Wednesday, December 28, 2011

'Jews want to go back to Libya' - Jewish leader in Israel

The leader of the Libyan Jewish Association in Israel, Meir Kahlon, is trying to give the most positive spin possible on regime change in Libya. Jews of Libyan origin in Europe,want to go back, he says. But not Jews from Israel - they only want to visit. Report in Israel National News:

The fall of former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi (pictured) has caused Libyan Jews to wish to return to their homeland and resume the great heritage they established there, a Libyan Jewish leader told Arutz Sheva on Tuesday.

Meir Kachlon, Chairman of the World Organization of Libyan Jews, said that his organization has created an excellent relationship with the opposition leaders who took power instead of Qaddafi.

“We sent Dr. David Gerbi, who is a psychologist by profession, to help those who were affected by the civil war in the country,” Kachlon said. “We received a letter from opposition leader Abdul Jalil who asked us to provide humanitarian assistance. We have contacts all over the world and we told him that we are happy to help him.”

The World Organization of Libyan Jews last summer formally recognized the National Transitional Council, headed by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, as the country’s new regime. The organization is comprised of some 200,000 former refugees, many of whom fled to Israel.

Kachlon said on Tuesday that there are Jews who currently live in Europe and who left considerable property in Libya and that those Jews wish to go back to their place of birth.

“We hope they establish a democratic government and those Jews can return to Libya,” he said. “Recently the only synagogue in Tripoli that was not destroyed was cleaned up. There is a large percentage of Libyan Jews who fled to Europe and want to go back. We in Israel have no interest to go live there, but we would be happy to visit.”

Read article in full

New booklet launched on Jewish refugees

In association with Harif, StandWithUs has just launched its booklet ‘Jewish refugees of the Middle East – an unresolved human rights issue’. The A5 booklet sets out the facts about the Jewish refugees from Arab countries, now largely resettled in Israel.

The 870,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries, whose ancient communities have been liquidated in the last 60 years, outnumber Palestinian Arab refugees, but their claims for recognition and compensation have been ignored by the UN and the world.

Acknowledging the terrible injustices committed against these Jews, however, can help bring about reconciliation and peace between Israel and the Arab states.
Click to see new booklet on Jewish Refugees (PDF)- also available from Harif in handy A6 size.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Peace project critique gets positive feedback

An article calling for a sea-change in the way peace and coexistence projects treat Jewish suffering and rights has provoked an overwhelmingly positive response among Middle East peace activists.

The Jerusalem Post piece, by Lyn Julius, focused on the almost complete absence of discussion in peace projects of the trauma suffered by Jews from Arab countries:

"The murder of the Qashqoush family still haunts Janet Dallal, a classmate of the late Joyce Qashqoush, who was just 16 at the time of the murder. Janet fled Iraq in 1975 and is now a Tel Aviv mother of three and yoga instructor with a keen interest in binational peace projects.

"But when she attended a recent conference at the Jewish-Arab village Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, Janet was shocked that one session examining the “healing of communal wounds to achieve reconciliation” did not recognize the trauma of Iraqi Jews – nor indeed the trauma suffered by any Jews from Arab countries."

The article then goes on to suggest that an acknowledgement of Jewish suffering by Arabs can help achieve sulha - reconciliation.

Janet Dallal circulated the article amongst her fellow peace activists and found the response to be overwhelmingly positive. Most asked for more information. Only one person asked to be taken off Janet's email list.

The extraordinary piece of feedback below came from a member of a Middle Eastern minority living in an Arab country, whom Janet had got to know at a peace conference in Amman:

"I just read the article...and suddenly I wish (once more) I was there, at the (Neve Shalom) conference!!!!! "And it comes where it should be! recognizing all the hurt! yes! the hurt done by Arabs towards Jews!

We've heard similar sad stories in Amman during July conference... And, those stories were among the ones that moved me most. We tend to take our story and victimize ourselves. We need to see the whole picture, the whole history.
These people where dehumanized in the lands that were considered "home" for centuries!!!! They were forced to leave everything behind. Expelled! They too, need to hear that what has been done to them was wrong. They need to hear their perpetrators admit what they did was pure hatred.

"That's what transitional trauma is all about! When victims don't get recognition, they carry their fears for centuries, and hate can easily drag them (us) to violence. "But it's hard to work on transitional justice, on healing wounds... That's what I'm talking about... We need to point ALL wrong actions/reactions. Tell who is the perpetrator and who's the victim. Who killed and who was killed, how much have been killed and how many innocent, who expelled and who was expelled... if we want to move forward.

"I love this article! I can only imagine the dynamics that were moving this discussion...and I'd love to share this article with Arab friends! Can I forward the link?"

For her part, Janet will not rest until all Israeli peace projects feature the trauma of Jews from Arab countries on their agendas.

For those coming for the first time to the subject of Jewish trauma in Arab countries, we suggest the following material:

In Ishmael's House by Martin Gilbert
Arabs without Jews: roots of a tragedy by Magdi Allam
Who is an Arab Jew? by Albert Memmi
The Forgotten Refugees film by the David Project
JJAC bibliography
Any books by Norman Stillman, Maurice Roumani, Shmuel Trigano, Andre Aciman, Eli Amir.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Crunchtime for Jewish refugees issue

The Israeli government has decided to tackle head-on the Arab refugees issue by renewing efforts for compensation for Jewish victims of Arab pogroms. In the next two weeks it will decide whether to counter the 'right of return' with the issue of the Jewish refugees, reports Arutz Sheva:

Estimates of property losses range from $16 billion to $300 billion in Arab countries where Arab leaders seized their property or took it over after Jews were expelled or forced to flee because of anti-Jewish violence and harassment.

Dr. Avi Bitzur, director-general of the Pensioners' Affairs Ministry, told Voice of Israel government radio it has created a new department to try to collect claims for more than 850,000 Jews from Iran and other Arab countries (in fact there are 970,000 if you include Iran and other non-Arab Muslim countries - ed). Approximately 80 percent of them moved to Israel.

Most of the refugees fled or were expelled after the violent Arab reaction to the re-establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, six months after it was recognized by the United Nations under the Partition Plan that the Arab world rejected.

"Israel has talked about this on and off for 60 years. Now we're going to deal with it as we should have all along," said Bitzur.

He added that the Cabinet is scheduled to decide in the next two weeks to raise the issue of Jewish refugees whenever the Palestinian Authority brings up the “right of return,” referring to nearly five million Arabs living in Arab countries but for whom the United Nations considers Israel as their home. The designation is a result of a unique policy by UNRWA towards Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 at the behest of Arab countries, who promised them they would return quickly after their expected annihilation of the Jewish State.

The policy of the United Nations does not allow the status of “refugee” to be transferred from generation to generation, but it makes an exception for Arabs from Israel.

Read article in full

Israel relaunches effort to register Jewish losses

The Souery family in Cairo, 1933 (courtesy: Suzy Vidal)

The Israeli government appears to be renewing its efforts to register losses suffered by Jews whose property and assets were seized or abandoned in Arab countries. Dr Avi Bitzur, director-general of the Pensioners' Affairs Ministry, told Pirlee Shahar yesterday on Israeli radio that he wanted to do a complete inventory of losses. He re-stated much of what he said in this Jerusalem Post article from 2009. Let's hope that this time, the campaign really takes off (with thanks: Sylvia):

The Pensioners' Affairs Ministry has created a new department over the past two weeks that will begin to collect specific claims by Jews who lost their property when they left Arab countries during the 20th century. More than 850,000 Jews fled or were expelled from Arab lands and Iran, most after Israel's founding in 1948. Estimates of the value of the property they were forced to leave behind are hard to come by, ranging from as low as $16 billion in known assets to as high as $300b. when estimates of the value of their abandoned real estate are included. "Israel has talked about this on and off for 60 years. Now we're going to deal with it as we should have all along," said Dr. Avi Bitzur, director-general of the Pensioners Affairs Ministry.

The ministry established a department with an initial staff of five to begin to collect the claims of the Jewish refugees, about 80 percent of whom settled in Israel. Bitzur will host a panel on the issue at next week's Herzliya Conference, and over the next two weeks hopes to pass a decision through the cabinet mandating discussion of Jewish refugees whenever the question of Arab refugees are raised in peace negotiations.

According to Bitzur, who is also a political scientist at Bar-Ilan University, the new effort comes to fill a gap in awareness both in Israel and abroad. "The UN has dealt at least 700 times with Arab refugees and their property, but not once with the issue of Jewish property," he says. It's also time for Israelis to get to know better the history of the Jews of Arab lands, who make up some 60% of the ethnic ancestry of Israeli Jews.

"It's time to deal with this amongst ourselves," says Bitzur. "I say that as a citizen, as a father and as an academic. We should know the history of the pogrom in Baghdad in 1941, of the Libyan Jews who ended up in Bergen Belsen. It's time for people to know that there was this part of the Jewish people and its history was brought to an end."

In late 2007, Baghdad-born American Jew Heskel M. Haddad, representing the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, called on the Israeli government to begin to seriously examine the issue of Jewish property left behind in Arab lands. At the time, Haddad told The Jerusalem Post that WOJAC had a staggering 100,000 square kilometers in property deeds.

To hear the
Israel Radio interview (Hebrew) with Dr Bitzur scroll down to 'Yuman Ezrahi' on 25.12.11 at 00.12.21

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Fewer pilgrims visit Tunisian rabbi's tomb

Numbers were well down for the annual pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Hai Taieb Lo Met in Tunis earlier this month. The pilgrims were able to pour the customary boukha (fig brandy) over the tomb without objection from the authorities. Report in Tunisia Live:

The Tunisian Jewish Community celebrated the Hiloula, or pilgrimage for the anniversary of the death of former 18th century Chief Rabbi Hai Taieb Lo Met at the Bourgel Cemetery in Tunis, December 15th.

While in previous years the number of pilgrims have reached up to 600 people, this year the pilgrimage saw almost 100 pilgrims, mostly locals but also a handful from France and one Rabbi from Bne Barak, Israel, who said he holds duel Israeli-Tunisian citizenship.

According to Rene Trabelsi the Director General of Royal First Travel and one of the organizers for the pilgrims who came from abroad, “the pilgrimage was smaller this year because people are unsure of the security situation in Tunisia but everyone will come and go home safely as normal. There will be a higher number coming to Tunisia next year.”

About ten plain clothed police closely guarded the ceremony which included the pouring of Boukha, or a fig based alcoholic drink on the Rabbi’s tombstone as well as adding nuts and handwritten messages as is the tradition of the community that reveres the Rabbi.

Rabbi Hai Taieb

Rabbi Hai Taieb was born in Tunis in 1774, he was known as a great Kabbalist and according to Jewish oral tradition his prayers to God once brought rain during a time of drought in Tunisia.

Read article in full

Note one reader's comment, saying he would not trust Tunisian Jews since they were all 'Zionists' now.

Have a very happy Chaldean Christmas!

With thanks: Aymenn

For all Point of No Return's Christian readers, here is a version of the carol 'Come all Ye Faithful' in Chaldean neo-Aramaic - dedicated to the Middle East's dwindling Christian populations. Two-thirds of Iraq's Christians have followed the Jews into exile, hundreds of thousands of Coptic Christians have fled Egypt this year, and it may not be too long before it will have been forgotten that the Middle East was ever other than Arab Muslim.

We dedicate Christmas greetings to an outstanding Christian and our Man of the Year: Canon Andrew White. The vicar of St George's Anglican church of Baghdad has not only championed the rights of Christians, he has spoken out fearlessly on behalf of the few remaining Jews in Iraq whose lives have been put at risk when their names were divulged by Wikileaks.

We will not forget how last year Canon Andrew White made a dangerous journey to Ezekiel's shrine, to see with his own eyes the state of this holy site, which Jews fear will be turned into a mosque. We know he is desperate to save Iraq's remaining Jewish heritage. We thank him for everything he has done for us and will do in the future.

Happy Christmas to all our Christian friends!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

'Iraqi parties all have links with Israel': Kurd

Daoud al-Bagstani with the first issue of his Israel-Kurd magazine

For an 'apolitical body', the Israel-Kurd organisation has plenty to say about politics, much of it pleasant to Jewish ears, although its founder, Daoud al-Baghstani , seems to exaggerate Israel's importance on the world stage. Al - Baghstani believes all Iraqi parties are in contact with Israel, including those related to the government; even those with links to Iran have ties with Israel. His aim is to establish a Kurdish lobby in Israel in order to support a Kurdish state. If ten Jews lived in the Kandil Mountains (about 150 km north of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan), Iran and Turkey would not dare bomb Iraq's borders. This interview in the Iraqi al-Zaman newspaper appeared in December 2011. (With thanks: Shmuel)

Daoud Al - Baghstani is one Kurd who arouses interest in the press and media, particularly as founder of Israel - Kurd, an officially-recognised and licensed organisation. He has not hesitated to visit Israel and is considered as one of the preachers of normalization with Israel and the establishment of contacts between Kurds and Israelis in order to support the establishment of a Kurdish state.

- Al- Zaman: What is the purpose of your Israel - Kurd organization?

- Daoud al Baghstani: the foundation of our organization was established on the basis of the presence of a large number of Kurdish Jews in Israel, estimated at over 200,000 souls. They have been neglected and lacked our attention, in particular the Kurds on our side, when in fact they are Iraqi Kurdish citizens who need us and should not be ignored. It should be noted that after the establishment of our organization, some countries, especially Iran and others, wanted to make the issue a political question. But our organization is cultural, social and educational and we have no political goals. But countries like Iran, Turkey, Syria and Hizbollah condemn our organization. We do not fear political revolutions, if this is what they want. We remind them of our history. Most of the Kurdish Jews in Israel do not learn the Kurdish language and we for our part, we will encourage them to learn this language, which is really their mother tongue.

Al - Zaman: Kurdish leaders deny the existence of links with Israel. How did you obtain your licence?

- Daoud al Baghstani: We are apolitical, and we obtained a licence legally like any other organization. Yet we were put under great and prolonged pressure that everyone thinks was inspired by Iran.

- Al - Zaman: how is your organization funded?

- Daoud al Baghstani: Our funding is neither Kurdish nor Israeli. It is God's and comes from God.

- Al - Zaman: why will your organization be neither Iraqi nor Kurdish?

- Daoud al Baghstani: One of the goals of the foundation of our organization was to break the psychological barrier towards Israel, especially when Kurdish leaders hesitate to answer most of the press, when some of our visitors are asked about a number of countries, particularly Arab countries. Why are we ashamed of our relationship with Israel? And why not have connections? After all, even Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim, had ties with Israel. Iran has had and still has good connections with Israel. And I am not an Iraqi Arab, I'm an Iraqi Kurd and I am committed to my Kurdish nationalism.

- Al Zaman: Are you encouraging Kurdish Jews to return to Kurdistan?

- Daoud al Baghstani: Yes! Inshallah they should return. And they all yearn to. I felt this with them too. But I could not tell them that Kurdistan is a safe area. Because I can not give them assurances that it is safe to return to their homeland Kurdistan. If ten Jews lived in the Kandil Mountains (about 150 km north of Erbil) and the other villages and areas near the border, the Turks or Iranians would not dare shell our border. Jewish blood is precious and holy. Israel is a small country in terms of area, it cannot train pilots on its territory, they practise in the sky of other countries, but they know how to alleviate the sufferings of its people. We need to emulate it. (..) For our part we are trying to create a Kurdish lobby in Israel for a Kurdish state. There are many Arab countries that have relations with Israel.

- Al - Zaman: What do you mean that Israel is an important country? Why is it important?

- Daoud al Baghstani: Israel is now an important country in the world. One cannot have an alliance with America and be hostile to Israel. The big lie is that a number of politicians argue that they are friends of America and enemies of Israel: this assumption is impossible. The State of Kurdistan region of Iraq cannot be friends of America and Israel's enemies. Israel is a world player.

- Al - Zaman: Are Kurdish relations with Israel more important than with Arab states?

- Daoud Al - Bagstani: Arabs have not helped us with our problems and with a Kurdish state. Have you asked what they did for their fellow Arabs and Palestinians to solve their problems ? If the Arabs did not help the Kurds, then Kurdish contact with Israel is preferable.

- Al- Zaman: Do you know about the relationships of Iraqi political parties to Israel?

- Daoud Al - Baghstani: Yes! But this is not the time to find out, and I do not exclude any party. I say all Iraqi parties have ties with Israel - Sunni and Shiite political parties and even those with direct links with Iran, have covert relationships.

Al-Zaman: Do you encourage the establishment of an Iraqi embassy in Israel and vice versa?

- Daoud Al - Baghstani: the issue is long overdue. We should have seen an Israeli embassy in Iraq after the fall of the regime in 2003. Had there been an Israeli Embassy in Baghdad, Iran would not dare to play the current game in Iraq.

- Al - Zaman: Has the province of Kurdistan, to your knowledge when you were visiting Israel from time to time, relations with Israel?

- Daoud al Baghstani: I do not think so. It has good connections with Iran and Turkey and for the time being Kurdish leaders are afraid to speak even a couple of sentences about the killing of Kurds in Syria (...) Iraqi patriots, aristocrats prefer a connection with Israel a thousand times more than the relationship with Iran. Israel could help Iraq in all fields.

- Al- Zaman: What do you know about intelligence activities in Iraq, Iran and Israel?

- Daoud al Baghstani: I was not communicating with Israel as a state and I have no interest in it. As for Iran, then the Iranian Embassy represents not only Iran but its activity is political and more importantly it is recruiting agents, murderers and traitors - and it does not require any agreement for that.

- Al - Zaman: What do you think about the Arab Spring?

- Daoud al Baghstani: I look forward to a Kurdish Spring smarter and more intelligent than the Arab Spring in Kurdistan.

Translated from a Hebrew version by Ezra Morad

Friday, December 23, 2011

Symbol of Egypt's non-Muslim past is set ablaze

It was barely reported in the West, but the great fire engulfing Egypt's Napoleonic Institut d'Egypte, with its priceless collection of documents and books, has destroyed another key symbol of the country's non-Muslim past, while UNESCO remains silent. Article by Guy Bechor in Ynet News:

It was barely mentioned in the Israeli and global media, but the following event pertains to the whole of Western civilization: Last Saturday, violent groups of Islamic-Salafi radicals burned the famous scientific institute established by Napoleon in Egypt after its first encounter with the West. Some historians consider it the start of modern times in the Middle East.

The site, L’Institut d’Egypte, held some 200,000 original and rare books, exhibits, maps, archeological findings and studies from Egypt and the entire Middle East, based on the work of generations of western researchers. Most of the artifacts were lost forever, burned or looted.

It’s difficult to understand the modern Middle East without these studies, which were overcome by an immense fire. The large building was situated in the center of Cairo and torching it was a symbolic, intentional act. Those who burned the building and its artifacts meant to burn the era of logic, enlightenment, research and individualism.

This was a grave provocation against the whole of Western civilization, a desire to disconnect from science, research and modernity, while cynically using a Western means – that is, democracy – in order to take power.

One need not go all the way to blowing up the pyramids, as some of Egypt’s Salafis wish to do after they seized some 35% of the new parliament seats (alongside 40% of the Islamic brotherhood,) and there is no reason to go as far as Afghanistan, where the Taliban blew up the huge Buddha statues. The elimination of Egypt’s non-Muslim past is already here.

Anything that dates back to the Pharaohs, that is ancient, or that is Western is destined to be destroyed, and the mission has already been launched in the most symbolic manner: The outset of Egypt’s modern era, which the Salafis seek to erase, and in fact rewrite. This is a battle for writing the history of Egypt and of the Arab and Muslim world.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, and in Jerusalem as well we see elements associated with political Islam trying to erase any presence of the 3,000-year Jewish existence there, on Temple Mount for example – existence that pre-dated Islam.

In 1258, the Mongols burned the immense library in Baghdad known as the “House of Wisdom.” It held rare writings that have disappeared forever, Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, and the other cornerstones of Western civilization. All we know today is that these books existed, yet following the terrible fire in Baghdad they were burned forever. The Mongols sought to secure the same objective as Egypt’s Salafis: Erasing the past and keeping only their present.

All of this is happening while the confused West is lauding the new democracy established in Egypt, without understanding that this democracy is erasing the historic Egypt that was intimately connected to the West and its culture; a new Egypt shall rise on the ruins of the great fire. What we are seeing here is not a battle for power, but rather, a battle for perception, memory, heritage and historiography; that is, the writing of history.

Read article in full

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Moroccan press attachee whitewashes Moshe film


Trailer for 'Ou vas-tu Moshe?' - a refreshingly objective film about the exodus of Moroccan Jews

It's not often you see a lady wearing a Muslim headscarf at a synagogue, but the press attachee at the Moroccan embassy in London was not afraid to stand out from the crowd at last week's screening of the film "Ou vas-tu Moshe?" at the Porat Yosef synagogue in Hendon.

The film, made in 2007 by Hassan Benjelloun, recently featured in the first Maghrebi film festival at Ashdod, is a sympathetic look at the exodus of Jews from Morocco in the 1960s seen through the eyes of a non-Jew. The screening was organised by Harif, together with the Porat Yosef ('Moroccan') synagogue, and attracted about 70 people.

At the centre of the plot is Shlomo, the last Jew in Beijad. The Muslim fundamentalists are keen to pay Shlomo to leave, so they can close down the town's bar, while a prospective buyer is equally desperate for Shlomo to stay. The director humanises the Jews, is critical of the Moroccan government for ransoming its Jews against wheat and trucks, and accurately describes the harsh conditions awaiting them in Israel. All in all, this film gives an objective view of the subject matter, refreshingly free of propaganda.

When asked for her reaction during the post-film discussion, the young lady in the headscarf said she would have liked the film to show more of the 'coexistence' between Muslims and Jews. She herself had grown up with Jews and Christians and had even learnt Hebrew at the Alliance Jewish school in Casablanca.

The next day, an unsigned review appeared in Au fait Maroc, an online newspaper. It was redolent of nostalgia and praised the film for its references to the 'harmonious coexistence' that had prevailed between Jews and Muslims in Morocco. It quoted the co-founder of Harif, Lyn Julius: " The Jews of Morocco are nostalgic for that perfect coexistence with their Muslim co-citizens. They continue to feel a deep attachment to their country of origin, Morocco."

Lyn Julius reacted with disbelief. "The young lady from the Moroccan embassy put words into my mouth," she complained. " The film-maker was obviously very worried about the influence of fundamentalism on Morocco. The presence of the Jews in a sense guaranteed the rights and freedoms of others : the freedom to drink, dance in mixed company and enjoy life. The Jews' departure puts these freedoms and rights at risk. I am distressed that this important message was completely lost on this young lady."

The young lady may have been bold enough to wear a headscarf in a synagogue, but her unsigned whitewash in Au Fait Maroc is the height of cowardice: it hides inconvenient truths, insults the work of a brave and honest film-maker, and does nothing to advance understanding between Jews and Muslims in Morocco. Will the readership of Au Fait Maroc read between the lines? If things were so wonderful between Muslims and Jews, why did Jews leave in such numbers?

Wartime Iranian diplomat saved 2,000 Jews

Abdol-Hossein Sardari, a junior diplomat in Paris in 1940

The story of an Iranian diplomat who saved 2,000 Iranian Jews in Europe from the Nazis by pretending they belonged to an 'Aryan' sect is an inspiring antidote to the poisonous Holocaust denial of the current regime. Michael Rubin on the Commentary blog has the story:

The BBC has a fascinating report based on The Lion’s Shadow, a new book by Fariborz Mokhtari, which tells the story of Abdol-Hossein Sardari, a young Iranian diplomat in Paris, who helped save 2,000 Iranian Jews in Europe. While Iran was officially neutral during World War II, Reza Shah—the father of the Shah overthrown in 1979—sympathized with the Nazis. In 1941, Iranian authorities ordered Sardari home, but he continued to help Iranian Jews in Europe even after the loss of his diplomatic immunity.

The BBC continues:

The story he spinned to the Nazis, in a series of letters and reports, was that the Persian Emperor Cyrus had freed Jewish exiles in Babylon in 538 BC and they had returned to their homes. However, he told the Nazis, at some later point a small number of Iranians began to find the teachings of the Prophet Moses attractive – and these Mousaique, or Iranian Followers of Moses, which he dubbed “Djuguten,” were not part of the Jewish race. Using all of his lawyer’s skill, he exploited the internal contradictions and idiocies of the Nazis’ ideology to gain special treatment for the “Djuguten,” as the archive material published in Mr. Mokhtari’s new book shows. High-level investigations were launched in Berlin, with “experts” on racial purity drafted in to give an opinion on whether this Iranian sect – which the book suggests may well have been Sardari’s own invention – were Jewish or not. The experts were non-committal and suggested that more funding was needed for research.

Adolf Eichmann dismissed Sardari’s claims as “the usual Jewish tricks and attempts at camouflage” but by then, Sardari had already saved 2,000 Jews.

Read article in full

Article in the Daily Telegraph

Article in the Daily Mail

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Iranians give thumbs up to Israel's Farsi radio

Most Iranians don't agree with Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial

The best information channel in Iran is Israel Radio's Farsi service (once threatened with closure), while the Voice of America is a disappointment. In spite of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's best efforts, Iranians tell The Media Line, in this Jerusalem Post report, that they have no quarrel with Israel, and don't deny the Holocaust. (Via Petra M-B)

“The US seems always to be two steps behind,” “Damovand,” the contractor, charged. “There was a window of opportunity following the elections when rioting filled the streets. We hoped for help, but it never came.” They’re not asking for military intervention. “Where,” for instance, “will our electricity come from if nuclear facilities are attacked?”

The Iranian said a second opportunity is now being ignored as the Arab Spring spreads throughout the region, and that the populace is primed for a move.

What, then, is powerful enough to bring down an oppressive regime that doesn’t include military force? The sanctions could work, but won’t unless applied effectively. To “Mobarez Naftooh,” that means targeting the central bank and petroleum companies.

And information. All four of the distant voices were disheartened by the failure of the Voice of America radio to step up to the plate.

“VoA might as well be staffed by agents of the Iranian government,” they all agreed. Although communicating with foreign journalists can cost one his or her life, it will not come as a surprise that the flow of reliable information remains atop the list of “must haves.” Hence, the profound disappointment with VoA. But it will no doubt surprise many that all of the Iranians named Israel Radio’s Farsi channel as the “best radio in Iran.”

In fact, if anything surprising came of the interview it was the unequivocal dispelling of the uncompromising rejection of the Jewish state that has become the signature of the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime. Imagine, instead of being told that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is the mother of all Middle East conflicts and fuels all unrest found there, we’re hearing that once the Islamic Republic goes, the tinderbox the center of which is Israel disappears.

“We have no borders with Israel and no relationship with Israel,” the contractor told us. “Yalda,” the sole woman of the group, echoed that “the Iranian people have no fight with Israel,” and as if to offer proof that Ahmadinejad doesn’t speak for the people added that, “we do believe the Holocaust happened.”

Read article in full

Goood morning Tehran, this is Jerusalem!

Tunisian president calls on Jews to return

Newly-elected president Moncef Marzouki

Now don't all rush back at once, will you? Tunisia's newly elected president called Monday for the country's Jewish population to return, in statements carried by the state news agency.

(Associated Press): During a meeting with the country's Grand Rabbi Haim Bittan, President Moncef Marzouki said that Tunisia's Jews are full citizens and those that had left were welcome to return. His comments come almost two weeks after Israeli deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom called on the country's remaining Jews to emigrate to Israel.

Tunisia presently has a Jewish population of 1,500, but in the 1960s there were 100,000. Most left following the 1967 war* between Israel and Arab countries, and Socialist economic policies adopted by the government in the late 1960s also drove many Jewish business owners out of the country.


The rise of Islamists prompted Shalom — during a Dec. 6 memorial ceremony for Tunisian Jews who died in the Holocaust— to call on Tunisia's Jews to flee the country for the safety of Israel.

The Islamist Ennahda Party has stated that Jews in Tunisia are full citizens with full rights. A number of prominent Jews in the country have rejected Shalom's call.

Read article in full

*Not true. Most left in the 1950s and early 60s.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

From Algeria with love - a song for Hanucah

From Algeria, with love - scroll down for one of the greatest Hanucah songs you've never heard! El Bonco - Hannouka was unearthed by Chris Silver of the Jewish Morocco blog. It is performed by Blond Blond, an Albino Jewish musician - one of the few who kept performing in Algeria after independence. (With thanks: Michelle)

"I know it looks mis-spelled but El Bonco – Hannouka is one of the greatest Hanukkah songs that you’ve never heard – courtesy, of course, of the master Algerian Jewish singer Blond Blond.

Albert Rouimi, who was given the moniker Blond Blond due to his Albinism, was born in 1919 in Oran, Algeria. From a young age he frequented the cafes that featured legendary Orani musicians like Saoud L’Oranais, Maurice El Medioni’s father, and Reinette L’Oranaise. His influences ran across both sides of the Mediterranean, he was deeply affected by the music of Charles Trenet and Maurice Chevalier for example, and he found himself going back and forth between France and Algeria for much of his career. In 1937, he left for Paris only to return to Oran two years later. It’s unclear how the rise of Vichy France played into this but needless to say Blond Blond left Paris in 1939 and returned only after end of World War II.

Back in Oran, he became known as l’Ambianceur for his unique style of singing and his staccato-like spoken word that interspersed his music. While Blond Blond could make an audience laugh there was also no doubt that he was truly a master musician with significant technical knowledge. He was fluent in the Andalusian repertoire, nailed it in French, commanded chaabi (especially the musical styling of Lili L’abassi) and pioneered the Francarabe style, a mixture of French chansons and Arabic chaabi.

He released dozens of records throughout his career, including many on 78 rpm, and recorded for everyone from Pathe to Samyphone to Dounia. He not only performed from his own work and with his own orchestra but also collaborated with some of the finest musicians of his day like Reinette L’Oranaise, Samy Elmaghribi and Line Monty.

Thanks to PhocĂ©ephone for this great digitization of Blond Blond’s El Bonco – Hannouka. Notice that Blond Blond quickly switches languages at the beginning of the track and will do so throughout including when he sings about Hanukkah. Listen carefully at the beginning when he sings, “le mazal c’est la chance.” Mazal is Hebrew for luck.

Blond Blond was one of the few Jewish Algerian musicians that performed in Algeria post-independence and gave two memorable performances at the Koutoubia music hall in Algiers in 1970 and 1974. Blond Blond, l’Ambianceur, died in 1999 at the age of 80.

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Happy Hanucah to all PoNR readers!

Thanks to Sylvia for explaining some of the song's lyrics:

L-bonco is a dice game, a favorite with gamblers. Like all games of chance in the Maghreban Jewish dialect, including card games, it has a Spanish name.

Now you get it: the throw of the dice is the same as the throw of the Hanoucca dreidel, and just like the Hanoucca miracle, the L-bonco gambler expects a miracle. Or at least hoping for some Hebrew mazal/luck (with "a" as in "far") which is threatening to become Maghreban mazal (with "a" as in "cat") which then would mean "not yet".

This metaphor is continued throughout and there are great plays on words. I would need to listen to it several times to catch all those pearls.

How to reconcile conflicting narratives about Jews?

Are there two conflicting narratives when it comes to discussing Jews in Arab countries? Did they enjoy tolerance and coexistence, or were they discriminated against and abused? Elder of Ziyon has turned up a fascinating passage from a book dating back to 1871, in which both narratives are present. As colonial rule became entrenched in the late 19th century, the position of the Jew became less arbitrary and more secure: (with thanks: Emet)

The Jews have eight synagogues in their quarter in Cairo; and not only enjoy religious toleration, but are under a less oppressive government in Egypt than in any other country of the Turkish empire. In Cairo, they pay for the exemption of their quarter from the visits of the Mohtesib; and they did the same also with respect to the "Walee, as long as his office existed. Being consequently privileged to sell articles of provision at higher prices than the other inhabitants of the metropolis, they can afford to purchase such things at higher rates, and therefore stock their shops with provisions, and especially fruits, of better qualities than are to be found in other parts of the town. Like the Copts, and for a like reason, the Jews pay tribute, and are exempted from military service.

Sounds like things were pretty good. But then the authors dig a little deeper:

They are held in the utmost contempt and abhorrence by the Muslims in general, and are said to bear a more inveterate hatred than any other people to the Muslims and the Muslim religion. ...It is a common saying among the Muslims in this country, "Such a one hates me with the hate of the Jews." We cannot wonder, then, that the Jews are detested by the Muslims far more than are the Christians.

Not long ago, they used often to be jostled in the streets of Cairo, and sometimes beaten merely for passing on the right hand of a Muslim. At present, they are less oppressed; but still they scarcely ever dare to utter a word of abuse when reviled or beaten unjustly by the meanest Arab or Turk; for many a Jew has been put to death upon a false and malicious accusation of uttering disrespectful words against the Kur-an or the Prophet. It is common to hear an Arab abuse his jaded ass, and, after applying to him various opprobrious epithets, end by calling the beast a Jew.

A Jew has often been sacrificed to save a Muslim, as happened in the following case.—-A Turkish soldier, having occasion to change some money, received from the seyrefee (or money-changer), who was a Muslim, some Turkish coins called 'adleeyehs, reckoned at sixteen piasters each. These he offered to a shopkeeper, in payment for some goods; but the latter refused to allow him more than fifteen piasters to the 'adleeyeh, telling him that the Basha had given orders, many days before, that this coin should no longer pass for sixteen. The soldier took back the 'adleeyehs to the seyrefee, and demanded an additional piaster to each; which was refused: he therefore complained to the Basha himself, who, enraged that his orders had been disregarded, sent for the seyrefee. This man confessed that he had been guilty of an offence, but endeavoured to palliate it by asserting that almost every money-changer in the city had done the same, and that he received 'adleeyehs at the same rate. The Basha, however, disbelieving him, or thinking it necessary to make a public example, gave a signal with his hand, intimating that the delinquent should be beheaded. The interpreter of the court, moved with compassion for the unfortunate man, begged the Basha to spare his life. "This man," said he, "has done no more than all the money-changers of the city: I, myself, no longer ago than yesterday, received 'adleeyehs at the same rate." "From whom?" exclaimed the Basha. "From a Jew," answered the interpreter, "with whom I have transacted business for many years." The Jew was brought, and sentenced to be hanged; while the Muslim was pardoned. The interpreter, in the greatest distress of mind, pleaded earnestly for the life of the poor Jew; but the Basha was inexorable: it was necessary that an example should be made, and it was deemed better to take the life of a Jew than that of a more guilty Muslim.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

UN fails to give straight answers on refugees

Danny Ayalon's video, 'The truth about the refugees', contrasting the resettlement of Jewish refugees with the non-resettlement of Arab refugees, is putting the UN on the spot. UNWRA's spokespersons are lost for words, as this press briefing report shows:

: I just wanted to ask a question about comments that were made by Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Daniel Ayalon, before the Human Rights High Commissioner for Refugees’ ministerial event in Geneva last week. He basically said that the cause of the Palestinian refugee issue was not so much the dispossession of the majority of Palestinians from their homeland by Jewish militias during the 1948 war and refusal of Israel to enable their right to return under resolution 194. He said rather that it was the establishment of UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] which has perpetuated the refugee status by applying unique criteria to it. And I just wonder whether either the Secretary-General or UNRWA has made any response to this statement.

Associate Spokesperson: No. We don’t go into the lengthy history of how the refugee crisis started. As you know, the historians may have differing interpretations of what brought on the refugee crisis. UNRWA, it should be stressed, was established in response to the refugee crisis. And, as you know, the presence of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency throughout the region is designed to deal with the number, the very large number of Palestinian refugees throughout the region. If the situation can be resolved and the situation of the Palestinian refugees can be addressed fairly, then UNRWA’s work will have been done, but at this stage, we are not there. It has a lot of work in a lot of countries with, as you know, tens of thousands of people.

Question: Excuse me, is there no response to the statement by [Deputy] Foreign Minister Ayalon that UNRWA is perpetuating the status of the refugees?

Associate Spokesperson: I wouldn’t react to specific comments. Over the years people have disagreed and have had their own interpretations of…

Question: This is not just a personal comment, this is on the Israeli Government official website, his statement is made. And he is a minister in the Israeli Government.

Associate Spokesperson: Like I said to you just a second ago, the creation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency was in response to the refugee crisis. It is there to handle the situation, the very large situation of refugees across the region that had erupted. And its existence over the decades is testament to the fact that, throughout this time, the situation of the Palestinian refugees remains to be resolved. Yes?

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Arab Spring rolls into fundamentalism

Copts protesting in Egypt

This is an unusual but perceptive Indian view in the Chakra News of the catastrophic effect of the Arab Spring for democracy and minorities. Read the whole thing! (with thanks: Ranbir):

Like modern day corsairs the Arab autocrats demanded their regular pound of flesh in the form of aid packages which they spent on the latest military hardware in order to crush the aspirations of their own people in case rigged elections (if they were even held) proved to be even more unconvincing than the plebiscite held by Hitler in the 1930s. If this mechanism managed to camouflage the humbling of Europe and North America into an unofficial yet effective dhimmitude the extraction of jizya tax from the richer infidel nations was to lose its pretence once the ‘sons of bitches’ were ousted from power. The crushing of genuine liberal and secular aspirations through decades of claustrophobic oppression left religious forms and motifs the only means of expressing open discontent. In this atmosphere the results should have been obvious. The elections in Tunisia began the demise that anything democratic was ever going to result from the revolutions. This was the most secular of Arab countries and yet the Ennhada party, openly Islamist, won the elections of October 2011.

In Morocco that same month the supposedly ‘moderate’ Islamist Justice and Development Party won the largest number of votes. But it was Egypt in December which gave the most shocking result. In a country which once boasted the most liberal and pluralistic society in the Arab world the majority of votes went to the at times terrorist Muslim Brotherhood which deluded western observers have constantly started to refer to as moderate. It is anything but moderate. What was more shocking is that liberal, democratic and secular forces trailed behind the even more openly hardline and Salafist al-Nour party. Libya meanwhile sits on the brink of civil war in its current non-existent path to a democracy that will never materialise. Saudi Arabia extends its baneful colonialist influence over its new vassal states as democracy in the Arab world shows less signs of health than they did in the Weimar Republic .

The parallels are not incidental. Anti-Semitism has long been a stock in trade of not just the Saudis but even secular regimes. There was nothing like stoking up the burning hatred of Israel, as embassy staff in Cairo recently found out, to divert attention from very real problems of poverty, unemployment, runaway inflation and a claustrophobic environment even in the wealthiest states. Hate literature such as Arabic versions of Mein Kampf and the Protocols which are consigned in western countries to dingy backstreet stores and meetings by burly men with shaved heads and swastika tattoos, or dodgy neo-Nazi internet mail order sites, are proudly displayed in the book markets of the Middle East .

In fact before even the elections in Tunisia we had the example of Hamas in the Palestinian territories, elected by free democratic vote. As in many decolonised states, it is one person, one vote, once. Yet it is Israel which is criticised for inconveniencing the Palestinians when they are being attacked by rockets by a government which does not even believe that Jews have the right to exist. Secularism as we commonly understand it never did take root in these countries. Socialism never did mean absence of religion. It did not even mean effective plans at poverty alleviation. Nasser helped himself to large landed estates, dispossessed the owners and then parcelled out the ill gotten gain to his cronies. If the proletariat thought that this was their revolution the execution of leaders from organised labour just one month after the 1952 coup proved otherwise. Egypt lost its once vibrant mix of Jews, Italians, Armenians, Greeks, Maltese and French minorities, bulldozed from history just as Sophiatown was by the architects of apartheid in South Africa .

One group that Nasser did invite with open arms were former top Nazis like Remer who would help organise his repressive machinery. Johann von Leers became Omar Almin and churned out anti-Semitic hatred from the Information Ministry. Nasser was to inspire the young Gaddafi in taking power and also Algerian nationalists fighting the French. With the latter the painful reality became obvious that they were not going to be better off than under colonialism and, judging by the evacuation of pro-French harkis and subsequently other Algerians as they sought a better life in the highly racist environment of the former colonial power, actually quite a lot worse. One cannot just blame poverty. Algeria has reserves of natural gas.

Gaddafi could only build his Green Book ideas with oil revenues which would have modernised his country if the monarchy had stayed. Saudi, Dubai , Qatar , Kuwait , Bahrain and Abu Dhabi used oil to at best create the veneer of modernisation with its very worst of self-indulgent consumer appetites. But political reform, secularism, freedom to believe was not even entertained. Citizenship was tightly limited to the designated herrenvolk master race. Where once slaves had toiled for masters, now Filipino and South Asian labourers work in conditions that flout all international conventions, shipped out of the main city centres which they are helping to construct like modern day helots. These oriental despotisms did not even abolish chattel slavery until the late twentieth century.

This is a region given to even less to racial and cultural diversity than it is to economic cooperation. Desperate to show their commitment to Arab nationalism, minority Christian communities helped become its leading ideologues. Michel Aflaq after all founded Ba’ath. While Aflaq, and later Hannan Ashrawi and George Habash, manifested their anti-Jewish animus, the Christian minority in an independent Palestine and a post-Saddam Iraq face extinction. Ancient communities and cultures such as the Assyrians are in dire straits at risk of permanent exile from their own homeland. It would not be the first time. Turkey is often touted as the example which Arab states should follow. Until recently political Islam was proscribed in Turkey . Now under the Justice and Development Party of Recep Erdogan it rules it. But then how secular was Turkey ? Ataturk replaced Islam with the surrogate religion of Turkish nationalism which made the rump of the once powerful Ottoman Empire even less pluralist than it had been under the sultans. The jihad against the ancient Christian communities of Armenians and Assyrians became a genocide which was continued by the secular Turkish nationalists. The Greeks were almost completely expelled. Even Muslims face the wrath of the state as Kurds were denied even the right to exist as a people. That right has only been grudgingly granted very recently and remains precarious.

So even the use of secularism entails an identity which is organic and volkisch and lends itself to the exclusion of others. This has been one of the main obstacles to Turkey joining the EU even though it insists it is part of Europe . With the current economic crisis however, this will certainly be one Christmas where Turkey is going to be rather pleased that for decades Europe has told it to ‘get stuffed’. The intolerance and racism produced by aggressive secularism in Turkey then was always going to be a rocky road for its former Ottoman colonies to follow. Pan-Arabism always did have the unhealthy echoes of German Romantics such as Fichte.

As such the indigenous people of Egypt now face a bleak future. The sight of tanks openly running over Copts and soldiers openly shooting Copts on the streets in front of live television cameras should be evidence enough. These will not be regimes which will be in any way friendly to the west. The receipt of billions, yes billions, in western aid (and taxpayers’ money) does not guarantee any democratisation or respect for the rights of women and minorities. It is nothing more than a mafia style protection racket, modernised only in the sense of it being a new way of collection jizya, the poll-tax levied on non-Muslims who were granted a grudging existence as third-class citizens, dhimmis.

It is not just of course Arab countries. Pakistan has long persecuted the Christian minority and that is only set to get worse. Most of the Hindus and Sikhs have been expelled or forcibly converted and the minuscule Bene Israel community of Jews has long since left. Malaysia openly discriminates in favour of Malay Muslims and against the Chinese and Indian minorities so that Hindu temples are destroyed at official behest. Indonesia once the most tolerant of all Muslim countries is fast jettisoning the diversity it once so valued in Sukarno’s doctrine of Panchasila, to becoming a hub of terrorism.

Read article in full

Saturday, December 17, 2011

'Remembrance Day for Jews would help peace'

Update : please write to the President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, to say that you support Professor Ada Aharoni's idea of a Day to remember the uprooting of the Jewish communities of the Arab world. Email

"The moment has arrived for us to mark the destruction of the Jewish communities in Arab countries with a special memorial day," says Professor Ada Aharoni. Dr Aharoni told Yediot Haifa in an interview published on 16 December that she had 'no doubt' such a day would advance the peace process.

Egyptian-born Dr Aharoni said: "I have no doubt if the facts were made clear it can progress the peace process. Nowadays the Palestinians are getting more difficult about their 'right of return': I have no doubt that if they knew there were more Jewish refugees, who had to leave their homes in the dead of night leaving all their property behind, it would be easier for them to understand that they will not be permitted to 'return'.

"We Jews attach great significance to remembering the Exodus from Egypt and ancient Jewish history. We should also remember the Second Exodus (in modern times)."

Dr Aharoni has written to both the President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, and the Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu, suggesting that Israel should declare such a memorial day.

Please sign petition

Aharoni seeks approval for 'Jewish Nakba' Day

Friday, December 16, 2011

Return of Saddam's plates sets worrying precedent

Venison served up on plates once belonging to the Iraqi royal family and bought on Ebay. The date syrup, pine nuts and pomegrates recall Iraq (Photo: Battman studios)

With thanks Maurice; Elsie

This bizarre story brings together the New York art world, the Iraqi government and a collection of dinner plates that once belonged to Saddam Hussein and the King of Iraq, Faisal ll. Absent in the press coverage, however, is any hint that the return of the plates to Iraq sets a dangerous precedent:

From the New York Times:

(...) "on Tuesday a marshal and a marshal’s assistant arrived at the organization’s offices in the East Village to take custody of an even more unusual trove of cultural booty: Saddam Hussein’s dinner plates, or at least some of those that were believed to be in use in his palaces when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.

"The plates were taken out of the country illegally, according to Iraqi officials. Creative Time, which bought them on eBay for Michael Rakowitz, an artist whose Iraqi-Jewish grandparents fled Iraq in 1946, said it believed that an American soldier and an Iraqi citizen first bought them from Iraqis who had looted and carried on a brisk trade in such palace wares some time after the invasion.

"The 20 or so plates include a mix of Wedgwood and other china, some that appear to be from Hussein’s personal collection and others from the reign of the last Iraqi monarch, Faisal II, who ruled until 1958."

Rakowitz used the dinner plates for an art project at a New York restaurant illustrating the discomfiture diners feel when they discover where their plates come from. He personally could not bring himself to eat off Saddam's plates.

Rakowitz's reaction to the arrival of the federal marshals was : a 'profound and beautiful' end to the project.

Evidently Rakowitz is unaware that the return of property claimed by the Iraqi government sets a dangerous precedent for the books, documents and artefacts - known as the Jewish archive - currently being restored in Washington. On several occasions, the Iraqi government has asked for these items to be returned.

The return of the plates gives credibility to the Iraqi government's efforts.

It would be a tragic irony if US federal marshals became accomplices in Iraq's campaign to have Jewish items returned to the country which were themselves looted from their Jewish owners by previous Iraqi regimes.

Iraq museum pays smugglers for looted treasures (with thanks: Maurice)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jewish refugees - and the Four Sons

With the launch of Danny Ayalon's video "The truth about the refugees', the issue of the Jewish refugees has burst on the global scene. Many people are discovering the issue for the first time. The broad spectrum of responses and comments - ranging from the encouraging to the sceptical - reminds me of the Four Sons we invoke at Passover -the Wise, the Wicked, the Simple and the One who doesn't know how to ask (or in this case, deal with) the question. Responses can be broadly divided into four categories. Let me explain what I mean!

The Wise Son wholeheartedly agrees that Jewish refugees are a key issue. Longstanding and more recent Arab and Muslim antisemitism caused the exodus. Justice for the 850,000 refugees is a moral imperative. There must be a reckoning with Arab states. The UN must include Jewish refugees on its human rights agenda. Only if Arab states apologise, recognise and compensate can we all move on.

The Wicked Son
is in deep denial. The Jews were not refugees - they left of their own free will. They came to Israel out of Zionism. In fact, it was the Zionists who set bombs off to scare them. Sometimes the Wicked Son does acknowledge that some Jews were driven out and dispossessed. In these cases, the individual victim must raise the matter with the Arab state responsible. Israel must not be allowed to benefit, morally, financially or politically from this issue.

The Simple Son
has never heard of Jewish refugees. As far as he is concerned, Jews and Muslims coexisted happily throughout the ages until the advent of Zionism. The Palestinians are innocent of any wrongdoing towards Jews in Arab countries. He has absorbed the propaganda that there are six million Palestinian refugees, and therefore their problem is much greater.

The One who doesn't know how to handle the question - what does he say? He jumps to the wrong conclusions. He acknowledges Jewish suffering, but thinks there should be a 'right of return' for both sets of refugees. (He hasn't considered the fact that such an upheaval would cause more suffering and more refugees). As far as he is concerned, there must not be a 'suffering competition'. Each group must be dealt with separately.

'Secrets of the lost assets' film premieres tonight

With thanks Isaac, Edwin

It sounds like another Harrison Ford movie - but 'Secrets of the lost Assets' by Yes and Keshet is likely the most significant documentary film to be made since The Forgotten Refugees and Silent Exodus.

The film has been more than two years in the making. Produced by Inbal Petel and Emmanuel Rosen, it will have its premiere at the Yes Planet cinema in Ramat Gan, Israel, tonight.

It will be broadcast on the Yes cable channel next week.

The film looks at the vast assets lost by Jews in Arab countries. The producers travelled to the UK to interview Jews from Egypt and Iraq. According to the producers, there are no plans yet to make an English version.