Saturday, May 31, 2008

Baghdad Jews dwindle to a fearful handful

Stephen Farrell in The New York Times gives this melancholy update on the last Jews of Iraq, who are too few and too fearful to muster a prayer quorum or minyan. The Jewish Agency is standing by if and when they want to leave.

"Saleh’s grandson is now alone. His mother died two decades ago, his older brother left in 1991, and his father, now 87, was among the last handful of Jews taken from Iraq by the Jewish Agency after 2003, reducing the current community to single figures.

"Most of his other relatives departed in 1951, among more than 100,000 Jews who fled Iraq between 1949 and 1952, in the years after the state of Israel was created. Their exodus was code named “Operation Ezra and Nehemiah,” after the Jewish leaders who took their people back to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon beginning in 597 B.C.

"Some of the remaining handful of Iraqi Jews are middle class, including two doctors. Others, including Saleh’s grandson, are poor and unemployed, dependent on handouts.

“We see each other if there is something necessary, like a death, or to discuss some important things, or if someone needs help,” he wrote. “We take care about the people in the Jewish community only, not the half or part-Jewish. We don’t know about them after they left us.”

"Some Jews say they are too old to leave. Some do not want to leave their friends behind.

"The few remaining Jews ignore the entreaties of worried relatives and friends abroad and await an unlikely renaissance, demographic extinction or a more sudden end.

"Concern for their safety rose two years ago when one of them, a middle-aged man, was kidnapped. They have no idea whether he was taken because he was Jewish, wealthy, or whether the abduction was random.

“We don’t know anything about him, and don’t know the reason,” Saleh’s grandson said.

"His relatives voice frustration at his insistence on remaining in Iraq, saying he cannot be persuaded to relinquish the family home. He wants to sell it for $300,000 to help build a new life abroad but has had no takers.

“I talk with him all the time,” said his older brother, who lives in Europe and requested anonymity to protect his brother. “I call him every two weeks, and always I give him advice to leave, because it is dangerous, and because he needs to build his life and to find a wife.”

"The family argues that if buyers were going to come forward they would have done so long ago. They say that in Iraq’s current instability, an unscrupulous buyer could simply steal the money back, knowing that Saleh’s grandson would have no recourse without a tribe to protect him.

“Now there is nobody buying because of the situation in Sadr City,” his brother said. “I keep telling him, ‘Money is nothing.’ ”

"The Jewish Agency for Israel, an organization that arranges immigration to the Holy Land, has offered to relocate the entire group. “Should the remaining Jews in Baghdad request to immigrate to Israel, the Jewish Agency will immediately facilitate this request and also take care of their absorption needs in Israel,” said Zeev Bielski, the agency’s chairman."

Read article in full

Friday, May 30, 2008

Jew confirmed as Bahraini ambassador to US

It's official: Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has appointed a Jewish woman as envoy to Washington - the first Jew in the Arab world to become an ambassador. The Jerusalem Post has the story:

Houda Nonoo.
Photo: AP

The king named lawmaker Houda Nonoo, a 43-year-old mother of two boys, as an ambassador on Wednesday, the official Bahrain News Agency reported Thursday.

The decree did not say where she would be posted. But Nonoo confirmed she will be US ambassador for the Gulf nation. She was widely tipped earlier this year by Bahraini media as next envoy to Washington.

"It is a great honor to have been appointed as the first female ambassador to the United States of America, and I am looking forward to meeting this new challenge," Nonoo told AP by telephone.

She said she was proud to serve her country, "first of all as a Bahraini," adding she was not chosen for the post because of her religion.

Bahrain - a pro-Western island nation with Sunni rulers and a Shi'ite majority - is a close American ally and hosts the US Navy's 5th Fleet.

The Jewish community in Bahrain dates back to ancient times, and the country contains the only synagogue in the Persian Gulf.

Today, there are between 30 and 50 Jewish citizens among a population of some half a million, compared to nearly 600 Jews before the State of Israel was established. The community boasts a synagogue and a small cemetery, though both are usually closed.

Read article in full

New envoy British-educated - Jewish Chronicle

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cancellation of Egyptian roots trip - update

As 45 Egyptian Jews nurse their disappointment over the cancellation of their 'roots trip' to Egypt, there are questions over the role of the Cairo Jewish community, headed by Mrs Carmen Weinstein, in sabotaging it. Did Mrs Weinstein fear that her authority was being challenged? Was she in cahoots with Amr Adib, the populist broadcaster who first made the false accusations against the visitors? In any event it seems that Mrs Weinstein suffers from a terminal case of arch-dhimmitude.

Just before the trip was due to take place, the The Jewish Community Council in Cairo had printed the following statement in their journal Bassatine News, disassociating themselves vigorously from it.

Now Levana Zamir, the trip organiser and President of the Israel-Egypt Friendship Association, has issued the following reply:

"In spite of that announcement, a nice, international group of Jews of Egypt had formed, paid for registration, accomodation, etc., and the Alexandria Jewish Community wrote to welcome us for a prayer at Eliahu Hanabi Synagogue in Alexandria.

But as you know, because of false rumours about our coming to claim our properties, at the last moment the Marriott Hotel cancelled the group's block booking. This was followed by an epidemic of refusals to accommodate us by other Cairo hotels, and to the cancelling of our Tour.

"As for Carmen Weinstein's announcement rejecting the group, it makes one wonder about the connection between Weinstein and Amor Adib, the TV reporter who spread the false rumours.

"This does not lessen the dreadful and unjustified reaction of the Marriott hotel and other Egyptian parties, leading to the brutal cancellation. Without them, the cancellation could not have happened.

"We all know that our trip's aim was not to make claims, but even if we were coming to talk about those property claims - SO WHAT !"

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The saga of the cancelled Cairo trip runs and runs

The saga of the cancelled Egyptian-Jewish roots trip rumbles on, with Magdi Abdelhadi filing the story on the BBC website. It is interesting how the Beeb tries to rationalise the reasons for the cancellation as 'anti-Israel' sentiment. But I thought the Arabs had nothing against Jews - let alone elderly Jews vising their childhood haunts - only Zionists!

Allegations were broadcast on Egyptian television last week that the group was coming to claim confiscated property.

The trip organisers denied that, saying it was purely a personal journey.

But anti-Israeli sentiment in Egypt is so strong that no business is willing to take any risk, particularly when it involves such a highly sensitive issue.

The woman behind the trip, Levana Zamir, is an Egyptian-born Israeli who runs an organisation in Tel Aviv that seeks to promote better understanding between the two cultures.

Ms Zamir, who speaks Arabic fluently, said she was one of a group of elderly Jewish people of Egyptian origin from all over the world who wanted to visit their ancestral homeland with their children, to see old neighbourhoods.

But a few days before the group was due to arrive in Cairo, she was told by the Egyptian travel agent that their hotel reservation was cancelled and that no other hotel in Egypt wanted to receive them.

Many believe it is all down to the populist television presenter, Amr Adeeb, whose programme is widely watched here.

Mr Adeeb urged the authorities last week to prevent the trip from going ahead.

He said all the department stores that were established by Egyptian Jews at the turn of the past century were now the property of the people of Egypt.

A local organisation that represents the few remaining Jewish people in Egypt has distanced itself from the trip.

Despite a peace treaty that ended decades of war between Egypt and Israel, relations between the two countries remain tense.

Read article in full

Meanwhile, complainants to the Marriott hotel have received a standard response citing security concerns as the main reason for the cancellation, and stating that the hotel had helped to try to find alternative accommodation for the group. Israel Bonan sent this rejoinder:

The group's visit was cancelled because no other hotel would accept their stay.

I believe that is business as usual when it comes to the Egyptian way of conducting business. I ought to know, I was born and raised and myself expelled penniless from the country after being physically abused and incarcerated in 1967.

A little factual knowledge spread around can only serve to quash the media's invective-filled rumors.

Zionation has more.

Jewish pilgrims stress ties to Morocco

Moroccan Jews profess their loyalty to the state during the annual pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Nessim ben Nessim, Earthtimes reports:

Rabat, Morocco (dpa) - Moroccan Jews have stressed their ties with their country on the occasion of an annual pilgrimage to the sanctuary of a Jewish saint, rabbi Nessim Ben Nessim, in the province of Essaouira 400 kilometres south of the capital Rabat, press reports said Monday.

The week-end pilgrimage, which brought hundreds of Jews from several countries to the village of Ait Bayyoud, was a sign of the respect and fraternity between Jews and Muslims in Morocco, said Boris Toledano, president of the Jewish community in Casablanca.

Simon Levy, president of the Jewish community in Agadir, called on foreign Jews to invest in Morocco.

Visitors to the moussem (festival honouring a saint) also included Andre Azoulay, an advisor to King Mohammed VI, who also advised Mohammed's father Hassan II.

Read article in full

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Deplore hotel racism towards Egyptian Jews!

In the light of the disgraceful refusal of the Marriott hotel Cairo to honour the reservations made by 45 elderly Egyptian Jews, let them know what you think of them, says Ami Isseroff of Zionation blog:

"In the United States, discrimination against hotel guests based on race, religion or ethnic origin is against the law. In the Middle East, it is not evidently. A group of elderly Jews who had many years ago been expelled from Egypt wanted to visit the old country. They booked reservations for the Cairo Marriott hotel. Everyone's reservations are safe at Marriott it seems, unless they are Jewish.

"Someone invented a story that these poor old people were coming back to claim the property that the Egyptian government had stolen from them. The reservations suddenly evaporated: "On Thursday morning, I got an e-mail from our travel agent saying the Marriott Hotel does not have adequate security for us and they have canceled our reservation," (tour organiser Levana) Zamir told The Jerusalem Post.

"A Marriott Cairo employee said there was no reservation for the group, and that he knew nothing other than what was published in the media. This sort of thing is to be expected of our peaceful Egyptian neighbors, but international hotel chains should be operating by different standards. It is sad that in the twenty-first century any person cannot get lodging because of their race, creed or ethnic origin.

"As far as I know, Marriott Hotels have not bothered to explain, comment, apologize, or offer to pay damages. They are making believe it has nothing to do with them.

"If you think it is unfair, you might want to let them know:

Marriott International Inc.
Marriott Drive
Washington, DC 20058

Phone: 301-380-3000
Fax: 301-380-3967

BBC website article

Monday, May 26, 2008

Israeli charged as Iranian spy pleads innocence

An Israeli, arrested and charged by Israel with spying for Iran, maintains he is innocent, Ynet News reports:

"The man, was reportedly arrested in the Ben Gurion International Airport on May 8. The indictment, filed with the Tel Aviv Magistrates' Court, includes counts of contacting a foreign agent, relaying information to an enemy state, theft and fraudulently obtaining goods.The indictment further states that the man agreed to cooperate with Iranian intelligence and supply them with information regarding security establishment personnel. The man was apprehended in a joint police- Shin Bet operation.

"In his interrogation, the man admitted to visiting the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul during a stay in Turkey in 2006. Those meetings resulted in his agreeing to cooperate with Iranian intelligence. The defendant's attorney, Michal Orkaby, told Ynet that the man has not been residing in Israel for several years now.

"Her client, she added, did not give anyone any information on Israeli security services, nor does he wish the State any harm. Shin Bet data has indicated for some time now that Iranian intelligence was trying to recruit Israelis of Iranian descent to spy for Tehran.The Shin Bet reported following up on some 10 leads suggesting Israelis who have families in the Islamic Republic were pressured into becoming Iranian agents.

"One lead led to an arrest, which failed to mature into an indictment. "We didn't need to indict anyone so far, since our primary goal of intercepting any espionage attempt was met," said a senior source in the Shin Bet. "We are, however, watching this growing trend carefully."

"The Shin Bet, continued the source, has known about the Iranian intelligent activities in the Istanbul consulate for quite some time. There are at least two Iranian agents stationed there undercover, as consulate employees. The two are reportedly part of the staff assigned to handle various requests – mostly for entry visas to visit family members – by Israelis.

"Once Israelis reach Tehran, warned the Shin Bet officer, the Iranian authorities prevent them from leaving the country, pending an "intelligence inquiry" into their visit – which is when they are pressured into becoming agents."

Read article in full

Haaretz article

Jerusalem Post article

BBC website (with thanks: a reader)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Scandal of Egyptian-Jewish visit cancellation grows

Did the Marriott hotel Cairo connive with the Egyptian authorities in their decision to cancel the Egyptian-Jewish conference/roots visit to Cairo, which had been due to begin today? The scandal reeks to high heaven and is now getting headlines in the Israeli press. Report in the Jerusalem Post (With thanks: Lily, Yitzhak S)

"According to a report Friday on the Web site of Yedioth Aharanot newspaper, the Marriott Hotel in Cairo, where the delegation had originally booked their rooms, cancelled their reservations and said they could not accomodate them because of the situation.

"Nadia al-Ansari, the Marriott's director of sales and marketing, would only say the delegation no longer planned to stay at their hotel.

"The only information we are actually giving out about this group is basically that it is no longer confirmed with us, they are not staying with us," she said.

"Dr. Gabriel Rosenbaum, director of the Israeli Academic Center in Cairo who was scheduled to give a lecture to the delegation, said the whole event was grossly mispresented in the Egyptian media as a conference rather than just a visit.

"The average age of these people was between 70 and 80, not all of them in good health condition," he said. "Before they die, they just wanted to come see Egypt, to see the synagogues, to see maybe the tombs of their fathers and then go away."

"He said that plenty of tourists, students and other delegations from Israel have visited Egypt and his center in the past without any incident.

"Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement in 1979, but a steady campaign against the "normalization" of cultural and social relations by many intellectuals, journalists and others has prevented relations from warming.

"The relationship's "constant ups and downs are mainly just in the press and sometimes with the authorities," said Rosenbaum, describing the current time as a low point with the press."

Read article in full

Haaretz article

Curiouser and curiouser .... Did Cairo Jews stymie the trip?

Tour organiser Levana Zamir thinks so (Jerusalem Post - with thanks: Lily):

Members of Cairo's Jewish community may have prevented 45 Israeli Jews of Egyptian descent from touring the country, the president of the Israeli Egyptian Friendship Association said Sunday.

Levana Zamir said she had planned a four-day trip to Cairo and Alexandria beginning this past weekend for 45 elderly Israelis.

The group was planning on praying in Cairo and Alexandria synagogues and visiting the Israeli Academic Center in Cairo.

But after reports in the Egyptian media and on Bassatine News, an Egyptian Jewish community Web site, that claimed the group would try to reclaim their ancestors' property, a wave of protest began, leading to the cancellation of the trip by Egyptian authorities.

"Both the Cairo JCC [Jewish Community Center] board and its members refuse to have anything to do with this pseudo Congress," read a posting on the site, apparently confusing the Friendship Association with a different organization.

According to Zamir, members of the Cairo Jewish community had refused to allow the group entrance to Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue, without which the group could not get the required security and permits from the Egyptian government.

"Without this confirmation from the Jewish Community of Alexandria or Cairo to the Egyptian security authorities, there is no entrance for any group at one of the synagogues," she said.

Read article in full

The Economist sinks back into denial

Time and time again we've witnessed it happening in the press. No sooner do we celebrate the rare victory of a published letter highlighting the just cause of the Jewish refugees, than the following day or week, the letter-writer is shot down in flames.

True to form, in this issue's Economist (May 22), one Victor Sasson of New York, disputes Joe Abdel Wahed's assertion that Jews from Arab countries were brutally expelled:

Historical perspective

SIR – Joseph Abdel Wahed makes the claim that Jews were brutally expelled by Arab countries when Israel was founded (Letters, May 10th). As a Middle Eastern Jew who was a teenager in the 1950s, I never thought that my family and many thousands of Jews in my native country were expelled, let alone brutally expelled. Of course Arabs in general were not happy with the creation of the state of Israel and viewed all Middle Eastern Jews with suspicion, and there was discrimination. But to speak of expulsion or brutal expulsion undermines the continued real and brutal treatment of the Palestinians.

Victor Sasson, New York

In short: It wasn't really expulsion, and the Jews had it coming to them anyway; whatever Jews suffered, treatment of the Palestinians is far worse.

One can't really blame the Economist for printing a letter that vindicates its one-sided prejudices against Israel. But the Victor Sassons of this world represent a particularly Jewish phenomenon.

While researching his book on Arabs saving Jews in North Africa during World War ll, Robert Satloff was surprising to discover Jewish denial - a tendency to deny or gloss over Jewish suffering. He even met a Jew who claimed to have 'nice memories' of the Nazis.

Satloff concludes that denial was a mechanism for generation after generation of Jews to survive as dhimmis. Unswerving loyalty to the ruler provided the only safety shield against the capriciousness of the Muslim masses. Satloff's theory not only explains why some Jews were anxious to put a positive spin on the way they were treated by the Nazis, but by Arab society generally. This quote from his book Among the righteous (p178) puts it well:

Generally, when I asked Jews in Morocco and Tunisia about their own and their families' experience during the war, the usual refrain was: "It wasn't so bad."

"Only after several of these conversations did it occur to me that this sort of denial among Jews from Arab lands is part of their overall strategy for survival. As the last remnant of a people who had mastered the art of living as a tolerated community - sometimes protected, often abused, always second class - over 1,400 years of Muslim rule, these Jews long ago made peace with their lot. Their silence about the persecution they suffered at the hands of the Nazis and their Vichy and Fascist allies is just the latest in a string of silences. This is the same reflex to rush to the microphone after the Djerba and Casablanca bombings to assure the world that 'everything's fine.' It isn't of course. Life for the Jews in these countries hasn't been fine for a long time, and it is getting worse. Young Jews are voting with their feet. (...)

"Jews who did leave these Arab lands have a different approach. Much depends, of course, on when they left (..) and where they went - to Israel, France and North America. But the one thread that ties together these disparate waves of emigration is a sense of grievance. After all, these were the ones who left. Something compelled them to leave, and rarely was the allure to Zion alone powerful enough to do that. Like many emigrant groups, these Jews are nostalgic for their roots. (..) But nostalgia can only smooth over the hard edges of memory. These Jews left for a reason."

The question remains - does the Jew ever shake off this survival mechanism of denial, even when writing letters to The Economist from the safety and comfort of New York?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Egyptians cancel Jewish conference in Cairo

Scores of Egyptian Jews and Israelis of Egyptian origin are shocked tonight that a conference they were due to attend in Cairo from Sunday will not now be going ahead. Ynet News reports that the Egyptian authorities cancelled the event following TV coverage accusing the participants of wanting to reclaim their property rather than make innocent visits to childhood haunts - a charge the conference organiser Levana Zamir strongly denies. It strikes me as bizarre, even if the charge were true, that the Egyptians should view the idea of reclaiming Jewish property as a betrayal.

"The affair began three months ago, when Zamir came up with the idea to hold a roots trip for people of Egyptian descent. She prepared an itinerary and asked Israeli Ambassador to Cairo Shalom Cohen and Prof. Gabi Rosenbaum, director of the Israeli Academic Center in Cairo, to speak before the delegation members.

According to Egyptian procedures, internal security officials were given the itinerary, the lectures and the names of the lecturers, which also included a number of Jewish academicians who planned to join the roots trip.

The trip's participants purchased plane tickets from El Al, paid for a hotel and planned to leave Israel on the coming Sunday. On Wednesday night, however, they were hit with a surprise: A well-known Egyptian television presenter, Amr Adib, dedicated an extensive report to the planned trip, accusing the delegation members of "coming to celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary in Egypt of all places."

He added that "the roots trip is only a cover-up for their plans to demand that their property in Cairo and Alexandria be returned to them."

According to Adib, the trip's participants planned to file dozens of legal claims for the return of the houses, factories and stores which they had owned in the past and were nationalized. "Why should we bring in Jews born in Egypt who preferred to flee to Israel, which has fought us in blood-soaked wars," the broadcaster asked, accusing the Israeli Embassy in Cairo and the Israeli Academic Center of "sponsoring a conspiracy against Egypt." Moreover, Adib took advantage of the report in order to reveal the name of the hotel which was to accommodate the Israeli delegation. He also claimed that the delegation members planned to hold a press conference in Cairo and called on the Egyptian Foreign Ministry "to take the necessary steps."

"I was shocked by these expressions of hatred and what followed, despite the fact that I have been active for so many years in distributing the Egyptian culture and advancing the friendship between the countries," Levana Zamir said Thursday. "Our plan was perfectly innocent: To take tours of Cairo and Alexandria and show our childhood places to our children and grandchildren," she added. The travel agency in Cairo made it clear to Zamir that "the trip is being cancelled for security reasons following the reports on Egyptian media" and promised to return the payments already made."

Read article in full

How ex-Indonesian president became a Judeophile

Ron Kampease tell the amazing story in the San Francisco Sentinel of how, as a student at Baghdad university, a former president of Indonesia became a Judeophile and a champion of moderate Islam: (with thanks: Jerusalem Posts).

"In its telling, the story of a notorious lynching of Jews is not unusual.The storyteller, however, is: Abdurrahman Wahid, the former Indonesian president, and a leading Muslim scholar weeks to preach his message of Muslim tolerance, revealed the root of his understanding of the risks and perils of Jewish existence.

"Wahid was a 29-year-old student at Baghdad University in 1966, earning his keep as a secretary at a textile importer, when he befriended the firm’s elderly accountant, an Iraqi Jew he remembers only by his family name, Ramin.

“I learned from him about the Kabbalah, the Talmud, everything about Judaism,” Wahid recalled of the four-year friendship that included long lunches, quiet walks and talks at the city’s legendary Hanging Gardens.

"Wahid has spoken about this friendship before — it is featured in his biography by Greg Barton, “Abdurrahman Wahid: Muslim Democrat, Indonesian President” — but on this recent tour Wahid added to the account his memories of Jan. 27, 1969.In 1968, the Iraqi government effectively had come under the control of Saddam Hussein, whose title at that time was deputy to the president, Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr. At Saddam’s behest, Iraqi courts had convicted 14 Iraqis – nine of them Jews – on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel, and they were hanged that day in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, just steps away from where the textile firm had offices.

"Ramin came to his friend Wahid and wept, wondering what would become of Iraq’s ancient Jewish community.

“I said, ‘This is not only your fate, it is my fate,’ ” said Wahid, now frail and in a wheelchair.Wahid said he decided then that “the Islamic people should learn” about the Jews and their faith.

"Ramin’s worst fears were realized: The community that dated to the Babylonian exile heard Saddam’s message loud and clear, and by the early 1970s it had dwindled to barely a hundred Jews. By 2007 there were less than 10, according to media accounts.Wahid, however, made good on his pledge. Best known as the president who shifted Indonesia to democracy from 1999 to 2001, Wahid then was forced out due to a combination of financial scandals and hard-liners who opposed his attempts to liberalize restrictions on political groups and the country’s Chinese minority.Wahid also has gained prominence for his insistence on introducing the world’s most populous Muslim nations to certain truths about the Jews."

Read article in full

Article (Hebrew) on Wahid's recent visit to Israel (with thanks: Iraqijews)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

More pilgrims to Djerba expected this year

The annual Lag' La'omer celebrations in Djerba at the historic El-Ghriba synagogue, Africa's oldest, are expected to attract more visitors than ever this year, AFP reports:

DJERBA, Tunisia (AFP) — Jews from around the world arrived on the Tunisian island of Djerba on Wednesday for an annual pilgrimage to Africa's oldest synagogue, with organisers expecting a significant jump in participants.

"Visitors have been arriving by the hundreds since Sunday to take advantage of a longer stay on the island, and there will be about 6,000 for the big day," organiser Perez Trabelsi said of Thursday's events at the Ghriba shrine.

They arrived amid heavy security, however, with authorities seeking to prevent an attack similar to the one carried out by a suicide bomber at the site in 2002 that killed 21 people.

Police set up barricades, while an electronic gate filtered visitors entering the area around the sacred site, believed to be 2,500 years old.

The total number of pilgrims in Djerba, which is popular with tourists, is expected to be 40 percent higher than last year, including a record 1,500 from Israel, said Trabelsi. The number of visitors dropped sharply after the 2002 attack.

Read article in full

Israeli and Tunisian singers in Djerba

Reuters report

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Guardian thread discusses 'Jewish nakba'

There is plenty in Khaled Diab's latest piece for the Guardian website Comment is Free to argue with, and if you hurry you might still be able to leave a comment yourself. The gist of the piece is that Jews and Arabs have had so much in common that Disraeli called the Jews 'Mosaic Arabs'. You can see where Diab's argument is leading to: a one-state solution.

Some commenters have questioned Diab's assumption that much Arab antisemitism is simply a response to Israel's creation; and several have used Diab's piece to ask if the Arab world would ever recognise what they called the Jewish Nakba.

But Comment No. 1366790 was amongst the most thought-provoking :

"AminsEGrEgypt: "JeremyHP and Khaled, do you think the Arab world will ever acknowledge and compensate the Jewish Naqba?"

Khaled responded: "See my article (link above). Morocco, for one, has offered its Jewish community a right of return. And I think other Arab countries need to acknowledge the crime they committed in expelling their Jewish minorities in the years/decade following the creation of Israel."

Khaled, I think you have missed Armin's point. The vast majority of "Arabic Jews" categorically reject the title and are completely uninterested in any right of return, so the offer is a pig in a poke (and thus like all pigs neither kosher nor halal).

Nor are the "Arabic Jews" so sanguine as yourself about their supposedly integrated pre-expulsion status. You may not realise it, but you have taken the view of the majority that "our darkies, they wuz so happy before they got uppity and wanted civil rights". It's presumptuous and insensitive (to say the least) whether done by white Americans towards "their" black minority, or by Muslim Arabs toward "their" Jewish minority.

Your second sentence is closer to correct. There were two crimes: The first, 14 centuries of the Jewish minority treated as second-class and in some ways near-apartheid. The second, the expulsion itself.

By "compensate the Jewish Naqba" Armin could have meant mean both monies to the Sephardim and Mizrahim in recompense of these 14 centuries, and recompense of spiritual and political and material losses in the form of a Jewish right to a defensible sliver of land in the Middle East as a basis for their hopes and dreams. A good argument could be made that Israel and Jerusalem (and potentially even the west bank) should have even been proposed by the Arab world as just such recompense, with appropriate compensation to residents who move, either Jews from Arab countries to Israel, or Palestinians from Israel to Arab countries.

"After all, many Israelis on the left have considered and actively work for moral, national, political, and material recompense to the Palestinians for their 60 years of second-class existence. Why should there not be many Arabs who consider and actively work for moral, national, political, and material recompense to the Jews for their 1,400 years of second-class existence?"

More from Khaled Diab

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bostom versus Lewis: a study in contrasts

Writing in the American Thinker Robert Caplan contrasts Dr Andrew Bostom's new book: The legacy of Islamic antisemitism with Professor Bernard Lewis's very different interpretation of Muslim attitudes to Jews:

A broad survey, Bostom's book informs readers about an area of history unfamiliar to most. Whereas readers will know of many cases of persecution of Jews in Christendom (the Crusades, the expulsion of the Jews from England, France, various German states and Spain, the Inquisition, the Chmielnicki massacres, the Kishinev pogroms, the Dreyfus Affair and so on), few will be able to point to similar occurrences in the history of Jews under Islam. Bostom fills in the canvas of such events.

One might have heard of the 1839 forced conversion of the Jews of Meshed, Iran (one of the four examples of Muslim persecution of Jews mentioned in the approximately one half page devoted to the subject in the Encyclopaedia Judaica 's 72 page article on "anti-Semitism") but know nothing of the 4,000 Jews killed in Moslem riots in Grenada in 1066, the 6,000 Jews massacred in Fez in 1033, the hundreds of Jews slaughtered in Muslim Cordoba between 1010 and 1015, the Almohad depredations of Jews and Christians in Spain and North Africa between 1130 and 1232, the 1834 pogrom in Safed where raging mobs killed hundreds of Jews, the 1888 massacres of Jews in Isfahan and Shiraz Iran, the oppressive conditions imposed on Jews in Hamadan Iran in 1892, the 1910 pogrom in Shiraz, the pillage of the ghetto of Fez Morocco in 1912, the pillage and destruction of the Casablanca ghetto in 1907, the 1679 expulsion of 10,000 Jews of Yemen to the unlivably hot and dry Plain of Tihami from which only 1,000 returned alive in 1680.

One might have heard of the 1941 pogrom in Iraq but be unaware of the 1291 pogroms in Baghdad and its environs.

Readers will be familiar with the Koran's description of Jews as descendants of apes and pigs but probably not be aware of numerous other ugly and antagonistic references to Jews in Islam's sacred writing: that Jews are the greatest enemies of Islam, that Jews are associated with Satan, the Jews killed Mohammad, that the Jews falsified their sacred books in order to expunge all references to Mohammad and more.

One might know that under Islam's rules dhimmis (Christians and Jews) are not allowed to ride horses but be unfamiliar with numerous other restrictions, limitations, humiliations, indignities and abuses they prescribe: the poll tax (jizyah) required from each dhimmi and paid in a manner calculated to demean the payer, the dress codes that enforce on dhimmis undignified attire, the compulsory wearing of a colored patch of cloth to identify the wearer as a Jewish or Christian dhimmi, the requirement to address Moslems with honorific terms, the denial of the right of self defense against attack by a Moslem and more.

It is fairly well known that before Israeli rule of the Old City of Jerusalem it was common for Jews coming to pray at the Western Wall to be pelted with stones by Moslems. From Bostom's book one learns that throwing stones at Jews was common throughout the history of Islam, as was spitting upon them, hitting them, and pulling their beards.

Bostom's book is part of an ongoing debate about the comparative situation of Jews under the crescent and the cross. In this debate Bostom is in sharp disagreement with Bernard Lewis, the well known and much quoted authority on the history of Islam. Lewis has written:
"On the whole, in contrast to Christian anti-Semitism, the Moslem attitude toward non Moslems [including Jews] is not one of hate or fear or envy but simply contempt."

"Jews of Christendom suffered incomparably greater persecution [than the Jews of Islam]. Persecution, that is to say violent and active repression was rare and atypical. Jews and Christians [dhimmis] under Moslem rule were not normally called upon to suffer martyrdom for their faith."

"They [the Jews] were not often obliged to make the choice which confronted Muslims and Jews in reconquered Spain, between exile apostasy and death."

How is it that Lewis and Bostom evaluate Islamic antisemitism and the experience of Jews living in Muslim societies so differently, given the fact that though they might disagree on a few particular points of fact, the body of information they begin with is essentially the same?

Bostom's picture of Moslem antisemitism is much more somber than Lewis's. One source of difference lies in the fact that compared with Lewis's his writing includes considerably more detail of the anti-Jewish elements in Islamic religion, culture and history. By quoting the words of Jews who lived under the Muslims and non-Moslems visiting their lands, Bostom's text conveys emotions of sympathy and indignation regarding the oppressed condition of Jews which Lewis's academic, non-emotional style largely omits.

The structure of Lewis's and Bostom's arguments are also quite different. Employing a genetic approach, Bostom shows that Islam's holy books, the Koran, the hadith and the sira all have sharply negative things to say about Jews, that these have been emphasized and reinforced by Moslem thinkers, jurists and preachers throughout the history of Islam, and that the attitudes and ideas engendered by them have directly influenced the actions of Moslem rulers, clergy and mobs both in their oppression of Jews as dhimmis and their aggressive excesses against Jews which have included pogroms, forced conversion, pillage and expulsion. The status of dhimmi to which Jews and Christians are relegated under Islamic law is one entailing serious suffering and indignity in the best of circumstances. Frequently circumstances were far from the best.

Lewis puts Islam's record regarding Jews in a favorable light mainly with the generalizations he makes rather than the particular facts he marshals. These generalizations, which crumble under the slightest scrutiny, are of four general types. One holds that the least onerous version of Moslem oppression is typical of Moslem practice [Lewis writes "dhimmitude was a minor inconvenience Jews learned to live with...under Muslim rule the status of dhimmi was long accepted with gratitude by Jews." In making this improbable claim he gives no evidence or explanation. Could he mean that the Jews were grateful for not being killed?]

A second type of generalization claims that the worst of the behavior of Christians towards Jews was the norm. ["Jews of Christendom suffered incomparably greater persecution (than Jews of Islam). Persecution (under Islam), that is to say violent and active repression was rare and atypical. Jews and Christians (dhimmis) under Moslem rule were not normally called upon to suffer martyrdom for their faith....They (the Jews) were not often obliged to make the choice which confronted Muslims and Jews in reconqured Spain, between apostasy and death." Besides employing a peculiarly narrow definition of "oppression" which excludes all disabilities of dhimmitude, Lewis implies that Jews in Christendom were often obliged to suffer martyrdom for their faith or make a choice "between apostasy and death" -- both of which are simply untrue.]

A third variety of generalization employed by Lewis claims that Muslim abuses are far less bad than the worst imaginable abuses by non-Moslems.["Dhimmitude involves some rights...and is surely better that no rights at all. It is certainly preferable to the kind of situation that prevails in many states at the present time where minorities and for that matter where the majority enjoy no civil or human rights." Offering no evidence or examples, Lewis writes as if there is any place on Earth where the majority of residents have "no rights at all."]

A fourth type of generalization ascribes to "human nature" rather than Islam, with no basis of evidence, the unattractive characteristics exhibited by Moslems [After describing the intense anti-Semitism in the Arab world today Lewis tacks on the generalization that "No people is immune from the universal disease of ethnic or social hostility and the Arabs are no exception. Obviously Arabs are as liable (my italics) as Germans, Russians or Jews or anyone else to develop hostilities against other peoples; and their history and literature bear ample witness to this."

Lewis's suggestion that hatred is a trait shared by all peoples equally -- Germans, Russians and Jews, Britons, Italians, Canadians, Australians -- as if raging mobs, as familiar in the annals of Moslem history as to today's television viewers, are typical of all peoples; as if hate filled speeches by clerics are common in all religions; as if survey statistics of harbored hatred are not vastly higher among Moslems than among others; as if Moslem converts to Christianity do not regularly report their revulsion at the hatred which saturates the Moslem religion with which they were familiar. Replace Moslems with Danes, British, Russians Jews, Brazilians, Japanese or whoever and imagine, if you can, raging mobs rioting and killing over a newspaper cartoon.]

Read article in full

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bostom's legacy on Islamic antisemitism

Professor Raphael Israel reviews the prolific Dr Andrew Bostom's latest work, The legacy of Islamic antisemitism (with thanks: Lily):

Following the recent publication of his massive compendium The Legacy of Jihad - a breakthrough inasmuch as the enormous task of assembling together all the major sources which govern the holy war in Islam had never been attempted before - this amazingly prolific writer has completed another, no less imposing, collection of sources, Islamic and others, which testify to the long and sorry history of anti-Semitism in Islam. This too had never been undertaken before on such a scale, mainly due to the constrictions of political correctness that posited that Islam, unlike Christianity, had not entertained a systematic persecution of the Jews.

This apologetic for Islam has now been shattered by Andrew Bostom, who painstakingly but thoughtfully collected and collated this documentation that would have been a stunning and innovative undertaking for any scholar of Islam to pursue, let alone for a professional in medicine whose research on Islam has been merely a secondary career. (..)

The picture these documents give reverses in a dramatic way many of the ill-conceived and misjudged information that had attempted in the past to ascribe to the lands of Islam a much more benign and idyllic image of their (mis)treatment of the Jews. The coalition between the Palestinian mufti of Jerusalem and the Nazis during World War II is conjured up to conclude this introduction.

Secondly, the author delves in considerable detail into the main sources of Islamic jurisprudence - the Koran and the Hadith, complemented by the Sirah (the earliest pious Muslim biographies of Muhammad), where an abundance of references, usually not complimentary but rather derogatory, are made to Jews, collectively known as Israi'liyyat (Israelites' stories). This is a trove of anti-Jewish stereotypes that have become the Shari'a-based uncontested "truth" about the People of the Book. Those accounts are invariably cited in sermons during Friday prayers, thus assuring their universal diffusion among Muslim constituents and the constant poisoning of the souls of young and adult Muslims alike, something that renders their fundamentally negative attitudes to Jews and Israel unchangeable. (...)

An impressive selection of observations made by prominent Western scholars, complemented by the eyewitness reports of travelers, consular representatives and journalists and writers about the condition of the Jews in Arab lands, are adduced to support the basic and well-documented thesis of the author, that the anti-Semitic record of the Islamic world leaves much to be desired.

Bostom provides the first full English translation and detailed analysis of a seminal, if repellent 1942 essay ("Judaism and Islam as Opposites") by Johannes von Leers, the infamous Nazi propagandist of extermination. The essay (and its explication by Bostom) demonstrates Leers's thorough, reverential understanding of the sacralized Islamic sources. Leers's personal career trajectory - as a favored contributor in Goebbels's propaganda ministry, to his eventual adoption of Islam (as Omar Amin von Leers, in 1956) while working as an anti-Western and anti-Semitic propagandist under Nasser's regime from the mid-1950s until his death in 1965 - epitomizes the modern convergence of Islamic anti-Semitism, and racist, Nazi anti-Semitism.

It is worth noting that the blood libel, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the world Jewish conspiracy, which were borrowed by Muslims from classic European anti-Semitism since the 19th century and the infamous Damascus blood libel (1840), are still recurrent and popular themes in books, posters, cartoons, sermons in mosques, TV series and radio programs produced throughout the Islamic world, including in countries that concluded peace with Israel (Jordan and Egypt). Moreover, the fortunes of the Arab-Israeli conflict, especially the escalation of latter years, have by themselves occasioned an unprecedented campaign of demonization of Israel in the Islamic media and public discourse. The main argument being, of course, that Israel, being a Nazi accursed regime, draws its inspiration from the traditional Jewish sources and from the more recent colonialist, oppressive and imperialist nature of Zionism. The nation of Israel and its movement of national liberation, according to this rationale, cannot be better than the sum total of its members.

One can hardly exaggerate the vast importance of this volume, which will henceforth become indispensable for any student of Islam, of Judeo-Islamic relations, of anti-Semitism in particular and of hate-literature in general. The variety of materials assembled here, which makes a fascinating, if disagreeable, reading, for all the splendid and insightful overview offered by this incredibly energetic and imaginative author, will continue for times to come to constitute a mainstay of Muslim sources which will have to be referred to by future researchers, scholars and the general educated public which aspires to comprehend the significance of the new outburst of anti-Semitism, clearly articulated by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, among Muslims worldwide.

Read article in full

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Iraqi Jews at conference reject term 'Arab Jew'

Haaretz carries a full report on the recently-held academic conference on Iraqi Jews at Tel-Aviv university by Vered Lee, herself of Iraqi extraction. The delegates discussed the nature of Iraqi-Jewish identity, but dismissed the expression 'Arab Jew' as one favoured by anti-Zionists and radical leftists: (With thanks: Sami)

"For six years, Idit Sharoni-Pinhas, curator of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, gathered textiles and embroideries, which she used to weave the story of the social changes that Jewish women experienced in Iraq.

"Their voice was not allowed to be heard; nonetheless, it did break through in the embroideries, and it reflected the transition from a conservative to a modern society," she says.

"The conference sessions were well-attended by people whose Iraqi Arabic was peppered with Hebrew words and who very much enjoyed the lectures. It was obvious that most of the audience, like most of the lecturers, were themselves Iraqi Jews.

"I read Iraqi literature but I feel that there is no in-depth research on Iraqi Arab Jewish culture and that this subject is not even given serious consideration," says Orna Mashiach, 36. "That is why I was so happy when I heard about this conference."

"One of the participants was Nurit Tzadok, 65, who came with her husband, 75, who immigrated to Israel from Yemen. "I arrived in Israel at age 8 from Iraq," she recalls. "I am now learning about Iraqi Jewry and I am full of admiration for that community and for those who write about it. Recently, I began learning belly dancing, and I am now interested in Iraqi Jewish songs as well.

"Like all the children of Iraqi immigrants, I went through the stage of silencing the radio when my father tried to hear Arabic music at home. Like them, I also felt ashamed for a long while of being Iraqi. But today, I am happy to report that I am proud of my Iraqi heritage."

"We want to publish the lectures in a book," says Prof. Somekh, who is very pleased that the conference was a success. "We are weighing the idea of holding the conference every two years so that research on the subject will get into the bones of the academic community. That way, there will not be the feeling that this gathering will have no follow-up and that it was organized merely out of respect for Iraqi Jews and out of a desire to demonstrate that, like Jews from other countries, they are also a nice bunch of people."

"The stormiest debate arose when most of the lecturers objected to the definition "Arab Jew." This term, commonly used by the members of the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow Coalition and Sephardi Jewish intellectuals, angered many of the conference participants.

"Those who proclaim themselves 'Arab Jews' rather than Jews with an Arab background are doing so to be fashionable and to express a political stance," says Prof. Somekh. "I believe that there is a tendency to use the term 'Arab Jew' without thinking deeply enough about what it really means. For me, an Arab Jew is someone who was born into an Arabic-speaking Jewish family, who is a member of an Arabic-speaking Jewish community, who lives in an Arab-Muslim society and who is familiar with literary Arabic, which is the basis of Arab culture. By such criteria, everyone using the term 'Arab Jew' is doing so incorrectly, because they never learned Arabic, never spoke Arabic and cannot read Arabic."

"University of Haifa professor Reuven Snir, who teaches in the Department of Arabic Language and Literature, emphasized in his lecture that the Jews who wrote literary works in Arabic in the early 20th century felt no need to declare themselves Arabs.

"Dudi Busi, an intellectual who calls himself an Arab Jew, admits in the fine print of the introduction to his 'A Noble Savage' (Pere Atzil) that he was inspired by Sasson Somekh's book, 'Baghdad, Yesterday: The Making of an Arab Jew,'" he said. "That statement reinforces the feeling that an artificial Arab Jewish identity was created among intellectuals with a revolutionary turn of mind who want to weaken the Zionist foundations of Israeli society and who are protesting against its dominant Ashkenazi component."

"Is there an Iraqi-Israeli identity? Author Sami Michael says that 99 percent of the identities on the face of this planet are imposed identities.

"I hear from all sides that I am an Iraqi and therefore I accept this label," he told his audience with a laugh. "Mind you, I really am an Iraqi anyway."

"Michael says it is regrettable that Israeli society has turned the Iraqi Jewish collective memory into a sweet, sticky bit of nostalgia, and failed to adopt the unique wisdom that characterized the Jewish community in Iraq: The community transformed itself into an aristocracy in Iraq by virtue of its ability to negotiate with the Arab society in which it resided.

"That is the way to achieve stunning results. Results that are achieved not with a gun or with warfare, but rather through negotiations with the Arabs," he says.

"University of Haifa sociology professor Sammy Smooha said, "There is an Iraqi Israeli identity, but that is not the important point. The principal identity competing with our country of origin is still the Sephardi Jewish identity. And what determines the kind of life you lead and your fate is still the division of Israeli Jewish society into Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, or Sephardim.

"The social rift will only grow deeper and more severe," he said. "In Israel, when people make it in society, they lose their identity, which is what happened to the Iraqi Jews."

Smooha also expressed his objection to calling "Iraqi Jews" "Arab Jews," and generated loud applause when he proclaimed, "This term does not hold water. It is absolutely not a parallel to 'Arab Christian'; a Jew by religion cannot be part of the Arab nation or a member of the Arabic faith."

"Prof. Haviva Pedaya is a poet who teaches Judaism and culture in the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev's Department of Jewish History. She made the following point: "The first thing that happens in a situation of oppression is that you declare that everyone is the same, in other words, that everyone is a Mizrahi or Sephardi Jew. The original approach of the Iraqi Jewish identity, as we see it expressed on this podium, is that it expressed several very different voices and channels. And it is impossible to say which is more Iraqi than the other."

"Gradually, the discussion shifted to what the audience had to say, and one person suggested this solution to the Iraqi-Jewish-Arab-Israeli conflict: "I always say that I am not Iraqi, but that I am from Iraq." Another person got up and requested the floor: "I was born in Prague," he said with a smile. "But I must admit that, after two days of this conference on Iraqi Jews, I myself feel a longing for Baghdad."

"The Israeli-born children of the Iraqi Jewish immigrants naturally have no memory of Baghdad, but instead create an imaginary Baghdad from the fragments of memory that they have gleaned from their parents. These fragments are, in turn, based on the literary works written by immigrant authors who have shaped our identity.

Like these children of immigrants, I swam with the immigrant authors in the Tigris River whose sources are literary, wandered through Baghdad's alleyways, drank coffee in the coffee shops along the river's banks, and saw the city from the roofs of Baghdad's houses. For a brief moment, in the lively discourse at the conference, a discourse that was so full of love and longing, I caught glimpses of the house of my childhood, the home that disintegrated with the death of my parents, who had immigrated to Israel from Iraq.

"For a few seconds, its walls once more joined together and my parents again hugged me. The Iraqi Arabic, which they used whenever they spoke to me (while I always replied in Hebrew), echoed from that house once more. How could I explain all this to the woman who asked me how I was connected to this conference and why I was covering it for Haaretz. She gave me an embarrassed smile as she apologized for not recognizing that I myself was also an Iraqi and she asked me why my surname was Lee and why I was crying."

Read article in full

English summary of Haaretz report in Hebrew

Friday, May 16, 2008

At last, the Youtube nakba of the Arabic Jews

At last somebody has responded to the incessant 'nakba' propaganda of the Palestinians with a Youtube video on the ethnic cleansing of a million Jews from Arab countries and Iran, explained in a few moving frames. Click on the link (with thanks: a reader):

Will long-lost Jewish neighbours want to return?

There are three good things about this Haaretz article by Sultan al-Qassemi of Abu Dhabi. The first is that he recognises that Jews are a Middle Eastern people who go back thousands of years. The second is that Jews made a huge contribution to Arab societies. The third is that he acknowledges that Jews were subject to assault and oppression at the hands of Arabs who caused them to flee.

In other respects the article is badly flawed. It assumes that European Jews and their 'Israel project' are the root of all evil. The ill-treatment of the Jews in Arab countries is an understandable 'reaction' to the 'injustice' of Israel. And in a patronising and naive way, it assumes that Jews' undying loyalty to their 'ancestral Arab homelands' will make them return to Arab countries, if only citizenship were restored to them. (With thanks: Lily)

"Unfortunately, many Muslim Arabs from across the region reacted violently to these developments and decided to reciprocate; as a result, Jews who were living among them were shunned and assaulted. In Iraq, for example, about 120,000 Jews were compelled to emigrate to Israel, the U.S. and Europe in just less than three years.

"The streets of Cairo, the historic neighborhoods of Syria, the mountainous terrain of Lebanon and the bustling markets of Baghdad were, for the first time in thousands of years, emptied of one of the most successful ethnic minorities living within their communities. Doctors, architects, businessmen, scientists, poets and writers started to pack up and leave, some with good reason and some to avoid the repercussions of the founding of the state of Israel.

"It wasn't all bad blood between the Arabs and the Jews; in fact, there were stories of heroism that have gone unreported and unnoticed in the Arab media. In the midst of the horrors of the Nazi occupation of France in the 1940s, the imam of the Paris Mosque saved the lives of scores of Jews by issuing certificates stating that they were Muslim. In Tunis, entire Jewish families were saved by a local hero, Khaled Abdelwahhab, who hid them in his farm at great risk to himself and his family; he was honored posthumously for his bravery by the Anti-Defamation League. As a result of such actions, fewer than 1 percent of the Jews of Arabia - who numbered in the hundreds of thousands - perished compared to more than 50 percent of the Jews of Europe*.

"Since then, there has been predominantly negative coverage of Judeo-Arab relations. Europe, after the Second World War, was able to turn the page almost immediately, yet many Arabs still paint all Jews with the same brush used for Israelis.

"In 1975, in the wake of the death of the Egyptian revolutionary leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, many countries in which he had financed and encouraged revolutions shed the burden of his pan-Arab nationalism and scaremongering and decided to take action in order to restore the social unity of their countries. The pre-Saddam Iraqi Revolution Command Council issued advertisements in The New York Times and elsewhere inviting Jews to return to their home countries and guaranteeing their rights. Anwar Sadat's Egypt and Hafez Al Assad's Syria also issued such statements.

"In recent history, only the two forward-thinking Middle Eastern kingdoms of Morocco and Bahrain have broken the mold of suspicion toward their Jewish citizens and integrated them into the social and political spheres. The former with the case of Andre Azoulay, an adviser to the previous and current kings; and the latter with the recent appointment of Huda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo as the new Bahraini ambassador to America.

"Today in New York City alone there are more than 75,000 Jews of Syrian origin, many of them educated in the best schools, who speak or understand Arabic and still have an affinity for Syria. Is it not possible to imagine that such persons have the right, if they so choose, to be full citizens of Syria?

"Is it not time to reassure the Jews of Arab origin that their ancestral homes are mature enough to welcome them back if they decide to invest, visit or even take up citizenship? If football players who spend a few months in the Middle East are given citizenship, shouldn't people who have a natural birthright, tremendous wealth, and valuable education and skills be accorded the same?"

Read article in full
*The only reason why more Jews were not killed in Arab lands was that the Nazi advance was halted - ed

An American Jew in Shiraz

Larry Beinhart from Brooklyn had never considered himself a 'practising' Jew. But as the token Jew in a group of Americans visiting Iran, he was unprepared for the emotions that were to engulf him as the group attended a Jewish service in Shiraz. From Alternet (with thanks: a reader):

"Once again, we entered a walled courtyard.

"It was winter, so the trees were bare. Past their trunks and branches, there was a two-story building. There were large windows along the entire side that faced out toward us. Inside, there was a Jewish service taking place.

"Then a remarkable thing happened to me.

"I was overcome with emotion. If I had been alone, I would have wept. But I was in public, and I'm a guy, and mentally I have my John Belushi shades on, so I don't cry in public. I moved into the shadows while I fought to control the tears that welled up inside, that wanted to pour forth and go wailing down my cheeks. These were my people. Here. Surrounded by these millions of others. My people, willing to publicly declare who they were, what their faith was and what group they belonged to. Though they were surrounded by all these others. Who sometimes tolerated them, sometimes were their friends and sometimes were not. This was not America. Where it was safe to be a Jew. Where it was fun to be a Jew. Where it was easy to be a Jew. Officially, as Khomeini's poster said, Jews are supposed to be a protected people in Islam."

Read article in full

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Abbas Shiblak blames Iraqi exodus on Zionism

Abbas Shiblak’ s book Iraqi Jews: a history of Mass Exodus (re-issued in 2005) tends to play down Arab responsibility for the Jewish exodus, but shows that ‘transfer’ schemes, exchanging Palestinian Arabs for Iraqi Jews, were being discussed at the time:

"If Israel had not been established nothing would have happened to the Iraqi Jews. They could have stayed as any other religious minority," says Meir Basri, the last leader of the Jewish community, quoted in Abbas Shiblak's book, Iraqi Jews: a history of mass Exodus. (re-issued in 2005)

But the thesis soon unravels if the Jews compare notes with the persecuted Christian Assyrians, or the Mandaeans, or the Yazidis, who had no Israel with which to enrage the Iraqi state.

Abbas Shiblak is an Oxford academic and a Palestinian refugee from Haifa. He is commended by Peter Sluglett in the book's preface for his empathy with the Iraqi Jews, fellow "victims of Zionism". I suppose that we should be grateful that Shiblak does not attempt to deny that Jews were forced to leave Iraq. But 'push' factors 'played a smaller role' in Iraq than in other Arab countries, he argues.

As 'Arabs of the Jewish faith', the Jews were an indigenous religious grouping, and identified with their fellow Iraqis rather than fellow Jews. But Shiblak likes to have it both ways: when Jewish leaders in 1919 asked the British High Commissioner for British citizenship, they were not speaking for the community as a whole, but when the Jewish leaders proclaimed their loyalty to Iraq and dislike of Zionism, Shiblak claims, they were speaking the truth.

On the other hand Shiblak can't help seeing the Jews as agents of colonialism. The Jews in Arab countries aided and abetted the British and the French, acquired foreign nationality, and were awarded special privileges under the Capitulation system. (Shiblak is not clear how Iraqi Jews, none of whom had foreign nationality, benefited from the Capitulation system.)

Shiblak will never condemn Arab conduct towards the Jews, he only finds excuses for it. The Jews 'must take some of the blame which this behaviour ( i.e finding varying degrees of special favour with their British and French masters) generated against them'. In other words, the Jews are are least partly to blame for their own oppression and murder. The 1941 Farhoud, which claimed at least 180 lives, was pay-back for Jewish profiteering out of the Arab masses and for showing 'too much joy' at the imminent arrival of the British. No, it was not an explosion of anti-Jewish hatred, just anti-British.

A familiar pattern of minimisation and whitewash emerges from Shiblak's book. For example, in the 1930s, there were no restrictions on Jewish student numbers in schools and colleges, although the preferential quotas for scientific and medical colleges 'may have' adversely affected Jewish chances of entering these colleges. He then quotes a source arguing that these quotas were never filled. There is nothing about the politicisation of schools in the 1930s to make them a vehicle for anti-Jewish indoctrination.

Shiblak says no evidence exists that 'serious harm' was done in May 1941 when the pro-Nazi Rashid Ali was in power, ' except for a few cases of harassment'. (As Violette Shamash in Memories of Eden explains, that harassment extended to rapes, pillage and murders). Even when the government started persecuting the Jews in earnest in 1948 - civil servants dismissed from their posts, education and travel bans, arrests, extortion, internment and hangings - Shiblak says that no specific official laws could be called discriminatory. The restrictions were temporary and aimed not only at Jews but at communists and democratic forces. They were not as bad as what the US government imposed on Japanese enemy aliens. The Iraqi governments of the time were 'tolerant and moderate'. The Prime Minister Nuri al-Said's threat to expel the Jews should not be taken seriously. It was only rhetoric.

Shiblak quotes Sir Henry Mack, the British ambassador to Iraq, as saying: "in the light of the new situation brought about by the state of Israel, it is fair to remark that the Iraqi government has shown tolerance in its dealings with Iraqi Jews." Nine months later, Sir Henry Mack wrote the exact opposite: Jews were being treated like negroes in the American Deep South. So which is it?

Shiblak portrays Zionism as an alien, manipulative, exploitative and colonialist movement that only saw the oriental Jews as a useful reserve of manpower and exaggerated the persecution to which Jews were subject in Arab countries. Shiblak's verdict is that the Iraqi Jews did not want to leave, until 'cruel Zionism' - the infamous bombs - forced them to.

What I found most interesting - particularly now that advocates of the Arab cause continually insist on treating the issue of the Palestinian refugees separately from that of the Jewish exodus from Arab countries, was Shiblak's description of the various 'transfer' schemes mooted after the flight of the Arabs from Palestine. Predictably, Shiblak claims that the Arabs never instigated such schemes. The driving force behind them were the British and the US. It is not hard to see why, as Shiblak tells it, the Israelis were reluctant to agree - not only were they expected to pay for the resettlement of the Arab refugees, they would have had to compensate the Iraqi Jews for their abandoned property.

It was only when it became apparent that following the denaturalisation law of March 1950 stripping emigrating Iraqi Jews of their nationality (followed a year later by the freezing of their property) most of the community had decided to leave, that Israel agreed to a linkage between the Iraqi Jews and the Palestinian Arabs. But even Shiblak admits there was never an official deal.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Islamists and nationalists threaten Turkey's Jews

Discrimination against non-Muslims is endemic in the Turkish system, claims a Turkish-Jewish business in this interview with Mustapha Akyol of the Turkish Daily News:

"Ishak Alaton is one of the most prominent names in Turkey’s tiny Jewish community. He, as the boss of the well-established Alarko Holding, is not just a very successful businessman, but also a man of intellect who comments on social and political problems.

"As a self-defined social democrat, Mr. Alaton believes in social responsibility – not as a public relations strategy, but as a value in itself.

"A few weeks ago, Mr. Alaton sent a letter to Eyüp Can, the editor-in-chief of Turkey’s up-and-coming business daily, Referans. On April 22, Mr. Can published the letter in his column. In it, the 81-year-old business guru was rightfully complaining about “this paranoia, this xenophobia, this enmity toward non-Muslims, this anti-Semitism” which pervades Turkey.

"Mr. Alaton was specifically referring to two examples: Israeli businessman Sammy Ofer, a zillionaire, wanted to invest in Turkey, but he was repelled by “the bureaucracy and the media which worked hand in hand against him… for simply that he was Jewish.” And, decades ago, an oil-rich Armenian businessman, Mr. Gülbenkyan, had tried to set up a museum in Istanbul, but was “forced back with sticks in hand by the ‘patriots’ in Ankara.”

"Thirdly Mr. Alaton was pointing to the recent decision by Turkey’s Constitutional Court, which made it illegal for foreigners to buy real estate in Turkey. (Our lovely Constitutional Court, when it is not busy with cracking down political parties, takes decisions that will keep Turkey isolated from the global economy.)

"After his letter in Referans, Mr. Alaton soon gave an interview to journalist Nagehan Alçı from daily Akşam. When asked about the origins of anti-Semitism in Turkey, Mr. Alaton went right back to the days of Atatürk and said this:

“I met Atatürk. We saw him when we were kids. There was no such discrimination at his time. At, least there was no such thing in his mind. But some of the people around Atatürk had a fierce reaction against us, i.e., the ‘others.’ That’s why special instructions were sent to governors in order to make our lives difficult. This, over time, turned in to a state policy.”

"Mr. Alaton did not go into details about what “the people around Atatürk” did to Turkey’s Jews, but one of their deeds, the Wealth Tax of 1942, is worth mentioning. The government of Şükrü Saracoğlu, a Kemalist, a Nazi sympathizer and a proud “Turkist,” issued this notorious law, which was an arbitrary levy imposed on wealthy non-Muslim minorities, and especially the Jews and Jewish converts. Those who were unable to pay were sent to a labor camp in Aşkale, a district of the Eastern city of Erzurum. The first and only Jewish labor camp in these lands, in other words, was established in the heydays of Kemalism, our untouchable state ideology.

"Let’s go back to Mr. Alaton’s interview. When asked about the current government, formed by the AKP (Justice and Development Party), he spoke positively and he said he trusts the “sincerity of Prime Minister Erdoğan” in his efforts to democratize Turkey. The problem is elsewhere, he noted. “Anti-Semitism is not in the neighborhood,” he emphasized. “It is in the system.”

"The term “neighborhood” might need explanation here. In the recent years, the word has become a token for conservative districts in which most women wear the headscarf and very few, if any, consume alcohol. In the secularist jargon, “the neighborhood” is the symbol of obscurantism, backwardness, and a pleasure-free life. There might be some truth in this perception, but it is also true that the rising fascism and xenophobia in Turkey is a product of not the conservative “neighborhood,” but the secular citadels."

Read article in full

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Yemenite Jews who fled during World War ll

Few are familiar with the immigration story of 4,267 Yemeni Jews to the Land of Israel during World War II. Shlomo Yefet, a teacher at the Adan (Aden) community, was recruited to help and documented life in the immigration camps; he later immigrated to Israel himself. Ynet News has the story and photos:

"In 1944, Shlomo received the longed-for certificate and also arrived in Israel as an immigrant in a long journey which crossed sea and land, through Sudan, Suez, Ein Moussa, Sinai and the final destination – the "Shaar Ha'aliyah" camp near Haifa. In Israel, Shlomo volunteered in the Etzel national military organization and joined the Israel Defense Forces upon the State of Israel's establishment.

"Most of us are familiar with the story of the "On Eagle's Wings" campaign to bring Yemen's Jews to Israel in 1949-1950, but little has been told about the immigration of 4,267 Yemeni Jews to the Land of Israel in 1943-1944.

"Those were the days of World War II, when immigration permits (certificates) were not given out to Europe's Jews. Jewish Agency representatives and other Israeli officials urged Yemen's Jews to immigrate to Israel, in an effort to realize the allocation of immigration permits promised in the 1939 White Paper and bring as many Jews as possible to Israel.

"Simultaneously, these elements appealed to the Yemeni imam, who accepted the appeal due to the hunger and distress which prevailed in Yemen at the time following drought years, and allowed the Jews to leave. Thousands of Jews began crossing the border towards Adan, a colony under British rule in southern Yemen.

"The Jews were assembled and lodged in a desert camp near the village of Fayush, a camp which was built during the war to hold prisoners. Another refugee camp – Mehzabin, was located 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) away.

"Fayush and Mehzabin were run by a British crew hired by the Adan government. Later, a doctor and three nurses were sent to the camps from Israel in a bid to ease the harsh conditions.

"Shlomo Yefet was born in Adan in 1921. In 1943, while he served as a teacher in Adan's Jewish community, he was asked by the community heads to help care for the refugees who had arrived from Yemen exhausted and poor. Yefet accepted the request immediately and helped manager the camp's storeroom and hand out food to the immigrants.

"A laboratory and a clinic were built in the camp to treat immigrants suffering from malnutrition and diseases. The camp was run by Dr. David Ullman, who was assisted by a local crew and delegates from the Land of Israel: Nurses Tzipora Friedman-Makov, Rachel Mashat and Yehudit Capra."

Read article in full

Monday, May 12, 2008

Coke urged to compensate Egyptian-Jewish family

Justice still has not been done to the Bigio family, whose assets were seized by the Egyptian government and then taken over by Coca-Cola, Canadian Jewish News reports:

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) held a protest outside the Coca- Cola Company’s recent annual shareholders’ meeting in Wilmington, Del., calling on the multi-billion dollar company to compensate the Bigio family of Montreal, Egyptian Jewish refugees whose land and factories were expropriated by the Egyptian government during an anti-Semitic campaign in the 1960s.

In 1994, Coke bought a minority interest in the El Nasr Bottling Company (ENBC), the Egyptian firm that took over the Bigios’ seized property. Three years later, the family sued Coke for trespass in federal district court in New York.

“Coca-Cola continues to violate its own code of business conduct,” said Leonard Getz, a national vice-president of ZOA and a Coca-Cola shareholder.

“First the company refuses to acknowledge that it is profiting from stolen property, and now it reneges on its promise to engage in good faith settlement discussions with the Bigios. What will it take for Coke to do the right thing?”

Last year, Getz submitted a shareholder proposal for consideration at Coca-Cola’s annual shareholders’ meeting, proposing that Coca-Cola be required to fairly compensate the Bigios for their loss. He said the company agreed at that time to negotiate with the Bigios.

This year, Getz was outside the shareholders’ meeting, along with several dozen other protesters, displaying signs that read, “Who’s Benefiting from Anti-Semitism? Coke is it!,” “Coke Trespasses on Stolen Jewish Property,” and Christians and Jews United for Justice Ask ‘The Real Thing’ To Do The Right Thing.”

“The ZOA called off a demonstration last year after Coca-Cola promised to discuss settlement terms with the Bigio family. But after several meetings held during the past year, it is now abundantly clear that Coca-Cola has no intention of offering the Bigios a fair settlement,” said ZOA national president Morton Klein.

In the 1960s, the Egyptian regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser expropriated the Bigio family’s land and factories near Cairo without compensating them. The ZOA claims the only reason was that the Bigios were Jewish.

The Bigios had owned the property since the early 1900s. Coca-Cola had leased the land and a factory from the Bigios since the 1940s. The Bigios had a longstanding business relationship with Coca-Cola in Egypt, supplying bottle caps and other products to the company.

The New York federal district court dismissed the Bigios’ case at Coca-Cola’s request, concluding that Egypt was a more appropriate forum to decide their claims. The Bigios appealed, asking the ZOA to submit an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief on their behalf.

The ZOA’s brief showed that the Bigios would not get a fair trial in Egypt because hatred of Jews is deeply ingrained in Egyptian society, and that this hatred is still fostered today, even by the government-sponsored media.

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the federal district court ruling last year, and decided that the Bigios’ case could proceed in an American court, saying, “It was perfectly reasonable under these circumstances for the plaintiffs to bring their action against Coca-Cola, the only U.S. company involved, in the United States.”

The ZOA has been actively supporting the Bigios’ cause and has called for a boycott of Coca-Cola products until the company makes a fair settlement with the Bigio family.

“Despite its self-image and promise to act with honesty and integrity in all matters, Coca-Cola has been unfairly and immorally benefiting from the campaign of anti-Semitism against the Bigios,” said Susan Tuchman, director of the ZOA’s Centre for Law and Justice.

The Bigios are represented by Washington, D.C., attorneys Nathan and Alyza Lewin, who successfully argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that the Bigios were entitled to proceed with their claims in an American court.

Raphael Bigio, 63, speaking on behalf of his family, said he is deeply grateful for the ZOA’s assistance. He hopes that Jews and other “fair-minded” people will stop buying Coke products.

“As Coca-Cola well knows, my family owns these valuable assets in Egypt, and they were stolen from us. You can’t go and buy stolen assets and then reap the benefits. It is only right that my family be compensated because of Coca-Cola’s using and benefiting from my family’s property in Egypt.”

Read article in full

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Update: The Economist relents

Update to the update: the Economist has since reverted to type by publishing a second letter contradicting Joe Abdel Wahed's.

Point of No Return was perhaps too hasty in condemning the Economist for failing to provide an opportunity to refute the distortions in its article 'Let there be justice for all' (April 12). In its May 9 issue, it printed this letter from JIMENA co-founder Joseph Abdel Wahed :

A refugee's tale

SIR – Resolutions that recognise the plight of Jews forced to flee from the Arab world when Israel was founded are not primarily about compensation (“Let there be justice for all”, April 12th). What we want most of all is to tell our side of the story. For 60 years the focus has been on the Palestinians, with nothing much said on the brutal expulsion of nearly 1m Jews from the Arab world and Iran. No trial; no jury; no justice. Human-rights organisations did not call attention to this crime against humanity. The United Nations did not convene the Security Council to censure the Arab countries. British academics did not seek to divest from these countries.

“Who is fighting for my rights?” I asked in 1948 when I was 12 years old and living in Cairo. This was when the Arab League likened its “war of the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades” and after the Mufti of Jerusalem exhorted Palestinian Arabs to kill Jews “wherever you find them”. The Middle East conflict created not one, but two refugee populations.

Joseph Abdel Wahed
Moraga, California

Although not included its print edition, The Economist posted this letter in its 'Inbox' (Scroll down to April 28) from David Dangoor.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hunting for kosher chicken in Marrakesh

It's been the talk of the town all week. The popular BBC TV show The Apprentice flew two rival teams of aspiring young men and women to Morocco and let them loose on the Marrakesh souk. Their task was to find a number of items in the shortest time and at the cheapest price. On their shopping list was a green mosque alarm clock, a fruit juicer, a branded tagine pot - and a kosher chicken.

Haaretz has the hilarious details, highlighting the embarrassing ignorance of the cream of entrepreneurial British youth. Team member Michael, a self-declared 'Jewish ' boy - did not know the meaning of the word 'kosher' and settled for a halal chicken 'blessed' by the butcher who obligingly intoned, 'Allah, allah!'

Michael's team-mate Claire, had earlier remarked: "am I stupid or what, but is kosher chicken Jewish, and this is a Muslim country?" Like most non-Jewish Britons Claire had assumed that Jews do not live in Muslim countries, or perhaps were as common in Arab countries as aliens from Mars.

But the winning team did find what was left of the Marrakesh Jewish quarter. They found a kosher butcher who sold them a kosher chicken. And seven million BBC viewers learned something new: there is Jewish life in Arab countries.

The not-so forgotten Jews of Marrakesh

Death knell sounding for Jews of Marrakesh

Friday, May 09, 2008

What really happened to the Middle East's Jews?

Barry Rubin of the Gloria Research Center makes the very important point that, on the rare occasions when Jewish refugees of the Middle East are mentioned as in this Reuters piece, the treatment they suffered is rationalised as an 'understandable backlash' to Israel's creation. In fact, had Israel never existed, Jews and Christians would still have been 'ethnically cleansed' from Arab countries (with thanks: Jerusalem Posts) :

"Uh-oh! It's Israel's sixtieth birthday and that means articles on Israel in the news media and, in turn, that may often mean something between inaccuracy and slander.

I've been conditioned by now to know what to expect. Let's try a test. Read the following headline from a Reuters story, and guess the theme. Ready? Here we go:

"Israel's Advent Altered Outlook For Middle East Jews."

My assumption was that the headline implied a story saying: everything was fine for Jews in the Arab world and Iran until Israel was created and that fact was responsible for forcing them to leave. The article itself isn't that bad, does include material to the contrary, and doesn't directly blame the destruction of these communities on Israel's creation. Yet still this is an implication, no doubt, that many readers will take away from the text. Consider this formulation. The article states: "The 1948 war at Israel's creation, which forced some 700,000 Palestinians to flee their homeland, hardened Arab attitudes to deep-rooted Jewish minorities across the Middle East."

Get it? First the Palestinians flee and then the Arabs get angry at the Jews. Up to then the Jewish minorities are "deep-rooted" which implies they were well accepted and secure.

A couple of paragraphs down the article continues:

"Israeli statistics show more than 760,000 Middle Eastern Jews had moved to Israel by 2006, with more than 40 percent arriving in the first three years of the state's existence."

So let's summarize:

Step 1: Palestinians become refugees

Step 2: Arabs are angry. (Can you blame them?)

Step 3: They take it out on the Jews or at least these Jews "moved," a word used for when you get a new job, load up the U-Haul and head across town.

In other words, the sins of Israel's creation include both Palestinian Arabs and Middle Eastern Jews becoming refugees, rather than it involving a de facto population transfer with an equal cost to both sides, and in which only the deliberate creation of permanent refugee status for Palestinians by their own leaders and Arab states produced prosperity on one side and ongoing problems for the other.

What this concept also leaves out, at least in part, is:

  • Centuries'-long discrimination against Jews, ranging from the mild to the violent, including forced conversions at times, a problem Moses Maimonides was dealing with nine hundred years ago. Of course, as in Europe, there were long periods (certainly in Iraq and Egypt, for example) in which Jews fared very well. This is not to say that all Jews lived terribly among their Arab neighbors but clearly this was a major factor in their lives. A strong current of anti-Semitism in Islam long preceded the origin of Zionism.

    To be fair the article does say:

    "In the past, Moroccan Jews were considered subordinate to Muslims and discrimination was widespread. Every city has its Mellah, the poorest quarter to which Jews were once confined. Their residents were the first to leave when they could." And it mentions that "Over 120,000 [Iraqi Jews] were flown to Israel after 1948 when government persecution intensified.

  • Rising Arab nationalism which was not all or mostly, in contrast to what the article seems to argue, due to Zionism or Israel's creation. Even the secular nationalist movements had a strong tinge of Islam also, certainly so in North Africa, which made it hard to believe that Jews would be welcome in the future regardless of Israel.
  • It should be noted that Christians, too, have been pushed out of the Arab world and often treated badly, though their treatment varies widely among different countries. Indeed, leaving aside Egypt, the proportion of Christian emigration approaches that of Jewish emigration. There is a serious problem with intolerance in Arabic-speaking countries and a dominant "secular" nationalism (with some exception for Syria and Lebanon) that in fact discriminates against non-Muslims. Even if Israel had never been created, a high proportion of Jews would certainly have left or been forced to leave.

  • No mention of major violent incidents like the 1941 pogrom in Baghdad or a massacre a few years later in Yemen. Nor does it mention that Yemeni Jews had to flee their homes a few weeks ago to avoid being murdered or kidnapped. Or is there the story of how Jews tried to escape Syria, Iran, and other places, sometimes at the cost of their lives. Nor does it include the executions of Jews in Iraq, a trauma which shattered the remaining post-1948 community there.

  • The stress of being a dhimmi, meaning the need to shut your mouth and keep a low profile, again parallel to the deformations of Jewish life in Europe. But the article quotes Jews in Morocco (no anti-Semitism) and Iran (everyone is treated ok) who clearly cannot speak honestly.

For example, in Iran several Jews were arrested as spies without evidence and tortured while some historic synagogues were recently bulldozed out of existence. Don't these people really feel scared? Of course, these interviews are like asking people in Iraq a decade ago what they thought of Saddam or finding out that everyone was just delighted with Stalinist Russia, things journalists in those times actually did do.

Now to be fair the article, as I said I've seen much worse, does state: "Hundreds of thousands of Jews were displaced. Some migrated voluntarily from mainly Muslim countries to the newly proclaimed Jewish homeland. Others were forced out by dispossession, discrimination or violence. Thousands stayed on."

Clearly, the great majority, however, were forced out. What percentage stayed on? Less than one-tenth.

A key problem with the currently accepted narrative on Middle East history can be seen in a little two-line statement of fact:

"Conflict in Palestine in the 1930s made life harder for Egyptian Jews, as militant nationalist groups became active."

This relates the rise of militant nationalism to the conflict. Certainly, this was a factor (I wrote a whole book on it, The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict), but militant nationalism was due to far more than just the Palestine conflict. And this doesn't even mention the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1920s, seeking to transform Egypt into an Islamist state. It was first and foremost a response to conditions at home and to the kind of society that Arab activists wanted to build. As such, it is parallel to revolutionary, Communist, fascist, and nationalist movements in Europe and other places, all of which existed without Israel as a catalyst.

Those two lines are a very powerful theme today: everything Arabs or Muslims do is merely a response to what Israel (or the West) does and not an expression of their own beliefs and goals. This robs others of their history, under the guise of humanitarian egalitarianism, and puts the blame on others for everything that happens.

Here's another example:

"Jewish emigration accelerated after Israel attacked Egypt in 1956 and economic pressures mounted at home."

While there is some truth in the statement the "economic pressures" was the fact that the regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser expelled all non-Egyptians, not only Jews but large numbers of Greeks and others, due to xenophobia and militant nationalism.

Even in tiny phrasing choices--admittedly a matter of judgment but the judgments almost always go in the same direction--are certain assumptions present. Consider this phrase: "Iran, seen by Israel as its deadliest foe...." But since the issue here is Iranian Jews why not write: "Iran, which views Israel as its deadliest foe...." From which direction, after all, does the aggressive view come?

The article could easily have drawn a parallel between the Middle Eastern Jews and Palestinians. Both were refugees but the Jews rebuilt their lives rather than nursing grievances and pursing violence for decades. Moreover, one could say that their sufferings and claims balance those of the Palestinian Arabs. None of these arguments--very commonplace in discussion of these issues among Middle East-origin Jews--are presented.

Again, I don't mean to exaggerate the problems with this article, which does at least present the issue and some of the points that should be made. But it also shows weaknesses in dealing with Israel, some of the assumptions on which the contemporary hostile narrative is based.

Read article in full

Also published in Global Politician