Saturday, February 05, 2011
The indispensable Caroline Glick of The Jerusalem Post explains how the remaining Jewish communities in Arab lands, their cemeteries and holy places, have proven an easy target for antisemitic attack in the absence of Arab democracy: (with thanks: Adrian)
The fear now gripping the Jews of Tunisia is not surprising. The same fear gripped the much smaller Iraqi Jewish community after the US and Britain toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.
The Iraqi community was the oldest, and arguably the most successful Jewish community in the Arab world until World War II. Its 150,000 members were leading businessmen and civil servants during the period of British rule. Following the establishment of Israel, the Iraqi government revoked the citizenship of the country's Jews, forced them to flee and stole their property down to their wedding rings. The expropriated property of Iraqi Jewry is valued today at more than $4 billion.
Only 7,000 Jews remained in Iraq after the mass aliya (ascension) of 1951. By the time Saddam was toppled in 2003, only 32 Jews remained. They were mainly elderly, and impoverished. And owing to al Qaida threats and government harassment, they were all forced to flee.
Shortly after they overthrew Saddam, US forces found the archives of the Jewish community submerged in a flooded basement of a secret police building in Baghdad. The archive was dried and frozen and sent to the US for preservation. Last year, despite the fact that Saddam's secret police only had the archive because they stole it from the Jews, the Iraqi government demanded its return as a national treasure.
As embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak began his counteroffensive against the anti-regime protesters, his mouthpieces began alleging that the protesters were incited by the Mossad. For their part, the anti-regime protesters claim that Mubarak is an Israeli puppet. The protesters brandish placards with Mubarak's image plastered with Stars of David. A photo of an effigy of newly appointed Vice President and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman burned in Tahrir Square showed him portrayed as a Jew.
Wednesday night, Channel 10's Arab affairs commentator Zvi Yehezkeli ran a depressing report on the status of the graves of Jewish sages buried in the Muslim world.
The report chronicled the travels of Rabbi Yisrael Gabbai, a fervently--Orthodox rabbi who has taken upon himself to travel to save these important shrines. As Yehezkeli reported, last week Gabbai travelled to Iran and visited the graves of Purim heroes Queen Esther and Mordechai the Jew, the prophets Daniel and Habbakuk.
He was moved to travel to Iran after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered Esther's and Mordechai's tomb destroyed. The Iranian media followed up Ahmadinejad's edict with a campaign claiming that Esther and Mordechai were responsible for the murder of 170,000 Iranians.
Gabbai's travels have brought him to Iran, Gaza, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and beyond. And throughout the Arab and Muslim world, like the dwindling Jewish communities, Jewish cemeteries are targets for anti-Semitic attacks. "We're talking about thousands of cemeteries throughout the Arab world. It's the same problem everywhere," he said. Israelis have been overwhelmingly outspoken in our criticism of Western support for the anti-regime forces in Egypt due to our deep-seated concern that the current regime will be replaced by a regime dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Representing a minimum of 30 percent of Egyptians, the Muslim Brotherhood is the only well organized political force in the country outside the regime.
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