Thursday, November 30, 2017

Jews were victimised after the Six Day War

Today is 30 November, the date designated by the Israeli Knesset to remember the 850, 000 Jewish refugees forced from Arab countries. The date is being marked in Israel and worldwide. Writing in BESA Center News Edy Cohen recalls the predicament of Jewish communities in the aftermath of the Six Day War, a plight which Arab regimes tried to conceal.

Much has been written about the historical marginalization of the 900,000 Jews expelled from Arab states in the wake of the 1948 War. Few know that the June 1967 War played a similar role in accelerating the final demise of these historic communities. It is high time the international community rectified this longstanding injustice by ensuring that these refugees are fully compensated for their suffering and stolen property.
Jewish refugees from Libya (World Jewish Congress)

Fifty years after the June 1967 War, the Israel State Archives in Jerusalem released scores of classified files related to this historic event. While most deal with the war and the events that led to its outbreak, some address the predicament of the Jewish communities in the Arab states during and after the war. The picture that emerges is one of pogroms and persecution, at times orchestrated by the government, at times through spontaneous eruptions that occurred with the tacit support of the authorities.

This maltreatment occurred in almost all Arab states, though the level of violence differed. In Tunisia, Morocco, and Lebanon, for example, the authorities protected the Jews from the rampaging mobs, while in Syria and Yemen, there were isolated attacks on Jews. The most severe persecutions occurred in Libya, Egypt, and Iraq. Israel refrained from any direct public action so as not to give credence to the depiction of these Jewish communities as fifth columns serving the Jewish state’s interests. Covertly, however, through its Washington, London, Paris, Rome, Geneva, Brussels, Ankara, and Lisbon embassies, the Israeli Foreign Ministry acted on behalf of these communities.

The American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the UN, and Jewish communities in the West were also enlisted to help out with protest gatherings and media publicity about the Jewish predicament in the Arab states. According to the documents, the Arab regimes tried to conceal the Jews’ persecution from foreign eyes, to deny any governmental involvement in the violent acts that were exposed, and to impose strict censorship so as to ensure that such acts were not publicized.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Turks arrest Torah traffickers

Cases of the authorities preventing the selling or smuggling of Torah manuscripts and scrolls (such as this one in Turkey, as reported in Times of Israel)  arise from time to time in the Arab or Muslim world. The Torah scrolls are invariably considered part of the national heritage, and not Jewish communal property. (With thanks: Lily)   

Turkish security forces seized a Torah manuscript earlier this month that is thought to be at least 700 years old and that was up for sale for $1.9 million, Turkish media reported.

Police, acting on an tip, reportedly detained four antique dealers after they tried to sell the manuscript to plainclothes detectives in Turkey’s southern Mugla province.
Three of them were released to house arrest and one remained behind bars.

Read article in full

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Events begin worldwide to remember Jewish Refugees

Mumbai, London, Singapore, Amsterdam, Miami, San Francisco, Geneva, Washington - just some of the cities where events to remember the exodus of Jewish refugees from Arab lands are being held this week. Israel Hayom reports on forthcoming events in Israel (with thanks: Imre).
Screenshot from a video clip about Jews of Lebanon, part of a World Jewish Congress series about the exodus of Jewish refugees from Arab lands. 

Next Thursday, Israel plans to mark its annual memorial day of the expulsion of some 850,000 Jews from Arab states and Iran. The issue will also be commemorated around the world in the coming week.

On Thursday, representatives from the Aharon and Rachel Dahan Center for Culture, Society and Education in the Sephardic Heritage at Bar-Ilan University will take part in an event at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem to mark the exodus and expulsion of Jews from Arab countries and Iran.

According to Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, who initiated the event, "Throughout the 70 years of the State of Israel's existence, the story of Mizrahi Jews has been absent from the history of the Jewish people. We must correct that."

Next week, the Dahan Center will head an academic conference on the subject of Jewish refugeeism from Arab countries at the University of Maryland in College Park, near Washington, D.C. with the aim of exposing the plight of those Jewish communities.

Following the conference, the Israeli Embassy will host a special reception, to be attended by Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer and Gamliel.

Events of the Day to Mark the Departure and Expulsion of Jews from the Arab Countries and Iran will be held in a number of international capitals next week, including in Europe, Latin America, North America and India next week. The events, organized by representatives of the Foreign Ministry, will include lectures, films and musical performances.

The head of the Foreign Ministry's Bureau for World Jewish Affairs and World Religions Akiva Tor said, "The Foreign Ministry sees paramount value in the presentation of the narrative of the expulsion and refugeeism of Jews from Arab states around the world, as a public diplomacy response and as a commitment to historical justice."

On Sunday, the Dahan Center at Bar-Ilan University hosted a conference ahead of the memorial day.

Speaking at the conference, Dahan Center Director and Chairman of the Alliance of Moroccan Immigrants Dr. Shimon Ohayon said, "For decades, the State of Israel ignored the stories of Jews from Arab countries and thus allowed pro-Palestinians to focus the awareness only on the Palestinian refugees and the Nakba [the Arabic term meaning 'catastrophe,' for the displacement of Palestinian refugees during Israel's War of Independence], without any mention of the heavy price paid by the Jews of Arab countries: pogroms, expulsion and the nationalization of property."

Ohayon noted that over $400 billion in Jewish property was nationalized by the Arab states.

Since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 to the early 1970s, around 850,000 Jews were either expelled from or fled Arab and Muslim countries.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Moroccan minorities complain of repression

Doesn't Morocco have a history of harmonious Muslim-Jewish coexistence? It seems not, given that a conference held  to examine the vexed question of religious and minority freedom in the country has been deemed 'controversial'. Report in the Lens Post (with thanks: Boruch):

 Berber Jews in a transit camp

For an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim country, which once had a large Jewish population, the conference was highly controversial due to concerns over its motives, especially as there is no official recognition of Moroccans who change religion.

The organisers and religious minority advocates asked the government to clarify laws concerning freedom of worship.

“The state still places barriers when it comes to legal reforms concerning minorities,” Jawad el Hamidi, the coordinator of the Moroccan Commission of Religious Minorities, told AFP. “There is a kind of fear of opening this door and having a discussion – even civil society is still reluctant to talk freely about this topic.”

“We suffer repression and harassment,” said Hamidi, adding that some media had referred to those at the conference as “atheists” and “homosexuals”.
Attendees see the conference as a small step towards achieving religious freedom in Morocco, which suffers from an intolerance of religious diversity.

Read article in full 

Similar reports on and US Press.from

Sunday, November 26, 2017

An Egyptian meets Mizrahi Israelis

It takes Haisam Hassanein, an Egyptian Muslim, to give this accurate Wall St Journal portrait of the Mizrahim he met in Israel. His conclusion is correct:  if only the Palestinians absorbed their refugees as effectively as Israel did its Jews from Arab lands. But he makes the assumption, as many do, that the culture of Mizrahim was Arabic, when for many it was French. (with thanks Gavin; Lily)
Many Mizrahim went through the experience of tent camps (Ma'abarot) on arrival in Israel

Thousands of years ago, Abraham and Sarah went from Israel to Egypt. So did Jacob and his sons. In my lifetime, I have made the reverse journey, traveling from Egypt to Israel by way of the U.S. During my travels I quickly discovered that the presence of the Jewish people in Arab lands did not end with the Exodus.
As a child in Egypt, my image of my Jewish countrymen was shaped by the numerous Egyptian television dramas that depicted them as spies, thieves and fifth columnists. I never knew any Jewish people personally. Naturally it came as a shock when, during my first visit to Israel in 2014, I met a man who spoke to me in perfect Iraqi Arabic, laced generously with profanity. He introduced me to the concept of “ Mizrahi Jews,” or those from the eastern lands.

For more than a thousand years the Mizrahi Jews lived and thrived in a wide swath of land, from Morocco to India and Central Asia. Some arrived in biblical times while others came after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. Often treated as second-class citizens, they nonetheless created a culture as diverse and distinctive as the places in which they settled.

But this story came to a crushing end for most Jews in Arab lands in 1948, when states like Yemen and Libya responded to the creation of the state of Israel by forcing out their Jewish populations. Since 2014, the Israeli government has designated Nov. 30—the day in 1947 when the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states—as the “Day to Mark the Departure and Expulsion of Jews from the Arab Countries and Iran.”

When I attended graduate school at Tel Aviv University, I befriended Egyptian Jews who were good, kindhearted people. They invited me to their Shabbat dinners, where we ate delicious Egyptian dishes, shared our love of Arabic music and culture, and discussed politics. I felt at home.

In the heart of Tel Aviv I met Rachmo, a vivacious 73-year-old Egyptian Jew whose restaurant served falafel made of beans in the Egyptian style, rather than the Israeli-Levantine version made of chickpeas. Still a proud Egyptian, he had mounted pictures of the pyramids and the sphinx at the entrance of his shop.

In perfect Egyptian Arabic, he described the trauma of immigrating to Israel with his family at age 13. After escaping persecution in Egypt, his family was placed in a camp in Israel, where his upper-middle class parents had to work in construction to earn a living. Living in a land settled and dominated by European Jews, or Ashkenazim, they often felt denigrated by their Jewish brethren. “They did not know that we Egyptians were more cultured, polite, and not troublemakers,” he told me last year.

Like many immigrant groups, Mizrahi Jews sometimes felt the price of acceptance was full assimilation, or abandoning their old culture. Many of the succeeding generations do not speak Arabic or observe their unique customs. One of my professors in Tel Aviv once said in class that as a child of Iraqi immigrants, he used to brag among his peers that his father spoke English and French. He never mentioned Arabic.

At the same time, Mizrahi Jews remember all too well the discrimination they suffered in the old country. Many Iraqi and Morrocan Jews in Israel were alive when persecution was at its worst in the 1940s and ’50s. Some continue to harbor a bitterness that drives them to support Israel’s far-right parties. “The Ashkenazim will never understand the Arabs as we do,” a friend recalled his grandmother’s admonition. “They only know about the Holocaust.”

But today the landscape has changed as Israeli society becomes more inclusive. Eastern Jewish culture is honored. Intermarriage between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim is a nonissue. The Mizrahi Jew Avi Gabbay heads the Israeli Labor Party, the current main opposition party and historic domain of Ashkenazi Jews going back to the Zionist ideologues of Europe.

As a Muslim, I am acutely aware of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who have been left to languish in camps for decades, unwelcome in the lands of their Arab and Muslim neighbors. Most recently, Syrian refugees are isolated in tent cities or face discrimination when they try to integrate into new countries. The successful absorption of Jews from eastern countries in Israel—across linguistic and cultural barriers—is a modern-day success story that deserves to be remembered, celebrated and emulated.

Read article in full

Friday, November 24, 2017

'An Israeli stamp on a cereal packet could get you jailed'

Jews who stayed behind in Iraq after the mass exodus of the 1950s include David Dangoor and David Khalastchi. Dangoor is one of eight Jews who recount their experience of oppression and exile from Iraq in the new film Remember Baghdad. Report by Joe Shute in the Daily Telegraph.

Despite still being a child, Dangoor recalls several moments from his youth where he noticed enmity building towards the Jews. On one occasion he sent off for an offer of a stamp starter collection he had seen on the back of a cereal packet. When the packet arrived it contained a stamp for Israel his father quickly took it off him and destroyed it. “An Israeli stamp could get you in prison,” he says.

On another occasion he remembers being asked he if was a Zionist by school friends despite not even knowing what the word meant. One 16-year-old Jewish pupil at a different school was even sent to prison after being tricked into drawing the Star of David on a blackboard.

120,000 Iraqi Jews abandoned their homes to fly to Israel
120,000 Iraqi Jews abandoned their homes to fly to Israel ( Dangoor Family archive)
In 1958 the British installed monarchy was overthrown and the life of the ruling classes upended forever. David Dangoor's family left the following year, spending a year in Lebanon before settling in Britain.

In order to leave all Jewish families were forced to sign a document saying that if they did not return in three months all their assets were surrendered to the Iraqi state. Dangoor remembers his father saying his freedom was worth more than anything he left behind.

David Khalastchi carried on in Iraq despite worsening persecution against the Jewish community making it almost impossible to live in the country.  Eventually in 1967 after having his passport confiscated for three years he managed to secure one through an intelligence contact and flee over the border with his wife and daughter.

Of the many tragedies he was forced to witness in exile, one occasion from 1969 stands out for David Khalastchi when the young Ba’athist Saddam Hussein hanged 13 people, nine of them Jewish, as supposed traitors to the regime in front of a jubilant crowd.

“They were people who had nothing to do with anything,” he says with sorrow.
Khalastchi and Dangoor are proud of their adopted homeland and have raised families here. The latter was a pupil at (now closed) Carmel College, once known as the Jewish Eton, and helped his father establish a multi-million pound property business in London.

Read article in full

Remember Baghdad will be screened on 3 December at the Phoenix cinema, East Finchley in London at 5.15 pm. For details see

Reviews of Remember Baghdad here 

BBC Radio fails to mention Iraq's Farhud

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Kuwaiti writer: Israel is a legitimate state

As relations warm up between Israel and Saudi Arabia, do we detect a thaw in relations between Arabs and Israel? Two clips from MEMRI seem to suggest this - but the real proof of a change is whether these two exponents of coexistence with Israel put their lives in danger by saying publicly what they think. (With thanks: Lily)


Kuwaiti writer Abdullah Al-Hadlaq said that Israel was an independent and legitimate sovereign state and that there was no occupation, but instead, "a people returning to its promised land."

"When the State of Israel was established in 1948, there was no state called 'Palestine,'" said Al-Hadlaq. He recalled that he had once written: "I wished that we could be like the people of the State of Israel, who rallied, down to the very last one, to defend a single Israeli soldier." In the interview, which was broadcast by the Kuwaiti Alrai TV channel on November 19, Al-Hadlaq further said that he believed in peaceful coexistence with Israel and envisioned a three-way alliance of Israel, the Arab Gulf states, and America "in order to annihilate Hizbullah beyond resurrection." The interview caused an uproar in the Arab media and social networks.
 Read transcript in full

 Palestinian expert on international law Dr. Anis Fawzi Qasim said that it would be naive to call upon Arab Jews to return to their home countries. "The Jews in Israel are better off than the Jews in the Arab world," he said, asking: "What exactly [would they be] returning to?" Dr. Qasim, who resides in Jordan, was a member of the advisory committee to the Palestinian-Jordanian delegation to the 1991 Madrid Conference. His remarks aired on Al-Quds TV on November 3, 2017.

Read transcript in full

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Beirut Jews live in hiding despite new synagogue

Beirut has a renovated synagogue, but Jews are so terrified of reprisals that they enter wearing facemasks. The community is in hiding, Shadi Bassil writes in the New Mexico Jewish Link: (with thanks: Boruch)

In 1848, some Jewish families came to Mount Chouf seeking sanctuary from growing anti-Semitic violence in Damascus. During this period, the Lebanese-Jewish community settled in Sidon, Hasbaya, and Beirut. Also, Jews immigrated to Beirut from different parts of the world, where the city’s Jewish quarter was home to Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jews, Arabic and Berber speaking Jews from Morocco, and French-speaking Ashkenazi Jews.

Their presence ultimately proved to be pivotal to the economic growth of Lebanon’s most important city. Beirut’s Jewish quarter, Wadi Abu Jamil, became the center of Jewish worship in the city when the Magen Abraham Synagogue was constructed. Even after the neighborhood was deserted at the start of the civil war, it remained known as the Valley of the Jews.

Currently, Wadi Abu Jamil has virtually become Beirut’s safest neighborhood because of its proximity to the Grand Serail, the seat of Lebanon’s Prime Minister, in addition to the offices of several Lebanese politicians.

It is specifically from there, in Wadi Abu Jamil, that the Jewish community is attempting to rebuild itself, and rise from the ashes in a neighborhood that was reduced to rubble during Lebanon’s destructive war. This attempt was put under the spotlight when finally, after a lot of political back and forth, the decision was made to renovate the synagogue.

The main issue was obtaining guarantees from Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most dominant political party and paramilitary organization, for the safety of the workers involved in renovating the structure and the community members it was going to serve. Hezbollah subsequently came out with a statement welcoming the idea behind the project, and declaring that it had no problem with Lebanese Jews as long as they rejected political Zionism and denounced Israel.

Despite those guarantees, Jewish workers refused to enter the premises without wearing face masks, owing to their fear of public reprisals. After everything lined up politically, the project received a green light and some funding was obtained from Solidere, a private contractor very close to the Lebanese government, while the rest of the funds came from donations collected by the Lebanese Jewish Community Council and its president Isaac Arazi.

The renovation was mostly completed around 2010, but the synagogue remains empty. It is very difficult to gain entry onto grounds on the account of tight security. To date, no services have been held there since the project was completed, and the community it was intended to serve is still more or less in hiding.

Nevertheless, the renovation holds more symbolic value than it does practical, because it establishes some sort of the recognition coveted for generations by a community that felt abandoned and unwanted. In a place as volatile as Lebanon, no one knows what the future holds for Lebanon’s remaining Jews, but tiny specs of hope such as this one are a welcome change.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Egyptians initially welcomed the Balfour declaration

On the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration and the  40th anniversary of President Sadat's visit to Jerusalem, paving the way to the Israel Egypt peace treaty, Ayman Ashour has written this fascinating article in Egyptian Streets. Egyptians were at first well-disposed to the idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, a sympathy that Egypt has tried to suppress. However, Ashour  is on shakier ground when he claims that Egyptians saved  Jews from the Nazis - rescue efforts were limited and the sympathy of the great mass of Egyptians lay with Nazism. Alexandrian Jews fled the city for old Cairo and businessmen whose names were blacklisted left the country altogether. It is not true that mainly Ashkenazi Jews left for Israel after 1948, and that Egyptian policy towards its Jews was antisemitic only after 1967. Stateless and Egyptian Jews were expelled after 1956.

Arthur Balfour

Contrary to widespread belief, in 1917, and for over a decade after that, the Balfour Declaration was not seen by most Egyptian intellectuals as detrimental to Palestine. Interestingly enough, some Egyptian Muslim and Christian families held parties to celebrate the declaration. Telegrams of gratitude were sent to Lord Balfour by the then-Governor of Alexandria Ahmad Ziour Pasha, a Muslim.
“The Governor of Alexandria Ahmad Ziour Pasha – later Prime Minister of Egypt – went to a party in the city celebrating the Balfour Declaration, that culminated in their sending a telegram to Lord Balfour to thank him,” according to Leila Ahmed in “A Border Passage”.
A delegation of leading Muslims and Christians traveled to congratulate the Jews of Palestine. Many Egyptian Zionist leaders were also Egyptian nationalists and fully committed to the cause of independence from Britain.

Egyptians support of the Balfour Declaration lasted beyond 1917. The Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar officially hosted Chaim Weizmann, co-author of the draft of the declaration submitted to Lord Balfour, when he visited Egypt on his way to Palestine in 1918. The Grand Sheikh was alleged to have made a donation of 100 EGP to the Zionist cause, Egyptian academic and writer Mohamed Aboulghar in his book about the Jews of Egypt confirms the meeting but alleges that actually a donation was made by Weismann to Al Azhar. Weizmann’s cultivation of regional support for the Zionist movement extended to his efforts with the rulers of Hijaz where he executed an accord with Emir Faisal endorsing the Declaration.
The Hebrew University was one of the early dreams of the Zionist movement, in 1918 construction commenced. Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, the renowned Egyptian nationalist, political leader and first director of Cairo University joined the celebration for the grand opening of Hebrew University in 1925. In 1944, Taha Hussien, one of Egypt’s most influential literary figures also visited the Hebrew University.

Read article in full 

 Professor Ada Aharoni was given a special award for her books on Egyptian Jews and their uprooting, From the Nile to the Jordan and Thea Wolf: the woman in white.

Monday, November 20, 2017

'Remember Baghdad' released in London

The film Remember Baghdad telling the story of the Jews of Iraq through eight different testimonies has just been released. It will have two London screenings on 3 December and 6 December. Lyn Julius wrote this review (also referring to another documentary, Letters from Baghdad) in Jewish Renaissance (April 2017).

On New Year's Eve 1946, a young Jewish couple were among the guests at a Benefit Ball in the Iraqi Flying Club.  A beauty pageant was taking place: the King of Iraq approached the 21-year old Renée Dangoor, and invited her to take part. 

Renée won the contest. Her hand-coloured image of radiant beauty, complete with victory sash, is presently being referenced by 2,700 Arabic websites on Google.

Who would have believed, in the bomb-ravaged,  sectarian Iraq of today,  that a Jewess could have been crowned Miss Baghdad 1947? "Who is even going to believe," says Edwin Shuker in the new documentary Remember Baghdad," that there were Jews in Iraq?" 

Edwin Shuker is one of the main characters in the film. The opening sequence shows him leaving his home in north London to catch a flight to Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan in northern Iraq, in a bid to show that Jews still have a stake in Iraq. Later, we see Edwin in a Baghdadi taxi excitedly giving directions to his driver to find the Shuker family house. They had abandoned it in haste 46 years earlier.

In a region where the jihadists of Islamic State are just kilometres away,  to return to Iraq is a brave, if foolhardy, thing for a Jew to do. Of 140,000 Jews in 1948, only five Jews remain in Iraq in an atmosphere of rampant antisemitism. This community goes back to Babylonian times when captives from Judea were taken as slaves to the land of the two rivers and remained there for 2,600 years. The Babylonian Jews had a seminal impact on Judaism as we know it. Yet  in 2017, the community is to all intents and purposes extinct, its members driven into exile. 

 Remember Baghdad started out as a film commissioned by Renée Dangoor's son David about a group of Iraqi Jews who have been meeting weekly in London over three decades to play volleyball together. Director Fiona Murphy has taken the story to a new level, combining raw material of home movies, family photos and first-person testimonies with rare archive footage - to build a cinematic record of a lost world.

What motivated Fiona, of mixed Jewish-Irish parentage, to make this film?
” The lives of my parents’ families closed down as the British Empire shattered: my father’s community was thrown out of Ireland and my mother’s fled Jamaica. I grew up in London, conscious that people suffer for the crimes of generations long gone.
“So when I was between films and was offered a job cataloguing an extraordinary archive of early home movies belonging to an Iraqi-Jewish family I responded vividly to the news that the Jews of Iraq did well under the British, and paid for it. The end of the British Empire was not the only strand that bound their stories together with mine. My mother’s family was ethnically Jewish. And while that was where the historical similarities ended, the smiling faces in the archive and the stark fact that only five Jews remain in Iraq today, awakened my own sense of loss.
“At first I just wanted to convey the pain of losing your home. It seemed important, now, right now, to push back at the narrowness of our news, dominated by discussion of economic migrants, desperate refugees and the difficulties of integrating immigrants. The older stories were laments about the pain of exile: “It’s a Long Long Way to Tipperary”, and “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept”. I wanted to show that that migrants travel with heavy hearts, give them a voice, and bring back the world that was lost. I knew this must be my next film.”
Fiona Murphy’s film is being released exactly 100 years after the British invaded what was once Mesopotamia, throwing three Ottoman provinces together  to form modern Iraq. One of the country’s chief architects was the British intelligence officer Gertrude Bell, also the subject of a documentary being released this year : Letters from Baghdad.

Often described as a female Lawrence of Arabia, Bell was a woman in a man’s world. She was the moving force behind the crowning of Emir Faisal as king of Iraq and saw the able, multilingual, educated, and increasingly westernised, Jews as the lynchpin of the brave new Iraq she wanted to create.

"'Remember Baghdad' trailer

"I'm now going to cultivate the Jew community - there are 80, 000 in Baghdad out of a population of 200, 000- and find out more about them,,” Gertrude Bell wrote to her parents in 1917.” So far, I've only met the bigwigs, such as the Chief Rabbi. There's no doubt they will be a great power here some day. " 

Jews did indeed become the backbone of the British mandate of Iraq, dominating finance and trade and administering the railways and communications. But Gertrude Bell was sidelined, and is thought in frustration to have ended her own life aged only 52. The golden age of the Jews of Iraq ended with the death of King Faisal and the creeping Nazification of the 1930s, culminating in the traumatic pogrom known as the pro-Nazi Farhud (Arabic for forced dispossession)  in 1941.

">Remember Baghdad "interviews the broadcaster Salim Fattal, the writer Eli Amir,  and other survivors of the two-day rampage of June 1941 which followed the overthrow of the pro-British government  in Iraq – an orgy of killing, rape and looting. After Iraq introduced a state of emergency in 1948, punishing its Jews for the establishment of Israel, it was primarily fear of another Farhud that spurred 120,000 Jews to leave Iraq for Israel when they had the chance in 1950 – 51. The price they paid was to be stripped of their citizens’ rights and dispossessed of their property.

Although Iraq remained an implacable enemy of Israel, life for the 6,000 remaining Jews continued as one long round of parties and picnics by the river Tigris. The brutal slaughter of the king and his ministers in 1958, their bodies dragged through the streets of Baghdad, came as a shock, but still the Jews did not leave. When they wanted to, in the 1960s, it was too late. By the time the Six-Day war broke out, Jews were effectively hostages of the Ba’ath regime.
The film relates the vengeful terror experienced by the remaining Jews, who witnessed the public hangings of nine of their co-religionists in January 1969 on trumped-up spying charges. Danny Dallal’s uncle was executed six months later. Scores of Jews disappeared. Danny and Edwin were among the 2,000 desperate Jews smuggled out of Iraq into Iran by Kurds in the early 1970s. They left everything behind.

The film closes with Edwin Shuker signing the contract for the home he has just purchased on a windswept and arid development in Kurdistan. Will he ever live in it? It's clearly a symbolic act – perhaps the first step on the ladder  to buying a property in Baghdad -  in order to show the unbreakable bond between Jews and their 2,600 years in the land. You can take the Jew out of Iraq, but you can’t take Iraq out of the Jew. 

" Iraq is in our bones”, says David Dangoor.

But  is it? 

Many Iraqi Jews still suffer nightmares at the thought of what they went through.  The memory of Iraq recedes year by year. Their children and grandchildren, now citizens of Israel and the West, barely understand Arabic: only the food links them with the past. They have moved on.

 The time for nostalgia may be over. Perhaps Remember Baghdad should have a question mark after it?

The Guardian
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 Times of Israel
The UPcoming
Little White Lies
Film Reviews
Jewish News 
Melanie Phillips

 Conversation between Noorah al-Gailani and Edwin Shuker on  the Radio Scotland Cathy MacDonald show (1:25 mins in):  Noora remembers that Jewish women would be permitted to climb the minaret of the mosque where her Sufi ancestor, Sheikh al-Gailani is buried on the site of a Jewish saint of antiquity. At the top, they would pray for the saint to fulfil their wishes.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Guardian praises, but distorts, 'Remember Baghdad' film

The film 'Remember Baghdad' by Fiona Murphy had its premiere last week. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian wrote a complimentary review, but distorts and misunderstands the history of the Jews of Baghdad.

'After the first world war, British control of Iraq afforded its Jews relative protection. In the 30s and 40s, despite attempts by Hitler’s Nazis to gain a foothold in the country, Iraqi Jews were spared the horrors of the Holocaust, and postwar Iraq prided itself on an easygoing pluralist prosperity. But after the monarchy was brutally deposed, and the country joined the six-day war against Israel, antisemitism became part of Iraq’s righteous new nationalism – although Saddam cynically preserved Baghdad’s synagogue building in the 80s out of deference to his US allies. It is an intricate, gripping family history.'

Read review in full
Lyn Julius wrote on her Facebook page:
"You would have thought it a fantastic achievement that the documentary film 'Remember Baghdad' received a review by Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian after it played to a packed house at JW3 yesterday. But I'm wondering if the film Bradshaw reviewed is the same one as I saw - or maybe he just fell asleep halfway through. 'Iraqi Jews were spared the horrors of the Holocaust', he writes. I would have thought the Nazi-inspired Farhud in 1941 was a pretty horrific Holocaust-related event myself, with its death toll of hundreds. Bradshaw skips over the hardships of the late 1940s, with open persecution of the Jews leading to the mass emigration of 90 percent of the community. He claims that antisemitism in Iraq had only become a problem after the Six Day War 'although Saddam cynically preserved Baghdad's synagogue building in the 80s out of deference to his US allies'. Huh? That is hardly the most salient feature of Saddam's policy, which included arrest, torture and execution of Jews, who once had over 50 synagogues in Baghdad alone. Altogether, a shoddy and ignorant job unworthy of the film, and probably rushed out in 15 mins before the Guardian went to press.

Gilead Ini of CAMERA reported: 'I reached out to the author on Twitter. He doesn't seem to care'.

UK Media Watch is filing a complaint to the Guardian.

More distortions on the BBC World Service (BBC Watch)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Casablanca Jewish community 'abducted' children

Moroccan Jews are in uproar following the revelation that their Casablanca community took four children away from a Jewish woman on the grounds that she was mentally ill.  (With thanks: Michelle)

Marie Perez
The story of Marie Perez and her four children is being told in instalments of Avodim ('Lost') on Israel's TV channel 13.

 Marie Perez was born in 1940 in Casablanca. She was a widow who used to beg for alms with a daughter at the Casablanca Jewish cemetery. Her second husband was also a beggar. He was blind. Together they had four children. One died.

The baby was abducted by their Muslim maid in 1968 when Marie took her children to school one day. Arguing that Marie was mentally unstable and an alcoholic living in penury incapable of protecting her children, the Jewish community decided to take the three remaining children, place them in foster homes or put them up for adoption. 

Marie Perez had another two children and in 1985 she left Casablanca and came to Israel.

Six people were made miserable - Marie, her children, her husband who died without finding them. Two of the children had been told by their adoptive parents that they had been sold. One is now a famous singer in Israel, Maxime Perez.

The final instalment in the series will be shown on Tuesday 21 November.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Tunisian Jews killed in Holocaust 'could be 700'

As many as 700 Tunisian Jews could have been murdered in the Nazi Holocaust, a researcher has claimed at a recent conference -  according to HuffPost Maghreb, quoting a report in  Arutz Sheva.  (It is not clear if this figure includes Tunisian Jews who were living in Europe - some 2,000 Jews born in Arab or Muslim lands died in Nazi death camps.)

Jews being marched to forced labour camps. Yad Vashem records 50 deaths in forced labour camps, but the real figure could be much higher.

According to Victor Hayoun, nearly 700 Tunisian Jews died. The study was presented at a conference titled "From Tunis to Djerba", held at the Dahan Center at Bar Ilan University, Israel.

"When I realized that there was no scientific research on the Holocaust of the Jews of Tunisia, I decided to raise the issue and I have been working on it for about 12 years. We are talking about 700 members of the community, "said Hayoun. He added: "Until 2006, we knew only 400 victims of Tunisian origin and in 2012, we knew 488. Today, we know that the number is closer to 700."

According to Hayoun, Yad Vashem, Israel's national museum of the Holocaust also has incomplete figures since it estimates that the number of victims among the Tunisian Jews was 50. This figure corresponds to the number of people killed in the forced labour camps. But Jews did not only die  in forced labour camps: 390 others were killed in various other ways in Tunisia. Some 365 people lost their lives in the death camps, mainly in Auschwitz, reports  Hayoun.

 Read article in full (French)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Prince Charles ignores indigenousness of Jews

A letter by Prince Charles to his mentor, Laurens van der Post,  has come to light 30 years after it was written. The Prince's views, expressed shortly after he absorbed Arab views on a visit to Saudi Arabia, may well have changed since, and it is indisputable that the Prince has been a staunch supporter of Jewish organisations and causes in the UK. See my comment below: 

 Prince Charles

Here is the report in The Independent:

"Prince Charles has come under fire after it came to light that he blamed the “influx of foreign Jews” for causing unrest in the Middle East and called on the US to “take on the Jewish lobby” in a letter penned in 1986.

Writing to his friend Laurens van der Post, the Prince argued that the exodus of European Jews in the middle of the last century “helped to cause the great problems” in the Middle East.

“I now appreciate that Arabs and Jews were all a Semitic people originally and it is the influx of foreign, European Jews (especially from Poland, they say) which has helped to cause the great problems,” the Prince wrote in a letter published by the Daily Mail.

“I know there are so many complex issues, but how can there ever be an end to terrorism unless the causes are eliminated?” he added.

“Surely some US president has to have the courage to stand up and take on the Jewish lobby in the US? I must be naive, I suppose!”

The letter was found in a public archive and was written on 24 November 1986, following an official visit the then-38-year-old Prince made to Saudia Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar with the late Princess Diana.

My Comment:  The Prince's comments betray an ignorance of Jews, both as indigenous to Palestine and to what is now the 'Arab' Middle East and North Africa. The assumption that Jews are foreign and European bolsters the canard that Israel is a colonial settler state. Yet Jews predated the Arab conquest and Islam by 1,000 years. Today they constitute over 50 percent of the Israeli Jewish population.

His comment that the US ought to stand up to the Jewish lobby, however, crosses a red line into outright antisemitism. The idea that Jews exercise disproportionate power and influence is a classic conspiracy theory popular among antisemites.

Under pressure from the Arabists of the Foreign Office, the British royal family has never paid an official visit to Israel. The best way that the prince might show that he no longer holds his controversial views, say his critics, is by paying such a visit.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Revered Jewish shrine no longer represents coexistence

The New York Times has a feature on the shrine in Kurdistan of a little known biblical figure called Hazana - revered by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But the Jews, and most of the Christians have now fled, so much so that even the NYT cannot call this coexistence (with thanks: Tom):  

The tomb of Hazana. On the wall, some modern Hebrew grafitti (Photo: NYT)

AMADIYA, Iraq — This once-pretty picture postcard town, on its own 4,000-foot high mesa nestling between a pair of much higher mountain ranges, is in a bad neighborhood when it comes to tolerance.

So the mystery of the Jewish holy figure Hazana, who is revered here by people of all the local faiths, is even more profound than it might otherwise be.
Amadiya is in the semiautonomous province of Kurdistan, which is the target of a crackdown by Baghdad after aiming to achieve independence from Iraq. This part of northern Iraq has been convulsed by violence since the advance of the Islamic State, which sent Christians fleeing, enslaved Yazidi women and killed Shiites on sight, until finally being wiped out in the area last month.

Today Amadiya’s population of 9,000 is overwhelmingly Kurdish Muslim. But in the early 20th century there were said to be about two-thirds that many people, about evenly divided among Muslims, Christians and Jews — although there were 10 mosques compared with two churches and two synagogues. Everyone was packed into a circumference of a mile and a half.

Amadiya’s Jews all left after the creation of Israel in 1948. And so many Christians have left amid successive regional upheavals that the remaining 20 or 30 families can no longer sustain both churches.

All three faiths here are brought together by a longstanding reverence for Hazana, a Jewish religious figure of unknown antiquity — variously described as a son of David, the grandson of Joseph or just a little-known prophet — whose tomb is in Amadiya.

“All the religions are going to that grave to pray,” said Muhammad Abdullah, a local teacher and amateur historian. “For all three religions, it’s a sacred place. Each of them thinks he belongs to them.”

Read article in full

Monday, November 13, 2017

Paris plaque unveiled as antisemitism skyrockets

 A plaque has been unveiled in memory of Ilan Halimi, the French Jew of North African origin kidnapped, brutally tortured and murdered by an antisemitic gang 11 years ago. Since then, the number of antisemitic incidents in France has sky-rocketed. Ben Cohen writes in JNS News (with thanks: Michelle):

Wellwishers gather at the plaque unveiling ceremony

Halimi was kidnapped on January 20, 2006, by a mainly Muslim gang calling themselves “The Barbarians.” Lured into the gang’s hands by an attractive young woman who flirted with him in the cellphone store where he worked as a salesman, Halimi subsequently spent three weeks in captivity, during which he was constantly beaten and burned with cigarettes while being tied up.

Throughout the ordeal, “The Barbarians” attempted to extort 450,000 Euros in ransom money from Halimi’s relatives, believing them to be wealthy because – as one of the gang members later explained to police – “Jews have money.” On 13 February, Halimi was dumped, barely alive and with burns on 80 percent of his body, near a railway track on the outskirts of Paris. Discovered by a passerby who called for an ambulance, Halimi died on his way to the hospital.

The Bagneux ceremony came during a week of heightened anxiety about antisemitism in France, as new statistics released by Jewish communal defense organization SPCJ revealed that while Jews make up less than 1 percent of France’s population, they are the targets of 30 percent of racist attacks.

Documenting the number of antisemitic outrages in France since the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, the SPCJ noted that in that year, there were 744 antisemitic attacks, compared with just 82 the previous year. These high numbers have remained consistent each year throughout the last decade and a half.

Read article in full

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Turkish synagogue throws open its doors

Turkey’s small Jewish community got a rare chance to showcase its culture in Istanbul on Sunday during the European Days of Jewish Culture event. But cultural initiatives to break down antisemitism seem to have limited effect. Report in the Jewish Chronicle:

 The Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul, target of deadly bombings in 1986 and 2003.

“Our target is non-Jews who want to know more about us,” said Nisya Isman Allovi, director of the Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews that organised the event, which was attended by about 1,300 people.

Hatice Yilmaz and Halime Niyaz, 26-year-old divinity graduate students studying Jewish culture, were impressed with the professionalism of the events, which included a theatrical representation of a traditional Ashkenazi wedding, a living library and musical performances.

“For me, the best part is that there’s no prejudice here. Everyone is behaving really well. We have different religions, but we clapped for the same things during the concert,” Ms Niyaz said.

Both women said that such events can reduce antisemitism in Turkey.
“There can be prejudice sometimes, but that’s only because of a lack of knowledge and because the cultures have been kept apart,” Ms Yilmaz said.
Turkey’s 2,600-year-old Jewish community of approximately 17,000 has long been targeted with antisemitic stereotypes and hate speech from media outlets and politicians. According to a 2015 report by the Anti-Defamation League, 71 per cent of Turks agree with a majority of common antisemitic stereotypes.

The Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul, which is part of the heavily guarded complex that hosted the events, was hit by devastating attacks in 1986 and 2003.
On July 20, the synagogue was pelted with stones by Turkish ultranationalists protesting against new security restrictions in Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque. “We will prevent your freedom to worship here just like you are preventing ours there,” Kursat Mican, district leader of the ultranationalist Alperen Hearths, said at the time.

“Unfortunately, there is no difference between a Jew and Israel in the eyes of some people, so whenever there is a problem between Turkey and Israel, it affects the Jews of Turkey,” said Karel Valansi, a columnist with Turkey’s Jewish-focused Şalom newspaper and participant in the living library exhibit.
Ms Valansi explained that Jews in Turkey were generally very low-key about their identity for fear of discrimination, but that this was beginning to change. “We are more vocal for sure,” she said.

Antisemitic statements from prominent politicians have not helped, such as when ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party MP Samil Tayyar tweeted “May your race vanish and may you always have your Hitler,” during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge operation in the Gaza Strip in 2014. Even President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was heard calling a protester in 2014 the “spawn of Israel”.

However, Rifat Bali, historian and expert in Turkey’s Jewish community, said there had always been antisemitism in the country, but that it had become easier to see now with social media. He added that the AK Party had made important overtures to religious minorities like the Jews.

“In general, the AKP has been positive, trying to solve problems, which they have,” he said.

In 2011, Mr Erdogan announced that hundreds of properties seized from minorities after a 1936 proclamation would be returned or compensation provided. This has been happening gradually, when ownership can be proved in a court.

In 2015, there were several positive initiatives, including the first publicly celebrated Chanukah, and the restoration and inauguration of the Edirne Great Synagogue in the country’s north-west.

Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former opposition member of the Turkish parliament, said the AKP’s mixed record on religious minorities was the result of self-serving policies.

“Erdogan understands well the electoral benefits of scapegoating and smearing Jews and Christians in Turkish domestic politics,” he wrote in an email.
“At the same time, Erdogan also has a keen awareness that symbolic benevolent acts toward Jews and Christians help improve his tarnished global image. So, there have been well-choreographed positive steps.”

Ms Valansi said that hate speech in the Turkish press, particularly in Islamist newspapers, still runs rampant, despite the re-establishment of formal relations between Turkey and Israel.

“I can easily find three or four articles containing antisemitism on a daily basis,” she said. “The lack of anti-hate-speech legislation shows indifference toward antisemitism.”

Mr Bali argued that the AKP, like governments before, has failed to stem the tide of antisemitism in Turkey because its political base largely believes the negative stereotypes and will always come before the tiny Jewish minority.

Read article in full

Friday, November 10, 2017

Leading refugee advocates receive awards in Israel

The 30 November events to remember Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran kicked off yesterday in Israel with a presentation to two leading advocates, one in Israel and one in the diaspora.  

 Levana Zamir presents the Ot Kavod award to Gina Waldman

A packed auditorium of more than 250 people at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque watched Levana Zamir, president of the Coalition of Organisations of Jews from Arab Countries present the organisation's annual Ot Kavod award to Nissim Zeev and Gina-Bublil-Waldman.

 Member of Knesset Rav Nissim Zeev won the award for initiating  the bill to secure, for the first time ever in Israel, the right of  Jewish Refugees to compensation. The law was passed in February 2010 by the Knesset. This bill created an unstoppable  momentum,  leading to other Knesset bills and  educational programmes at schools all over Israel.

 Levana Zamir presenting the award to Nissim Zeev

Gina Bublil-Waldman, President of JIMENA – Jews Indigenous to the Middle-East and North Africa,  received the award for her long and relentless work for the recognition of Jewish refugees and her  work today of hasbara in  more than 200 universities and campuses across the United States. Her campaign explains the history and tragedy of almost million Jewish Refugees who were expelled or compelled to flee, leaving behind not only their assets, but their own identity as indigenous Jews born and living in this region for millennia.
This prestigious and moving event was held under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Equality, headed by Minister Gila Gamliel, as well as the Ben-Zvi Institute headed by Prof. Eyal Ginio and the Ministry of Education.

 MK Anat Berko announces: 'The Iraq-Jewish archive will never return to Iraq'

To close,  a documentary movie of 40 minutes, produced by the Coalition of Organisations of Jews from Arab Countries, was screened for the first time, to illustrate the whole history and tragedy of the exodus of indigenous Jews from seven Arab and Islamic countries. Two-thirds of them made Aliya, helped to build and develop the State of Israel, and  today comprise more than 50% of the Jewish population in Israel.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Jewish escapee from Iraq fears for the Kurds

 Jimmy Ezra and his siblings were among more than 2,000 Iraqi Jews who were helped by Kurdish Peshmerga to escape from the Ba’athist regime during the 1970s. Here he talks to Ben Cohen of JNS News about his fears for the Kurds following the disastrous referendum on independence. (With thanks: Janet)

“One day in 1970, my brother Farid was walking in the street when he was stopped for an ID check,” Ezra recalled. “He had a permit exempting him from serving in the army, and on every page it was written in red, yahudi, yahudi, yahudi (Jew).”

Farid was arrested and imprisoned on a spying charge. His voice breaking, Ezra recalled how his brother was beaten and tortured by his jailers until he suffered a nervous breakdown. Farid was then transferred to a prison for the criminally insane.

“In the hot summer, the prisoners would all run outside to drink the unfiltered river water that was brought in by a truck in the morning — they would fight over the dirty water,” Ezra said. “My aunt would send me with food and clean water for my brother, and he would beg me to take him away.”

At this point, Ezra said, he and his sister Gilda decided that it was time to leave Iraq. He ventured north to Iraqi Kurdistan, then enjoying a measure of autonomy under an agreement with Baghdad that was soon reneged upon by Saddam Hussein. Arriving in the Kurdish town of Haj Omran on the Iranian border, he came across an Iraqi Jewish family he knew who were taken across the border into Iran that same night. Ezra, meanwhile, was given a mattress in a room where he bedded down with ten Kurds. “I told them about how the Jews were suffering,” he said.  “They promised to take me to Mustafa Barzani the following day.”

Masssoud Barzani in his youth

The next morning, Barzani’s aides hatched a plan that involved Ezra and another Jewish family returning to Baghdad to collect their relatives, after which they would travel to a meeting point back in northern Iraq. “That was on Monday; on the Thursday, back in Baghdad, I woke up my brother Farid, who was suffering badly from his trauma in prison, and I told him, ‘Come on, you and me and Gilda are going on a short vacation,'” he said.

Had they been stopped and discovered at one of the many security checkpoints along the way, certain imprisonment in a Ba’athist jail would have awaited — and, indeed, the family was pulled over by a soldier. “Luckily, the guy was an idiot,” Ezra remembered. “He couldn’t understand why my brother had an exemption permit from the army, so our driver kept explaining, ‘He’s not well, he’s not well.’ Eventually, the soldier said, ‘Ok, ok, you can go.'”

Arriving at the meeting point agreed with Barzani’s advisers, Ezra remembered that a high-level Kurdish intelligence official “came out and started briefing us.”
To maintain secrecy around Kurdish assistance to escaping Iraqi Jews, the official instructed Ezra and those with him to personally approach Masoud Barzani, who would be sitting in a cafe at an agreed time, and pretend they had a brother imprisoned by Kurdish forces. “We had to act,” Ezra said. “We had to beg and plead in front of Masoud.”

Following this ruse, the Ezra siblings got into a jeep alongside  Masoud. At the border with Iran, Masoud got out and bade his farewells. “We had a gift for Masoud and his adviser,” Ezra said. “It was a Parker 21 pen, that was a big deal back then. We wanted them to take it, but they refused and refused. They said, ‘We are doing this because we care and we want to help you.'”

“They never took any money, any gifts, unlike the smugglers who would rob the Iraqi Jews they were supposed to be helping,” Ezra continued.

After crossing into Iran on September 1, the Ezras survived a long and arduous journey to Tehran, where they stayed at the aptly-named Hotel Sinai — then full of escaped Iraqi Jews in transit with the Jewish Agency’s assistance. “On October 2, we arrived in America,” Ezra said. “We came to New York.” Many other Iraqi Jews who escaped around the same time went to Israel, as well as the UK, Canada and other countries.

Read article in full

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The impact of the Suez crisis on Egypt's Jews

Last November was the 60th anniversary of the exodus of 25,000 Jews from Egypt. Lyn Julius examines what happened in Fathom (Autumn 2017): 

 Jews leaving Port Said (Photo: Jewish Agency)
A quarter of the Jews were Egyptian. As a result of an increasingly restrictive nationality policy privileging ‘real Egyptians’, 40 per cent were stateless. To possess a British or French passport did not require the holder to have lived in Britain or France or even to speak the language (of 24,000 British subjects in Egypt, only 45 per cent were from Britain itself and a quarter were Maltese. Of 21,270 French, only 40 per cent were from France; 33 per cent were from the Maghreb.)[1]

In 1948, the repercussions from the establishment of Israel reverberated in the Cairo Hara or Jewish quarter: over two hundred Jews were killed in a bombing campaign between June and November. A first wave of 20,000 Jews fled, mostly to Israel.

The troubles had largely left Egypt’s substantial Jewish bourgeoisie untouched. Prominent in banking, finance, retail, land development, transport, commerce and industry, they continued living comfortable lives, frequenting clubs and cafés, and spending their summers by the sea.

In 1952, King Farouk was deposed in a military coup and sent into exile. For the Jews, General Neguib’s meeting with Chief Rabbi Nahum Effendi promised a new dawn. But Colonel Nasser, Neguib’s successor, was to use the Sinai campaign as a pretext for expelling almost 25,000 Jews and confiscating their property.

Expulsion begins

Invoking emergency laws, Nasser set about expelling British and French subjects. Jews were expelled in two waves: the first (accounting for some 500 Jews) [2] were given 24 hours to leave. The second was ordered to leave the country within two to seven days with their families.[3] Clemy Lazarus, née Menir, was five years old:

As a consequence of the Suez Crisis, my mother, along with all British and French ‘citizens’ were unceremoniously expelled from Egypt. I have a memory of military personnel marching through our apartment delivering the expulsion order.
This caused my parents and grandparents severe heartache as my parents had five children and my mother was, at the time, six months pregnant with number six. She was obliged to leave for England on her own, without her husband, but with five children in tow. She was 24 years of age at the time. She spoke French and Arabic but no English and she knew no other culture than the Jewish/Egyptian one in which she grew up.
She was compelled to leave without any money or possessions of any value. She did, however, manage to buy a few gold bangles that she wore as jewellery for the purpose of sustaining us down the line.

Clemy’s father, being an Egyptian national, was not expelled and remained behind. Clemy’s mother was sent with her children to refugee camps in Leeds and Kidderminster:

After six months my mother was at the end of her tether. My mother is the sweetest, most mild mannered, excruciatingly shy woman. Nevertheless, astonishingly, she found the strength to march into the office of the commander of the refugee camp. She banged on his desk, swiped all the paperwork to the floor and in her best newly-acquired English she declared: ‘Captain Marsh, bring my husband!’ To his credit, Captain Marsh did his utmost to make this happen and shortly afterwards my father joined us in the camps.

Back in Egypt, It became clear that in the initial confusion the authorities themselves were torn between expulsion and detention:

In the anteroom of expulsion countless thousands of Europeans of all nationalities and creeds are relegated in their own interest to house arrest. The entire British community has remained indoors, with two hours in the morning to take the dog for a run. Many have been arrested in shipping offices and on the steps of the British embassy (in the care of the Swiss) owing to clashes between the Egyptian ‘keeping-in authority’ and the Egyptian ‘expelling authority’

By the end of November, the expulsion orders were extended to stateless Jews, as well as those of Egyptian nationality.

George Naldrett-Jays, a retired senior British police commander in Alexandria, fulminated at the injustice:
The motives of revenge and retaliation meted out to the British and French aggressors were all too apparent in the heartless harassing of those of Jewish faith – whatever the official spokesman may say to the contrary – to Jews of all nationalities, including Egyptian nationals and Jews residing in Egypt with no known national status.[4]

Some 900 more Jews were arrested by 7 November 1956.[5] They were sent to prisons and detention camps. Of the 500 interned in the Jewish school at Abbasiya, Cairo, half were stateless. Old women, half of them stateless, were among the 42 Jews detained at the Jewish Abraham Btesh school in Cairo. Of the 300 kept at Les Barrages prison, Cairo, half were stateless, the other half were UK and France subjects.

Read article in full

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Economist is PR mouthpiece for Morocco

It’s November in Morocco – time for the annual fixture of the cultural calendar – the Essaouira Music festival. The Economist has been gushing about what it calls ‘Morocco’s little idyll of Jewish-Muslim coexistence’. Yet, the Nov. 2nd article admits that only three Jews still live in Essaouira – a city which used to have as many Jews as Muslims before the great  exodus to Israel. Fisking by Lyn Julius in UK Media Watch:

At the Essaouira music festival (Photo: The Economist)

One of those Jews is Jacquy Sebag, who works in Casablanca and was attacked with an axe by Muslim extremists in 2002 during the Palestinian intifada. You would never guess that unpleasant things ever happened to Jews in Morocco, which the Economist portrays as a haven from European persecution.

It is true that many Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal in the 15th century fled to Morocco, but it is misleading to infer that Jews and Muslims had always coexisted peacefully. In 1492 the Jewish community of Touat was wiped out after incitement by the fundamentalist al-Maghili. The 15th century was also the century when thousands of beldiyeen, Jews who had been settled in Fez for centuries, converted to Islam.  Moroccan Jews suffered more massacres than anywhere else in the Arab world, including the Oujda and Jerada riots in 1948. 

As the Economist correctly reports, no Arab country has gone to the lengths of Morocco to revive its Jewish heritage. There are sound economic and strategic reasons for this: Tourism  attracts 40,000 Jewish tourists, of which 3,000 are Israelis (and not as reported), and is a major Moroccan industry.

Coexistence projects such as the Essaouira festival are mainly for external consumption. The ethnographer Aomar Boum writes in Memories of Absence that the Jewish Museum in Casablanca  is almost unknown amongst Moroccans themselves.

Morocco has a strategic interest in projecting a positive image of Jewish-Muslim coexistence in order to gain US support for its claim to western Sahara. (It is the old antisemitic trope: Jews are thought to be behind US foreign policy). The mastermind behind this strategy is Andre Azoulay, who has been royal adviser on Jewish affairs since the 1990s. The Economist – and many other western media – are willing PR mouthpieces for the Moroccan government. 

The Moroccan king has made a calculated risk to promote Jewish culture in the face of increasing threats to his regime from Moroccan Islamists. In Essaouira itself, an Israeli resident, Noam Nir, witnessed rising antisemitism. 
But there is no avoiding the fact that the Jews, who in 1948 numbered 360,000, have now almost entirely disappeared from the country. The more Morocco promotes Jewish culture, the fewer Jews there are to enjoy it.

Read article in full

Monday, November 06, 2017

The Book of the Blog out this month

A book quoting the best of the material collected for Point of No Return is to be released on 9 November. UPROOTED by Lyn Julius is being published by Vallentine Mitchell and can be pre-ordered through their website or via Amazon.

Who are the Jews from Arab countries? What were relations with Muslims like? What made Jews leave countries where they had been settled for thousands of years? What lessons can we learn from the mass exodus of minorities from the Middle East?

Lyn Julius undertakes to answer all these questions and more in Uprooted, the culmination of 10 years of work studying these issues. Jews lived continuously in the Middle East and North Africa for almost 3,000 years. Yet, in just 50 years, their indigenous communities outside Palestine almost totally disappeared as more than 99 percent of the Jewish population fled.

Those with foreign passports and connections generally left for Europe, Australia or the Americas. Some 650,000, including a minority of ideological Zionists, went to Israel. Before the Holocaust they constituted 10 percent of the world s Jewish population, and now over 50 percent of Israel s Jews are from Arab and Muslim countries, mostly refugees or their descendants.

This same process is now repeating in Christian and other minority communities across the Middle East.

The book also assesses how well these Jews have integrated into Israel and how their struggles have been politicised. It charts the growing clamour for recognition, redress and memorialisation for these Jewish refugees, and looks at how their cause can contribute to peace and reconciliation between Israel and the Muslim world.

To obtain a 20 percent discount on the hardback price pre-order in the US and Canada through this link. quoting Code JULIUS17. For the rest of the world, use this link quoting Code JULIUS17. Offer valid until May 2018.