Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Trump ban affecting non-Muslims from Iran

Update: The US Embassy in Tel Aviv has clarified that President Donald Trump’s travel ban will largely not affect the tens of thousands of Israeli Jews born in Middle Eastern countries. (Most fled persecution and are over 65).

A statement today said the controversial executive order would not be enforced against Israelis from those countries unless they possess a valid passport from one of the seven Arab countries banned under the directive. 
See Times of Israel report.

The 90-day immigration ban from seven Muslim countries has already been having an effect on Jews born in those countries, although President Trump has said that Christian refugees will be given priority for entry to the US and Green Cardholders will no longer be affected.  Here is an unintended consequence of the ban - on a programme originally established in Austria to help refugees from religious persecution in Iran. NBC New York reports:  (with thanks: Michelle)

 President Trump in the Oval Office

Austria has shut its door to about 300 non-Muslim Iranians hoping to use the country as a way station before establishing new homes in the United States, The Associated Press has learned. The action is an early ripple effect of U.S. President Donald Trump's effort to clamp down on refugee admissions.

Under a 27-year-old program originally approved by Congress to help Jews in the former Soviet Union, Austria had been serving until recently as a conduit for Iranian Jews, Christians and Baha'i, who were at risk in their home country and eligible to resettle in the United States. Iran has banned the Baha'i religion, which was founded in 1844 by a Persian nobleman considered a prophet by followers.
  • U.S. officials had been interviewing the candidates in Austria because they cannot do so in Iran. But the United States suspended the so-called "Iranian Lautenberg Program" in recent days, according to Austrian officials, who in turn stopped Iranians from reaching their territory. It's unclear when the program might restart.
 Read article in full

Egoz tragedy was catalyst for aliya

It is 61 years this month since the tragic sinking of the old Pisces launch (renamed the Egoz) with the loss of 44  on board (42 Moroccan-Jewish would-be emigrants to Israel, one Israeli radio operator, one Spanish machine operator - Paco Perez. The rest of the crew survived). The boat was on its 13th illegal voyage to Gibraltar from Casablanca. Gilad Kabilo, whose family was on the 12th voyage, writes in the Jerusalem Post (with thanks: Lily, Imre, Sylvia)

 Monument to the Egoz dead in Ashdod, Israel

King Mohammed the Fifth, who some say had favorable views of his kingdom’s Jewry, continued to allow aliya (immigration). Moroccan Jews, raised on passionate Zionist ideals, had been making aliya in great numbers – over 72,000 Moroccan Jews made aliya between 1948 and 1955 – and still over 200,00 Jews remained in Morocco.

In 1956, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser began pressuring Morocco to stop allowing Jewish return, reportedly saying to king Mohammed “every Jew you allow to leave becomes a soldier.” In the days of the War of Attrition and rising Pan-Arabism, king Mohammed could not refuse president Nasser, and the aliya efforts went underground. Secret immigration continued, with Moroccan authorities unofficially adopting a very lax enforcement policy.

By 1961, over 30,000 more Jews made the perilous journey from Morocco to Israel, weathering freezing seas and subhuman conditions in their hope to reach the Promised Land.

The Egoz tragedy was the catalyst for a new arrangement. Morocco, always more attuned to the Western world than other Arab countries, began facing pressure from France and the United States to stop preventing Jews from leaving to Israel and to an establish an organized channel for departure. Thus, an agreement was reached between the king and the leaders of Morocco’s Jewish community, with American and French involvement and the oversight of the Israeli government, to allow the immigration of Jews out of Morocco to any country except Israel. This agreement was the precursor to Operation Yachin, under which over 80,000 Jews made aliya to Israel through a third country, mainly France and Gibraltar.

On January 9, a night before the departure of the Egoz, another family made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to their homeland. My family, immortalized in a photo of them waiting for the next ship on the shores of Gibraltar, ended their journey home in the northern town of Hazor Haglilit, with nine children who have since begotten dozens of proud Israelis. Though they left Morocco in the dead of night with nothing but their heaviest blanket, the word “refugee” was never heard in my father’s house. Making aliya through choice and not for a lack of it, this Moroccan family, like thousands of others who make up Israel’s diverse nation, has never looked back – they are home.

Read article in full 

Fifty years since 42 Jews died in the sinking of the Egoz

Monday, January 30, 2017

Freedom of thought goes on trial in France

Wednesday 25 January 2017 will go down as a sad day in the annals of the French Republic. It was the day when France’s freedom of thought and expression went on trial: one of France’s leading historians, Georges Bensoussan, 64, was hauled up before a criminal court accused of ‘incitement to hatred.’ Lyn Julius explains in The Times of Israel:

Georges Bensoussan, target of 'intellectual terrorism'

Arraigned against him was the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, together with various other ‘anti-racism’ groups. The hearing went on for a gruelling 12 hours. At the end, a weary Bensoussan announced: ‘for the first time in my life I am having thoughts of leaving the country.’ 

The drama had begun 18 months earlier. During a TV discussion broadcast on 10 October 2015, Repliques, Bensoussan commented that France could not hope to integrate its Maghrebi immigrants unless it recognised that these immigrants imbibe antisemitism ‘with their mother’s milk’.

Georges Bensoussan, the son of Moroccan Jews, is one of France’s leading historians and editorial director at the Holocaust Memorial in Paris.  The author of an 800-page volume on the uprooting of Jews from Arab countries, Juifs en pays Arabes: le grand deracinement 1850-1975, he claims that he was merely paraphrasing the words of a ‘brave’ Algerian sociologist, Smain Laachar. “Everyone knows it but nobody will say it,” Laachar had declared of Arab/Muslim antisemitism.

Laachar has since denied having said or written this ‘ignominy’. He said it was outrageous for Bensoussan to have claimed that antisemitism was transmitted by blood. To accusations that he is ‘essentialising’ against all Arabs, Bensoussan has countered that Arab antisemitism was not transmitted biologically but culturally:
Every Arab family knows it. It would be monumental hypocrisy not to see that such antisemitism begins at home… People are being selectively indignant. In France today, a section of young French youth of Maghrebi extraction is having trouble integrating and the old prejudices in North African Muslim culture are being revived — conspiracy theories centered around the Jew, aggravated by the fact that the Jewish community has been successful in France.
Bensoussan has charged his critics with ‘intellectual terrorism’. So-called human rights and anti-racist groups had been co-opted in the Islamist struggle to intimidate those who swim against the tide of political correctness. It was notable that the journalist Mohamed Sifaoui, who had, in the past, inveighed against Islamism had, on this occasion, turned devil’s advocate.  He reproached Bensoussan of ignoring the positive aspects of Arab-Jewish interaction. Instead of building bridges, the historian was tearing them down.

But Bensoussan has his prominent supporters. Alain Finkielkraut, presenter of Repliques, was a witness. Written testimony from Boualem Sansal, the outspoken Algerian author of An unfinished business, was read out.

Some have likened the Bensoussan trial to that of Galileo, whose discovery that the earth revolves round the sun put him on a collision course with established orthodoxy. It is a carbon-copy of the barely-reported case brought against the philosopher Pascal Bruckner in 2015. Bruckner had called for a file to be opened on certain groups he claimed were collaborators with Islamist terrorism. He was acquitted.  

Even if Bensoussan wins the case — the verdict will be announced in March — anyone who  states politically-unpalatable fact clearly runs the risk of falling foul of the ‘thought police’. Freedom of expression all too easily can become ‘hate speech’ in France today. The Bensoussan case is another attempt to shut down debate. It’s not the first. And it probably won’t be the last.

Read article in full 

Crossposted at Harry's Place

Georges Bensoussan: ils veulent interdire de penser (JForum - French (with thanks: Eliyahu)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trump ban could touch Jews from Muslim lands

 Israeli Jews born in Muslim lands may be barred from entering the US even if they have only Israeli citizenship. This is one of the effects of the ban signed by Donald Trump on travellers from seven Muslim countries, Haaretz reports. 

 Demonstrators against Trump's ban on travellers (Photo: AP/ Brian Smith)

NEW YORK - An executive order barring travelers from seven Muslim countries from entering the United States could also affect Jews, including some in Israel, a prominent New York immigration lawyer told Haaretz on Saturday.

In the most sweeping use of his presidential powers since taking office a week ago, President Donald Trump paused the entry of travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for at least 90 days on Friday, saying his administration needed time to develop more stringent screening processes for refugees, immigrants and visitors.

Israeli Jews who were born in one of the countries on the list can end up with a problem – even if they only have an Israeli citizenship. “The executive order says, ‘If you are from that country’,” Michael Wildes, Managing Partner at Wildes and Weinberg, told Haaretz. “If you are born there, and you left, you are at risk. If you were born there, you are from there. You have to read it this way till they come out with interpretations,” he said.

Asked whether he would advise such a person not to travel, whether to the U.S. or from it, Wildes said: "Absolutely."

"We don’t know how this is going to deteriorate, and we have to be thoughtful, and we are advising our clients not to travel if they are from that region."

Read article in full

Sudanese Jews look back with nostalgia

Almost nothing is left today of the Jewish community of Sudan. It was the smallest in the Arab world, composed mainly of recent arrivals from  the Ottoman empire and under British control, but 'blowback'  from the Arab-Israeli conflict in the 1960s drove it to extinction. What this AP article, reprinted in the Times of Israel, does not say is that the original 19th Jewish community was forced to convert to Islam by the fundamentalist El-Mahdi.  Nasserist decolonisation in the 1960s also forced Jews to flee. (With thanks: Lily)

AP — Lily Ben-David gets emotional when she talks about her childhood in Sudan. She still dreams of her school, the courtyard, the balcony and frolicking on the banks of the Blue Nile, even though it has been more than 50 years since she saw any of it. 

A New Years' Eve party in Khartoum (Photo: F. Eleini)
Sudan’s Jews once made up the smallest Jewish community in the Middle East, a close-knit group of 1,000 people who enjoyed warm relations with their Muslim neighbors. But the establishment of Israel in 1948, followed by a series of Arab-Israeli wars, forced them to flee in the 1960s. Although Israel and Sudan are now bitter enemies, the remnants of that community retain fond memories of the northeast African country. 

“If I could get a ticket under an assumed name, I will go, honestly,” the 71-year-old Ben-David, who left Sudan in 1964 and now lives outside Tel Aviv, said with a chuckle.

The history of Sudanese Jews has been largely unknown, even among world Jewry, until now.

Over the last year, Daisy Abboudi, a British researcher and granddaughter of Sudanese Jews, has been working to record the stories of her forefathers. Adding to very few works on Sudanese Jews, she started the website Tales of Jewish Sudan, where she posts extracts of interviews with living members of the community.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Thousands of Arab-born Jews sent to Nazi camps

 On Holocaust Memorial Day, Point of No Return is republishing part of this post (translated from one by Veronique Chemla) about Alfred Nakache, the Algerian-born champion swimmer living in wartime France. He survived Auschwitz, lost his family, but then went on to a glittering postwar swimming career. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Jews born in Arab countries but resident in France were deported to their deaths. They are included in the tally of 70, 000 Jews resident in France who were murdered by the Nazis.

Alfred Nakache was born in 1915 into a large Jewish family in Constantine (Kabylia, Algeria). The Nakache family arrived from  Iraq in the nineteenth century to settle in this exceptional site overlooking a river, the Rhummel.
Around the age of ten, he manages to overcome his fear of water. Indeed he takes to water like a duck. Spotted for his physical stamina, Nacache is trained in the Olympic pool by two Frenchmen doing their military service in Constantine. After they leave Alfred Nakache continues training himself, hence his unorthodox approach. (He is disqualifed in one race for straying out of his lane.)

He takes part in local galas, and moving to Paris to attend the prestigious Lycee Janson de Sailly,  in 1935 becomes 100 m French champion.
He is one of 1, 000 Jewish athletes to take part in the 2nd Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv in 1935, winning the silver medal in the 100 m freestyle crawl.
  Alfred Nakache teaches swimming to young Parisians.
In 1936, after some hesitation, the Popular Front government decides to send a delegation to the Olympic Games in Berlin in Nazi Germany. Nacache's team comes fourth, ahead of Germany.
In 1937, Alfred Nakache does his military service in a battalion of top athletes and continues to win medals for France.
  He marries a sporty childhood friend, Paula Elbaz in Paris, and together with his brothers joins the French army in 1939. 

Under the Vichy regime, Jews are deprived of French nationality, and Nacache is forbidden from  exercising his profession, etc.
Fleeing Paris, he takes refuge in January 1941 in the free zone, in Toulouse, where he joined the prestigious club of the TOEC Dolphins. 
Alfred Nakache and Paula make a living by running a gym in rue Paul-Féral.
 In 1941, his career is at its height. He breaks records in France and Europe, and completes the world's 200 butterfly breaststroke race in 2'36 ''.
It it in his hometown that his daughter Annie is born.
Anti-Semitic persecution intensifies. On 26 August 1942, 900 Jews are rounded up in Toulouse. 
While some press welcomes the records broken by Alfred Nakache, others call for his exclusion from national competitions because of his Jewishness. In Algiers spectators hurl insults. Alfred Nakache cannot compete there.
Under German pressure, the French Swimming Federation (FFN) ban Alfred Nakache from participating in the 1943 championships in France.
According to his brother Robert, Alfred Nakache seeks refuge in Spain with his wife and their daughter. But Annie cries so much that the couple return to Toulouse for fear of endangering the group they had joined on this journey.
On December 20, 1943,  Nakache is heckled at his home and his apartment plundered.  Entrusted to a municipal institution, little Annie is arrested by the Gestapo.
  A man who claims to be his friend denounces Nacache. He and his family are deported to Auschwitz on 20 January 1944. Paula and Annie are gassed. Alfred Nakache is brought to Auschwitz labor camp III and then to the camp hospital. He befriends "Young" Perez,  born in Tunisia in 1911, and Noah Klieger. Deported from France, "Young" Perez is the youngest world champion in the flyweight boxing category in 1931.
To humiliate Nacache the Nazis force him to retrieve objects from dirty water. 
 As the Allies advance, he is forced on death marches.  "Young" Perez dies on one such march.
Alfred Nakache reaches Buchenwald. This camp is liberated on 11 April 1945.  Nakache arrives in Paris on 28 April 1945.
Shattered by the news of the murder of his wife and daughter, helped by his friends and his trainer Alban Minville, Alfred Nakache gradually resumes his training and teaches physical education.

Read article in full

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Are Jews people of colour?

Are Jews people of colour? Here's another thoughtful piece from Dani Ishai Behan (pictured) in The Times of Israel:

 The question remains: are Jews a people of color (or POC)? This is something I’ve thought long and hard about for years, and I’m still not sure if I have it right. Nevertheless, I think that, in many ways, we do qualify as a POC. For one thing, we are an indigenous people of the Middle East. Our identity, our DNA, our culture, our language, and our history all attest to who we are as a people – centuries of exile doesn’t change that, unless you’re prepared to advance the position that white British settlers are now indigenous to the United States and Canada. And if Middle Easterners writ large are considered POC, then Jews are by extension POC as well (although I suppose one could make a case for the very rare convert, e.g. Ivanka Trump).

Second, and most importantly, racism has always been a factor in our daily lives, even if it doesn’t always take on forms that are immediately recognizable to non-Jews. After all, each minority’s experiences are shaped by their own respective histories and relations with the dominant majority, and we are no different. People who routinely compare us to Irish and Italians invariably fail to acknowledge that antisemitism remains a powerful force in Western society, whereas anti-Irish and Italian prejudices have long since taken their rightful place in the dustbin of history.

Another argument that is frequently made is that a large percentage of us have white-ish appearances, but this is fairly common among all Levantine groups, not just Jews. Moreover, fair skinned Latinos, Iranians, Pashtuns, and Native Americans aren’t exactly rare either. This is called “white passing”: the ability to blend in and escape some of the more immediate effects of non-whiteness while still suffering from the marginalization and othering that non-Jewish minorities experience. To put it another way, looking white is not the same as being white.

Read article in full

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Historical fact goes on trial in France

 Today, historian Georges Bensoussan will appear before a criminal court in France accused of islamophobia. Lyn Julius writes in the Huffington Post that his case is not the first and will certainly not be the last.

A complaint was filed against Bensoussan, 64, by the Collective Against Islamophobia in France. During a TV discussion broadcast on 10 October 2015, Repliques, Bensoussan commented that France cannot hope to integrate its Maghrebi immigrants unless it recognized that these immigrants imbibe antisemitism ‘with their mother’s milk’.

Georges Bensoussan (BALTEL/SIPA)

Bensoussan is one of France’s leading historians and editorial director at the Holocaust Memorial in Paris.  The author of an 800-page volume on the uprooting of Jews from Arab countries, Juifs en pays Arabes: le grand deracinement 1850 - 1975  , he claims that he was merely paraphrasing the words of a ‘brave’ Algerian sociologist, Smain Laachar. “Everyone knows it but nobody will say it,” Laachar had declared of Arab/Muslim antisemitism.
Laachar has since denied having said or written this ‘ignominy’. He declared that it was outrageous for Bensoussan to have claimed that antisemitism was transmitted by blood.
Bensoussan has countered that Arab antisemitism was not transmitted biologically but culturally.
“Every Arab family knows it. It would be monumental hypocrisy not to see that such antisemitism begins at home. .. People are being selectively indignant. In France today, a section of young French youth of Maghrebi extraction is having trouble integrating and the old prejudices in North African Muslim culture are being revived - conspiracy theories centered around the Jew, aggravated by the fact that the Jewish community is flourishing in France.”
Bensoussan has accused his critics of ‘intellectual terrorism’. Thankfully, leading historians have rallied to Bensoussan’s defence and an appeal  has been launched to support him.
The Bensoussan case is a carbon-copy of the barely-reported case brought against the philosopher Pascal Bruckner in 2015. Bruckner had called for a file to be opened on certain groups he claimed were collaborators with such Islamist terrorist attacks as the Charlie Hebdo slaughter of the satirical magazine’s journalists and cartoonists. He was acquitted.  
 Even if Bensoussan wins his case, anyone who states politically-unpalatable fact clearly runs the risk of falling foul of the ‘thought police’. Freedom of expression all too easily can become ‘hate speech’ in France today. The Bensoussan case is another attempt to shut down debate. It’s not the first. And it probably won’t be the last.

Read article in full 

Bensoussan: 'if Jews left Morocco en masse, it's because they were fearful' (Le Point - French)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

1950s Israel 'secularised' religious Mizrahi children

Trained as a lawyer specializing in the rights of children,Yair Ronen is now a lecturer at Ben Gurion university. His work looks at how Israel's doctrinaire socialism 'secularised'  young Mizrahi immigrants from religious backgrounds. Jeremy Rosen explains in the Algemeiner:

Observant children from Yemen in a ma'abara or tent camp in Israel

Ronen’s personal experience informs his work. He was born in Israel to Iranian Jewish parents. Like many immigrant families in the early years of Israel’s existence, he felt the prejudice of the European Ashkenazi Jews. The atmosphere in Israel in the first 30 years of the state was one in which the secular ideology of the elite looked down on religion and tried its best to impede or discourage it.
Ronen’s family moved to London for a few years, where he went to school. There he encountered a very different world, different ways of dealing with prejudice. Anglo Jews tended to suppress their issues with identity and the prevailing antisemitism. They were expected to play down Jewish identity in public. In some, this led to an aggressive reaction.

This is particularly relevant in Israel, to which well over a million Jewish refugees from Arab lands (and Iran - ed) came after 1948. Some were forced out of the countries where they had been living, others eagerly left persecution. Their culture was Arabic (Middle eastern - ed) as well as Jewish. Their music, literature, language, mentalities, values and passions were oriental, not occidental. They were more sympathetic to tradition than most Ashkenazi Jews. And they were made to feel less-than because of it.

The result was some disastrous social engineering. For example, in the early years, unaccompanied immigrant minors were sent to Youth Aliyah villages where they were denied religious services by the secular agencies for immigration. The religious parties protested and negotiated a deal whereby 25% of unaccompanied minors would be sent to religious absorption centers.

In 1958, after the religious quota had been filled, a boat arrived from Morocco with religious children. They were packed off to a secular Youth Aliyah center near Haifa. The yeshiva where I was studying had been alerted to their plight, and we were encouraged to visit the village in support of the children. We were refused entry. Through the wire fences we spoke to them. Some were crying because they were denied all religious services, and the staff were constantly upbraiding and teasing them for being old fashioned. There was nothing we could do. The religious parties had to stand by their agreement. Incidentally, this was the beginning of my distaste for religious party politics. But nothing could better illustrate the cultural imperialism of doctrinaire socialism.

Read article in full

Monday, January 23, 2017

Intellectual and journalist Menashe Somekh dies

Menashe Somekh: modest and honest

Iraqi Jews are mourning the passing last week of Menashe Somekh, a prominent intellectual and journalist. He died in Jerusalem aged 91 from cancer.

Somekh, a descendant of Rabbi Abdullah Abraham Somekh,  worked as a journalist in Iraq until his family fled to Israel in the great exodus of 1951. He then worked as director of Israel's Arabic Radio service for 30 years.

Menashe Somekh was born in Baghdad in 1926. He finished his studies at Shamash School in 1944. In 1946, he worked in journalism in Sawt Al-Ahali newspaper, the mouthpiece of the National Democratic Party led by Kamal Al-Jadraji, where he was responsible for the translation of foreign press articles from English to Arabic. Menashe moved to work at Al-Shaab newspaper, owned by Yahya Qasim, where he was his close associate and wrote articles in the newspaper.

In Israel Menashe Somekh was a fount of knowledge about Iraqi history, heritage and music and was the 'go-to' person for writers and researchers. 

Emile Cohen, who collaborated with him on a book about the life and music of the al-Kuwaity brothers, praises him as 'a wonderful person'. He was modest, honest, free of ego, kind-hearted and generous with his time.  

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Moroccans bitterly regret departure of Jews

 This interesting article by the academic Mohamed Chtatou in African Exponent extolls the myth of harmonious coexistence between Amazighen (Berbers) and Jews before the much-regretted mass Jewish exodus from Morocco. For Chtatou, an Amazigh, the villains of the piece are Moroccan nationalists, Zionists and the French colonial power.  While vaunting the role of Jews in finance and trade, Chtatou does not say that the Berber lands were not fully controlled by the Moroccan king until well into the 20th century. Jews who joined the Berber tribes in the Atlas mountains were always subordinate and their situation sometimes precarious. (With thanks: American Sephardi Federation.)

 Berber Jews of southern Morocco

Moroccan Jews were very good entrepreneurs, created businesses everywhere and provided jobs to their Muslim brethren. They set up the first Moroccan banking system from small shops in the Medina, and made loans to trustworthy people without guarantees, so trade flourished and with it employment and wealth. Imperial cities became trade centers and with them coastal cities like Tangier and Agadir. The Alouite Sultan Mohammed III, who reigned from 1757 to 1790, encouraged by the success of Jewish business and trade, created a new coastal city he called Mogador (Essaouira, today) and entrusted the Jews with the conduct of international trade from its port by ships.

Muslims and Jews lived in harmony: Inland cities, on the other hand, got involved in caravan trade, chief among them was Sefrou, situated 30 kilometers south of the capital Fes and which had a high concentration of Jews and was known as: “Little Jerusalem.” In the city there were two kinds of Jews: the “Sitting Jew,” a banker who financed the caravan trade and the “Walking Jew,” a caravan leader and guide known in Amazigh language as: azettat.

Azettat is an Amazigh Jew, trusted by the Amazigh tribes. His caravan travelled through their territories unmolested. He is traditionally, at the head of the caravan carrying a long cane at the top end of which he flies the woven colors of the tribe and which he will, duly, change in the territory of the next tribe. The caravans started in the Middle Atlas and went south through the Sahara desert to Mali's Timbuktu, where salt was exchanged against the Ashanti gold or ivory, gems, etc. The trip lasted forty days each way.

In the Amazigh hinterland, sometimes Jews and Muslims lived in the same house, shared food and celebrated together their religious feasts, in a rare show of tribal solidarity and religious tolerance.

However, distrust between Jews and Muslims was intimated by the Istiqlal party, on its founding in 1944, on a pan-Arab platform. One of its founders Balafrej, even sojourned, several times, in Nazi Berlin at the invitation of the Third Reich.
During the Second World War, King Mohammed V, denied the Nazi French government the possibility of the internment of Moroccan Jews in camps on the ground that the entire Moroccan population is Jewish, deep down, by solidarity and, therefore, should all be interned.

The nationalists of the Istiqlal, on the independence of Israel and the, thereafter, occurrence of the Nakba, circulated posters asking Muslims to boycott Jewish business and trade. On the eve of the independence of Morocco, the French colonial power incited the very rich Jewish families to leave to France on the ground that Muslims could encourage pogroms. Of course none of this happened.

However, from 1956 to 1965 the Jewish Agency and other international organization sent agents all over Morocco inciting Moroccan Jews to leave for Israel, where they will enjoy everlasting security and creature comforts. And following the Six-day war of 1967, many left and as such, in less than twenty years the population decreased from 250,000 to 6,000. Today there are 3,000 left in the big cities such as Rabat, Casablanca, Fes, Marrakesh and Agadir.

Nevertheless, the tradition of Jewish financial advisors is maintained in today’s Morocco: André Azoulay is the current king's advisor on financial matters.

Regrets: Today, the Amazigh and the Arabs likewise regret the departure of Moroccan Jews bitterly for emotional and practical reasons.

In the city of Sefrou, there is a grotto in the hill at the entrance of the city called kaf al-moumen “the cave of the faithful,” a site where, both Muslims and Jews, believe that their saints are buried inside. Prior to the departure of the Jews, Muslims used the cave for prayers from January to June and the Jews from July to December. Today these periods are still respected, in spite of the departure of the Jews. The inhabitants believe that the Jews will come back and business will pick up anew. They say their departure was a big mistake for which both sides are responsible. As for the government, it has recently embarked on a nationwide program of refurbishing and revamping of Jewish schools, synagogues, tribunals, cemeteries, etc. and has, also, signed an agreement with a European shoah institution to recuperate archives on the Moroccan Jewish heritage.

Read article in full

Friday, January 20, 2017

Jewish-built tower in Tehran collapses

At least 75 people, including 40 firefighters, are dead after the Plasco Tower block came tumbling down in Tehran after a massive fire. The Tower was built by Jewish businessman Habib Elghanian. His execution by the Khomeini regime in May 1979 caused a mass exodus of Jews from Iran. The population rapidly went from 100,000 to less than 20,000. The Globe and Mail reports: (with thanks Heather and Sylvia)


The Plasco building was an iconic presence on Tehran’s skyline, one of the first to rise against the backdrop of the snowcapped Mount Damavand. Opened in 1962, it was the first privately owned tower to be built during the era of the U.S.-backed shah, when oil money fueled the capital’s rapid development.
The tower, the tallest in Tehran at the time and just north of the sprawling Grand Bazaar, got its name from the plastics manufacturing company owned by its builder, Iranian Jewish businessman Habib Elghanian.

After the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overthrew the shah, Iran’s new clerical rulers had Elghanian tried on charges that included spying for Israel. He was executed by firing squad — an outcome that prompted many of the remaining members of the country’s longstanding Jewish community to flee.

The state-controlled Islamic Revolution Mostazafan Foundation took ownership of the building. The foundation, which has ties to the powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, made no immediate statement about the collapse.
The fire was the worst in Tehran since a 2005 blaze at a historic mosque killed 59 worshippers and injured nearly 200 others.

Read article in full

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Outspoken myth-buster Steve Plaut dies

Point of No Return has learned of the untimely passing on 18 January  of Professor Steve Plaut, aged 65. A merciless satirist of the politically correct,  the US-born Plaut moved to Israel in 1981 and latterly taught at the University of Haifa. He was an outspoken academic with a biting wit. Having  a Sephardi/Mizrahi wife gave him some authority to deconstruct prevailing myths about Mizrahim, for instance the economic divide in Israel. In tribute to Plaut we are reprinting his article about his family roots in Gaza.

My family has roots in Gaza. We were there a century ago.
OK, technically it is my wife’s family. I am married to the granddaughter of Nissim Ohana, the rabbi of Gaza City. 
But let’s back up a bit here.
In Genesis, Gaza is explicitly listed as part of the Land of Israel promised to the Jews. It was conquered by the tribe of Judah during the era of the Judges, though it was later recaptured by the Philistines. It was captured again by the Jews during the time of the Maccabees, only to be seized by the Romans, who handed it over to King Herod. 
Gaza had a small Jewish community during the era of the Talmud. A synagogue was erected near the Gaza waterfront in 508 CE. A survey of the town in 1481 found about 60 Jewish households there, many producing wine. Later, quite a few followers of Shabbtai Zvi lived there, including the famous Natan of Gaza. There was a thriving Jewish community in Gaza when Napoleon arrived in 1799 via Egypt, but a plague followed his troops and the Jews abandoned the city. 
The modern Jewish community of Gaza got its start in 1885. The initiator of the community was Zeev Wissotzky, scion of the Wissotzky tea company (founded in 1849 in Moscow and still to this day Israel’s largest tea producer).
In 1907 a young rabbi named Nissim Ohana, educated in the Sephardic yeshivas of Old Jerusalem, arrived in Gaza. He set up a school in Gaza named Talmud Torah whose language of instruction was exclusively Hebrew, an unusual and controversial decision at the time.
           Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the initiator of the use of Hebrew as the language of communication in the pre-state yishuv, was so impressed that he paid the school a personal visit.
           In those days, Muslim-Jewish relations in Gaza were cordial, even warm. Rabbi Ohana maintained a close relationship with the local mufti, Sheikh Abdallah al-’Almi. The rabbi was well versed not only in Judaic sources but also in the Koran and the New Testament, and occasionally the mufti would consult with him concerning judicial questions arising in Islamic law.
The mufti was particularly worried at the time about the influence of Christian missionaries on local Muslims and he asked Rabbi Ohana for help in countering the missionaries’ claims. Later, Rabbi Ohana compiled his anti-missionary arguments in a book titled Know How to Respond to an Apikores, still one of the best such volumes.
When World War I broke out, the ruling Ottomans ordered all “foreigners” to leave their territories. Rabbi Ohana had a French passport (his father having been born in Algeria) and was forced to leave. Rabbi Ohana served for a while as the rabbi of Malta, then as rabbi at a small Syrian synagogue in Manhattan. He went on to head the rabbinical court in Cairo before moving to Haifa, after Israel became a state, to serve as chief Sephardic rabbi of Haifa.
The Gaza Jewish community was destroyed by rioting Arabs in 1929, with surviving Jews fleeing to other towns in what would become Israel. Jews returned to the area after the Six-Day War, but when Israel adopted the Oslo “peace process” as national policy, Gaza terrorism exploded and the Jews in the renewed Gaza communities faced mortal danger. Their actual eviction, however – the third ethnic cleansing of Gaza Jews in less than a century – was perpetrated by the government of Ariel Sharon, years after the collapse of Oslo.
But back to Rabbi Ohana of Gaza. In the early 1980s, one of his granddaughters met an American who was teaching at the Technion. Convinced that American men were far too goofy for her to have any romantic interest in any of them, she agreed to go on a date with him only so that she could tell him about her available single American girlfriend.
But she never got around to introducing the American to her girlfriend. And while her opinion about the goofiness of American men is undeniably correct, she married me anyway in 1985.

One last strange twist: A grandson of the mufti of Gaza is today a leading Hamas terrorist, and has served as the Hamas representative in Damascus. Some of Rabbi Ohana’s grandchildren in Israel are in possession of manuscripts written by the mufti. It is their hope that once Hamas is finally defeated and peace is established, the manuscripts will be turned over to the descendants of the mufti, Rabbi Ohana’s close friend.

More articles by Steve Plaut

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Once sidelined, Mizrahi music is mainstream

 The Guardian discovers the burgeoning scene of 'Mizrahi' music in Israel, even though most of the instruments used are European and what is being described is a synthesis of old and new. Although this type of culture now has the official stamp of approval of government ministers like Miri Regev,  Peter Beaumont  claims that  Mizrahim suffered a double disconnect - from the Arab world and from mainstream Israeli culture. (With thanks: Linda)

The Mizrahi band Ecoute perfoming in a Jerusalem cafe (photo: Peter Beaumont)
On a small stage in the basement of a Jerusalem bar, singer Inbal Djamchid pauses during her performance to describe the inspiration for the next song to be played by her group, Ecoute.

She explains that it describes a lyricist’s unrequited love for one of Egypt’s most famous singers, Umm Kulthum, revered in the Arab world.

When the music starts, the song is haunting and unfamiliar, but while Djamchid’s voice echoes the melodies of Algerian, Moroccan and Egyptian music, the lyrics are sung in Hebrew.

Djamchid and her husband Gilad Vaknin, who plays electric guitar in the group, are third-generation Mizrahi Jews, whose families came to Israel not from Europe but from the Middle East and north Africa.

Read article in full

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Israel mourns songwriter Meir Banai

Many Israelis are mourning the death from cancer of the celebrated Israeli singer and songwriter Meir Banai, 55. Meir came from a showbiz family of Afghan/Persian extraction. The Times of Israel reports:

Banai's popular'Lekha Eli'from his album 'Shema Koli' reveals religious inspiration behind his music
Banai, who was behind some of Israel’s most notable rock and pop hits of recent decades, passed away after a prolonged battle with cancer, reports in Hebrew-language media said. 

He was a member of one of the most prominent show business families in the country that includes several acclaimed musicians, actors and entertainers.

Banai’s sister Orna is a popular comedian and actress and his brother Evyatar is also a well-known singer. Cousins Yuval and Ehud have also made a major mark on the Israeli rock music scene.

His first single, “Evyatar,” released in 1982, was about his younger brother. Over the course of his career he released 10 albums.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Antisemitism: the oldest Orientalism

In this must-read article in the Times of Israel, Dani Ishai Behan accuses Edward Said, the guru of 'post-colonialism', of failing to acknowledge that antisemitism is a variant of 'Orientalism', the title of his hugely influential eponymous book. Said cast Jews as 'Orientalists' themselves, whereas they have always been the victims of colonialism, both European and Muslim.

The late Edward Said cast Jews as Orientalists

Said focused primarily on the Arab-Islamic world, but he also included the rest of the Middle East and Asia (barring one notable exception) in its ambit. Although he briefly touched upon the “similarities” between Western Jew-hatred and Orientalism, he refrained from acknowledging antisemitism as a variant thereof. 

The reason why should be obvious to anyone familiar with his politics: recognizing Jews as a part of the Eastern ethnic/cultural fabric would have amounted to accepting our indigenous ties to Israel and, by extension, the validity of our claims to the land. Instead, he obnoxiously referred to Orientalism as “the Islamic branch of antisemitism”, thereby implicitly rejecting the indigeneity of Jews to Israel/Palestine and conceptualizing us as a European colonial imposition. In other words, he distorted a quintessential part of the problem that his book should have addressed, thereby making his book a narrow political tool rather than the honest academic endeavor that it is often considered to be. 

Western antisemitism has always been animated in large part by what we now recognize as Orientalism, of which a direct line can be drawn from antiquity straight to the death factories of Nazi Germany, and living on in the 21st century under the guise of “anti-Zionism”, which Said himself promoted.


This brings us to the Zionist movement – the return of the Jewish diaspora to its native land. Realizing that no amount of assimilation or social mobility would end their persecution, Herzl and his followers endeavored to turn what had previously been nothing more than a farfetched dream into a reality: we would be repatriated to our country of origin and rebuild everything that we had lost. As a result, waves of Jewish olim left the diaspora and returned home, purchasing and cultivating unused land in what was then a sparsely populated, disease ridden province of the Ottoman Empire. 

However, the Arab world, who had colonized the land of Israel centuries earlier and subjugated the remaining Jews under a system known as ‘dhimmitude’, violently resisted this movement. And as they came into contact with European colonial powers, they were exposed to European antisemitism as well. Whereas Arab Jew-hatred had hitherto been strictly theological, they began to absorb European Orientalist ideas about Jews (blood lust, backwardness, misanthropy, deceitfulness, conspiracy theories, etc), which still persist in Arab media and society. And in subsequent decades, these would be imported to the rest of the Muslim world, eventually making their way into the anti-Zionist movement we are now faced with.

How ironic that the world’s oldest victims of Western colonialism, a people that have suffered its effects longer than anyone else, are now being cast as “European colonizers” and “Orientalists” themselves. And by ironic, I really mean “disgusting, wretched, and heartless”. The rest of the world, rather than empathizing with our plight and addressing our needs as a people, has instead demanded of us the same thing that Westerners have been demanding of us for centuries: disappear.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Classic Jewish works first written in Arabic

Most people are unaware than major classic Jewish works of the Middle Ages were originally written in Judeo-Arabic (Arabic using Hebrew characters).  Fascinating article on Chabad.org:

Although current relations between Jews and some Arabic-speaking countries are a bit strained, to say the least, it was not always so. In fact, there was a time when most Jews lived in Arabic-speaking countries, and thus many Jewish books were written in Arabic—or to be more precise, Judeo-Arabic, which was either the Jewish dialect of Arabic or classical Arabic written with Hebrew letters. Most of these works were later translated into Hebrew and other languages, becoming foundational Jewish classics—to the point that many people are unaware that these works were originally written in Arabic.
Here are seven such works:

1. Kitab al-Amanat wa’l-I’tiqadat (Emunot V’deiot—“The Book of Beliefs and Opinions”), by Rabbi Saadiah Gaon

Facsimile of first edition of Emunot V’deiot, with Hebrew translation by Judah ibn Tibbun, Constantinople, 1562.
Facsimile of first edition of Emunot V’deiot, with Hebrew translation by Judah ibn Tibbun, Constantinople, 1562.
Rabbi Saadiah Gaon (Saadiah ben Joseph Al-Fayyumi) was born in Egypt; served as gaon and head of the yeshivah in Sura, in present-day Iraq; and died in the year 942 C.E. He was one of the first rabbis to write extensively in Arabic, and is considered the originator of Judeo-Arabic literature. He is best known for his magnum opus Emunot V’deiot (“The Book of Beliefs and Opinions,” or its longer, more complete name, “The Book of the Articles of Faith and Doctrines of Dogma”), which he completed in the year 933 C.E. Rabbi Saadiah Gaon wrote this work after seeing the confusion and ignorance among many of the Jews about their own faith. It is the first systematic presentation and philosophic foundation of Jewish thought and dogma.
He also wrote works on many other topics, including Hebrew grammar, Jewish law, and polemics against the Karaites. Additionally, he wrote a translation of Scripture into Arabic, with a very valuable commentary. This masterpiece is called Tafsir.
See more on Rabbi Saadiah Gaon here.

2. Al Hidayah ila Faraid al-Qulub (Chovot HaLevavot—“Duties of the Heart”), by Rabbeinu Bachya

Title page of an early copy of “Duties of the Heart,” 1190.
Title page of an early copy of “Duties of the Heart,” 1190.
Not much is known about Rabbi Bachya ben Yosef ibn Paquda, other than that he lived in 11th-century Spain and served on the rabbinical court there. He is famous for his work Chovot HaLevavot, “Duties of the Heart” (or as it was originally entitled before being translated into Hebrew, “Book of Direction to the Duties of the Heart”). Rabbi Bachya, or Rabbeinu Bachya, as he is more commonly known, writes that he wrote the book after observing that many Jews paid attention only to the outward observance of Jewish law, “the duties to be performed by the parts of the body,” without regard to the inner ideas and sentiments that should be embodied in this way of life, “the duties of the heart.” As such, Chovot HaLevavot deals with commandments based on the mind and emotions, such as thinking about the unity of G‑d, love of G‑d and trust in G‑d, but also hypocrisy and skepticism, humility and repentance.
Like the other works mentioned here, Chovot HaLevavot has become one of the foundational works of Jewish ethics and has been translated into many languages, including Hebrew, Latin, Judeo-Spanish, Italian and English.

3. Kitab al-Ḥujjah wal-Dalil fi Nuṣr al-Din al-Dhalil (The Kuzari—“A Defense of the Despised Faith”), by Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi

Censored page from the first edition of The Kuzari, Fano, 1506 (in the possession of George Alexander Kohut, New York).
Censored page from the first edition of The Kuzari, Fano, 1506 (in the possession of George Alexander Kohut, New York).
Rabbi Yehudah Halevi was a 12th-century Spanish Jewish physician, poet and philosopher. Throughout his life, Rabbi Yehudah dreamed of settling in the Land of Israel. He coined the famous phrase “My heart is in the East, but I am in the farthest West.” Toward the end of his life he set out for the Holy Land. Legend has it that upon reaching Jerusalem and beholding the Temple Mount, he rolled on the ground in ecstasy and composed “Tzion Halo Tishali.” At that moment, an Arab horseman saw him and trampled him to death. “Tzion Halo Tishali” is sung to this day as part of the Kinnot elegies traditionally recited by Jews throughout the word on Tisha B’Av to mourn the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Yehudah Halevi is best known for his masterful work The Kuzari, or as it is fully entitled, “The Book of Refutation and Proof on Behalf of the Most Despised Religion.” The Kuzari is structured as a dialogue between a rabbi and the king of Khazaria (a country located in present-day Russia and Ukraine), covering topics such as the fundamentals of Judaism, prophecy, the afterlife, the land of Israel, the Hebrew language, the benefits of communal prayer, the Sabbath, astrology, and determinism vs. free will. The Kuzari is a timeless classic and and is regarded as one of the most important polemical and apologetic works of Jewish thought.

See more on Rabbi Yehudah Halevi here.

Born in Cordoba, Spain, in the year 1135, Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, the RaMBaM—or Maimonides, as he is commonly referred to—was a philosopher, astronomer, and physician to the court of Sultan Saladin in Egypt, and is perhaps the most famous of the Jewish scholars listed here. Maimonides was a prolific writer, and at the age of 16 authored Millot HaHiggayon (“Treatise on Logical Terminology”), a study of various technical terms that were employed in logic and metaphysics. Although his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah, in which he gathered and codified all of Talmudic law in an orderly and systematic fashion, was written in Hebrew, most of his other works were written in Judeo-Arabic.

5. Kitab al-Siraj (Peirush HaMishnayot—“Commentary on the Mishnah”), by Maimonides

Maimonides’s handwritten “Commentary on the Mishnah” (Yevamot, ch. 9) in Judeo-Arabic script. Includes notes by his son Abraham in the margin.
Maimonides’s handwritten “Commentary on the Mishnah” (Yevamot, ch. 9) in Judeo-Arabic script. Includes notes by his son Abraham in the margin.

At the age of 23,while fleeing with his family from the Almohads (a fundamentalist Muslim dynasty that took over Cordoba),Maimonides started his commentary on the Mishnah, a massive work written in Arabic and subsequently translated into Hebrew by the famous ibn Tibbon family. In it he not only explains each mishnah, but also includes important background information such as a record of the transmission of the Oral Law to the leaders of each generation and an articulation of the 13 fundamental beliefs of Judaism.

Read article in full

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Mayor calls Jewish refugee campaign 'insulting'

Opposition to the campaign by minister Gila Gamliel to document the stories of 850,000 Jews expelled from Arab lands came from an unlikely quarter yesterday:the mayor of the Israeli town of Ness Ziona. That Yossi Shabo's family came to Israel 67 years ago because they were Zionists is not in question. More worrying, is that Shabo showed his ignorance of the 'push factors' his family suffered in their native Egypt. Yediot Aharonot reports: 

  Mayor Yossi Shabo clashed with Minister Gila Gamliel (photo: Mark Israel Sellem)

The Mayor of Ness Ziona, Yossi Shabo, today (Wednesday) came out against the flagship project of Minister Gila Gamliel to document the heritage of Jewish communities in Arab countries and Iran, claiming: "Arab countries did not expel us, we  came voluntarily."
Recently the Minister for Social Equality has been running a campaign on the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries. It aims to point out the injustice directed against the Jews in their home countries. But the mayor, a member of the Likud Central Committee who immigrated to Israel from Egypt 67 years ago, the issue is not yet settled. In a letter sent to Gamliel, protesting the campaign, he called it "insulting". According to him, it "implies that Jews from Arab countries wanted to live in exile in their own countries, and only expulsion brought them to immigrate to Israel. I strongly protest this distortion of history."
When his family emigrated to Israel, his father paid for them to travel to Europe and from there they arrived in Israel. 

"A little effort on your part would clarify that the State of Israel through its agents paid a lot of money to the leaders of the Arab countries to allow the immigration of Jews to Israel. The immigration of Moroccan Jews was only made possible thanks to the involvement of the Mossad and the Jewish Agency. In light of this, I ask whence came the theory of expulsion? "
Shabo ended his letter demanding:"in the name of my family and like all Jews from Arab lands, I challenge you to correct the mistake, stop the campaign and announce publicly that Jews in Arab countries left  out of Zionist motives and were not expelled."
The national plan for documenting the heritage of Jewish communities in the Arab countries and Iran has been approved by the government at a cost of 10 million shekels. The joint venture will be run by the Government Press Office, together with the Ministry for Social Equality led by Gamliel. They will collect  testimonies from the public. A memorial day to mark the departure and expulsion of Jews from the Arab lands and Iran has been commemorated in Israel since 2014.
The Ministry for Social Equality commented: " The Law for a Day to mark the departure and expulsion of Jews from Arab countries and Iran was passed back in 2014, while the office  responsible for its implementation is the Ministry for Social Equality. But there is no contradiction that all who immigrated to Israel from Arab countries and Iran, between those who were driven out  and those who came to Israel from Zionism and by virtue of being  Jews. 

The lack of knowledge of the mayor of Ness Ziona about the many families who were expelled from Arab countries after the establishment of the state, only intensifies the need to fill in  the missing part of the story of the Jews from Arab countries and Iran and bring it to public attention. "
Levana Zamir, chairman of the umbrella organization of Jews from Arab and Muslim countries, said in response: "we wonder how one man allows himself to make statements on behalf of 850,000 Jews from Arab countries, some of whom were expelled and some of whom fled for their lives. To speak these words comes only from serious ignorance of what really happened. The mayor's remarks are outrageous to hundreds of thousands of Israelis from Arab countries. How can he claim that  Oriental Jews were not expelled at all when I myself was banished ?" 
Zamir added: "with all due respect, I know  Ness Ziona elected the mayor and is proud of it, but  the story does not represent all Jews of Egypt, let alone a million Jews from Arab countries and Iran. I do not understand how he came out against minister Gamliel. She is the first minister in Israel's history who decided to enact the Memorial Day Law, and to take action to correct the ignorance regarding the story of the Mizrahi Jews. "

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sami Michael, a lifelong fighter against racism

 The publication of an anthology of essays by Sami Michael, the Baghdad-born writer, 90, is the occasion for this Haaretz tribute by his niece, Vered Lee. A communist, Michael criticised ' the discrimination, racism and inequality' in Israel, Lee writes - faithfully following the Haaretz 'discrimination' playbook - 'and depicted an affinity between Israel’s Arabs and Mizrahim, countering the Zionist narrative suggesting that Jews in Arab lands were subjected to unyielding hatred.' But it is hard to argue that Michael himself, whose books are taught in schools and whose brother-in-law was the executed spy Eli Cohen, has been anything less than a pillar of the Israeli establishment.

 Sami Michael: protests neglect in the ma'abarot (photo: Aya Efraim)

Sami Michael was born Camal Menashe, in Baghdad on Aug. 15, 1926, into a well-established Jewish family. His father, who worked as a broker between importers and merchants in the textile business, was an autodidact and bibliophile. The Jewish high school Camal attended was one of the most prestigious educational institutions in Baghdad; boys and girls studied together there in a modern secular atmosphere. At the age of 15, Camal joined the communist underground in Iraq, working against the regime and in support of democracy and human rights. He was in charge of Communist Party-affiliated groups at high schools, was active in poor Shi’ite neighborhoods and served on the editorial staff of underground journals. For a year he attended the American University in Baghdad and wrote for the local press.

In 1948, the state issued a warrant for his arrest, and he fled to Iran. Compelled to go underground and change his name, he purchased the ID of a dead man named Samir, later adopting the name in its shortened form after realizing that it had saved his life. He renewed his political activity in Iran, prompting Iraq to demand his extradition. He went underground again and a few months later arrived in Israel.

Initially Michael settled in Jaffa, but when the writer Emil Habibi offered him a position at the Haifa-based Communist Party newspaper Al-Itthihad, he moved to the northern city. He lived in the Arab neighborhood of Wadi Nisnas and published a regular column in Arabic under the pseudonym “Samir Mared” (“Samir the Rebel”), as well as short stories and articles in the party’s monthly journal Al Jadid.

Prof. Orit Bashkin, who teaches modern Middle East history at the University of Chicago, considers Michael’s early, socially conscious writing in Arabic, in her Hebrew-language article, “From Red Baghdad to Red Haifa.” Michael described the discrimination and neglect in the ma’abarot – the transit camps the Israeli government erected to house the influx of refugees in the state’s early years. He felt the pain of his relatives and acquaintances who were housed in the camps, and documented their social and political exclusion and the racism of the state authorities. Concurrently, he served as a roving reporter in Israel’s Arab villages, all of which were under the rule of the military government (which lasted from 1948 to 1966). In his articles he protested the absence of equal rights for Israel’s Palestinian citizens.

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Monday, January 09, 2017

Hanucah dancing draws Bahrain ire (updated)

Update (with thanks Lily): Bahraini youth from the Youth for Jerusalem chapter wearing cleaners' overalls went to the site where Jewish tourists danced with Arabs at Hanucah to scrub the-pavement outside. The underlying idea is the Shi'a prejudice that Jews are unclean and Muslims should not have contact with them. See MEMRI Video: Transcript here.

A cleaner's coat reads '1948': 
“In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate We, the Bahrainis, will redeem Palestine and the Arabs, and even all Muslims”
“1948 Bahrainis participated in mass demonstrations and waged Jihad with their money and souls against the Partition Plan and the occupation of Palestine”
A cleaner’s coat reads '2002':
“2002 The establishment of the Permanent Parliamentary Committee for Supporting the Palestinian People in addition to the ongoing governmental support”
Voice over: "... Defending its just causes, first and foremost the Palestinian cause."
A cleaner’s coat reads '2009'
“2009 Mass Protests against the tyrannical Zionist aggression against Gaza
A cleaner scrubbing the floor’s coat is marked “2011”
Voice over: “As we told our brothers in Gaza, we will support them as much as we can. We will wipe away this stain on the shining history of our lands. We, the youth of Bahrain, will not forget our cause, and we will keep marching on this path until Palestine is regained - in its entirety!”

With the possible exception of the king and his immediate entourage, it seems that few Bahrainis are prepared to  'normalise' relations with Israel, let alone see Bahrainis dancing with Jews as anything less than a provocation. Elder of Zion reports:

The backlash from the videos of Jewish Americans dancing in Bahrain keeps snowballing. A dozen "civil society" institutions have condemned it, saying: 

The visit of this delegation was provocative and the accompanying dances to the music of Talmudic songs called for the establishment of the temple on the ruins of Al-Aqsa Mosque, in front of historic Bab Al Bahrain [square], and before that in the house of a businessman with a number of traders..This provocation caused a deep psychological wound and is blatantly opposed to Arab and Islamic values ​​in support of our brothers the heroic Palestinian people against the arrogance of the Zionists and their obnoxious occupation of the land of Palestine violating all moral and human values.
The  Bahrain Council of Representatives sent out a series of Tweets denouncing the event.

"The House of Representatives expresses its rejection and condemnation of what was done with a number of traders and businessmen in the Kingdom of Bahrain from trying business and social  normalization  with the visiting US delegation. We stress the strong condemnation of the unacceptable behavior, which provoked and embarrassed the Bahraini street which supports the rights of the Palestinian people. The Hebrew dance and songs called for an alleged temple on the ruins of Al-Aqsa and they handed the [Bahrains] the Masonic logo.[This means a menorah - EoZ]
The Council reiterated Bahrain's position of rejecting all forms of normalization, communications and establishing relationships with the rapist Israeli entity, and that any move and act opposed to Bahraini law, and the principles of the Bahraini people."