Monday, November 30, 2015

Commemorating Jewish refugees in Oz


Jewish refugees arriving in Israel

 Today, 30 November, Jewish organisations around the world are preparing to commemorate the exodus of almost a million Jews from Arab countries. The Australian Board of Deputies are holding a commemorative event at the Sydney Jewish Museum. Article in the Australian Jewish News:

MAURICE Cohen’s family was expelled from Cairo in 1957. “We were expelled with nothing – we left with little possessions, no money, no nothing.”
Cohen is one of around 800,000 Jews whose families had lived in Arab lands for centuries, that were expelled from their countries in the years leading up to and following the establishment of the State of Israel. While the Palestinian refugee issue remains a hot global topic, history has largely forgotten these Jewish refugees. Article in the Australian Jewish News:

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) hopes to address that deficiency, locally at least, with an inaugural annual event recognising the plight of these refugees and the contribution of those who settled in Australia to the local community.

“The 800,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Iran are too often omitted from the narrative of the events of 1948,” JBOD CEO Vic Alhadeff told The AJN.

“This event is an important step in restoring this highly significant chapter of our history to its rightful place. Knowledge of the Jewish refugee story is essential to understanding the historical context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Added Cohen: “Middle Eastern Jewry were really a rich culture, a dynamic religious group.
“The issue of these Jews has never really been at the forefront; it’s taken a while, but I commend the fact. It’s a wonderful idea.”


 Read article in full


Gila Gamliel, social equality minister who is spearheading the official commemoration of the Jewish refugees today, 30 November, has proposed offering a Prime Minister's Award to researchers and academia on research in the field of Jewish heritage from Arab countries and Iran. Prime minister Netanyahu has called for instruction in schools and universities on Mizrahi heritage be expanded.


Read article in full (Hebrew) - with thanks Eliyahu)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Pakistan's last Jew denied ID change


Decades of persecution of religious minorities have driven almost all of Pakistan's Jews out of the country. Any that remain keep their Jewish identities a secret, a Westminster parliamentary hearing into Religious Freedom chaired by Lord Alton heard recently. Report in the Jewish Chronicle by Simon Caldwell:

Fishel Benkhald is the exception. He calls himself Pakistan's only "self-declared" Jew.

His mother is Jewish but, because his father is a Muslim, the Pakistani authorities are refusing to recognise his Jewish identity.

Mr Benkhald's ambition has been to rebuild a demolished synagogue in Karachi and to restore the Jewish cemetery there.
But before applying for permission to embark on the project, he felt it necessary to register his Jewish faith and race with the authorities.

It emerged last week that NADRA, the Pakistani government department that handles citizenship, had thrown out his request.

Mr Benkhald said a seemingly relentless tide of antisemitic propaganda in the country had spurred him to publicly assert his true identity.

He acknowledged that it was "dangerous" to come out as a Jew in Pakistan, but added: "My political side outgrew my fear. I felt less hesitant about claiming my religion more publicly than I would have before.

Pakistan is one of those states without Jews who blame Jews for everything
"My dream is to gain empathy. Later I will try and get help and start the process for a small synagogue."

Applying to change his religious identity was worthwhile just to be able to document the response of the government, he said.

The revelation that there is now just one openly Jewish person living in Pakistan emerged at a private meeting in Parliament about human rights violations in the south Asian country.

Lyn Julius of Harif, the UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, told the meeting that in 1947, the year of Pakistan's partition from India, there were an estimated 3,000 Jews living in the country.

The Jews formed part of a distinguished professional class and included Moses Somake, who designed many of Karachi's landmarks, and Leopold Weiss, who helped to draft Pakistan's constitution.

"Hostility began in 1947 when Mohajir Muslim refugees from India ransacked Jewish sites and places of worship," Mrs Julius told the hearing.

"They burnt the Karachi synagogue. Every time there was a war in the Middle East, the Jews suffered the repercussions.

"In 1948, most Jews left for Israel, and the population continued to decline so that after 1967 there were only 350 Jews left.

"In 1988, the Magen Shalom synagogue in Karachi was demolished under Zia al-Huq and a shopping centre was built on the site."

The last recognised Pakistani Jew, she said, was Rachel Joseph, who died in 2006 at the age of 88 after campaigning without success for a small synagogue.
Mrs Julius said: "The end of the Jewish community in Pakistan has not meant the end of antisemitism.

"Pakistan has joined the ranks of states without Jews who blame the Jews for everything that goes wrong.

"They imagine that the Jews are engaged in a global conspiracy to control the world," she added. "Having got rid of their Jews, they think they have expelled the virus, but it is they who are suffering from a pathology. Targeting minorities is a sign of a sick society."

Read article in full

Friday, November 27, 2015

Remember Jewish refugees on 30 November


On 23 June 2014, the Israeli Knesset passed a law designating 30 November as an official date in the calendar to remember the uprooting of almost one million Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran in the last 60 years. Lyn Julius of Harif explains in the Huffington Post why it is important:

Refugees in a ma'abara tent camp in Israel

The date chosen was 30 November - to recall the day after the UN passed the 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine. Violence, following bloodcurdling threats by Arab leaders, erupted against Jewish communities. The riots resulted in the mass exodus of Jews from the Arab world, the seizure of their property and assets and the destruction of their millennarian, pre-Islamic communities. In 1979, the Islamic revolution resulted in the exodus of four-fifths of the Iranian-Jewish community.

Refugees are much in the news these days. Until the mass population displacement caused by wars in Iraq and Syria, however, the world thought that 'Middle Eastern refugee' was synonymous with 'Palestinian refugee.' Yet there were more Jews displaced from Arab countries than Palestinians (850, 000, as against 711,000 according to UN figures.)

The majority of Jewish refugees found a haven in Israel. For peace, it is important that all bona fide refugees be treated equally, yet Jewish refugee rights have never adequately been addressed. The 30 November commemoration is first and foremost a call for truth and reconciliation.

The Jewish refugee issue is more than simply a question to be resolved at the negotiating table. It is a symptom of the Arab and Muslim world's deep psychosis - an inability to tolerate the non-Arab, non-Muslim Other.

Today, both Muslim sects and non-Muslim minorities are being persecuted in the Middle East, but people are apt to forget that the Jews were one of the first. As the saying goes, 'First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.' And it does not stop there. A state that devours its minorities ends up devouring itself.
This Arab/Muslim psychosis is the product of fundamentalist ideologies, many of them Nazi-inspired, which took root in the first half of 20th century. These ideological forces left a legacy of state-sanctioned bigotry and religiously-motivated terrorism. That legacy is with us today, in the atrocities in Paris, in Mali and in the stabbings on Israel's streets.

There are no Jewish refugees today - they have been successfully absorbed in Israel and the West. They have rebuilt their lives without fuss. They don't expect much in the way of compensation. But former refugees do demand their place in memory and history.

The Israeli government is telling the Jewish refugee story at the UN on 1 December. From Amsterdam to Sydney, Toronto to Geneva, Liverpool to New York, San Francisco to London, Jewish organisations worldwide - my own (Harif) included - are organising lectures, film screening and discussions.

Read article in full 

Same article in The Algemeiner 

It's time to remember the other refugees on 30 November (Jewish Weekly)








'My grandfather lost three siblings in Farhud'

 This Facebook post by Binyamin Arazi  is remarkable in its power and pathos. It brings home the suffering of ordinary Jews - somebody's grandfather, uncle, mother. That's why Jewish organisations, schools and Israeli embassies worldwide are  commemorating the exodus of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran this month, culminating on 30 November.

Destruction following anti-Jewish riots in Aleppo, 1947

Until the 1950's, my grandfather's family lived in the Jewish quarter of Baghdad, where they had been since the Babylonian exile. As for my grandmother, her family lived in Aleppo. As Jews, they both suffered under a system known as 'dhimmitude', which had been in place since the 7th century Arab/Islamic conquests. For centuries, we lived as second class citizens. All of that changed during the second world war, when Haj Amin al-Husseini (the British-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem and an ally of the Nazis) began broadcasting Nazi propaganda throughout the Arab world.

This culminated in a wave of deadly massacres against Jews all over the Middle East. The second most notable of these is the Farhud (Arabic for "Violent Dispossession"), of which my grandfather and his family were victims. He lost 3 of his siblings that day, and one of them was an infant. The rioters caught up to his mother, who was carrying his baby brother. They ripped him straight out of his mother's arms and cut him to pieces, right in front of her. His older brothers were eventually lynched and burned in the town center. There were crowds of people joyously dancing under their rotting corpses. All of that being said, the massacre most people remember was the (failed) extermination attempt carried out in 1948 by six Arab armies. We all know how that one ended.

By 1949, my grandfather's situation became unbearable. He and his family were eventually able to leave Iraq, but all of their money and property was seized by the government. They were officially forbidden from ever returning. In Syria, my grandmother was effectively trapped, since the government feared that any Jew who left Syria would wind up in Israel. Massacres against Jews were increasingly commonplace, particularly in her hometown of Aleppo. The community there was completely destroyed, Jewish bank accounts were frozen, and our property was taken by the government and handed over to Arabs. They were soon smuggled out of Syria and made their way to Tel Aviv, where my uncle still resides.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

'Baba Joon' : struggles of stubborn Iranian Jews

Israeli director Yuval Delshad's award-winning film Baba Joon is playing to packed houses at film festivals. It stars an Iranian Muslim, Navid Negahban, playing a turkey farmer who is hoping his son Moti will take over the business. Report by Orly Minazad in LA Weekly.


Navid Negahban plays an old-school Jewish-Iranian trying to navigate religious and cultural divides

Baba Joon — which means “daddy dearest” — is the first film to shine a light on the struggle of Jewish Iranians to build a new home following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. Outside of L.A., Israel boasts one of the world’s largest Iranian Jewish populations.

As important as the film is for exploring the culture of a marginalized minority, it also hit a lot of nerves for its cynical portrayal of die-hard Judaism (where a blessing of good fortune and happiness is literally for sale to the highest bidder) and for its depiction of the stereotypical, old-school, belt-whipping Middle Eastern father.

Nonetheless, Baba Joon has earned five Academy Ophir Awards (Israeli Oscars) including best picture and is Israel’s best submission in the foreign-language category for the 2016 Oscars, a major achievement for an Iranian-Israeli film considering the recent and continuous conflict between Israel and Iran (and pretty much all surrounding countries).
“One of the things that I like about this film is that it went above and beyond all prejudice,” Negahban says. “We had such a diverse group of people working with us, Arabs and Israelis. We really became a family.”

Delshad, a distant relative of Jimmy Delshad, former mayor of Beverly Hills, was somewhat inspired by his own experience when writing this story about three generations of stubborn Jewish Iranian men trying to navigate domestic life through cultural and religious divides.

The film shifts back and forth between Hebrew and Persian (cast members often had no idea what the others were saying), sprinkled with some English and chock full of proverbs (“if a branch doesn’t bend in a storm, it breaks” or “they pet the horse with one hand and pull the tail with the other”) — the preferred communication device for Iranians.

Negahban plays Yizkhak, a turkey farmer who hopes his son, Moti, will take over the business the same way he did from his father, who moved the farm from Iran to Israel. Moti, played by talented 14-year-old first-time actor Asher Avrahami, has no intention of doing so.

“When I chose Navid, for me he was the anchor,” Delshad says. “I knew that I’m set. I built the family around him.”

The story is male-dominated; the sole female role is Yitzkhak’s wife, Sarah, played by Iranian-British actress Viss Elliot Safavi. “I think it’s more interesting that she didn’t have a sisterhood,” says Safavi, who, as Sarah, is a seemingly quiet wife busying herself with the task of mending broken egos and actual broken backs.

Safavi even grew out her eyebrows for Negahban to pluck in a very intimate and eerily erotic scene. (Just imagine Abu Nazir aiming a sharp pointy object at your eye over and over again.)

The plot centers around a visit from the dapper American uncle (and prodigal son) Darius, after which all hell — and some turkeys — break loose. Darius is the uncle you want to get drunk with at family get-togethers. He’s funny, charismatic and quick to reveal dark family secrets and exhume years of buried rage.

“I love the positive teachings of all faiths, but we know about some of the problems blind faith creates,” says David Diaan, who plays Darius. “One of the things I think Yuval did masterfully was [express] his criticism of that kind of religious practice.”

Read article in full

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

How Cynthia Shamash became a permanent exile

 "Exile is a genetic mutation that stays with you,"says Cynthia Kaplan Shamash, who was forced to flee Iraq aged 9 with her family in 1973. Listen to her being interviewed by Sarah Ivry of The Tablet.

The steady stream of people currently fleeing Syria for Europe is a sobering sight, but it’s not a new one. The plight of refugees all over the world is age-old. Cynthia Kaplan Shamash was a child refugee in 1972, when her family—among Iraq’s last Jews—tried to flee their homeland. Their first attempt was thwarted, and the family landed in jail. A second attempt was a success; Cynthia is now a dentist in the United States, but the family’s itinerancy came with great personal losses.

 Cynthia with a younger brother: she is now a dentist in the US

In The Strangers We Became: Lessons in Exile From One of Iraq’s Last Jews, Shamash details her family’s exile from Iraq to Israel to the Netherlands. She joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss her mother’s bravery in the face of Iraqi police, her father’s sense of dishonor once exiled, and what she feels when she sees news of desperate refugees coming out of the Middle East now.

Read article in full




Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Yemenite baby conspiracy lives on

 The mystery of the disappeared Yemenite babies in the chaotic first years of the Israeli state won't die - although three investigative commissions have found no evidence that the babies were deliberately taken from their families for adoption. Eeta Prince-Gibson reports for The Tablet:
 
 Nurses in Rosh Ya'hayin, a ma'abara for Yemenite refugees
 
Reluctantly, Salame Ozeri opens the door to her small apartment in the back of a plain stucco building in Hadar Yosef, a working-class community in Tel Aviv. “What’s the point in talking? It won’t bring him back, will it?” she says.

She sits down at the large dining room table that takes up much of the living space. The heat is oppressive, and she frequently wipes the sweat, and the occasional tear, from her dark, heavily lined face. Once she starts to speak, the words come quickly. Now nearly 79 years old, her Hebrew is not fluent, and she fills in the words she doesn’t know in Yemenite-inflected Arabic.

“I had my first baby when I was 13, in Yemen,” Ozeri says. “And I was pregnant when I came to Israel in 1949. We lived in tents, in the cold, in the rain. I gave birth to my baby in the tent, and a few days later they came and took me to the hospital. They threw me on a bed in the corridor. I didn’t know Hebrew, I had to beg for water. I was still bleeding.

“They let me nurse my baby, then they took him away, and said they’d take care of him. Then they told me to go home. I said, ‘I’ll go home, but give me my baby.’ They said the baby shouldn’t be in a tent in the winter, and they would take care of him.

“But then the days passed and it was time for his brit. So, we went back and they told me he was gone. Gone? What does gone mean? I told them that I came from Yemen with him in my tummy and I wouldn’t leave without him. … Then they told me they’d already given him a brit, because they thought I wouldn’t come back. They named him Ben-Ami”—son of my people. “But he wasn’t the son of the people—he was my son!”

Ozeri snatched Ben-Ami back and fled back to her tent. Ben-Ami grew up, she says, to be “a wonderful man.” He died of liver disease when he was 40.
But the child they named Abraham, born six years later, also disappeared, and was never returned.

Read article in full

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Jewish and Muslim merchants of Djerba


Fascinating article in Middle East Eye into the jewellery trade which keeps the Jews of Djerba afloat. Tourism is dead, but times are busy in the run-up to Muslim feasts. 
DJERBA – These are busy times for Nissem Bittan, a Jewish jewellery salesman in the heart of the old city of Houmt Souk. Customers keep walking into his shop, which seems to be constructed solely out of lavishly plastered ceilings and walls and handcarved wooden showcases.

 The al-Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba (photo: MEE/ Rik Goverde)

The customers dig deep in their pockets and take out jewels and gold they want to sell. It’s just before Eid al-Adha and people on Djerba are running out of money. On the island just off the coast of Tunisia tourism is the main source of income, but it became almost non-existent after terrorists hit the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March and the beaches of Sousse in June, leaving almost 60 dead in total.

“People don’t have money but they still want to buy a sheep for their family (as part of the Eid tradition). So they sell their jewelry to us,” says Bittan, a 52-year-old in shorts and a striped shirt who was born and raised on Djerba.

Bittan runs one of the many jewellery stores in the old city of Houmt Souk, the small capital of Djerba. In those narrow streets, Jews and Muslim merchants have been working side by side for centuries, relatively secluded from the outside world. He has Muslim friends, Bittan says, although they don’t really come over to each others houses for dinner a lot and "there are certainly no inter-marriages" between the two religious groups. “In Tunis that might happen... maybe,” he says. “The Jews there are a bit more liberal. But here, no. It’s a religious thing, we don’t blend. But we still respect each other.”

 Taoufik Mihoub (right) with his friend Youssef Yaich (photo: MEE/Rik Goverde)

In the last few weeks the two worlds on the island overlapped even more than usual, as the Jewish Yom Kippur and the Muslim Eid al-Adha were celebrated in the same week. “Sometimes we give each other gifts on days of feast,” says Taoufik Mihoub (49), a Muslim who has been without much work since tourism in Tunisia collapsed.

He sits in the jewellery shop of his friend Youssef Yaich (48) on one of the corners of the Rue de Bizerte. “I drop by whenever I’m in the neigbourhood and we talk a bit. Friendship between Jews and Muslims is normal here.” Maybe even more so than among the Jewish salesmen themselves, Mihoub says. “They may not tell you, but there's sometimes a lot of jealousy between them because the competition in the sector is so hard.”

DJERBA – These are busy times for Nissem Bittan, a Jewish jewellery salesman in the heart of the old city of Houmt Souk. Customers keep walking into his shop, which seems to be constructed solely out of lavishly plastered ceilings and walls and handcarved wooden showcases.
The customers dig deep in their pockets and take out jewels and gold they want to sell. It’s just before Eid al-Adha and people on Djerba are running out of money. On the island just off the coast of Tunisia tourism is the main source of income, but it became almost non-existent after terrorists hit the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March and the beaches of Sousse in June, leaving almost 60 dead in total.
Map of the island of Djerba off the coast of Tunisia (screenshot from Google maps)
“People don’t have money but they still want to buy a sheep for their family (as part of the Eid tradition). So they sell their jewelry to us,” says Bittan, a 52-year-old in shorts and a striped shirt who was born and raised on Djerba.
Bittan runs one of the many jewellery stores in the old city of Houmt Souk, the small capital of Djerba. In those narrow streets, Jews and Muslim merchants have been working side by side for centuries, relatively secluded from the outside world. He has Muslim friends, Bittan says, although they don’t really come over to each others houses for dinner a lot and "there are certainly no inter-marriages" between the two religious groups. “In Tunis that might happen... maybe,” he says. “The Jews there are a bit more liberal. But here, no. It’s a religious thing, we don’t blend. But we still respect each other.”

Gifts for the feasts

In the last few weeks the two worlds on the island overlapped even more than usual, as the Jewish Yom Kippur and the Muslim Eid al-Adha were celebrated in the same week. “Sometimes we give each other gifts on days of feast,” says Taoufik Mihoub (49), a Muslim who has been without much work since tourism in Tunisia collapsed.
He sits in the jewellery shop of his friend Youssef Yaich (48) on one of the corners of the Rue de Bizerte. “I drop by whenever I’m in the neigbourhood and we talk a bit. Friendship between Jews and Muslims is normal here.” Maybe even more so than among the Jewish salesmen themselves, Mihoub says. “They may not tell you, but there's sometimes a lot of jealousy between them because the competition in the sector is so hard.”
The friends Taoufik Mihoub (left) and Youssef Yaich in the jewellery store of Yaich (MEE/Rik Goverde)
- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/merchants-djerba-65609773#sthash.NSK3kDXy.dpuf
DJERBA – These are busy times for Nissem Bittan, a Jewish jewellery salesman in the heart of the old city of Houmt Souk. Customers keep walking into his shop, which seems to be constructed solely out of lavishly plastered ceilings and walls and handcarved wooden showcases.
The customers dig deep in their pockets and take out jewels and gold they want to sell. It’s just before Eid al-Adha and people on Djerba are running out of money. On the island just off the coast of Tunisia tourism is the main source of income, but it became almost non-existent after terrorists hit the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March and the beaches of Sousse in June, leaving almost 60 dead in total.
Map of the island of Djerba off the coast of Tunisia (screenshot from Google maps)
“People don’t have money but they still want to buy a sheep for their family (as part of the Eid tradition). So they sell their jewelry to us,” says Bittan, a 52-year-old in shorts and a striped shirt who was born and raised on Djerba.
Bittan runs one of the many jewellery stores in the old city of Houmt Souk, the small capital of Djerba. In those narrow streets, Jews and Muslim merchants have been working side by side for centuries, relatively secluded from the outside world. He has Muslim friends, Bittan says, although they don’t really come over to each others houses for dinner a lot and "there are certainly no inter-marriages" between the two religious groups. “In Tunis that might happen... maybe,” he says. “The Jews there are a bit more liberal. But here, no. It’s a religious thing, we don’t blend. But we still respect each other.”

Gifts for the feasts

In the last few weeks the two worlds on the island overlapped even more than usual, as the Jewish Yom Kippur and the Muslim Eid al-Adha were celebrated in the same week. “Sometimes we give each other gifts on days of feast,” says Taoufik Mihoub (49), a Muslim who has been without much work since tourism in Tunisia collapsed.
He sits in the jewellery shop of his friend Youssef Yaich (48) on one of the corners of the Rue de Bizerte. “I drop by whenever I’m in the neigbourhood and we talk a bit. Friendship between Jews and Muslims is normal here.” Maybe even more so than among the Jewish salesmen themselves, Mihoub says. “They may not tell you, but there's sometimes a lot of jealousy between them because the competition in the sector is so hard.”
The friends Taoufik Mihoub (left) and Youssef Yaich in the jewellery store of Yaich (MEE/Rik Goverde)
- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/merchants-djerba-65609773#sthash.ch4y1tW4.dpuf
DJERBA – These are busy times for Nissem Bittan, a Jewish jewellery salesman in the heart of the old city of Houmt Souk. Customers keep walking into his shop, which seems to be constructed solely out of lavishly plastered ceilings and walls and handcarved wooden showcases.
The customers dig deep in their pockets and take out jewels and gold they want to sell. It’s just before Eid al-Adha and people on Djerba are running out of money. On the island just off the coast of Tunisia tourism is the main source of income, but it became almost non-existent after terrorists hit the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March and the beaches of Sousse in June, leaving almost 60 dead in total.
Map of the island of Djerba off the coast of Tunisia (screenshot from Google maps)
“People don’t have money but they still want to buy a sheep for their family (as part of the Eid tradition). So they sell their jewelry to us,” says Bittan, a 52-year-old in shorts and a striped shirt who was born and raised on Djerba.
Bittan runs one of the many jewellery stores in the old city of Houmt Souk, the small capital of Djerba. In those narrow streets, Jews and Muslim merchants have been working side by side for centuries, relatively secluded from the outside world. He has Muslim friends, Bittan says, although they don’t really come over to each others houses for dinner a lot and "there are certainly no inter-marriages" between the two religious groups. “In Tunis that might happen... maybe,” he says. “The Jews there are a bit more liberal. But here, no. It’s a religious thing, we don’t blend. But we still respect each other.”

Gifts for the feasts

In the last few weeks the two worlds on the island overlapped even more than usual, as the Jewish Yom Kippur and the Muslim Eid al-Adha were celebrated in the same week. “Sometimes we give each other gifts on days of feast,” says Taoufik Mihoub (49), a Muslim who has been without much work since tourism in Tunisia collapsed.
He sits in the jewellery shop of his friend Youssef Yaich (48) on one of the corners of the Rue de Bizerte. “I drop by whenever I’m in the neigbourhood and we talk a bit. Friendship between Jews and Muslims is normal here.” Maybe even more so than among the Jewish salesmen themselves, Mihoub says. “They may not tell you, but there's sometimes a lot of jealousy between them because the competition in the sector is so hard.”
The friends Taoufik Mihoub (left) and Youssef Yaich in the jewellery store of Yaich (MEE/Rik Goverde)
- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/merchants-djerba-65609773#sthash.ch4y1tW4.dpuf
DJERBA – These are busy times for Nissem Bittan, a Jewish jewellery salesman in the heart of the old city of Houmt Souk. Customers keep walking into his shop, which seems to be constructed solely out of lavishly plastered ceilings and walls and handcarved wooden showcases.
The customers dig deep in their pockets and take out jewels and gold they want to sell. It’s just before Eid al-Adha and people on Djerba are running out of money. On the island just off the coast of Tunisia tourism is the main source of income, but it became almost non-existent after terrorists hit the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March and the beaches of Sousse in June, leaving almost 60 dead in total.
Map of the island of Djerba off the coast of Tunisia (screenshot from Google maps)
“People don’t have money but they still want to buy a sheep for their family (as part of the Eid tradition). So they sell their jewelry to us,” says Bittan, a 52-year-old in shorts and a striped shirt who was born and raised on Djerba.
Bittan runs one of the many jewellery stores in the old city of Houmt Souk, the small capital of Djerba. In those narrow streets, Jews and Muslim merchants have been working side by side for centuries, relatively secluded from the outside world. He has Muslim friends, Bittan says, although they don’t really come over to each others houses for dinner a lot and "there are certainly no inter-marriages" between the two religious groups. “In Tunis that might happen... maybe,” he says. “The Jews there are a bit more liberal. But here, no. It’s a religious thing, we don’t blend. But we still respect each other.”

Gifts for the feasts

In the last few weeks the two worlds on the island overlapped even more than usual, as the Jewish Yom Kippur and the Muslim Eid al-Adha were celebrated in the same week. “Sometimes we give each other gifts on days of feast,” says Taoufik Mihoub (49), a Muslim who has been without much work since tourism in Tunisia collapsed.
He sits in the jewellery shop of his friend Youssef Yaich (48) on one of the corners of the Rue de Bizerte. “I drop by whenever I’m in the neigbourhood and we talk a bit. Friendship between Jews and Muslims is normal here.” Maybe even more so than among the Jewish salesmen themselves, Mihoub says. “They may not tell you, but there's sometimes a lot of jealousy between them because the competition in the sector is so hard.”
The friends Taoufik Mihoub (left) and Youssef Yaich in the jewellery store of Yaich (MEE/Rik Goverde)
- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/merchants-djerba-65609773#sthash.ch4y1tW4.dpuf
DJERBA – These are busy times for Nissem Bittan, a Jewish jewellery salesman in the heart of the old city of Houmt Souk. Customers keep walking into his shop, which seems to be constructed solely out of lavishly plastered ceilings and walls and handcarved wooden showcases.
The customers dig deep in their pockets and take out jewels and gold they want to sell. It’s just before Eid al-Adha and people on Djerba are running out of money. On the island just off the coast of Tunisia tourism is the main source of income, but it became almost non-existent after terrorists hit the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March and the beaches of Sousse in June, leaving almost 60 dead in total.
Map of the island of Djerba off the coast of Tunisia (screenshot from Google maps)
“People don’t have money but they still want to buy a sheep for their family (as part of the Eid tradition). So they sell their jewelry to us,” says Bittan, a 52-year-old in shorts and a striped shirt who was born and raised on Djerba.
Bittan runs one of the many jewellery stores in the old city of Houmt Souk, the small capital of Djerba. In those narrow streets, Jews and Muslim merchants have been working side by side for centuries, relatively secluded from the outside world. He has Muslim friends, Bittan says, although they don’t really come over to each others houses for dinner a lot and "there are certainly no inter-marriages" between the two religious groups. “In Tunis that might happen... maybe,” he says. “The Jews there are a bit more liberal. But here, no. It’s a religious thing, we don’t blend. But we still respect each other.”

Gifts for the feasts

In the last few weeks the two worlds on the island overlapped even more than usual, as the Jewish Yom Kippur and the Muslim Eid al-Adha were celebrated in the same week. “Sometimes we give each other gifts on days of feast,” says Taoufik Mihoub (49), a Muslim who has been without much work since tourism in Tunisia collapsed.
He sits in the jewellery shop of his friend Youssef Yaich (48) on one of the corners of the Rue de Bizerte. “I drop by whenever I’m in the neigbourhood and we talk a bit. Friendship between Jews and Muslims is normal here.” Maybe even more so than among the Jewish salesmen themselves, Mihoub says. “They may not tell you, but there's sometimes a lot of jealousy between them because the competition in the sector is so hard.”
The friends Taoufik Mihoub (left) and Youssef Yaich in the jewellery store of Yaich (MEE/Rik Goverde)
- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/merchants-djerba-65609773#sthash.ch4y1tW4.dpuf

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Jewish refugee story must not be forgotten

Jewish organisations worldwide are preparing to mark  30 November, the day designated by the Israeli Knesset to remember the exodus of almost a million Jews from the Arab world and Iran. Lyn Julius recalls one Iraqi-Jewish girl's trauma in the Times of Israel:
Jews executed in Baghdad in 1969 as 'Zionist spies': some were teenagers

Linda Hakim left Iraq for London in 1970. But she has never been able to shake off the fear she had felt growing up as a Jew.

She heard mobs in Baghdad, after Israel’s Six Day War victory, screaming ‘death to Israel, death to the Jews.” 

She escaped a lynch mob only when her fast-thinking headmaster bundled her and a group of Jewish students into his VW Beetle.

She will never forget the TV spectacle of nine innocent Jews — some only teenagers — swinging from the gallows in Baghdad’s main square in 1969 as hundreds of thousands sang and danced under the bodies.

Even when her family had boarded the plane bound for London having abandoned their home and possessions, they could not let down their guard. The Iraqi police arrested a classmate of Linda’s and escorted him off the plane. Even today, every time she sees a police uniform, Linda’s heart races.

Linda found a haven in England, and her children have grown up in freedom, tolerance and acceptance. But in its obsession with Palestinian refugees, the world has never recognised the trauma that a greater number of Jewish refugees from 10 Arab lands and post-1979 Iran went through — human rights violations, wholesale robbery, seizure of property, internment, even execution. The ethnic cleansing of the Arab world’s Jews preceded the persecution of its Christians, its Yazidis and others.

On 23 June 2014, the government of Israel adopted a law to designate 30 November the annual national Day of Commemoration for the 850,000 Jewish refugees who were displaced from Arab countries and Iran in the 20th century. This year, Jewish organisations, schools and Israeli embassies around the world will be observing the Day — from San Francisco to Toronto, Liverpool to Geneva,  Tel Aviv to Amsterdam, Lisbon to New York — with conferences, film screenings, lectures.

The UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa — Harif — was founded ten years ago in order to remember the Middle East and North Africa’s Jewish history and heritage.

To mark ‘Jewish Refugee Day’ we in London are staging the UK premiere of the award-winning documentary  ‘Arab Movie’ by Eyal Sagui Bisawi at 1 pm on Sunday 29 November. Our official commemoration is on 30  November at a central London synagogue and is being organised in partnership with the S&P Sephardi community and the Israeli embassy.

Refugees like Linda and their descendants make up more than half Israel’s Jews. To-date, their voices have been muffled, their stories unheard, their rights trampled on.

The anti-Semitism they suffered in Arab lands is still with us today. It has morphed into religious jihad — whether in the stabbings on Israel’s streets or in an attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris.

The story of Jewish refugees like Linda has been expunged from the history of the Middle East and North Africa. We owe it to truth and justice not to let that story be forgotten.

Friday, November 20, 2015

'Exilarch' Sir Naim Dangoor dies, aged 101

Point of No Return is saddened to learn of the passing of Sir Naim Dangoor, CBE, aged 101.

Born in Baghdad in 1914, Sir Naim - he was knighted in June 2015 - was a great philanthropist and entrepreneur. He introduced Coca Cola in Iraq, but  also pioneered the promotion of the issue of Jewish refugees from Iraq and their fight for justice after he was forced to leave in 1963. He re-established a thriving business in the UK and for 35 years, he published the journal, The Scribe - a vehicle for documenting the rich history of the Iraqi Jewish community. 

 Sir Naim Dangoor z"l

On the occasion of the 100th birthday which Sir Naim shared with the Coca Cola bottle, the US multinational published this tribute.

 His Wikipedia entry reads as follows:

"In the 1930s Sir Naim made the five-day journey from Baghdad to London, at the age of 17, in order to enrol in an engineering degree at the University of London.[3] After graduating he returned to Iraq where he was conscripted to the army and became an officer. It was during his army training that he met his future business partner Ahmed Safwat.[4]

Naim Dangoor with his partner (right) Ahmed Safwat in Nice

Initially on leaving the army he had hoped to become an engineer on the railways, but due to restrictions imposed upon Jews this was not possible, so he and Ahmed, a Muslim, decided to go into business together, setting up Eastern Industries in 1949.

Their first contract was to supply new windows to all Iraqi government buildings, and soon their portfolio grew to include property development and letting.[5] In 1950, Eastern industries secured the first contract to bottle Coca Cola in Iraq.[6] Alongside Eastern Industries, Sir Naim also ran factories producing matches and furniture.

In November 1947 Sir Naim married Renée Dangoor (who had been crowned Miss Baghdad earlier that year).[7] They went on to have four sons.
With the rise of the Ba'ath party in Iraq, the situation for Jews in the country worsened and in 1959 Sir Naim took the difficult decision to take his family out. He continued travelling back and forth for business until 1963, when he decided that the worsening political situation made it too risky for him to return. As a result of laws specific to Jews, he lost his Iraqi citizenship, and his property and business interests were taken by the government.[8] He was eventually permitted to settle in the UK where he set about rebuilding his life, setting up a property business that his four sons went on to join.[9]

In order to preserve the heritage of the community he had left behind, soon after settling in the UK, he founded a community centre in West Kensington for new Iraqi Jewish immigrants, and in 1971 began editing and publishing "The Scribe", a "Journal of Babylonian Jewry", with 4000 subscribers in 25 countries which continued to be published for 35 years.[9][10]

In 1970 he revived the title of Exilarch - an ancient title held by the supreme leader of all the Jewish communities in Babylonia, up until the 13th Century.[11]
In 2003 he demanded £12 billion ($20 billion) from Iraq's leaders as compensation for what the Iraqi-Jewish community had lost in Iraq after the Second World War.[1]

As his business in the UK grew, he wanted to give back to the country that had taken him in. In 1980 he set up the Exilarch's Foundation, a chairty that has made numerous donations to causes relating to education and health.[12]

In 2004 he created the Dangoor Scholarships to help one thousand undergraduate students who had no family history of further education, at the 1994 Group of universities.[13]

A few years later in 2009 he created the Eliahou Dangoor Scholarships, in honour of his father. These were awarded to four thousand undergraduate students, with limited means, studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects. [14]

In the same year Sir Naim was made Honorary President for the Association of Jewish Academics from Iraq.[15]"

His first cousin and wife Renee pre-deceased him in 2008. He leaves four sons,  seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. 


 Renee Dangoor was crowned Miss Baghdad in 1947



 

Azerbaijan: a ray of light in a sea of intolerance

As far as Muslim-majority states go, Azerbaijan, with its 12, 000 - strong Jewish community, is a ray of light in a sea of darkness. Even during the Soviet era, the state prided itself on its tradition of tolerance towards minorities. Peter Rothholz wrote up his visit for JNS :

The summer synagogue in the 'Jewish village' of Quba has no security guards

At a time when thousands of Jews are fleeing rampant anti-Semitism in France, the United Kingdom, and other European countries, there is one country where “it’s becoming attractive even for some people to come back” from Israel and other countries to which they had previously emigrated. According to Rabbi Shneor Segal, the Israeli-born rabbi of The Jewish Community of European Jews in Baku, that country is Azerbaijan.

Located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea and bordered by Iran, Armenia, Georgia, and Russia, Azerbaijan has a Jewish community that traces its roots back some 2,000 years. Throughout that period—and even during the years from 1920 to 1991, when it was a part of the Soviet Union—Azerbaijan has prided itself on its tradition of tolerance and acceptance of minorities. Among the country’s population of 9 million, 95 percent are Muslim and about 12,000 residents are Jews.

As part of a recent delegation to Azerbaijan from Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, I visited six synagogues there, as well as a Jewish day school and Jewish Community Center. There were no police, private guards, or noticeable security measures at those sites, unlike a city such as Los Angeles and many European cities. Azeri Jews can also walk the streets wearing yarmulkes without fear of being harassed.

Azeri Jews participate fully in the social and economic life of the country without reference to their religion or ethnicity. Education is free from grade school through university, so individuals are limited only by ability and ambition. When our delegation asked the Hon. Tatiana Goldman, a Jewish member of the Azeri Supreme Court, about the effect of her Jewishness on her career and life, she replied, “I don’t even think about it. I think about my work.”

Read article in full

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Muslim calls to reconnect with Jews from Iraq


With thanks: Janet
 
 Adnan al-Jaf'ari calls for recognition of the Jews

As 30 November draws near - the date in the calendar designated as a Day to commemorate the exodus of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa - a young Iraqi Muslim has issued a call for recognition.

Adnan al-Jaf'ari demands that the Iraqi government recognise the plight of the Iraqi Jews. We wants them to honour their loyalty and their tremendous contribution to Iraq. He even wants them to reconnect with all Iraqi Jews including those who live with their descendants in Israel.

Al-Jafa'ri recorded his message on 'the Confrontation Channel.' It is not known how many Iraqis support al-Jafa'ari's views, but the existence of the Confrontation Channel is proof that the younger generation is not afraid to discuss what would have been considered provocative or even dangerous topics before the advent of 'democracy'.

 Lately a wave of nostalgia for Iraq's Jewish community has swept the country. Demonstrators awarded Iraq's Jewish Finance Minister, Sir Sasson Heskel top marks for competence and loyalty, while his successors scored 'zero'.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Refugee events draw an ever larger crowd

With the Israeli government, Jewish organisations and synagogues around the worldwide preparing to observe 30 November, the annual day to remember the exodus of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, in this column reproduced from the Detroit Jewish News  Barbara Moretsky of StandWithUs tells us that there is ever more interest in what Jews in Detroit are planning, not just this month, but throughout 2016: (With thanks: Michelle)

 Yemenite Jews being airlifted to Israel in 1949

In less than 30 years, following recognition of Israel's statehood on May 14, 1948, nearly three-fourths of Sephardi and Mizrahi refugees chose  Israel as their destination. For some, the Detroit area eventually became their home, where a portion adopted West Bloomfield's Keter Torah Synagogue as their spiritual home. 

The refugees' connection to Israel is explored in the StandWithUs publication “Jewish Refugees of the Middle East: An Unresolved Human Rights Issue” (www.standwithus.com/booklets/JewishRefugees). For Jews forced to flee Arab-Muslim lands, justice for their suffering remains unresolved. These Jewish refugees have had “no right of return,*” while we constantly hear it as an entitlement for the 1948 transfer of Palestinian refugees.
Mizrahi and Sephardi refugees received no compensation for their confiscated homes, furnishings, businesses and bank accounts altogether valued at many billions of dollars. Arab nations claimed these treasures as Jews abandoned everything to escape persecution. 
By remembering their plight, we can undermine a prevalent anti-Israel lie: “If Jews would just go back to post-Holocaust Europe, there would be no need for a Jewish state and Arab Palestinians could return to their land!”

Our Arab-Muslim enemies conveniently ignore 3,000 years of Jewish history in the Land of Israel. They ignore the Mizrahi Jews who never left the promised land and others who were reclaiming it when the U.N. General Assembly approved the Palestine mandate on Nov. 29, 1947.

To mark this historic vote, the June 2014 Knesset resolution designates Nov. 30 as the annual date to remember the plight of the “forgotten refugees.” In Israel today, more than half of the Jewish population is of Mizrahi/Sephardi ancestry.
Generally, there appeared to be a lack of local interest in educating about the plight and heritage of these survivors. To expose the heritage of local Mizrahi and Sephardi families, the first in a series of “Different Cultures, Different Foods” programs was presented on Nov. 2, 2014, at Keter Torah Synagogue. It featured the narrative of a family from Iraq and its struggle to reach Israel, along with a tasting of Jewish Iraqi foods.  As community interest in the education series expanded, the synagogue's lobby couldn't accommodate the crowds and necessitated a move to its much larger lower level.

In December 2014, the first commemoration ceremony drew a crowd. This year, more than twice the number of organizations are partnering to present the second annual remembrance event scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 14.


Read article in full

*The Jewish refugees do not want a right of return. The Arab states remain as hostile as the day they left.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The all-Jewish village of Sundur in Kurdistan

Relations between Kurds and Jews - or between Kurdistan and Israel - are at their most harmonious at the moment. But it was not ever thus, as the history of the Jewish village of Sundur (Sandur) demonstrates.


 According to Wikipedia:

"In ancient times the place had been inhabited by Assyrian Christians. and was later inhabited by Kurds and Jews after the Christians deserted it.[3]
In 1849, Sandur was described as an extensive village, containing over 100 Jewish households with a few inhabited by Kurds.[4] By the first half of the 20th century, the village was entirely Jewish.[3] All the village lands belonged to Jews who worked in the vineyards and orchards of pears, plums, pomegranates and apples.[3]

In 1933 there were about 60 Jewish families.[1] In 1934, Benzion Israeli found 800 inhabitants and wrote that "Sandur is a state of its own ... this is a Jewish village, an autonomous Jewish republic."[3] In 1935, Walter Schwarz visited the village and gave a detailed report. He noted that it was inhabited only by Jews and that the fields and vineyards were well kept and yielded good crops.[5] "

Relations between Jews and Muslims were not always cordial. The Jews of Sundur were disturbed by Muslims working on the Sabbath. They asked a judge to ask the Kurds to move  to the outskirts of the village, and this is why Sundur became an all-Jewish village. The Kurds agreed, but the Jews had to buy their houses, which they did.

Conditions deteriorated once Iraq acquired its independence in 1932. The Jews suffered sporadic attacks in the lead-up to the Farhud pogrom of June 1941.

In the British National Archives at Kew Point of No Return came across a Mosul police report sent to the British embassy in Baghdad in February 1941  about a mini-pogrom on Sundur resulting in the killing of six men, including the (Jewish) Mukhtar. The report claims that the raid on Sundur was the result of a ten-year-old vendetta with the neighbouring village of Yakmula and not 'political'. The Mukhtar of Sundur had inquired about stolen animals during his courtesy visit for Eid.

 According to Wikipedia, there were further disturbances:

" On December 17, 1942, anti-Jewish riots resulted in the murder of eight Jews in the village.[8] In 1943, Friedrich Simon Bodenheimer visited Sandur for an evening. He found the atmosphere disturbed by the "unfriendly attitude of the neighbouring Kurdish villages." He claimed the Jews could not even sell their land, as the Kurds said "We will soon get it for nothing!"[9] With the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, things got worse for Iraq's Jews who were portrayed as Zionists. Their freedom of movement was restricted and many lost their jobs.[6] In 1949 there were still about 100 families living in Sandur.[2]

On March 9, 1950, a law was passed which apparently depicted Jews as unprotected aliens. Soon after, rural Jews faced a worsening economic situation and felt increasingly vulnerable. In early June, it was reported that the neighbouring villages were threatening to murder the people of Sandur unless they left the village. The villagers were among the first wave of Jews who left the countryside for Baghdad to sign up for emigration.[6] Within the next few years, the remaining 500 Jews of Sandur emigrated to Israel.[10]"

More about Jews in Kurdistan



Monday, November 16, 2015

Israeli expert denies there are Jews in Kurdistan

An Israeli minority affairs specialist has denied reports that there are 430 Jewish families, or any Jewish community at all in Kurdistan. Some Ben-Ju (Kurds of Jewish ancestry) did come to Israel but promptly went back. However, the Jerusalem Post reports, along with other media, uncritically the appointment of Sherzad Omer Mamsani as the Jewish Affairs director when there are grounds to suspect that he is an Iranian agent who abducted the editor of the Israel-Kurd magazine. Sherzad admits that one of the objectives of the new Directorate is to attract 'Jewish' money. 

Sherzad Omer Mamsani: Iranian agent?

“There is no Jewish community in Kurdistan,” said Dr. Mordechai Zaken, head of minority affairs in the Public Security Ministry.

There were several dozen families that had some distant family connection to Judaism and most of them immigrated to Israel in the aftermath of the Gulf War, he explained.

“Most of these people are Muslim Kurds who perhaps have a grandmother or great grandmother of Jewish origin who converted to Islam two or three generations ago,” he explained.

“Most of them came to Israel based on the law of return and based on some old Jewish ancestry and pretended to convert to Judaism, but within several years they all returned to Kurdistan or Europe,” Zaken said.

There are no operating synagogues in Kurdistan and nobody can be found praying there even on the high holidays.

Nonetheless, Zaken points out that this does not take away from the good relations between Israel and Kurdistan.

The BasNews website, based in Erbil – capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq – reported on Wednesday that the Kurdistan Regional Government plans to build synagogues for its Jewish community of around 430 families.

The KRG representative of Jews in the Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs, Sherzad Omer, told the Kurdish website that Kurdish Jews see themselves as “Kurdish before being Jewish.”

Omer encouraged Jews living abroad to donate money to their homeland to assist their people.

“We have also not faced any obstacles from the Kurdish Muslim community in opening a Jewish representative office in the KRG,” he said. As soon as the KRG’s financial crisis passes, it may be possible to renovate abandoned synagogues, he added.

Read article in full

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Israel will mark refugee heritage with much fanfare

Social equality minister Gila Gamliel

The heritage of the Jews who fled Arab and Muslim lands will be celebrated with much fanfare on Nov. 30 at the Malha Arena in Jerusalem. This is the first time such a large, state-sponsored event is held in memory of those Jews. Social equality minister Gila Gamliel, whose parents came from Libya and Yemen, will then fly out to a special event at the UN in New York on 1 December. Israel Hayom reports: (With thanks: Levana)

The London Premiere of 'Arab Movie', with director Eyal Sagui Bisawi, will be screened on Sunday 29 November at 1 pm as part of Harif's programme of events.

Last year, then-Regional Cooperation Minister and current Interior Minister Silvan Shalom spearheaded a campaign to increase awareness on this issue and introduced a special bill to that effect. The measure passed, setting Nov. 30 as a special day dedicated to the theme, "The Exit and Deportation of Jews from Arab Lands and Iran." Under its provisions, the Knesset must hold special meetings on that date. The first such meeting was held last year.

The event in Jerusalem is a brainchild of Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel. A 10-member musical ensemble will honor the Jews who lived in 10 different regions for about 3,000 years until their forced departure, which began in the late 1930s, against the backdrop of the Jewish struggle for independence. The event will include artifacts and audiovisual displays honoring the communities, some of which could be traced to the Babylonian Exile following the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE. Many of the Jews left behind their property and effects. It is estimated that some 50% of their descendants live in Israel.

Gamliel said the event would be open to the public. "I believe it is extremely important to honor the memory of the Jews who were forced out of Arab lands and from Iran, as well as raising public awareness on this issue," she told Israel Hayom. "The departure and expulsion of Jews, whose property was looted and their assets nationalized, has been sidelined in our collective memory," she continued. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Morris: 'Jews were tolerated as a small minority'

 In this interview by Gabriel Noah Brahm in Fathom,  the controversial historian Benny Morris has some interesting insights into the Muslim-Jewish relationship. The idea that Arabs and Jews would live in peace and harmony in a unitary Palestinian state is not borne out by history: Jews were only tolerated in the Arab world as small, non-threatening minorities. Read the whole thing.

Benny Morris: living together as equals is nonsense (photo: Anna Loshkin)
 
Arabs and Jews haven’t been able to live well together over the past 100 years — they have been in constant conflict and to believe that they will live in peace in a ‘one-state solution’ is contrary to what history has been telling us has been happening. What we do know is that the Arab world in general used to have Jewish minorities that no longer exist. Jews did not in the end feel comfortable living there. In fact, they were intimidated into leaving the Arab world and that’s why there are not Jewish communities in Yemen, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria —they all used to have large Jewish communities, and they have all vanished. The way that nation states and nationalism has developed in the Middle East basically alienated them, and threw them out.

The same would apply to a Palestine in which there was a majority of Arabs — especially given this increase in Islamic radicalism. Jews never actually fared that well in the Islamic world, and there’s a sort of myth about how nice and good relations were among Jews and Arabs in the Islamic world over the centuries. It is nonsense. Jews were tolerated because they were a very small minority and didn’t threaten anybody. If they had become much larger perhaps they would have been treated more violently; as it was they were mistreated and oppressed and there were pogroms all over the Arab world over the centuries.

So expecting Jews who would turn into a minority in a united Palestinian state to want to stay here rather than go off to America and live a normal life in a tolerant democracy is nonsense. Those who say that Jews and Arabs in Palestine would live in peace and mutual tolerance in a single state are being dishonest — or are either too naïve or too ignorant to be allowed to publish books and articles.

When Arabs say ‘well, why can’t the Jews live with us together as equals in a joint society?’ this is nonsense. They’re presenting an imaginary future to Westerners that sounds like coffee shops in New York, but actually it’s not — we are talking about the Middle East. It’s not New York.

A hundred years of what has happened between Israelis and Palestinians, the centuries of what happened to Jews in Arab lands, all of this means that the Arabs are not speaking honestly when they speak about living jointly in some sort of parity. Demography would tell. If it’s one person one vote, then they would control of what happened in the state and the Jews would of course prefer to leave. Arabs understand that. They are being dishonest.

Read article in full

Thursday, November 12, 2015

King Farouk 'collaborated' with the Nazis

 With thanks: Qumran

The Egyptian wartime King Farouk 'collaborated' with the Nazis and hoped for an Axis victory in North Africa.



 A Point of No Return reader has unearthed a memorandum from the Library of the University of Michigan. It was sent to the UN in 1947 by the Nation Associates and testifies not only to the machinations of the Mufti, but to the record of collaboration between the Mufti, the Nazis and King Farouk of Egypt, a country then controlled by the British.


The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, was driven by 'personal vindictiveness and hatred of Jews'. The memo corroborates the idea that he wanted to extend his active association with the Nazi policy of extermination of the Jews of Europe to Palestine and the Arab countries.

 King Farouk

The Egyptian King Farouk has so far escaped  being tarred with the Nazi brush. The document shows, however, that the Nazis were negotiating with King Farouk to flee to the German sphere.  Farouk called for an Axis victory (in North Africa), and congratulated the pro-Nazi Iraqi army on its 1941 revolt against the British.

King Farouk expressed his gratitude to the Nazis when they warned him of a British plot on his life, and told a Nazi  spy to convey his best wishes to the Mufti.

According to the memorandum, the Mufti repeatedly urged the Nazis to attack Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. However, General Goering turned down his request to bomb Jerusalem on the grounds that it was not a strategic target.

Read document in full

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Erdogan victory 'no threat to Jews'

 Will President Erdogan's landslide victory in the Turkish elections last week affect the country's 17, 500 Jews? Not especially, say Jewish commentators. Article in The Algemeiner:


Tayep Erdogan: landslide
 
The stunning victory of the conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey does not pose a threat to Turkish Jewry, Turkish-Jewish columnist and blogger Karel Valansi told The Algemeiner on Thursday.

Valansi, the political columnist for the Turkish-Jewish weekly, Şalom, said the “public voted for security and against the instability that is perceived with governments formed by coalition.”

After a general election last June produced a hung parliament, this week’s landslide AKP victory handed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s party the option of retaining single-party rule.
Valansi said many Turks believe the country is better off with one-party rule, which she assessed would end up being the case. She said the recent climate of terrorist attacks that proceeded the vote, such as the twin bombings in Ankara this month, as well as an “aggressive nationalist campaign,” were probably behind AKP’s strong standing in the polls.

The campaign was so nationally focused that it “excluded the Jews,” said Valansi. “There was no word on Israel, or Jews as a threat or lobby that want to harm Turkey,” as there have been from AKP officials in the past, she said.
Valansi said she thought Turkish-Israeli relations could benefit from a single-party government as well as the absence of a powerful opposition. Relations between Israel and Turkey have snagged under AKP and its charismatic leader, Erdogan, who has served both as prime minister and now as president.

AKP has warm relations with the terrorist group Hamas, and its leaders have been harshly critical of Israeli policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians. In August, Erdogan met with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.
Other analysts do not share Valansi’s optimism about Turkish-Israeli relations. Semi Idhiz, an analyst writing in the Washington-based Middle East website Al-Monitor, wrote, “It is generally believed that prospects for improved relations with Israel are also close to nil.”

Read article in full 

Article in the Jerusalem Post

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Torah scroll thief arrested in Baghdad

Iraq is fuming with indignation at the 'theft' of Torah scrolls which it assumes are part of its national heritage. In fact Torah scrolls always belong to the Jewish community. They are either in use for prayer, buried if they fall into disuse, and  as far as possible travel with the community they belong to. Trafficking Torah scrolls is an aberration.


 The rare Torah scroll found in Iraq and rededicated at the Israel Foreign Ministry

The Arabic online news medium Elaph reports that the thief of a 700-year-old Torah scroll was arrested yesterday when he tried to sell it. He admitted that the scroll had been stolen from the home of a former regime official.

The defendant admitted that he is a broker, working for a dealer, who stole the Torah in the chaos prevailing during the American invasion of Baghdad in 2003.

Iraq protested  earlier this year that a rare Torah scroll had been spirited away to Tel Aviv. It asked  Interpol to assist in its return. Israel has confirmed that the Torah, found by US troops in Baghdad in 2003, had been repaired and a special re-dedication ceremony for it was held in Israel.

According to the US study entitled "Targeting manuscripts in Iraq during the war, 1991 - 2003," US Pentagon official Ismail Stone,was sent to supervise the body of Antiquities and Heritage of Iraq after the occupation of Iraq, and it was he who was behind the transfer of manuscripts to America. 

Presumably, the newspaper is referring to the hoard of Jewish documents found in the flooded basement of the secret police headquarters in 2003 and shipped to the US for restoration. 

 The defendant is presumably the same broker who appropriated a rare copy of the Book of Job, published in 1487, and given to an Iraqi official as a gift.  Elaph quotes the veteran Mossad official Mordechai Ben Porat telling Haaretz  that  a rare copy of the Book of Job and a section of the Book of Prophets published in Venice in 1617, had been transferred to Israel from the secret police headquarters in Baghdad.

nnounced in Baghdad today for the arrest of a person in possession of a copy of the 700-year-old Torah when he tried to sell it, where admitted stolen from the home of a former regime officials.
London: Judge Abdul Sattar Bayrakdar, the official spokesman of the Iraqi judiciary, said on Monday, that the detachments intelligence department and the fight against terrorism, al-Karkh in Baghdad managed in coordination with the Central Investigating Court to arrest the person in possession of the book Torah enriched-old back to 700 years.
He pointed out that the defendant admitted that a broker working for a dealer who stole the Torah from the home of one of the officials of the former regime during the events of the ninth of April 2003, "the chaos in the Iraqi capital after entering the US with troops and shot down the former regime.
He said the judicial official, in a press statement seen the text "Elaph", said the arrest of the accused, who ratified his words judicially, was in accordance with Article 45 of the Antiquities and Heritage Law No. 55 of 2002 average.
He explained that the adjustment process after the display has accused the Torah for sale in one of the central areas of the capital Baghdad, according to intelligence information, but he did not mention the identity of the trader or Sargaha former official, who was stolen from his home a copy of the Bible of the Jewish name of this.
It is noteworthy that Iraq had protested earlier this year on the United States to deliver his manuscript rare Torah to Tel Aviv, called Interpol and international organizations to assist in the recovery of this manuscript stolen from Israel.
Israeli circles then celebrated the arrival of the Iraqi version of the manuscript of the Torah to the Jewish state, while the circles of parliamentary and cultural Iraqi voiced frustration with Washington delivery of this manuscript to Tel Aviv after taking it after the occupation of Iraq in the spring of 2003.
And it demanded the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of the Iraqi American center "Nara" which is the maintenance and restoration of Iraqi Archive Hebrew provide clear answers on how to access this manuscript to Israel. Confirmed earlier claims were submitted to the United States, "the need to restore all the Hebrew Archive materials to his country Iraq and an end to this file, which was scheduled to end in 2005," he said in a press statement seen the text "Elaf" Monday.
And called on the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of Iraq the international community and international organizations, especially UNESCO and the International Police, "Interpol" to help Iraq recover this important manuscript traceable to him "as part of the parking civilized world with us to recover our monuments and heritage looted," he said.
Israeli Foreign Ministry has confirmed the arrival of the manuscript Iraqi Torah to Israel after being found by US troops in Baghdad in 2003, explaining that it had been repaired during the seven-month period, where he established the Israeli Foreign Ministry to mark the participation of Jewish rabbis celebrate the arrival of the manuscript to Israel.
Iraqi officials Ohdoa Israel Jewish precious manuscripts
The arrival of these Iraqi manuscript to Israel despite US promises of previous re-Jewish archives seized by US troops immediately after the occupation of Baghdad, the spring of 2003 to Iraq, where you expect a competent Iraqi sources not to re-Jewish Archive full to Iraq despite those promises, pointing to the existence of a plan to empty Iraq came of covenantal heritage.
And a copy of the Torah those rare and was among the mysterious journey from Baghdad to Washington after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 finally resolved in the corridors of the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, where religious decrees received punctuated by songs and hymns and distributing candy.
He said Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the return of the manuscript, which was found in the Iraqi intelligence warehouses in Baghdad to the synagogue in the ministry as "representing the fate of the Jews," while specialists Israeli acknowledged that this manuscript is one of the remnants of the Jewish community that lived in Iraq since ancient times and indicated that Using their access to Israel "remains uncertain" under the provision of different theories officials and statements about them.
The US study entitled "Targeting manuscripts in Iraq during the war, 1991 - 2003," said the representative of the Ministry of Defense, "Pentagon" Ismail Stone, an American nationality was sent to supervise the body of Antiquities and Heritage of Iraq after the occupation of Iraq, and it was he who was behind the transfer of manuscripts to America.
For its part, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said the Labour MP Jew Mordechai Ben-Porat, one of the descendants of the Jews of Iraq, a researcher at the legacy of the Jews of Babylon actually Center near Tel Aviv, had revealed earlier that government officials in Iraq Ohdoa Israel some of the manuscripts, ancient and precious, and they were able to get a rare comment to the Book of Job was published in 1487 and a section of the books of the prophets published in Venice in 1617 from vulnerable to a former Iraqi intelligence stores.
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nnounced in Baghdad today for the arrest of a person in possession of a copy of the 700-year-old Torah when he tried to sell it, where admitted stolen from the home of a former regime officials.
London: Judge Abdul Sattar Bayrakdar, the official spokesman of the Iraqi judiciary, said on Monday, that the detachments intelligence department and the fight against terrorism, al-Karkh in Baghdad managed in coordination with the Central Investigating Court to arrest the person in possession of the book Torah enriched-old back to 700 years.
He pointed out that the defendant admitted that a broker working for a dealer who stole the Torah from the home of one of the officials of the former regime during the events of the ninth of April 2003, "the chaos in the Iraqi capital after entering the US with troops and shot down the former regime.
He said the judicial official, in a press statement seen the text "Elaph", said the arrest of the accused, who ratified his words judicially, was in accordance with Article 45 of the Antiquities and Heritage Law No. 55 of 2002 average.
He explained that the adjustment process after the display has accused the Torah for sale in one of the central areas of the capital Baghdad, according to intelligence information, but he did not mention the identity of the trader or Sargaha former official, who was stolen from his home a copy of the Bible of the Jewish name of this.
It is noteworthy that Iraq had protested earlier this year on the United States to deliver his manuscript rare Torah to Tel Aviv, called Interpol and international organizations to assist in the recovery of this manuscript stolen from Israel.
Israeli circles then celebrated the arrival of the Iraqi version of the manuscript of the Torah to the Jewish state, while the circles of parliamentary and cultural Iraqi voiced frustration with Washington delivery of this manuscript to Tel Aviv after taking it after the occupation of Iraq in the spring of 2003.
And it demanded the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of the Iraqi American center "Nara" which is the maintenance and restoration of Iraqi Archive Hebrew provide clear answers on how to access this manuscript to Israel. Confirmed earlier claims were submitted to the United States, "the need to restore all the Hebrew Archive materials to his country Iraq and an end to this file, which was scheduled to end in 2005," he said in a press statement seen the text "Elaf" Monday.
And called on the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of Iraq the international community and international organizations, especially UNESCO and the International Police, "Interpol" to help Iraq recover this important manuscript traceable to him "as part of the parking civilized world with us to recover our monuments and heritage looted," he said.
Israeli Foreign Ministry has confirmed the arrival of the manuscript Iraqi Torah to Israel after being found by US troops in Baghdad in 2003, explaining that it had been repaired during the seven-month period, where he established the Israeli Foreign Ministry to mark the participation of Jewish rabbis celebrate the arrival of the manuscript to Israel.
Iraqi officials Ohdoa Israel Jewish precious manuscripts
The arrival of these Iraqi manuscript to Israel despite US promises of previous re-Jewish archives seized by US troops immediately after the occupation of Baghdad, the spring of 2003 to Iraq, where you expect a competent Iraqi sources not to re-Jewish Archive full to Iraq despite those promises, pointing to the existence of a plan to empty Iraq came of covenantal heritage.
And a copy of the Torah those rare and was among the mysterious journey from Baghdad to Washington after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 finally resolved in the corridors of the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, where religious decrees received punctuated by songs and hymns and distributing candy.
He said Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the return of the manuscript, which was found in the Iraqi intelligence warehouses in Baghdad to the synagogue in the ministry as "representing the fate of the Jews," while specialists Israeli acknowledged that this manuscript is one of the remnants of the Jewish community that lived in Iraq since ancient times and indicated that Using their access to Israel "remains uncertain" under the provision of different theories officials and statements about them.
The US study entitled "Targeting manuscripts in Iraq during the war, 1991 - 2003," said the representative of the Ministry of Defense, "Pentagon" Ismail Stone, an American nationality was sent to supervise the body of Antiquities and Heritage of Iraq after the occupation of Iraq, and it was he who was behind the transfer of manuscripts to America.
For its part, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said the Labour MP Jew Mordechai Ben-Porat, one of the descendants of the Jews of Iraq, a researcher at the legacy of the Jews of Babylon actually Center near Tel Aviv, had revealed earlier that government officials in Iraq Ohdoa Israel some of the manuscripts, ancient and precious, and they were able to get a rare comment to the Book of Job was published in 1487 and a section of the books of the prophets published in Venice in 1617 from vulnerable to a former Iraqi intelligence stores.
- See more at: https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&ie=UTF8&prev=_t&rurl=translate.google.co.uk&sl=ar&tl=en&u=http://elaph.com/Web/News/2015/11/1054218.html&usg=ALkJrhhiEQkwkm0FpEzMd8j9EhuG5AWjEQ#sthash.TEjmAnFM.dpuf