Friday, January 30, 2009

Israel concerned over rising anti-Jewish sentiment

To alarmed Jews in Turkey, prime minister Erdogan's antics at Davos - quoting at least one antisemite in his rejoinder to Israel' s president Shimon Peres's impassioned speech - must have seemed the icing on an ever-rising cake of Turkish antisemitism. Here's a news item in the Turkish paper Zaman:

"Turkey's Jewish community is worried about anti-Jewish feelings spreading through Turkish society following Israel's deadly offensive in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli minister of welfare and social services said yesterday.

"Isaac Herzog, who is also the minister of the diaspora, society and fight against antisemitism, made his remarks during a radio program on the Israeli army radio station, the Anatolia news agency reported, noting that the program focused on the reaction of the Turkish public against Israel's offensive.

The Israeli government has been in constant contact with the Jewish community in Turkey concerning the issue, Herzog said. Anti-Israeli feelings and enmity toward Jews have been confused with each other following Israel's operation into Gaza, and "the Jewish community has been worried about its life and property safety," he added.

"Herzog, however, noted that the Turkish police had been taking the necessary precautions and that both the prime minister and members of the Turkish Cabinet had been sensitive, particularly in the past 10 days, concerning the issue."

Read article in full

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Only four Yemen families move amid harassment

Photo: Saba News

Only four Jewish families have moved from Amran province to Sana'a, where the government has promised them a house and 2 million Yemeni rials each (about $10,000). The remainder, who are still being harassed and threatened in Amran, grumble that the accommodation offered is too small:

SANA'A, Jan. 28 (Saba) – "Four Jewish families have arrived in Sana'a coming from Amran province launching the relocation of Jews to the city, a spokesman for head of the Parliament Committee on Freedoms and Rights.

"As they arrived they were handed over four houses at the Sa'awan Tourist City, the spokesman said.

"Among the arriving Jewish families was the family of the Jew who was murdered (in December) in the district of Raidah in Amran by an ex-pilot, a Jewish source said.

"However, the four Jewish families have not yet settled in their new houses in Sana'a as they are being equipped.

"Meanwhile, Jews are trying to convince authorities that houses allocated for them in the Sa'awan Tourist City are not suitable as they will not be sufficient to accommodate all Jews families.

"A Jewish household consists of at least 16 members.

"Moreover, many Jewish families in Amran refuse to move to new houses in Sana'a claiming there are not a warship place (sic) and a school to teach children.

"In this regard, the spokesman said that all issues relating to the relocation were discussed with Jewish representatives last week."

Read article in full

The Yemen Times reports that a local human rights organisation, HOOD, has so far failed in its bid to get the trial of the suspect accused of the murder of Moshe al-Nahari moved to Sana'a:

"Concerning the murder of the Jewish citizen Masha Ya'ish Al-Nihari, Khaled Al-Anisi, secretary general of the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms, also known as HOOD, which volunteered to defend the Jewish citizens in Yemen as a minority, told the Yemen Times that the Attorney General didn't accept the demand of HOOD to move the court hearings from Amran to Sana'a under the pretext that such a procedure can be taken only by the Minister of Justice. Al-Anisi said that the Minister of Justice hasn’t given them any response yet.

"Our demand is legal. We requested to change the place of court hearings to Sana'a as security authorities in Amran couldn’t maintain security there and prevent threats of murder that relatives of the murderer cast against Al-Nihari's family," said Al-Anisi. "We want to tackle the situation of the Yemeni Jews on a national basis. This includes providing absolute justice that is guaranteed by Islam. This justice also preserves the safety and property of all Yemeni citizens, regardless of their religion or their beliefs."

"Al-Anisi added that Yemeni Jews are afraid of the threats they receive from extremists who are protected by sheiks. "A well-known man protected by Kahlan bin Mujahed Abu Shawareb intimidates Jews in Amran,” he said. “He threatens them and he hasn’t been arrested so far despite the President's directives to arrest all those who harm Yemeni Jews. There is something going on in secret which we don’t understand in this respect!"

"Observers concerned with affairs in Yemen said that "some influential individuals may be preparing to seize the property of the Yemeni Jews and expel them from the country, as they did with their ancestors in Yemen.”(My emphasis -ed)

Read article in full

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Government to collect claims from Muslim lands

The Israel Pensioners Affairs Ministry has created a new department over the past two weeks that will begin to collect specific claims by Jews who lost their property when they left Arab countries during the 20th century, The Jerusalem Post reports.But will the department survive the forthcoming elections?

More than 850,000 Jews fled or were expelled from Arab lands and Iran, most after Israel's founding in 1948. Estimates of the value of the property they were forced to leave behind are hard to come by, ranging from as low as $16 billion in known assets to as high as $300b. when estimates of the value of their abandoned real estate are included.

"Israel has talked about this on and off for 60 years. Now we're going to deal with it as we should have all along," said Dr. Avi Bitzur, director-general of the Pensioners Affairs Ministry.

The ministry established a department with an initial staff of five to begin to collect the claims of the Jewish refugees, about 80 percent of whom settled in Israel. Bitzur will host a panel on the issue at next week's Herzliya Conference*, and over the next two weeks hopes to pass a decision through the cabinet mandating discussion of Jewish refugees whenever the question of Arab refugees are raised in peace negotiations.

According to Bitzur, who is also a political scientist at Bar-Ilan University, the new effort comes to fill a gap in awareness both in Israel and abroad. "The UN has dealt at least 700 times with Arab refugees and their property, but not once with the issue of Jewish property," he says.

It's also time for Israelis to get to know better the history of the Jews of Arab lands, who make up some 60% of the ethnic ancestry of Israeli Jews.

"It's time to deal with this amongst ourselves," says Bitzur. "I say that as a citizen, as a father and as an academic. We should know the history of the pogrom in Baghdad in 1941, of the Libyan Jews who ended up in Bergen Belsen. (...)

In late 2007, Baghdad-born American Jew Heskel M. Haddad, representing the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, called on the Israeli government to begin to seriously examine the issue of Jewish property left behind in Arab lands.

At the time, Haddad told The Jerusalem Post that WOJAC had a staggering 100,000 square kilometers in property deeds.

Yet it is uncertain whether the recent initiative can survive after the February 10 Knesset elections. The Pensioners Affairs Ministry was established as part of a coalition deal with the Gil Pensioners Party in 2006. With the Pensioners currently polling below the threshold to return to the Knesset, would the ministry - and with it the newly-formed department - survive in a new coalition?

According to Bitzur, emphatically yes. "The department was formed by a government decision which continues to be in effect after the elections. The department has been approved and funded by the Finance Ministry, and its workers are government workers with all the implied protections," he explains.

Internationally, too, the project has support. "The US Congress [in mid-2008] decided that any discussion of refugees in the Middle East must include the Jewish refugees from Arab lands. The current presidency of the EU, the Czech Republic, agrees with this position," he says.

Read article in full

*A 90- minute session will be held at the Herzliya conference on 3 February, 15:30-17:00
Chairman: Avi Bitzur.Speakers: Rafi Eitan,Rahel Machtiger and Edwin Shuker.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Forty years since the hangings of nine Jews in Iraq

Today, Holocaust Memorial Day, is also the 40th anniversary of the hangings of 14 people in Baghdad and Basra by Saddam's brutal regime. Nine were Jews executed on trumped-up spying charges.

Iraq was reeling from Israel's lightening victory over the Arabs in June 1967. It turned against the few thousand Jews still living in Iraq. Persecution was at its worst at the end of 1968: scores were jailed upon the discovery of a local "spy ring" composed of Jewish businessmen. Fourteen men - eleven of them Jews - were sentenced to death in staged trials and hanged in Liberation square in Baghdad. Others died of torture.

On January 27, 1969, Baghdad Radio called upon Iraqis to "come and enjoy the feast." Some 500,000 men, women and children paraded and danced past the scaffolds where the bodies of the hanged Jews swung; the mob rhythmically chanted "Death to Israel" and "Death to all traitors." This display brought a world-wide public outcry that Radio Baghdad dismissed by declaring: "We hanged spies, but the Jews crucified Christ."

Following are extracts of a statement to the Maariv newspaper in Tel-Aviv in March 1991 made by Mrs. Selima Gubbay, widow of Fuad Gubbay, one of the martyrs:

"Fuad and I were so happy when suddenly our lives were torn apart. One day four Iraqi officers in a blue Volkswagen drove into our home in Basra. They went straight to the air conditioners and pulled out the transformers. "These are transmitters," they shouted, "you are spying for Israel." Fuad was roughed up when he protested. Our younger son, David, was picked up and thrown against the railings when he tried to kiss his father. He cut himself, and his face was full of blood. The blood was an evil omen of the future.

It was 1968 and I was four months pregnant. Fuad was taken away to a jail in Baghdad. Eventually, he was put on trial with other Jews, all accused of spying for Israel. The trial was broadcast live on radio and television. Fuad pleaded not guilty. I traveled from Basra to Baghdad to see him in prison. When I got there they pushed me into a room beat me up and kicked me out. In the next room, separated only by a thin wall, the warders were telling Fuad, "your wife is on the other side of the wall. She's pregnant. If you don't admit your guilt, we're going to rape her, and afterwards open her stomach and cut up the child."

The next day during the broadcast of the trial, I heard Fuad pleading guilty, admitting that on such and such days, he was here and there, sending secrets to Israel. When I checked the dates, I realized that Fuad had been with me and the children all of those times. He had made up the story in order to save us. On the morning of January 27, 1969, the streets of Baghdad were even more noisy and crowded than usual. It was the day of the hangings. A day of national celebration. I could hear the neighbours shouting enthusiastically, "Hang the Israeli spies."

Dancers were brought from far and wide to dance under the gallows. There were free rides on the buses and trams so that people could come and celebrate under the corpses. And what was all the celebration about? The Iraqi nation was taking its collective revenge for defeat of a division on the Jordan front in the Six Day War, and that is how Iraqi television was broadcasting pictures of nine hanging Jewish corpses, among them my husband Fuad, all innocent people. The loudspeakers announced that from 4 o'clock that afternoon, the bodies would be brought down so that the mob could deal with them in the streets. I returned to Basra and people, including Jews, avoided me for fear of being linked with my husband's so-called activities."

Mrs Gubbay then described how she fled to Israel with her children in July 1971. Over 50 more Jews were, after 1969, executed or died through torture in jail.

Monday, January 26, 2009

'Our community will not survive' - a Mandaean

The extermination of Mandaean culture (woodcut)

With its 17 different religious communities, Iraq is like a fragile ecosystem whose rare and precious plants are threatened with extinction. The editors of Memories of Eden, Mira and Tony Rocca received this moving letter from a Mandaean reader, who recalls the variegated social fabric which the book's author, Violette Shamash, describes. But now he doubts if his community will survive.

Thank you a lot for showing the real Iraq and how we lived in harmony. I am born in 1960 in Baghdad, my doctor was a Jew, his name Daoud Kubaya, and the nurse that used to give me injections and I ran away from her (Rahma) also she was a Jew. I remember her.

I am a Mandaean (followers of John the Baptist),we lived like you a good life, I spent all my school years in (Rahebat Altakdema),this was a Catholic school on the Tigris river very famous.

My mother had many Jewish friends.

We always think about you.

Although I cried a lot but for the first time I felt really as if I was there, all her description was right.

Now I am living in Australia and nothing left for us, just the memories.

We are scattered everywhere. I have 5 sisters, 2 in England senior doctor consultants, another doctor in Canada, another in Sweden, and another in Holland.

Historically it is said that we are Jews originally and we came from Israel 2,000 years ago. We are Gnostic. I am not a religious person but I love my people…the Mandaeans. Almost 90% left Iraq, we were about 60,000, now left only 5,000.

As a community we will not survive.

Mandaeans are stranded in Syria and Jordan as refugees.

And all of them are very well educated and they have nowhere to go.

At least you have Israel, but we don’t have that backbone to keep us safe, our country Iraq has been taken from us, hijacked by those extremists.

The religion and the culture is going to disappear.

I heard a lot about the Iraqi Jews and how nice they were.

I heard stories from my father and the house where we lived in the late Fifties was owned by a Jewish man in Bataween (Bustan Al Kass).

And the Jewish man before leaving asked my father to take all the gold he had which was a fortune and just give him 100 Dinars, but my father refused, he said How can I receive that money? First because it was against his will to sell, and secondly it is not equal.

There were many honest people during that time and till now.

And the Jewish man said Oh my God, you are an honest man and I am not lucky.

I am still afraid to speak out loudly because I have cousins still living in Baghdad. Forgive me, I don’t want you to write my name, just write what I said about our memories.

And thank you so much.

And maybe we will meet one day."

Read post in full (scroll down to 22 January)

Mira and Tony Rocca will be taking part in a discussion, Paradise Lost, together with Lucette Lagnado, on 22 February at 5 pm at Jewish Book Week in London.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

President Gul reassures anxious Turkish Jews

The Turkish president is trying to to reassure Turkish Jews, scared and anxious at resurgent antisemitism coinciding with the Gaza war. Hurriyet reports that he telephoned a Jewish psychologist writing in Radikal to assure her of his 'empathy'. But what she and other Turkish Jews resent is to be reminded of how the Ottomans welcomed Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. After 500 years, isn't it time to treat Jews as sons and daughters of the soil?

The psychologist Leyla Navaro’s article "Being a Jew in Turkey: Loneliness of 500 years," drew reference to the statement by (Prime minister) Erdoğan that 500 years ago Ottomans opened their arms to embrace Jews who migrated from Spain. "Is it still a debt of mine that 500 years ago my ancestors were accepted by the Ottoman Sultan? Am I still regarded as a guest in this land that I was born and grew up in, in which I fulfill my responsibilities as a citizen and have actually contributed to its development? Shall I walk with my head down? Am I a candidate for being threatened? And should I accept this situation?" wrote Navaro in her article Thursday.

President Gül then telephoned Navaro, an academic at the prominent Boğaziçi University, the editor in chief of Radikal yesterday wrote in his column. "The president was really impressed by the article. He spoke sincerely and spoke of his sensitivity toward the issue and highlighted his messages criticising the threat of enmity against Jews in statements he made in meetings in Iran and Malaysia," Navaro told Berkan about the dialogue between herself and the president. "I felt that I had been heard at the end of our talk. Both the president and the prime minister, however, should frequently and openly say no to an attitude that spreads hatred. I also said this to the president.

"Erdoğan’s former statement about Ottoman’s embracing Jews, however, has been subjected to serious criticism. "The prime minister consciously or unconsciously lit the flame. While he was trying to criticize the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip that wrenched the heart out of anyone who has a conscience, he raised the issue of wars of religion, to Judaism," Berkan wrote.

Read article in full

Hurriyet: Jewish community reassured

Reuters report: Turkish Jews fearful of antisemitism after Gaza

Turkish antisemitism is nothing new

An alarming spike of antisemitism (in which the government is complicit) over Israel's war in Gaza, has shaken Turkish Jews. But as Dr Andrew Bostom reminds us in Front Page magazine, Turkish antisemitism is nothing new:

On August 28, 2007, the same day that Abdullah Gul became Turkey's President -- replacing his secular predecessor, and further consolidating the ruling Islamic AK (Adalet ve Kalkinma) Party's (AKP) hold on power -- MEMRI published excerpts from a chilling interview given by former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan. The interview originally aired July 1, 2007, as part of Erbakan's campaign efforts in support of Islamic fundamentalist political causes before the general elections of July 22, 2007, and the AKP's resounding popular electoral victory over its closest "secularist" rival parties.

Erbakan, founder of the fundamentalist Islamic Milli Gorus (National Vision; originated 1969) movement, mentored current AKP leaders President Gul, and Prime Minister Erdogan, both of whom were previously active members of Erbakan's assorted fundamentalist political parties, serving in mayoral, ministerial, and parliamentary posts. During Erbakan's pre-election campaign stops before throngs of tens of thousands of supporters throughout Anatolia (including cities such as Trabzon, Elazig, and Konya), as well as cosmopolitan Ankara and Istanbul, he reiterated the same virulently Antisemitic statements captured in the July 1 interview, and other interviews.

These interviews and more expansive speeches were rife with allusions to Zionists/Jews (deliberately conflated), as "bacteria," and "disease," conspiring to dominate the contemporary Islamic world ("from Morocco to Indonesia,"), as they had attempted unsuccessfully during the 11th and 12th centuries when Jews purportedly "organized" the Crusades, only to be stopped by the Turk's/Erbakan's Seljuk "forefathers." Ultimately, Erbakan claimed, modern Jews/Zionists wished to establish "a world order where money and manpower are dependent on [them]."

For over thirty years, Necmettin Erbakan a former chairman of the fundamentalist National Salvation Party, and its numerous offshoots, have represented the most significant examples of Turkish Muslim political organizations exploiting systematized anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist bigotry. Erbakan's ascension to Deputy Prime Minister in January, 1974, was marked by Pan-Islamic overtures, along with increasingly strident verbal violence against Jews, Zionism, and the State of Israel emanating from the National Salvation Party's organs, especially its daily Milli Gazete (The National Newspaper), published in Istanbul since January 12, 1973.

The modern fundamentalist Islamic movement Erbakan founded has continued to produce the most extreme strain of antisemitism extant in Turkey, and traditional Islamic motifs, i.e., frequent quotations from the Koran and Hadith, remain central to this hatred, nurtured by early Islam's basic animus towards Judaism. Milli Gazete published articles in February and April of 2005, for example, which were toxic amalgams of ahistorical drivel, and virulently antisemitic and anti-dhimmi Koranic motifs, including these protoypical comments based upon Koran 2:61/ 3:112:
In fact no amount of pages or lines would be sufficient to explain the Qur'anic chapters and our Lord Prophet's [Muhammad's] words that tell us of the betrayals of the Jews... The prophets sent to them, such as Zachariah and Isaiah, were murdered by the Jews...
The April 2005 edition of the monthly Aylik, produced by a Turkish jihadist organization which claimed responsibility for the November 15, 2003 dual synagogue bombings in Istanbul, contained 18 pages of antisemitic material. An article written by Cumali Dalkilic entitled, "Why Antisemitism?", combined traditional Koranic antisemitic motifs with Nazi antisemitism, and Holocaust denial. Another article's title repeats the commonplace, if very pejorative Turkish Muslim characterization of Jews, "Tschifit," which translates as "filthy Jews" (a pejorative term for Jews whose usage was recorded by the European travelers Carsten Niebuhr in 1794, and Abdolonyme Ubicini in 1856, based upon their visits to Ottoman Turkey), i.e., "The Tschifits [The Filthy Jews] Castle."

Read article in full

Saturday, January 24, 2009

BBC admits Jews were unequal to Muslims

A smidgen of good news from the BBC: their editorial complaints unit has partially upheld a complaint (flagged here) about a website article published last June on Jewish refugees from Arab countries. But no dancing in the streets yet, folks - the article is still misleading, the BBC still maintains that the facts about Jewish refugees are 'disputed' and those promised background articles on the subject still haven't materialised. See this post and comments following on Harry's Place:


A reader of the page complained that the item gave an inaccurate picture of the position of Jewish communities in Muslim countries before 1948, which tended to suggest that any animosity between Jew and Arab arose only from foundation of the State of Israel.


The item was accurate in most respects, but the statement by the BBC’s Arab Affairs analyst that Jews in Muslim countries were “fully integrated” into their societies gave a misleading impression of equal treatment, whereas their ‘dhimmi’ status in Muslim countries entailed numerous laws and policies that discriminated against them.

Further action:

The report has been amended and the Middle East team reminded of the need to explain this situation clearly should it arise again.

This is the report in question. The paragraph originally read as follows:

"The BBC’s Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says the subject is highly controversial as the numbers of Jews who left, and the conditions under which they left, are disputed."

He says one undisputed fact is that Jews were part of Arab societies for centuries, where they were fully integrated in their societies, until Israel was established.

Now it reads:

"The BBC’s Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says the subject is highly controversial as the numbers of Jews who left, and the conditions under which they left, are disputed.

"He says one undisputed fact is that many Jews were part of Arab societies for centuries, although not with equal rights, until Israel was established."

The amendment is still inaccurate, isn’t it?

The BBC’s Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi did not say that Jews had unequal rights in Arab countries. Instead, he propagated the lie that they were “fully integrated”.

That lie is an important one to those who seek the destruction of Israel. The reality of the systematic discrimination of Jews in Arab countries sounds too much like an argument for self-determination - and they can’t have that!

In any case, why did the BBC turn to one of its own employees, a partisan liar, to deny the reality of the persecution of Jews in Arab countries?

See post and comments in full

Friday, January 23, 2009

Jew-free Libya a fine precedent for Palestine - not

Muamar Gadhafi's one-state solution for Palestine, 'Isratine', refloated to readers of the New York Times, sounds plausible enough - but neglects to mention the Arabs' own dismal record for respecting Jewish rights. In his own country devoid of Jews, the Libyan leader finished what Hitler started, explains James Taranto in The New Republic. (With thanks: Lily)

The New York Times op-ed page has an interesting new contributor today: Moammar Gadhafi, Libya's dictator. (..)

Gadhafi's subject is the territory formerly known as Palestine, now divided between the nation of Israel and the disputed territories, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which were occupied by Jordan and Egypt, respectively, after the Arabs rejected a U.N. resolution calling for Jewish and Arab states in Palestine, and which came under Israeli occupation after the Six Day War in 1967.

The common view is that the ultimate resolution of this conflict is the "two-state solution," in which Israel would cede all or most of the disputed territories to a new Arab state called Palestine. It seems reasonable, even obvious, but there are practical impediments. One is the asymmetry of Arab demands for a "right of return"--i.e., that Palestinian Arabs whose ancestors lived in what is now Israel be allowed to resettle there. By contrast, no one talks about a Jewish "right of return" to Arab countries, and Arabs demand that Jews who have settled in the disputed territories be expelled. There is also a question of whether the Palestinians, or the regimes that rule other Arab countries, really want a Palestinian state as opposed to (in theory) the destruction of Israel and (in practice) an excuse to continue using the Jewish state as a scapegoat.

Anyway, Gadhafi rejects the two-state solution in favor of a one-state one, "an 'Isratine' that would allow the people in each party to feel that they live in all of the disputed land and they are not deprived of any one part of it." Gadhafi writes:

Assimilation is already a fact of life in Israel. There are more than one million Muslim Arabs in Israel; they possess Israeli nationality and take part in political life with the Jews, forming political parties. On the other side, there are Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Israeli factories depend on Palestinian labor, and goods and services are exchanged. This successful assimilation can be a model for Isratine.
If the present interdependence and the historical fact of Jewish-Palestinian coexistence guide their leaders, and if they can see beyond the horizon of the recent violence and thirst for revenge toward a long-term solution, then these two peoples will come to realize, I hope sooner rather than later, that living under one roof is the only option for a lasting peace.

Whatever appeal this idea may have in theory, in practice it is even more fanciful than the two-state solution. Even assuming that Israel's democratic institutions remain intact in form after the transition, "Isratine's" Jews would soon be outnumbered by Arabs, given demographic trends and the "right of return," which Gadhafi endorses.

In theory there is no reason an Arab majority in a democracy could not respect the rights of a Jewish minority. In practice, however, the Arab track record in this regard is dismal--and the Arabs of the disputed territories have been indoctrinated for generations in Nazi-style Jew-hatred--often, especially in recent years, with a religious justification. An actual "Isratine" would likely be another backward Arab-dominated regime, with Jews subjugated or worse. Israeli Arabs would be far worse off than they are today; Palestinian Arabs, probably not much better off.

Gadhafi's Times article includes a glaring falsehood that bears on the impracticality of his proposal, and suggests that he is not offering it in good faith. By way of conceding a point, he writes:

The basis for the modern State of Israel is the persecution of the Jewish people, which is undeniable. The Jews have been held captive, massacred, disadvantaged in every possible fashion by the Egyptians, the Romans, the English, the Russians, the Babylonians, the Canaanites and, most recently, the Germans under Hitler. The Jewish people want and deserve their homeland.

In fact, the Germans under Hitler are not the most recent persecutors of Jews. Many Israeli Jews are refugees from persecution in Arab countries since World War II (and Iran since 1979). Aside from Morocco, no Arab land has more than a handful of Jews left--and that includes Libya. Vivienne Roumani-Denn, director of the 2007 documentary "The Last Jews of Libya," recounts the fate of Libya's Jews on this Web page:

By 1941, the Jews accounted for a quarter of the population of Tripoli and maintained 44 synagogues. In 1942 the Germans occupied the Jewish quarter of Benghazi, plundered shops, and deported more than 2,000 Jews across the desert, where more than one-fifth of them perished. Many Jews from Tripoli were also sent to forced labor camps. Conditions did not greatly improve following the liberation. During the British occupation, there was a series of pogroms, the worst of which, in 1945, resulted in the deaths of more than 100 Jews in Tripoli and other towns and the destruction of five synagogues.
A growing sense of insecurity, coupled with the establishment of the State of Israel, led many Jews to leave the country. Although emigration was illegal, more than 3,000 Jews succeeded in leaving, and many went to Israel. When the British legalized emigration in 1949, more than 30,000 Jews fled Libya.
At the time of Colonel Qaddafi's coup in 1969, some 500 Jews remained in Libya. Qaddafi subsequently confiscated all Jewish property and cancelled all debts owed to Jews. By 1974 there were no more than 20 Jews, and it is believed that the Jewish presence has passed out of existence.

In fairness to Gadhafi, he did not begin the persecution of Libyan Jews. But isn't there some rule of journalistic ethics that should have compelled the Times to disclose to its readers that its author is the man who, in his own country, finished what Hitler started?

Read article in full

Letter by Noam Schimmel to the International Herald Tribune

Jews of Iraq: don't forget your motherland

Dia Kashi has a dream: one day, a Jew would be President of Iraq.

His voice cracking, Kashi told of his dream on the day that President Obama was being sworn in on Capitol Hill.

Addressing an audience at the London launch of the book, Iraq's Last Jews, Kashi, a Shia Muslim exile living in London whose family had suffered badly under Saddam's regime, explained that a country which respected the rights of the Jews would respect the rights of all.

His dream sounds a touch fanciful. There are fewer than ten Jews still living in Iraq. Few Jews would consider ever returning, let alone standing for President.

But the Jews of Iraq, who settled there over 2,700 years ago, were central to Iraqi Identity. 'You are Iraq', Kashi told the audience. They were a force for modernisation as well as pluralism.

Aged 19, Kashi volunteered to fight for the Palestinians, but when told that in the event that he lost his weapon he should give himself up to the Israelis, who might jail him but at least keep him alive, Kashi experienced a 'Road to Damascus' moment. From then on he threw in his lot with the Jews, became close to a number of Jews in England, and in 1998, visited Israel. "When I arrived at the airport, I realised I was surrounded by human beings", he said.

Kashi's story parallels that of Mithal al-Alusi, who visited Israel twice. Although he paid a terrible price - his two sons were killed - Al-Alusi is a source of hope: he represents the constituency of Najaf, the centre of the Shi'a world. The devout Shi'ites of Najaf voted in as their representative a man who never hid his desire to build bridges with Israel.

On the other hand, Kashi was pessimistic about prospects for peace because the Bedouin culture infecting the Arab world legitimises stealing, lying, cheating and the rule of Mafia-style clans. Arab rulers had a vested interest in keeping their people backward and uneducated.
There can never be peace, only a truce.

Dia Kashi is the only non-Jew whose story is included in Iraq's Last Jews. The book contains 20 of 64 interviews conducted by editors Tamar Morad, Robert Shasha and Dennis Shasha. It reflects a cross-section of experience from Jews from all walks of life and backgrounds. At one end of the spectrum the prosperous bankers, like the Zilkha family; at the other, the poor, like Salim Sassoon, his life blighted by ill-health, and Salim Fattal, who turned to communism; writers like Sami Michael and Eli Amir; the artist Oded Halahmi; the famous musician Saleh Al-Kuwaiti described by his son Shlomo; the Zionists, like Mordechai Ben-Porat and Shlomo Hillel, who organised the airlift of some 120,000 Jews to Israel; those Jews who suffered torture and imprisonment under the brutal Baathist regime; and Jews who walked a political tightrope with the authorities while trying to safeguard the community's few remaining rights - like the last headmaster of the last Jewish school, Abdullah Obadiah, and the last leader of the Jewish community, Meir Basri.

Now that the Jewish community of Iraq has ceased to exist, the closing words of the book belong to Dia Kashi:

"I implore the Jews of Iraq not to allow the culture and contribution of your community to disappear in this generation and to ensure that you transmit as much as possible to your children and grandchildren. After all, Iraq was originally your country- Jews were there long before the Muslims set foot on its soil. Even if most of you have no intention of returning to the motherland, you owe it to your ancestors, those pillars who helped shape Iraq and its history, to perpetuate in exile, at least, your glorious past."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Israeli minister: compensate both Jews and Arabs

Israeli Senior Citizens' Affairs minister Rafi Eytan has called for Jewish refugees to be compensated as well as Palestinians, according to Arutz Sheva.

Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem on 20 January organised by his ministry and assembling the leaders of relevant organisations, Mr Eytan referred to the stolen property left behind by Jews in Arab lands. The minister, who has been chairing a government committee dealing with the issue, called for the Israeli government to formulate a decisive stance and have precise data for international discussions, particularly as President Obama takes over in the US.

If the Palestinian refugee issue moves up the agenda during Obama's term of office, it is important to tell the world that there were also Jewish refugees, he told Arutz 7 in an exclusive interview.

"If an international fund is established to deal with restitution for Palestinians, the same fund should deal with Jews from Arab countries. In any future agreement there should be parity," Eytan had told the last president, George Bush. He would say the same to Obama if he raised the issue. US Congress resolutions had called for equal treatment for both Palestinian and Jewish refugees.

In the 1950s a UN estimate valued abandoned Palestinian assets at £122 million. Jewish property left behind in Arab countries is 10 times greater.

Read article in full and see clip with minister Rafi Eytan (Hebrew)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Nazis planned to exterminate Jews of N. Africa

The recent publication of Himmler's diaries confirms that the Jews of North Africa were to be included in Nazi plans for the extermination of the Jews. Here is a summary by Edith Shaked (with thanks: Rona):

Holocaust scholars tend to define the 'Jews of Europe' as those living on the continent of Europe. But it is clear from the 1942 Nazi Wannsee conference that the 700,000 Jews marked for slaughter or slavery must have included the Jews of North Africa, who numbered between 400,000 and 465,000 Jews - according to the historians of North African Jewry Michel Abitbol and Joseph Toledano. (There were also some 30,000 Jews living under Italian Fascist occupation in Libya.)

On December 10, 1942 Himmler reported to Hitler on "Juden in Frankreich 600-700.000 abschaffen" ('Jews in France 600-700.000 to be deported or to be finished off': the German word is a bit ambiguous.)

Immediately after Himmler's report to Hitler he made the following note: "The Führer has given orders to arrest and deport the Jews and other enemies of the Reich in France. But this shall happen only after talks with Laval. This concerns some 6 to 700.000 Jews."

The only country directly occupied by the Nazis was Tunisia. The Jews in Nazi-occupied Tunisia (Nov. 1942-May 1943) suffered for six months under antisemitic Nazi terror spread by the infamous SS-Obersturmbannführer Walter Rauf, who pioneered the construction and distribution of gas vans.

A Judenrat was created. Tunisian Jews were subject to acts of violence and terror:hostages were seized, property confiscated, Jews ill treated and randomly snatched from street corners and private homes, synagogues stormed, worshippers beaten up. There were executions and deportations. Around 5,000 were sent to forced labour camps near the front lines.

It has been estimated that about 100 Jews perished during the period of recruitment: some were murdered in cold blood by their German guards; others died from ill-treatment and disease. Still others were killed in aerial bombing.

The Tunisian Jews were faced with an existential threat. The Germans were indeed planning to exterminate them. An SS unit was preparing gas chambers near Kairouan. Plans were thwarted only because they ran out of time. Tunis was liberated on May 7, 1943.

Tunisian Jewish victims:

Tibi in the resistance of Sousse, deported to Europe, died
Assous in resistance of Hodjeb El Ayoun, deported to Europe, died
Mounier in resistance, died during mission
Joseph Chemla deported to Buchenwald, died in Torgau
Gilbert Chemla deported to Buchenwald, died in Torgau
Jean Chemla deported to Buchenwald, died in Torgau
Rousseau Ruhlmann deported, died
Cohen-Hadria died in Auschwitz
Raymond Samama died in Oranienbourg
Victor Nataf shot by the Nazis, as a spy for the Allies
Serge Moatti deported to Auschwitz, came back
Victor Silvera deported to Auschwitz, came back
Andre Assuied in Djebibina, died in forced labor camp
Emile Hababou shot by a German guard, 1/23/1943, Bizerte camp
Alfred Hababou shot by German guard, nicknamed "Grandma," Bizerte
Elie Saadoun shot by German guard, nicknamed "Grandma," 2/9/43
Victor Lellouche killed by soldier Walter, nicknamed "the killer"
Simon Allali
Jacques Attal
Ed. Bellaiche
Albert Boccara
Gilbert Cohen
Joseph Cohen
Moise Cohen
Felix Ghidalia
G. M. Guedj
Joseph Haddad
Maurice Haddad
Joseph Hassan
Lucien Naccache
Ab. Sitbon
Alfred Smadja
Elie Taieb Zerah
Andre Haddad
Maurice Kalfon
Asher Gino Uzan
Albert Slama

Edmond Azria 2/16/43
Chalom Guez 2/24/43
Robert Amram 1.43
Jacques Cohen 4.43
Joseph Chelly
Gilbert Mordechai Mazouz,
shot on a long march 9.12.1942
Roger Ktorza, rescued by Saada J. Saffar

(compiled from Sabille, Jacques. Les Juifs de Tunisie sous Vichy et l'Occupation. Paris: Edition du Centre de Documentation)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mizrahi Jews of southern Israel are 'cannon fodder'

The story that the media have missed in the recent Gaza war is that the southern Israeli towns targeted by Hamas rockets are mostly populated by Mizrahi Jews. Until the current fragile cease-fire, they had exchanged intimidation and insecurity in Fez and Benghazi for a game of 'Iranian' roulette - running for the bomb shelters in case the next Kassam or Grad rocket has their name on it.

The radical leftist Smadar Lavie, writing in the Palestinian Electronic Intifada, goes as far as to call these oriental Jews 'cannon fodder":

Most of Ashdod, like 50 percent of Israel's citizens, are Mizrahim, the largest of the three groups who constitute the citizenry of the state. Mizrahim means "Easterners," in Hebrew. These are Jews whose origin is in the Arab and Muslim World, or in the former-Ottoman margins of Europe. The second-largest group, 30 percent, are the Ashkenazim, Jews of East and Central European origins. They are the ruling elite. The third group, 20 percent, are the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

It is mostly Mizrahim who have been hit by the Hamas missiles. From 1948 on, the self-proclaimed socialist Ashkenazi-Zionist regime purposefully settled them as cannon fodder in the border zones of the state they had carved out of Palestine. The regime planted the Mizrahim in villages from which it had expelled the Palestinians, in order to prevent their inalienable right of return home. Mizrahi communities resented the condescending paternalism of the Ashkenazi hegemon and its pretensions to socialism. No wonder they gave their support to the underdog -- the right-wing bloc. In private, the leaders of the right-wing, who are also Ashkenazim, refer to the Mizrahim as "monkeys" and "Indians."

And how did the Ashkenazim buy Mizrahi loyalty? By reviving Mizrahi culture. Give 'em bread and circuses. The fact that oriental music is back in fashion is not an organic trend, but a deliberate conspiracy by the Ashkenazi elite.

But, recognizing the need to retain Mizrahi loyalty, the Ashkenazi right-wing leaders have invested state funds in a revival of Mizrahi culture. This revival followed several decades during which the left-wing eradicated Mizrahi culture because they conceived of anything Arab as primitive. Cleverly, the right-wing has also provided safe-seats, both in local government and at national level, for a cadre of young Mizrahi politicians whose loyalty was not in doubt.

How very clever of them. But the trouble with Smadar's twisted logic is that Mizrahim have no free will of their own - they have to be manipulated by the Ashkenazi elite and plied with 'safe seats'. This is the patronising racism that drives the Israeli Far Left.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Iraq tells US: return Babylonian-era artifacts

The Iraqi Interior Ministry has accused security companies working with the American military of attempting to smuggle out unique archeological artifacts. It is concerned that Babylonian-era Torah manuscripts were smuggled to Israel, the London-based daily Al-Hayat reported. The Jerusalem Post has picked up the story.

"Iraq is searching for over 9,400 artifacts that were lost or stolen since the start of the US-led invasion in May 2003.

"Among these precious artifacts are Babylonian-era Torah manuscripts, which were taken by the US forces in 2003. The US promised it would return them in two years after their renovation, but there is "information pointing to the possibility that they had been smuggled to Israel," Gen. (ret.) Widah Na'srat of the Interior Ministry's Criminal Investigations Department told Al-Hayat.

"Nas'rat indicated he would travel to Washington soon in order to investigate the matter further. According to him, the US has expressed its willingness to continue cooperating with the Iraqis in a serious manner in order to return the missing artifacts.

"At the end of last year, Iraq's ambassador in Washington received 1,046 artifacts, which were stolen from the National museum in Baghdad, the paper wrote."

Read article in full

More articles here

Friday, January 16, 2009

Relocation of Yemeni Jews to go ahead Sunday

After several posponements, the relocation of the harrassed Jews of Amran is finally set for Sunday, the Yemen Post reports:

Impatiently waiting for a transfer to Sana'a after they started to experience harassments in their first place, Yemeni Jews in Amran province are to relocate to the capital Sana'a next Sunday, head of the rights and freedoms committee in Parliament said.

All arrangements for the transfer have been completed with four housing complexes along with other requirements provided in Sana'a for Jews, Muhammad Naji al-Shaef said.

Chief Rabbi in the area Yahya Yaesh said that Jews were informed about the would-be transfer and assured all measures to transfer them to Sana'a on Sunday have been taken.

Jews will stay at these residential compounds until they receive land plots President Ali Abdullah Saleh allocated for them early this month in Sana'a, the rabbi said.

Meanwhile, security measures were intensified with police car standing guards at the houses of Jews in Amran as a demonstration was held in support for the Gaza people.

Authorities feared demonstrators may attack Jews. After the murder of a Jew in Amran early last month, authorities responded to intimidations Jews started to experience through arranging for a relocation to the capital.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered the allocation of a land plot in Sana'a and YR 2 million for every Jewish family in Amran. The Jews' relocation was scheduled for the first time on January 1 but it was delayed because arrangements for it were not completed.

Read article in full

Thursday, January 15, 2009

'Jews are our dogs' revived, to media indifference

Islamist party supporters in Turkey. Photo: Davd Hasday (Ke Haber)

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators now taking to the streets in the West are being emboldened to shout the old slogans familiar to Jews on the receiving end of rioting in Arab lands in the 1940s: 'The Jews are our dogs', they are chanting in Arabic. But the media remain deaf, blind and dumb to the antisemitic agenda of these protestors.

Kevin Libin of the Canadian National Post noted that last Saturday in Montreal a thousand or more protestors marched downtown chanting ‘The Jews are our dogs,’ and cheering not one, but two, banned Islamist terrorist groups -- Hamas and Hezbollah -- in the company of labour leaders and politicians.

" It didn’t make front-page news. It didn’t make back-page news. In Canada, this is, it seems, not news", Libin wrote on his blog. "The best our country’s journalists could muster was a story in the Montreal Gazette mentioning only that the crowd shouted “Stop the Madness” -- the agreeable slogan that did make the headline -- “Israel Assassin” and “Viva Viva Intifada.” (See this video). "These may have counted among the least remarkable of the oft-time violent and anti-Semitic cheers that rang out loudly on rue Ste. Catherine that day", Libin writes. He had the translation of Arabic slogans corroborated independently.

Buried in the 20th paragraph of the Gazette report, the representative from the Quebec-Israel Committee admitted that some chanting “called for the genocide of Jews.” Libin adds: "My Arabic translator tells me there is some chanting of the widely known "Khaibar, Khaibar Ya Yahoud" cheer, which alludes to the massacre of Jews by Mohammed's troops at Khaibar, near Medina. (It promises: "the army of Mohammed will return.")

In New York on 3 January protesters chanted numerous anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slogans, including "Palestine is our Land, the Jews are our Dogs;" "From the River to the Sea Palestine is Arab [land];" "Shame, Shame USA! Bush, How Many Jews are in the Government?;" "Israel is a Racist State, Built on Lies, and Blood and Hate;" and "Khaibar, Khaibar ya Yahud, jaysh Muhammad sawfa ya'ud!

About two years ago Joseph Abdel Wahed, a Jew from Egypt, noticed this disturbing trend. He was aghast to hear Palestinians in the streets of San Francisco chanting proudly in Arabic and without fear of being detected, "Al Yahud Kelabna: The Jews are our dogs".

"My first reaction to the Palestinian chanting was one of disbelief, then I felt a mixture of fear, anger and heavy-heartedness, " Abdel Wahed writes." Terrible memories cascaded before me taking me back to when I was a young boy, growing up in Egypt. These memories included Egyptian mobs descending upon the Jewish quarter of Cairo chanting Al Yahud Kelabna, followed by violence that left some Jews dead and injured, and the community dazed.

"Egyptian Muslim mobs no longer do this, because there is no longer an Egyptian Jewish community to speak of. We once were over 80,000. Today there are fewer than 50 Jews remaining in Egypt. Indeed, once thriving Jewish communities in ten Arab countries were likewise cleansed. Today, virtually no Jews remain in the Arab or Muslim world. (..)

"They clearly felt certain that we are "their" dogs. In Arab culture, dogs are considered filthy, dirty beasts, and negotiating with "dogs" is not an option. Historically Jews were often identified this way because for centuries, we were living as a subjected people under the dominant culture of Islam.

"Today, the Arab and Muslim worlds are the most anti-Semitic of any region. Much of their media - TV programs, cartoons, editorials - promote the kind of anti-Semitism not seen or heard since the time when Hitler walked this earth.

As long as Palestinian and other Arab children are taught such dehumanizing hatred of Jews, there is no hope for them, and there is no hope for us. Peace in the Middle East will not come with the next ceasefire (...), but only when tolerance, compassion, understanding and respect for religious freedom become the dominant value in Arab society.

"When Arab young people honestly feel too ashamed to chant about Jews being "our dogs," then there will be real hope."

Kevin Libin comments: "For whatever reason, we are seeing rallies in major cities calling for genocide, celebrating terrorism and spouting hatred against a minority group -- but the media is missing the story. Maybe calling out certain groups makes Canada's media uncomfortable, or maybe they have become inured to the extreme radicalization of Palestinian supporters here. Unless we start watching these demos a lot more closely, preferably with Arabic translators in tow, this trend cannot end well for either the media, or for the country. "

Cross-posted at Z-word blog and Harry's Place

Update: Canadian Jews want probe into rally rhetoric

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jew-hatred in Istanbul reaches new heights

Jews in Turkey can't remember a worse period of antisemitism in recent times, some of it being encouraged by the government *, says Ben Cohen of Z-word blog:

A number of people received the following email this morning. The writer, a Turkish Jew, has requested anonymity:

The Prime Minister in Turkey has encouraged hatred against Israel in his speeches which has become obvious anti-Semitic propaganda among the general public.

There are people around the clock besieging the Israeli consulate in Istanbul shouting their hatred against Israel and Jewish people. All around Istanbul billboards are full of propaganda posters against Israel like; “Moses, even this is not written in your book” and “Israel Stop this Crime.” On the streets the people are writing such graffiti as: “Kill Jews,” “Kill Israel,” “Israel should no longer exist in the Middle East,” and “Stop Israeli Massacre.”

The week-end before, some people wrote, “We will kill you” on the door of one of the biggest synagogues in Izmir resulted in the closing down of synagogues. Near Istanbul University, a group put a huge poster on the door of a shop owned by a Jew: “Do not buy from here, since this shop is owned by a Jew.” A group put posters on his wall saying that: “Jews and Armenians are not allowed but dogs are allowed.” Some young people are even threatening others with violence if they are seen as pro-Israel in social networking websites such as Facebook and Hi5.

The document attached is the official statement by the minister of education stating that tomorrow [January 13] at 11am in all the high schools and primary schools the students will pay homage to the women and children dead during the war and furthermore, the teachers of art will organize the session of painting and writing on the subject: “Humanity Drama in Palestine” and the winners will receive awards.

That astounding manipulation of children did take place this morning. The Turkish daily Hurriyet reports: “Turkish school students stood for a minute of silence at 11:00 a.m. (0900 GMT) in accordance with a direction issued by Education Minister Huseyin Celik. ‘This show of respect damns not only the cruelty in the Palestine, but also shows solidarity with the Palestinian people,’ the directive said.”

Read post in full

Update: bomb explodes at 'Israeli' bank in Istanbul (via Women's Lens)

Analysis by Shelomo Alfassa, featuring antisemitic billboards

*Municipal elections are due in two months' time

Jews feel the heat in Muslim lands

Israel National News reports that the 'backlash' from the war in Gaza is making itself felt in Muslim lands: Turkey, Iran and Egypt - and even where there is no Jewish community to speak of, as in Indonesia. The article does not cover Jews in Yemen, who have been assaulted. (With thanks: Shelomo)

( Jews living in majority-Muslim countries are in a precarious situation as Israel fights the Islamist Hamas regime in Gaza. While pro-Hamas, anti-Semitic rallies and sporadic attacks are continuing worldwide, Jews in Muslim lands face an additional danger as a vulnerable minority.

In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim state, that nation's only synagogue was forcibly shut down and sealed. Located in an ethnic Arab neighborhood of Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, the synagogue became the focus of a Muslim mob last Wednesday following a "free speech forum" held in the city. The small Indonesian synagogue, without benefit of a Torah scroll or rabbi, is in Rivka Sayers' home. She is one of only a handful of Jews living in the Muslim state, most of whom are of mixed European-Asian background.

In addition to forcing the sealing of the Surabaya synagogue, protesters called for a boycott of US products. Anti-Israel and anti-American rallies continued this week, with some 20,000 Indonesian Muslims have gathering in the capital Jakarta on Sunday under the auspices of the the Islamic Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

In Turkey, synagogues in Izmir were also shut down, but this time out of serious security concerns, after someone scrawled "We will kill you" on the door of one of the biggest synagogues in the city. Synagogues in Turkey have been the target of Islamic fundamentalist and pan-Arab terrorist bombings and shootings in the past, including a double car bombing that killed 20 people in November 2003.

In Istanbul, a shop owned by a local Jewish family was targeted, as well. A huge poster saying, "Do not buy from here, since this shop is owned by a Jew," was plastered on the shop and other posters on the wall said, "Jews and Armenians are not allowed, but dogs are."

On Wednesday, all Turkish high schools and primary schools will pay homage to Gazans killed in Israel's Operation Cast Lead. Art teachers are instructed to dedicate their classes to the topic, "Human Drama in Palestine," and to offer awards to outstanding compositions.

A Turkish-Jewish source wishing to remain anonymous reported that Istanbul is filled with anti-Israel posters and billboards, as well as more explicit graffiti saying things like, "Kill Jews", "Kill Israel," and "Israel should no longer exist in the Middle East."

"We have previously faced some strong reaction regarding previous operations in Gaza and the West Bank, but this time is really different from former ones. I feel open anti-Semitism and hatred from all these people," the Turkish source commented. Openly anti-Semitic propaganda far exceeds anything happening in Europe, according to his observations. The situation, the source concluded, "is becoming much more dangerous day by day."

Approximately 26,000 Jews live in Turkey and the country has become a very popular destination for Israeli tourists.

Iranian Jews, most of whom regularly claim to be comfortable in the Islamic Republic, have taken part in anti-Israel rallies sponsored by the regime. Openly anti-Semitic propaganda far exceeds anything happening in Europe.

On December 30, a protest of Tehran's Jews was held in front of the United Nations' office in the city. Speaking with an Iranian TV station, Rahmatullah Rafii, the chairman of a Tehran-based Jewish organization, said, "Jews in the Islamic Republic of Iran condemn Israel's attack on the people of Gaza."

However, due to the totalitarian nature of the Islamic regime, the true status and views of Iran's Jews - as well as Iran's other citizens - remain hidden from view. Increasing cases of discrimination, including the closing of Jewish day schools and the banning of Hebrew instruction, have been recorded in recent years. About 200 out of Iran's 28,000 Jews immigrated to Israel in 2007, many of them through clandestine means.

The tomb of Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira has become the focus of Egyptian anti-Israel efforts. The Moroccan-born rabbi, who died in 1880, is the grandfather of the late Israeli Kabbalist Yisrael Abuhatzeira, better known as the "Baba Sali". The tomb of Rabbi Yaakov, located in the coastal village of Nekraha, has become a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of Jews in recent years. The largest group regularly comes from Israel in January and is given heavy protection by local security services.

This year, a coalition of Egyptian political opposition parties came together to prevent the pilgrimage of Israelis to the rabbi's tomb. The coalition has brought together unlikely allies, from the far-left Al-Tagamu party to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. An article in Al-Masri al-Yooum said that the coalition's leader, Gamal Mounib, stated that he holds the Egyptian government responsible for any pilgrims reaching the shrine this year.

Only about 60 Jews currently live in Egypt, while the country's synagogues and the Israeli Embassy in Cairo are heavily guarded by Egyptian soldiers.

Elsewhere in North Africa, the Al-Qaeda offshoot known as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (North Africa) has issued explicit calls for Muslims to attack Jews "wherever they are found."

Read article in full

Here it comes again: the Muslim backlash

A French playwright called Boris Vian once wrote about a silent creature, swathed in slings and bandages, who skulks along the floor, in corners and under tables, and is intermittently kicked, whipped, stabbed, slapped and kneed in the groin by the characters on stage without provocation or comment. That creature Vian called le Schmurz.

In Europe the Jews have collectively become le Schmurz because of their 'responsibility' for Israel’s war in Gaza. A gang of youths ran down Golders Green High Street in London spraying graffiti and trying to get into shops and restaurants. A doctor was murdered in Paris and synagogues have been firebombed in England and Sweden and attacked in Toulouse, Toulon, Metz, Charleroi and Brussels, as well as a Jewish school in Brussels, cars and shops belonging to Jews in the Kremlin Bicetre (France), in Toulon (France), Brussels and Antwerp. To look like a Jew is provocation enough.

In Italy the Jewish community is ready to sue a union for proposing a campaign to ‘boycott’ Jewish shops.

When Salman Rushdie writes a controversial novel, when a Danish newspaper publishes 'inflammatory cartoons' or when Israel kills Palestinians in Gaza, infidels and Jews become fair game for a backlash. Jews do not go on the rampage in German shopping malls because of the Holocaust; despite claims of mounting Islamophobia, Americans did not riot after 9-11. Only Arabs and Muslims are expected to vent their anger and frustration and let it spill over against innocent third parties.

Nobody seems shocked that Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar has advocated the murder of Jewish children around the world or that Al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri has demanded that Muslims attack “Zionist interests” worldwide. The anger of Arabs and Muslims is now being invoked as an instrument to influence western foreign policy. Governments have only themselves to blame if Muslims become radicalised as a result.

Is the backlash a new phenomenon? Has it to do with the islamicisation of European antisemitism ?

We have been here before. In the Arab world, Jews had long been on the receiving end of Muslim or Arab anger. Hundreds died in sporadic pogroms in 19th century Morocco, in the 1941 Iraqi Farhoud and in Libya in 1945. Boycotts were a hallmark of Nazi Europe, but they were also attempted boycotts on Jewish shops and businesses in Lebanon, Iraq and Morocco.

Every anniversary of the Balfour declaration, mobs went on the rampage. It happened in Cairo, Alexandria and Tripoli. Some of the worst violence took place following the approval of the UN Partition plan in November 1947. The Jewish quarter of Damascus was attacked; 82 Jews were murdered in Aden. While the first Israel-Arab war was in progress, Egyptians turned their anger on their Jews in 1948; a mob rioted in Beirut, Baghdad, Damascus, Oujda and Djerrada in Morocco. Dozens of Jews were murdered. In 1967, the mobs turned on the Jews once again in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Tunisia and Morocco.

Some of it was official incitement. Some of it was popular feeling whipped up by the media, the mosque, or politicians. The Tunisians, and Moroccan and Bahraini monarchs, strove to control popular fanaticism. But Libya, Syria, Egypt and Iraq actually fanned the flames of hatred.

The phenomenon of rent-a-mob paid protestors is familiar in the Arab and Muslim world. When Sir Alfred Mond visited Baghdad in 1928, a group of protestors was instructed to shout 'Down with Zionism' (Yuskut al-Ziyoniyya). Except that, not knowing what Ziyoniyya was, they were shouting Yuskut al-paswaniyya - 'Down with the security tax'. So much for the spontaneous anger of the Arab street.

Sometimes, the government does not cause the trouble, but does nothing to stop it. The police arrive too late on the scene. The Jews are left with the sinking feeling that the state is not prepared to protect them.

Bat Ye'or's explanation is that "the Arab-Israeli conflict released a latent hatred, formerly held in check by the Western colonial administration. Sporadic, like a recurrent fever, it worsened in the 1950s and the 1960s awakening the tradition among the populace to plunder and kill the dhimmis with impunity...The Arab nationalists who released these collective passions spoke the same language of hatred and contempt as in past centuries. " (p178, Islam and dhimmitude).

Nathan Weinstock writes:

One would be wrong to consider these repeated raids into the Jewish quarters as manifestations of western-style anti-Semitism. They were more like 'little white man' knee-jerk reflexes because the 'arrogant' Jews had stepped out of order, a reaction as spontaneous and natural as beating a recalcitrant donkey. (Une si longue presence, p.133)

Much as one would like to believe that the 'backlash' is not a recurrent feature of Arab-Jewish relations, history tells us otherwise.

But Jews are no longer prepared to play le Schmurz. It is orientalist racism to expect a certain kind of behaviour of Muslims and Arabs, and downright bizarre for Muslims to expect such behaviour of themselves.

Enough, already.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Not too late to break Israel's silence on refugees

Israel's celebrated Maariv newspaper columnist Ben Dror Yemini was in the audience for the Tel Aviv screening of The Forgotten Refugees on 29 December. Now that the Gaza conflict has once again pushed refugees back into the forefront of consciousness, Israel's failure to make an issue of the Jewish refugees is more glaring than ever. But it's still not too late to make amends. (With thanks: Linda)

Lately, when the prevarication mills (the “industry of lies”) began working at full steam on the bitter fate of the refugees in the Gaza Strip, who once again were forced to experience violence, the Cinematheque in Tel Aviv screened the film, The Forgotten Refugees, by director Michael Grynszpan. The film has already been shown in many places around the world, including in the U.S. Congress, but not on any channel in Israel.

The film deals with the Jewish communities in Muslim countries, a million people at the end of the second world war who were forced to leave or expelled with an enormous amount of property expropriated. They became refugees, primarily in Israel.

The Nakba occurred because the Arabs rejected the UN proposal, and because they declared a war of annihilation on Israel. The Nakba of the Jews in Islamic countries, in contrast, occurred without a reason. The Jews of Morocco or Yemen or Iraq or Egypt did not declare any war. But despite that, in some cases, in Iraq and in Libya, dozens of Jews were slaughtered.There is no "progressive" academic who does not inflate the Dir Yassin episode. But the slaughter of Jews by Arabs is never mentioned. Most of them arrived with absolutely nothing. They lived in immigrant camps. But they were not perpetuated as an open wound, as refugees, like the Palestinians.

Israel, for reasons that are hard to understand, has never played the card of the Jewish refugees. The story of the forgotten refugees could have been the unequivocal Israeli response to the issue of the Palestinian refugees. After all, the right of the Jewish refugees to reparations is far greater than the right of the Palestinians.The former suffered and were forced out, despite the fact that they started no war and declared no annihilation. The latter did. So the Jews, and only the Jews, have the right to reparations.

Those who do not succeeded in executing their plots of annihilation have no right to reparations. There is no historical precedence for an aggressor who turns himself into a victim. Such an absurdity has never existed, nor will it. Even in this matter, Israel has defeated itself in the propaganda battle. And here, too, it is not too late to rectify the error.

Read article in full (Hebrew)

Weinstock on dhimmitude on the Jews

The Sultan's menagerie: Weinstock actually met the cousin of a (now deceased) Jew who had sheltered in one of the cages. He had been maimed by a big cat and bore the scars of a tiger's paw.

The author and erstwhile Trotskyist Nathan Weinstock has reinforced his reputation as an iconoclast with his ambitious latest work - a history of the dhimmi Jews from Arab countries: Une si longue presence. Lyn Julius reviews the book for Dissent:

The picture on the front cover of Nathan Weinstock's book Une si longue presence shows two barred windows. Through the window on the left, the sultan's lions peer out. In the adjoining cage, the Jews of Fez.

When the photograph was taken in 1912, the Jews were sheltering in the sultan's menagerie from a murderous riot on the eve of the establishment of the French protectorate of Morocco.

The implication is clear: the Jews' place is with the sultan's beasts. It was the Jews' job to feed the lions. In times of trouble, what place of refuge could be more natural than the sultan's menagerie?

The lions have long gone, and so have the Jews. Almost all the Jewish communities of the Middle East and North Africa have been driven to extinction: most went to Israel, where half the Jews or their descendants come from Muslim lands. A lethal cocktail of state-sanctioned persecution and mob violence, modulated to the peaks of Arab-Israeli tension, has caused the Jewish population to dwindle from one million in 1948 to 4,500 in one generation. It was an ethnic cleansing, says Weinstock, not even rivalled by Nazi Germany in 1939.

Such a calamity cannot be explained by the Jews' failure to integrate. They were indigenous, having for the most part settled in the Middle East and North Africa over 2,000 years ago – one thousand years before the advent of Islam. Weinstock's conclusion is simple: the ethnic cleansing of the Jews is a consequence of religious and cultural contempt ('the opposite of tolerance') viewing the Jews as subjugated dhimmis.

The dhimma Covenant: Following the Arab conquest, under dhimma rules devolving from the 8th century Covenant of Omar, Jews and Christians were banned from riding a horse or camel, conducting religious ceremonies in public, carrying weapons, converting Muslims to Judaism or Christianity, building new places of worship or testifying against Muslims. They had to pay a special tax to signify their status of inferiority for rejecting Muhammad as the final prophet of Allah's revelation. In return they were given a modicum of credit as People of the Book, and the ruler gave them physical protection.

Although some rulers turned a blind eye to the dhimma in certain times and places, Weinstock argues that the strength of majority prejudice was such that even in modern times a benevolent Bourguiba of Tunisia or Mohammed V of Morocco could do little to prevent the flight of the Jews. The ultimate humiliation was the creation of Israel, a dhimmi state in the very heart of the Arab world.

'The very existence of Israel represents an unbearable narcissistic attack on the Arabs. If the Palestinians had had another enemy, they probably would have met with the same polite indifference shown by their Arab brethren to Algerians whose throats were cut by Islamists of the FIS and GIA, the Saharans crushed under the Moroccan boot or the population of Darfur martyred by militias and killer gangs.' (p.296)

Weinstock contends that the very silence surrounding the fate of the dhimmis is symptomatic of 'dhimmi denial.' This information 'black-out' on the fate of the Jews of the Arab world is intrinsic to the problem. The dhimmi are non-persons: even veiled women can reveal their faces to a dhimmi, just as white women in colonial Africa undressed shamelessly before their African boy.

Enter Nathan Weinstock, iconoclast: Weinstock has come a long way since his first book Zionism: False Messiah (1969) became the Bible for the anti-Zionist left. The ex-Trotskyist has since repudiated the book, even forbidding it to be re-issued.

I have prohibited my publisher from reissuing Zionism: False Messiah. Let me add that, while I naively believed – an error of youth – that this book could fuel a constructive discussion leading to Israeli-Palestinian coexistence, I came to realise that this had been unforgivable naivety on my part: the book served only to salve the conscience of avowed and unconscious anti-Semites. Weinstock's newest book sets about demolishing another popular myth: that Muslims were more tolerant to Jews than were Christians. In fact there was little to choose between Jewish submission to medieval Christendom and submission under Islam. The image of the Jew, slapped or beaten as he delivered the community's yearly tribute to the sultan's representative in nineteenth century Morocco, mirrors that of the tribute-bearing Jew upon whose neck the keeper of Rome, on orders of the Pope, placed his foot, before dealing him a sharp blow. (p.16)
Weinstock believes that the plight of the dhimmi-nished Jews was marginally better under Islam, but Muslim-Jewish relations were certainly not the idyll of harmonious coexistence vaunted, for instance, by the proponents of the Spanish Golden Age. Here Weinstock shares the Princeton scholar Bernard Lewis's view that 19th century Jewish historians idealised the condition of Jews under Islam in order to show up that of Jews in the Christian West. (p. 305)
The dhimmi history of the Jews has been disparaged as a neo-lacrimose narrative. This is the charge levelled at Bat Ye'or, who first popularised the term dhimmi with her books The Dhimmi and The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam. But the history of Jews in Muslim lands as told by Weinstock is not an undifferentiated chronicle of massacre and misery. There were mini-Golden Ages under benevolent rulers. The Jews were welcomed into the Ottoman empire after the Spanish Inquisition and were permitted to govern themselves. There was a great deal of cultural interchange and symbiosis, especially in Morocco. There were times when Muslim rulers disregarded the rules of the dhimma.
Dhimmi status was even abolished under the 13th century Mongols. Commerce and trade brought wealth and power to some Jews.

But even in good times, life for Jews and Christians was always precarious and conditions could differ quite substantially across different parts of the Ottoman empire. Even within a single country – say, Algeria – Jews were treated better in the south than in the north.
The plight of the Jews was generally worse under Shi'a Islam. Furthermore, Shi'ites considered the Jews 'unclean.' In the 18th and 19th centuries Persia was the scene of repression and forced conversions. After a period of emancipation under the Shah, the Jews of Iran are now back to being dhimmis under the theocratic regime of the Ayatollahs.
The emancipation of the dhimmis: Ottoman empire finally yielded to western pressure for the emancipation of its Christian and Jewish subjects in the mid-19th century. Non-Muslims began to break through the dhimmi barrier. The Jews of Algeria, offered French citizenship rights under the Decret Cremieux, were able to escape the dhimma altogether. The Jews in Syria, Egypt, and elsewhere in North Africa, looked to the European colonial powers to safeguard their rights under the Capitulations system. The poor treatment of individual Jews gave France and Spain a pretext to go to war in Algeria and Morocco, and for Britain to exercise 'gunboat diplomacy.' Jews acquired foreign nationality where they could: thus, in the minds of the Muslim population, Jews became conflated with colonialists.

After 1860, Jews were hauled out of misery and ignorance by the Alliance Israelite Universelle education system introduced throughout the Ottoman empire. Under the British and French protectorates and mandates, the Jews were prized for their new western skills and languages. The Arab Muslims simply could not compete with their former underlings, and the hitherto unheard-of phenomenon of the Arab maid to the Jewish bourgeoisie emerged. The humiliators had become the humiliated. The Jews had broken the cardinal rule of the dhimma: to know one's place.

One of the few regions where the emancipation of the dhimmis did not occur was Palestine. Nineteenth-century travellers attest to the utter wretchedness of the majority-Jewish population of Jerusalem, although the dhimma had by 1855 been abrogated. Weinstock records Muslim anti-dhimmi riots against the Christians in Nablus in 1860. It is forgotten that well into the 20th century Jews paid tributes to the Muslims each time they entered or left Jerusalem, and for access to the Western wall. In the 1920s they were still not allowed to sound the ram's horn.

One field demands greater explanation, but appears beyond Weinstock's scope: why did the Jewish and Christian dhimmis respond so very differently – the Christians bending over backwards to assert their loyalty to the Arab nation, and a few, like Michel Aflaq, becoming prime movers behind pan-Arab nationalism? Except in Egypt, the Jews on the whole did not identify with Arab nationalism. Weinstock's explanation is that Christians internalised the dhimmi mentality and acted accordingly. Why not the Jews?

It is undeniable that much persecution of Jews in Ottoman lands originated with their economic rivals, the Christians. According to Bernard Lewis, the Damascus blood libel of 1840 led to no less than 18 other blood libels in the late 19th century. To Weinstock, the key point is that their Muslim overlords did nothing to stop it.

Politics by pogrom: Weinstock sees the periodic murders and rioting targeting the Jews as part and parcel of the 'humiliations' borne by the dhimmi. He does not mince his words:

"One would be wrong to consider these repeated raids into the Jewish quarters as manifestations of western-style anti-Semitism. They were more like 'little white man' knee-jerk reflexes because the 'arrogant' Jews had stepped out of order, a reaction as spontaneous and natural as beating a recalcitrant donkey. (p.133)Elsewhere Weinstock uses the analogy of whites mistreating blacks in the American Deep South.

In the 1920s and 30s, with the dissemination of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Arabic and the rise of Nazism, the old dhimmi prejudice became overlaid with western anti-Semitism. The mob called for death to the Jews, not the Zionists, in 1930s Iraq. The Jews of Hebron and Safed, massacred and mutilated in the riots of 1929, belonged to the old, non-Zionist Yishuv. Weinstock says that the pogrom against the Jews of Libya in 1945, killing 136, was not an anti-colonialist exercise – it was a pure anti-dhimmi reaction. Another example was the disturbances in Egypt in 1945. What could have turned into a bloodbath was nipped in the bud by the authorities, but this Islamist-driven event, injuring many and wrecking shops and property, was an anti-dhimmi riot pure and simple, aimed at Copts no less than at Jews.

The Farhoud, on the other hand, when a rampaging mob murdered 180 Iraqi Jews over two days in 1941, was naked Nazi anti-Semitism. But how and when one form of anti-Semitism morphs into another, Weinstock does not make entirely clear. The book barely dwells on the influence of Nazism and the role of Hitler's ally, the Mufti of Jerusalem, in fomenting anti-Jewish incitement throughout the Arab world.

Une si longue presence expands on Weinstock's last book, Histoires de chiens (2004) which claims that Palestinian Arab nationalism was based on little more than anti-Jewish bigotry. Une si longue presence is more ambitious, covering the entire Arab and Muslim world. It is a tall order when Arab state archives remain firmly off-limits to historians and much historiography is propaganda, produced by paid servants of police states.

As for the Jews of the Arab world themselves, they have never written down their history. There is only one comprehensive modern history of the Jews of Iraq in English, for instance; only a few memoirs exist. Only now are reminiscences being published in English by Egyptian and Iraqi Jews in their dotage. As the majority of Jews who fled Arab lands resettled in Israel, doubtless much material in Hebrew remains inaccessible. Weinstock has drawn on all the objective material there is in English, Italian and French – including 'classic' academic works by Norman Stillman, Michel Abitbol and Renzo de Felice. (Weinstock does not delve into Koranic anti-Semitism as expounded by Dr Andrew Bostom, for instance.)

Although Weinstock tries valiantly and includes some fascinating detail, he has overreached himself a little. A potted history of 2,000 years of Jewish presence in Muslim lands is an extraordinarily complex undertaking. He is also handicapped by the patchy and uneven nature of his source material. Whereas the dhimmi theme emerges clearly from his last work, Histoires de chiens, about Muslim-Jewish relations in Palestine, it does not readily fit each of ten countries. He is the first to admit that the age of the dhimmi had become a distant memory for the Jews of Iraq and of Egypt. Its only vestige, he argues, was street violence targeting Jews and Christians. Otherwise the Jews were already enjoying their emancipated status, with representation in Parliament and even in government. Iraqi Jews who ran trade, business and transport had little in common with the oppressed Jews of Yemen, who were still mandated to clean the public latrines in 1950, or the Jews of Morocco, locked up in their mellahs after dark.

How does one make sense of the variation in Jewish experience across ten countries? Weinstock argues that Algeria most closely resembles Palestine. In both cases the local nationalism deliberately excluded the Jews. Arabs who settled in Palestine in the 1920s and 1930s were brothers, while Jewish immigrants were always foreigners.

The manner of Jewish uprooting was different too. In Iraq, Libya, Syria and Egypt the Jews suffered wholesale dispossession – it was deliberate government policy to despoil the Jews of their wealth and property. In Tunisia, the Jews were ushered towards the exit. In Morocco – a sense of an opportunity wasted and lost. That said, the constitutions adopted by newly independent Arab states were almost all based on Islam and marginalised non-Muslims. Even in militantly secular Turkey, Weinstock argues, perhaps a little churlishly, that the spectre of the dhimma still hovers in the background. The Jews have never been completely accepted, and must 'know their place.'

Israel was the only place to which the destitute and often stateless Jewish masses of the Arab world could escape from the twin pressures of anti-dhimmi and anti-colonial prejudice, and regain their self-respect. Weinstock argues that Zionism only acted as a 'pull' factor in the case of Yemenite Jews and Moroccan Jews from the Atlas mountains. Demolishing the myth that Zionism coerced the Jews into leaving, he devotes an appendix to the Baghdad bombs canard, long a staple of Arab propaganda. He marshals new evidence to suggest that the grenades that killed four at the Messouda Shemtob synagogue in January 1951 were police issue and could not have been thrown by the Zionists. (p. 316)

For all its flaws, the book is dynamite to readers accustomed to seeing the Arab-Israeli struggle as a simplistic colonial conflict between European newcomers and Arab natives. Une si longue presence deserves to have as profound an impact on the Left as Weinstock's Trotskyist writings had 40 years ago. The book lifts the veil on a long suppressed but quintessential aspect of the Arab conflict with Israel, as well as casting light on the Islamist mindset towards the infidel. It is compelling reading in French, but deserves to reach a much wider English-speaking audience.

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Crossposted at Z-blog

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