Saturday, October 31, 2015

Mufti imitated Turkish ideas of extermination

In this Arutz Sheva interview , Dr Edy Cohen (pictured) adds his voice to those of historians who have  waded in to the Netanyahu-Mufti controversy. The Mufti would have been inspired by the Armenian genocide to exterminate Jews; when in exile in Iraq (1939 - 41), he set up a party whose constitution states all Jews must be expelled from Arab countries, Dr Cohen claims.

"The Prime Minister’s remarks were not far from reality,” he told Arutz Sheva. “There was a plan by the Mufti to burn the Jews from Arab countries and Jews in Palestine after the German victory in the battle of El Alamein in 1943. Haj Amin al-Husseini was an officer in the Turkish army. I have no proof, but apparently he knew about the Armenian Genocide and drew his ideas from that. None of the historians have referred to that.”

Dr. Cohen quoted the Mufti’s words in Arabic against Iraqi Jews, whom he called a “fifth column” who provided information to British intelligence, and said that he played a part in the Farhud - the pogrom against the Jewish population of Baghdad on June 1 and 2, 1941, following the British victory in the Anglo-Iraqi War.

“The Mufti was responsible for the killing of hundreds of Jews; he planned to build incinerators in the Dotan Valley to implement the ‘Final Solution’ in the Middle East,” said Dr. Cohen. “He took that idea from the Turks. Why do many people ignore the facts rather than reading what the Mufti himself wrote in Arabic? 'I did not cooperate with the Nazis out of the belief in Nazism, but on the assumption that they would win the war and there will be no traces of any Jews in Palestine and in the Arab countries.'"

"When the Mufti was in Iraq, he established up 'Hizb al Umma' party, and the party’s constitution states that all Jews must be expelled from Arab countries as Mohammed did. For me, the Mufti is like Hitler," said Dr. Cohen, who stressed that, while he could not commit as to the content of the conversation between the Mufti and Hitler, it is clear that “both were inspired by each other. They both wanted to eliminate the Jews in Europe and Palestine. There was an unwritten plan that Hitler will focus on the European Jews and the Mufti on the Jews from Arab lands and in Palestine."

Netanyahu last week suggested that Adolf Hitler was not planning to "annihilate" the Jews until he met al-Husseini in 1941, in a comment that was sharply criticized by his political opponents and the White House which Thursday night condemned his "inflammatory rhetoric."

The prime minister later doubled down, clarifying he did not absolve the genocidal Hitler of any responsibility.

Several historians have already backed Netanyahu’s comments, such as Middle East Forum scholar Dr. Wolfgang Schwanitz who said last week, "It is a historical fact that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem al-Hajj Amin al-Husseini was an accomplice whose collaboration with Adolf Hitler played an important role in the Holocaust. He was the foremost extra-European adviser in the process to destroy the Jews of Europe."

Read article in full

Friday, October 30, 2015

Mufti ensured that mass murder became genocide

 Of all the articles dealing with the Netanyahu-Mufti controversy, this one by Melanie Phillips in the Jerusalem Post is possibly the best.  She explains that Netanyahu was fundamentally right:   it is thanks to the Mufti's intervention, that mass murder became genocide.

The Grand  Mufti meets Hitler in November 1941


When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the role played in the Holocaust by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, he cannot have imagined the reaction he would detonate.

What he said was this: “He [Husseini] flew to Berlin. Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time; he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here.’ ‘So what should I do with them?’ he [Hitler] asked.

He [Husseini] said, ‘Burn them.’” In the subsequent global firestorm, Netanyahu was denounced for exonerating Hitler. It was said he had claimed the mufti had given Hitler the idea of exterminating the Jews when the two met in November 1941; that he was cynically trying to tarnish today’s Palestinians; even that he was a Holocaust denier.

His subsequent protest that he had no intention of absolving Hitler of responsibility fell on deaf ears. Even those who acknowledged that the mufti had allied with the Nazis insisted Netanyahu had turned history back to front.
Most of this reaction, however, is at best wide of the mark and at worst quite obscene. For Netanyahu was fundamentally correct.

There can be no doubt he spoke too loosely. He has provided no source for the words he quoted from both Husseini and Hitler at that November 1941 meeting. And he should have acknowledged that the mass murder of European Jews was already well under way, and that Hitler had talked about exterminating the Jews since the 1920s.

But mass murder is not the same as genocide. And the precise moment when Hitler decided to exterminate the whole of European Jewry – the “Final Solution” – has long been disputed by historians.

For even while the Nazis were rounding up Jews for slaughter they were also deporting them – more than 500,000 between 1933 and 1941. And recently unearthed documentary evidence suggests that the mufti and Hitler egged each other on in a mutual genocidal frenzy.

A book published last year, Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, by Barry Rubin and Wolfgang Schwanitz, argues that the mufti’s alliance with Hitler turned the extermination of the whole of European Jewry into a strategic imperative.

As late as July 1941, according to Hermann Göring, Hitler thought the last of the Jews could be removed from Germany by “emigration or evacuation.”
The authors write: “Yet since other countries refused to take many or any Jewish refugees, Palestine was the only possible refuge, as designated by the League of Nations in 1922. If that last safe haven was closed, mass murder would be Hitler’s only alternative.”

Rubin and Schwanitz make clear that the November 1941 meeting between Hitler and Husseini merely continued a dialogue that had started earlier that year about the mufti’s opposition to Hitler’s deportation of European Jews.
“In February 1941, Hitler had received al-Husaini’s proposal for an alliance of which one condition – paragraph seven – was that Germany stop Jewish emigration from Europe. After Hitler promised al-Husaini on March 11 to do so, Germany’s expulsion of the Jews was impossible and only mass murder remained.

“... After agreeing in early June to meet al-Husaini to discuss the issue, Hitler ordered SS leader Reinhard Heydrich on July 31, 1941 to prepare an ‘overall solution for the Jewish question in Europe.’ On October 31, he ended the legal emigration of Jews from German-ruled areas.

But the specific final decision had not yet been taken.”

On November 28, Hitler met the mufti in Berlin. “Behind closed doors, Hitler promised al-Husaini that Arab aspirations would be fulfilled. Once ‘we win’ the battle against world Jewry, Hitler said, Germany would eliminate the Jews in the Middle East, too.” The following day, “he ordered Heydrich to organise a conference within ten days to prepare ‘the final solution of the Jewish question.’” As the book also shows, the mufti was making common cause with Hitler long before 1941. By 1936, he was courting the Nazis for arms and money. In 1940, he sent Hitler a nine-page letter detailing a proposed alliance. The Palestine question, he said, united them in their joint hatred of the British and the Jews. He proposed to make Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Transjordan a single federated state with a Nazi-style system. In return, he wanted Hitler’s help to wipe out all Jews in the Middle East.

Evidence that the mufti played a key role in the Holocaust was provided at the Nuremberg Tribunal by Eichmann’s close associate in the extermination program, Dieter Wisliceny. He said: “The mufti was one of the instigators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry and was a partner and adviser to Eichmann and Hitler for carrying out this plan.”

This was corroborated at the tribunal by two witnesses, Andrej Steiner and Rudolf Kasztner, who confirmed that Wisliceny had talked about Husseini in these terms during the war.

Read article in full 

Leading German scholar: 'Mufti advised Nazis '

Some useful links: 

Israel, Nazis and Palestinians by Francisco Gil-White 


Netanyahu was right to draw parallels between Nazis and Arab leaders by Seth Lipsky (New York Post)

Dr Edy Cohen on Youtube (Hebrew)


The Mufti and the Holocaust revisited: Ben Cohen  (Algemeiner)

Arabs and Nazis by Elliott Green (Think -Israel) 

Mufti advised Nazis by Wolfgang Schwanitz (Middle East Forum) 

Is Netanyahu really wrong?  by Sheri Oz (Times of Israel) 

Haj Amin al-Husseini and antisemitism in the Arab world by Sarah Levin (Times of Israel) 

Mufti was an even greater Nazi criminal than Eichmann (Arutz Sheva)

Mufti's initiatory experience in the extermination of European Jewry by Rob Harris (Crethi Plethi)

La croix gammee et le turban (TV review by Veronique Chemla) 

Iraqi-Jewish journo wins unexpected award

The last thing Sandy Rashty expected was to be presented with the Young Journalist of the Year Award by an Asian media group. Sandy, who works for the UK Jewish Chronicle, has written about the cultural complexities of being the British-born daughter of Iraqi Jews forced to leave homes, businesses and personal possessions in 1970. Mazaltob Sandy!

Sandy Rashty: alien background
 
We’ve all seen it before.

People win an award, walk up to the stage, say then never expected such a thing to ever happen – and then proceed to whip out a neat set of pre-prepared ‘thank you ever so much’ notes.

Last night, I was presented with the Young Journalist of the Year Award at the GG2 annual awards ceremony – an event that recognises the contributions of ethnic minorities to Britain.

Truly, I never expected to win.

I never expected an event sponsored by an Asian media group to recognise the contributions of a Jewish journalist. Why should they?

Nevertheless, shortlisted for the award, I happily attended the ceremony – bringing my bouncy mother along for good measure.

After all, it was down to her that I’d been shortlisted.

Ever since I joined the JC, I have written about the cultural complexities that come with being the British-born daughter of Iraqi Jewish parents – people who had been forced to flee Baghdad in the 1970s in the wake of increasing antisemitism and persecution.

I have told the untold story of my grandfather who was imprisoned by Saddam Hussein’s government for being a “Zionist spy” (just FYI, he wasn’t). I have told the story of my family, who were forced to leave their businesses, homes and most personal possessions behind in a bid to make a safe escape in the dark of the night through Kurdistan, Iran and Turkey – before seeking refuge in Israel or any European country that would have them.

I have performed impersonations of my distinctly Middle Eastern family – who sing Rosh Hashana and Chanucah songs in Arabic.

It’s a background alien to most – which is why I felt I had little chance of winning.

Read article in full

Thursday, October 29, 2015

3,000 Moroccans condemn hate demonstration


 A scene from the antisemitic demonstration in Casablanca: top-hatted 'Jews' prepare to 'destroy' the mosque of Omar with axes

At least 3,000 Moroccans signed a petition condemning what they said was incitement to murder Jews on full display during a Palestinian solidarity demonstration in Casablanca this week. The Algemeiner quotes a report in the Egyptian newspaper Youm7.

The petition urged Moroccan authorities to hold rally organizers accountable for the mock executions of Jews and other inciting displays, which it called illegal. Also identified by the petition, which was titled “Moroccan Citizens Gathered Against Incitement to Kill Jews in Morocco,” were demonstrators dressed as Palestinians, with assault rifles pointed at others dressed as Orthodox Jews, and children trampling on the Star of David.

Video footage from the demonstration, reported by The Algemeiner, showed children marching and shouting “Death to Israel!” and “We will sacrifice our soul and our blood to you, Al-Aqsa,” in reference to the holy site also known as the Temple Mount.

Signatories expressed concern about the reaction of Morocco’s Jewish community, which today numbers under 3, 000, and said the demonstration had offended many Muslims as well. They said antisemitism threatened the pluralism and tolerance enshrined in Moroccan law.

Read article in full 

Moroccan Muslim condemns the hateful Casablanca demonstrations

Moroccan protesters take aim at top-hatted 'Jews' 

Antisemitism on rise in Morocco, Wiesenthal Center says

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Moroccan protesters take aim at top-hatted 'Jews'



A still image from a video of a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Casablanca, Morocco, in which 'Jews' are held at gunpoint by keffiyeh-clad protesters, October 25, 2015. (screen capture: alyaexpress-news.com)

This MEMRI video clip is of a pro-Palestinian demonstration in the Moroccan city of Casablanca. It featured men dressed as Orthodox Jews who were being led at gunpoint by masked men wearing keffiyehs. The demonstration was shocking in its blatant antisemitism. Report by The Jerusalem Post:

The demonstration was held Sunday with permission from local police, according to a report which appeared Sunday on the news website alyaexpress-news.com. It also featured a video of the event, which drew many thousands of participants.

In the video, two men wearing keffiyehs, or Arab headdresses that are popular with Palestinian rioters and militants, are seen toting what appear to be toy rifles behind two bearded men wearing black robes and top hats during a march that also featured Palestinian flags, including a very large one carried by dozens of people, and a model of al-Aksa mosque located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Expressions of anti-Semitism are relatively rare in Morocco, whose king and government have invested millions of dollars in recent years in restoring Jewish heritage sites. In February, the restoration project was honored at an event in Paris attended by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

Read article in full

Monday, October 26, 2015

Five young Yemenite Jews arrive in Israel

After three failed attempts to leave Yemen, five young Yemenite Jews from the Dahari family finally arrived yesterday in Israel from the war-torn country.

The news was announced by  Manny Dahari on his Facebook page, after he greeted them at Ben Gurion airport.

"Welcome home! After ten years of not seeing my younger siblings, two years of trying to get them out and three failed attempts, they're finally out," the young Israeli wrote on his Facebook page.

The Dahari children travelled by air on Yemeni passports (photo: Manny Dahari)

There are fewer than 100 Jews left in Yemen, the remnant of a 50, 000-member community.

Earlier this month, Druze MK Ayoub Kara publicised the desperate situation of the  Jews still living in the Yemen capital Sana'a and in Raida, in the north. A Yemenite Jew who had arrived recently in Israel disguised as a Muslim had told him that they had been given an ultimatum by Houthi rebels: 'convert or leave'.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bibi's critics must not commit "Mufti denial'

All hell seems to have broken loose since Bibi Netanyahu made his unfortunate remark that that the extermination of the Jews was the Mufti’s idea. But Bibi's critics run the risk of introducing another distortion into the historical record by whitewashing the Mufti's role, warns Lyn Julius on The Times of Israel. (In view of the explosion of articles on this issue, Point of No Return is listing some useful links below):

 The Mufti meets Himmler, head of the SS


Historians have quite rightly pointed out that the extermination of the Jews of Europe was well underway by the time the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, met Adolph Hitler in 1941. 

But most disturbing is that, among the  chorus of political opponents and Palestinians accusing Netanyahu of distortion and even ‘Holocaust denial’, there are those who are irresponsibly introducing another  dangerous distortion into the historical record.   They are whitewashing the Mufti’s active  role in WW 2 and his enduring legacy of genocidal antisemitism.

I repeat,  Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu was wrong. However,  it is beyond doubt that the Mufti did everything possible to encourage the Final Solution. When the Nazis wavered, he ensured that expulsion was not an option. Each time a German was bribed to free Jews from the camps, the Mufti intervened to block the deal. He sabotaged the exchange of at least 1,200 Jewish children for German PoWs and sent them to their deaths. He was indirectly responsible for condemning millions of Jews to death by making sure the gates to a safe haven in Palestine were firmly shut.

Exiled to Baghdad by the British, the Mufti helped engineer a pro-Nazi coup in 1941 and the resulting ‘Farhud’, Iraq’s ‘Kristallnacht’, in which up to 600 Jews may have been murdered. Had the Nazis won the war,  the Mufti, who as a captain in the Ottoman army would have witnessed the Armenian genocide, would have become a major player in the extermination of the Jews of Palestine and the Arab world – an objective for which he sought approval at his famous meeting with Hitler in November 1941. He had detailed plans for incinerators near Nablus.  He laid the groundwork for the Holocaust of the Jews in the Arab countries. 

According to Dr Yosef Sharvit of Bar Ilan: “A similar process to what happened in Europe took place: discriminatory legislation, robbing Jews, establishing ‘Judenraete’ (Jewish Councils), establishing work camps and in the end they were to have established death camps as well.”

The Mufti was the tip of an Arab and Muslim pro-Nazi iceberg – some 60 Arab acolytes joined him in Berlin as guests of Hitler. He was not just a propagandist – although his broadcasts had a huge impact. As  the leader of the Arab world, he commanded immense support for his pro-Nazi antisemitism.

 So popular was Hitler that a favourite slogan in the Arab world at the time was:’Allah in Heaven, Hitler on earth.” The Fuehrer was known as Haji Hitler. Some even claimed that Hitler was an Egyptian.

My mother, growing up in Baghdad in the 1930s, was mortified to learn that the family’s Muslim gardener had named his new baby Hitler.

Fifteen times more Jews than Arabs in Palestine ( there were half as many Jews) fought Hitler alongside the Allies.

Those who claim that Bibi singled out the Mufti from among hundreds of Nazi fellow-travellers and antisemites to ‘delegitimise’ the Palestinian cause ‘for political gain’  are engaging in ‘Mufti denial’.

How many antisemites went as far as the Mufti and recruited tens of thousands of Muslims to his three SS Balkan Muslim divisions? They committed crimes so unspeakable that Yugoslavia demanded that the Mufti be indicted at the Nuremberg trials. According to Dr. Yosef Sharvit,  the Mufti was even considered a greater Nazi criminal than Adolf Eichmann.

The failure of the Allies to bring the Mufti to trial meant that the Arab world was never de-nazified. Instead, 2,000 Nazi war criminals were given shelter in the Arab world, there to take antisemitism to stratospheric heights.

Antisemitism is not a by-product of the Arab-Israeli conflict: it has deep ideological roots. The Mufti’s alliance with the Nazis and with the German-funded Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928,  was not a mere matter of anti-colonial expediency. Their legacy of religious bigotry is still with us today, in the beheadings committed by Da’esh in Iraq and in the stabbings on Israel’s streets.

Some good may come out of the current controversy: more people may be moved to focus on the Mufti’s hugely significant role, a role that academia and the media have hitherto been inclined to ignore or downplay.

Read article in full

Crossposted at Harry's Place

Some useful links: 

Netanyahu was right to draw parallels between Nazis and Arab leaders by Seth Lipsky (New York Post)

Dr Edy Cohen on Youtube (Hebrew)


The Mufti and the Holocaust revisited: Ben Cohen  (Algemeiner)

Arabs and Nazis by Elliott Green (Think -Israel) 

Mufti advised Nazis by Wolfgang Schwanitz (Middle East Forum) 

Is Netanyahu really wrong?  by Sheri Oz (Times of Israel) 

Haj Amin al-Husseini and antisemitism in the Arab world by Sarah Levin (Times of Israel) 

Mufti was an even greater Nazi criminal than Eichmann (Arutz Sheva)

Mufti's initiatory experience in the extermination of European Jewry by Rob Harris (Crethi Plethi)

La croix gammee et le turban (TV review by Veronique Chemla) 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

'Mufti was even greater Nazi criminal than Eichmann'

The Mufti was an even greater war criminal than Eichmann,  Dr Yosef Sharvit tells Arutz Sheva, wading into the controversy caused by Prime Minister Netanyahu's observation that the Mufti was to blame for exterminating, rather than expelling the Jews. 


"Aside from the inaccuracies, I think that thanks to Netanyahu's words we come out of this with a benefit, because he dealt with the centrality of the mufti who for some reason has been taken off the historical stage in everything related to the Holocaust," said Sharvit.

The historian emphasized to Arutz Sheva that there is great importance in noting the part played by the Arab mufti in the Holocaust.

"When Haj Amin al-Husseini met Hitler in November 1941, he told him that there's a stark similarity between Nazism and Islam," explained Sharvit. "Husseini was responsible for establishing SS units in the Balkans. He was friendly with senior SS commanders, and was responsible for Berlin Radio broadcasts in all the Islamic lands."

"His Berlin Radio broadcasts would always end by calling to slaughter the Jews. He also was among the initiators of the final solution for Jews in the land of Israel, and if (senior Nazi commander) Erwin Rommel would have G-d forbid reached Israel, Haj Amin al-Husseini had a detailed plan to destroy the Jewish community."

Dr. Sharvit stated that the mufti was even considered a greater Nazi criminal than Adolf Eichmann.

"He was a figure known better than Eichmann until he (Eichmann) was brought to Israel" where he was executed, says the historian.

"In essence, he also led the Holocaust of the Jews in the Arab countries. There too a similar process to what happened in Europe took place: discriminatory legislation, robbing Jews, establishing Judenrate ('Jewish councils' - ed.), establishing work camps and in the end they were to have established death camps as well."(My emphasis)


"All of this was stopped thanks to Operation Torch," he said, noting the American and British invasion of French North Africa in 1942.
"Therefore I salute Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who raised to public awareness the centrality of Haj Amin al-Husseini in the Holocaust of the Jews," concluded Sharvit.

Sharvit's support echoes that of Middle East Forum scholar Dr. Wolfgang Schwanitz , who on Wednesday gave Netanyahu historical backing.
"It is a historical fact that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem al-Hajj Amin al-Husseini was an accomplice whose collaboration with Adolf Hitler played an important role in the Holocaust," Schwanitz stated. "He was the foremost extra-European adviser in the process to destroy the Jews of Europe."

In defending his own remarks, Netanyahu quoted the testimony of Adolf Eichmann's deputy at the Nuremberg trials after World War II, who said: "The Mufti was instrumental in the decision to exterminate the Jews of Europe. The importance of his role must not be ignored. The Mufti repeatedly proposed to the authorities, primarily Hitler, Ribbentropp and Himmler, to exterminate the Jews of Europe. He considered it a suitable solution for the Palestinian question."

Read article in full

Sarah Levin writes in the Times of Israel:

"Rather then criticize and condemn Benjamin Netanyahu for his comments about Haj Amin al-Husseini, this is an opportunity for our world leaders and the media to step up and confront the much more important and pervasive issue of Anti-Semitism and xenophobia in the Arab world. Such an exploration may help the public broaden and deepen our understanding of the unimaginable levels of Anti-Semitism plaguing the Middle East and North Africa and the ongoing structural and physical violence directed against Israel. "

More about the Mufti

Friday, October 23, 2015

Mufti ensured mass murder was Hitler's only option

While PM Netanyahu may have exaggerated the role of the Mufti in Hitler's decision to extend the Holocaust's reach,  in CrethiPlethi Rob Harris argues that the Mufti  played  a decisive role in ensuring that extermination trumped expulsion by rendering the only possible haven for European Jews -  Palestine -  firmly out of bounds. There is no doubt that had the Nazis won the war, the Mufti would have ensured that not only the Jews of Palestine, but throughout the Arab world, would have been exterminated. (With thanks: Frank)

The Mufti's famous meeting with Hitler in November 1941

The book ‘Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East’, authored by Wolfgang G. Schwanitz and Barry Rubin, points to Hitler being open to emigration as a solution to the “Jewish Question” in 1941. The book vividly illustrates (see pages 20–22) the influence that the Mufti brought to bear in helping initiate a mass extermination programme, albeit a contention that is controversial amongst other historians:

“Hitler had to decide precisely how “the very last” of the Jews were to leave Germany. As late as 1941, Hitler thought this could happen, in the words of Hermann Göring in July, by “emigration or evacuation.” Yet since other countries refused to take many or any Jewish refugees, Palestine was the only possible refuge, as designated by the League of Nations in 1922. If that last safe haven was closed, mass murder would be Hitler’s only alternative.

The importance of the Arab-Muslim alliance for Berlin, along with the grand mufti’s urging, ensured that outcome. And al-Husaini would be present at the critical moment Hitler chose it. In November 1941, al-Husaini arrived in Berlin to a reception showing the Germans saw him as future leader of all Arabs and Muslims, perhaps even reviver of the Islamic caliphate. […]

When the day of German victory came, Hitler continued, Germany would announce the Arabs’ liberation. The grand mufti would become leader of most Arabs. All Jews in the Middle East would be killed. […]

A few hours after seeing the grand mufti Hitler ordered invitations sent for a conference to be held at a villa on Lake Wannsee. The meeting’s purpose was to plan the comprehensive extermination of all Europe’s Jews.”

While it is arguable to suggest that Netanyahu may have exaggerated the role of al-Husseini in Hitler’s decision to extend the Holocaust programme’s reach, it nonetheless appears to be correct to claim that the Mufti had a significant influence on the Reich when it came to migration policy, an influence, which would extend to the establishment of a Bosnian-Muslim Waffen SS division in 1943, and plans to institute a Jewish extermination programme in Palestine, which were prevented by Rommel’s defeat by the British at El Alamein, as attested in the book ‘Nazi Palestine: The Plans for the Extermination of the Jews of Palestine’, by Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Martin Cüppers.

“Arise. O sons of Arabia, fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. Their spilled blood pleases Allah, our history and religion. That will save our honor.” — Haj Amin al-Husseini, radio broadcast, May 1942.

Al-Husseini may not have merely encouraged an extermination programme — there is less historical debate in the fact that he collaborated in efforts to implement such policy, and systematically promoted the NAZI cause in the Arab world. Perhaps this week’s argument will encourage some renewed interest in this issue, which has been ignored all too often.

“…The sole German objective in the region will be to liquidate all Jews who live in Arab countries under the patronage of Great Britain.” — Adolf Hitler to Hajj Amin al-Husseini, November 28, 1941.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Leading German scholar: 'Mufti advised Nazis'

 With thanks Gina and Michelle


In spite of prime minister Netanyahu's mis-statement that it was the Mufti of Jerusalem who persuaded the Nazis to exterminate the Jews, the storm of controversy he has ignited will have the positive side-effect of focusing attention on the Mufti's role as a collaborator with Hitler who never missed an opportunity to encourage and spread the Nazi genocide. Wolfgang Schwanitz, who authored with Barry Rubin 'Nazis, Islamists and the making of the modern Middle East' has waded in at Middle East Forum: In his 1999 autobiography,   Schwanitz affirms, a senior Nazi official admitted how the Mufti advised Hitler and other leading Nazis, and that he acquired full knowledge of the ongoing mass murder. 

Dr Wolfgang Schwanitz: Mufti advised Hitler

After the [1914-1918] war, the thinking of Hitler and al-Husaini had developed along parallel lines. Both the grand mufti and Hitler developed the idea that only exterminating the Jews would let them achieve their goals.

 The writer Melanie Phillips has reproduced a passage from Schwanitz and Rubin's book:

"..The alliance between these two forces was logical. Al-Husaini’s 1936–39 Palestinian Arab rebellion received weapons from Berlin and money from Rome. In 1937, he urged Muslims to kill all the Jews living in Muslim lands, calling them “scum and germs.” But al-Husaini’s ambitions went further. He wanted German backing not only to wipe out the Jews in the Middle East but also to make him ruler over all Arabs. In exchange for Berlin’s backing, he pledged to bring the Muslims and Arabs into an alliance with Germany; spread Nazi ideology; promote German trade; and “wage terror,” in his own words, against the British and French.

"...The Nazis were eager for this partnership. They established special relationships with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Ba’th Party, the Young Egypt movement, and radical factions in Syria, Iraq, and Palestine. Berlin also hoped to build links with the kings of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. In 1939, for example, Hitler met Saudi King Abd al-Aziz Ibn Saud’s envoy, Khalid al-Qarqani, telling him: 'We view the Arabs with the warmest sympathy for three reasons. First, we do not pursue any territorial aspirations in Arab lands. Second, we have the same enemies. And third, we both fight against the Jews. I will not rest until the very last of them has left Germany.'

“… But first, Hitler had to decide precisely how 'the very last' of the Jews were to leave Germany. As late as 1941, Hitler thought this could happen, in the words of Hermann Göring in July, by 'emigration or evacuation.' Yet since other countries refused to take many or any Jewish refugees, Palestine was the only possible refuge, as designated by the League of Nations in 1922. If that last safe haven was closed, mass murder would be Hitler’s only alternative. The importance of the Arab-Muslim alliance for Berlin, along with the grand mufti’s urging, ensured that outcome. And al-Husaini would be present at the critical moment Hitler chose it.

“… Hitler gave al-Husaini a ninety-minute meeting on November 28, 1941. Hitler’s preparatory briefing, written by Grobba, stressed that al-Husaini was in tune with Germany’s ideological and strategic interests… Al-Husaini thanked the German dictator for long supporting the Palestinian Arab cause. The Arabs, he asserted, were Germany’s natural friends, believed it would win the war, and were ready to help. Al-Husaini explained his plan to Hitler. He would recruit an Arab Legion to fight for the Axis; Arab fighters would sabotage Allied facilities while Arab and Muslim leaders would foment revolts to tie up Allied troops and add territory and resources for the Axis. Hitler accepted, saying the alliance would help his life-and-death struggle with the two citadels of Jewish power: Great Britain and Soviet Russia.

“At that moment, the Third Reich was at the height of its victories. German forces were advancing deep inside the Soviet Union and nearer its border with Iran. General Erwin Rommel was moving into Egypt and many Egyptians thought Cairo might soon fall. When the day of German victory came, Hitler continued, Germany would announce the Arabs’ liberation. The grand mufti would become leader of most Arabs. All Jews in the Middle East would be killed. When al-Husaini asked for a written agreement, Hitler replied that he had just given him his personal promise and that should be sufficient.

“...Considerations of Muslim and Arab alliances, of course, were by no means the sole factor in a decision that grew from Hitler’s own anti-Semitic obsession. But until that moment the German dictator had left open the chance that expulsion might be an alternative to extermination. When Hitler first told Heydrich to find a 'final solution,'the dictator had included expelling the Jews as an option. Already, the regime estimated. it had let about 500,000 Jews leave Germany legally during seven years of Nazi rule. Yet if the remaining Jews could only go to Palestine, and since ending that immigration was al-Husaini’s top priority, emigration or expulsion would sabotage the German-Arab alliance.

“Given the combination of the strategic situation and Hitler’s personal views, choosing to kill the Jews and gain the Arab and Muslim assets necessary for his war effort was an easy decision. Consequently, Hitler ordered the Wannsee Conference to devise a detailed plan for genocide. Since this decision was linked to the alliance with al-Husaini he would be the first non-German informed about the plan, even before it was formally presented at the conference. Adolf Eichmann himself was assigned to this task. Eichmann briefed al-Husaini in the SS headquarters map room, using the presentation prepared for the conference. The grand mufti, Eichmann’s aide recalled, was very impressed, so taken with this blueprint for genocide that al-Husaini asked Eichmann to send an expert—probably Dieter Wisliceny—to Jerusalem to be his own personal adviser for setting up death camps and gas chambers once Germany won the war and he was in power.”

What the Mufti said to Hitler on 28 November 1941 (Times of Israel)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mufti abominable, but Hitler guiltier

 With thanks: Nelly and Rudi


Historians have refuted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's assertion at the 37th Zionist Congress that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler did not initially plan to exterminate the Jews and was convinced by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem to 'burn them.' However, it is beyond dispute that the Mufti was aware of the Final Solution in Europe. He  played an active part in sending European Jewish children to their deaths. He had his own plans to exterminate the Jews of Palestine and the Arab world - for which he sought approval from Hitler at his famous meeting with the Fuhrer in November 1941 - and even had plans for crematoria in the Dotan Valley. It is incontrovertible  that the Mufti was an enthusiastic propagandist for the Nazis as their guest in Berlin. It is also a fact that the Arab world has never undergone 'de-nazification': the Nazi legacy of genocidal antisemitism is alive and well.

 Ynet News reports: 

"Professor Dan Michman, a world-renowned expert who is the head of the Institute of Holocaust Research at Bar-Ilan University and Head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem said Hitler did indeed meet the mufti – but this only occurred after the Final Solution began.

Meeting between the mufti and Hitler in November 1941 (Photo: Heinrich Hoffman)
Meeting between the mufti and Hitler in November 1941 (Photo: Heinrich Hoffman)

"He flew to Berlin," Netanyahu said of the mufti. "Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Hajj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, 'If you expel them, they'll all come here.' 'So what should I do with them?' he asked. He said, 'Burn them.'"

Netanyahu also said that the mufti was sought during the Nuremberg trials but managed to evade them.

He further noted that the mufti claimed Jews wanted to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque before the war, and "this lie is about a hundred years old."

Yad Vashem's chief historian, Professor Dina Porat, told Ynet that Netanyahu's statements were factually incorrect. "You cannot say that it was the mufti who gave Hitler the idea to kill or burn Jews," she said. "It's not true. Their meeting occurred after a series of events that point to this."

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Wednesday on Netanyahu's remarks: "Of course Hajj Amin al-Husseini did not invent' the Final Solution to the Jewish question'. History clearly shows that Hitler initiated it. Hajj Amin al-Husseini joined him." He added that "the jihadist movements today are encouraging anti-Semitism and lean on known Nazi heritage."

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog called Netanyahu's remarks "distortion of history" on his Facebook page.

"No one needs to teach me how much of an Israel-hater the mufti was," wrote Herzog. "He gave an order to murder my grandfather, Rabbi Herzog, and actively supported Hitler. But there was only one Hitler. Hitler did not need Husseini to order the murder of Jews just because they were Jewish."

Professor Meir Litvak, who teaches at Tel Aviv University's Department of Middle Eastern History, said the idea of annihilating the Jews came up in 1939. While the initial plan was to send Europe's Jews to an area north of the Ural Mountains so that they would die of disease, he said, the plan was nixed when the Soviet Union did not surrender in 1941. At that point, Litvak said, the extermination idea arose.

"Husseini supported the extermination of the Jews, he tried to prevent rescuing of Jews, he recruited Arabs for the SS," said Litvak. "He was an abominable person, but this must not minimize the scale of Hitler's guilt."

Read article in full

Hitler's long shadow over Israel

George Bensoussan on the Arabs and the Holocaust (French - with thanks : Ahuva)

Is it right for Jews to stab Arabs?

The Jews dispossessed in Arab countries have faced injustice, but does that justify them going around stabbing Arabs? Thoughtful post by Meir Javedanfar on his blog: 


Meir Javedanfar
 
The Palestinians have faced injustice. Yes they have. Around 700,000 who used to live in Palestine lost their homes between 1947-48. There is still a debate regarding how many were expelled, how many left at the behest of orders from the Arab world. This article explains more. But there is little doubt that they faced injustice and some faced expulsion.

So have my brethren from the  Arab world, who once formed a massive community there. A community which has almost disappeared.
In 2008, Nathan Weinstock published a book entitled: “A Very Long Presence: How the Arab World Lost Its Jews, 1947-1967”. The book has been described as: “thorough, detailed, interesting and persuasive book, with more than 900 footnotes”. 

Haaretz interviewed him about the book (the article has been reprinted in The Forward).

Here are some facts about the Jewish citizens of the Arab world, from the book, as quoted in his interview:
In 1945, Weinstock notes, almost one million Jews lived in the Arab world, whereas today there are about 4,500, the great majority of them in Morocco.
So what happened to them? According to Weinstock:
“In the course of my research,” he continues, “I found out that the story we had been told – that the Jews left the Arab countries because they were Zionists – was for the most part wrong. True, they had an affinity for the Land of Israel – that is certainly correct – but the organized Zionist movement was very weak in the Arab countries. The great mass of Jews left under duress. They were expelled. They were subjected to such enormous pressure that they had no choice but to leave.”
950,000 Jews were expelled from Algeria, Morocco, Iraq and other Arab countries. They have no chance of getting their homes and businesses back. Ever. Its finished. They also faced massive amount of heartache and hopelessness, until they found a new home in Israel, and a minority in Europe. And do you think they have forgotten about their trauma? would you?

Would that give the right to Jews from the aforementioned countries to go back and start stabbing and killing innocent bystanders in Algiers or Baghdad? And what would it achieve? and how morally wrong would it be? I leave the answer to you.

Read article in full

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Blessings and curses of Judeo-Arabic

Although Judeo-Arabic will die with the last generation born in Arab countries interest in the rich and picturesque Jewish dialect seems to be undergoing a revival. Lyn Julius blogs in the Jerusalem Post:

When I was growing up as the daughter of Iraqi Jews, I used to think that the language my parents spoke consisted largely of curses. My mother would insult the object of her scorn with wakamazzalem ('May their luck run out'). Woudja ! was an expression of pain and Wi Abel ! (O mourning - from the Hebrew evel), an expression of dismay. An idiot would be called zmal ( a donkey) or booma (an owl - anything but wise). Later, I discovered that there was more to the Judeo-Arabic language. It had marvellously sonorous words like bezoona (cat), darboona (corridor) and teeteepampa (mattress fluffer - a trade now sadly extinct.)

A scene from the Dove Flyer, the first film to be made in Judeo-Arabic

The Jewish dialect is more ancient than the Arabic spoken by Muslim Iraqis, which was adulterated through the centuries by Beduin Arabic. The Jewish version is closer to the Arabic spoken in northern Iraq and has definite affinities with Aramaic.

As Churchill once said of English and American English, Jews and Muslims were divided by the same language. You will never hear a Muslim say 'abdalek' (Hebrew - kappara: 'I am your ransom').

My family has a running joke about the Judeo-Arabic expression 'esh lonek?' - meaning 'how are you?' (similar to the Hebrew 'Ma shlomkha'). My brother once asked a dark-skinned Sudanese gentleman, 'esh lonek?' He shot back, 'aswad' (black). In Muslim Arabic, my brother had asked: 'what colour are you?'

The first film to be made in Baghdadi Judeo-Arabic was The Dove Flyer, released in 2014, based on the book by Eli Amir. Over 100, 000 Israelis went to see the film and not a few must have tittered to hear actors bring to life their grandmothers' picturesque sayings, such as 'Jahrein bel fed al-bis' (Two bottoms in one pair of underpants), and Wutch Tisha'Bab (A sad face, such as one would sport on Tisha b'Ab, the Jewish day of mourning for the destruction of the Temple.)

Judeo-Arabic will die out with the last generation born in Arab countries, but interest in Jewish dialects seems to be undergoing a revival: more than 15, 000 Israelis of Iraqi-descent subscribe to the Facebook page 'Preserving the Iraqi-Jewish language'.

There have been several attempts to write a dictionary of Judeo-Arabic of Baghdad (JAB). Violette Shamash's memoir Memories of Eden contains a glossary of Judeo-Arabic terms, compiled with the help of emeritus professor of the Hebrew University Shmuel Moreh.

An Ashkenazi Jew, Meir Lehrer, was forced to learn the language when he was courting his future wife Caroline. She lived with her grandparents, who knew no other tongue but Judeo-Arabic of Baghdad. He compiled a 55-page phrasebook, complete with conjugating verbs and declining nouns. For good measure Lehrer includes a curse or two: Thu-qut-I-un-uk: 'May your eyeball burst.'

Perhaps the most ambitious project to-date is the JAB Encyclopedia by William Y Elias. As a young music lecturer on Western Music Notation in Tel Aviv, Elias was asked in 1976 by his head of department to give a course on the music of the Near East. His research into Persian terms led Elias to begin collecting, with the help of a group of friends, Persian, Turkish, Hebrew and words from another 10 languages which had infiltrated into modern Judeo-Arabic.

The project burgeoned into a venture spanning two decades. Instead of a simple dictionary, Elias found himself engaged in a massive work reflecting the behaviour, customs, education, religious beliefs and superstitions, even food, of Iraqi Jews.

In September 2014 William Elias published a booklet with excerpts of the JAB Encyclopedia. To give three examples:

The word Makan (place) originally referred to a list of places to which one could take a horse-drawn carriage until the mid-20th century. These mkanat included the Abbayana (the electric company off the central part of Rashid St), Agd an-Nasara (the land and quarters of the Christians), Alwiyya (a rather new area south of Bataween near the YMCA), etc.

Dassan - dessana leqmis: he wore a new suit.To use something new for the first time, akin to Dissen (Hebrew): he irrigated with oil, fertilised the land - the Biblical custom of pouring oil (an anointment) on the head of a future king. 

The word qara (literally, what enables one to read) was the Friday evening lamp, a hemispheric bowl half full of water and covered in a layer of oil, with tiny niches for inserting wicks for lighting before the kiddus.
Elias's Encyclopedia took him 20 years, 24 advisers, amounts to 1, 500 pages and 15,000 entries and sub-entries.

Sadly, William Elias died in September 2015, before he could live to see his magnum opus in print.

The Elias family is seeking a sponsor to finance this major project. If you can help, please contact info@harif.org.  

Read article in full 

For a PDF copy of Meir Lehrer's dictionary email bataween@gmail.com

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mizrahi Jews split over 'Middle East' box

Mizrahi Jews in the US are divided on whether to tick a proposed 'Middle East' box on official US documents, the result of lobbying by Arab groups.  Those who will still identify as 'white', interviewed by Haaretz, seem to think that if they have not experienced antisemitism, they would not be comfortable to be labelled as a ' Person of Color'. Some fear what the new category would be used for:


Persian Jews: too privileged to be labelled 'Middle Eastern'?

Young American Mizrahi Jews are unsure of what the new category will mean for them.

“I have always been identified as Caucasian,” San Francisco student Shira Yomtoubian told Haaretz. “I remember once I thought about writing Middle Eastern in ‘other,’ but I thought they would still consider it Caucasian.”

“I think it’s a great cause, that we would have representation, but on the other hand it could be used to tag Middle Eastern people,” Yomtoubian added. “And I don’t know if I want that. For example, when I go to the airport in the United States, I can’t tell you, every time I’m stopped. I think if you have any kind of features, I’m not upset about it, unless I’m in a hurry, but there is like this target. I’m wondering how they would use this information.”

Her fears are not baseless. After the September 11 attacks, the U.S. Census Bureau handed over databases with addresses of Americans of Arab extraction to security organizations.

“But I would check it,” added Yomtoubian. “I wouldn’t lie.”

Other Jews believe that the discrimination experienced by Americans of Middle Eastern origin is not serious enough to identify them as people of color, and that this definition is reserved mainly for Americans of African or Asian origin.

“Because I work as an activist, this question comes out a lot,” says Shaily Hakimian, a Jew of Moroccan parentage who works for an LGBT group. “Like, for example, we have a POC [person of color] hospitality suite where people can go and speak to other people. And because I haven’t been disenfranchised in the same way as a black person has, I don’t feel that is my space. I also don’t want to take any space that wasn’t meant for me.”

Hakimian adds that despite not looking white, she does not feel that people attach to her stereotypes they have of Middle Eastern or African people.

“The worst thing I remember was one time when I was ordering a burrito in college, and when I had to choose ingredients, the guy said, ‘You look like someone who likes olives,’” she recalls. “But I have benefitted from looking whiter. If there was a form I would check Middle Eastern, or else ‘other.’”

Questions about the privileges of American Jews also come up in a talk with Galeet Dardashti, a musician and anthropologist whose father moved to the U.S. from Iran.

“I myself do not identify as a ‘Person of Color,’” she says. “I see the POC label as very specific, referring less to the color of one’s skin and more to an experience of societal marginalization. I am notably darker than most Ashkenazim and I routinely get ‘randomly’ checked at the airport,” She notes that she recently received a full-body pat down in a private room.

“In general, however, I have experienced almost no discrimination in the U.S.,” she says. “While I certainly do not discount the experiences of other American Jews of Middle Eastern and North African background who have felt discrimination, this was not my experience. The worst thing I can remember was a high school classmate giving me a dirty look and asking if my family was Iraqi (conflating Iran with Iraq) during the First Gulf War. So, I personally don’t feel comfortable self-identifying as a ‘Person of Color’ from such a privileged vantage point.”

Read article in full

Check the Middle East census box!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Jewish musings at the tomb of Nahum

An Israeli visiting the tomb of the prophet Nahum at al-Qosh muses widely about Iraq's Jewish history, the plight of the Assyrian Christians in the vicinity  and whether the suffering of Iraq's peoples will come to an end. Never give in to despair, Yael Mizrahi Arnaud concludes in International Policy Digest:
A new roof protects the tomb of Nahum from the elements (photo: Yael Mizrahi)

To the Jews, the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is holiest; yet due to repeated exiles at the hands of conquering empires, Jews became known as “a people without a land.” Jews adjusted to this reality in these very hills—‘beyond the river’ or ever ha nahar, the biblical Hebrew term that denotes the region along the Euphrates, modern-day Iraq. After being expelled from Jerusalem, following the fall of the second temple in 70 AD, Babylon would become the spiritual, religious, and cultural epicenter of Judaism for more than a thousand years to come.

Despite the perennial longing for Jerusalem, Jewish life flourished here. Babylonian academics outshone their Galilean counterparts, evident in the emphasis placed on the Babylonian Talmudic texts. It is here that the Jewish Oral Law, torah she ba’al peh, passed down throughout generations—the laws were not merely codified, but the inhabitants of these cities were entrenched in lively and contentious debate. Conversations from 450 CE that we are still engaging in today originate from these cities– Pumbdedita (current day Fallujah), Sura, Nehardea—they housed the great Yeshivas that gave rise to the Bablyonian Talmud.

“Nahum,” in Hebrew, means comfort, and while reading his prophesy during my ride to the village, I searched for consolation in his words. For my own sanity, for the belief that one-day the Iraqi people will find comfort themselves. Nevertheless, my optimism is tested in this place. When you’re able to put face to face with the ugliest manifestations of what humanity is capable of; how life is cheap. It has now become impossible to find an Iraqi family that hasn’t been affected by the violence. The international media barely reports on the continued loss of Iraqi life; attacks which are weekly occurrences, and have been for the past 10 years.

Read article in full

Friday, October 16, 2015

Bennett urged: teach Mizrahi history in schools



The film-maker Pierre Rehov has just updated and made temporarily available for free viewing on Youtube his documentary, Silent Exodus, about the 856,000 Jews driven from Arab lands.  

With the 30th November Day to Remember Jewish Refugees from Arab lands and Iran little more than a month away, organisations representing Jews from Arab lands have written to the Israeli Minister of Education urging him to make compulsory the teaching of the history of Middle Eastern and North African Jewry. This initative would have benefits both inside and outside Israel. Here is the text of their letter.

Israeli Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett
34 Shivtei Israel Street
Jerusalem

Dear Mr. Bennett,
As the November 30th Day of Commemoration for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries and Iran approaches, we representatives of the international Mizrahi, Sephardic, and Iranian Jewish communities turn our attention towards education of Israeli and Diaspora Jews about our history and heritage. We commend your Ministry’s efforts to support this cause by creating curriculum and teaching materials relating to the history of Middle Eastern & North African Jewry. We are thrilled to have a Minister of Education in office whose values are so aligned with our own, in your championing of heritage studies, affirming the cultural diversity of Israel and recognizing the importance of Mizrahi history.

So far, the Israeli government has left the teaching of Mizrahi history and heritage to the discretion of schools. We ask that you continue to support this initiative by ensuring that the Mizrahi history curriculum be made compulsory and that all schools observe the Day of Commemoration. As you know, Israeli students of all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds must be given the tools to gain awareness and understanding of Mizrahi history, as it is integral to the fabric and foundation of Israeli society. In order to help disseminate the Day of Commemoration curriculum internationally, we also request that the educational materials be translated into English.

The upholding of the Day of Commemoration curriculum is vital not only to Israeli Jewry but also to those of us in the Diaspora who are not being exposed to the history of Jews from Arab countries and Iran. Israel will set the precedent for Jewish education and Israel advocacy in the United States and beyond. In western countries, students are not being exposed to the history of Jews from Arab countries and Iran. Most westerners, including Diaspora Jews, have a skewed understanding of Jews as a homogenous European people without roots in the Middle East. In turn, they lack an understanding of Israeli society and Israel’s role as a multi-ethnic safe haven for Jews from all parts of the world. It is vital for all students to learn that over 50% of Israeli Jews descend from Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran.

By implementing Mizrahi heritage studies, students in the Diaspora would be far better equipped to advocate for Israel. In order to effect this change, and influence our Jewish institutions, we depend on Israel to lead by example.
We have greatly appreciated all that you have done so far to carry out this initiative, and look forward to your continued partnership.

Sincerely,

Sam Yebri, President
30 Years After
David Dangoor, President
American Sephardic Federation
Maurice Maleh, Chairman
Association of Jews from Egypt (UK)
Andre Dehry, President
Federation des Associations Sepharades de France
Lyn Julius, President
HARIF: UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa
Susan Azizzadeh, President
Iranian American Jewish Federation
Levana Zamir, President
Israeli Association of Jews from Arab Countries
Gina Bublil-Waldman, President
JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa
Rabbi Ellie Abadie, President
JJAC: Justice for Jews from Arab Countries
Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, International Director
Sephardic Education Center
Yehuda Azoulay, Founder
Sephardic Legacy Project

Israel is not a milkshake, Mizrahim are not the other

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Kurds set up Jewish Council for 430 families

With thanks Michelle and Raphail 

Kurdish Jews, early 20th century

According to the NGO Asl-Al Yahud, a Council for Jewish rights has been established in Kurdistan, the Kurdish regional government announced on 13 October 2015.

The  objective of the new council is to preserve the rights of Kurdish Jews in the territory, although they will not be represented in the Kurdish parliament. 

It is estimated that there are nearly such 430 families. The Council will undertake projects to rebuild synagogues with the support of the government of the territory.

The Kurdish authorities see this initiative as furthering peaceful coexistence between communities and ethnic groups.


They maintain that there were "long periods in history when Kurdish Jews lived   peacefully and harmoniously among different ethnicities and religions, bound together by love under one name".


The initiative seems to follow the release of a report on 8 October by the Middle East Research Institute recommending better ethnic and religious representation in Kurdistan.

My comment: As almost all the 18, 000-member Jewish community was airlifted to Israel from Kurdistan in 1950 it is a mystery how 430 Jewish families might still be living in Kurdistan. There is certainly no organised Jewish community today.

This article puts forward the theory that thousands of Jews converted to Islam rather than move to Israel. These 430 families might be of mixed Muslim-Jewish ancestry. With the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, some of these families asked to emigrate to Israel. (Some have since moved back to Kurdistan).

Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest, however, that many thousands of Jews converted to Islam well before the creation of Israel. They are called Ben -Ju:   Muslims with Jewish roots. 

Kurdish ministry of Awqaf establishes representative to Jews (EoZ) 



Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Archive wedding photo causes controversy

 Controversy surrounds a wedding photo, taken in Israel, and exhibited as part of the Iraqi-Jewish Archive exhibition, now on at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in California. Was the photo included by mistake, or was it given to a relative who lived in Baghdad, ending up in the basement of Saddam Hussein's secret police headquarters, along with thousands of books documents and artefacts seized from the Jewish community? Shlomi Eldar explains in Al Monitor:


Members of the Shohet family dispute whether this photo travelled from Israel to Baghdad

 Once the artifacts were preserved, the decision was made to exhibit them. When I went to see the exhibition, the photo of the young couple at their wedding ceremony, surrounded by their excited family, immediately caught my eye.

This is how I described the photo: “A photo of a bride and groom at their wedding ceremony. The rabbi is holding the groom’s hand, and the bride is clutching a bouquet of white flowers. The excited guests, apparently family, can be seen behind them looking up. My parents have a picture exactly like this … Do any of the readers recognize the people in the photograph above?”
“It’s a picture of my parents,” Dor told Al-Monitor, “but its provenance might disappoint you. It wasn’t taken in Iraq. It was shot in Ramat Gan [Israel], at the Kehilat Yesharim synagogue in August 1959, eight years after my parents immigrated to Israel.”

Yair’s father, Moshe Dor (Shohet), now 87, arrived in Israel from Iraq as part of Operation Ezra and Nehemiah, an Israeli-organized airlift that brought many members of the Iraqi Jewish community to Israel during 1950-52. He enlisted in the army and served in the Communication Corps, first as a soldier and then as a civilian contractor, until he retired at age 65. His wife, Rina, nee Aziz, had immigrated to Israel before him. They met in Israel and settled in Ramat Gan, which absorbed more Iraqi immigrants than any other city in the country. Rina worked for years as the secretary of Na’amat, the women’s organization affiliated with the Histadrut, until she retired. The couple had two children. Yair, the eldest, was a career soldier in the Israel Defense Forces who retired from the army with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

“My father was the first member of my family’s second generation [those born in Israel] to get married,” Dor told Al-Monitor. “One of my grandmother’s sisters flew to Istanbul to meet my father’s uncle, who stayed in Iraq after almost all of the community had immigrated to Israel, in 1951. She brought him the photo from his nephew’s, my father’s, wedding. That uncle took the photo back to Baghdad with him. The picture must have made its way to Saddam’s cellars after the Iraqis seized all Jewish property. That is our theory.”

Dor said that neither he nor his family knows from which family member in Iraq the photo was taken. “This picture hangs in my parents’ house, but also in my house and in my sister’s house too. It is the icon on my cell phone, when my parents call. Of course, we were surprised to see what happened to it. It’s a strange story, ” he said. “We knew that the Iraqis seized all sorts of documents [belonging to Jews], but no one would ever have expected to find it among those documents. It has absolutely no value in terms of intelligence. Its only value is sentimental.”

The government of Iraq and the National Archives are still engaged in a heated debate over who actually owns the Jewish archive. The Iraqi government insists, through its ambassador in Washington, that the archive must be returned to Iraq. The Iraqis claim that an archive telling the story of a community that lived in Iraq for centuries should be in the land of the Tigris and Euphrates and displayed at the Iraqi Archives for the public’s benefit. There are, however, no Jews left in Iraq. The last members of the community to leave were Yair Dor’s relatives. One uncle, Elias, immigrated to England in the early 1970s. A second uncle arrived in Israel in 2000.

Maurice Shohet, son of Elias Shohet, now serves as president of the World Organization of Jews from Iraq, based in New York. Obviously, the Iraqi Jewish organization is opposed to returning the archive to Baghdad. In addition, Maurice Shohet contends that the wedding photo of Dor’s parents was exhibited by mistake. He claims it was part of a photo album of his childhood in Iraq, which he donated to the National Archives.

Read article in full

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cairo holds tribute to journalist Eric Rouleau

The American University of Cairo is today holding a tribute to Eric Rouleau, the prominent Egyptian-born journalist and diplomat. Interestingly, this article in the Cairo Review of Global Affairs about Rouleau by the anti-Zionist Alain Gresh (the natural son of the Jewish Communist Henri Curiel) is rather full of contradictions.  He implies it  is  acceptable  to be a francophile; emigration to the ex-colonial France is to 'the real promised land'.  (In fact only 10, 000 Egyptian Jews fled to France, fewer than to Israel and to Brazil). It is acceptable to have Marxist leanings. The only thing that Gresh still holds beyond the pale is that 'narrow nationalism' - Zionism.  Yet Gresh admits that Egypt was once tolerant of Zionism, supported by Jews who gave alms without intending  to make aliya themselves. Gresh  blames the Arab-Israeli conflict - not the intolerant reaction to it resulting in Egypt's scapegoating of non-Muslims - for the antisemitism which resulted in the expulsion of Jews like Rouleau. 

Eric Rouleau, born Elie Raffoul in Cairo in 1926 , died in February 2015.(Photo: Al-Tanany publishing house )

"Elie Raffoul was not only Egyptian, francophone and francophile, but he was also Jewish. Yet how can one define a Jew? Anti-Semites tried in vain by inventing a race whose people they often reduced to religion. Israel has failed, too, in that regard. After all, how can one use the same term to describe believers and non-believers and people claiming to have a more or less vague Jewish culture, and others who reject it? Is a person Jewish by choice or is it the anti-Semite who makes the Jew, as Jean-Paul Sartre put it?

" Just like many young people, Rouleau faced an adolescent crisis and decided to become a rabbi, but he soon quit and lost his faith. Although the world of Talmudic studies definitely had a lot to lose, the field of journalism won considerably. Now turned atheist, Élie did not abandon his Jewish roots, but tried to understand their meaning. At the time, incredible as it might seem, Zionists enjoyed complete freedom of action in Egypt. The Jewish Agency was well-off in Cairo and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, the Jewish National Fund, established in 1901 and destined to develop land for Jewish settlement in Palestine, welcomed grants in synagogues. "Most often, the donors had no political incentive and only wanted to give alms," Rouleau recalled. Rouleau later turned to the Hashomer Hatzair movement, the "Youth Guard," an extreme leftist Zionist movement.

"The hundreds of adolescents who joined the movement participated in sports competitions, took Jewish history classes, and engaged in philosophical debates where the labor movement ideologists were prominently present," he said. Rouleau learned about Marxist thought, but he left the movement a year later, as his beliefs collided with its narrow nationalism and indifference to the conflicts raging in Egypt, even those against the colonial power. "I could not believe that all Egyptians were anti-Semitic, and I had no intention to emigrate," he said.

"Egypt's Jews felt they were Egyptian, and the Zionist siren song never bewitched them. In his book Un homme à part that was dedicated to Henri Curiel, Gilles Perrault beautifully wrote, "Apart from the Zionist minority, no one felt the need for a Jewish state or the urge to chant “L'an prochain à Jérusalem” when it was enough to take the 9:45 a.m. train to get there.

"The Arab-Israeli conflict made the lives of Egyptian Jews impossible. They were the victims of waves of judeophobia in the Arab World, and of the Israeli government's attempts to use them as fifth column. As a result, many were forced to emigrate to France, the real Promised Land. Nowadays, criticism of Zionism is often equated to hidden anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, during the first half of the twentieth century, the majority of Jews around the world were apathetic if not hostile to the Zionist project. Rouleau took himself for an Egyptian, and he was united with his compatriots beyond religion.

Read article in full 

My Egyptian-Jewish childhood

Monday, October 12, 2015

Yemen's Jews need help to get out

"It's just a slogan, we don't mean it literally." The Yemeni authorities have dismissed the cry 'death to the Jews' as rhetoric. However, the latest threat," convert to Islam, or leave!" is being taken seriously by Druze MK Ayoub Kara. Today he went to see Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss what might be done to save the few Jews remaining in the war-torn country. Informative article in the Washington Post.


Chief rabbi of the Jews in Yemen Yahya Yosef Mosa with his family carries a picture of the ousted president of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh in in his home in Sanaa. (photo :REUTERS)

"We need to act fast to get them out and we will do that, God willing,” Ayoub Kara, a Druze lawmaker with the right-wing Likud party, told the Jerusalem Post. Kara says that he had been contacted by a Yemenite Jew who had escaped the country by pretending to be a Muslim.

Yemen is in the midst of a civil war that the United Nations says has killed over 2,300 over six months. The capital of Sanaa is currently held by a group called the Houthis, a Shiite rebel group that originated from northwestern Yemen's Saada province and toppled the U.S.-backed government earlier this year. Since May, the Houthis have faced a Saudi-led coalition that supports exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Inspired by Iran, the regional Shiite power accused of backing the Houthi rebels, the Yemeni group have used anti-Semitism as a rallying cry for over a decade. “Death to America, death to Israel, damnation to the Jews," goes a slogan widely used by the Houthis, though the Houthis themselves have suggested that no one should worry about it.

Earlier this year, the New York Times' Rod Nordland said that when he talked to a Houthi leader, he was told it was "just a slogan, we don't mean it literally." Houthi authorities have said that their problem is with Israel, not with the Jews who live in Yemen.

Yemen's Jewish community have a history in southern Arabia that stretches back to the time of King Solomon. After the rise of Islam, they appeared to have a tenuous though mostly peaceful relationship with their Muslim neighbors, though there were periods of violence and pogroms. Following the creation of Israel in 1948 there were anti-Semitic riots in the southern Yemen port of Aden. Over the next few years, British and American planes transported tens of thousands of Jews out of the country for a new life in Yemen: The mission was nicknamed Operation Magic Carpet ride.

In the years that followed, many other Jews left the country, fleeing not only persecution but also the chaos and fighting that flared up in the country. According to Charles Schmitz, a professor of geography at Towson University and an expert on Yemen, most of the Jews that remained in the country lived in the far north, near the Houthis traditional power base, without too much friction. However, as the conflict in Yemen intensified over the past 15 years, the Houthis developed a "rigid religious ideology," Schmitz explains.

As The Post's Sudarsan Raghavan wrote in 2009, when the Houthi rebels began their fight against the government in the early 2000s, they would often target Jewish property. In 2007, the Jewish community in Saada say they were sent an ultimatum:  "You should leave the area, or we will kidnap you and slaughter you," is how one rabbi described it. A number of members of the Jewish community were killed. Ali Abdullah Saleh, then the president of Yemen, stepped in to help the Jews in Yemen's north, relocating them at government expense to a gated community known as Tourist City near Sanaa.

When Saleh was toppled from power in 2012, some Jews expressed fears for their future. "He ran Yemen like a fiefdom, he neglected people and stole natural resources, but as a Jew my family and I were protected by him," Suleiman Habib, one of the small number of Jews remaining in Tourist City, told Time Magazine. Saleh does still remains a powerful force in Yemen. However, in the chaotic Yemen of 2015, he has found himself allied with the Houthis: He himself comes from the same Zaydi Shiite sect that forms a key part of the Houthi identity. A spokesperson for Saleh's office told the Jerusalem Post that Kara's concerns about Yemen's Jews were unfounded.

Read article in full 

Arutz Sheva article