Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Iranian Holocaust denial must be taken seriously

As Israel prepares to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, the German scholar Matthias Kuentzel warns chillingly that Iranian Holocaust denial, a central plank in an Islamist looking-glass world where reality is myth and myth is reality, will lead to total war - unless it is taken seriously. (Via Engage)

"My first proposition is the most obvious: Holocaust denial is motivated by antisemitism and its direct purpose is to contribute to the destruction of Israel. The Iranian leaders, however, do not at all regard themselves as antisemites. “We are friends with the Jewish people”, stated Ahmadinejad when he spoke at Columbia university last year. Moreover, the 25,000 or so Jews in Iran represent the largest Jewish community in any Muslim country.

"Anyone who looks closer, however, will soon discover that Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric is steeped in an antisemitism not found in any state leader since World War II. Ahmadinejad does not say “Jews” are conspiring to rule the world. Instead he says, “Two thousand Zionists want to rule the world.” “The Zionists have imposed themselves on a substantial portion of the banking, financial, cultural, and media sectors.” “The Zionists” fabricated the Danish Muhammad cartoons. “The Zionists thrive on war and hatred. Everywhere they exist there is war.” The pattern is familiar. He invests the word “Zionist” with exactly the same meaning Hitler poured into “Jew”: the incarnation of evil. Anyone who makes Jews – whether as “Judas” or as “Zionist” – responsible for all the ills of the world is obviously driven by antisemitism. He must want to eliminate Israel, as the “germ of evil”, in order to “save” the world.

"In this regard, in his opening speech to the conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Manucher Mottaki left no doubt: if “the official version of the Holocaust is called into question,” Mottaki said, then “the nature and identity of Israel” must also be called into question. If, however, the Holocaust did occur after all, then – per Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric – Israel has even less of a reason to be in Palestine, but should be transplanted instead to Europe. One way or another, the result is the same: Israel must vanish.

"The elimination of Israel, the demonisation of Jews and Holocaust denial – these are the three elements of an ideological constellation that collapses as soon as one of the elements is removed. "

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The House did the right thing on Jewish refugees

Congressman Jerrold Nadler

The US House of Representatives did the right thing when it adopted resolution HR no.185 which urges equal treatment for all refugees from the Middle East. One of the resolution's sponsors, Congressman (D-NY) Jerrold Nadler, explains why in Cutting Edge News. ( With thanks: Women's lens)

"While the plight of Palestinian refugees is well known throughout the world and has been a major element in every Arab-Israeli peace plan and negotiation, the plight of these Jewish refugees is rarely mentioned these days. Nevertheless, numerous international agreements pertaining to the Arab-Israeli conflict have been codified with the rights of the Jewish refugees in mind. U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, passed on November 22, 1967, after the Six Day War, calls for a just settlement to the refugee problem without limiting that problem to Palestinians.

"Presidents Carter and Clinton stated explicitly that the issue of Jewish refugees must be a part of any comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace agreement. And lest there be any doubt about this status, the U.N. High Commission on Refugees in 1957 ruled that Jewish people that fled Arab countries were, indeed, "refugees." This principle is reaffirmed in the Camp David Accords and in the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty. The treaty states, "Jewish refugees have the same rights as others do.

"These Jewish refugees were expelled systematically under official regime policies, which included state-fostered anti-Jewish decrees, pogroms, murders and hangings, anti-Semitic incitement and ethnic cleansing. They were done in accordance with an Arab League 1947 decree that provided a formula to promote state-sanctioned discriminatory measures that were replicated in many Arab countries in a deliberate campaign to expel the entire Jewish population from their home countries. And unlike the Palestinians, the Jewish refugees, having been expelled from the Arab countries, were absorbed into their host countries, mostly by Israel. About 600,000 refugees went to Israel, and the remaining 300,000 fled to other countries, such as France, Canada, Italy and the United States. In Israel today, the majority of the population consists of Jews from Arab countries and their children and grandchildren.

"The right of Jewish refugees from Middle Eastern lands to seek redress does not in any way conflict with the rights of Palestinian refugees to seek redress, and my resolution states this explicitly. This resolution merely expresses the sense of Congress that Jewish refugees, many of whom were so effectively absorbed by the State of Israel, should not be denied their legitimate rights and compensation for the property of which they were deprived.

"The resolution further states that a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement can be credible and enduring only if it achieves legitimate rights of all refugees, "including Jews, Christians and other populations" displaced from Middle East countries. Importantly, it also resolves that the President should instruct the U.S. Representative at the U.N. and all U.S. representatives in bilateral and multilateral forums to use their voice, their vote and the influence of the United States to ensure that any resolutions relating to the issue of Middle East refugees which include a reference to the required resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue must also include a similarly explicit reference to the resolution of the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

"My resolution also makes clear that the United States Government supports the position that as an integral part of any comprehensive and much to be desired Arab-Israeli peace, the issue of refugees from the Middle East, north Africa and the Persian Gulf must be resolved in a manner that includes recognition of the legitimate rights of and losses incurred by all refugees displaced from Arab countries, including Jews, Christians and other groups.

"Understandably, there is broad bipartisan support for this resolution, which was passed with unanimous consent from the Foreign Affairs Committee. Many Jewish groups have endorsed the resolution, including the American Jewish Committee, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Hadassah, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Orthodox Union, among others. But I must particularly acknowledge the work of B'nai B'rith International and the strong leadership of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries.

"It is important to deal with this issue now while some of the original refugees are still alive. Justice for Jews from Arab Countries has organized a campaign to conduct public education programs on the heritage and rights of former Jewish refugees from Arab countries, to register family history narratives, and to catalogue communal and individual losses suffered by Jews who fled from Arab countries.

"By adopting this resolution and urging that the rights of Jewish refugees be recognized in any future comprehensive Middle East settlement, the House has simply sought to ensure that any such agreement is fully just to all parties. As a member of the Quartet, and in light of the United States' central and indispensable role in promoting a just Middle East peace, the U.S. must reaffirm that it embraces a just and comprehensive approach to the issue of Middle East refugees. The House did the right thing when it adopted this important resolution.

Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) is a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tunisian does not show up at Holocaust conference

His presence was to have been a sign that Arabs acknowledge that the Holocaust also took place in Arab lands, but Ahmed el-Habassi of Tunisia decided not to show up at a Jerusalem conference on North African Jewry in the Second World War. Tunisia was the only Arab country to have been occupied directly by the Nazis, if only for six months. The Jerusalem Post reports:

"The Tunisian representative to the Palestinian Authority has abruptly cancelled his attendance at an international Holocaust conference this week in Jerusalem, organizers said Monday.

"The three-day event, which began Monday evening at Jerusalem's Yad Ben Zvi Institute, focuses on the fate of the Jews of North Africa during World War II.

"Tunisia's representative to the PA, Ahmed el-Habassi, had been scheduled to deliver remarks at the conference's opening session.

"His decision to skip the event followed a report about his attendance in The Jerusalem Post earlier this month, a spokesman for the Yad Ben Zvi Institute said Monday.

"Habassi's planned attendance at the event evidently rankled other Arab countries and embarrassed him, Israeli officials said.

"Habassi did not return calls for comment on Monday."

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Monday, April 28, 2008

How Iran's Jews are really treated...

Karmel Melamed produces five talking points to help sceptics find out the truth about how the Jewish minority is treated in Iran:

"I was recently approached by a non-Jewish American friend who point blank asked me why Iranians and Iranian Jews living in the U.S. were so opposed to the regime in Iran. "Jews are not mistreated in Iran, besides why are you guys making such a big deal about the Iranian government getting nuclear technology?" he asked.

"It took about two hours for me to explain the true nature of Iran's regime to him in order for him to realize the very serious threat that that government poses to the world. He was obviously brainwashed by some left-leaning media outlets that have little knowledge of the mentality and true ideology of Iran's radical Islamic clerics. The journalists or editors of such online or offline outlets have obviously never spent a single day living in Iran as religious minorities or understand the Persian language to grasp the sad reality of the reign of Iran's clerics on that country.

"After my two-hour lecture, I suggested my friend chat with middle-aged or older Iranian Jews or other Iranian religious minorities about their experiences of living under the rule of the Ayatollahs. I also gave him the following five talking points to discuss with Iranian American Jews so as to better under the extent of the Iranian regime's evil:

1) The countless hardships religious minorities such as Jews encountered when they cannot obtain certain educational or work advancements in Iran under this regime.

2) The difficulty religious minorities in Iran face in getting real justice, fair judgments on lawsuits and fair hearings in Iran's courts which treat Jews and other religious minorities as second class citizens with limited rights.

3) The sad fact that women and children regardless of their religion are considered the "chattels" of their fathers or husbands, with very little if no rights of their own under Iran's radical Islamic laws.

4) The Constitution of Iran's Islamic government which calls for global jihad with the objective of forcing everyone on the face of the earth to convert to the fundamentalist Shi'ite Islamic form of religion practised in Iran.

5) The billions of dollars in assets and property Iranian Jews and other opponents to Iran's current regime were forced to forfeit in order to escape Iran in the late 1970's and 1980's.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Egyptian Jewess relives her exodus at Passover

For Nicole Thosath, the story of the Passover is almost too familiar. Like Moses and the Israelites in ancient times, she and her family were forced to flee oppression in their native Egypt, trusting in God to deliver them to promise and safety in a foreign land. The Sun Herald reports:

The Punta Gorda (Florida) resident, born Nicole Tousson, is a descendant of many generations of Egyptian Jews. Now 56, she was just 7 when -- in the aftermath of Gamal Abdel Nasser's coup that deposed King Farouk and instituted sweeping changes in Egypt -- her family, along with many other Jews, were expelled from the country.

She recalls living in Cairo as a child, with a summer home in Alexandria. One of her earliest and fondest memories was sailing the Nile with her family. Thosath remembers learning French and Arabic, which was common in those days. And she remembers a very different life -- and a very different Egypt.

"There were many Jews in Egypt, living side by side with Muslims," she said recently. She and her family attended a beautiful, gilded temple, not far from a mosque.

"Everyone got along well," she remembered -- Jews, Muslims and Coptic Christians.

Sometime after Nasser came to power, her father, Simon, an accountant who worked for the king, was arrested by the army and held in custody for three days.

Remembering that chaotic time, she can still hear her mother's admonitions to stay away from their home's blacked-out windows -- and the explosion she saw outside when, as children often do when told not to do something, she peeked anyway. It was frightening enough to keep her from peeking again.

When her father was released, he was given 48 hours to get his family out of the country. They were not permitted to take any of their possessions with them -- those were forfeit to the state.

As was common at the time, many families had "help," or servants. Thosath remembers her family's servants, who were Muslim, helping her mother, Suzanne (nee Mizrahi), to sew what jewelry she had into clothes, so they might be able to take them on the journey.

It was a time of abrupt change and uncertainty for the family. And each Passover -- as Jews remember and celebrate the time when the Lord visited 10 plagues upon the Jews' Egyptian captors and their Pharaoh, and their final deliverance from that captivity -- Thosath cannot help but feel a deep connection to her own family's flight from danger.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

A treasured link to the old world of Kurdish Jews

Rabbi Yeshurun holds a prized tefillin (photo: courtesy)

The Jerusalem Post's remarkable profile (by Ari Greenspan and Ari Z Zivotofsky) of the 90-year old Rabbi Haim Yeshurun casts light on the little-known history and traditions of the Jews of Kurdistan. Rabbi Yeshurun, who arrived in Israel in 1950 with the aliyah from Iraq, has no desire to go back to his homeland. There the Jews were oppressed, were shunned as 'impure' by the Shi'a Kurds, and even suffered from blood libels which wiped out whole communities in the 19th century. (With thanks: Lily)

"This is the tale of our encounter with an anachronism, a living treasure from the past, and the touching relationship we have developed with 89-year-old Rabbi Haim Yeshurun. As part of our ongoing project to locate living links in the vital chain of Jewish tradition we first met Rabbi Yeshurun six years ago and have relished his friendship ever since.

"On Tisha Be'av in 1950, together with his children and pregnant wife, he arrived at a tent camp in Binyamina. They had escaped from Kurdistan to join fleeing Iraqis in Iran at a transit camp known as "the gate of aliya," from whence they would be flown to Israel. With deep sadness and lingering resentment, he relates that as he was boarding the plane he was forced to surrender a cherished signed family tree to a representative of the Jewish Agency, and it was never returned. He is the 12th generation of Jewish functionaries including scribes, ritual slaughterers, 'mohalim' and community leaders, and the document had the signatures of ancestors from each of those previous generations.

"Haim was born in Turkey in 1919 and originally named Hanukka, for the date of his birth. His parents and their five children fled through the mountains to Kurdistan, making stops in more than a dozen villages, and eventually "settling" in a small village of 23 Jewish families. Because Jews were not permitted to own land, they were peddlers rather than farmers and often wandered about in pursuit of a livelihood.

"On one of those treks through the mountain footpaths when Haim was about two years old, his father thought the boy had died and, although it was Shabbat, dug a shallow grave in which to bury him. While his mother wailed and the customary dust from the Land of Israel was being placed on his eyelids, she thought she saw them flutter and refused to abandon him. His father grew angry and hushed his wife lest the entire family be discovered and killed. The mother in her grief took her baby from his grave and carried him on her back through the mountains. At a cold spring, she dunked him in the water and he started crying, whereupon his name was changed from Hanukka to Haim, "life."

"The Jews of Kurdistan were only weakly connected with the rest of the Jewish world for many centuries. This remarkable community has its roots in parts of northern Syria, Azerbaijan, Armenia, parts of Iran, northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey. The harsh topography and the oppressive rulers made contact with them difficult. Many felt their ancestry was part of the Ten Tribes, exiled to Assyria after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE. It is commonly held that they settled there at the time of Ezra the scribe and did not return to Israel with the returnees of Babylon.

"Writing in about 1170, the traveler Benjamin of Tudela records that about 20,000 Jews existed in hundreds of small communities. One of the more unusual personas in their history was Tanna'it Asenath Barzani, who lived in Mosul from 1590 to 1670 and was famous for her knowledge of the Torah, Talmud, Kabbala and Jewish law. After her husband's death, she was the head of yeshiva at Amadiyah, and eventually was recognized as the chief instructor of Torah in Kurdistan.

"In recent times, the first Kurdish Jews made their way to Jerusalem in 1812 and by 1896 there were a number of families from Urfa, Ur Kasdim of the Bible, living in the Holy City. Rabbi Yisrael Benjamin wrote that in the 1800s when word would spread in Kurdistan that a messenger had arrived from Jerusalem they would place him on their shoulders and take him to the house of the head of the community where they washed his feet, and then drank the water which contained the dust of Jerusalem. Their situation was one of terrible oppression and attacks. Blood libels wiped out entire communities and some even became Muslim to save themselves. The local Muslims held that wet items "are impure and make impure those who touch or carry them" so they would not touch the Jews or their wet items, because the Jews were considered to be vile and impure.

"By 1948 there were 25,000-50,000 souls and almost all of them came to Israel, where there are today an estimated 100,000-150,000 "Kurdim." Owing to the terrible conditions in which they lived and the oppressive treatment they received at the hands of the locals, Rabbi Yeshurun, a bright, well-read man, told us that he has no longing to ever return to the land of his origins and does not express any goodwill to the locals.(...)

"Hebrew is not the only language he has mastered. The Kurdish Jews spoke what many consider a dead language, Aramaic. Not quite the Aramaic of the Talmud, but sort of a pidgin Aramaic. Speaking Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew and the two dialects of Aramaic spoken by the Kurdish Jews, Rabbi Yeshurun has translated the Bible into their Aramaic. In 1950, Aramaic speakers were rare among the staff at the transit camp and nobody else on the flight spoke Hebrew, so he quickly became the translator and representative of the group. His Hebrew was of course not modern, but biblical. While describing audio tapes that had been made years ago he referred to them as "the taking of his voice," and while they had seen things occasionally flying high in the sky while in Kurdistan, they did not know what an airplane was until the Israelis appeared to bring them here.

"Among his many skills, he is a ritual scribe. He told us with pride of the seven Torahs he has written, as well as the dozens of megillot and mezuzot. When we visited him most recently, in January, we were amazed to find him seated in a wheelchair, dressed in a robe, an oxygen tank
against the wall by his hospital bed and visitors still requesting that he check their mezuzot or adjust the knots on their tefillin. He unrolled one of the mezuzot, peered for a second and smiled at us proudly "This is one of mine; I wrote it about seven years ago."

When we asked him about who made the parchment on which to write the Torahs in Kurdistan, he was genuinely offended as he responded that he did of course. He would ritually slaughter the animal, remove the skin, work it into 'klaf', prepare the ink and quill and write the Torah. He similarly took offense when we asked about who performed marriages, and he responded that he would then and there write out for us by heart a ketuba.

Because Rabbi Yeshurun and we share interests in many Jewish skills and arts, we tried to debrief him on all of their traditional techniques from ink making to matza baking, from parchment manufacture to how he removed the forbidden fats from animals he slaughtered. "They rarely had etrogim in Kurdistan. Once in a while, one might appear from Iraq and the word would go out and all would hurry to make the blessing on the four species. They were unable to manufacture tefillin and the ones they had came from Baghdad. Smuggling them across the border was a risky business and thus tefillin were a rare and treasured commodity. When he became bar mitzva, he did not have his own pair but had to use his father's.

"As a testament to the tenacity with which the Kurdish Jewish community preserved our laws, he related how he was an expert in 'halitza', the rare ritual in which a childless widow is released from marrying her deceased husband's brother.

When we discussed his circumcision technique, he paused, smiled and asked if we would like to hear a good story. Knowing this was going to be a keeper, we sat back and waited. His father, the local 'mohel', was out of town and a man came and told him that his son needed a 'brit' that day. The baby's father was insistent that the boy would have it done that day despite the protestations of the young Haim Yeshurun. Having trained under his father, and observed circumcisions, he had no choice but to do his first brit. He had everything he needed except for the protective shield used by mohalim to avoid cutting too much. Smiling at us, he related how he went to a vine and cut down a gourd. From the gourd he whittled a piece into the proper shape and with that he went on to do the first of many circumcisions.

"In Kurdistan everything was homemade. The matzot, from the cutting of the grain, were supervised by him. The construction of the mikve, which he insisted was used by all in the observance of family purity laws despite the fact that most of the townsfolk were uneducated, was constructed by him, and the shofar was fashioned by his father. In fact when he arrived in Binyamina, one of his first acts was to build a mikve. (...)

"His desk is piled high with filled notebooks and he continues to write, by hand of course, during all his free time. When queried as to their content, he would only smile and say, "Things I want my family to know when I am gone."

"We asked him about the day he arrived in Israel. Starting to get emotional 57 years after the fact, he told us that they disembarked from the plane and immediately got down on their knees and kissed the ground. He started to cry as he related this story and again relived the emotions of that moment.

"As we parted, we clutched his hand and wished him many more years of health, happiness and the ability to continue serving his community. Not to be outdone, he put his hand on our heads and with tears in his eyes, blessed us with all that and much more."

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Reviving the lost history of the 'Tears of Jihad'

In this interview with Front Page magazine Bill Warner of the Centre for Political Islam brings interesting insights into the subjugated psychology of the dhimmi Jew or Christian. He estimates that some 270 million non-Muslims were killed as Islam consolidated its conquests. Rediscovering their suppressed history, termed by Warner 'The Tears of Jihad', will help us understand political Islam today.

"After he had subdued all of the kafirs in Medina, Mohammed attacked the Jews of Khaybar. By now he realized that you could make more money from a live kafir than from a dead one. Kafirs can be enslaved, but the slave option has a disadvantage. Slaves have to be managed and be near at hand. So Mohammed created the dhimmi. The dhimmi agrees to live in a world that is dominated by Islam in all public areas. A dhimmi is free from Islam only in his own home. Law, customs, art, education, the media, government, speech and every thing in public space is Islamic. In addition, the dhimmi has to pay a tax to Islam called the jizya tax. In Khaybar the jizya tax was 50%.

The key psychological technique is that the dhimmi is to be humiliated in all possible ways. In effect, the dhimmi is halfway between freedom and slavery, a semi-slave.

Mohammed’s power structure was now complete. His first division of humanity was into believer/kafir. Then he refined kafir into dhimmi and slave. Humanity became divided into Muslim, kafir-slaves, kafir-dhimmis and kafirs.

As the Islamic conquest rolled over the kafirs, the dhimmi was the perfect tool of subjugation. After Islam conquered a country, for instance Egypt, the Muslims were the top dogs in the politics, but the Christians could keep their religion. However, they had to live without legal protection or civil rights. All public space was Islamic. The dhimmi could be insulted, abused and had no recourse. They had to pay the jizya tax. The dhimmi were cattle on the Islamic ranch, but could attend their church or synagogue.

FP: What happened to the dhimmis under these conditions?

Warner: The insults, humiliations and taxes wore the dhimmis down. What happened over time was that the dhimmis converted to Islam. It was easier to avoid all this pain and become a Muslim.

In the 20th century, Islam became so weak that the full dhimmi status was dropped. But if you meet and talk to Christians from the Middle East today, you will find that the centuries of dhimmitude have produced, in many cases, a personality similar to an abused wife. It is very sad to see how subjugated a personality can become.

There is another kind of dhimmi—kafirs who become apologists for Islam, fear and defer to it. So we have two types of dhimmi—the subjugated dhimmi who is under the political power of Islam and the apologist dhimmi who seeks Islamic favor. (...)

FP: What is the best way to wake up the dhimmis or, if they refuse to wake up, to defeat them? Tell us a bit about possible grand strategies.

Warner: The key to waking up the dhimmis is with two kinds of knowledge--history and doctrine. Our dhimmis suffer from wanting to do the right thing and they think that the right thing is to help the victim. And Islam always claims to be the victim. Dhimmis love a good victim story.

We need to tell the history of the real victims--subjugated dhimmis, the Christian Arabs, Egyptian Copts, the Armenians, the African slaves, the Hindus, and the rest. We need to tell our apologist dhimmis these victims, the story I call the Tears of Jihad.

The Western historical mind is schizophrenic. We have an enormous missing history. What’s missing is not the problem, the problem is that we don’t even know it is missing. I like to ask devout Christians, “What happened to the Seven Churches of Asia mentioned in the book of Revelation?” Most Christians don’t know how Greek Christian Anatolia became Turkish Islamic Turkey. Buddhists don’t know how Afghanistan became the ground zero of Ghandarvian Buddhism. Jews are in denial about their role as dhimmis in medieval Islamic history. North Africa used to be Greek and Roman. How did it become Islamic?

They all became Islamic with an invasion where the kafirs became subjugated dhimmis. Over the next centuries, all the dhimmis converted. The dhimmi is a halfway point to submission to Islam.

All of these civilizations were annihilated. It is the purpose and history of Islam to annihilate all kafir culture. But the enormous tragedy is that the history was annihilated as well. We don’t even know that such history exists, never mind what it is. Almost no kafirs ever refer to this non-history of annihilation.

How big is this non-history of annihilation? The total killed over a 1400-year period is about 270 million. That is the biggest single source killing in the history of the world. The history of the death of those 270 million is the Tears of Jihad. Each and every one of these people was killed for only one reason—they were kafirs.

FP: This was civilizational annihilation, right?

Warner: Yes, and it was a two-step process. The jihad crushed the kafir political structure and set up the natives as dhimmis. Centuries later, the kafir culture is annihilated because dhimmis always submit over enough time. Dhimmitude is a temporary state that leads to submission.

We must learn the history of the Tears of Jihad and present it to our dhimmi culture. Because it is not just that our leaders are dhimmis, but with the help of the media and education, our entire culture has been dhimmified. So the history of the subjugated dhimmi must be taught.

This is a major problem for the Tears of Jihad history has been suppressed. The suppression did not occur because of some left or right wing cabal, but due to our own revulsion about the history. The history of the jihad and dhimmitude is so shameful and humiliating that we do not want to know. The kafirs totally lost everything that was in their culture. The language, art, customs, names, literature, legal systems, history …everything. When you go to Egypt, where is the living civilization of the pharaohs? When you go to North Africa, what happened to the Greek, Roman and Christian civilization? Annihilated.

But there are bits and pieces of the destruction of ancient kafir cultures that can be found, if you search. But you won’t find this history in the universities. The universities teach a beautiful lie of the glorious conquest of Islam and the “Golden Age” that followed.

We don’t teach this shameful and humiliating history of the deaths of Tears of Jihad for another reason. If we understand the past, then we understand that it is happening today. We don’t want to know it because that would mean we have to do something. We are like the man who suspects that his wife is cheating on him, but doesn’t want to know, because if he knew he would have to act. Ignorance is a good enough reason to do nothing.

But we must teach the apologist dhimmis the history of the subjugated dhimmis. The brutality of dhimmitude is too much to dismiss. The deaths of 270 million are too many to ignore. And what is worse, 210 million of these dead kafirs are “people of color”. Even your uber-liberal dhimmis can get upset at the suffering of “people of color”.

Not only can we save our culture by knowing what happened to other kafir cultures, but also we would pay a moral debt to the dead. Until we acknowledge and remember the 270 million dead, they will have died in vain."

Read article in full

See this article for a more nuanced view

Bahrain 'to appoint Jewish woman as US envoy'

Bahrain is set to appoint its first Jewish ambassador. (With thanks: Monique) Although reports are still as yet unconfirmed, Shura Council member Huda Noonoo is expected to be named Ambassador to the US, based in Washington, the sources said last night. Noonoo belongs to a highly-respected Bahraini Jewish family. 

 Not only would the appointment of a non-Muslim woman be a break with tradition, it will be the first time that Bahrain will have appointed an ambassador who is not a member of the Bahrain royal family. Read article in full (Arabic)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Antisemitic Mufti egged Nazis on to extremism

In the week when a report on antisemitism in the Arab world declared it a strategic threat to Israel, we ask: Was Arab antisemitism imported from Nazi Germany, or was it strictly a Muslim affair? A debate on this question has been raging between Matthias Kuntzel and Andrew Bostom. Now, however, a book by Klaus Gensicke titled Der Mufti von Jerusalem und die Nazionasozialisten, reviewed by John Rosenthal in the Hoover Institution Policy Review (April/May 2008) shows the relationship between the Mufti and the Nazis to be very much a two-way street. In some ways, the Mufti convinced the Nazis to become more extreme, eg on Jewish immigration to Palestine. Escaping to Berlin following their failed Iraq coup and the vicious Farhoud pogrom that followed, both the Mufti and Rashid Ali al-Gailani spent the war years dancing around Hitler, trying to push their Iraq-centred and anti-Jewish genocidal agenda. (With thanks: Eliyahu)

"Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem and the “father” of Palestinian radicalism, is obviously a key figure for such debates. As is well known, from 1941 to 1945 Husseini lived in Berlin as the honored guest of Nazi Germany. During this time, he notably collaborated with the Nazis in assembling the Muslim ss division “Handzar” in Bosnia, as well as in numerous propaganda activities aimed at Arab speakers. Whereas the facts of Husseini’s collaboration with the Nazis are widely known, what is less know, however, is the degree to which the mufti was influenced by or indeed himself influenced his hosts on an ideological and programmatic level. But a new book by German historian Klaus Gensicke titled Der Mufti von Jerusalem und die Nationalsozialisten — “The Mufti of Jerusalem and the National Socialists” — sheds light on precisely this question. Based largely on primary source materials from the German archives, Gensicke’s volume provides unparalleled insight into the details of the mufti’s relationship to his Nazi hosts: at least as seen from the German side.

Gensicke’s 1988 doctoral dissertation is one of the principal sources for Küntzel’s discussion of the mufti in Jihad and Jew-Hatred and Küntzel himself wrote the preface for Gensicke’s new book: an updated version of the dissertation. Nonetheless, the Gensicke volume also provides considerable support for the thesis that, so to say, “native” Islamic sources of anti-Semitism are primordial in Muslim or Arab anti-Semitism. At the very least, Gensicke’s account shows the relation between the mufti and the Nazis to have been very much a two-way street: even — or indeed especially — as concerns the notorious “Jewish Question.”

Thus, in March 1933, only two months after Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor, it was in fact the mufti who sought contact to the new German authorities and not vice-versa. In a March 31 telegram to Berlin, the German general consul in Jerusalem, Heinrich Wolff, reported on his meeting with Husseini:

The Mufti explained to me today at length that Muslims both within Palestine and without welcome the new regime in Germany and hope for the spread of fascist, anti-democratic forms of government to other countries. Current Jewish economic and political influence is harmful everywhere and has to be combated. In order to be able to hit the standard of living of Jews, Muslims are hoping for Germany to declare a boycott [of “Jewish” goods], which they would then enthusiastically join throughout the Muslim world.

As Gensicke explains, however, the initial German response to the mufti’s advances was cool. Indeed, the German attitude toward the mufti would remain reserved throughout the first years of Nazi rule. At the time, the Nazi leadership still hoped to come to an understanding with Great Britain that would allow it to pursue unhindered its expansionist goals in Eastern Europe. In return for British acquiescence, it was prepared to treat the Middle East as part of the British sphere of influence.

Moreover, for at least part of the Nazi leadership — Gensicke points in particular to Deputy Foreign Minister Ernst von Weizsäcker — the immigration of German Jews to Palestine represented a tolerable solution to Germany’s supposed “Jewish problem.” This attitude was obviously inimical to the plans of the mufti, who pleaded with German authorities to restrict Jewish immigration. Starting in August 1933, however, they did the opposite: in effect, facilitating Jewish immigration under the complex terms of the so-called Haavara or “Transfer” Agreement. The Haavara Agreement simultaneously permitted German Jews to transfer part of their wealth to Palestine and favored German exports to the region — the latter aspect earning it the support also of the Economics Ministry. “It cannot be denied that the Haavara Transfer made a considerable contribution to the development of Jewish settlement in Palestine,” Gensicke writes.

The immigration of Jews to Palestine represented a tolerable solution to some in the Nazi leadership, but it was inimical to the mufti’s plans.

By August 1940, however, the situation had radically changed. The outbreak of the war had brought the Haavara Agreement to an end. Even while it was still at least formally in effect, moreover, the Germans had already been quietly providing financial and material support to the mufti-led “Arab Revolt” in Palestine from 1936 to 1939. The aim of the revolt was precisely to stop Jewish immigration. After guiding the Arab Revolt from exile in Beirut, the mufti had in the meanwhile taken refuge in Iraq. There he allied himself with the pro-Axis circle around new Prime Minister Rashid Ali al-Gailani, who had recently replaced the pro-British Nuri as-Said. On August 26, an emissary of the mufti by the name of Osman Kemal Haddad met with Fritz Grobba of the German Foreign Office in Berlin. According to Grobba’s notes, Haddad asked for a declaration from Germany and Italy recognizing the right of the Arab countries to independence and “self-determination” and that they might resolve the “question of the Jewish element” just as Germany and Italy had done. In return, Haddad promised that Iraq would accord Germany and Italy “a privileged place” in its foreign relations: notably as concerns the “exploitation of Iraq’s mineral resources and in particular its oil reserves.”

Only the defeat of Rommel at the second Battle of El Alamein prevented German forces from entering Palestine and carrying out operations against the Jewish population.

Gailani would resign his post in January 1941 and then be returned to power by a coup d’état four months later. The British military intervention that followed would bring a provisional end to the mufti’s plans of transforming Iraq into a pro-Axis beachhead in the Middle East. “Sonderkommando Junck,” a somewhat perfunctory German Luftwaffe mission dispatched by the Reich to support its allies in Iraq, could not reverse the trend. Both the mufti and Gailani fled to Tehran toward the end of May. Even after their departure, Gensicke writes, “a wave of acts of intimidation and terror on the part of the pro-Axis forces continued.” These included a major anti-Jewish pogrom, known as the “Farhud,” in which some 179 Iraqi Jews were killed.

"As Gensicke’s account makes clear, moreover, the Nazi leadership would continue to accord central importance to the Iraqi “liberation struggle.” The deposed Iraqi Prime Minister Gailani followed the mufti to Berlin, where he, too, would take up residence starting in November 1941. For the remainder of the war years, the two Arab leaders would compete jealously for the Nazis’ favor. In light of the obvious parallels between the anti-British Iraqi “liberation struggle” of the early 1940s and the anti-American Iraqi “liberation struggle” of today, it is curious that Nazi Germany’s involvement in the former has not received greater public attention. A separate study of Gailani’s collaboration with the Nazis would undoubtedly be rich in historical lessons."

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How Eden of Iraq turned to hell in 1941

In her review for The Sephardi Bulletin (Shab'uoth 2008) Lyn Julius finds Memories of Eden by the late Violette Shamash an entertaining and engrossing account of life in Jewish Baghdad. But Eden was short-lived, and the 1941 Farhoud sounded the death knell for the Jewish community.

The day in 1912 when Violette Shamash came into the world was not the happiest for her Iraqi-Jewish family.

Girls were considered something of a disaster and a burden. As one of six girls and only one boy, Violette’s parents had more than their fair share of burdens. Girls had only one destiny in life – to be married off with a dowry.

One generation earlier, and Violette would not even have gone to school. Not only did she learn to read and write, but she did so in French and English, as well as Arabic, at the Alliance Israelite school in Baghdad. What would her parents, who were still old-fashioned enough to have arranged her marriage (Violette was introduced to her husband on the day she got engaged to him) have thought if they knew that their daughter’s memoirs would one day be published – albeit posthumously?

Pieced together from 20 years’ worth of letters and notes sent to Violette’s daughter Mira and son-in-law Tony Rocca, Memories of Eden is a detailed record, written with a light touch and illustrated with diligently-researched, rare old photos. It gives an unusual woman’s perspective of a bygone age, lived to the rhythms of Shabbat and the Jewish festivals. Violette’s parents were among the first to move out of Baghdad’s cramped historic Jewish quarter, building a palace or qasr in Karrada, then on the outskirts of Baghdad, that King Faisal himself would covet.

According to legend, the Garden of Eden was located here, in the Land of the Two Rivers. At first glance there seems nothing Eden-like about a hot and dusty existence amid blocks of ice and septic tanks and horse-drawn carriages. Yet Violette played amongst the fruit trees. Life was pastoral and idyllic on the banks of the Tigris and the minutiae of domestic living was alleviated by a staff of servants.

The book has an Arabian Nights quality – peppered with tales from b-iyyam el Osmali, the days of the Ottomans. In the knowledge that Judeo-Arabic will soon be a dying language, a lexicon at the back compiled with the help of Hebrew University Professor Shmuel Moreh is thoughtfully provided. Anyone who grew up hearing words like daghboona, (corridor), insults like booma (owl) and wabba (plague)and the typically Jewish expression of wonder or shock weh hoo weh, will finally understand what they mean and be propelled on a Proustian journey back to childhood. But even if you had not the faintest idea about Jewish life in Baghdad, you would find it an entertaining and engrossing read.

Tantalising is the description of the run-up to the 1941 Farhud pogrom which sounded the death-knell for 2,600 years of Jewish presence in Iraq. Violette, who was about to give birth to Mira, sheltered with family while Jews were increasingly the object of attack during the ‘black month’ that the pro-Nazi Rashid Ali held power. Violette’s family was among the first to see the writing on the wall, six months later moving to India, then Palestine, Cyprus and finally London. The Jews of Iraq were ‘scattered like feathers from a pillow’ to the four corners of the globe. Today the community is virtually extinct.

Towards the end of the book there is a change of tone as Tony Rocca, a career Fleet St journalist and editor, takes up the neglected story, based on original research, of the one man who could have halted the Farhud slaughter of the Jews. Dubbed ‘Cornwallis of Arabia’, the British ambassador Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, as tall at six- foot-four as his role in the politics of Iraq has been inexplicably underrated, dominated Iraq for 40 years. While the mob went on a two-day murder and looting rampage, Corwallis refused to order British troops, camped out on the outskirts, into Baghdad, lest the British be seen by the Arabs as an army of occupation. And so the lives of up to 600 Jews were callously sacrificed to realpolitik.

Rare photo showing the towering figure of Cornwallis (far left) with Sir Percy Cox and (far right) Sir Aymler Haldane at King Faisal's coronation. The book exposes Cornwallis' callous role in the Farhoud.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Iraqi-Jewish Shanghai synagogue hosts wedding

Last week Ohel Rahel, a synagogue built in Shanghai by its Iraqi-Jewish community in 1920, was the scene of the first wedding to be held there for 60 years, according to Haaretz (With thanks: Lily).

"A glass was smashed, and a cheer went up. After months of careful negotiations with the Chinese government, Shanghai's Jewish community celebrated a revival last month as a historic synagogue opened for its first wedding in about 60 years.

"Shanghai has special meaning for the global Jewish population after it took in tens of thousands of Jewish refugees during World War II. The city's Jewish community and the foreign community at large soon faded away, however, after the communists took over in 1949 and heavily restricted both business and culture. For decades, the practice of religion was discouraged, and places of worship were torn down or given secular uses, such as storage spaces for grain.

"But China's largest city is regaining its cosmopolitan reputation as the country continues its dramatic rise, and the Jewish community of foreigners now numbers more than 2,000.

"Maurice Ohana, the president of the current community, still knew, however, it would be hard to get access to the Ohel Rachel synagogue for his daughter's wedding. Judaism isn't one of officially atheist China's five recognized religions, because of the lack of native Jews, and the community worships quietly, in local apartments.

"Ohel Rachel, built in 1920 by an earlier Jewish community of businessmen with roots in Iraq and India, remains in the hands of Shanghai's education ministry. Once used as storage and now used from time to time as an auditorium, it was named one of the world's 100 most endangered sites by the World Monuments Fund in 2002 and 2004."

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Syrian Jews paint picture of freedom at Passover

With the obvious blessing of the Assad regime, AP reports via The Jerusalem Post that the few remaining Jews of Syria have nothing but praise for the way they are treated.

A handful of Syrian Jews celebrated the start of the Jewish Passover holiday Sunday with prayers at Damascus' only synagogue, saying they feel free to openly practice their religion just as Muslims and Christians do.

There are only about 100 Jews left in Syria, after the late President Hafez Assad permitted Jews to leave the country in 1992, said Albert Qameo, a Jewish community leader in Syria. In the past 16 years, some 3,700 Jews have left Syria for Israel and the United States.

The remaining Syrian Jews live in the capital, Damascus, the northern city of Aleppo and in the northeastern city of Qamishli.

"Here I was born, studied and worked. Here is our history, and we have our holy sites that we have to look after," Qameo said.

Qameo, 59, led Sunday's prayers, which were attended by only seven Jews at Al-Feranj Synagogue in the old Jewish quarter in central Damascus.

Jews who worship in the Syrian capital do so without a rabbi, after their chief rabbi left Syria for the US in 1994.

"I'm happy in Syria where I perform my Jewish rituals like Muslims and Christians do," Qameo said, speaking in Arabic. "Marking Passover here in this synagogue is a proof that Jews in Syria are living peacefully and in security."

Another worshipper at Sunday's prayers, Joseph Hamdani, said he lives peacefully in Syria and maintains good relations with his Muslim and Christian neighbors.

"I don't feel like I'm being treated differently," said Hamdani, 41, who also speaks Arabic.

Read article in full

Syrian Jews celebrate Passover at the al-Firenj Synagogue in downtown Damascus Sunday.
Photo: AP

Haaretz article

...while Jews of Yemen celebrate 'Easter'

Buried in this picturesque account in The Yemen Post of Yemenite Jews celebrating Passover - the reporter calls it 'Easter' - is a rabbi's urgent plea to Muslims in the country to show greater tolerance to non-Muslims.

"Like other Jews across the globe, Yemeni Jews celebrated on Saturday the first day of Easter in a calm atmosphere. The celebrations are due to continue until next Thursday.

Actually, next Sunday - ed.

"According to senior Jewish Rabbi Suleiman Jacob, Jews observed this merry and happy occasion in which Allah saved Moses and his believing companions from Pharaoh and his soldiers by performing prayers of supplications.

A quaint description of the Exodus from Egypt and the reading of the Haggadah.

"Unlike the celebrations of Jews in Israel and foreign countries, Jacob revealed that Yemeni Jews are conservative and there is no mixing during the religious festivals they celebrate, hinting such celebrations are strange to them.

Obligatory dig at Israel, but it is not clear what the reporter means by 'mixing'.

"He as well called on Islamic scholars to do their own duties and to raise the awareness of people as for having proper relations with non-Muslims in a way that achieve the principle of peaceful coexistence under the constitution.

Translation: Jacob pleads with the Muslims to treat the Jews of Yemen better during the current in-fighting. The Jews have been forced to flee their homes and some of these have been torched.

Read article in full

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Yesterday's Baghdad was doomed anyway

Sasson Somekh's latest book Baghdad yesterday reflects the rose-coloured nostalgia for a vanished lifestyle and the ambivalence of people forcibly transplanted to Israel. But in spite of the difficulties of the Iraqi-Jewish aliya, it appears from the bitter experience of the Jews who remained that the Jewish community of Iraq would have been doomed anyway. Calev Ben David reviews Somekh's book in The Jerusalem Post (with thanks: Lily):

"Much of Baghdad, Yesterday first appeared as a series of short pieces published in Haaretz, and the book retains an episodic feel. While an enjoyable and illuminating read, it doesn't quite have the polish and depth of, say, Andre Aciman's Out of Egypt, which described the cosmopolitan world of Alexandria's Jews during the same period.

"That book, like this one, is part of a growing literature of both fiction and non-fiction that recalls a world of Arabic Jewry that largely ended (except in Morocco and, to a much smaller degree, Tunisia) with the establishment of the State of Israel. Indeed, Baghdad, Yesterday was published by Ibis Editions, a small non-profit press based in Jerusalem and run by poet/translator Peter Cole (assisted by his wife Adina Hoffman, who like this reviewer is a former Jerusalem Post film critic) whose stated mission is dedicated "to the publication of Levant-related books of poetry and belletristic prose," and "to build bridges of various sorts, between Arabs and Jews, the communal and the personal, America and the Middle East, and more. In short, we hope that our books have changed and will continue to change the way individual readers think about this troubled region and about the lives and literatures of the people who live here."

"This is a worthy mission to be sure, but the effort to preserve and perhaps renew Middle Eastern Jewish culture brings with it an intriguing and sometimes controversial corollary issue, that Somekh addresses in part in his book. This is the historical discussion over the reason behind the mass migration of some one million Mizrahi Jews from Arab lands to the newborn Jewish state during the 1950s, an event that essentially brought an end to the epoch of Arabic Jewry, and in the specific case of Iraq has been the subject of particularly contentious debate.

"The mass immigration to Israel that took place in 1950 and 1951 involved most of the Iraqi Jewish community, and it startled us," writes Somekh. "Coming in the wake of the parliament's decision to allow any Jew who so desired to waive his Iraqi citizenship, it posed a very serious dilemma for many Jews, most of whom eventually opted to leave for Israel."

"Some historians have contended that the seeds of that exodus were planted even before the birth of the Jewish state, in the Iraqi pogrom, called the Farhood, which erupted in 1941 when the British army occupied the country to overthrow its pro-German government, and angry crowds took out their resentment on the local Jewish community, robbing and killing thousands.

"Although this was a shocking episode, Somekh asserts that "to describe the Farhood as the beginning of the end doesn't convey the whole picture. The subsequent years were ones of recovery and consolidation of a sort previously unknown to the Jews of Iraq. No clear signs of discomfort were evident, and most people did not seem to be looking elsewhere for a place to live. So it is incorrect to say that the Farhood was in itself a turning point."

"Somekh puts additional stress on the political crackdown by the government during the late 1940s following an anti-British rebellion called al-Warthab (the uprising), in which several members of the Iraqi Communist Party, which like elsewhere included a disproportionate number of Jews among its members, were imprisoned or executed.

"Like many Iraqis of his generation (such as the novelists Sami Michael and Eli Amir), Somekh is clearly ambivalent about an Iraqi-Israeli immigrant experience in which many of the olim, including his parents, suffered a shocking drop in economic and social status on their arrival here.

"Still, while never explicitly making a judgment on the end of the modern Babylonian-Jewish exile, he tellingly closes the book with the story of one of the some 5,000 to 10,000 Iraqi Jews who decided to stay on after Operation Ezra and Nehemia, in this case a family friend named Clementine Kashkush.

"Then in April or May of 1973, we heard terrible news: Police or soldiers had burst into Clementine's large house, and murdered her, her husband and three of her children. I think often of the Kashkush family."

Read article in full

Sasson Somekh: how Jewish life in Baghdad ended

The last Arabic Jew

Friday, April 18, 2008

Moroccan court bans pro-Israel Berber party

Rabat - A Moroccan court Thursday banned an Amazigh party on the grounds that the law did not allow parties based on religion, language or ethnicity, judicial sources said Thursday.

The court in Rabat confirmed the earlier decision of the Interior Ministry, which had refused to recognize the Democratic Amazigh Moroccan Party (PDAM), which had been established in July.

None of the other parties showed solidarity towards the PDAM, largely because the party had championed the full normalization of Morocco's relations with Israel. The founder of the PDAM, Ahmed Dgharni, sparked a scandal in December by visiting Tel Aviv for a political conference.

The PDAM sought to represent Morocco's Imazighen (plural of Amazigh), also known as Berbers, regarded as the original inhabitants of North Africa before the arrival of Arabs and Islam. Many estimates put the number of Imazighen at about 35 per cent of Morocco's population of more than 30 million, but most Moroccans have at least some Amazigh blood.

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Iraqi-Jewish writer with an identity crisis

Shimon Ballas is one of that generation of Jewish writers steeped in Arabic culture - like Nissim Rejwan, Sami Michael and Samir Naqqash - who flirted with Communism and have always been ambivalent about their identity. In Ballas's case, one could blame the Alliance Israelite Universelle, which replaced the Jewish culture of previous generations with a polyglot, intellectual, secular education. Paul La Farge, writing in Nextbook, profiles Ballas.

"Shimon Ballas is a writer doubly exiled. Born in Baghdad in 1930, he was a part of Iraq’s lively secular Jewish society, the son of middle-class parents who lived in the city’s Christian Quarter. He went to a school founded by the Alliance Israélite Universelle, but Hebrew scarcely featured on the curriculum; the languages of instruction were French, English, and Arabic. Ballas was raised on Egyptian translations of Arsène Lupin and Alexandre Dumas, on the 1001 Nights and Les Misérables. In 1947—when the state of Israel was founded, an event that indirectly brought about the end of Iraq’s Jewish community—he had already filled many notebooks with stories and observations.

"In that year, there were about 124,000 Iraqi Jews, most of them in Baghdad, where they comprised between a fifth and a third of the city’s population. They were integrated but not assimilated, and in 1941 they had suffered through the farhud, a wave of anti-Jewish riots that left hundreds dead. They were mostly not Zionists: in 1947, the General Council of the Iraqi Jewish community sent a telegram to the United Nations, opposing the partition of Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state. In part this was because they thought of themselves as Iraqis first and Jews second, and therefore had no need for a state of their own; they must also have feared the repercussions a Jewish state would have in the Arab world.

"They were not wrong. Zionism was declared a capital offense in Iraq in 1948; emigration too was made punishable by death. Then, in 1950, the Iraqi government devised a new policy: it would allow the Jews to emigrate to Israel, provided they renounce their citizenship and allow their assets to be frozen (and later, predictably, confiscated). At first few accepted this offer, but after a series of bombing attacks on Jewish homes and businesses, the trickle became a flood. Between May, 1948 and August, 1951, more than 121,000 of Iraq’s Jews left for Israel, a country they had not asked for, and about which, for the most part, they didn’t know much. Shimon Ballas was one of them.

"Before he left Baghdad, Ballas burned his notebooks, as though to force himself to make a fresh start. Almost a decade passed before he started writing in Hebrew, a language which he taught himself with the help of the newspaper. His separation from his mother tongue was violent: for three years, while he was writing his first novel in Hebrew, Ballas forbade himself to read a word of Arabic. (He returned to the language later, as a professor of Arabic literature at the University of Haifa.)

"The Transit Camp
(1964), the fruit of that uprooting, is the story of Iraqi refugees in, well, a transit camp, a makeshift place where the emigrants from Baghdad waited for Israeli society to take them in. The Transit Camp was benignly, if perplexedly, received in the Israeli press: the critics mostly took it for reportage, an account of how things were in a not-well-known segment of the population, a work of social rather than literary importance."

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Arabs usurp rights of Jews and other non-Arabs

MEMRI has translated this illuminating article posted December 7, 2007, on the leftist website, by 'Aref 'Alwan, an Iraqi author and playwright who resides in London and is the author of 12 novels. Alwan states that the Jews have an historic right to Palestine because their presence there preceded the Arab conquest and has continued to this day. In the article, titled "Do the Jews Have Any Less Right to Palestine than the Arabs?" 'Alwan called on the Arab world to acknowledge the Jews' right to Palestine, because justice demanded it and also because doing so would end the violence and the killing of Arabs, as well as intra-Arab strife. (With thanks: Lily)

The Nakba is Rooted in a Culture that Does Not Recognize the Right of the Other

"Why did the partition resolution, which gave a state in Palestine to the Jews and one to the Arabs next to it, become the Nakba - [the star] that rises and sets daily over the Arab lands without emitting even the tiniest ray of light to illuminate the path for their peoples?

"Did the Jews have any less right to Palestine than the Arabs? What historic criteria can be used to determine the precedence of one [nation's] right over that of the other?

"Refusing to recognize the right of the other so as to usurp his rights was a governing principle of the Islamic conquests from the time of 'Omar bin Al-Khattab; during that historical period it was the norm. [But] at the turn of the [20th] century, this principle was abandoned and prohibited, because it sparked wars and [violent] conflict. The international community passed laws restricting the principle of non-acceptance of the other, in the founding principles of the League of Nations in 1919. Subsequently, with the U.N.'s establishment, these laws were developed [further], with appendices and commentary, to adapt them to the current historical era and to express the commonly accepted values of national sovereignty and peoples' right to self-determination.

"But because of their sentimental yearning for the past and zealous adherence to [old] criteria, the Arabs purged their hearts of any inclination to adjust to the spirit of the age. They thus became captives of the principle of non-acceptance of the other and of denying the other [the right] to live, [among] other rights.

"As a result, damage was done to the rights and interests of non-Arab nations and ethnic groups in the Arab lands - among them the Kurds, the Copts, and the Jews. [Thus,] the Arabs still treat the numerous minorities that came under their dominion 1,400 years ago in accordance with the laws from the era of Arab conquest.

"Despite the consequences of denying the other the right to exist, not to mention other rights - that is, [despite] the oppression, conflicts, wars, and instability [resulting from this]... the Arabs have steadfastly clung to their clearly chauvinist position. All problems in the region arising from minorities' increasing awareness of their rights have been dealt with by the Arabs in accordance with [the principle of non-acceptance]... [even] after the emergence of international institutions giving these rights legal validity, in keeping with the mentality and rationale of our time."

Refusing to Accept the Other: The Kurds in Iraq; the Christians in Egypt and Lebanon

The Kurds

"The denial of the Kurds' national rights by the Iraqi government, and the Arab League's support for it, has brought on wars lasting 50 years - that is, three-quarters of the life span of the state that arose in Iraq...

"After fabricating arguments to justify the [1921] combining of the Basra region with the Baghdad region in order to establish a new state in Iraq, British colonialist interests demanded that a large area historically populated by Kurds be added to the new state. [This was done] to satisfy the aspirations of King Faisal bin Al-Hussein [bin Ali Al-Hashemi], who had been proposed as head of state in return for protecting British interests in the region.

"In his persistent refusal to grant the Kurds their rights, from 1988 through 1989 Saddam Hussein murdered approximately 180,000 Kurds, in an organized [genocidal] campaign he called 'Al-Anfal.' He then used mustard gas against one [Kurdish] city (Halabja), killing its residents (5,000 people). The Arab conscience silently acquiesced to this human slaughterhouse, while Arab League secretary-general (Shadhli Al-Qalibi) called the international press coverage of these events 'a colonialist conspiracy against the Arabs and the Iraqi regime.'

"Syrian Kurds are considered second-class citizens, and are banned from using their language or [practicing] their culture in public."

The Christians in Egypt and Lebanon

"The ethnic oppression of the Kurds [in Iraq] was echoed by sectarian extremism against the Copts [in Egypt]. In both cases, the Arabs used the principle of denying the existence of the other so as to strip him of his rights.

"The Copts, who [initially] assimilated Arabs into their society, but who have over time themselves assimilated into Arab society, discover time and again that this assimilated state is but a surface shell, which quickly cracks whenever they demand equality... As a result, Egypt, as a state, is gripped by constant social tensions that keep rising to the surface and threatening to undermine its stability...

"Sectarian extremism in Egypt took the form of an organized party with the 1928 emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood, with the aim of splitting Egyptian society into two mutually hostile and conflicting parts. This was in line with the Arab religious and political principle of denying legitimacy to all non-Muslims or non-Arabs, [a principle practiced] since the Muslim armies reached Egypt in 639 [CE]...

"In Lebanon, the presence of armed Palestinian militias - which was in accordance with the decision of the Arab states - encouraged the formation of Lebanese militias, both Sunni and Shi'ite. Chanting slogans proclaiming Palestinian liberation, they frightened Christians by appearing armed in streets swarming with Lebanese [citizens] and tourists.

"This eventually led to a confrontation with Christian militias, which had also armed themselves out of fear of the pan-Arab slogans and fear for the [preservation of] the rights of the Christian sects.

"Lebanon was engulfed by an ugly 15-year civil war, that ended only after Syria, which had played an ignominious role as instigator [of the hostilities], attained full protectorate status over Lebanese affairs and the Lebanese people - [and this] took on the nature of colonialist hegemony...

"After the Lebanese were liberated from this [Syrian] control, in 2005 the clouds of civil war - albeit of a different kind - reappeared on the Lebanese horizon. The Arab League is making no effort to prevent the eruption [of this civil war] for two main reasons. First, the Syrian regime still supports ethnic tension, in order to regain control of Lebanon; and second, the current majority government, which opposes the renewed Syrian influence, is predominantly Christian...

"We had hoped that the Arab national conscience would recover from the illness afflicting it since the time of the Nakba, and that it would adopt [views] which, if not ahead of their time, would at least be appropriate to our time. But a group of journalists, writers, and several Arab historians guided by the principle of non-acceptance of the other has twisted the facts and concocted a false and gloomy history of the region - thereby trampling these dreams to the ground."

Jews Have a Rich and Ancient History in Palestine

"The Arabs see the Palestinian problem as exceedingly complicated, while it actually appears so only to them - [that is], from the point of view of the Arabs' emotional attitudes and their national and religious philosophy. The Arabs have amassed false claims regarding their exclusive right to the Palestinian land, [and] these are based on phony arguments and on several axioms taken from written and oral sources - most of which they [themselves] created after the Islamic, and which they forbade anyone, Arab or foreigner, from questioning.

"When the Arabs agreed to U.N. arbitration... to resolve the Palestinian problem, it transpired that their axioms clearly contradicted reliable historical documents [that] this new international organization [had in its possession]. As a result, they wasted decades stubbornly defending the validity of their documents, which do not correspond to the officially accepted version of the region's history - which is based on concrete and solid evidence [such as] archaeological findings in the land of Palestine, the holy books of the three monotheistic religions, accounts by Roman, Greek, and Jewish historians... and modern historical research..

Read article in full

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Seven historic synagogues destroyed in Tehran

Tehran, 15 April (AKI) - Seven ancient synagogues in the Iranian capital, Tehran, have been destroyed by local authorities. (With thanks: a reader)

The synagogues were in the Oudlajan suburb of Tehran, where many Iranian Jews used to live.

"These buildings, which were part of our cultural, artistic and architectural heritage were burnt to the ground," said Ahmad Mohit Tabatabaii, the director of the International Council of Museums’ (ICOM) office in Tehran.

"With the excuse of renovating this ancient quarter, they are erasing a part of our history," said Tabatabaii.

He called for the government to intervene.(...)

A group of residents of Oudjalan have also sent a letter to the mayor of Tehran asking him to suspend the renovation work being carried out in the suburb.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Real stories of Jewish suffering come to light

In the wake of the successful passing of US Congress resolution on Jewish refugees, Justice for Jews from Arab Countries US campaign director Shelomo Alfassa, writing in Cutting Edge News, reminds us that the substance of the JJAC campaign is to document the very real suffering of individual Jews from Arab countries, who are only now telling their tragic stories.
"The main focus of the (JJAC) global Campaign is to register the narratives of the Jews that were displaced from Arab and Muslim countries. This is a paperwork process, a tedious one. It requires people who were born in, and who fled from, Arab and Muslim countries to document where they came from and what they had to leave behind. Over the course of several years, many thousands of people have been registering with JJAC, providing not only names and addresses, but descriptions and documentation of the loss of their possessions. More than the possessions however are the tragic stories of their experiences.
  • An Iraqi Jewish woman called Rachel recounts: “My husband was arrested three times and was tortured in prison. He was almost killed the latest time while I was pregnant. We had to escape from Iraq on foot and had to leave all our property and belongings.”

  • An Iraqi Jewish woman called Lorraine recollects: “My father was imprisoned twice in 1948 and 1978, for selling one of his carpets because we had no cash. We fled and had to make life for ourselves without the parent’s emotional or financial support. We were orphaned for more than 20 years. My parents had to remain in Iraq and from 1964 to 1990, Jews could not sell their property. When my parents were able to escape, they were humiliated, helpless and penniless, leaving behind everything with only the clothing on their backs.”

  • An Iraqi Jewish woman name Fortune recounted: “My father was arrested at our home and tortured almost half to death. We saw him again after eight months. He was able to obtain a passport and fled to Lebanon where he then managed to flee to Switzerland and eventually Israel. My mother supported us alone as one by one my family fled the country. One relative fled to Turkey then to Israel after learning her entire family was murdered while she was in school. My brother and I fled to Northern Iraq where Kurds were paid to bring us to Tehran and then we went to Israel.”

  • A Jewish woman, Victoria from Tunisia, told: “On several occasions my father was taken away in the middle of the night by the police without charges. My brother and I were harassed in school and discriminated because we were Jews. I was often humiliated in front of my classmates. We lived in CONSTANT fear.”

  • A Syrian Jewish woman called Stella remembers: “As all the young people were escaping from Syria, the government was putting their families in jail. The locked up several fathers and mothers. The next day the community decided to stay in the synagogue where a black flag was flown outside the building. After crying and praying all day, we gathered at the government building, like a rally, and demanded they better kill us, as we screamed for our freedom. It was like a civil war. My father had been captured, but eventually came home as a sick man. The next day he had a heart attack and died.”

  • David, an Egyptian Jew recounts: “The police came into my jewelry store then took me to a police station where we were handcuffed and beaten. The put us on a truck and took us to a prison camp where they hit us with belts and sticks. We were terrorized by the officers all night. I lost everything. A year later I was transferred to another prison, and three years later I was deported.”

  • Frieda, a Jew from Egypt tells that her father: “Was arrested and taken outside of Cairo to what we call a concentration camp to be interrogated with other ‘Jews’ and foreign nationals. My mother was placed on house arrest. When we left we had 48 hours to get ready and we left behind everything.”

  • Joe, a Jewish man from Egypt recounts: “I remember the darker side: my lost childhood, neighbors and school friends I will never see again, the harassment, the killings of innocent Jewish families, the sudden and unlawful confiscation of Jewish property. Most of all, I can still feel like it was only yesterday the deep and intense fear for our lives as crowds shouted 'edbah el Yahud' [slaughter the Jews].”

  • An Egyptian Jewish man called Steven recalls: “My mother went to the bank to withdraw the money she had saved which was in the tens of thousands. The bank teller said, ‘We don’t give money to Jews.’ She went to gain access to her safe deposit box to get her jewelry, diamonds and gold, and was denied. My father died penniless in Israel, he had left everything in Cairo.”
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Monday, April 14, 2008

Anyone going to Baghdad for Pesah?

Calling all travellers to Baghdad:

The Next Century Foundation is looking for someone who might be able to take some matzos to Baghdad, to be picked up by some members of the Iraqi Jewish community before Friday for Passover. If anyone is travelling from London to Baghdad in the next three days, and is willing to help, please contact William at The package is very light (matzos are crackers baked from unleavened flour). It can be delivered to anyone in London and collected from any point in Baghdad's green zone or red zone.

NB The package is light because it will only need to feed six Jews - ed

Why do leftists and Arabs ignore Mizrahi rights?

Why is it that Jews on the left hurry to support the Palestinian cause, yet show contempt for the rights of Mizrahi Jews? One could say it is ignorance, or the Eurocentricism of 'white', European Jews, some of whom have bought into the 'Israel-as-colonial-implant' myth. Among Arabs, however, Loolwa Khazzoom, a 'progressive' Iraqi Jew, has found little sympathy for the Mizrahi cause, unless Jews from Arab countries are prepared to ally themselves with Arabs against Ashkenazi Jews and compromise their Jewish identity. Yet to be pro-Palestinian and pro-Jewish rights should not be mutually exclusive.

"Regarding today's politics, why does the world demand that Israel give land or pay compensation to indigenous Arabs, while remaining completely silent about Arab states having stolen from and forcing out indigenous Jews, who now make up the majority of Israel's population? Why does the world demand that Israel give Syria back some or all of the Golan Heights, when Syria inflicted serious human rights abuses on the Syrian Jews; confiscated and nationalized Syrian Jewish property; and never made compensation payments or even apologized?

"Through ignoring or dismissing the Mizrahi reality, I feel the world has perpetuated Arab dominance over indigenous Middle Eastern and North African Jews, inherently accepting and enforcing Arab claims to our land, religious sites, and property. The forces silencing our voices have been so strong that many have given up altogether trying to speak about our reality, and others have done it with great fear of a backlash - which usually has followed.

"I am tired of feeling fear of and guilt about asserting the rights, needs, and experiences of my community. I stand eager to work in alliance with Arabs, but I will not do so in sacrifice of my own people. As far as I am concerned, this situation is "all or none": Arabs must be my ally if I am going to be theirs.

With rare exceptions, my experience has been that Arab leaders and individuals are eager to receive support of their cause but unwilling to give support to ours. I find this pattern to be a continuation of Arab oppression of Jews: We are supposed to step aside, shut up, and otherwise disappear, unless and until we are useful in furthering an Arab agenda. (My emphasis - ed)

What about us fighting for our own causes? Moreover, what about Arabs speaking out about the injustices Mizrahi Jews suffered at the hands of Arabs? There are numerous Jewish organizations - in Israel and abroad - dedicated to giving land to or securing financial compensation for Palestinian Arabs; yet I do not know of one single Arab organization - Palestinian or otherwise - fighting to demand the same for Mizrahim. In fact, I know of only one individual Arab simply verbalizing this message.

"I find it no less than obnoxious for Arabs to expect Mizrahim to pretend our own reality does not exist, to expect us to be in deference to Arab claims and struggles. For there to be true peace in the Middle East, all parties involved must have the room to express how we have been oppressed by each other; and all must look at and fight to end how we have been oppressive to each other.

"I am willing to stand up, speak out about, and fight against current Israeli oppression of Palestinian Arabs - whether at the hands of Ashkenazim, Mizrahim, or anyone else. I challenge my Arab sisters and brothers to be as willing to stand up and speak out about Arab oppression of Mizrahi Jews.

"If supporting someone else inherently rips the floor out from under my own feet, I cannot risk it; I will not participate in a setup for my own destruction. As long as alliance work with Arabs is structured in such a way as to completely negate the Mizrahi reality, I refuse to participate in it. I will not help perpetuate the silencing and oppression of my people.

"For example, I have been to several panels of Arab and Jewish women, where the Arabs were Muslim or Christian and the Jews were white Europeans. Every time, I have raised my hand and spoken about the invisibility of Mizrahi women on the panels. And every time, Arab women from the panel warmly have approached me after the program, taking me aside and telling me something like, "You and I are sisters. We are the same people. It's those Zionists that are the problem." Or, as one Arab woman added after a panel, "Those Ashkenazim are pigs."

"Statements like these have made shivers go up my spine. They essentially have asked me to split myself in half, to connect on the basis of one half and forget about the other. They inherently have demanded that I structure my Middle Eastern reality around an Arab construct.

"But as a Mizrahi woman, I bring my identity to the table: Culturally, it is true, I have more in common with Arab Muslims and Christians than I do with Ashkenazi Jews. But I am a Jew, and this reality must be acknowledged and addressed. Arab women cannot expect to bond with me against the "big, evil Ashkenazi," completely ignoring a legacy of Arab oppression of Jews. If we are to unite in alliance, Arabs must hold my struggle in their hearts, as I must hold their struggle in mine.

"With rare exceptions, I have not experienced Arab willingness to have different perspectives on Arab-Israel/Arab-Jewish issues and come together where we agree; rather, I have felt pressure that to be friends or allies, I first must deny my own reality. As such, to be connected, I have felt I must endanger myself, participate in diminishing my own space."

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See comments thread on forum

Jews suffered more and were helped less

A groundbreaking report by the economist Sidney Zabludoff, quantifying refugee losses and calling for the issue to be de-politicised, has inspired two articles in the Jewish press:

Marc Perelman writes in The Forward:

In the first effort to methodically calculate the amount lost by Jews who fled Arab countries after the creation of Israel, a Holocaust restitution expert estimated that the losses amounted to $6 billion.

The study, performed by Sidney Zabludoff and published this month in a journal published by the conservative Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, estimated that Jewish losses were significantly more than the amount lost by Palestinian refugees from Israel.

Close to 1 million Jews were forced to leave Middle Eastern and North African countries after the creation of Israel — a fact that has become a political volleyball as Palestinian refugees have pushed for compensation for their own expulsion from Israel.

Zabludoff peppers his paper with political references and proposals, and it seems likely that his figures will encounter protest from Palestinian groups. He estimates that the 550,000 Palestinian refugees lost $3.9 billion.

Palestinian critics argue that speaking of restitution is an insidious way of ruling out the possibility of a return to Israel — and Zabludoff is explicit in his paper that there should not be a right of return for Palestinian refugees.

“This is an insidious argument, because the advocates of Jewish refugees are not working to get those legitimate assets back but are in fact trying to cancel out the debt of Israel toward Palestinian refugees,” said Rashid Khalidi, Columbia University’s Edward Said professor of Arab studies.

Advocates for Jewish refugees are already seizing upon the new data to advance their cause.

“Just as the issue of Holocaust restitution became a priority for Jewish advocacy a decade ago, this issue needs to become a priority now,” said Elan Steinberg, vice president of the gathering of American Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, who worked with Zabludoff on restitutions at the Word Jewish Congress in the late 1990s.

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Hillel Fendel reports in Arutz Sheva:

( Research by international economist Sidney Zabludoff shows that the Jewish refugees of 1948 suffered more and have been helped less than their Arab counterparts.

In a paper published by The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Zabludoff shows that many more Jews were forcibly displaced or expelled from their homes around the world than Arabs, that they lost significantly more property, and were helped over the years to a much smaller extent.

The number of Arabs displaced by the War of Independence in 1948 is estimated at 550,000, and another estimated 100,000 were displaced by the Six Day War in 1967. The number of Jews who were forced to move as a result of the Israeli-Arab conflict was between 850,000 and one million.

It is further estimated that the Jews, most of whom lived in cities, lost $700 million in lost and stolen property - worth some $6 billion in today's dollars. The Arabs of 1948 and 1967, on the other hand, lost an estimated total of $450 million, or $3.9 billion in today's money.

Zabludoff notes that the case of the Arab refugees is different than any other refugee crisis in world history, in that aid for their cause has never stopped, and has been ongoing for nearly 60 years. UNRWA, the United Nations Relief Works Agency, has poured $13.7 billion dollars into the Arab refugee concentrations. In addition, Arab and Western countries have given their own aid over the decades.

The Arabs have also done much better than the Jews in terms of repatriated assets. Israel returned more than 90% of blocked Arab bank accounts and most of the contents of safe deposit boxes, Zabludoff notes, while there have been only "a few cases where Jewish property was restored."

While many of the Arabs living in the Land of Israel left their homes voluntarily, goaded on by Arab promises that they would come back as victors and be able to displace the Jews, the Jews in Arab countries were generally expelled amidst violence, threats and confiscation of their property.

"Since 1920," Zabludoff writes, " all other major refugee crises involving the exchange of religious or ethnic populations, while creating hardships, were dealt with in a single generation. Meanwhile, issues such as the 'right of return' and compensation never were adequately resolved and were largely forgotten. The same pattern evolved for Jews who fled Middle Eastern and North African countries, even though their number was some 50 percent larger than Palestinian refugees and the difference in individual assets lost was even greater."

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Click here for the full report.