Friday, November 30, 2018

30 November events spread worldwide

Today is 30 November, designated as the Day to remember Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran. Commemorations have taken place in Jerusalem, New York, San Francisco, Montreal, Paris, Geneva, Dublin, Sydney, London, Birmingham, Miami, Oslo; there are more events to come. This article by Lyn Julius tells the story of just one refugee - in the Huffington Post.

 Linda Hakim left Iraq for London in 1970. But she has never been able to shake off the fear she had felt growing up as a Jew.

She heard mobs in Baghdad, after Israel’s Six Day War victory, screaming ‘death to Israel, death to the Jews.” She escaped a lynch mob only when her fast-thinking headmaster bundled her and a group of Jewish students into his VW Beetle.

 She will never forget the TV spectacle of nine innocent Jews — some only teenagers — swinging from the gallows in Baghdad’s main square in 1969 as hundreds of thousands sang and danced under the bodies.

Even when her family had boarded the plane bound for London having abandoned their home and possessions, they could not let down their guard. The Iraqi police arrested a classmate of Linda’s and escorted him off the plane.

Even today, every time she sees a police uniform, Linda’s heart races. Linda found a haven in England, and her children have grown up in freedom, tolerance and acceptance.

But in its obsession with Palestinian refugees, the world has never recognised the trauma that a greater number of Jewish refugees from 10 Arab lands and post-1979 Iran went through — human rights violations, wholesale robbery, seizure of property, internment, even execution.

The ethnic cleansing of the Arab world’s Jews preceded the persecution of its Christians, its Yazidis and others. On 23 June 2014, the Israeli Knesset passed a law designating 30 November as an official date in the calendar to remember the uprooting of almost one million Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran in the last 60 years.

Read article in full

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Jews from Arab countries demand UN recognition

Seventy years after the exodus and expulsion of some 850,000 Jews from Arab states and Iran, the heads of communities of Jews from Arab countries are demanding the United Nations officially recognize the suffering they were forced to endure. Arieh Kahana writes in Israel Hayom (with thanks: Lily)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres‏. – Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In a letter to U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, community leaders, among them Dr. Shimon Ohayon, director of Bar-Ilan University’s Dahan Center and chairman of the Alliance of Moroccan Immigrants wrote, “While the U.N. organizes events to mark the departure of 450,000 Palestinians from Israel upon the establishment of the state, following a war imposed on Israel, we do not see recognition of the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries.”

They said, “We believe the U.N. strives for justice for all refugees around the world, including Jewish refugees who were expelled from Arab lands. We therefore seek to establish a memorial day for the Jews’ expulsion from Arab lands.”

Read article in full

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Why are Jewish refugees so little known?

 The question of Arab and Islamist Jew-hatred goes to the heart of the conflict with Israel. So why have Jewish refugees from Arab countries been so neglected, Lyn Julius asks in the Jerusalem Post (with thanks: Jean-Loup)

Seventy years ago, the newly-established State of Israel opened the floodgates to hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees. Many were Holocaust survivors from the displaced persons camps or remnant communities of Eastern Europe, but the biggest contingent seeking refuge in Israel came from Arab and Muslim countries.

Yemenite Jews in a Ma'abara camp in 1950

The official day to remember the exodus of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran is November 30, but Jewish institutions and organizations around the world, in association with Israeli embassies,  are holding commemorative conferences, film screenings and lectures throughout November and into December.

More Jews (850,000) fled Arab countries than Palestinian refugees (approximately 711,000), and their exodus was one of the largest movements of non-Muslims from the region until the mass flight of Iraqi Christians. Although they were non-combatants, Jews had to run for their lives from persecution, arrests on false charges, mob violence and executions. Their property was seized and they were left destitute. The Arab and Muslim world has neither recognized, nor compensated them.

Yet the issue and its implications for peace has barely penetrated the Israel-Arab debate within Jewish communities, let alone trickled into mainstream consciousness.

The question of Arab and Islamist anti-Jewish hatred goes to the heart of the conflict with Israel. So  why have Jewish refugees been so neglected?
Israel treated the refugees as Zionists returning to their homeland. Mizrahi Jews were encouraged not to look back at the past, but to build new lives for themselves in Israel and the West.

Paying political lip service to a “settlement of the refugee problem,” Israel failed to spell out clearly in official texts that there were Jewish as well as Arab refugees. It feared that raising the Jewish refugee issue would only prompt the Arab side to raise their “refugee” issue. The Arab side did not cease doing so, while Israel remained silent. It is only in the last decade that the Israeli government has regretted what the late Tommy Lapid termed its “greatest public diplomacy blunder.”

The damage may seem irreversible. The failure to frame the refugee issue as an exchange of roughly equal populations has led to a lopsided view among academics and opinion-formers: the Palestinians are seen as the principal victims, the Israelis as interlopers from Europe, aggressors and dispossessors.
Mizrahi Jews, whose communities predate Islam by 1,000 years, have been written out of history. Even the Diaspora Jewish leadership and international Jewish groups fighting antisemitism and Israel’s cause project a eurocentric worldview. Their frame of reference is the Holocaust, not the destruction of the indigenous Jewish communities of the greater Middle East. Jews in general are seen to enjoy power, despite their history as a vulnerable minority, and enjoy “white privilege,” despite their ethnic origins in the Middle East. The new vogue for “intersectionality” pointedly excludes Jews.

Even where there is awareness of the mass expulsion of Jews from Arab lands, they are not generally seen as victims: their plight was apparently successfully resolved. In the fashionable “hierarchy of oppression” of marginalized groups, Jews rank well down the list.

When the press and media do focus on Mizrahi Jews, it is to promote the folklore that passes for Mizrahi history – the nostalgic celebration of tradition, costume, music and food. Desperate to show that the conflict is soluble, the media loves examples of commonality and interfaith collaboration between Jews and Arabs.
In other respects Mizrahi Jews are invisible, despite comprising over half of Israel’s Jewish population today. One journalist found it impossible to interest the US Jewish press in an article on Mizrahi poverty in Israel: “While poverty may be a Jewish concern abroad, wrapped up in such concepts as tikkun olam [repairing the world], it isn’t a sexy issue. African refugees in Israel are interesting, Jews from Africa less interesting,” he wrote.

n the decades while nothing was said about Jews from Arab countries, the myth took hold that Jews and Arabs lived in peace and harmony before the creation of Israel. Arab and Muslim anti-Jewish prejudice, like antisemitism generally, is often ignored, derided or downplayed. Academics or public figures who draw attention to Arab or Muslim antisemitism lay themselves open to charges of ‘islamophobia’.

Compounding the problem, Mizrahi Jews themselves have played down their sufferings (which paled, compared to that of Holocaust survivors). Following centuries of ingrained insecurity and dehumanization in the Arab world, minority “dhimmi” Christians and Jews did not ask for their rights, only favors. Jews from Arab countries are often themselves to blame for distorting their own history “to flatter” their enemies. The author Robert Saltoff found some North African Jews so anxious to put a positive spin on their treatment, they even claimed that “the Nazis were not so bad.”

Mordechai, the owner of a prosperous factory in Marrakesh, abandoned his business, house, and motherland to come to Israel with nothing because his daughter Rachel, diagnosed with a rare disease, was refused treatment in Morocco because she was Jewish. She eventually became blind because she was not treated in time. Yet Mordechai told his Israeli-born children and grandchildren that his motive was “Zionist.”

The Israeli government has finally woken up to the importance of the Jewish refugees for peace-making. In the five years since Jewish Refugee Day was added to the calendar by Knesset law, public awareness of the story of these Jews has slowly grown. But there is still a long, long way to go.

Read article in full

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Exiled Jews were prominent in the arts

With thanks: Ruth
 The Jamal sisters

In the run-up to 30 November, the official Day to Commemorate Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran, the World Jewish Congress has produced a short video on famous Jews in philosophy and the arts.

Among  others, the video tells the story of the Jamal sisters from Egypt, King Farouk's favourite belly dancers. They were on tour abroad when they received a message from their father not to return to Nasser's Egypt - 25,000 Jews were expelled after 1956.

Belly dancers admired by the Egyptian king

Monday, November 26, 2018

Festival of music and dance launches 30 November events

The first ever Festival of Oriental Ethnic Music and Dance captured an authentic Mizrahi spirit and joie de vivre in Tel Aviv earlier this week. The Festival was part of a series of events planned in Israel for the 30 November commemoration of the exodus of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran. 

For the first time ever, all the organisations of Jews from Arab and Muslim countries in Israel gathered to put on a Festival of Music and Folk Dance under the umbrella of the Coalition they established in Tel Aviv a few years ago. 
The festival featured dances from their respective Arab countries of birth such as Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Muslim countries like Iran, Afghanistan and Kurdistan. 

The Festival, presided by Levana Zamir,  head of the Coalition,  and attended by some 300 members, took place  in the great Wizo Ballroom in Tel Aviv, under the auspices of the Ben-Zvi Institute for Mizrahi Studies founded in 1947 in Jerusalem, and its new President Professor Ofra Tirosh-Baker from the Hebrew University. 
The festival was one of the Coalition's commemorative events for 30 November. These will culminate on 27 December 2018 with an academic conference at Tel Aviv University, titled "Light and Shadow in the absorption of the Great Aliya of Jews from Arab Countries – 70 years on". It will be the first time  that this topic will be explored in an academic setting by a joint initiative of academics and members of the Coalition of organisations representing Jews from Arab countries. 

Levana Zamir ( left) and Prof. Ofra Tirosh-Baker ( right) presenting the Coalition's Ot-Kavod to Dr. Stanley Urman.  Prof. Tirosh-Baker, is the first woman to head the Ben-Zvi Institute, founded in 1947 in Jerusalem.

Launching the Festival, the "Ot Kavod" (the Coalition's badge of honor) for 2018 was given this year to Dr. Stanley Urman, co-founder and Vice President of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, for his long and devoted dedication and  work to the cause in Israel and all over the world, leading to the US Congress Resolution  in 2008 affirming the rights of Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries. Israel's recognition followed, with a first law passed in the Knesset in 2010, and a second law in 2014. Mr. Edwin Shuker, a former JJAC President, came especially from London to attend this special and moving ceremony.

There followed an academic panel discussion on Jewish stars in music and dance in Arab countries, featuring  outstanding artists such as Layla Murad, Daoud Hosni, Elias Mohaddeb, Ya'acoub Sanua and others ( Egypt), Sheikh Raymond (murdered in 1961 in Algeria) and the Philharmonic Mallouf Orchestra (Tunisia), to name but a few.

After a rich buffet supper boasting the best of Mizrahi delicacies - koubeh, kebab, baba ghanoush  and other salads with Iraqi laffa and pita, ma'amoul, ka'ak, kourabieh, etc.. the second half featured brilliant dancing by groups of 20 professionals  on stage, wearing original and colourful dress from their respective countries. They performed Yemenite and Kurdish folk dances and ethnic songs in all dialects of Arabic. The audience took to the floor when the Egyptian songs were played. The evening closed with a joyful Horah from the Fifties.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Historian Schama: Jews from Arab lands 'so important'

Prominent historian Simon Schama on Friday tweeted a call for commemorating the expulsion of over 800,000 Jews from Arab countries that followed the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. (with thanks: Avril)

“This is so important — 800,000 Jewish refugees — When exactly next week is the day of commemoration of THEIR naqba?” Schama asked, using the Arabic word for “catastrophe” commonly used to describe the experience of Arab refugees during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.

Schama’s acclaimed recent book and TV series, “A History of the Jews,” includes a detailed account of the uprooting of Jewish communities from North Africa to Yemen, in which he contrasts the silence around this question with the attention given to the Palestinian issue. November 30 — a week from today — is marked in Israel as an official commemoration of the expulsion of the Jews from the Arab countries and, later, from Iran.

Read article in full

Saturday, November 24, 2018

19 synagogues pray for Jewish dead in Arab lands

Prayers were recited in 19 synagogues across the world in remembrance of Jews buried in inaccessible cemeteries in Arab lands.

Among the synagogues who took part  in a mass Kaddish and Hashkaba on Shabbat 24 November were congregations in  Canada, the US, the UK, Mexico and Germany.

The mass Kaddish was the initiative of  a Montreal resident of Iraqi origin, Sass Peress.   For decades, families have been prevented from reciting prayers at the gravestones of their loved ones buried in Arab lands. 

Over a year ago, Peress embarked on a project to locate and clean up his grandfather's grave in the Sadr City Jewish cemetery in Baghdad, Iraq. This was done in secrecy in case of official interference.  Before long the clean-up was extended to 150 graves. Their inscriptions were photographed and translated into English by Sami Sourani, a historian of the Iraqi-Jewish community based in Montreal. The catalogue of cleaned-up graves  has beenuploaded to the Spanish synagogue's website.

Painting by Sass Peress' cousin Sol of their grandfather's gravestone.

Encouraged by the response, Peress hopes that the prayers will be recited annually. He has learned of similar clean-up and cataloguing initiatives in other Arab lands, and  has set himself a target of l00 participating synagogues for next year. He also intends to obtain a photographic record of all 3,000 graves in the Sadr City cemetery.

Jewish cemeteries across the Arab world have been vandalised or destroyed by Arab governments. The Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein reportedly planted grenades among the gravestones in Sadr City Cemetery. The government under General Kassem (1958 - 61) refused to revoke an order to bulldoze the old Baghdad Jewish cemetery so that a highway could be built. Most of the tombs were destroyed, including the mass grave containing the remains of the victims of the 1941 Farhud.

 However, Sass Peress has been heartened by the acts of kindness which made his project possible:

"An important message  is that while there were and remain people who do bad things of all faiths and nationalities, none of this initiative would have happened without the kindness of two Iraqi Muslims.  We must grow the opportunities for goodness between people. Hopefully these kind acts are the seeds to many more."

If your synagogue or community centre would like to join this initiative in 2019  please email Sass Peress at

Mass kaddish planned for Jews buried in Arab lands

Friday, November 23, 2018

'Right of return' cry is muted by full story

In the run-up to 30 November, the Day to commemorate the exodus of Jewish refugees from Arab Countries, Lyn Julius of Harif reminds readers at Jewish News that Jewish refugees are still an unresolved injustice in spite of their absorption into Israel and West. She reveals that US money for Palestinian refugee resettlement was diverted in the 1950s.

 The Iraqi-Jewish 'war rug' from Carol Isaacs' (aka The Surreal McCoy) Wolf of Baghdad. War rugs had woven into them objects and memories from the life of the community.

Every November since 2014, my organisation Harif  – the UK Association for Jews from the Middle East and North Africa  - has been observing a Day to remember the exodus of almost a million Jews from Arab countries and Iran. Our official commemoration was on 21 November : the JW3 premiere  of The Wolf of Baghdad, an audio-visual memoir with live music, telling one Iraqi-Jewish family’s story.

From the 1940s on, Iraq was a deadly place to be a Jew. It was the only country to execute Jews as ‘Zionist’ spies. The 2,600-year-old Jewish community, which wrote the Babylonian Talmud, endured vicious persecution. Most were airlifted to Israel.

No Jews who fled Arab countries still  consider themselves refugees. They rebuilt their lives and were granted full civil rights in Israel and the West.
Yet our TV screens are alive with stories of Palestinian ‘refugees’ ( who still claim a ‘right of return’ to what is now Israel. This demand, although non-existent in international law, is not simply a matter of rhetoric. 

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA,  keeps the refugee issue alive by confining Palestinians to camps. It funds schools and welfare. Donald Trump raised a storm when he recently cut off UNWRA funding.

  Even the Israel security establishment objected, fearing that dismantling UNWRA would endanger Israel. But education and healthcare could be turned over to the Palestinian Authority, the Jordanian government, or UNHCR, the agency which deals with all refugees globally.

 Recent research notes that the United States actually discharged its obligations to Palestinian refugees in the early 1950s.

 In addition to the Marshall Plan to rehabilitate Europe after World War II, the US gave money to Arab states and Israel to solve the refugee problem created by the 1948 War of Independence. The American aid was to have been split evenly between Israel and the Arab states, with each side receiving $50 million to build infrastructure to absorb refugees. The money to resettle the Arab refugees was handed over to the UN,  and the Americans gave Arab countries another $53 million for “technical cooperation.” In effect, the Arab side received double the money given to Israel even though Israel took in more refugees, including Jews from Arab lands.

But none of this aid went into resettling Arab refugees. Instead UNRWA gives successive generations permanent refugee status, even those with other nationalities.  The original 700, 000 (no more than 30,000 are still alive)  have burgeoned into 5 million. The great “March of Return” on Israel’s 1967 border with Gaza demonstrates that the marchers’ objective is not a two-state solution, but to overrun the Jewish state with “returning” Arabs.

As long as the “right of return” is the cornerstone of the Palestinians’ strategy, the Jewish refugees from Arab lands remain its antidote. All but 4,500 Jews have been forced out by state-sanctioned terror, abandoning billions of dollars’ worth of land and property —equivalent to four times the size of Israel itself. 

A grave, unresolved injustice was done to the Jews. But they are a living reminder that  two sets of refugees exchanged places in the Middle East in roughly equal numbers.  Recognising this fact can help achieve an equitable solution and be a step to peace.

Harif founder Lyn Julius is the author of  Uprooted: How 3,000 Years of Jewish Civilisation in the Arab World Vanished Overnight (Vallentine Mitchell). details of Harif events at

Read article in full


Thursday, November 22, 2018

Mass kaddish planned for Jews buried in Arab lands

For the first time, prayers will be recited remotely for Jews buried in Arab lands on Shabbat 24 November at synagogues in North and central America and the UK.
The Baghdad Jewish cemetery in 2003
 The following synagogues will take part in the mass Kaddish and Hashkaba
 The Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue, Montreal.
 Shaare Zedek, Montreal.
 Or Hahayim, Montreal.
 Montreal Open Shul & Shir Chadash, Montreal.
 Chabad NDG, Montreal.
 Temple Israel,  Ottawa.
 Temple Rodef Shalom,Virginia.
  Bene Neharayim, Iraqi Synagogue,  New York.
 Babylonian Jewish Center, Great Neck, New York.
  Magen David Sephardic Congregation, San Francisco.
  Kahal Joseph Congregation, Los Angeles.
Beit Moshe, Mexico City.
 Bevis Marks S&P Sephardi Synagogue, London.
 Lauderdale Road S&P Sephardi Synagogue, London.
 Wembley S&P Sephardi Synagogue, London.
 S&P Synagogue, Holland Park, London. 

The global initiative comes from Sass Peress of Montreal. Over a year ago, Peress embarked on a project to locate and clean up his grandfather's grave in the Sadr City Jewish Cemetery in Baghdad, Iraq. This was done in secrecy in case of official interference.  Before long the clean-up was extended to 150 graves. Their inscriptions were photographed and translated into English by Sami Sourani, a historian of the Iraqi-Jewish community based in Montreal. The catalogue was then uploaded to the Spanish synagogue's website.

The grave of Abraham Selim Reuven Dangoor
Peress is hoping to get all 3,000 graves in the Sadr City Cemetery photographed. He will give an account of the clean-up project at the Spanish synagogue on Shabbat.

The former Jewish cemetery dating back to 1642 was destroyed after 1958 under the rule of General Kassem. The community was able to exhume only some graves of dignitaries and rebury them on the new site in Sadr City.  Sass Peress notes 'a lack of respect' for the graves on the part of the authorities.

It is customary for Jewish families to visit the graves of their loved ones at least once a year, but the vast majority of Jewish cemeteries in Arab countries remain inaccessible. 

It is hoped that the initiative to recite the prayers for the dead will be repeated in the future, with more and more synagogues joining in.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Exodus is not yet on the global Jewish agenda

We are approaching the 30 November, the date to commemorate the exodus of Jews from Arab countries and Iran. Ashley Perry is one of the architects of the law designating Jewish Refugee Day. Writing in JNS News,  he understood that the more he pressed the issue, which by international, U.S. and Israeli law must be part of any resolution to the conflict, the more he realised that Jews in Israel and abroad are not even aware of it.

Growing up in a thriving Jewish community, attending a Jewish school, and being involved in the Jewish community and Zionist organizations, I am astounded now, thinking back, how little was taught about the long and illustrious history of the Jewish communities of the Middle East and North Africa, and their subsequent expulsion.

How many are taught about the Jewish communities of Algeria, Egypt, Syria and Yemen—to name but a few of many nations now completely without a Jewish presence?

While in government, we often raised this issue on the international stage and at the foreign ministry under the leadership of then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and even initiated a now annual event at the United Nations solely devoted to the issue of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries with our partners in the World Jewish Congress and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

However, the more we pressed the issue, which by international, U.S. and Israeli law must be part of any resolution to our conflict, the more I understood that Jews in Israel and abroad are not even aware of it.

Dr. Ohayon created for the first time ever a Knesset caucus for Jewish refugees from Arab countries, and although the meetings were well-attended and frequent, the attendees were mostly the survivors of pogroms in the Arab world and the expellees themselves, and few from the following generations.

To spread greater understanding of the issue abroad, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bureau for World Jewish Affairs and World Religions, headed by Akiva Tor, we created a traveling exhibition that would be sent to embassies, consulates, Jewish communities and organizations around the world to print out locally and display at relevant events surrounding the date. (The exhibition is still available for anyone who wants to receive the PDF slides.)

Every year, more events are held around the world, organized with the assistance of Israel’s embassies and consulates, and the local Jewish communities. But it is still not enough. We can still see that the history of the Jews from the Middle East and North Africa is not even close to the global Jewish agenda.

It is rarely part of any high-level Jewish or pro-Israel conference, barely touched in any pedagogic or educational syllabi, or addressed by any mainstream Jewish or pro-Israel organizations.

Before we ask the world to recognize and address their moral, legal and historic rights, we should inform ourselves about the history of the communities, as well as their cleansing and extinction during the 20th century.

For many around the world, Jewish history and culture is largely defined by the Jews of Eastern and Central Europe. Still, the Jewish communities of the Middle East and North Africa bestowed great scholarship, cultural and economic successes on many occasions without parallel anywhere in the world.

It is an uphill battle and one our opponents do not want to become widely known because it flips on its head all standard notions about the conflict, including conquest, oppression and indigeneity. I know of an academic who tried to hold a purely historical conference on the history of the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa, and was turned away by dozens of American universities, even Jewish-studies departments, because the subject matter was considered “too controversial.”

Read article in full

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Yemenite hennas are all the rage

 The pre-wedding Henna ceremony is experiencing a revival in Israel.  None is more elaborate than the Yemenite, where the bride wears a heavy head piece decorated with flowers and jewels. Fascinating article and pictures in the New York Times (With thanks: Michelle)
In a town that in the 1950s served as an immigrant transit camp for Jewish Yemenites, members gathered in an elaborately decorated venue outfit to echo traditional life in Yemen, complete with a fake well and photographs of the new Yemeni immigrants in Israel. The town was over 1,000 miles from Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a, which influenced the most striking look of the night: a tall cone-shaped headpiece, the tashbuk, traditionally made of pearls and flowers, accessorized with silver and gold jewelry. 

At a recent henna celebration at the Yemeni Heritage Center in Rosh Ha’Ayin, Israel, the bride had three ensemble changes, each representing a city or region in Yemen. Although both the bride and groom were raised in Israel, honoring their Yemeni heritage was something important to them.

“I am Yemenite on both sides, and it’s a celebration of my wedding,” the bride, Meyrav Yehud, 24, said. “These are my roots.”

The henna ceremony, a pre-wedding event which has been a tradition in Asian, North African and Middle Eastern cultures, where women paint designs, or in this case place dye onto the skin of the bride and her guests, was held about a week before the wedding. In Yemen, the henna dye was believed to symbolize fertility; the deeper the color of the dye, the better it was for the woman. In some cases, they would apply it for days.

The tradition of henna ceremonies was popular in Yemeni society, with Jews and Muslims sharing a common custom. In 1949, Jews from all over Yemen were airlifted to Israel in a yearlong effort known as Operation Magic Carpet. (Smaller numbers came earlier, pre-state, from the end of the 19th century, and in subsequent migrations.) Many tried to bring traditional bridal garments and jewelry, but because of their heavy weight, the majority of the items were left behind. During early years after the founding of the state, Jews emigrated from over 80 countries and from several ethnic groups, forging a new Israeli identity that was often favored over the languages and other aspects of diaspora identities. Mizrahi Jews from North African and Middle Eastern countries were often looked down upon by the Ashkenazi establishment and pressured to leave their diaspora culture behind, and thus, henna ceremonies became smaller and more discreet among the Jewish Yemenite community.

That changed somewhat in 1965 when the Israel Museum in Jerusalem featured an exhibit of a Jewish bride from Sana’a, Yemen. Showcasing the garment was significant because it honored a part of the diaspora culture. But it wasn’t until the late 1970s, as a result of a political shift in Israel, that people started talking about ethnic pride in Israel.

Dr. Carmella Abdar, a professor in Folk Culture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Achva Academic College, said that in contemporary Israel, the headpiece is made in advance for the bride. But traditionally in Yemen, artisans would assemble the headpiece by hand on the bride herself, who couldn’t move for hours. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Minister's Israel links cause firestorm

It was bound to happen. The appointment of the Jew Rene Trabelsi as Tourism Minister in the Tunisian cabinet has unleashed a storm of criticism. Trabelsi is accused of being too sympathetic to Israel, which he has visited several times. YNet News reports:

 Rene Trabelsi in Parliament

The appointment of a Jewish businessman, Rene Trabelsi, as Tunisia’s tourism minister is causing a firestorm in the country, Hadashot TV reported on Sunday.
The Tunisian parliament last week approved Trabelsi’s appointment as part of a cabinet reshuffle proposed by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.

Trabelsi, in becoming minister of tourism in the Muslim Arab country, became only the third member of the small minority of 2,000 Jews to enter a cabinet since Tunisia's independence in 1956.

Trabelsi is considered pro-Israel. Over the past few years he has visited Israel several times and even believes that Tunisia should maintain diplomatic relations with Israel.

This fact, according to Hadashot TV, has resulted in many demanding his dismissal.

"The appointment of Tunisian Jew Rene Trabelsi as minister of tourism is one of the main issues that sparked controversy and debate among public opinion," said Ziad al-Hani, an expert on Tunisian politics who resides in Tunis who was quoted in the report.

"Many claim that he is unable to head the ministry because of conflicts of interest. He was the owner of tourism agencies and airlines. This contradicts his role as minister. He is also accused of supporting normalization with Israel. He makes repeated visits to Israel and brings from there Tunisian Jews to visit the synagogue in Ghriba,” he added.

Mohamed Abu, who heads the Tunisian Democratic Movement, was quoted in the report as saying that there is no connection between the religion of the new minister and the opposition to his appointment.

Read article in full

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Airlifted refugees are successful social climbers

 Seventy years ago, Israel pioneered airlifts and sealifts to bring hundreds of thousands of  poor Middle Eastern and North African Jews to its shores. Despite the social and economic challenges, these Jews have reached the summit in politics and the military and several are self-made business tycoons. Fascinating article by Amos Atsa-El in the Jerusalem Post:

 Iraqi Jews arriving in Israel in 1950

IT STARTED in Yemen, whence it later proceeded north, to Iraq, then west, to Morocco, and finally back east, to Ethiopia, opposite the Yemeni shores where it began.

Back in Yemen, having just learned of the United Nations’ Partition Resolution, a mob gathered in Aden and stormed its 5,000 Jews.

The pogrom began December 2, 1947 and lasted three days, after which 78 Jews lay dead, more than 100 stores stood looted, and four synagogues had been burned to dust.

The embryonic Jewish state’s leaders therefore sought ways to salvage Yemen’s 50,000 Jews. The community’s consequent relocation would prove seminal, both logistically and socially.

Though still fighting its War of Independence, Israel decided to airlift Yemen’s Jews.

Deploying Alaska Airlines’ handful of pilots and small fleet of C-46s and DC-4s, Israeli agents organized Yemen’s Jews in a transit camp in Aden, from which they dispatched in less than two years some 80 flights. By 1950 they had carried to Israel 48,875 Yemenite Jews.

“Did you ever fly before this?” then-Labor Minister Golda Meir asked an old man as he emerged from the airplane. He hadn’t, but in reply to Meir’s next question said he was not afraid to fly. “How come?” she asked, and the man replied by reciting, in its entirety, Isaiah 40, including the verse “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings, as eagles.”

THE LOGISTICAL task seemed beyond the abilities of a small and penniless state, yet it was carried out fully, making organized exodus a recurring theme in Israel’s first 43 years.

In Iraq, more than 110,000 Jews were airlifted in some 900 flights between 1951 and 1952, with many of the passengers initially smuggled to Iran.

The following decade the spectacle moved from Asia to Africa, and from air to sea, as 80,000 Jews were shipped from Morocco to Israel in 1961-1964.

Finally, and most dramatically, 14,325 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted within 36 hours in 1991 by 35 Israeli jets.

Seventy years after these operations began, they underscore the titanic effort to reunite the previously disjointed Jewish nation.

The geographic success is self-evident, as Middle Eastern Jewry ended up mostly in Israel. Diplomatically, too, there was some priceless windfall from this effort, as Iraqi Jewry’s airlift led Israeli agents to establish ties with the Iranian government, and at one point fly Iraqi Jews to Israel with Air Iran’s predecessor, Iranian Airways.

“That’s how we paved the way for Iran’s de facto recognition of Israel in March 1950, and that’s how we created the beginning of Israel’s diplomatic mission in Iran,” recalled in his book, “Operation Babylon” (1985) Shlomo Hillel, the Baghdadi-born Jew who oversaw this operation at age 25 and later served as Israel’s ambassador to Nigeria, minister of police, and speaker of the Knesset.

Socially, however, the exodus operations’ aftermath was daunting, as many Middle Eastern Jews – unlike Hillel, who was born to a family of Westernized tea importers – were challenged by Israel’s Western culture, much the way current-day Europe challenges its Muslim immigrants.

Having usually arrived with meager resources, thousands of the new immigrants were at an economic disadvantage. Moreover, veteran Israelis had mostly European roots, and as such were products of the enlightenment movement and industrial revolution. The airlift’s arrivals, by contrast, were mostly traditional and poor, and often less formally educated.

Some therefore doubted the young state’s ability to glue together its new and veteran populations. They were proven wrong.

FOR DECADES, social gaps between Israel’s European and Middle Eastern Jews were a major national challenge, which in one memorable case – in 1959 – also resulted in several days of statewide riots. More recently, Ethiopian Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv in protest of what they feel is their discrimination by police.

Even so, Israeli Jews’ shared religious background provided sufficient national glue to build a new society that is coalescing faster than Israel’s founders predicted.

The Yemenite man whom Golda Meir met on the tarmac was accepted by everyone as a Jew. His biblical knowledge and Judaic observance made it obvious. The same went for other Middle Eastern communities.

Iraqi Jews were descended from the scholars who wrote the Babylonian Talmud. Syrian Jews preserved for centuries the world’s most ancient Torah scroll. Egyptian Jewry yielded Maimonides, the greatest Jewish philosopher. Tunisian Jewry prided on its antiquity, reflected by the community of Djerba, a Mediterranean island whose Jews were all Kohanim, meaning offspring of biblical Jerusalem’s priests.

Like Yemen’s Jews, who believed their forebears arrived in Arabia following Babylonia’s conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, and like Ethiopia’s Jews, who believe they arrived in Africa in the wake of King Solomon’s alliance with the Queen of Sheba, Djerba’s Jews believed their ancestors arrived in Africa centuries before Jewish communities emerged in Europe.

Still, Mideastern Jewry shrank from 50% of world Jewry in the 17th century to 10% by the 19th century, due to the growing gap in development during those years between Europe and the Ottoman Empire. That is how European Jews came to see their Middle Eastern brethren as exotic Jews.

Today, with more than one in three Israelis at least partly Mideastern, that sense of exoticism is itself an anachronism. The air- and sealifted Jews’ social climb has been altogether dramatic.

As noted here recently in a different context (“Unsung heroism,” May 14, 2018), since 1982 5 of 10 IDF chiefs of staff hailed from the Middle Eastern immigrations, as did 4 of 9 ministers of defense, 3 of 10 foreign ministers, 5 of 15 finance ministers, and 2 of the Israel Police’s last 3 chiefs, including the incumbent, Roni Alsheikh, whose father, Avraham, was among the droves flown from Yemen in Operation Magic Carpet. Among mayors and lawmakers the share of Mideastern Israelis is even higher.

In the private sector, Israel’s list of self-made billionaires is studded with names like Yitzhak Teshuva, who arrived from Libya as a baby with his family of ten, started off as a construction worker and became a developer worth some $3 billion; or Tzadik Bino, who arrived from Iraq in 1950 at age six, started off as a bank teller, and became CEO of the First International Bank, which he now owns; or Shlomo Eliyahu, who also arrived in 1950 as a child from Iraq and started off as a messenger boy in Migdal Insurance before becoming an independent insurer and eventually buying Migdal for more than 4.2 billion shekels.

While these are extreme cases, they reflect intense social mobility in a society that admires achievement more than lineage. That may explain why the number of Israelis of joint European-Mideastern ancestry is rising steadily and, among the generation of thirty-somethings, already stands at 25 percent.

That trend also goes for Israel’s most recent non-European immigration, and the last to board its multiple airlifts.

More than a tenth of Ethiopian Israelis are already married to white Israelis. That is not even half the “intermarriage” rate between the rest of Israel’s non-European and European Jews. It is, however, more than twice the rate of black-white marriages in the US.

Read article in full

Friday, November 16, 2018

Interfaith Scouts meeting boycotts French Jews

Belying the impression that BDS only targets Israelis, not Jews, two French-Jewish scouts were excluded from a recent international meeting in Tunisia, ironically intended to further 'interfaith dialogue'. The Times of Israel reports:

Jewish French community leaders have complained after organizers of an interfaith meeting in Tunisia for members of the Scouts movement rescinded an invitation to French Jewish delegates following pressure by promoters of boycotts against Israel.

The two delegates of the International Forum of Jewish Scouts were excluded from the meeting held last week in the resort town of Hammamet for members of the youth movement from around the world. Titled “Interfaith Dialogue Ambassadors,” the event brought together 150 participants from 24 countries.

Read article in full

Azoulay pushes coexistence, while Jews are absent

Over 1,500 Jews from around the world gathered last summer at the tomb of Rabbi Hayim Pinto, Essaouira's most illustrious rabbi. The pilgrimage is one of several Jewish cultural events encouraged by Andre Azoulay,'the most powerful Jew in the Muslim world', in his capacity as de facto foreign minister to the king of Morocco. Azoulay and the activists of the Jewish-Muslim group Mimouna vaunt the long tradition of Jewish-Muslim coexistence . Yet Armin Rosen, writing in Tablet,  is troubled by the local Jewish community's near-total absence.

 Andre Azoulay, adviser to King Mohamed VI

National myths only work if other countervailing narratives can be sufficiently ignored. During his talk, Azoulay motioned towards the idea that he understood Muslim Moroccans better than they understood him. One wonders what Moroccan subjects think of their king or the Jews a couple towns up the road from Essaouira, or even within Essaouira itself. One also wonders why hundreds of thousands of Jews would leave a country where they were apparently so appreciated, and what Morocco might have permanently lost when its Jews decided to leave.

These are questions Moroccans themselves have asked. Also present at the Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Coalition forum was El Mehdi Boudra, the founder and president of Mimouna, an organization dedicated to sustaining the memory of Morocco’s Jewish community. Like most of Mimouna’s officers, Boudra, who holds a master’s degree from Brandeis University’s Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies program, is not Jewish, although he says he is “Jewish by culture—it’s part of the Moroccan plural identity.” The organization wasn’t founded by political operators in Rabat or Casablanca, but by students at  Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, a midsize town in the country’s interior. As one of its first events in 2007, Mimouna “turned the campus Jewish for a day,” Boudra said, bringing in exhibits from Casablanca’s Jewish museum, posting Hebrew signs, and holding performances of Moroccan Jewish music. Today, Mimouna has organized Arabic-language Holocaust education curricula, held numerous conferences, and helped send non-Jewish Moroccans  to build ties with the sizable Moroccan Jewish community in Israel. “Our work is not preserving heritage but keeping memory,” says Boudra. “For me, preservation is not enough.”

When Azoulay dies, Jewish historical memory in Morocco will be the responsibility of young and motivated non-Jews like Boudra. He contrasted “the old generation that talked with nostalgia about Jews and a new generation that knows nothing.” Still, he believes that Arabs are curious about the Jews who left or were forced out of their societies. “We are the silent majority in the Arab world,” he said.

In Essaouira, the Jews are largely present through cultural events, the occasional interfaith forum, the annual Pinto pilgrimage, the rebuilt melah, and Azoulay’s existence. For the rest of the year, the Jews are names on memorial lamps in empty synagogues. There is no getting around the community’s near total absence, even if Morocco’s Jews self-deported under happier circumstances than their counterparts in Egypt or Spain.

For some Moroccan-descended Jews, the dissonance is impossible to avoid. Rachel Benaim, the young writer who started the Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Coalition, found her great grandfather’s name inscribed somewhere in the city’s Slat Lkahal shul, and she knows exactly where he’s buried in Essaouira’s Jewish cemetery. When she visited the cemetery for the first time a few months before the conference, she was “struck with this deep sense of there not being peace, that there was something that was waiting to happen here. I didn’t know what it meant. … I sat down in a corner and cried for a long time.”

The forum, and the process of organizing an intensive weeklong interfaith event in the city that her father’s family eventually left, answered certain questions for her while raising others that could never really be answered. “I think the unease is still there,” she said. “I don’t know if that discomfort is from stepping into somewhere so simultaneously familiar and foreign.”

Read article in full 

More about Andre Azoulay 

More about Essaouira

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Most Moroccan Jews 'never died a natural death'

 The myth of happy Jewish-Muslim coexistence in Morocco is one of the most persistent. Exile in the Maghreb. by David Littman and Paul Fenton, is a corrective to this historical distortion. Ruthie Blum reviews the book for the Gatestone Institute (with thanks: Imre, Doug):

Exile in the Maghreb, co-authored by the great historian David G. Littman and Paul B. Fenton, is an ambitious tome contradicting the myth of how breezy it was for Jews to live in their homelands in the Middle East and North Africa when they came under Muslim rule.

"Ever since the Middle Ages," the book jarringly illustrates, "anti-Jewish persecution has been endemic to Muslim North Africa."

Littman, before his untimely death from leukemia in 2012, had intended this book on the Maghreb to be the first in a series that would cover the social condition of the Jews of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Yemen, Iran and Turkey -- an ambitious project that he was unable to tackle in its entirety.

The impetus for the book, which was first published in French in 2010 and in English in 2016, was to expose the misrepresentation by certain historians of the relations between the Jews of Morocco and Algeria and their Arab rulers. One such historian cited in the book was the French Orientalist, Claude Cahen, who dreamily wrote in his chapter on "Dhimma" in the Encylopaedia of Islam:
"There is nothing in medieval Islam which could specifically be called anti-Semitism... Islam has, in spite of many upsets, shown more toleration than Europe toward Jews who remained in Muslim lands."
The original idea for the book -- a massive collection of personal testimonies, photos and documents spanning ten centuries (from 997-1912) -- came to Littman when he was on a humanitarian trip to Morocco in 1961. Littman noted:
"Following the independence of their country in 1956, the Jews of Morocco had begun to redefine their hopes regarding the future. Whereas new opportunities for them began to loom on the horizon, I was astonished to observe that the Moroccan Jews were making every possible effort to leave their native land to immigrate to the struggling young State of Israel or even to Europe, whose communities were still painfully recovering from the tragedies of World War II."
In an article for the Jerusalem Post -- entitled, "Exploding the myth of Moroccan tolerance" -- Lyn Julius described an anti-Israel documentary by Al Jazeera that blamed the Mossad for "play[ing] a key role in convincing thousands of Moroccan Jews that they were in danger and covertly facilitated their departure" to the newly established state of Israel. Prior to that, according to the broadcast, "Jews first began to settle in Morocco over 2,000 years ago and for centuries they and Muslims have happily co-existed there."

Julius writes that Exile in the Maghreb provides "a corrective to this common historical distortion."

There is, for example the account of Samuel Romanelli (1758-1814), an Italian Jew who visited Morocco at the end of Sultan Sidi Mohammad III's reign (1757-1790), and wrote about his travels in Oracle from an Arab Land (1792):
"Most of them [the Jews of Morocco] never die a natural death nor do they share the lot of common mortals: execution, torture, expropriation, incarceration are their fate. Their bodies might be mutilated and their residences turned into cesspools..."
In the article, "What Is a 'Refugee'? The Jews from Morocco versus the Palestinians from Israel," published earlier this year, the renowned lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, writes:
"Jews lived in Morocco for centuries before Islam came to Casablanca, Fez and Marrakesh. The Jews, along with the Berbers, were the backbone of the economy and culture. Now their historic presence can be seen primarily in the hundreds of Jewish cemeteries and abandoned synagogues that are omnipresent in cities and towns throughout the Maghreb...
"Now they are a remnant in Morocco and gone from the other countries. Some left voluntarily to move to Israel after 1948. Many were forced to flee by threats, pogroms and legal decrees, leaving behind billions of dollars in property and the graves of their ancestors.
"Today, Morocco's Jewish population is less than 5,000, as contrasted with 250,000 at its peak. To his credit, King Mohammad VI has made a point of preserving the Jewish heritage of Morocco, especially its cemeteries. He has better relations with Israel than other Muslim countries but still does not recognize Israel and have diplomatic relations with the nation state of the Jewish People. It is a work in progress. His relationship with his small Jewish community, most of whom are avid Zionists, is excellent..."
Exile in the Maghreb is a most important book, which sets the record straight about the true plight of the Jews after the conquests of the lands in which they had peacefully resided.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

'Occupied territories' of the Middle East and Africa

Have you heard of the Land of Punt? I certainly hadn't - before I read David Silon's 'Occupied Territories'.

It's a clever title designed to make you sit up. To most people the Occupied Territories have something to do with Israel.  Silon means those territories stretching from West Africa to Iraq that came under Arab rule after the 7th century. There is a bewildering variety of peoples, each with a long and complex history.

The flag of the Druze

As Silon (who claims to be neither an academic nor a scholar) points out in his introduction, subjugation by the Arabs did not mean that the occupied peoples themselves did not desist from being at each others' throats. He also makes it clear that the Arabs were not the only oppressors of indigenous peoples. The Turks and the Persians inflicted their fair share of oppression too.

The Land of Punt refers to Somalia and Djibouti, one of the first regions to convert to Islam. Did you know that they wanted to establish a Dervish state in the early 20th century, before Somalia was split into three by the British, the French and the Italians?

Silon's 45-page booklet is a labour of love and a work in progress. It  includes peoples who are Muslim but want to throw off the Arab yoke - like the Amazigh (or Berbers), the Kurds and the Sumer or Marsh Arabs (who apparently are not Arabs at all, but a separate ethnicity called the Madani.)

On the other hand, the Comoro Islands, sandwiched between East Africa and Madagascar, seek to assert their Arab-ness over their African-ness.

And the Druze? What do they seek? It seems that in 1921 they had their own state, but were always clashing with the Maronites. Today, however, they do not seem to want to assert their independence from either Syria, Israel or Lebanon, and are content to live as a minority.

Then there are indigenous Christians - the Arameans, Syriacs, Maronites, Copts. All have suffered discrimination and persecution under various Muslim rulers. But did you know that the Crusaders were no less a nightmare for the Arameans? The eastern Christians have a history of squabbling with the church of Rome, yet Assyrians and Maronites call themselves Catholics. Work that one out.

Israel makes an an appearance as the only Jewish state previously ruled by Islam to have reclaimed sovereignty. Silon's chapter gets a little too bogged down in historical detail; he could have written a little more about the rise of the Zionist movement.

We get a chapter on the Nubians,  an ancient people now split between Egypt and the Sudan. But why stop there?  Where are the Rifian people, the Beja, the Touareg, the Chaouis, the Chenouas and the Mozabites of North Africa?  Silon is gracious enough to offer to remedy omissions in future editions.

'Occupied Territories' goes into a lot of detail -  and there is perhaps too much reliance on Wikipedia. But Silon's work is an eye-opener - and makes an important point : the 'Arab world' is nothing of the sort. It is a collection of disparate groups and peoples, some of whom still want independence and liberation from arabisation and islamisation.

For copies of Dave Silon's 'Occupied Territories' booklet contact

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Remembering the Libyan riots of 1945

With thanks: Raphael

This is a copy of the fatwa issued by the Grand Mufti of Tripoli, published in the Official Gazette, prohibiting seizure  of Jewish property.

A total of 130 Jews and one Muslim were killed in riots in and around the Tripoli area in November 1945. Shops and homes were looted and property burnt. The Grand Mufti of Tripoli issued a fatwa against the seizure of Jewish property following the November 1945 riots against the Jews of Libya. 

In what was described by one British source as a 'brutal and savage pogrom', the elderly, women and children were wounded by sticks, clubs, knives cleavers, piping and hand grenades. Bodies were quartered, children had their heads bashed against walls and old men were pushed out of windows. 

Nine synagogues were burnt down, 35 Torah scrolls and 2,000 sacred books were destroyed. About 90,000 kg of silver from sacred ornaments were plundered. The damage was put at 268 million Military Administration lira (MAL). One British pound equalled 480 MAL in 1945. The assessment made by the Jewish community was of course much higher. Over 5,000 people were made destitute and had to be housed and fed in displaced persons camps.

Libya was then still under British military rule. The Jews held the British authorities partially responsible for the riots as they did not intervene directly in the pogrom until the third day of violence. Of the 550 Arab rioters only 289 were tried in court. The majority were set free months later. To maintain a semblance of even handedness the British also arrested ten Jews for daring to defend themselves.
Tensions between Jews and Arabs had been rising since 1944. A worsening economic situation, Arab nationalism and events in Palestine, together with the activities of the recently-founded Arab League, combined to aggravate relations. Then, on 2 November 1945, anti-Jewish riots spread across Egypt. Libyan notables tried to reassure the Jews; but on 9 November a demonstration erupted into violence in Tripoli and soon spread to neighbouring towns of Amrus, Tajuria, Zanzur, Zawia and Kussabat. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

New paradigm sees Israel as a haven from Sunni persecution

For most of the 20th century Zionism meant saving the Jews of Europe in a revived Jewish homeland. This led to the misconception, spread by Palestinian propaganda, that Israel is an alien, colonialist state. Today, however, a new paradigm is emerging of Israel as a Middle Eastern nation in need of a haven from Sunni Muslim persecution, argues Edward Retting in Fathom.  Rettig is broadly right, but this new political paradigm did not emerge organically, but  after pressure from the US Congress and  a decade of hard lobbying for recognition and justice for the victims of Arab and Muslim antisemitism  by MKs and organisations in Israel representing Jews from Arab countries.

Then, with the rise of the first Likud government in 1977, a new political elite revised the classic Zionist paradigm. Oddly, considering its profound influence on the conflict, this revision – which involves an essential change in how most Israeli Jews now see the conflict – has drawn little international discussion. At the heart of the revision is the growing awareness of the experience of ethnic oppression of the Jews in the Muslim world and the growing influence of the ethnically cleansed Jews of the Muslim world and their descendants in Israeli society, culture and politics. Today, almost three-quarters of the Jewish population is Israel-born, and more and more young Jewish Israelis ‘intermarry’ across the Eastern-Western Jewish divide, ensuring that a growing percentage, probably more than a majority, now trace at least part of their origins to the wider Muslim-dominated region.

 Ed Rettig: colonialist paradigm turned upside down

Simply put, Israel has become much more attuned to its neighborhood as it has incorporated these migrants and their descendants. Much of the population that absorbed these migrants consisted of Holocaust survivors and other refugees from Europe, which contributed indirectly to the widespread but shallow anti-Zionist idea that ‘Europeans’ invaded Palestine. But today, at the age of 70, Israel is much less Europe-centered and not only in music, food, literature, popular culture, and so on but also in politics and foreign policy.

This emergent Israeli paradigm is also the result of regional developments since the 1940s. From the Atlantic coast of North Africa, eastward to the Shiite provinces of the Persian Gulf, a group of countries form one of the great contemporary civilisations. Sunni Muslim Arabs overwhelmingly dominate the region demographically and politically. Unfortunately, Sunni Muslim Arab society faces a deep crisis as it struggles to reconcile modernity with its traditional values and culture, a predicament that lies beyond the bounds of this paper. A common symptom of the crisis is that virtually all of the non-Sunni, or non-Arab, or non-Muslim populations in the region – Copts, Maronites, Assyrians, Jews, Kurds, Yazidis, Shiites, and so forth – suffer severely. Today, the situation of these minorities provides an essential framework in which one can reinterpret Arab behavior in 1948. We might call this new understanding the ‘hegemonic majority paradigm’. It can shape our perception of events such as the Syrian civil war (where the pro-Assad coalition is glued together by fear of majority Sunni ascendancy), the rise of ISIS (an expression of Sunni political extremism), and, of course, the current dynamics between Israelis and Palestinians (who are ethno-religiously overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim Arabs).

This emerging Jewish Israeli paradigm turns many ‘anti-colonialist’ assumptions upside down. Of all the minorities in the region, only the Jews have prospered since the end of World War Two. We did this despite the murder of large numbers of us, the seizure or abandonment of much of our property, the waging of wars against us, the ongoing reverberations of the Holocaust, and the anti-Israel political clout of the Arab peoples and the Soviet Bloc. The new paradigm says that what allowed for this success was the fact of withdrawal (sometimes willingly, often through outright expulsion), from the Sunni Muslim Arab hegemonically dominated areas, to congregate with other Jews from other parts of the world in the land of our shared history.

Read article in full

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Vigil for Jews killed in Arab lands shut down (updated)

 Update: A letter published in the Jewish Chronicle by Lyn Julius of Harif, the UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, deplores the shut-down of this vigil and urges readers to fight on behalf of the rights of Jews from Arab lands.

A vigil held by pro-Israel activists in London for Jews murdered in Arab countries over the centuries was dispersed violently by men shouting about killing Jews in Arabic. The episode, recorded by Haaretz, goes to the heart of the hostility of Muslim fundamentalists towards Jews. The vigil was timed for the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, which prefigured pro-Nazi attacks on the Jews of Gabes in Tunisia and the Farhud in Iraq, when at least 170 Jews were murdered in 1941. (With thanks: Michelle, Lily)

The event Wednesday by the Israel Advocacy Movement was held on Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park, which is known for its culture of free speech and passionate street preachers championing various causes. 

A few dozen people holding Israeli flags and candles gathered there ahead of Kristallnacht, the name of Nazi pogrom perpetrated in 1938, to highlight the suffering and slaying around the same time of many hundreds of Jews who were killed and wounded in pogroms across the Arab world. 

 Click here to see video showing how the vigil was disrupted by Muslims evoking a massacre of Jews in Arabia. A sympathetic German bystander was shocked to have witnessed such antisemitism
Joseph Cohen, an Israel Advocacy Movement activist, filmed the event as about 20 men drowned his talk, shouting: “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning.”
The cry relates to an event in the seventh century when Muslims massacred and expelled Jews from the town of Khaybar, located in modern-day Saudi Arabia. Some of the men shouted about “Palestine,” surrounding the pro-Jewish activists and shoving them.
“As if on cue, before we’d even begun an extremist began screaming a death chant of Jews,” Cohen said. “The vigil went from bad to worse, they shouted us down, they would not allow us to remember our dead until we had to call off the vigil,” he added. The occurrence “goes to the heart of the matter we’d gathered to commemorate in the first place,” he also said. 

Read article in full 

For list of massacres see Israel Advocacy Movement Facebook entry for 7 November.