Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Hanucah lighting is held in Kurdistan

For the first time, a Hanukiah was lit at the tomb of the Prophet Nahum at al-Kosh in Kurdistan, as reported by i24 News. The lighting took place on the last day of the festival. Yet there are no practising Jews in Kurdistan and no community to speak of, other than the descendants of 400 families with Jewish roots, all of whom are now Muslim. One assumes that the ceremony took place as a symbol of defiance towards Da'esh (IS), which had reached within 11 miles of the tomb before being defeated, and enables Kurdistan to show off its pluralism. The decision to hold the ceremony could also be linked to the renovation of the tomb of Nahum. 

Some had traveled from Israel, but the majority came from the three provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan to come together to light the Hanukkah candles, which celebrate the miracle of the cruse of oil that lasted for eight days.

 "It's the first time we are celebrating Hanukkah in Iraqi Kurdistan," one of the organizers Ranj Cohen said.

Cohen, an Iraqi Kurd, registered his association with the authorities and plans to complete the renovation of the prophet Nahum's tomb so as to hold services there on Saturdays.

He hopes to have all readied early next year.  For the time being, the small congregation distributes sweets and chocolate-iced cakes as they hope for better days in Iraq, and especially in Kurdistan.

 In 2015, when IS still occupied a third of Iraq and the territory of the self-proclaimed "caliphate" bordered the majority-Muslim autonomous region, the local authorities appointed a representative of the Jewish community to the Ministry of Religious Affairs. 

Read article in full

Egypt registers 13 Jewish artefacts as protected antiquities

The restoration of the Nebi Daniel synagogue in Alexandria has been greeted with rejoicing and gratitude. But this is the price Jews are paying for the preservation of their heritage: according to this article in Egypt Independent, the Egyptian government has declared 'protected' 13 artefacts. This means that it is starting to nationalise  moveable communal property that might
 have been restored to its Jewish owners.  (With thanks: JIMENA)

A Torah scroll in the Nebi Daniel synagogue (Photo: Nebi Daniel Association)

The Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt has approved registering 13 artifacts, including Torah scrolls, candlesticks and lanterns, belonging to synagogues in Alexandria and across Egypt’s governorates, in preparation for listing them under the Antiquities Protection Law.

Mohamed Mahran, head of the Central Department of Jewish Antiquities at the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, said that the move to approve registering the pieces as antiquities represents the first of its kind.

In a conversation with Al-Masry Al-Youm, Mahran said that specialized scientific and technical committees had submitted a list of 500 pieces from 13 different Egyptian synagogues, including the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria.

The Permanent Committee for Antiquities then approved the selection of 13 artifacts from the list.
The Supreme Council of Antiquities approved the selected artifacts in accordance with established regulations, Mahran noted, adding that the pieces handpicked for antiquity status under the Antiquities Protection Law are over 100 years old and have a specific history.

The Council recommended that the remaining 487 pieces be preserved in preparation for further study and scientific research. The pieces came from a group of around 6,000 total artifacts examined by scientific and technical committees, which included academic professors specializing in archaeology and experts from the Ministry of Antiquities.

Read article in full

Arab states are claiming the heritage of their expelled Jews

Monday, December 30, 2019

Blaming Israel for the exodus: rebuttal to Sky News

In the fourth of a series*, CAMERA Arabic takes Sky News Arabic to task for spreading unsubstantiated allegations that Israel caused the exodus of Jews from Arab countries. Many of these are stapes of Arab propaganda, but in refuting them the original piece does refer back to some useful links and sources. 


Regarding the series of attacks against Iraqi Jewish targets, all carried out in Baghdad between April 1950 and June 1951, their perpetrators and their influence on the Jews’ exodus, all are a matter of a heated historical debate to this day. Apart of the usual “Israel did it” allegation, always a classic of Arab mainstream propaganda that has recently been promoted by “critical theorists” and “new historians”, other more probable suspects have been floated, either by interested parties or scholars.

Among the suspects are Iraqi nationalists (based on the only recorded admission of two perceived culprits ever made), Muslim Brotherhood Islamists, as well as local Jews who – albeit members of the Zionist underground – were operating outside Israeli directives. Allegedly, the Iraqi Zionists initiated several attacks after the only fatal attack, the Messouda Shemtob synagogue bombing of January 1951, was already carried out (they were certain that the synagogue attack was the work of the Muslim Brotherhood).

 This was done to prove the innocence of their fellow underground members, arrested by the Iraqi authorities shortly after the synagogue bombing. At that point most Iraqi Jews were already registered for emigration, so Israel didn’t even have an interest in rushing them out of Iraq. Moreover, two independent commissions found no connection between Israeli intelligence and the events: the first secretly assembled in 1960 by David Ben Gurion’s instructions; the second  as a part of a libel lawsuit filed in 1977 by a former intelligence agent against an Israeli journalist. Eventually, the trial concluded in 1981 with the journalist apologising and retracting his accusations as a part of a settlement. Currently, the theory about Israeli involvement in the bombings relies heavily on quite oblique pieces of evidence, none of which can be considered substantial:

• The Iraqi official “investigation”, which brought about the arrest, torture and trial of two Zionist underground members, Yosef Ibrahim Basri and Shalom Saleh Shalom. Both were convicted of the synagogue bombing** and were eventually executed; however, despite having found large amounts of hidden weapons as a result of the two’s arrest, the Iraqi authorities were never able to draw a plausible connection between them and any of the attacks, or between them and the Israeli authorities. A common belief among the Iraqi Jewish community that such involvement existed. Notably, it only became widespread and subsequently faced unrelated hardships. Unfounded estimates of UK and US diplomats and intelligence agents, accusing Israel of responsibility for the events. A single British report explicitly refrained from questioning Basri and Saleh’s trial, stating there was “no reason to suppose that the trials were conducted in anything but a normal manner”, notwithstanding it being a trial of Zionists conducted by an Arab regime in the early 1950s. Alleged similarities between the 1950-1951 Baghdad attacks and the 1954 Cairo and Alexandria ones which lay at the heart of the Lavon affair (see more under Egypt below), despite the fact that the latter never targeted Jews.

• An analysis of the Israeli interest in speeding up the Jewish exodus from Iraq. Israeli historian Moshe Gat has pointed out that the main advocates of this analysis base it on distorted dates and statistics. In conclusion, to unconditionally assign responsibility for the attacks to the Israeli government, as Sky News Arabia did, reflects absolutely no fact checking on the reporter’s behalf.


 The first intelligence-related Israeli operations in Yemen date back to the mid-1960s, when Israel sought to interrupt the Egyptian intervention in the Yemenite civil war by providing weapons and funding to the side who fought the Egyptians. This happened more than a decade after Operation On Wings of Eagles (“Magic Carpet”), which was completed in 1950 – notably, before the Mossad even existed as an intelligence agency that was permitted to operate independently outside Israel.

 Admittedly, some researches suggest that Israel, not oblivious to the humanitarian crisis some Yemenite Jews were facing, secretly colluded with Yemen’s monarch, influencing his decision in favor of allowing Jews wishing to depart his kingdom to do so. However, this can’t possibly be considered a conspiracy of Israeli intelligence agents to “sow strife and unrest” in Yemen. All the more absurd is the suggestion that the political turmoil, economic difficulties and antisemitic hostilities of the late 1940s – generally perceived as the immediate factors which drove the Jews of the Kingdom of Yemen and the Aden British Protectorate to leave for Israel – are a part of such a conspiracy. This has no historical basis whatsoever.


The identities of most of the 1950-1951 Iraq bombing perpetrators are still unknown. In contrast, an examination of the Egyptian case leaves little doubt that those who orchestrated what the Sky report referred to as “bombing attacks targeting Jewish businesses” – a series of deadly attacks which targeted Jews in Cairo in 1948 – belonged to ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, agitated by Egypt’s losing war effort against Israel. Not a single English or Hebrew source seriously debates the possibility that Israel, still waging its War of Independence at the time of attacks, would divert its limited resources to engage in such an operation, killing dozens of Egyptian Jews in the process. Additionally, it is unclear why the Sky report mentioned the attacks in the context of Gamal ‘Abd an-Nasser’s rule, since he led the military coup against King Farouq only in 1952. As for Nasser, his direct responsibility for the many thousands of Jews forced out of Egypt during the 1950s and 1960s is undeniable.

Furthermore, while Nasser himself publicly rejected the “anti-Semite” label and insisted that he opposed Zionism alone, in practice his official policies and propaganda did next to nothing to distinguish the two. In other words, even if Nasser himself wasn’t openly anti-Semitic, his regime definitely was.

Marcelle Ninio, who was involved in the Lavon Affair. 

What was the contribution of Israeli policy to the Egyptian decision-making process that produced the mass persecution of local Jews? Indeed, the 1954 espionage affair and 1956 Suez crisis, to which Israel was responsible, has considerably worsened the relations between the Jews of Egypt on the one hand and the Egyptian government and Muslim majority on the other. However, these Israeli moves never intended to encourage Jewish immigration: the Lavon affair attacks were conceived as false flag, and Operation Musketeer/Sinai Campaign of 1956 had strategic objectives that went far beyond the concerns of Egypt’s small Jewish minority.

It is also debatable to what extent local Jews would be persecuted had Egypt not been in a conflict with Israel. Judging by the fate of Egypt’s Greeks, Copts, Armenians, Italians and Levantine Christians under Nasser’s nationalist regime, all ethnic and religious minorities who lived in the country for generations and were never involved politically with a foreign power hostile to Egypt, it seems very likely that Jews would have been targeted nonetheless, in one way or another. Once again we’re amazed at how most Arabic-speaking media outlets, purporting to present themselves as “Western” via their brand names, engage in the same kind of baseless, hateful propaganda that (non-Western) Middle Eastern media channels have perfected, often at the order of their local governments.

Read article in full

*See part 1part 2part 3

** In fact Basri and Salah were charged only with throwing the last three bombs, not the synagogue bombing. (Gat p 179)

Sunday, December 29, 2019

How the 'James Bond' of Iraq made his escape in 1951

The name's Mordechai. Mordechai Ben-Porat. Profile in the Jerusalem Report of the 96-year-old 'James Bond' of Operation Ezra and Nehemiah, the mass airlift of 120,000 Iraqi Jews between 1950 - 52. Despite Ben-Porat's exploits in the Zionist underground, the article should also have credited the equally aged Shlomo Hillel, a Mossad agent posing as an Englishman, who negotiated the airlift with members of the Iraqi government. It cost 12 dinars to airlift each Jew out of the country. The money was raised mainly by the Joint American Distribution Committee. (With thanks: Lily, Imre and Sami)

It was a hot night in June 1951. Summer’s daytime roasting heat had somewhat abated, but it was still hot. Running for one’s life, hoping to escape a country that sought his life, did not help. Heart pounding, the man’s sweat quickly evaporated into the dry desert air.

As instructed by Israel’s precursor to today’s intelligence agency, Mossad, the undercover shaliah of Mossad LeAliya Bet crouched behind a berm at the end of the runway. It was almost 1:30 in the morning. Head shaved by a gaoler and with two broken teeth, his body ached from recent blows; his battered face was swollen.

Mordechai Ben-Porat: tortured in jail

Making his way through a swamp to the hiding place, he was covered in mud. After more than two years of work posing under numerous false identities – including Habib, Zaki, Nissim, Salman, Nouri, Noa, Dror – his cover was blown.

A commercial plane full of passengers taxied to its place for takeoff. Pausing to flash its lights, the signal was given. Dashing out, exposed and in the open, Mordechai Ben-Porat raced to the aircraft’s tail where, he was told, a rope would be dangling.

He would have to climb to freedom – if it was there, that is – and if the secret police did not appear, if the pilot and crew did not panic, if he had the strength to shimmy up the thin and prickly cord.

 Arrested three weeks prior, he had been chained and brutally tortured for information. Subjected to beatings, nakedness, sleeplessness, innuendo and threats, his cell mates – murderers and thieves – were sympathetic. His tormentors were compelled to relent only when a Muslim attorney, Yousif Fattal, convinced a judge to grant him bail, including a little extra for the magistrate.

Read article in full

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Jews not only lost property, but a share in national assets

Press reports that an official evaluation of  property and assets lost by Jews fleeing Arab countries amounts to $150 billion have prompted this piece by David A Dangoor in the Jerusalem Post. This staggering amount  counters the myth that Jews in Arab countries were backward, poor and uncivilised. But Dangoor believes that Jews not only have claims to private property,  they have a moral claim over the national assets subsequently squandered by Arab states on terrorism and corruption.
David A Dangoor: moral claim

The news that the Israeli government is finally tackling this issue, not as a talking point but as an issue with practical ramifications, is extremely welcome and overdue.

 While the considered research, facts and figures are in cold black and white, they bring color to our story and history, one largely unknown or overlooked in Israel and the wider Jewish world for too long.

 They also provide much needed push back against the regrettable canard that the Jews from Arab lands were backward, uncivilized, uncultured and poor, and that they had little of substance in the lands from whence they fled.

The Jews of the Arab world, like any other Diaspora, constituted a mixed population in terms of economic status, but when they were given the opportunity, they contributed massively to all walks of life in their nations of origin until this all came crashing down due to a series of unprecedented discriminatory, legal, economic and social measures taken against them in the middle of the last century.

 In fact, the issue of redress should not just be limited to private and communal assets lost. A cursory reading of history would have demonstrated that had the Jews been allowed to stay, they would have had the benefit of their share of the national assets of the countries they were forced to leave.

 As elsewhere, Jews contributed far beyond their numbers and would dictate and assist the economies and societies of which they were a part.

When they were forced out, many of these countries descended into chaos and subsequently failed economies.

 If they had remained, Jews would have contributed to making those assets work for the welfare of their countries of origin and their peoples. Instead, these national assets were largely wasted on corruption and terrorism. Thus, the exiled Jews also have a moral claim to a share of that wasted wealth.

Read article in full

Let's show communal solidarity on 30 November

Philanthropist calls for archive to lead to better relations

Friday, December 27, 2019

Storm topples Beirut cemetery wall and damages graves

A severe storm has toppled an old wall and several graves at the only Jewish cemetery in the Lebanese capital,  Jewish News reports.

 The cemetery in Beirut’s Sodeco district, which dates back to the early 1820s, is the city’s only Jewish cemetery and has been closed to the public for many years.

 Heavy rain and strong winds toppled the cemetery’s stone wall, which fell on to several graves and sent some headstones crashing down.

 The fallen gravestones with Hebrew writing on them could be seen from the main street where the wall had collapsed.

Read article in full

According to AFP (French),  Nagi Georges Zeidan, a volunteer who keeps watch over Lebanon's Jewish heritage, says that at least four headstones were damaged.

He identified three of them: that of Lucie, daughter of Sasson Machal (died 1942), Moussa Khayat (died 1938) and Isaac Chama (died 1948).

Zeidan reports that the skeletons are still in their coffins but these need to be retrieved from  the rubble. He called on the authorities to intervene. 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Nebi Daniel synagogue restoration is complete

According to Times of Israel, Egypt has announced that renovations to the Nebi Daniel synagogue in Alexandria have been completed. The synagogue floor features a glass window to allow visitors to see traces of an earlier synagogue on the site. A group of Egyptian Jews hopes to celebrate a 'synagogue-warming' with a trip to Alexandria in early February.

The renovations cost approximately $4 million, paid by the Egyptian government,  (Alec) Nacamuli (of the Nebi Daniel Association)  said, adding that Egypt turned down an offer by the Nebi Daniel Association to raise funds.

Egypt’s Jewish community, which dates back millennia, numbered around 80,000 in the 1940s, but today stands at fewer than 20 people. The departure of Egypt’s Jews was fueled by rising nationalist sentiment during the Arab-Israeli wars, harassment, and some direct expulsions by former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

 Egypt and Israel signed a landmark peace treaty in 1979 and have since maintained formal diplomatic relations. But public opinion in Egypt has largely remained hostile to the Jewish state.

 Only four or five septuagenarian and octogenarian Jews currently reside in Alexandria,  Nacamuli  said. The city used to house 12 synagogues, but most of them were sold over the years to support the Jewish community there, and its infrastructure and institutions, he said.

 Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani visited the Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue last Friday, the ministry said in its statement. The Egyptian government maintains an interest in preserving Egypt’s antiquities –“whether they are Pharonic, Jewish, Coptic, or Islamic,” the statement said.

  Read article in full

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Mayor of Casablanca attends Hanucah lighting ceremony

With thanks: Michelle

For the first time, a Hanukiah was lit in Casablanca in Morocco in the presence of the Mayor of the city to mark the Jewish festival of Hanucah. Some 700 were present in the hall to witness the event, which was reported on Moroccan TV.

 However, the ceremony took place behind closed doors. One wonders what might have happened had the Hanucah candles been lit in the public square, as it is in many cities in the West.

It is not so long ago since lighting the Hanukiah was an occurrence so natural in Morocco that it did not attract media attention.

Here are the children of the Alliance Israelite school in Tangiers lighting the Hanucah candles in 1966.

Wishing you חנ שמח  and for those who are celebrating it, a Merry Christmas!

Chabad report

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Over 30,000 sign a petition protesting conduct of Sarah Halimi case

Now that a French appeal court has confirmed that the murderer of Sarah Halimi will not stand trial owing to his being under the influence of  cannabis, over 30,000 people and counting have signed a petition addressed to the French Minister of Justice. (With thanks: Michelle)

"Many questions remain unanswered, and this is not acceptable.

When justice is not done, or when it is willfully unjust, we must not do nothing. Justice is everyone's business.

These are our questions to Madame Beloubet, Minister of Justice, among others:

- the time it took the BRA (Counter-terrorism Brigade)  to get to the scene (it took nearly four hours for the police to arrive, and the BRA was alerted soon after) but there was no road traffic. Can we have an explanation?

- If the assassin was capable of climbing across two windows on the front of the building, one cannot say that he was "unbalanced"! How do psychiatric experts explain this?

- Why did the police stay in the building for more than forty minutes (26 policemen behind Madame Halimi's door) without trying to intervene?

- Who are the psychiatric experts?

- The author's flagrant anti-Semitism is the root cause of his act. What do you think, Madame Beloubet?

- Are you aware that the Jews of France feel humiliated?

And there are many other questions that we will ask Madame Beloubet, Minister of Justice !



More about the Halimi case

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Jewish claims are worth $150 billion, Palestinians demand restitution

The story broken by Israel Hayom that Jewish refugees from Arab countries lost some $150 billion in assets and property has now been picked up by other media. Al Monitor, for instance, interviews Geula, a refugee from northern Iraq in 1948 :

As Geula tells it, one day the family patriarch left the keys to their home with a Muslim neighbor and asked him to continue to tend the family’s vineyards and orchards, where they grew grapes, peaches, and other fruits.

The family then set off for Baghdad. Before leaving the country, they were forced to hand over all their remaining possessions, including cash and jewelry. Geula remembers hearing people say, “Bring a bucket and demand that all the women of the family put their jewelry in it. If any of them takes their time about it, rip the earrings from their ears and the rings from their fingers.”

She further remarked, “Then they put us in a room, ordered us to undress, and checked to make sure that we didn’t hide any money or jewelry in our clothes. We arrived in Israel with just the clothing on our backs. That’s all.”

 The legislation had two purposes: to ensure that Jews from Arab lands and Iran were compensated for the property they left behind and to counter demands by Palestinian refugees who left their homes in 1948 and 1967 to receive compensation for property that they left behind.

Accordingly, in a conversation with Jewish leaders in the United States in January 2014, Martin Indyk, US envoy to peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, said that in addition to compensation for Palestinian refugees, any framework agreement would also include the right to compensation for Jews who left their homes in Arab lands.

Read article in full

Mahmoud Abbas addressing the 74th session of the UN

Palestinians have the right to claim restitution for their loss of natural resources due to the Israeli occupation, the United Nations General Assembly has said, according to  the Jerusalem Post(with thanks :Vicky)

It approved by 160-6, with 15 abstentions an annual resolution called “Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources.”

 It is one of 17 annual pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli resolutions the UNGA has approved this month. The UNGA is slated to vote on at least two other such texts this month.

Read article in full

Fried foods celebrate the Hanucah miracle

Tonight is the first night of Hanucah, the Jewish festival that celebrates the defeat of the Greeks by the Maccabees and Judaism's longevity in the face of outside cultural and social threats. Here is an article from Haaretz celebrating typical fried foods from different parts of the Jewish world.

The miracle is the same miracle, the oil is the same oil, but Iraqi Jews enjoy sambousak filled with chickpeas seasoned with turmeric, while Northern African Jews make spiraled debla cookies in a thick sugar syrup, and Romanians prepare cheesy papanash.

For recipes click here

Wishing all Point of No Return readers Season's Greetings,  and for those who are celebrating it - a Happy Hanucah! חג שמח

Friday, December 20, 2019

Israel orchestra is acclaimed in Morocco

And now, a cheerful story from Morocco: The Andalusian Orchestra of Ashdod, Israel performed to public acclaim this month at a music festival in Casablanca, defying calls for a boycott, according to this article from United with Israel.


 Defying calls from Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) activists to boycott the Israeli Andalusian Orchestra of Ashdod, the musicians arrived and delivered a stunning performance at the Andalussyat Festival of traditional Moroccan music in Casablanca.

 Much to the chagrin of Israel-haters, the orchestra was also warmly welcomed in the Moroccan city and praised for its performance.

 And it didn’t stop there: The orchestra’s director, Jacob Ben Simon, received an award for his ongoing efforts to bring his musicians to the festival.

  Read article in full

Thursday, December 19, 2019

French Jews shocked that Halimi killer won't stand trial

The French-Jewish community is reeling at the news that the killer of Sarah Halimi, who was tortured and thrown out of the window in 2017, will not face trial. Ben Cohen in The Algemeiner reports:

Although it was expected, the court’s decision nonetheless angered the French Jewish community — whose leaders have spent much of this year countering the claim of a court-appointed psychiatrist that Traore’s heavy ingestion of cannabis temporarily wiped out his awareness and his judgement.

 In a statement that immediately followed the Court of Appeal’s announcement, CRIF — the representative body of France’s Jewish community — expressed its “dismay and indignation.”

 “Is an antisemitic crime the only crime that is excused by the judiciary because of massive drug-taking, whereas in all other crimes the judiciary would consider that to be an aggravating circumstance?” asked CRIF’s President Francis Kalifat pointedly.

Read article in full

The Times of Israel reports:

A man accused of murdering his Jewish neighbor in Paris will stand not trial after a French court ruled Thursday he could not be held responsible for the killing because he was in a psychotic state from smoking marijuana.

 Kobili Traore is alleged to have beaten his neighbor, 66-year-old Sarah Halimi, to death in 2017 while calling her a demon and shouting about Allah, before throwing her body from the window of her third-story apartment.

 The appeals court, whose decision Thursday ended Traore’s detention, ordered he be hospitalized or made to attend a drug rehabilitation program. It also ordered security measures be put in place for 20 years, including a ban on him from contacting the victim’s relatives or returning to the crime scene.

  Read article in full

JNS News

More about the Halimi case

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Professor Trigano names the Jewish Exodus ' Hisul'

Must-read by emeritus professor Shmuel Trigano in his deconstruction of the Nakba myth in the Jewish Studies Political Review. Prof. Trigano gives a Hebrew name to the exodus of Jews from Arab countries - Hisul (Liquidation) . The Jewish refugees come from the same world as the Palestinian refugees by virtue of a persecution perpetrated by the Arab-Muslim states themselves.

In this complex picture a critical historical element is always missing, even though it alone is a living challenge to the Palestinian manipulation of history. If around 600,000 Palestinians underwent displacement to Arab states (which had declared war on Israel), having left or having been driven out (in time of war!), about 900,000 Jews were despoiled and driven out of 11 Muslim countries.

They do not have inferior rights to the Palestinians because they are Jews. They were part of the local populations during the Islamic invasions of the seventh century and were transformed into foreigners in the countries where they lived.
Their departure and the shock of their displacement does not date from the establishment of Israel but well before, since the beginning of the 19th century when the oppressed peoples of Islam (Greeks, Armenians, Christians in Lebanon, etc.) began to cultivate projects of national liberation in the declining Ottoman Empire. These ended in blood, except for the Greeks who already won independence in 1827 in the Ottoman-ruled Balkans.

 Zionism fit into these movements long before the creation of the state. It arose in the Sephardic world, where Rabbi Yehuda Alkalay of Sarajevo, who lived in the Balkans as they were achieving emancipation from the Turks, invented the Zionist endeavor before Herzl. This history has remained the big secret of the Israeli narrative and, of course, the main concealment of the Palestinian narrative, since the latter cannot accurately claim that Israelis are foreigners who came from Europe because of a European genocide.

No, the Sephardim, a majority of the Israeli population since the 1950s, come from the same world as the Palestinians by virtue of a persecution perpetrated by the Arab-Muslim states themselves.The Palestinians had been the active accomplices of these persecutions since the 1928 pogroms in Mandatory Palestine under the leadership of the Mufti of Jerusalem. Both in the Arab-Muslim world (as the leader of Arab, and not “Palestinian,” nationalism) and in the European world – as a Nazi dignitary and founder of an SS corps of Muslims in the Balkans – the Mufti actively pursued the extermination of the Jews in Europe and actively prepared for that of the Jews of the Middle East.
The latter enterprise failed because of the Nazi defeat at El Alamein in Egypt; the plans to build crematoria in the Dothan Valley in Samaria had been drawn up.

This main concealment, the “repressed” of the Middle Eastern conflict, poses a question that remains without an answer: Why did the Israeli leadership ban this history from the corpus of the legitimacy of the state of Israel? What does this reveal about its relationship to its own legitimacy? The question of the Jews from Arab and Muslim countries, like that of the Jews of Europe, is a political and national question and not only one of victimhood. Why did the Israeli leadership exclude from the definition of the Israeli nation this population and this story?

Professor Shmuel Trigano
Was it to preserve the character of absolute victimhood that the Shoah imparted to its existence, thereby maintaining its nonpolitical character, which would imply that Israel is not a sovereign state sui generis even though that is the precondition of all sovereignty?

The story of the liquidation of the Jews from the Arab-Muslim world confers a historical, political, regional, and national meaning, internal to the Arab-Muslim world, on the history of these same Jews, who have become the majority in the state of Israel and are therefore the true interlocutors of the Palestinians with respect to the controversy about the “original sin.”

They too have the keys to their houses from which they were driven out; they too were despoiled, and infinitely more than the Palestinians! The Palestinians’ claims against Israel do not impress them; they reinforce all the more their own political, national, and financial claims.

Those who find themselves accused of colonialism and of racism, of the “original sin,” are the very people whom the Arab-Muslim world, with the complicity of the Palestinians, discriminated against, persecuted, and drove from their homes, and who found in Israel an opportunity to recover.9

That is the fundamental question to pose to the “Left” of the Jewish world and specifically to the Israeli Left. I do not tackle here the question to be posed to the West (where the Nakba has become the certificate of victimhood and of the “morality” of Western anti-Zionism and militant Islamism, the moral Trojan horse of the Islamic political intervention in democracies) and to the Arabs themselves (though it is now starting to be asked, it seems, in the Gulf states).

The concealment of what I propose to call the “liquidation” (Hisul) of the Sephardic world – besides the Shoah and the Nakba, two original terms conserved in a foreign language to give what they are designating a mysterious and unthinkable character – is the result of a repression, a structural blindness.

The story of the Hisul indeed calls into question the interpretation of the Shoah as exclusively concerning victimhood, which is the one the European Union privileges, just as it destroys the myth of the Nakba.

It also undermines the moral premise of postcolonialism, a late usufruct of the two narratives combined – turned, of course, against Israel, but mainly against the postcolonial West. The Hisul shatters the presumption of the innocence of the Arab-Muslim (namely, Palestinian) world and of the ex-colonies (starting with the fact that the ethnic cleansing, i.e., the expulsion and persecution of all of their Jews, constituted the new Arab nation-states following their decolonization). It shatters the nonpolitical, victimhood-based interpretation of the Shoah, the implicit source of the accusations against Israel (racism, apartheid, Nazism) that are made in its name.

Read article in full

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Press leak of lost Jewish property study puts value at $150 billion

According to a scoop by Israel Hayom, lost Jewish property in Arab countries could amount to $150 billion. The significant  results of a two-year long evaluation are about to be submitted to Prime Minister Netanyahu by Gila Gamliel, Minister of Social Equality, whose remit covers Jews from Arab countries. This figure is one hundred billion dollars under the estimate publically announced by Gamliel in January 2019 and does not account for current inflation rates. (A rough estimate comes up with a 2019 value of some $1.5 trillion, or about half the GDP of the entire Middle East. ) It is notable that the article does not mention the vast amounts of property and assets lost in Iraq, Morocco and Egypt. (With thanks: Imre, Lily and Michelle)

Gila Gamliel:'righting a historical wrong'

The property valuation pertains to assets left behind by Jews who were expelled or fled Arab nations and Iran in the late 1940s and 1950s. The review was two years in the making and its authors stressed that it is a conservative assessment that does not account for current inflation rates.

 The report sheds light on a particularly tragic chapter in the history of Arab and Iranian Jewry and constitutes the first time that the government has compiled comprehensive data on this issue, whose historical, sociopolitical, and international political ramifications could be highly significant.

 The project has been in the works since 2002 but it wasn't until 2017, when Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel assumed the mantle, that serious progress was made in this investigation.

 Gamliel teamed with the National Security Council, which cast a wide international net with the aim of estimating the scope of lost Jewish property in Arab nations.

 The exact methods used to compile the report remain classified, but a rough breakdown of the figures shows lost Jewish property in Iran is worth some $31.3 billion. Assets in Libya, for example, were pegged at $6.7 billion, followed by Yemen proper ($2.6 billion), its temporary capital of Aden ($700 million), and Syria ($1.4 billion).

 Gamliel is expected to present the findings to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the coming weeks. "We may be able to begin righting a historical wrong, as part of which hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees who have lost their property could regain it, alongside their forgotten place in the historical narrative of the young state that emerged as they became refugees."

 The parameters examined in the report include rural and urban property, businesses' value, loss of income and potential income, and loss of communal property, to name a few.

  Read article in full

No justice for the dispossessed: a tale of two Menashes

Monday, December 16, 2019

Egyptian-Jewish leader calls for refugee compensation fund

During her November whirlwind tour of the UK, Levana Zamir, head of the Coalition of organisations of Jews from Arab countries in Israel, was interviewed by Sandy Rashty for the Jewish Chronicle. Mrs Zamir used the occasion to reiterate her support for  an International Fund to compensate Jewish and Arab refugees as a tool for peace.

An Egyptian-born Jewish activist has called for greater recognition of Jews from Arab countries, saying that compensation for those forced to flee their homes could help bring peace to the region.

 Levana Zamir with her family on their recent visit to Egypt

Levana Zamir, who fled her home in Cairo in 1948 aged 10, is now working with Israeli authorities to increase international awareness of the issue.

 “I have been working on this for 20 years, going to the Knesset and asking for recognition,” she said. “And it’s not only me; we are all working together — the Iraqi Jews, the Syrian Jews, the Libyan and Yemenite. Now that we have recognition of [our story] in Israel and all over the world, now we want an international fund to be established for Arab and Jewish refugees.”

 She added at first, the government of Israel did not want them to feel like refugees: “They did not want us to ask them for compensation. Even when Egypt and Israel had a peace agreement, Israel did not ask Egypt for our money. It says a lot.”

Read article in full

Video clip of Levana's talk to students at UCL

Levana Zamir's interview on BBC Arabic

Levana Zamir's visit to Egypt

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Persian synagogue vandalised in California

Update: Times of Israel blog by Karmel Melamed

The Beverly Hills Police Department in the US  is “actively investigating” after a synagogue was vandalized in the City of Beverly Hills overnight, the police department said in a media release on Saturday night, Israel time. CMM News has the story: 

Police responded to the call at the Nessah Synagogue “shortly after 7 a.m.” local time on Saturday, after an employee notified security when he “found an open door and items ransacked inside the synagogue,” the police said in the release.

Nessah Synagogue was established in 1980 by Persian Jews who immigrated to Los Angeles from Tehran after the Islamic Revolution. Investigators believe a “lone male suspect” aged 20 to 25 is responsible for the crime and committed a number of other vandalisms in the area. The suspect overturned furniture in the building as well as “damaged several Jewish relics,” according to the statement.
Torn holy scriptures (Photo: K Melamed)

 Fortunately the Synagogue’s “main scrolls remained unscathed,” and disruption was “primarily to the synagogue’s interior contents,” with “very limited structural damage.”

“This cowardly attack hits at the heart of who we are as a community,” Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch said. “It’s not just an attack on the Jewish Community of Beverly Hills; it’s an attack on all of us. The entire city stands in solidarity behind Nessah, its members and congregants. We are committed to catching the criminal who desecrated a holy place on Shabbat of all days and bringing him to justice.”

Read article in full

Friday, December 13, 2019

Why Israel is submitting a UN Resolution on Jewish refugees

Writing in JNS News, Israel's UN ambassador Danny Danon explains why he will be putting forward a UN Resolution demanding that Jewish refugee rights be recognised. Some 172 UN resolutions deal with Palestinian refugees, not a single one to-date deals with Jewish refugees.

Though they shed their refugee status years ago, the story of this Jewish population still deserves to have its place in history and ensure its rights are recognized.

The General Assembly will not be able to ignore this resolution, as it is incumbent upon them to correct the wrong done to the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa. This resolution will be an important step to begin reframing the context when discussing the conflict.

Jewish refugees arriving in Israel from Morocco

 Too often, Israel’s founding is erroneously cited as the cause for Palestinian refugees. In truth, the real cause was the Arab decision to exact a war of extermination against the Jewish state.

Israel’s declaration of independence allowed for Palestinian Arabs to remain in its borders; indeed, those who did not flee became Israeli citizens. Recognizing the story of the Jewish refugees is to do more than just right an overdue, historical injustice. It is to change the understanding in the United Nations and the international community for why peace remains elusive.

The fundamental issue is not about land or borders; it’s about the Jewish right to sovereignty in the Land of Israel. It is whether the Muslim world can accept the presence of a Jewish state. It is about showing the world that the rising anti-Semitism in Europe and the United States has deep roots and powerful in the Middle East.

 It is time to correct the historical record in order to begin an honest conversation about the future.

Read article in full

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Luzon: Jews want the right to visit Libya

In an interview recorded by MEMRI with Libyan TV, Raphael Luzon, a UK-based activist on behalf of Libyan Jewry, demanded the right for Jews to hold Libyan nationality and visit Libya, as Jews do in Morocco and Tunisia . However, he did not demand compensation or return. This is a departure from his previous position : in the past he has demanded to return and even play a part in the Libyan government. His arrest and imprisonment during his disastrous 2012 visit is likely to have changed his views.

Raphael Luzon, the U.K.-based President of the Union of the Jews of Libya, said in a December 2, 2019 interview on Wasat TV (Libya) that Libyan Jews do not want to return to Libya, but to be recognized as Libyans and granted Libyan nationality.

 He said that second- and third-generation Libyan Jews should be allowed to visit Libya and see where their ancestors lived like Jews from Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt are permitted to do.

Al-Taher Makni of the Libyan High Council of State responded that if a person has no other citizenships, then Libyan law does not prevent him from being granted citizenship, and Luzon argued that Libya’s laws are meaningless because the country is in chaos and that perhaps Libyan Jews are treated as they are for religious reasons.

 Luzon also said that Libyan embassies are of no help to Libyan Jews and that he has been physically attacked outside the Libyan Embassy in London. In addition, he argued that the Jews are Libya’s Palestinians since Libya took their money and turned them into refugees.

See interview  in full

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

5,000 Tunisian Jews sent to Nazi labour camps, 77 years ago

Tunisia came under direct Nazi control for six months in 1942.  December 9 marks the 77th anniversary of the round-up of Tunisian Jewish males who were sent to labour camps.

In 1941, a census of Jews and their property was carried out. On November 9, 1942, the Nazis invaded the country. The Jewish population was then targeted for forced labor. They organized round ups, the largest being in Tunis on December 9, 1942.

On the morning of December 9, 1942, 3,000 men over the age of 18 had to report for service to the Nazis, but only 125 men came forward.

Colonel S.S. Walter Rauff then went to the Great Synagogue of Tunis. He broke in  and arrested those who are there, as well Jews nearby. The arrests of Jews continued throughout the day, including around the Alliance Israelite Universelle school. The Administrative Committee (representative body of the Jewish community of Tunis) therefore decided to call to work Jews aged 18 to 27 years.

In the meantime, Colonel Walter Rauff decided to arrest 100 notable Jews to serve as hostages and be shot in case of disobedience. In the afternoon, a thousand Jews turned up before being sent to  labor camps throughout the country.

In total, nearly 5,000 Jews were sent to forced labor in 32 camps scattered throughout the country. is the Tunisian Jewish community financed these camps and provided for the needs of more than 5,000 men (between the ages of 15 and 45) who are fit to work.

From April 1943 begn the first deportations to camps in Europe. For lack of means, a single convoy,  was flown to the concentration camps and extermination in Europe.

SeventeenTunisian Jewish deportees did not return. The boxer Young Perez was arrested in France, deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and died during the Death March in January 1945.

Read article in full (French)

Was the Golden Age in medieval Spain a myth?

Did the medieval Andalusian Golden Age of Jews, Muslims and Christians, much vaunted by interfaith projects and Arab sources, really exist, or is it a myth? Recent research by Fernando Dario Morera and others has  put the Golden Age in question.

A recent Dialogia conference held in Israel examined the myth and the reality. Sociologist emeritus professor  Shmuel Trigano argued that the myth was created by German Wissenshaft scholars in the age of emancipation. More recently it has been exploited to foster multiculturalism in contemporary Europe. The French education system aims to imbue its large number of Muslim students with pride in their heritage. The myth of a multi-culti paradise is generally instrumentalised to facilitate the absorption of  large numbers of Muslim immigrants into Europe.

The three religions, Trigano asserted, did not live with each other, they lived alongside each other. The Jews were isolated in their ghettoes or mellahs in the shadow of the royal palace. Potentates granted them protection in return for their loyalty. Medieval kings could rely on the Jews and trusted them not to betray them. Some rose to high office, such as the vizirs Shmuel ibn Nagrela Hanagid  and his son Yosef. Like Yosef, who  was crucified and 4,000 of his coreligionists massacred in 1066, they could come to a violent end.

Yet a sort of 'intellectual myopia' has taken hold and the mantra 'Islam saved Jews' has been propagated by Bernard Wasserstein and others. The jizya tax on the dhimmi  Jew and Christian was a ransom, said Trigano. Maimonides even converted to Islam to survive at a time of Islamic fundamentalism. We know he did this because he taught at the university of Kairouan. - only Muslims could.

Shmuel Hanagid, visit of Cordoba

Emeritus professor Raphael Israeli said that history was a matter of interpretation. The lachrymose version, as promoted by Bat Ye'or, David Littman and Paul Fenton, saw black stains on the carpet of history, while others emphasised the carpet itself.

There were times when Jews took refuge in Christian lands : at the battle of Tortosa in 1212, the Christian King Alfonso V1 defeated the fundamentalist Almohads.

Jews collaborated with the Muslim conquest because they were better treated under Islam than under the Visigoths. They helped the Muslims control the non-Jewish majority. But the Muslims ended up hating Jews as much as Christians, Israeli said. Good relations between the Muslim and Jewish elites masked persecution of the Jewish masses.

Israeli emphasised that the Taifas, the Arab principalities in Seville and Granada, for instance, were outside the Caliphate and depended heavily on Jews. This explains why Shmuel ibn Nagrela (Hnagid) was appointed vizir of Granada. But jealousy caused the tragic murder of his successor Yosef and the massacre of most of the Jews.

Writer and researcher Bat Ye'or saw the immutable dhimmi laws as part of the jurisprudence of holy war, or jihad. The propaganda of the golden age myth  resurfaced from time to time throughout history  in various incarnations, for pragmatic reasons. For instance, Arab nationalism tried to unite Christians and Muslims in the 19th century in order to frustrate the emergence of a Jewish homeland. The UK promoted the myth of Turkish tolerance of minorities as a counterweight to the interests of Russia and Austria. Christians took up the myth to reinforce their support of Arab nationalism. Today,  a Palestinian version of the myth - the multicultural one-state solution - is employed as a weapon against Israel.

Ephraim Herrera focused on the pogrom of Granada in 1066. Pogroms were not frequent in the Muslim world - why would they be needed  when Jews were already subhuman?  In 912 Abdul Rahman III had ignored the dhimmi rules to appoint a Jewish vizier in Cordoba - Hasdai Ibn Shaprut. Another Jew, Shmuel ibn Nagrela Hanagid, was appointed in 1013 to serve his Berber ruler. In 1030 he was named vizir responsible for tax collecting. Although he had the support of the ruler's son Badis, there was growing mass opposition to a non-Muslim in a position of power. As Ibn Hazm wrote at the time, Hanagid was resented for  employing only other Jews.  His son Joseph succeeded him 1033. He soon attracted enemies who disliked the fact his palace was built outside the Jewish quarter. In the face of increasing jealousy and rumour that he was plotting to kill Badis,  a frenzied mob captured Joseph, crucified him and killed 4000 out of 5,000 Jews. The Golden Age happened despite Islam and in opposition to it, not thanks to it.

Eliezer Cherqui spoke about the great Aristotelian philosopher and scholar Averroes (Ibn Rusht), a contemporary of Maimonides. Ibn Rusht (1126 - 1198) became a cadi (judge) and was a paid functionary of the fundamentalist Almohad regime. Although he came to a bitter end and his works were burnt (only Hebrew translations survived) his work testified to the fact that cultural symbiosis bore no relationship to politics. The Almohads decimated the non-Jewish communities of North Africa yet little historiography is devoted to them. Cherqui concluded that Islam symbolised divine unity, and  can brook no diversity. No other religion can claim legitimacy. The only hope of Israel ever being accepted by the Muslim world is to find in the Koran verses that say Israel is being re-established according to the divine will.

Emeritus professor Paul Fenton argued that the Spanish Inquisition was inspired by 140 years of Almohad persecution, massacre and forced conversions. Witnesses describe the existence of crypto-Jews, outwardly Muslim. The Christians disappeared completely in North Africa. The New Muslims were still treated as dhimmis and were forced to wear special clothing or distinguishing signs until 19th century. As a result of bildiyeen conversions in the 15th century there are still residents of Fez who sport Jewish names like Cohen and Shabbat.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Mizrahim 'dumbfounded' by academic erasure of their history

What's behind two articles by western academics poohpooing official commemorations of the exodus of Jews from Arab countries? They try to belittle and erase Mizrahi identity and history to fit their own political agenda, argues Hen Mazzig in this hard-hitting article for Times of Israel. Not only do media such as Haaretz think that Mizrahi history is an obstacle to peace, but they show habitual contempt for Mizrahi Jews. It must be said that these academics are not all western or Ashkenazi: Israeli universities apparently do not consider Arab antisemitism a topic for discussion.

A recent article in History News Network "How did November become the Mizrahi Heritage Month? And what’s Mizrahi anyhow?" presented an argument against Mizrahi Heritage Month and Mizrahi identity.

 The article was co-authored by Chair of Israel Studies at George Washington University Professor Arie M. Dubnov and Professor Lior Sternfeld of the Jewish Studies department at Penn State University. These academics argued against modern-day Mizrahi identity as if it is an identity that was manufactured for the Israeli government’s propaganda efforts.

Hen Mazzig: dumbfounded

 I and all of my Mizrahi friends and family members who read the article were dumbfounded (as we as we were by a similar article Haaretz ran the next day by Sternfeld, this time co-authored by Menashe Anzi, who teaches Jewish history at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev).

 Notwithstanding the academic bona fides of Dubnov and Sternfeld, their article is nothing so much as a political manifesto that attempts to erase and belittle Mizrahi identity and Mizrahi history to fit their own political agenda.

 Significantly, the vague language on how “Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region had undergone different experiences” is a direct attempt at gaslighting the experiences of MENA Jews. While Sternfeld and Dubnov are no experts on Mizrahi history or MENA Jews, the authentic doyen of the history of Mizrahi Jews, and a Mizrahi Jew himself, is the award-winning historian, Professor Shmuel Trigano (professor emeritus of sociology at Paris University).

His rigorous award-winning book “The End of Judaism in Muslim Lands,” stands as a historical counterweight to Sternfeld and Dubnov’s politically charged assertions. Professor Trigano meticulously demonstrates that unifying the expulsion narratives of Jews from different MENA countries since 1945 is the right way to understand our history. One has to look at the exodus of this group as a common history, because of the unity of the Arab League’s actions against this community and because of the common cultural and political factors that MENA Jews share.

  Read article in full

Sunday, December 08, 2019

The amazing story of the Jewish converts of Hebron

For some time now, rumour has it that some Palestinians living in the West Bank are of Jewish ancestry. To Point of No Return's attention comes conclusive information that three clans living in the Hebron area are the Muslim branches of Jewish families.

Rahamim S Dwek contends that a branch of his family, now known as Dweik,  converted to Islam in the 14th century under Egyptian Mamluk rule. Hebron is the only city where Jews converted in large numbers, says Dwek. The same thing happened to the Samaritans of Nablus (Shekhem) After every anti-Samaritan pogrom, more converted to Islam.  ( The last occurred in 1858. ) The Samaritan  sect would have become extinct had Palestine not come under British rule in the 1920s.

According to Rahamim Dwek,  other Arab clans refused to intermarry with the Muslim Dweik family for seven centuries. It is a sad irony that, to prove they are more 'Arab than Arab', members of the Dweik clan today comprise  the leadership of the  Hamas apparatus in Hebron, notably Abdel Aziz Dweik, Palestinian spokesman who has served long terms in Israel's prisons. Most Dweiks are still known for their fair complexion and blue eyes.

Issa Amro and Bad'ia Dweik are in the forefront of the propaganda campaign against Israel. Amro, says Rahamim Dwek, was born in a Jewish home stolen from its owners, members of the Masri Bajao clan, in what Arabs call Tel Rumeida, known to the Jews as Tel Yishai.

Apart from the Dweik clan, two other tribes converted from Judaism - the  al-Jabari and the al-Rajab clans.  These are not their original names. All three clans resent public discussion of their Jewish roots.

The tragedy of the 1929 Hebron massacre still casts a shadow. Issa Amro's grandfather murdered Jews, but his great-grandfather Abu Shaqer gallantly protected Rahamim's great-grandfather Rav Yaakov Yosef Slonim Dwek, by standing in the doorway of their house. He was one of 19 Arabs who helped save Jews in 1929 and almost had his foot severed by an axe in the process. Even as his attackers called him a traitor, he would not budge.

 Sheikh Shaqer's sons murdered Rahamim's ancestors, including his grandfather,  when Sheikh Marqah led the attack on the family home. Rahamim's father Shlomo,  then a babe in arms - survived, although injured, because his mother fell on top of him when her assailants sliced off her breasts.

Shlomo S Dwek, only survivor in his family's home of the Hebron massacre

His aunt Rivka, who later gave birth to  Yosef Burg, father of the controversial Knesset speaker  Avraham Burg, would also have been murdered had she not moved into another family property with her  father.

Rahamim Dwek is sceptical about the claims of Tzvi Misinai who amplified the theory first propounded by Israel's president  Ben Zvi that many Arabs in the Hebron area descend from Jews. A stone lintel with a star of David on an Arab house does not mean anything because Arabs always recycled extant materials from previous periods, he says. Similarly Arab culture in the area could have been influenced by Jewish custom when they circumcised their infants at eight days rather than at the Arab norm of 11 or 12 years.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Restored Mumbai synagogue gets UNESCO award

The UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation 2019 has announced an Award of Merit for conservation work carried out to the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, in Mumbai. 

tained glass windows at the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, Mumbai  (Photo: Sakhin Gokhale/Firstpost)

Four landmarks in India have been recognised, of which three are in Mumbai. The Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue and Our Lady of Glory Church both receive an Award of Merit, while Flora Fountain receives an Honourable Mention. An Award of Distinction has been given to Vikram Sarabhai Library, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, India.

The official ceremony for the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, hosted by Mr Solomon F. Sopher, Managing Trustee, President and Chairman of the Jacob Sassoon Charity Trusts, together with Mrs Sangita Jindal, Chairperson of the JSW Foundation, on behalf of the Jewish Community of India, will be held at the Synagogue on 8 December 2019.

The UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award of Merit will be officially presented at the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue by UNESCO's Dr Richard A. Engelhardt.

The book The Baghdadi Jews in India (Routledge, 2019) edited by Shalva Weil, will be launched in London on 18 December at an evening to celebrate the Jews of India in words, music and with food. For full details see here.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Exodus commemorated at UN, in Israel, England and Scandinavia

The exodus of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran has been commemorated  in several countries. Here is a round-up of events in New York, Israel, England and Scandinavia:

At the United Nations:

JIMENA in partnership with Israel's Permanent Mission to the United Nations hosted a commemoration program honoring Jewish refugees from North Africa and the Middle East.

H.E.Danny Danon (pictured) - spoke of his Egyptian family and the imperative of recognizing the one million Jewish refugees from the region.

 U.S. Special Envoy to Combat Antisemitism, Elan Carr (19:16 in the video below) shared the story of his Iraqi mother and challenged the Arab world to recall and reckon with the 2,500 years of Jewish life in the Middle East that came to an abrupt end as a result of antisemitism.

 Former Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan shared her hopes (33:35) of a Middle East free from intolerance and bigotry that embraces the diversity that once existed throughout the region. You can watch the whole event here. 

JNS News

In Israel:

At the start of the annual Festival of Ethnic Dance and Song, organized by the Coalition of Organisations of Jews from Arab and Islamic countries, Professor Moshe Amar, President of the Orot Institute of Moroccan Jews in Israel, presented the annual Coalition Award to Levana Zamir.

The award is in recognition of the many years that  Levana Zamir, head of the Coalition, has  successfully  dedicated to advocating for and advancing the cause of Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim lands and  their  heritage, in Israel and all over the world.

Levana Zamir receiving this year's Coalition Award from Professor Moshe Amar

Levana Zamir was moved and surprised to receive this prestige award. Previous winners have included  Professor Uzi Arad,  Minister Gila Gamliel, MK Nissim Zeev and Dr. Stanley Urman - all dedicated to the cause.

There followed a rich and colourful programme of ethnic Dance and Song: Yemenite, Moroccan, Egyptian, Iranian, Lebanon, Tunisian, Afghanistan, etc. All  the performers wore authentic ethnic dress.

The academic part of the Festival was assured by Dr. Dany Bar-Maoz who chose as  his topic: "The triumph of Oriental multiculturalism over the melting pot in Israel". He gave many examples, especially in the field of music.

The Festival was held at the very impressive Museum of Yemenite Jews in Rehovot. It was arranged by Hanania Koresh and directed by Dr. Rahel Yadid, head of the "A'aleh Betamar" NGO.

More than  250  attended. Many could not resist getting up on their chairs to dance when the beautiful Varda sang Egyptian melodies.

 Yemenite folk dancers performed at the Rehovot Festival.

In London:

Harif, the Association of Jews from the  Middle East and North Africa, marked 30th November, the Day to remember the exodus of 850,000 Jews from Arab countries, with a lively evening celebrating Mizrahim music by Eastern Beats. The event, arranged jointly with the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, attracted a capacity crowd.

For HE the Israel ambassador, Mark Regev, attending with his wife Vered, the occasion was personal.   Vered's family escaped Aleppo in Syria on foot through Lebanon to arrive, destitute, in Israel. Vered's great-grandmother died on the way and had to be buried by the roadside.

While there were periods when it was better to be a Jew in the Muslim world than in Europe, Jews always had an inferior, or dhimmi status,' Mr Regev said. 'Israel was seen as a 'dhimmi state' by the Arab world'.

Djerba-born S&P Rabbi Israel Elia recounted how, on a trip to Tunisia, he thanked his government hosts:

'We are not your hosts', they said, ' you were here before us'. The Jews had indeed settled North Africa 1,000 years before Islam.

Rabbi Israel Elia: 'Jews were in Tunisia before the Arabs'.

From L to R: Nizza Fluss, Michelle Huberman, Lyn Julius, Laurence Julius, Sandra Dangoor, Vered Regev and HE Ambassador of Israel Mark Regev at the London Commemoration

In Denmark:

Special Guests at the first official Commemoration in Copenhagen  were the Ambassador of Israel Benny Dagan and Social Democratic MP Lars Aslan  Rassmussen. Lyn Julius (pictured below) gave the keynote speech. The event was arranged by Rika Greenberg of Med Israel for Fred (MIFF).

In Norway: 

At the Official Commemorative event in Oslo, there were speeches from HE the Israeli Ambassador Alon Roth and from the leader of the Friends of Israel in the Norwegian Parliament, Hans Frederik Grøvan. Other events took place in Bergen and Kristiansand, arranged by MIFF and Hjelp Jødene Hjem.

Top: Ambassador Alon Roth. Below: MS Hans Frederik Grøvan.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Silence on Jewish refugees 'serves Palestinian narrative'

Israel's UN ambassador Danny Danon slammed the body's one-sided view of Middle Eastern refugees, as a dozen countries voted against the annual UN resolution affirming Palestinian refugee rights. Arutz Sheva reports:

According to Danon (pictured), the international community continues to adopt a one-sided agenda: "There were an estimated 850,000 Jews who were forced out of Arab countries and Iran and became refugees in the 20th century. These Jews were subject to brutal attacks and harassment and were forced to flee leaving everything behind: in Iraq, Egypt, Morocco, Iran, and many other countries. And still, we don’t hear the international community speak of them when they discuss the refugees of the conflict, perhaps because it doesn’t serve the Palestinian narrative."

 Danon announced that Israel would submit a resolution to formally recognize the Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran, bring it for a vote in the General Assembly. "Israel took in these refugees and integrated them into our society. The international community on the other hand ignored them and built corrupt institutions that only serve so-called Palestinian refugees.

 In order to right the historical injustice that was done to the Jewish refugees of this conflict,
I will propose a resolution to the Assembly that will acknowledge the wrong done to the "forgotten" Jewish refugees and will make right the injustice that they suffered."

Read article in full

Envoys champion rights of Jews evicted from Arab countries (Israel Hayom):

To coincide with the commemoration of the 850,000 Jewish refugees expelled from the Middle East in the 20th century, Israel’s men in New York are doing what they can to ensure the victims are brought to Justice.

The Jerusalem Post reported, UN Ambassador Danny Danon will introduce a resolution recognizing Jewish refugees from Arab countries.  Danon will be competing with the UN’s Palestinian representative who plans to introduce pro-Palestinian resolutions like supporting their right to return to Israel.

 The UN discussion will coincide with the 72nd  anniversary of the Nov. 29 partition plan, which recommended Israel be divided up into an independent Jewish and Arab state.

 "The international community is comfotable focusing only on Palestinian refugees while erasing the story of hundreds of thousands of Jews from the history pages," Danon said told The Post."But the State of Israel will give voice to the truth and correct the historical injustice by putting an end to the deafening silence on the part of the international community."

Read article in full

Video of UN Event on Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands on 4 December