in the Arab lands, who formed some of the most ancient communities long before the advent of Islam. Where are they now?”

"Of course, these Jews were expelled from their homes, but since they found refuge in Israel, their losses have been ignored ever since. However, a few years ago, their cause was taken up by the group Justice for Jews from Arab Countries. As reported in a recent article highlighting the group’s work, the Arab League responded to the adoption of the UN partition in 1947 by drafting laws — some of which were subsequently implemented by Arab states — which envisaged a number of measures to be taken against Jews living in Arab countries. The proposals reportedly ranged from “imprisonment, confiscation of assets and forced induction into Arab armies to beatings, officially incited acts of violence and pogroms.”

"The text of this draft legislation was submitted to the UN Economic and Social Council by the World Jewish Congress in January 1948. Just three years had passed since the liberation of Auschwitz, and the submission was accompanied with a statement warning that “all Jews residing in the Near and Middle East face extreme and imminent danger.” However, when the UN Council met two months later, the submitted material was not considered due to a procedural maneuver by the Lebanese ambassador who held the presidency of the council.

"This is perhaps a particularly dispiriting example to add to the many others that illustrate that in the sixty years that have passed since the partition plan for Palestine was adopted, the UN has done much to implicitly endorse those who rejected the decision to establish two states — one Jewish and one Arab — on the territory administered by the British Mandate in Palestine. But by rewarding the rejectionists, the UN has inadvertently also demonstrated how justified the Jews were to reclaim self-determination and to acquire the means for self-defense."

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As Annapolis approaches, Jewish refugees speak up

Two organizations representing Jews originally from Arab countries demand to be heard at Annapolis - particularly in light of documents from the UN archives revealing official Arab collusion and laws against Jews back in 1947. Violence, arrests and confiscation of property were part of official policy towards Jews in several Arab countries, the papers show. Israel National News reports (with thanks: Jerusalem Posts):

"In addition, it is estimated that the 850,000 Jews who fled Arab countries after Israel's founding in 1948 left behind assets currently worth more than $300 billion.

"Heskel M. Haddad, president of the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, said last week that when the Palestinian Authority negotiators at Annapolis raise the issue of Arab refugees, the Israelis must remind them of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who left their homes and property in Arab countries.

"In addition, Stanley Urman, executive director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), says that justice cannot be served unless the forced exodus of Jewish refugees, and the conditions under which they left, are included on the agenda at the upcoming conference.

"The JJAC recently released a report entitled, "Justice for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights and Redress." Without explaining how it found them, it quotes recently discovered documents of the United Nations archives revealing Arab League laws designed specifically to harass and mistreat the Jews of its member states.

"The report quotes an Arab League draft law saying that Jews living in Arab countries would be considered citizens or members of Israel, referred to as the 'minority state of Palestine.' As such, the Jews' bank accounts would be frozen and used against 'Zionist ambitions in Palestine.' In addition, active Zionist Jews would be jailed as political prisoners, while only Jews who join Arab armies would receive full Arab rights.

"The UN documents reveal "a pattern of state-sanctioned oppression of Jewish refugees from Arab countries - including Nuremberg-like laws," Irwin Cotler told CNS' Julie Stahl. Kotler is an international human rights lawyer, Canadian parliamentarian and former Canadian justice minister.

"Rabbi Avraham Hamra, a former spiritual leader of the Jewish community in Syria who now lives in Israel said, "There were always restrictive laws against the Jews of Syria. In addition, all the Jews who left between 1947 and 1991 have never received any compensation for their homes. The same is true for all the Jews of Arab countries who were forced to run away. Israel received Jews from the Arab countries, and the Arab countries received Palestinians."

"The latter, however, consciously refused to accept them. Haddad told the Jerusalem Post that the entire Arab refugee problem rests on a resolution by the Arab League in the 1950s, which states that no Arab government would grant citizenship to the refugees. Many of the festering Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza, Lebanon, and elsewhere have turned into breeding grounds for terrorists.

"The information on the Arab League's official persecution of Jews has been long-known , even if not well-publicized. On May 16, 1948, the New York Times reported, "Already in some Moslem states such as Syria and Lebanon there is a tendency to regard all Jews as Zionist agents and 'fifth columnists.' There have been violent incidents with feeling running high. There are indications that the stage is being set for a tragedy of incalculable proportions. In Syria a policy of economic discrimination is in effect against Jews.

"Virtually all' Jewish civil servants in the employ of the Syrian Government have been discharged. Freedom of movement has been 'practically abolished.' Special frontier posts have been established to control movements of Jews. In Iraq no Jew is permitted to leave the country unless he deposits £5,000 ($20,000) with the Government to guarantee his return. No foreign Jew is allowed to enter Iraq even in transit. In Lebanon Jews have been forced to contribute financially to the fight against the United Nations partition resolution on Palestine. Acts of violence against Jews are openly admitted by the press, which accuses Jews of 'poisoning wells,' etc. Conditions... are worst in Yemen and Afghanistan, whence many Jews have fled in terror to India. Conditions in most of the countries have deteriorated in recent months, this being particularly true of Lebanon, Iran and Egypt."

"Haddad said his organization has property deeds of Jews from Arab countries from decades ago, proving Jewish ownership of a total area of 100,000 square kilometers - 3.5 times larger than the State of Israel, including the Golan, Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Most of the properties are located in Iraq, Egypt and Morocco.

"The 850,000 Jews who left, or were forced out of, Arab countries following the creation of the State of Israel are even more numerous than Arabs who left Israel at that time. No precise number of the latter is known, but it is most widely estimated to be somewhat more than a half-million. However, the Arabs now demand the "right of return" for them and their descendants, now numbering in the millions.

"Both Haddad and Urman agree that Israel must be sure to raise the various issues associated with the Jewish refugees from Arab lands at Annapolis - particularly in light of the PA's deal-breaking demand that Israel agree to allow hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, of Arab refugees to "return" to Israel.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The parlous state of Algeria's Jewish cemeteries

Bernard Haddad was elated to be returning to his native Algeria. He found his old house, his school, even his headmaster. But euphoria soon turned to deep disenchantment when he arrived at the cemetery of Annaba, his home town in Eastern Algeria. David Thompson of Liberation writes on the parlous state of Algeria's Jewish cemeteries.

The scene that greeted the 67-year-old Haddad was apocalyptic. Tombs had been disembowelled, overturned, smothered in graffiti, with bones exposed to the air. " I was not able to find the graves of my brother and grandparents," he lamented. The cemetery, abandoned in 1962, had never been maintained. Some graves had served as arms caches, but today the cemetery is a drug-addicts' squat.

Haddad's experience was similar to that of scores of 'pied-noirs' (Algerian French) who had returned as the civil war abated in the 1990s. The country has 523 French cemeteries - both Christian and Jewish, with some 400,000 graves. There had been 620 before 1962, but some had disappeared or been turned into football pitches. Most of these abandoned sites were in an advanced state of disrepair. Many had been vandalised, especially the Jewish ones.

"In Morocco where there is still a strong Jewish community, the Jewish cemeteries are protected," says Nicole Bricq, a senator and member of the Bone remembrance society (Annaba's old name). " But in Algeria, as soon as there are problems further East (in Palestine), the Jewish tombs are vandalised."

Surrounded by high-rise council estates, the Jewish cemetery is in a hostile environment. "People (many of them bearded) were taunting us when we arrived. I was very scared," says Haddad, who is the founder of the Bone remembrance society. We only have 60 members because Jews are afraid to return to Algeria due to the Arab-Israeli conflict. I always say Arab-Israeli conflict, and not Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because the Jews of Algeria felt the repercussions of this conflict between Arabs and Jews."

France got involved in 2003. During his triumphant visit to Algiers, (president) Jacques Chirac announced an Franco-Algerian agreement and launched a massive 1.4 million Euro rehabilitation plan for the major urban cemeteries, as well as 62 cemeteries not easily transferable to ossuaries, under the direction of the French ministry of foreign affairs, with local authorities handling maintenance. Official re-interment ceremonies have been held. Commemorative monuments have been erected at the behest of groups of French-Algerian expatriates, horrified that the French presence in Algeria might end up being denied.

To-date, Jewish graves could not be dealt with in this manner, as orthodox Judaism does not permit exhumation and transfer of mortal remains. "Jean Kahn, the president of the Consistoire, the representative body of French Jewry, was crystal-clear: one cannot move Jewish graves," says Bernard Haddad. (I am not sure this is a hard-and-fast rule in Judaism. After all, some remains of the sages buried in the central cemetery in Tunis were moved to Israel in the 1950s, and the Jewish settlers took their relatives' remains with them when they left Gaza in 2005 - Ed)

All parties agree that the cemeteries need restoring, but it is not clear whose responsibility it is to rehabilitate, restore and maintain the graves. It's a game of ping-pong. "Everyone is scandalised by the state of the Jewish cemeteries," Nicole Bricq affirms." But their maintenance is the councils' job." The French Foreign ministry says that they are private property, and it's the Jewish organisations' job to restore them. Not so, says a pied-noir activist, the French have their hands full with the Christian cemeteries, they cannot be bothered with the Jewish ones too. But our dead were buried on French soil! "

These last weeks, some progress has been observed. Thanks to the 2003 bilateral agreement, a protective wall has been built by the Algerian authorities around the Jewish cemetery of Annaba. Some 30 graves have been restored with French foreign ministry money. Haddad hopes that his society will persuade France to restore each one of the 2,000 graves.

Read article in full (French)

Photographs of cemeteries in Algeria (with thanks: a reader)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Kuntzel exposes fascism and Islamism links

Remember Matthias Kuentzel? He is the German academic who was prevented from speaking at Leeds University on the touchy and politically-incorrect subject of the links between fascism and Islamism. Here Irene Lancaster reviews the publication by Telos Press of the English-language translation of Matthias Kuentzel's Jihad and Jew-Hatred.

"Recent events in Britain have led many of us to believe that politics is never 'pure' and is always motivated by psychology and often also by theology, or a 'world-view'. It is impossible therefore not find this book by a leading German scholar in the field thoroughly convincing.

"In my view, only a German can really understand the links between fascism and Muslim revolutionary movements. The early Muslim Brothers were inspired by 1930s European fascism and their writings are a fusion of the Koran and Nazi teaching. They came to the conclusion that not only everything Jewish is evil (which they took for granted), but that 'all evil is Jewish'. For me, this is the nub of the book and is a phrase which should be taken very seriously by all those who believe that 'Islamism' is a mere aberration of the 'pure Islam' which is completely harmless and even beneficial.

"Kuentzel points out that although at first the Arabs supported the 1917 Balfour Declaration, in the 1920s, the Moslem Brotherhood changed all that. They became a populist movement, which like the National Socialists a decade later, recruited foreign students to obtain a foot in the door of as many countries as possible. The MB wished to replace democracy by sharia law and a Caliphate, much as Hamas in Gaza wishes to do today.

"Kuentzel refers to these activists as a 'community of male zealots' which took 'pleasure in un-pleasure', projecting all their hatred of pleasure on 'the Jews'. Like the Nazis, they were 'dedicated to the restoration of male supremacy.' Women's role would be like that in Nazi Germany - merely in the home and subjected to men.

"As for the concept of 'jihad', this had previously been an internal 'fight': now it was externalized as 'holy war'. The ideal was an 'industry of death', fostered by the 'art of death', which was encouraged as being a concept based in the Koran.

Importantly for those in the West who support suicide bombers, the aim of jihad was never to improve one's lot, but insteady to destroy the evil enemy, i.e. the 'Jews'.

The onset of the Nazis encouraged the Egyptian regime, which had at first welcomed Zionism, and even helped Egyptian Jews who wished to emigrate to Mandate Palestine as late as 1933, by threatening their financial interests. Due to Nazi influence the Brotherhood grew from 800 to 200,000 within two years up to 1938.

The Brotherhood distributed Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Arabic. The Nazi ideal of the Volk was paralleled by the Muslim concept of 'umma'. Language, culture and blood ties were what counted. Communities, not individuals, were of paramount importance. Arab youngsters took part in the Hitler Youth marches during the 1938 Nuremberg Rally.

"As for the Mufti of Jerusalem, he was interested in the figure of Hitler, per se. Muslims inside and outside Palestine welcomed the Nazi regime and operated the 'Nazi Scouts' in parallel to the Nazi 'Hitler Youth'. The anti-Jewish Nuremberg race laws were welcomed throughout the Arab and Muslim world, but particularly in British-mandate Palestine.

"In order to strengthen the Mandate Arabs against the Jews, Hitler offered scholarships to the the Arabs from mandated Palestine and employed them in Germany. The German Propaganda Ministry set up and increased its Arab service (just like the BBC today). Germany also funded Arab spies.

"The antisemitism of the Mufti was inherited from his father who had fought against Jewish immigrants to Palestine at the time of the Ottoman Turks. His father had much admired German militrary discipline and incited anti-Jewish riots in Jerusalem. The Mufti was responsible for the 1920 anti-Jewish (not anti-Zionist) porgrom in Jerusalem, and then later for the pogroms against the Jews of the holy cities of Tsfat and Hebron. He used his office to 'Islamise anti-Zionism' and provided a religious rationale for the hatred of the Jews.(..)

"The escalation of the so-called 'Palestinian conflict' was thus the result of a purposeful campaign based on the theological concept of Islamic Holy War. The Moslem Brotherhood and the Mufti worked together to usher in a new Caliphate based on sharia law. It was thus the shared hatred of the Jews which became the bond which tied disparate Arab groupings together. In other words, revolutionary antisemitism was the core of modern jihadism."

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

The rescue of Syrian Jews, now issued in paperback

If anyone had told an Ontarian housewife that she was going to mastermind a rescue mission of Jews from the Middle East, she would have had trouble believing them. Canadian Jewish News reviews Harold Troper's amazing story of the exploits of Judy Feld Carr, now issued in paperback under the title The rescuer.

The “Syrian” room in Judy Feld Carr’s downtown condominium is a testament to the 3,228 Jews she helped escape from that country over a 28-year period.

Handmade brass ornaments, a brass and glass coffee table, a music box, a plaque of the Ten Commandments laid out on mother-of-pearl, and pictures of Syrian-Jewish families with daughters named Judy, are all gifts from the families she helped save.

It has been about six years since she took out her last family on Sept. 11, 2001, and almost 10 years since Harold Troper, author and professor in the department of theory and policy studies at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), wrote The Ransomed of God, the story of how Feld Carr navigated the escape of Syrian Jews.

That book was re-released in soft cover this fall with a new name, The Rescuer, and a new preface, in which he writes that after giving a talk when the book was first released, a man asked him which parts of the book were true and which were Troper’s invention.

He told the man that everything was true, Troper writes, but admits that he, too, was “more than a little skeptical” when Feld Carr approached him about writing a book on that part of Syrian history.

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