Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Tolerance of Jews a 'litmus test' for Libya

Here is the full text of a speech delivered at a conference in November on Democracy in the Arab World by the chairman of the Libyan Jews' Association in the UK, Raphael Luzon. He was speaking at the American Congress in Washington.

Luzon's speech was warmly welcomed by the audience, representing many of the Arab world's discriminated groups. This led to reports in the Arabic press and TV interviews on Al-Arabia, Al-Jazeera and Al-Hurra. Many approached him afterwards to express their sympathy and understanding.
The feedback is still echoing though his email and telephone.

"First let me greet you in my ancestral language: Sabah El Kher ua Ahlan Ua Sahlan Bikum. I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to address such a distinguished forum and my appreciation for the organizers and participants for granting me this honor. I am grateful for the invitation.

I would like to begin with a short personal introduction, which reflects the shared reality of most Libyan Jews, and indeed parallels the lives of Jews who were born in the lands of Islam.

I was born in Libya, like my father and all my ancestors going back to the year 700. Please pause to reflect on the significance of this legacy.

Benghazi was my birthplace, and I have vivid memories of the richness of life there, enhanced not only by the beauty of the country, but also a cultural and ethnic harmony of a peaceful and prosperous society, before and under King Idris El Sanoussi.

In those days, Muslims and Jews honored each other’s holidays and holy days, closed business deals with a handshake and greeted each other as neighbors.
This all changed with the advent of the Six Day War.

In 1967, at age 13, I barely escaped with my life from the turn of events culminating in a bloody pogrom. My family, formerly prosperous and respected, was forced to leave everything behind. We have left behind also eight bodies: my Uncle’s, his Wife and six children killed by an Libyan army officer. We were allowed only a suitcase and 20 Libyan pounds.

We fled to a refugee camp in the countryside, and finally found asylum in Italy.
My father had been a wealthy businessman, known and respected by Jews and Muslims alike. We had to begin afresh in a welcoming but alien culture, and despite the difficulties and obstacles we rebuilt our lives by always looking forward with optimism and never backward with bitterness or animosity. Others in my extended family were not that fortunate, as you heard. And while our rightful inheritance has been taken from me and my family we still carry sweet memories of our birthplace. We are Libyans, and we are Jews.

We were thrown out from Libya but no one can take Libya out from our hearts.
In the 1950s and ‘60s, over a million Jews were forced to flee their ancient homelands, though formerly their Islamic rulers had protected them for centuries. It is ironic that the Palestinian issue has gained worldwide sympathy, yet the history of the Jews born in Islamic lands, murdered, forced to convert, or violently expelled, has been largely ignored. It is notable that in most cases the Jews were the indigenous population and often preceded the Moslem conquest by many centuries.

Perhaps the unspeakable impact of the Holocaust eclipsed our plight; perhaps it was convenient for the world to ignore this wrenching exodus. Perhaps the world was not yet ready to address the concept of Human Rights.

The Palestinians have much in common with the Jews from Islamic countries, in that both parties are victims of the same conflict , except for one crucial difference: However flawed their current situation may be, the Palestinian Arabs who live in Israel have representatives in the Israeli Parliament. They are not only allowed, but encouraged to vote. One would be pressed to name a single Arab country which welcomes or allows a Jew any political representation let alone access to a just and independent legal system.

I do not think that the Israeli-Arab conflict is a conflict of religion or a conflict of lands. It is rather a conflict between Democracy and a monolithic block of dictatorial leaderships.

Admittedly Palestinians suffered losses, but dozens of international bodies provide material help on daily basis and still label them “refugees” after 57 years. But who is caring for the suffering and loss of wealth and property of those million Jews exiled from Arab Lands? I have lived that history, and speak not only for myself, but also in their name. We were uprooted and expelled. We have been denied compensation. We watch helplessly as our culture, language and legacy disappears and our part in history is systematically erased. In short we have been truly ethnically cleansed.

The Libyan Jew does not ask to create a separate country next to Libya. The Moroccan Jew does not ask to create a country next to Morocco. The Syrian Jew, the Iranian Jew, and the Iraqi Jew – all have accepted the fate of exile.

But if the price of peace in the Middle East is the creation of a Palestinian state, let us live as good neighbors. Let us prosper together, let the Palestinians put behind them the concept of Nakba, and seize the opportunity to rehabilitate their young state as a nation among the family of the civilized nations of the world: By renouncing violence, by embracing tolerance, by educating their people, by forming their own democracy. Death and destruction must no longer be seen as a goal. There is no honor in sowing death and destruction.

Since my exile from Libya, I have never forgotten my country. To this day, I carry the wish to visit the land and city of my birth. For 37 years, I have kept this wish in my heart, and in the past four years have taken small steps to try and realize this dream by building bridges and extending the hand of friendship and peace,

I was one of the activists who arranged for 190 Libyan Muslim pilgrims to visit Al Kuds – Jerusalem- in 1993. I wrote many articles which were published in the press and on Internet, calling for Justice not only for Libyan Jews but for any Libyan who was illegally deprived from his assets and basic human rights. I initiated the first conference of Libyan Jews in Great Britain, which resulted in the establishment of the Association of the Jews of Libya UK, of which I am chairman. Our aim is to create a forum for the Libyan Jewish congregation to cultivate our Libyan traditions, our music and culture, to bequeath to future generations. We were astonished by the positive reaction and support we received from our Libyan brothers and sisters Muslims and Jews from all over the world.

We have been beaten by Libya. But, like when your Mother slap your face this is not a reason to beat or hit her back, Libya is our Mother. Although we receive a big slap on our faces, we will never have a bad sentiment against our birthplace!

Recently, the Libyan leadership has displayed a new openness towards the West. This kindled some hope in the Libyan Jewish Diaspora, after hearing declarations that “the Jews are welcome back” and “the Jews are the sons of Libya”. So far these quotes seem to be only rhetoric. It confuses us: a leader, Moammar El Kadhafi, who had the courage to pass a law, unanimously accepted in parliament in 1974, to protect and secure in law the right of Libyan Jews to a fair and just compensation for their confiscated property and assets within 20 years: 30 years on, we are still waiting.

For the sake of centuries of peaceful coexistence I have a personal request from the Leader of the Revolution, Moammar Kaddafi, which, with your permission and I will articulate it in this respectable forum.

• That my family should be permitted to receive the remains of eight members, my Uncle, his Wife and their six children, who were murdered in the streets of Tripoli in 1967 by a Libyan army officer.
• My Family wishes to give them a proper dignified burial according to the Jewish religious laws. /شريعة.
• And that my octogenarian mother’s one last wish, to visit her birthplace should be granted. It would be a small act of kindness and would reverberate throughout our community worldwide.

The Arab world stands now at a very significant crossroads. There are indications of a rising awareness on the part of many rulers in the Middle East that totalitarian rule begets dangerous repercussions. Small steps indicate a new beginning.

We witness with appreciation the recent surge of awareness on the part of Arab intellectuals, such as those of you participating in this conference, who realize that it is time to seek and discover the truth, to reject distortions and propaganda, to consider the lessons and facts of history and demand an end to repression, ignorance and poverty.

It is a slow process with many obstacles, but is my sincere wish to witness the evolution of a bill of rights for all individuals, regardless of sex, race or creed, to fully participate in the social, political, economic and civic life of their country.

The Jews have often been referred to as the 'litmus test' of how a country treats its minorities. If we review history, and read carefully about 15th century Spain before the expulsion of the Jews and Muslims and the madness of the Inquisition, that Golden Age was the era when Muslims and Jews advanced a glorious culture with knowledge and education, with commerce and cooperation, and above all, with mutual tolerance and respect. Let us spare no effort in educating and raising our children so that the wisdom of their ancestors guide them to a better and more harmonious future."

May God be with you and
Assalamu Lakum ua Lana Jamiiaan

Monday, January 30, 2006

Hamas's victory in the Palestinian elections

No sooner than Hamas won in the Palestinian elections, Hamas spokesmen and supporters such as Azzam Tamimi, got busy telling the western press hat Hamas will 'make a deal' with Israel to end 'armed resistance' if it withdraws to the 1967 borders.

Let no one be deceived as to what ‘deal’ Hamas has in mind - a temporary ceasefire, until such time as it is strong enough to ‘raise the banner of Islam over every inch of Palestine’. As the Hamas charter clearly implies, the idea that Jews should not only rule over a Muslim minority (Israeli Arabs) but enjoy full political rights in their own state (Israel) is, and will always be, anathema.

However democratically Hamas came to power, it will now move to implement sharia law in the territories it controls. Expect an exodus of the remaining Christians from the West Bank: Hamas considers that (women and) non-Muslims - Jews and Christians were historically subject to disabilities and the jizya tax - can only exist in a state of submission.

The time has come for the West to recognise that Israel was not just a solution to a European problem: Arab Muslim anti-Semitism has not only subjected the Jews to humiliating and unequal treatment, but has been responsible for the expulsion and dispossession from Arab countries of half of Israel’s Jewish population – and in far greater numbers than Palestinians from Israel.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Iranian Jews uneasy over Holocaust denial

An Iranian Jew cagily protests that his coreligionists have not been asked what they think about President Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial, Middle East Times (Egypt) reports.

"TEHRAN -- They may not be packing their bags just yet, but Iran's remaining Jewish minority is feeling deep unease over the fiery rhetoric of their hardline president.

"Since his unexpected election last June, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has launched an all-out verbal assault on what he views as an international Zionist conspiracy driven by the "myth" of the Holocaust.

"He has labeled Israel as a "tumor" that should be "wiped off the map" or moved as far away as Alaska. Those comments have deepened concern in the West and Israel, where the alarm has already sounded over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"Being a minority has its own problems, whether you are a minority in Iran or outside Iran," said Haroun Yashayaei, the president of Tehran's 17,000-strong Jewish community.

"But he asserted that, so far, Ahmadinejad's scorn was only directed at the State of Israel - and not the Jewish religion itself and its followers in Iran.

"Honestly speaking, we don't have any restrictions on holding our religious services. We have our own cemeteries, kosher food, schools and synagogues," he said.

"This kind of talk has no effect on emigration. We are Iranians. We have been living with the Iranian nation for the past 2,700 years. Judaism is an indigenous religion in Iran. People, including Dr. Ahmadinejad, have never taken an aggressive stance against Iranian Jews."

"What the community does feel, however, is that its feelings and opinions are being totally ignored when it comes to discussing the Holocaust. "

Read article in full

Thursday, January 26, 2006

From Baghdad to Brooklyn

To have an identity strung together with hyphens is to live in several worlds at once. From Baghdad to Brooklyn, Jack Marshall's beautifully crafted memoir, evokes an entire galaxy. Judy Bolton-Fasman reviews the book in The Forward.

"Marshall was born in Brooklyn in 1936. His mother, Grace, was from Aleppo, Syria, and his father, Albert, was an immigrant from Baghdad by way of Manchester, England. Theirs was an arranged marriage marked by a lifetime of tension and incompatibility. Albert was 45 when he rescued the much younger Grace from spinsterhood. His clothing business failed during the depression in England. In America, he toiled in businesses owned by the nepotistic Syrian Jewish community until he had saved enough money to buy a dry goods store and own his own home.

"By virtue of being the oldest of the three Marshall children, Jack was his mother's translator of everything American. Grace never learned English, staying insistently Arab Jewish in mid-century Brooklyn. His mother's retreat into Arabic made Marshall exquisitely sensitive to language and its nuances. He recalls listening, as a child, "to the flow of throat, slurring, coughing tones and consonants of Arabic hawked up viscerally from far back in the throat, coughed up from the lungs and viscera. Praise often sounded as vehement as curses. Often, it was difficult to tell the difference between the fervor of a rebuke and the ardor of a compliment, unlike spoken English, whose clipped words are formed more politely, civilly, with the tip of the tongue playing close behind the lips."

Read article in full

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Morocco to attend Tel-Aviv tourism fair

Globes reports: For the first time, Morocco will attend the 12th International Mediterranean Tourism Market 2006 (IMTM) at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds in February.

Morocco is considered an emerging tourism market. 7,000 Israelis visited the country in 2005, compared with 25,000 in 2000, the peak year. The number of Israeli visitors to Morocco is expected to rise in 2006.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Ahmadinejad as 'Arab stooge'

Gerald Honigman argues that Iran's president has bought into the 'Arab delusion' that non-Arabs (and non-Muslims) have no legitimate rights in the Middle East.

"Upon the death of Islam's Prophet, Muhammad, in the early 7th century C.E., the armies of his caliphal successors burst out of the Arabian Peninsula and spread out "in all directions.

"Over the next centuries--and continuing to this very day--Arab colonialism and imperial conquests would either directly or indirectly forcibly Arabize millions of native non-Arab peoples.

"As just a few examples of this lingering ordeal, in Syria, Kurdish children are currently forced to sing songs praising their "Arab" identity; millions of Black Africans (not only Sudanese) have been killed, enslaved, and so forth in the name of the Arab nation; prominent Copts in Egypt have advised Israel to consent to the same Arabization they have been forced to undergo in order to "be accepted"; Berbers have been slaughtered for asserting their own cultural identity; etc. and so forth. Get the picture?(...)

"Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has recently called on Europe to make a place for Israel's Jews. He, like Arab and other Iranian leaders, calls for Israel's destruction and actively participates--via supplying arms and support to Arab terror organizations and states--in trying to accomplish this even before Iran becomes nuclear.

"It seems that the Iranians--who at least partially jumped on the Arab bandwagon centuries ago--have also bought into the Arab delusion...at least when it fits their own needs.

"So, Ahmadinejad simply ignores one half of Israel's six million Jews who know nothing of "Europe" as a home. They are from Jewish refugee families who fled what Arabs refer to as "purely Arab patrimony" where, despite Arab claims of tolerance, they were commonly known as kilab yahud--Jew dogs--and treated as such. Over a million more of these Jews who fled Arab murder and subjugation live in France, the Americas, and elsewhere as well."

Read article in full

Friday, January 20, 2006

Holocaust Museum slammed by activists

A group of American Jewish activists has launched a campaign aimed at getting the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to recognize the anti-Semitic actions by Arab and Muslim leaders during World War II and to take a leading role in fighting anti-Semitism in the Arab world, reports the Jerusalem Post.

The group, "Holocaust Museum Watch," points to the fact that the museum, funded by the federal government, has never presented an exhibit or sponsored an event dealing with Muslim anti-Semitism or with the fate of the Jews in Arab countries during the Holocaust.

"The absence of these programs is a failure of the museum and an obscene dereliction of its ways," said chairwoman Carol Greenwald,

Some 100 Jews gathered Wednesday night at a Washington synagogue to hear more about the campaign, which up until now was not seen as a major issue on the Jewish agenda. The organizers called on the Jewish community to play an active role in demanding that the Holocaust Museum recognize the issue of Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism.

The demand is focused on three issues: the cooperation of Jerusalem's grand mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, with the Nazi regime; the anti-Jewish pogroms in Arab countries during World War II, mainly the Farhud in Baghdad; and the current rise of anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim world.

Husseini's ties with Nazi Germany are well known - he met with Adolf Eichmann and offered Hitler any help he could supply in murdering Europe's Jews and Jews worldwide. His actions are not mentioned at all in the Holocaust museum.

Shelomo Alfassa, of the international Sephardic Leadership Council, pointed out the second issue in dispute - the suffering of Jews in Arab countries during the Holocaust. Alfassa tried to get the museum to sponsor an event commemorating the Farhud - a bloody pogrom against Iraq's Jews in 1941, but was rejected by the museum. So were other attempts to highlight the hardship of North African Jews who were under occupation.

"This is a continued marginalization of facts by a government-funded scholarly institute," Alfassa said, adding that the reason for this is "extensive political correctness."

Read article in full

Here 's Haaretz Chief US correspondent Shmuel Rosner's take on the debate

Challenging a sacred American institution by Shmuel Rosner (Haaretz)

JTA report

Ilan Pappe gets a response

Writing in the London Review of Books of 2 December about the election of Amir Peretz to the leadership of the Labour party, Dr Ilan Pappe makes five controversial statements in two paragraphs:

"There may be something positive to come out of Peretz’s election. He is the unlikely product of an education system that failed to provide school leavers with a chance of holding their own in the Israeli economy while implanting in their minds the need to de-Arabise: to forget – indeed, to wrench themselves fromtheir Arab roots. They learned that the way to integrate yourself into Israeli Jewish society was to adopt strong anti-Arab and, more particularly, anti-Palestinian positions. This is why towns like Sderot were built near the unstable and quite often violent borders of Israel. It is easier to feel hatred or animosity when you live in constant danger of being shelled or attacked.

"Amir Peretz has shown that you can make it from Sderot to the top by adopting leftist Zionist views. His prospective policies are not enough to change anything, but perhaps the next generation of Moroccan Jews will produce a leader capable of going one step further in liberating himself or herself from anti-Arab Orientalist ideologies of superiority – and, in so doing, influence the thinking of Israeli society as a whole. It ought to be possible for outlooks to change. After all, 99 per cent of the inhabitants of Sderot and places like it are not candidates for the premiership; nor are they likely to find jobs, proper housing or education, or peace of mind. They are victims of Zionism as much as the Palestinians are. Let us hope that a sense of shared victimhood will one day provide a joint leadership and a genuine road map or train ticket out of our misery here in Israel and in Palestine."

In their 26 January issue the LRB printed the following letter in response :

Most Mizrahim, despite being Arabic in culture and language, would wince at Ilan Pappe’s description of them as ‘Arab Jews’ (LRB, 15 December 2005). Their ancient, now extinct communities predated the Arab Islamic conquest by a thousand years. The Mizrahim do not see themselves as Jewish Arabs, nor do they generally feel victimised by the ‘Ashkenazi’ Zionist establishment. This is not to deny that they are seriously affected by discrimination and poverty. But the Mizrahim, who make up half of the Jewish population, have also managed to reach the highest echelons of society in a single generation. Amir Peretz’s rise to power isn’t a flash in the pan: the foreign minister is a Tunisian Jew and the president an Iranian Jew. Pappe is wrong to suggest that a prerequisite for integration was the adoption of ‘strong anti-Arab positions’ by Mizrahi Jews. Some 600,000 Mizrahim came as penniless refugees from oppressive Arab states and would be the first to understand that under Pappe’s ‘one-state solution’ the Jews would revert to being a persecuted minority in an Arab country.

Lyn Julius

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Neglected suffering of Jews in Arab countries

An interesting exchange in Rosner's Blog (Haaretz US correspondent) between Salman (Jack) Hikmet and Walter Reich, psychiatry professor and former director of the Washington Holocaust Museum:

Dear Sir

I know our suffering is but a grain in the sand compared to the Holocaust, but I feel that the Jewish people both in Israel and in the Diaspora fail to recognize what was done to Arab Jewry before and after the establishment of the State of Israel.

As an Iraqi Jew, I was in Baghdad in the late 60s-early 70s, and witnessed the public hanging of several members of our community by the murderous Saddam and his cohorts, as well as torture, disappearances and confiscation of property.

Libyan, Syrian, and Egyptian Jews have a similar tale to tell, and I feel that a mention of this chapter in our history is long overdue.

Best regards and keep up the good work

Salman (Jack) Hikmet

Dear Salman,

You're right, of course. Jews in Arab lands, during the last century, suffered significantly and in many places. Moreover, they experienced a very great deal of discrimination under Muslim rule during previous centuries. Bernard Lewis has written valuably, as have many other historians, on the experience of Jews in Arab and Muslim lands. The reason this discrimination isn't focused on very much is that, compared with the experience of the persecution, frequent massacres and genocide of the Jews in Europe, the experience of Jews in Arab and Muslim lands was much more tolerable.

In a way, this matter is analogous to the general sense of the experience of Jews in North Africa during the Holocaust. Many of these Jews did suffer, many were confined in labor camps, and quite a few were killed by French Vichy and German authorities. But, in the end, only about 1 percent of the Jews in French North Africa were killed, while some 70 percent of the Jews in Europe were killed. While that 1 percent is a large number, it doesn't compare to the percentage or the number killed in Europe. And so, unjustifiably but inevitably, we focus hardly at all on the Holocaust in North Africa. I should mention, by the way, that an important study of the experience of Jews in North Africa during the Holocaust - In Search of Righteous Arabs: Heroes and Villains of the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands, by Robert Satloff *- will be published later this year.


*See Satloff's (abridged) article here

Friday, January 13, 2006

Joe Golan, saviour of Algerian Jewry?

On 30 December, the revisionist historian Tom Segev published an article in Haaretz magazine about the late Joe Golan, based on his memoirs.

In 1962 Israel had refused to renew the passport of this Egyptian-born roving diplomat and Arab affairs adviser to the World Jewish Congress: Golan, whom Segev casts as a saviour of the Algerian Jews, had disobeyed Israeli government policy and advised them to leave.

On the other hand, Golan was a scathing critic of Israel's 'discriminatory' policy towards Moroccan Jewish immigrants. Although Golan 'does not say explicitly that it would have been better for the Moroccan Jews had they stayed in Morocco', to Segev it is an open question whether Israel caused the destruction of the Jewish community there.

Not surprisingly, Segev's article has been eagerly reprinted by the Arab and anti-Zionist press.

In the 13 January edition of Haaretz magazine there appears a letter refuting at least part of Segev's thesis.

Regarding "The Joe Golan affair," Haaretz Magazine, December 30

"I didn't know Joe Golan, except through hearing stories about him, but I do have personal knowledge when it comes to the history of the Jews in North Africa in general, and Algeria in particular, during the period under discussion, as someone who was there during those difficult years − as a person in a commanding role, with my people being emissaries from Israel.

"During the second half of the previous century, when the winds of independence began to blow in the Maghreb countries, accompanied by various levels of violence, the members of Israel's Prime Minister's Office began to worry about the welfare of the Jews. Thus, various defense frameworks were set up in North Africa, composed of the Zionist youth movements and the Scouts, with the addition of adults who had served in the French army, as well as most of the community leaders and rabbis who, like me, had never heard of Joe Golan.

"The Jews of Algeria were in no need of Golan's warnings, and had been aware of their sensitive situation as French citizens since the Cremieux Law in 1870. The members of FLN, the Algerian rebels, tried in various ways and through violence to convince Jews to join their struggle. The height of the harassment was in the city of Constantine. The organized Jewish community of the city repeatedly warned against harming the Jews, and when things went too far, the response from the defense groups was a military operation that brought
quiet to the community.

"Jews began to leave Algeria already in late 1958 for France, Canada and Israel, and once again, were in no need of Joe Golan's warnings. The defense frameworks included hundreds of well-trained young people and adults. They were the ones who operated a sophisticated system for organizing Aliyah Bet ?(the (the second wave of clandestine immigration?) and brought tens of thousands of Jews to Israel without any selection process, in order to rescue them. Of the 150,000 Jews of Algeria, only about 5,000 remained after the French evacuation.

"Joe Golan's claim to have been the rescuer of the Algerian Jews is incorrect and uncalled for."

Eliezer Duvdevani, Ganei Tikva

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Iraq-Israel association set up

An Israel-Iraq Friendship Association has been established recently by a group of Iraqis and a group of Israelis (with thanks: iraqijews).

An Iraqi member said that the association was established because Iraq needs intelligence information that Israel can provide to help fight terrorism in Iraq. They also need private Israeli capital to help build the Iraqi economy. Iraq can also make use of Israeli technological and agricultural know-how.

Article here (in Arabic).

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Arab antisemitism should be exposed

A group in the USA is pressing the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC to expose Arab antisemitism. Holocaust Museum Watch is holding a symposium on the subject on 18 January. Speakers will include Edwin Black, author of IBM and the Holocaust and Banking on Baghdad, and Maurice Shohet, an Iraqi Jewish community leader. Iraq was the scene of the Nazi-inspired Farhoud in 1941, 65 years ago, which killed 169 Jews.(with thanks: iraqijews)

To quote its website,"Holocaust Museum Watch would like the Museum to take a leadership role in exposing Arab antisemitism and its threat to world Jewry. Its silence on current anti-Semitism in the Arab world is astonishing.

"A museum which was built to honor the memory of those who died as victims of antisemitism and to spread awareness of the tragedy caused by the political use of this hatred needs to take a leadership role in exposing Arab antisemitism. Arab antisemitism has not only poisoned the minds of millions of Arabs against Jews, as did Nazi propaganda, and has labeled the Holocaust a fake, it is widely credited with being the engine behind the re-emergence of European anti-Semitism in exactly the areas where Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.

"The antisemitism of the Arab world is rampant and reminiscent of Hitler’s antisemitism. Unlike the antisemitism on the rise in Europe, which is overwhelmingly denounced by government officials, Arab antisemitism is fueled by Arab governments.

"As the pre-eminent American institution researching the horrors of the political use of antisemitism, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum should be in the forefront of the fight to disclose the re-emergence of this hatred as a political tool. The absence of programs about Arab antisemitism over the last decade is a failure of the museum and an obscene dereliction of its duty.

"Our mission is to encourage the museum to fashion important programs focused on Arab antisemitism – its exposition of Jew hatred in schools, media and mosques, using many images directly from Nazi propaganda."


Shelomo Alfassa writes a piece arguing that the Nazi-Arab alliance of the 1930s and 40s has been expunged from the historical record, probably out of political correctness.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Sephardi voters desert Amir Peretz

In a poll by professor Ephraim Yaar of the university of Tel Aviv conducted before Ariel Sharon's stroke, support among Sephardi Jews for the Labour party fell by 13 percent in November and December. Support among Ashkenazi electors fell by only four percent.

Haaretz reports that these results contradict Labour's own predictions, which had assumed that its traditional Ashkenazi electorate might desert it.

Professor Yaar suggests two explanations:First, Peretz is seen as deeply rooted in the secular left, with which the Sephardim identify less. Second,the Sephardim are not swayed by the 'ethnic' vote. They will not vote for him just because he is a Sephardi.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Frequently Asked Questions

How many Jews lived in Arab countries? How long had they been in the Middle East?
Jews had been living in what are today Arab countries for over 2,500 years – fully one thousand or more years before the advent of Islam. In 1948, the population of Jews totalled nearly 900,000. Today, less than 5,000 remain. For a country-by-country summary see the Jewish Virtual Library.

Country (or modern
day equivalent), *Earliest Jewish Presence **Population 1948 ***Population 2001
Morocco *1st century CE** 285,000*** 2,700
Tunisia *2nd century CE ** 111,000 ***1,500
Algeria *1-2nd century CE **140,000 ***Less than 100
Egypt *4th century BCE **75,000 *** Less than 100
Syria *1st century BCE **30,000*** Less than 100
Lebanon *1st century BCE 10,000*** Less than 100
Libya *3rd century BCE** 40,000*** None
Iraq *6th century BCE **150,000*** Less than 25
Yemen *3rd century BCE ** 50,000 ***800
**Total 891,000 ***Less than 5000

What was the status of the Jews?
Their condition varied from country and country and era to era. Under Islamic law Jews were considered second class (dhimmis) but were given limited religious, professional and business opportunities. In some cases, their condition improved temporarily with the advent of Western influence on the Arab countries.

What made the Jews leave?
When Arab states acquired their independence , the Jews, along with other minorities, were marginalised. The Jews' situation took a dramatic turn for the worse as virtually all Arab countries backed or took part in war against Israel in 1948. This triggered a surge in mob violence and a pattern of legalised discrimination and state-sanctioned repression. The similarity of actions against the Jews, coupled with statements and records from the time, suggest that the conduct of ethnic cleansing was co-ordinated between the Arab governments. Those who did not flee became hostages to the Arab-Israeli conflict. No compensation was ever provided to those who fled.

Where did the Jewish refugees go?
Israel struggled to resettle some 600,000 at great cost. Some 300,000 others built new lives in France, Britain, Italy, Australia, Latin America, Canada and the US.

Why has little been heard about these Jewish refugees?
The reasons are complex. Principally, because they did not remain refugees for long, but were successfully integrated into their host countries.

Do the Jews wish to ‘return’ ?
There was an exchange of almost equal numbers of Arab and Jewish refugees between Israel and the Arab world. To ‘return’ would be a retrograde step. The Jewish refugees are living proof that all refugees can start afresh provided their host countries have the will to resettle them.

Why is the issue of the Jewish refugees central?
History: the truth about the Jewish refugees needs to be told. Too many people view the Middle East conflict through a distorted prism which expunges the Jewish refugee narrative.
Morality and legality: the plight of the Jewish refugees is an unresolved human rights issue. There is a moral imperative that justice be done and that the Jewish refugees from Arab countries issue assume its rightful place on the international agenda.
Peace: for a peace process to be credible and enduring and for all parties to be reconciled, all outstanding issues must be addressed and all claims finalised.

What did the UN do for Jewish refugees?
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees recognised displaced Jews as bona fide refugees but offered no help. The UN General Assembly has not passed a single resolution in their favour, whilst it has passed l0l resolutions about the Palestinian Arab refugees and dedicated an agency, UNWRA, to their exclusive care.

Do the Jewish refugees feature in blueprints for Middle East peace?
UN security council resolution 242, the Madrid peace conference, the Road Map and the bilateral agreements between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians all refer to a just solution of the ‘refugee problem’– never distinguishing between Jews and Arabs.

Is the campaign for Jewish refugees a “tit-for-tat” response to Palestinian claims?
The legitimate call to secure rights and redress for former Jews displaced from Arab countries is not a campaign against Palestinian refugees. It is a “stand alone” campaign. It would be inaccurate and counterproductive to link the legitimacy of the rights for Jews displaced from Arab countries to the issues concerning Palestinian refugees. They are neither identical, nor symmetrical.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Tunisia wants better ties with Israel

Profile of Joseph Bismuth, Tunisia's only Jewish senator, in the Jerusalem Post:
Tunisia is interested in establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, according to Tunisia's only Jewish legislator, though he defended his government's decision to close Israel's liaison office in 2000.

"There is really a wish to open relations," Senator Joseph Bismuth told The Jerusalem Post while in Jerusalem Wednesday, but he noted that the "when and how" remains a question, and is linked to the general relationship between Israel and the Arab world. He did say, though, that, "There are many signals that the situation will improve very soon."

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A souvenir from Baghdad

Imad Levy is one of the last Jews in Baghdad, a mid-40s car salesman in the midst of a senior citizen-heavy community. Last month, he sent a special present to his father in Israel, Ron Ben-Yishai reports in Y-net News (with thanks: Grace).

In the spring of 2003, when I got to Baghdad as part of the war effort, there was still one synagogue active in the city's Batween neighbourhood. Apart from serving as a prayer hall it served also as nursing home for two old Jews. The Jewish community then numbered 42 people, and there was a group with whom to celebrate the Passover seder.

Last month, when I returned to Baghdad on special assignment for Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's leading daily newspaper, I found no trace of any of it. The synagogue was closed, and I didn't manage to make contact with any of the Jews I'd met then.

I finally managed to track down a phone number for Imad Levy, one of the only Jews left in Baghdad.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The useful idiots of dhimmitude

Those who make simplistic analogies between European colonialists and Israelis are either ignorant or in denial of 1,000 years of Jewish subjugation and suppressed history in Arab countries. When ami tried to make this point to the anti-Zionist academic Jacqueline Rose recently it became scandalously clear that Rose had never heard of 'dhimmitude.'(Via Melanie Phillips). Here's ami's account of their exchange:

Jacqueline Rose spoke last week on her book the Question of Zion, where she takes a Freudian approach. She prescribes a process of recognition by Jews and Israelis of the pain they have caused the Palestinians, (fair enough- and already many do) which she knows will be painful as they have suppressed this knowledge all along, but really it will be very therapeutic. Sure enough, she referred anon to the Palestinian Other. She also made the point that the hostility to the Jews who came to establish the Jewish state was not against them as Jews, but was hostility to Europeans coming to create a European colony. I commented that her whole analysis was Eurocentric and ignored a huge component of this Arab Jew psychic drama she had described- ie the effect on both players of 1000 years of dhimmitude. She had not recognised the Arab objection not just to a European state, or a Jewish state, but to the fact that it was a dhimmi state. The audience applauded and she looked blank and slightly panicked, asking ‘a what state?’ from which I deduced that this term, the big Other, the dhimmi, had no resonance for her at all.

"I had said that this suppressed history needed recognising, even more so than that of the Palestinians- meaning that there was already some recognition by Jews of the suffering of the Palestinians (whatever the contention over causality) whereas there was still almost total flat denial of the history and true nature of the dhimmi regime among Arab historians. She misunderstood and began berating me heatedly for valuing Jewish suffering above that of Palestinians, and calling shame on the audience for applauding my points. I approached her after the session ended to explain my point about the suppression of dhimmi history. If that were the case, she said (indicating thereby this was not something she knew about) then it should be spoken of, but not, she emphasised vehemently, at the expense of the Palestinians. Which means again she has not understood why it is important for her to understand the whole history and dynamic for a proper context, before pontificating on the remedy for healing this great guilt trauma on the Jewish psyche, let alone writing a book on Zionism."

See ami's 'Rose report' in the comments thread at Harry's Place.(scroll down)

Ahmadinejad's chutzpa

James Taranto's 'Best of the web' of 3 January points out the cheeky paradox in President's Ahmadinejad's latest rantings. Scroll down to Yeah, that's the ticket! (with thanks: Lily)

"The good news is that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's harebrained head of state, now says the Holocaust happened after all. The bad news is--well, we'll let the Associated Press take it from here:
Ahmadinejad . . . has now charged that European countries sought to complete the genocide by establishing Israel, a Jewish state in the midst of Muslim countries. . . .
"Don't you think that continuation of genocide by expelling Jews from Europe was one of [the Europeans'] aims in creating a regime of occupiers of [Jerusalem]?" the official Islamic Republic News agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.
"Isn't that an important question?"
Ahmadinejad said Europeans had decided to create a "Jewish camp" as the best means for ridding the continent of Jews and said the camp, Israel, now enjoyed support from the United States and Europe in what he termed the slaughter of Muslims.
Talk about chutzpah. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Europe has 2.3 million Jews, and 11 of the 20 countries with the biggest Jewish populations are in Europe: Russia, France, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Germany, Belarus, Hungary, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and Moldova.
By contrast, among predominately Muslim countries, the one with the biggest Jewish population is Iran itself, which places 25th with an estimated 20,405 Jews. This is less than one-fifth of Germany's Jewish population, and other estimates (such as this one) have the number much smaller.
The only other majority-Muslim countries to crack the top 50 are Turkey (17,415 Jews), Azerbaijan (7,911), Morocco (5,236) and Kazakhstan (4,100). The depopulation of Jews from the Arab and Muslim worlds is largely a postwar phenomenon; according to the JVL, Iraq's Jewish population had declined to around 100 by 2003 from 150,000 in 1948:
After the establishment of Israel in 1948, Zionism became a capital crime.
In 1950, Iraqi Jews were permitted to leave the country within a year provided they forfeited their citizenship. A year later, however, the property of Jews who emigrated was frozen and economic restrictions were placed on Jews who chose to remain in the country. . . .
In 1952, Iraq's government barred Jews from emigrating and publicly hanged two Jews after falsely charging them with hurling a bomb at the Baghdad office of the U.S. Information Agency.

With the rise of competing Ba'ath factions in 1963, additional restrictions were placed on the remaining Iraqi Jews. The sale of property was forbidden and all Jews were forced to carry yellow identity cards. After the Six-Day War, more repressive measures were imposed: Jewish property was expropriated; Jewish bank accounts were frozen; Jews were dismissed from public posts; businesses were shut; trading permits were cancelled; telephones were disconnected. Jews were placed under house arrest for long periods of time or restricted to the cities.

Persecution was at its worst at the end of 1968. Scores were jailed upon the discovery of a local "spy ring" composed of Jewish businessmen. Fourteen men--eleven of them Jews--were sentenced to death in staged trials and hanged in the public squares of Baghdad; others died of torture. On January 27, 1969, Baghdad Radio called upon Iraqis to "come and enjoy the feast." Some 500,000 men, women and children paraded and danced past the scaffolds where the bodies of the hanged Jews swung; the mob rhythmically chanted "Death to Israel" and "Death to all traitors." This display brought a world-wide public outcry that Radio Baghdad dismissed by declaring: "We hanged spies, but the Jews crucified Christ."

"The Jews of Iran have not fared as badly as their Iraqi counterparts, but the mad mullahs have hardly been good for the Jews:

"Under the Pahlavi Dynasty, established in 1925, the country was secularized and oriented toward the West. This greatly benefited the Jews, who were emancipated and played an important role in the economy and in cultural life. On the eve of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, 80,000 Jews lived in Iran. In the wake of the upheaval, tens of thousands of Jews, especially the wealthy, left the country, leaving behind vast amounts of property.

"So it would be more accurate to say that Arab countries since 1948, joined by Iran since 1979, have been following the lead of the Germans of the Nazi era and depopulating themselves of Jews.

In other words, ethnic cleansing.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Jews of Kurdistan, 55 years on

As Israeli Jews contemplate visiting the region (see below), in the Spring 2005 issue of the Yale Israel Journal, Josh Goodman takes a penetrating look at the Jews of Kurdistan, caught between tradition and modernity. The Jews were almost all relocated to Israel in the mass aliyah of 1950 - 51, but retain an affection for the land of their birth.

"As the Kurdish Jews were assimilating and advancing in Israeli society in the 1960s and 1970s, an alliance developed between the state of Israel and the Kurds in Iraq. During this period, Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, along with the CIA and the Iranian Shah’s special operatives, were engaged in operations in Kurdistan to aid the forces of “Mullah” Mustafa Barzani. Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, was fighting for Kurdish autonomy from the Iraqi central government. According to Eliezer Tsafrir, who led Mossad operations in Iran and Kurdistan during the 1970s, Israel managed to spirit a few thousand remaining Iraqi Jews out of Iraq to Israel through Kurdistan with Barzani’s help. While Tsafrir himself is partly of Kurdish origin, he claims that there were few other Kurdish Jews involved in the Israeli operations in Kurdistan, and that the Mossad did not make any effort to recruit them as operatives."

"Israel’s aid to the Kurds fits in with a general pattern of trying to establish alliances with non-Arab groups in the region, but the operations in the 1970s were also specifically designed to support Iran—at the time, Israel’s main Middle Eastern ally and chief supplier of oil—and to keep the Iraqi military busy. Israeli aid to the Kurds was terminated in 1975 following the rapprochement between the Shah and Saddam Hussein at the Algiers OPEC Conference.

Between Two Homelands

"Despite having spent most of their lives in Israel, many Kurdish Israelis maintain a high level of identification with their native Kurdistan, the Muslim Kurds, and Kurdish national aspirations. Many firmly believe in the need for an independent Kurdish state, a goal for which many Kurds have been striving since the end of the Ottoman Empire and which Arab nationalists have often denigrated as a potential “second Israel.” Kurdish Jews themselves draw parallels between the historical struggles of the ethnic Kurds and the Jews. Making a comparison between Kurdish suffering and the Jewish Holocaust, Efraim commented that “Saddam [Hussein] did to [the Kurds] what the Jews got in Germany, but in a lesser magnitude.”

"Surprisingly, some of the Kurdish Israelis I encountered had traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan recently. Travel to the region became practical for Israelis only after the establishment of Iraqi Kurdish autonomy under the aegis of the American no-fly zone following the 1991 Gulf War. One Kurdish Israeli, who visited Kurdistan during the 1990s, describes how he and his spouse were received by the Kurds."

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