Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Setting the record straight on the Jews of Syria

Jews left Syria for the Americas, 'not for the embarrassment of Zionism next door'. Muslims 'saved' the Aleppo Codex. 'Riots never happened' against the Jews, but if they did the Israelis inflicted the same oppression on the 'innocent' Palestinians. Taking Syria's sorry treatment of its Jews as an example, Israelinurse bravely tackles some of the myths on the Guardian Comment is Free website where revisionism on the plight of Mizrahi Jews is rife. Read her piece on CiF watch :

"There is, of course, ample information both in print and on-line readily available for those who wish to inform themselves about the experiences of Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews. One useful publication which predates the electronic era is Sir Martin Gilbert’s atlas entitled ‘The Jews of Arab Lands – Their History in Maps’ from 1976, in which one can see at a glance exactly what befell the Jews of Syria, and those in other Arab countries, in stark contrast to the myths propagated above.

"In 1943 the Jewish population of Syria numbered some 29,770, in 1946 it had fallen to 18,000 and in 1974 there remained only 4,000 Jews there. In Kamishliye in June 1967, 57 Jews were murdered by a mob of anti-Jewish rioters. In Aleppo, where Jews had lived since biblical times, predating Islam by many centuries of course, the Great Synagogue was looted and prayer books burnt in the street on November 18th, 1945. On December 2nd, 1947, just days after the adoption of the UNSC resolution to establish the State of Israel, many Jews were killed in anti-Jewish riots; 150 Jewish homes, 50 shops, 18 Synagogues and 5 schools were set ablaze. Some Jews fled to the Yishuv after this incident, including the father of a friend of mine who describes himself as a ‘Halabi’ and recounts his night-time trek down the slopes of the Golan Heights carrying his precious oud. Others fared less well: in November 1950, 30 Syrian Jews were murdered at sea by Arab seamen paid to take them by boat to Israel.

"Damascus was the headquarters of anti-Jewish propaganda, which intensified after the visit of officers from Nazi Germany. In 1938 Jews were frequently stabbed in the streets and in 1945 a Jewish educationalist was murdered. On August 5th 1945 a bomb was thrown into a Synagogue on Sabbath eve, killing 12 and injuring 36. In December 1949 the Jewish Community Council was dissolved and on February 8th, 1967 the Ministry of Defence listed 47 Jewish merchants in a circular and forbade army personnel to trade with them. In March 1974, four young Jewish women were murdered whilst trying to leave Syria.

"In 1967 a series of restrictions was put into force: Jews’ right to emigrate was completely forbidden, including those who held foreign passports. Jews were forbidden from moving more than 3 km from their place of residence – those wishing to travel further had to apply for a special permit. Identity cards issued to Jews were stamped in red with the word ‘Mussawi’ (Jew). Jews were normally subject to a 10 p.m. curfew. Jews were allowed only 6 years of elementary schooling. In Kamishliye, Jewish houses were marked in red. Jews were barred from jobs in public service, public institutions or banks. Government and military personnel were forbidden to buy in Jewish shops. Foreigners could not visit the Jewish quarter unescorted. Jews were forbidden to own radios or telephones or to maintain postal contact with the outside world. No telephones were installed in Jewish homes. The possessions of deceased Jews were confiscated by the government and their heirs had to pay for the use of the property. If they could not pay, it was handed over to Palestinian Arabs. Only two Jewish schools remained open in Damascus. Most of the teachers were Muslim and exams were usually ordered to be held on the Sabbath.

"Jewish emigration to Israel had been forbidden since 1944, and in 1992 when Assad, under American pressure, agreed to grant exit visas to the Jews, it was still on condition that they did not go to Israel. However, as late as 1994, 1,262 Syrian Jews were brought to Israel in undercover operations. As for the Aleppo Codex, or Keter Aram Soba as it is known in Hebrew, it is today kept in The Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem, saved – though sadly not in its entirety – by members of the Aleppo community.

"Sadly but predictably, The Guardian seems to have no problem whatsoever in allowing those with the blatant political aim of undermining the Middle East’s only democracy to deny and dismiss on its electronic pages the experiences of some 870,000 Jews who lived in the Arab world in 1945 in communities some of which dated as far back as 2,500 years. Apparently it sees nothing strange in permitting the whitewash of the actions of a dictatorship which only allowed Jews the freedom to leave less than two decades ago. How low can they go?"

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