Monday, February 23, 2009

Yemen Jews 'desperate to go to Israel'

Torah lesson (photo: Khaled Abdullah, Reuters)

A week after the secret airlift of the Ben Yisrael family last week, it appears that some 150 Jews 'desperate to leave for Israel' have had their passport applications held up by government officials. The computers are not working, they are told. The National of the UAE reports:

AMRAN, YEMEN // Jewish community members in Amran who have been living in fear following a wave of threats and hate attacks have stepped up their efforts to migrate to Israel.

“We are all fed up. All of the Jews are willing now to migrate to Israel but some prefer not to speak up their desire,” said Yahia bin Yaish, the rabbi of the Jewish community in the northern governorate of Amran, about 60km north of the capital Sana’a.

“We have faced intimidation, attacks and threats. Some have even faced hand-grenade attacks. I myself have received SMS threats on my mobile.

“We are no longer secured. We are afraid to go to the market and even at home. We have reported this to the local authorities but they are lenient with the people behind the threats,” said Mr bin Yaish.

Last week, a Jewish Yemeni family was taken to Israel in a secret airlift organised by the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency for Israel.

Said bin Yisrael, the head of the Jewish community in Rydah, and his eight children and wife arrived at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv last Thursday following attacks and death threats.

“Said went crazy after an attack on his house with a hand grenade last December,” a Jewish Yemeni, who is believed to have orchestrated Mr bin Yisrael’s migration, said on condition of anonymity.

“He was scared for his family. He will be back for his father and brothers who are still here.”

Mr bin Yaish said his family did not want to leave Yemen.

“This is our home and we prefer to live here, even on mountains if there is security. Life here is better because we can make sure that our kids are brought up well in line with our religious teachings.”

Amran bin Yahia, a Yemeni Jew, said he had a bad experience emigrating to Israel and had left his wife and children there to return to Yemen, where he remarried.

“I went to Jerusalem 10 years ago with my wife and children. They have been influenced by the life there. But I felt isolated. I left them behind and came back home,” he said, adding that he could not go back to Israel despite the dangers of staying in Yemen.

But for those who do want to leave, Mr bin Yaish said about 150 of their passport applications have been held up in Sana’a for over two months.

“Whenever we go to them, they keep telling us the computers are not working,” he said.

Moshe Yaish al Nahari, a Jewish teacher and father of nine, was shot in Rydah’s market in Amran in December.

Abdulaziz Hamud al Abdi, a former military pilot whose family claims he is mentally ill, admitted in a hearing in December that he killed al Nahari following a warning that Jews should either leave the area or convert to Islam.

Attacks and threats against Yemeni Jews in Amran governorate flared up again following Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip.

“The offensive was in Gaza and we were be blamed. Some used to threaten me, telling me to stop the war. These attacks are meant to force us to leave our houses which tribesmen want for themselves,” Mr bin Yaish said.

After al Nahari’s murder, Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president, discussed with Jewish community leaders a plan to relocate Jews from Amran to Sana’a, where each Jewish family would receive a plot of land.

The Jewish community, however, said the government has taken no action.

“The president is not to be blamed. He gave clear directives. But, his government officials wanted to relocate us to a bad place where a big family is expected to be housed in a small flat that is liable to attack,” Mr bin Yaish said, adding that the community has asked to be moved to a safer area with better housing conditions.

Government officials declined to comment.

Mahmud Taha, an Amran-based journalist who has been following the issue of Yemeni Jews, said the migration of the Jewish family to Israel was not unexpected.

“There is no option for the Yemeni Jews but to migrate. The local authorities have failed to protect them and the promises of relocation have not been serious. The Jews are fed up and have reached intolerable situation,” Taha said.

As recently as the early 1950s Yemen was home to about 50,000 Jews, but most have since migrated to Israel and less than 500 remain. They had gained a reputation for intricate jewellery work and their decorative swords and knives. Fewer than 500 remain.

Taha said the verdict against al Abdi, which the court has set for March 2, will likely absolve the defendant on mental health grounds.

“This will drive the Jews crazy and will be a driving force for their migration,” he said.


ShamSham said...


Given the alarming contents of this story, I was wondering if you could proffer an explanation as to why the Arab-Muslim world is unable to distinguish between "Jews" and "Zionists/Israelis."

Just as in this story, following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War indigenous Middle Eastern Jews were punished by their Arab sovereigns for what occurred in Israel. That is, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority did were not "Zionists."

How do you understand this Arab inability to differentiate between the two?

- Tribalism - view Jews as a cohesive "tribe," rather than viewing them as individuals
- The Arab World, by and large, was not part of the Enlightenment
- Lack of pluralism in the Arab world
- Historic enmity of Jews in Islamic thought

What would you say? Do you know of anything strong academic works that can rationalize this?

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

bataween said...

Hello anonymous
The article you refer to posted below
this one

bataween said...

I wrote the article below at the time of the Gaza war, for the same thing is now happening to Jews in Europe. Starbucks had its windows smashed simply because its CEO is a Jew
I would call it 'politics by pogrom' - it happened in medieval times in Europe, in Tsarist Russia, and in the Arab world in the 20th century, sometimes when when there was a power vacuum. I believe the cause is incitement either official or from key players (mosques, media). Such incitement can be whipped up where the population is ignorant, or people are simply paid to cause trouble.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I didn't notice!

Anonymous said...

ShamSham said...


"Politics by pogrom" (i.e. scapegoating) is quite relevant, but it goes much, much deeper than this.

The population needs to be receptive to treating the Jews as scapegoats. It is not simply top-down.

So then, the question is why is the Arab-Muslim population receptive to punishing its local Jewish population for Israeli actions?

1) Mentality of dhimma - Muslims must be in a supreme position to Jews. Jews must be reminded of their subservient position in society.
2) Arab tribalism - the Jews are viewed as a collective tribe. Jews are not recognized on an individual level. The Jewish collective tribe is viewed as "bad."

What do you think of this assessment?

Anonymous said...

It is a hopefull sign that for once it's an Arab journalist who is blowing the whistle.

bataween said...

I have noticed that several Yemeni journalists have covered the plight of Yemen's Jews very sympathetically. There was a great number of Jewish converts to Islam in Yemen and this could be one explanation.

bataween said...

I think you are partly right. The deep anti-dhimmi cultural prejudices of the Arab population predispose them to such anti-Jewish riots, but I think there is always an element of orchestration involved, top-down or not.Lack of freedom of thought and pluralism permits wholesale brainwashing and incitement.

I think the distinction between Jews and Zionists is wholly fictitious.Do rioters ever ask the victim first which he is?

ShamSham said...

Thanks for your comments Bataween.

I believe that the division between Jew and Zionist is "fictitious" in the Arab world. I believe that many Muslim-Arabs have difficulty in seeing that the Jews are not one coherent tribe with one line of thought. Therefore, Jews are bad (except those that unquestionably reject Zionism and will speak against those "bad Jews").

In an objective reality though, there is a difference. For example, the body of Iraqi Jews were heavily persecuted in the late 1940's and early 50's (and earlier and later of course as well) despite many in the community being anti or non-Zionist.

bataween said...

The Mumbai terrorists did not bother to distinguish between anti-Zionists and Zionists at the Chabad house. In fact they killed an anti-Zionist Satmar. The jihad has always been a genocidal, colective war against the Jews, not the Zionists. Your Iraqi example proves the point: many Jews there were anti-Z or communist.

ShamSham said...

If your remark is in relation to Jihad specifically, then I am agreement.

They cannot see the difference between Jews and Jewish Zionists. To them (jihadists), they are one and the same even though there is an objectively empirical difference between the two.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Shamsham, of course Muslims perceive the Jews as a unified, homogeneous collective which thinks and acts alike. This is part of a general worldview. First, the world is divided into the believers, mu'minin, and infidels, kuffar. Secondly, the world is geographically divided into Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb. The infidels are seen, according to the precept: kulli kuffar millatun wahidun, all infidels are one nation. Since they believe in collective responsibility, this would make Jews responsible --guilty in the Muslim view- for whatever Christians do. However, in practice, they seem to separate Christians from Jews. In this context, Christians of various sects and denominations were held to be guilty ["responsible"] for the Pope's remark a few years ago about Islam as a violent religion. Christians in various places were killed who were not Roman Catholics but I don't think any Jews were killed for the Pope's remarks.

But of course, in line with the Muslim notion of collective responsibility of kuffar, Jews were recently attacked physically in Europe and even the United States for Israel's war in Gaza. It is ironic that Muslims/Arabs --who reject the very notion of the "innocent civilian"-- are the beneficiaries of Western sympathy as "innocent civilians" allegedly harmed by Israel. Part of the reason for this is that much of the West, Europe in particular, is returning to the bad old days of Christian and post-Christian Judeophobia which joins in practice with Muslim Judeophobia. For many years, the notion has been cultivated that the Palestinian Arabs --called "Palestinians" tout court-- are a collective Jesus repeatedly crucified by Israel, the reincarnation of the ancient Jews. Long before Israeli independence, accusations of collective guilt were made against Jews in both Islam and Christendom. In Arab lands there was the 1934 pogrom in Constantine in Algeria, the 1941 Farhud in Iraq, etc., and various pogroms --collective mob actions based on collective guilt of the victims-- took place in Libya, Aleppo, Aden, Cairo from 1945 on.