Friday, January 31, 2020

UK Middle East minister welcomes Jewish refugees in Trump plan

Following the release of the Trump Peace Plan, the British Government minister for the Middle East, the Rt Hon Andrew Murrison MP, has underlined the importance of recognising the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab lands.

Speaking in the House of Commons at Westminster on 30 January 2019, the minister was responding to a question from Robert Halfon MP, whose family had been expelled from Libya.

He said that Jews were also refugees, as explained in the book UPROOTED which he described as explaining the issue 'exceptionally well'. The Trump Peace Plan is the first to detail the issue of the
Jewish refugees explicitly.

Click here to see Tweet from Conservative Friends of Israel.

On the way to Ramallah, a pitstop at Yad Vashem

Instead of gathering them at the ceremony at Yad Vashem to mark 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Israel should have invited the world's leaders to learn about the Arab and Muslim antisemitism which destroyed 11 Jewish communities in the Arab and Muslim world - a vindication of Israel's existence as a sovereign state. But such a centre of learning, or museum, does not yet exist. Instead, a visit to Ramallah by European leaders absolves them of guilt for the Shoah and towards the Palestinians (whose links with the Nazis are suppressed). Insightful piece in Israel Hayom by Professor Shmuel Trigano:

Professor emeritus Shmuel Trigano

It is a strategic mistake to view the anti-Semitism of our time as an extension of the anti-Semitism of 30 years ago. To be sure, it still exists among the classical far-right; but is blossoming primarily in the form of anti-Zionism within Muslim and far-left post-colonialist circles. The deeper problem is turning the "lessons of the Holocaust" into the moral basis for fighting anti-Semitism.

As an explanation, it favors victimhood over the political: Jewish suffering is put on display as a call to end hatred, instead of presenting Israel's status as a sovereign country as a counterweight to the new anti-Zionistic anti-Semitism. When the justification for Israel's existence is predicated on the memory of victimhood, Europe can view the state as a type of humanitarian tent for Jews, and less as a sovereign country. Consequently, Israel is not permitted, in the eyes of Europe, to realize its legitimate right to self-defense. The moment the Israeli soldier ceases being the emaciated extermination camp survivor, he morphs into a monster in the eyes of the Europeans.

 European recognition of Israel is based, therefore, on feelings of guilt toward the Jews – implying that the same guilt applies to the Palestinians. Europe turns a blind eye to Arab-Muslim anti-Semitism – which is the main source of modern anti-Semitism – in the belief that the Arab world is not responsible for the Holocaust, and that Europe oppressed the Palestinians by contributing to the establishment of the Jewish state.

 Isn't it only natural, therefore, that some of the participants of the Yad Vashem will visit Ramallah immediately after it ends? The reliance on the Holocaust in this regard means strengthening even further the myths that breed the new anti-Semitism -">Nakba, occupation, original sin. Israel is paying the price here for a fundamental strategic failure on the symbolic level, a failure stemming from the concealment and denial of the annihilation of 11 thriving Jewish communities across the Muslim world, two-thirds of whose descendants became Israelis who now constitute a clear majority of Israelis.

The Arab world's war on Israel is a war on those who were expelled, suffered from violence at its hands and were exploited by Arab countries under the flag of Arab nationalism and Islamism. This is the arena to which Rivlin should have invited the leaders of Europe. But where could such have an event taken place? Does a museum such as Yad Vashem exist, which commemorates this memory and anchors the State of Israel in the history and geography of the Middle East? Israel cannot respond to the existential accusations against it through constant self-justification and brandishing its victimhood for all to see.

There's no need for Europe. Israelis must turn inwards and find in themselves the self-conviction and self-assuredness of sovereignty; which is political and historical sovereignty. It must distance itself from victimhood to fight its enemies.

Read article in full

More from Professor Trigano

What the world's leaders will not learn at Yad Vashem

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Moroccan imam:' we should not repeat Holocaust tragedy'

Dr Ahmad Abadi, head of the Mohammedian Scholars in Morocco, was part of the Arab delegation making a groundbreaking visit to Auschwitz on 23 January. Here is an extract from his interview with Al-Arabiya,  according to MEMRI. Morocco has been staunch in its recognition of the Holocaust. King Mohamed Vl's condemnations of the Holocaust and antisemitism are emblazoned at the entrance to the new Jewish museum at Essaouira, Beit Dakira.

Dr. Ahmad Abadi:"What one can see in Auschwitz and its surroundings is the extent of barbarity that underlined these genocidal crimes against humanity. One can only stand amazed at how the virus of hatred penetrated a scholarly nation like the German people of that time.

Many of the German elites were involved in this [Nazi] rhetoric and they accepted – and some of them were even involved – in those crimes. Therefore, no one in the extended human family is immune to this virus.

 "We should learn this lesson, because we are an extended family, so that we do not repeat such a tragedy anywhere on our planet.

 "This visit is a groundbreaking initiative that may refute the widespread belief that Muslims can accept crimes against humanity. There is not even the smallest indication of this in our true religion, which forbids harm, especially since the people who were attacked had done nothing to justify it."

Read article in full

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Trump Peace Plan demands 'a just solution' for Jewish refugees

The Trump Peace Plan, released on 28 January, recognises for the first time 'a Jewish and a Palestinian refugee problem'. One may criticise it for equating the two refugee populations and minimising Jewish suffering, but one should applaud the fact that the plan contains an explicit reference to  Jewish refugees from Arab lands and demands a just solution for them.

The plan demands that a 'just solution for these Jewish refugees should be implemented through an appropriate international mechanism separate for the Israel/ Palestine Peace Agreement'. Quite what this mechanism would consist of is not specified - it could be the International Fund, as advocated by President Clinton. A separate agreement might well be a disincentive to resolve the Jewish refugee problem altogether, and conflicts with the Knesset law, passed in 2010, insisting that a peace agreement cannot be signed without compensation for Jewish refugees, as well as US Congress resolutions.

An interesting innovation is that the State of Israel deserves compensation for the cost of absorbing these Jewish refugees.

Here are relevant extracts: (with thanks Stan):

"A similar number of Jewish refugees were expelled from Arab lands shortly after the creation of Israel and have also suffered. A just solution for these Jewish refugees should be implemented through an appropriate international mechanism separate from the Israel/Palestine Agreement.

"The Jewish refugees who were forced to flee Arab and Muslim countries also suffered. Most settled in the State of Israel and some settled elsewhere. The Jewish refugee issue, including compensation  for lost assets must also be addressed. Additionally the State of Israel deserves compensation for the cost of absorbing Jewish refugees from those countries. A just, fair and realistic solution for the issue relating to Jewish refugees must be implemented through an appropriate international mechanism separate from an Israel/Palestine Peace agreement.״

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Israelis will NOT be able to visit Saudi Arabia after all

Reports that Israelis would be able to visit Saudi Arabia have proved premature, perhaps because the immiment announcement of President Trump's peace plan demands that the Saudis demonstrate solidarity with the Palestinians. The Algemeiner has the story:

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said Israelis were not welcome to visit the kingdom after Israel decreed that Israeli citizens could visit Saudi Arabia under certain circumstances, CNN reported on Monday.

Saudi Foreign minister Prince Faisal ibn Farhan

 “Our policy is fixed. We do not have relations with the State of Israel.Israeli passport holders cannot visit the kingdom at the current time,” the US broadcaster quoted Prince Faisal bin Farhan as saying.

 Israel‘s interior minister had said on Sunday; Israelis — if invited and permitted by Saudi authorities — would be allowed to travel there for religious reasons on pilgrimage or for up to nine days for business reasons such as investment or meetings.

 Israelis, mostly Muslims going on pilgrimage, have for years been visiting the kingdom, which hosts the two holiest sites in Islam, but usually with special permission or using foreign passports. “When a peace agreement is reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis, I believe the issue of Israel‘s involvement in the region will be on the table,” Prince Faisal said.

Read article in full

Monday, January 27, 2020

New study: 'Farhud victims should be treated like Shoah survivors'

A new study completed recently is now trying to provide another legal perspective in order for its authors to suggest that the court allegedly erred in its ruling denying compensation to Farhud victims on the same terms as Holocaust survivors. Israel Hayom reports:

The study was carried out by Dr. Nissan Sharifi, a lawyer and son of Iraqi immigrants, and Prof. Gideon Greif, a historian engaged in the study of the Holocaust. The study examines the case through legal eyes while analyzing the relevant laws alongside the chain of historical events in Iraq during the relevant period.

 On June 1 and 2, 1941, a serious pogrom was carried out on the Jews of Baghdad, the capital of Iraq. 179 Jews were massacred, thousands injured, hundreds of women raped and tens of thousands of homes looted and vandalized. This pogrom was later known as "Parhud" (terror against the controlled) and was the culmination of a campaign of incitement and Nazi propaganda in Iraq, which began with Hitler's rise to power in 1933. Iraq had known many coups during those years, but most of its leaders at that time were pro-Nazis. King Ghazi, who ruled Iraq intermittently from 1933 to 1939, was Hitler's friend and ally and even received a magnificent gift from him.

 Nazi propaganda in Iraq was spread among other things, through Berlin's Arabic radio and the newspaper Al-Al-Arab. The newspaper was bought by the embassy in the early 1930s, and published, among other things, chapters from Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" which were translated into Arabic.

The person behind Hitler's translation of German into Arabic was Iraq's propaganda, economic and security minister Al Bassawi, who served under Prime Minister El Kilani, who was also a pro-Nazi.

 A report by the Iraqi Investigation Committee, established by the Iraqi government, stated that the Farhud was the result of Nazi incitement in Iraq. The Jerusalem Supreme Court acknowledged this, but rejected the appeal, in part, on the grounds that German law entitled to compensation is only one that was harmed in one of the countries under Nazi occupation. The court also ruled that the Farhud happened during a "two-month" period between Iraqi governments and coups, and hence the definition of a "metastatic state" which necessitates the existence of a prime minister who allegedly interfered with it is denied.

 The authors of the study say that "there is an exception in Article 43 of German law, which states that anyone who has suffered a" deprivation of liberty "can claim it - even if there is no territorial affiliation with Germany." One of the points to which the exceptional clause refers is that the plaintiff is entitled to compensation if the "foreign state government was motivated to deny liberty by the German Socialist government".

 On the rejection of the definition of "metastatic state" by the Supreme Court, the investigators report that the Iraqi commission's inquiry established that "the military police, civilian police and even the Iraqi military were involved in the commission of disturbances, actively or totally ignored by the rioters".

  Read article in full (Hebrew)

Names of those hanged on 27 January, 1969

Fifty-one years since the hangings in Baghdad: Remembering the Jewish martyrs of Iraq

Israelis to be allowed to visit Saudi Arabia (updated)

UPDATE: The Saudi Foreign Minister has now said that Israelis will not be able to visit the Kingdom.

In a further sign of warming relations, Israeli citizens will be allowed on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia or to make business deals, Bloomberg reports.

The Hajj in Mecca

(Bloomberg) -- Israelis will be allowed for the first time to visit Saudi Arabia, either for business reasons or to attend Islamic pilgrimages, Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said on Sunday.

 Deri signed a decree allowing exit permits for Israelis in those two instances, according to a spokesman for the minister.

The move is a further marker of warming ties between Israel and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, as they are united by a shared interest in combating Iranian influence in the region. Previously, Israelis hadn’t been allowed to visit Saudi Arabia.

Despite the new decision, it will still be difficult for Israelis to travel there since no airlines fly directly between the countries and the two sides don’t have official relations. According to the Sunday announcement, Israelis will now be able to visit either for religious pilgrimages such as the annual hajj or for business reasons including seeking investment.

An Israeli visitor would also need to arrange entry into Saudi Arabia from a government entity. Israeli Muslims in the past traveled to Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage on temporary Jordanian passports, but a 2018 report in Haaretz said Saudis would no longer allow pilgrims to travel via that loophole.

 Read article in full

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Middle East and North African Jews were also survivors

Not all Israeli Holocaust survivors came from Europe: thousands of  MENA jews are entitled to claim benefits as a result of the persecution they suffered. However, it is curious that this Jerusalem Post omits to mention Tunisian andLibyan Jews who were impacted directly by the Nazi and Fascist wartime occupations.

Tunisian Jews on their way to forced labour camps

Many of the non-European survivors had their roots in the Middle East where persecution was also rife.

Some 18% were born in Morocco and Algeria, where Jews suffered under the French Vichy regime, overseen by Nazi rule.

 A further 11% escaped Iraq after a two-day antisemitic pogrom in 1941 known as the Farhud, in which 180 Jews were killed and a thousand more injured, in scenes reminiscent of Kristallnacht.

Some sources put the number of dead much higher; the Israel-based Babylonian Heritage Museum says a further 600 unidentified victims were buried in a mass grave, according to the BBC.

 The Holocaust Survivors' Rights Authority distributes in excess of NIS 4 billion in benefits and grants each year to around 59,000 Israelis who survived the Holocaust, each of whom can claim up to NIS 6,000 a month. In addition to the direct payments, the authority also handed out NIS 415 m.
worth of medicines, provided a further NIS 493 m. on nursing services, and funded medical treatments and equipment at a cost of NIS 132 m.

In recent years, the ministry has been working hard to ensure that survivors know their rights and entitlements. In the last two years, the ministry made more than 51,000 visits to survivors and sent out more than 40,000 letters to keep them informed, leading to claims totaling NIS 318 million.

  Read article in full

Friday, January 24, 2020

Some Arabs long for Jews to return

Having persecuted and purged their Jews as punishment for the rebirth of Israel, many Arabs now realize they shot themselves in the foot. They want them to return, Dr Edy Cohen writes in this BESA Center reports. But governments continue to look the other way.

Jewish refugee arriving in Israel

A million Jews lived in Arab countries in the 20th century. Today, just a few thousand are left, mostly in Morocco and Tunisia. The purging of the Jews caused a crisis in almost every Arab country from which they came.

Despite their relatively limited numbers, the Jews’ impact on society, culture, economy, and trade was crucial to the development of those countries, and their loss was felt. After the Jews were evicted from Iraq and Egypt, for example, those countries experienced crisis after crisis. There is now a palpable longing in most Arab states for the Jews to return.

Many believe that only with a Jewish presence will their countries blossom and develop as they did in the past.

 The Jewish contribution to Arab states was significant. In Egypt, the gold market flourished with a Jewish presence and continues to do so to this day, even though the Jews were thrown out and their stores ransacked.

 Jewish symbols like the Magen David remain engraved on Egyptian shops, in markets, and on buildings. The older generation still remembers the prosperity of the time when Jews were in possession of their stores.

 It is no coincidence that Cairo has decided to invest tens of millions of dollars in the restoration of synagogues throughout Egypt. The most recent is the renovation of the once magnificent Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet) Synagogue, in which $6 million is being invested.

Read article in full

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Saudi leader visits Auschwitz for the first time

A senior Saudi religious leader is slated to visit the Auschwitz death camp in Poland on Thursday ahead of the 75th anniversary of its liberation by the Soviet Red Army, reports Times of Israel. This is a positive step towards combating Holocaust denial in the Arab world. But will  Arab governments recognise the antisemitism in their own back yard?

Mohammed al-Issa, the secretary-general of the Muslim World League, speaking on April 25, 2018 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. (Screenshot: American Sephardi Federation)

Mohammed al-Issa (pictured), the secretary-general of the Mecca-based Muslim World League (MWL) and a former Saudi justice minister, is scheduled to arrive at Auschwitz alongside Muslim religious leaders from more than 24 countries and a delegation of American Jewish Committee (AJC) officials.

 AJC CEO David Harris said the trip represented “the most senior delegation of Muslim religious leaders to visit Auschwitz ever.”

 Issa, the Muslim clerics and the AJC officials will tour the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw on Friday as well as visit the Nozyk Synagogue in the Polish capital and a local mosque, Kenneth Bandler, a spokesman for AJC said, adding that the group will share an interfaith Shabbat meal too.

They also plan to meet with Holocaust survivors on Friday at the synagogue, according to an individual familiar with the details of the trip who asked not to be name. Issa’s expected visit to Auschwitz comes after he visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, in May 2018 and wrote an opinion article in the Washington Post in January 2019 condemning the Nazis’ “heinous crimes.”

He also declared that “Muslims around the world have a responsibility to learn” about the lessons of the Holocaust. “I urge all Muslims to learn the history of the Holocaust, to visit memorials and museums of this horrific event and to teach its lesson to their children,” Issa, who is considered an ally of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, wrote in the article.

 Read article in full

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Bukharan community dwindles to about 200 Jews

The Bukharan community has shrunk to the point  where its future is in peril, Yahoo reports. While most Jew left  for economic reasons in recent times, Bukhara has a history ( until the 19th century) of antisemitism and forced conversions. (With thanks: Gideon)

Among the handful of worshippers to attend, the tall 15-year-old, dressed in Nike trainers, sweats and an off-white yarmulke, is the youngest man in the room by decades.

“This is our future cantor,” says Abram Iskhakov, 70, the synagogue’s current cantor and the president of the Bukhara Jewish Community. “The youth don’t come, they go to Israel and America, but he comes.”“This is our future cantor,” says Abram Iskhakov, 70, the synagogue’s current cantor and the president of the Bukhara Jewish Community.

Once home to more than 23,000 Jews, the ancient Silk Road city of Bukhara now has around 200. Thousands of Bukharian Jews emigrated because of antisemitic policies under the Soviet Union, and still more due to Uzbekistan’s bleak economic prospects after its independence in 1991.

 The emigre community is far larger than its wellspring, with more than 50,000 Bukharian Jews in New York and more than 100,000 in Israel. Despite boasting two synagogues, deep-pocketed foreign donors, and a Jewish school where Badalov learns Hebrew, the Jewish community in Bukhara has shrunk to the point where its future is in peril."

Read article in full

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

What the world's leaders will not learn at Yad Vashem

On 23 January, some 55 heads of state, prime ministers and members of royal families will visit Yad Vashem to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. But will anyone make the link between Nazi anti-Jewish hatred and Palestinian and Islamist antisemitism? Lyn Julius blogs in The Times of Israel (Jewish News).

The Mufti meeting Hitler in November 1941

 After solemn speeches emphasising that ‘never again’ should such a catastrophic event happen, the event will conclude with a memorial ceremony. Holocaust survivors will light a memorial torch and delegation heads will lay wreaths.

 It is all well and good to learn the lessons of Nazi antisemitism, which still inspires fascist and ultra-right extremists today in the West – what the commentator Ben Cohen calls bierkeller antisemitism.

 But how many of these ministers and heads of states will be journeying to the seat of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah after their stopover at Yad Vashem?

The chances are that the Palestinian leadership will tell them that the Palestinians ‘paid the price’ for the establishment of Israel. There is a danger that world leaders will come away with confirmation of the idea that antisemitism was a purely European phenomenon. Israel is ‘Europe’s penance’ for killing six million European Jews.

 The world’s leaders will visit Ramallah with little inkling of the depth of pro-Nazi feeling among Arabs during WWII.

The Palestinian leadership will take care not to mention that one of the foremost Arab leaders, the wartime Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, was complicit with the Nazis.

After the Palestinian Mufti incited the 1941 Farhud massacre of Iraq’s Jews, he spent the rest of the war in Berlin as Hitler’s guest. While pumping out vicious anti-Jewish radio propaganda to the Arab world, he sought Hitler’s permission to manage the extermination of the Jews across the Middle East and North Africa – not just in Palestine - should the Nazis win the war.

 When the war ended, the Allies did not put Haj Amin al-Husseini on trial at Nuremberg. As a result, the Arab world was never ‘de-Nazified’. Its legacy of antisemitic, Nazi-inspired Islamofascism/ Islamist terrorism – represented by the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, Al Qaeda and Hamas – also fuels jihadist antisemitism in the West today.

More than half the Jewish population are in Israel because of the Arabs, not the Nazis. Will anyone at Yad Vashem make the point that 850,000 Jews were forced to flee Arab lands because Arab League states implemented anti-Jewish laws eerily reminiscent of Nuremberg laws against their Jewish citizens, stripping them of their rights and dispossessing them of their property?

 On their visit to Ramallah, some guileless leaders will endorse the Palestinian ‘right of return’ without realising that this simply replaces genocide with politicide. In other words, Palestinian genocidal intentions have been concealed in the language of human rights. The BDS movement lends continuity to this longstanding campaign.

 One head of state will not be present at Yad Vashem on 23 January. Ayatollah Khameini of Iran has remained faithful to such genocidal aspirations. He denies the Holocaust and threatens another against the Jews.

 At least we know where we stand with the Iranian regime.

 Read article in full

Crossposted at Harry's Place

Monday, January 20, 2020

Revisited: the Nahum Palace, where a Jewish leader was murdered

Lucky Nahum is a US-based fashion designer and businessman, born in Tripoli. Recently his friend Giuseppe Scalora sent him a video of the Nahum family residence in Libya, the Nahum Palace. The family owned several properties and land in the Tripoli area. When it was forced to leave Libya the family received not a cent in compensation. The Palace was also the site of the murder of its owner, the prominent leader and businessman  Halfalla Nahum.

Thanking Giuseppe for the video clip, Lucky wrote this post on his Facebook page: "Much has changed in 53 years since our expulsion, but here's the palace today (it shows up at the 1:12 mark of the video). I think one can appreciate the size of it and what it might have been in its glory days, it appears to to have taken Giuseppe until the 3.04 mark to have walked the length of it.

This street is now called Sciara Ysticlal, and at the time Corso Vittorio was THE street. This was where all the better jewellers were, the better stores in general. Here people strolled to meet other friends, to see and be seen in their finest clothing. "

The video shows a glimpse of a side street and the public gardens in Tripoli. These took up the entire width of the back of the Palace. The Palace faced the Corso Vittorio on one side and the Mediterranean just beyond the gardens on the other.

Postcard of the Nahum Palace in its heyday

Another property owned by the Nahum family in Trupoli

An eighty-four-year-old Jewish leader, Halfalla Nahum, Lucky's uncle, was murdered at the entrance to Nahum Palace in 1963. A lay leader and well-to-do businessman. Halfalla was the highly respected president of the community.  He worked with the Italian authorities before WWII to improve the lot of the great mass of Libyan Jews, who were poor. He was assaulted in 1920s by Fascists.

Before his murder Halfalla was first threatened with letters allegedly asking for protection money and when he refused to pay the second demand, the murderers came to his home, tied him to a chair and killed him. The police initially suspected 20 Jews because Halfalla was a generous donor to Arab philanthropic causes. The suspects included Rabbi Baruch, a shohet. He was held because of blood stains on his shirt.

A gang was finally arrested consisting of ten Arabs and one Maltese, although the family still have their suspicions that these were not the actual perpetrators.

During the summer of that year, a time of rising nationalism, other Jewish figures were attacked and injured, including Beniamino Haddad, who lost one eye.

Today, there are no Jews living in this 2,000-year-old community.

The Jewish properties around Cairo's Tahrir Square

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Iranian Jews overcame threats of deportation from the US

Some 40 years ago, the Iran hostage crisis had an unintended impact on Jews seeking refuge in the US. Point of No Return heard the following anecdotes: 

A mass demonstration in favour of Ayatollah Khomeini during the 1979 Iranian revolution

The Iran hostage crisis was a diplomatic standoff between the United States and Iran. Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, after a group of Iranian college students belonging to the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line, who supported the Iranian Revolution, took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

 The crisis coincided with a mass exodus of Jews and westernised Iranians. Following the revolution, Jews were persecuted and many found refuge in the US. Less well-known are the unintended consequences on Jews of measures the US took in response to the crisis: some Jews were threatened with deportation.

One Jewish family, which had moved to New York, had an unwelcome visit from two policemen. They claimed that the daughter's papers were not in order. The mother invited in the policemen, plied them with lashings of her trademark chocolate cake, and finally convinced them that it was folly for Jews oppressed by the Islamic Republic of Iran to be sent back.

 In the same time period, a young friend of the family was invited to dinner. He arrived an hour late. He apologised to the hostess, a stickler for punctuality, saying,' Sorry I'm late, Auntie, I was applying for political asylum'.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Moroccan king hosts dinner to mark dedication of Essaouira heritage centre

A synagogue has been dedicated as a Jewish Heritage Centre in Essaouira in Morocco (formerly Mogador) . 

Here is a video clip 

The dedication ceremony of the Beit Dakira (House of Remembrance), a former synagogue,   took place in the presence of the King of Morocco, Mohamed VI. The King threw a banquet in honour of the representatives of the Jewish community attended by his royal advisers, Fouad Ali El Himma, Andre Azoulay and Yassir Zenaqui.

The President of the State of Israel, Rubi Rivlin, tweeted his thanks to the King of Morocco and said he was very moved by the occasion.

Prominent guests included Audrey Azoulay, director of UNESCO, Goz Schmidt Bermme, the German ambassador, Serge Berdugo, secretary general of the Moroccan Jewish community, Rabbis David Pinto and Joseph Israel, the chief rabbis of Morocco and Casablanca; Yitzhak Dayan, the chief Rabbi of Geneva, Jason Guberman, executive director of the American Sephardi Federation and actor and comedian Gad Elmaleh.

The city, once 40 percent Jewish, today has a handful of Jews.

Read article in full (French)

Article on Bayt Dakira (Times of Israel - with thanks Imre)

Friday, January 17, 2020

Iraq-born Jew profiled as 'father of the drone'

Abe Karem, an Iraqi Jew, was  profiled in a recent article in the prestige publication The Economist as 'the father of the drone'. 

Karem is considered the founding father of drone technology. He is the founder of Leading Systems, which eventually became the divisiton of General Atomics which builds the Predator and its successor the Reaper. He now leads Karem Aircraft. More about him here.

Born in Baghdad in 1937 Karem (pictured)  had a passion for flying from an early age. When he was 14 he started building his first model. Arriving in Israel with the mass exodus of 1951 he graduated in Haifa as an aviation engineer. He moved to Los Angeles, built a private hangar in his own home in which he designed the Albatross 'plane, the ancestor of the drone.

There is, however, another Mizrahi pretender to the title 'father of the drone' -  the Egyptian-born David Harari. 

Harari worked for Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and witnessed the shooting-down of  of 200 Israeli pilots by Egyptian surface-to-air missiles over 48 hours in the Yom Kippur war. In a race with the Americans, IAI then launched the Sout programme: flying television cameras with wings, a motor  and a communication system. In 1979 the first unmanned aircraft flew successfully. Before delivery to the military, the final prototype was sent on a secret mission to the Bekaa valley in Lebanon.

More about Harari in Le Parisien (French)

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Restoring synagogues means never to say you're sorry

Restoring synagogues in Arab countries is a small price to pay for expelling a country's Jews, argues Lyn Julius in this JNS piece.

To much fanfare last week, the largest synagogue in the Middle East was reopened in Alexandria, Egypt. Some 300 guests, including Egyptian Antiquities and Tourism Minister Khaled al-Anany, were on hand for the festive occasion.

 The event made headlines from the United Kingdom to China—but only The Jerusalem Post pointed out that only three Jews were in attendance. Eight Jews now live in a country that once boasted 80,000 to 100,000. (Egyptian-born Jews and Israeli diplomats are planning their own celebration next month, but these visitors will be returning to their homes in Israel, Europe and the United States after the party.)

 The Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue will never again host Jewish weddings or bar mitzvahs, nor will it ever muster a minyan. It will be no more than a museum to an extinct community and a perfunctory tourist stop.

 The media coverage of the event was typical of a trend hailing the restoration of Jewish buildings in countries with no more than a handful of Jews as somehow indicative of pluralism and tolerance in the Arab world.

 Even Jews fall for the fantasy, grateful for the slightest acknowledgement that members of the Tribe once lived in these countries. “I’m very proud of what my country has done, and it symbolizes living together—today, there is no difference between Egyptian Muslim, Christian and Egyptian Jew,” gushed Magda Haroun, leader of the Cairo “community” of two Jews. “It is recognition that we have always been here and that we have contributed to a lot of things, just like any other Egyptians. ”

No journalist covering the restoration story bothered to ask why a once-glorious community has been reduced to eight souls in Cairo and Alexandria, the youngest of whom (Magda herself) is 67.

 “Nearly all left after the founding of Israel in 1948 and during subsequent conflicts between the two countries,” The London Times reported. (Yet Egypt also divested itself of other non-Egyptians: Greeks, Italians, Maltese, Armenians.)

 Not a word about the proximate causes of the Jewish exodus: bombings of Cairo’s Jewish quarter, overnight expulsions, months and years spent in putrid jails for no other crime than being Jewish, torture and rape of Jews taken prisoner in 1967 as “Israeli POWs.”

 The Egyptian restorers did a magnificent job at Eliyahu Hanavi, even laying a glass floor over the remains of an earlier synagogue they discovered during their work. The Antiquities and Tourism Ministry undertook the $4 million project following the collapse of part of the women’s gallery and a staircase three years ago.

Recently Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi declared his intention to spend $71 million on restoring Jewish sites, but the brief was hurriedly redefined to incorporate the repair of Coptic, Islamic, Pharaonic and Roman, as well as Jewish sites, lest anyone ask why so many of this country’s scarce resources be funneled into preserving the heritage of its erstwhile enemies.

 It is surely better to preserve Jewish heritage sites in Arab lands than to let them crumble into disuse or be converted to other purposes, as has happened right across the Arab world. But el-Sisi wants to show that he is in control. He turned down outside offers of help and funding from Jewish individuals and organizations. If Jews come back to live in Egypt, he has promised, Egypt will build synagogues for them.

 Jewish communal property in Egypt is viewed as part of the national heritage. The Egyptian government alone is responsible, as it is for the preservation of Tutankhamen’s tomb. No longer will Jews have any input, and Egypt’s last links with its exiled Jews will be severed.

 This policy of nationalization extends to the creeping appropriation of movable property more than a century old, such as Torah scrolls and libraries. These are now being registered as “protected.” But no Jewish scribe or archivist remains in Egypt to curate and maintain these treasures.

Most galling of all, the communal records, essential to establishing a Jew’s identity wherever he may be in the world, have been declared antiquities. They remain out of reach; Egyptian Jews are not even able to get photocopies.

 Four million dollars is a small price to pay for ethnic cleansing. There is never any need to apologize. Restore a few buildings abandoned by their owners and pocket the tourist revenues. It’s a win-win situation.

Read article in full

Also at Israel Hayom

The Times erases the ethnic cleansing of Egypt's Jews

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Will Jews in NY become as afraid as they were in Iraq?

When  Jordan Salama's mother was growing up in Iraq, the warning signs of impending doom for this most enduring of Jewish communities accumulated during her childhood. Are the warning signs appearing in the US? Jews must learn from the past ands take action, he argues in this important piece in the New York Times (with thanks: Dan, Janet) :

Jews in Iraq in the 1970s. 

She doesn’t like to talk about Iraq much, but my grandmother Fortunée and my aunt Cynthia do.

Some of the most memorable moments of my childhood were spent in Long Island living rooms, sitting beside them as they told me, in a spellbinding mix of English and Arabic, stories of life in a country that ultimately rejected them after such a long and rich history of coexistence.

They shared tales of my great-great-great-grandfather, a trader who famously owned a caravan of more than 1,000 camels and traveled the Silk Road from Baghdad to Aleppo and Isfahan and beyond; of my great-grandfather, who built Iraq’s first cinema and movie studio; of the family house, with courtyard gardens so luscious they attracted wedding parties from all over the city.

 In the summertime the children flew kites and slept peacefully on the cool roof. Jews were jurists and government officials; one was even the first minister of finance. They lived side-by-side with Christians and Muslims; they were business partners, neighbors, close friends who supported one another.

 But these stories were always set up as the beginning of the end. Sprinkled throughout paradise were the warning signs, each worse than the next, until there was no choice but to leave. In the 1930s it was mainly political rhetoric; then in June 1941 it was the “Farhud,” a pogrom that killed nearly 200 Jews and injured hundreds more.

 By the 1950s more than three-quarters of Iraq’s Jews had fled the country; just over a decade later, around the time my mother was born, the few remaining Jews saw their assets frozen and their passports revoked. My mother remembers when they imprisoned her father along with other Jews, remembers her mother going every day to the jail where he was being held, remembers the emptiness the family felt the morning after her cousins escaped over the border to Iran. When she was 3 years old, in January 1969, nine Jews were hanged in the main city square.

By 1972, my mother’s family was among some of the last to leave, bound for the United States. Today, the number of Jews remaining in Iraq is reported to be in the single digits.

This is the story my mother remembers, the story she has always feared would repeat itself. That no matter how comfortable we as Jews may feel today, it only takes a small group of people (and a large group of people to sit idly by) to turn everything on its head.

 I remember watching with her in our living room as Donald Trump assumed the presidency in 2017. It was on her mind. As he approached the podium for his oath she asked me, with tears welling in her eyes, “Are we going to have to leave?”

At that point I didn’t think the answer was yes; I’m not sure I do now, either. But with each incident that has followed, family conversations have become more frequently wrapped up in those kinds of questions. First there was “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville, Va. Then the attack in Pittsburgh, on a synagogue that looked an awful lot like ours. Then San DiegoJersey City and other smaller but significant incidents in between.

Jewish students’ experiences on college campuses are becoming. This fall, swastikas were drawn in a school in our district, and in another one nearby. And in December, there were several anti-Semitic attacks in a little over a week in New York — arguably the Jewish capital of this country — ending with the Hanukkah stabbings in Monsey.

Read article in full

From Baghdad to Queens: An Iraqi community remembers

From Exile to Exodus: the story of the Jews of Iraq (film)

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Iranian Jews condemn US killing of Soleimani

It's a well-worn strategy for Jewish minorities to toe the government line for reasons of self-preservation,  and the Jewish minority in Iran is no exception. Thus it condemned the killing of General Qassem Soleimani by the 'Great Satan', and tries to  enforce the distinction between Judaism and Zionism. Israel Hayom reports: 

Iranian Jewish leaders, together with Christians and Zoroastrians, visited the house of assassinated General Qassem Soleimani to pay their respects 

The first thing the Jews of Iran did Friday before last, when they heard the astonishing news that commander of the Revolutionary Guards Corps’ elite Quds Force Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani had been killed in a US airstrike, was issue sharp condemnations of the American act.“God will avenge his blood,” a message from the Jewish community said.

At the start of last week,  to pay their condolences to his family, and took part in his funeral. Those present included Chief Rabbi of Tehran Yehuda Gerami, who even condemned the killing in an interview to state television. We can only guess how afraid the community was that the nation would vent its fury against them.The Iranian Jewish community is one of the oldest in the world. Legend has it that the Jews arrived in then-Persia after the destruction of the First Temple.

Prior to the Islamic Revolution in 1979, some 80,000 Jews lived in Iran, but after the ayatollahs took power most of them left for Israel and the US. Today, the Jewish community in Iran is estimated to number some 8,000, most of whom live in the biggest cities, such as Shiraz and Tehran.“As far as religion goes, they enjoy freedom – more or less – because the Muslims cannot reject Judaism, which is mentioned in the Quran. So they can celebrate [Jewish] holidays and keep kosher and go to synagogue,” explains Rani Amrani, the director of Israel’s Farsi-language RadioRan, who made aliyah from Iran years ago. Amrani maintains close ties to Iranian Jews and non-Jews.

According to Amrani, one of the best ways for the Jewish community to ensure things stay quiet and they stay safe is to throw off any hints of Zionism.

“They are trying to distinguish between Judaism and Zionism to avoid being targeted,” Amrani says. Every few years, rare footage of Jewish activity in Iran is made public, usually around the holidays. Last Sukkot, Jewish BDS activist Ariel Gold documented the traditional prayers. Of course, her visit was approved by the Iranian regime. The goal? To prove that Iran has no quarrel with Judaism, only with Zionism. Rabbi Gerami’s Facebook page also shows recent prayers and rites, including the song “Maoz Tzur” sung in both Hebrew and Farsi.

Read article in full

Monday, January 13, 2020

Mizrahi voters are not motivated by identity politics

The Israeli Labour party is merging with the far left Meretz party. This looks like another disastrous lurch away from key Mizrahi support, if the academic Nissim Mizrahi is to be believed.  Identity politics are not  the right conceptual framework to win over Mizrahim to the left, he argues in this lengthy Haaretz interview. The Mizrahim are wedded to 'Jewish values' - patriotism and tradition - which the left seems to denigrate. Missing from Mizrahi's analysis however, is the elephant in the room: the bitter experience of the Mizrahim with Arab and Muslim antisemitism.

All the empirical research we’ve done shows that the Mizrahi majority is upset by the Tel Aviv left and even hates them, but that it doesn’t necessarily talk about it in ethnic terms.

When you look at the ethnic dispersion, you have a person bearing the name ‘Peretz’ in both the religious Zionist movement and in Labor. Both are of Moroccan origin, one was a pilot in the air force [Rabbi Rafi Peretz], both are in the Knesset and are or were in the government.

How could that be, if the extreme right in Israel is Ashkenazi by origin?

The Mizrahim have no problem being led by an Ashkenazi who is good for the Jewish people. On the contrary. They have Mizrahi heroes like Rabbi Ovadia Yosef – but there are also Menachem Begin, Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett.

When did they vote [only] for Mizrahim? What are they angry about now and who are they defending – a Mizrahi?

Certainly those termed Bibi-ites have an ethnic complexion, but the organizing principle underlying the sense of belonging to the camp is not ethnic.”

 If the so-called genie is no longer ethnic, what is it now?
Anyone who tries to paint it only in ethnic terms, based on the notion that ethnicity and Mizrahiness are the organizing principle, will be wrong time and again. That is what the left tried to do, for example, when they made Avi Buskila executive director of Peace Now, and the Mizrahim did not come.”

 Is that why Avi Gabbay failed as leader of the Labor Party?

 “That question is better suited to political commentators than to sociologists. But I think that Mizrahiness in itself is not a commodity that is in great demand among the Mizrahi public. In other words, to be a Mizrahi is definitely not a sufficient condition nor a necessary one for political success. That’s not how identity politics works.”

 What do you mean?

“The presupposition that the Mizrahi public views itself as a minority group, defines itself first and foremost as Mizrahi and therefore seeks Mizrahi representation, is unfounded. You see the contrast between the leadership of Labor-Gesher and the leadership of Likud – it’s a live experiment going on before our eyes. You see that three worthy Mizrahim are unable to attract votes from the right.”

 Nissim Mizrahi (Photo: Daniel Tchechik)

So maybe the Labor Party or the left need to stop trying to find the Mizrahi person who will speak liberalese. 

“Of course. That is a categorical error of the left. It’s an almost vulgar and simplistic application of identity politics, based on assumptions that inequality and oppression are the be-all and end-all of what motivates Mizrahim in Israel. That conception has failed time and again.

” So, what you are actually saying is: Stop thinking about this fantasy of appealing to new communities, meaning the Mizrahim. 

Those are cheap tricks that all Likud voters recognize instantly. There are all kinds of attempts based on the thesis that the vote of the Mizrahim is an anomaly, and seen through this lens, liberals are unable to see and perceive what those voters are actually saying. If they say things that are not compatible with the liberals’ imagined order, the latter immediately shut their ears and look for tricks.

Gabbay, for example, tried to signal something when he said, ‘The left has forgotten what it is to be Jewish.’ He was saying that there is a population here whose loyalty to Jewish values and the state’s Jewish identity is very deep and should not be maligned. ”

 But then everyone pounced on him.

 “True. The left thinks that Haaretz can run articles all the time stating that God is nonsense and those people are idol worshippers, all kinds of enlightened talk said as if it was something avant-garde. Maybe it was avant-garde in the 18th century. Simplistically, I can say that the left cannot change without undergoing a deep metamorphosis – without examining itself from a slightly more humble position.

To understand that the liberal vision is only one vision of order and it is not eternal. It’s true that Francis Fukuyama declared the end of history, but we’ve seen what happened to history since then.”

Read article in full

Sunday, January 12, 2020

'Only three Jews show up' to inauguration of Nebi Daniel synagogue

To much fanfare, the Eliyahu Hanavi (Nebi Daniel) synagogue in Alexandria was at last officially inaugurated after a three-year programme of restoration, ordered by Egyptian president Al-Sissi. While the project affirms that Jews once lived in Egypt and their glorious heritage, The Jerusalem Post noted the irony that 'only three Jews showed up'. Meanwhile, Egypt continues the creeping appropriation of the near-extinct community's moveable heritage, Torah scrolls and communal records.

At the age of 67, Haroun is the youngest of the eight remaining Egyptian Jews. “I will be the last Jewish woman in Egypt to close the door of the synagogue,” she said.

Yolande Mizrahi, in her 80s but still vital,  sat in one of the rebuilt wooden benches of the synagogue. Although her family left Egypt for France, Italy and Israel, she remained and reveled in returning to the synagogue which she attended as a child.

“I have traveled a lot and I have always returned. This is my country, I belong here. Why should I leave? asked Mizrahi, adding that she hopes her family will visit to see the refurbished shul.

“Egyptian officials are hoping that the synagogue will become a tourist attraction that backs up Sisi’s assertion that the country respects religious minorities and their heritage.

"If it wasn’t for [President Abdel Fattah] al-Sissi, this would have never been done. A lot of things have changed since he’s taken over,” Mizrahi told AFP. In 2018, Sissi singled out preservation of places of worship for Egyptian Jews and Coptic Christians as a priority for his government.

 “If Egypt has Jews again, we will build synagogues for them,” he said.

 Of course, that was an empty gesture, but the restoration of the Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue enables the government to place a feather of tolerance in its cap. And for the few remaining Jews of Alexandria, they can carry on with the knowledge that their heritage will not completely disappear.

 “This is recognition of Egypt’s Jews who were neglected for over sixty years,” Haroun told AFP. “It is recognition that we have always been here and that we have contributed to a lot of things just like any other Egyptian.”

Read article in full

Repair news was simply good PR for Egypt

The Times erases ethnic cleansing of Jews from Egypt

Friday, January 10, 2020

Baron de Menasce offered to buy Western Wall from the Arabs

Following the 1929 Hebron massacre, which began as a clash of religious claims to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, three initiatives to settle the dispute by buying the Wall and surrounding buildings from the Muslims emerged. One was a remarkable proposal by Prince Ali Pasha of Egypt, the uncle to the future king Farouk. Another came from the entrepreneur Pinchas Rutenberg. The third came from Baron de Menasche, an Egyptian Jew and well-known philanthropist. The Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, turned down all three. Read the full story in The Times of Israel:

 In 1926, a Jewish effort was launched to buy properties in front of the Wall as a first step toward acquiring the entire Moghrabi area and eventually the Wall itself.

In early October 1928, Frederick Kisch, a Jerusalem-based Zionist official proposed, in a confidential letter to the Zionist Executive in London, that the Muslims be compelled to sell the pavement and the Moghrabi area to the Jews for £100,000, “in exchange for another suitable area in the Old City, with the inevitable addition of a cash payment for the benefit of the Wakf authorities.” But these efforts, like those preceding them, went nowhere.

Jews fleeing their homes in Jerusalem in 1929

Suddenly, however, in the days immediately following the Hebron massacre, three new initiatives appeared. While none of these new initiatives succeeded, their close proximity to each other and the dramatic nature of their presentation make them, especially Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha’s proposal, unique in the history of Mandate Palestine.

 The first initiative came from a prominent Egyptian Jew, the Baron Felix de Menasce, the President of the Israelite Community in Alexandria. On August 26, 1929, only two days after the Hebron Massacre, Menasce walked into the British Embassy in Paris and met with Adrian Holman, the Second Secretary at the Embassy.

Later that day Holman cabled the Foreign Office in London and reported as follows: [Menasce] explained to me at some length that the frequent cases of rioting at the Wailing Wall were due to the fact that the buildings surrounding the Wall were in the hands of the Moslems and had always been looked upon by the British Government as bearing a religious character. It had consequently always proved impossible for the Jews to buy the buildings in question and thus prevent troubles in the future. He maintained that the buildings were purely civil as opposed to religious and that the present moment might be an opportune one for the British Government to reconsider the possibility of arranging for the Jewish community to buy the buildings for demolition or other purposes. He was sure that if this were done, the Jewish community throughout the world would easily be able to find the necessary sum of money.”

 George W. Rendell of the Foreign Office’s Eastern Division responded to Holman’s cable on September 7, noting the Muslims viewed the Wall as a religious site and would not be willing to sell the nearby dwellings to the Jews. Rendell poured more cold water on the idea, adding, “[t]he Colonial Office are, I think, familiar with the advantages and difficulties of a solution on the lines of the Baron de Menasce’s proposal, and seeing how overworked they are at the moment with a variety of Middle Eastern crises, I am not adding to their correspondence by passing the suggestion on to them.”

 Menasce sent a handwritten letter in French to Weizmann reporting on his meeting with Holman at the British Embassy in Paris. Menasce wrote, “J’ai la conviction c’est le moment psychologique de transfer tout l’argent necessaire, si jamais les Juifs deraint acheter ce Wakf …” (“I am convinced that if the Jews are ever going to buy this Wakf, this is, psychologically, the right time to find all the necessary money …”)

No record has been found indicating whether Menasce had been acting on Weizmann’s behalf, or whether Weizmann ever responded to Menasce.

Project to restore overgrown Alexandria cemeteries is launched

Now that  the Eliyahu Hanavi (Nebi Daniel) synagogue is having its official opening following months of renovation and restoration, a  project to renovate Alexandria's Jewish cemeteries has been launched.

The ark of the Nebi Daniel synagogue after restoration

Alexandria’s Jewish cemeteries are overgrown with weeds, leaves and small tree-trunks.  The Nebi Daniel Association, based in Paris and London,   has decided to undertake a thorough cleaning of the three cemeteries and is appealing for funds.

Since its formation, the Association has been able get the local authorities to  repair  the perimeter walls of the three cemeteries. It  has financed, from its own personal funds, the resurfacing of the paths at the cemetery at Chatby.

The current estimate for cleaning the  cemeteries amounts to USD 30,000 or EUR 27,000 . The Association says the project cannot be fully funded by it alone, although its council members have pledged more than half that sum.

Fifteen gardeners must be recruited  for each cemetery to supplement the six permanent gardeners of the community for a period of 35 days. Waste needs to be disposed of and equipment has to be purchased.

Nebi Daniel Association will work together with the community under the supervision of architect Alec Haggar. The Association will organise for a rabbi to recite kaddish at the graves of relatives of donors.

To contact the Nebi Daniel Association email

Egypt registers 13 Jewish artefacts as protected

Project to restore Nebi Daniel synagogue is completed

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Let's talk about (Arab) colonialism

Zionism is the polar opposite of colonialism, and the exodus of Jews from Arab countries is just the last stage in a project to subdue indigenous and unassimilable peoples of the Middle East, argues Dani Ishai Behan in this important article in The Times of Israel. 

Now let’s discuss the real colonialism occurring within Palestine – specifically, that conducted by Arab Palestine itself.

The Arabian conquest

As with many powerful nations in the early Middle Ages, the Arabs sought to expand their holdings and their power through acquisition of foreign territory. Conquest, war, and totalization were the popular mode of “progress” in that era, so it isn’t surprising that the Arabs sought to build an empire of their own. Their first conquests included, by dint of proximity, the upper parts of Middle East, specifically Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, and Syria.

 They immediately set about the project of “Arabization”: raising taxes on indigenous peoples, restricting our government access, curtailing our civil liberties, replacing our sacred sites with mosques (the most notable example being the Al-Aqsa compound, which sits on the very location where our Temple once was), and effectively reducing us to second class citizens in our own lands. This system was cynically named “Al-Dhimma”, or “the protected people”.

 Those who defied this system, or were perceived as defying this system, were met with massacres and bloodshed, as the seemingly endless list of pogroms (and the eventual ethnic cleansing of Jews from “Arab lands”) clearly shows. The only way to escape all of this was to convert to Islam, abandon all trappings of indigenous identity, and become “Arabs”.

 Countless people throughout the Middle East and North Africa did just that, trading in their indigenous identities for the privileges of Arab status. However, as with their brethren in Europe, relatively few Jews were willing to assimilate, and most held steadfast to their people, their religion, and their way of life.

 Despite this, the Jewish nation was not expected to survive. Arab rulers believed we would eventually cave in and convert, or languish in dhimmitude until we all died off. The success of Zionism shattered these expectations. Not only did we survive exile in Europe/Babylon/etc and under centuries of Arab occupation, we regained a substantial chunk of our ancestral territories – defeating 6 well-trained Arab armies bent on genociding us in the process.

The acute humiliation felt by the Arab states after the war, and the resulting flood of refugees (both Jewish and Arab), set the stage for the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict and the Palestinian cause.

 What, then, is the Palestinian cause? It is, in essence, a reaction to Zionism and the State of Israel itself. Although it ludicrously presents itself as an indigenous rights-oriented cause, it is really nothing more than a front for Arab imperialism. It is hoped that, by repatriating the 6 million or so descendants of Arab refugees into Israel, the Jews in Israel will be demographically overwhelmed and we will be robbed of our self-determination once more, transforming our country into a de facto (and eventually de jure) Arab state.

 The Palestinian cause has nothing whatsoever to do with human rights or “anti-colonialism”. It is about nothing more than the Arab world’s desire to regain its lost “honor” by accomplishing through stealth what it failed to do by force: restoring their hegemony over Israel and putting the “uppity” Jews back in their place.

 Read article in full

More from Dani Ishai Behan

Challenging the myth of ''white European' Israel

The story of Judaism is liberation from imperialism

Don't excuse Muslim antisemitism

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

'White Zion' is not without black humour

With her new book White Zion, Gila Green adds grit and detail to a literary field where the Yemenite experience in Israel remains under-represented. Lyn Julius reviews the book in Jewish News (Times of Israel):

Why did Gila Green, a writer, editor and teacher who moved to Israel from her native Canada,  call her book White Zion? In this thinly-disguised autobiographical collection of short stories,  there is a constant tension between  effete, icy Ottawa, and the rugged landscape of Israel, where her Yemenite father spent his childhood. In  his family's stone house  on the edge of Jewish Jerusalem,  he would meet pilots in the 1948 war taking a coffee break in a shack on the roof. Yet it is  Gila (or her character Miriam)  who ends up living in Israel, while her father  remains in his White Zion, Canada.

The writing is picturesque, even naturalistic, although sometimes the similes are extravagant. For example, at a tea party:'I would have expected something closer to a look of disgust and a shake of the head, as though turning away from a close- up view of roadkill while sitting in the passenger seat.'

 Green mines the contrast between Miriam's well-spoken Canadian Ashkenazi mother, and her brawny ex-paratrooper father, wearing his perennial shorts even when it is  minus 20 outside. He never manages to master enough English to write down telephone messages.  The parents engage in language wars, yet the relationship seems to survive. Although the father works in a TV repair shop with a sideline in home porn movies,  the family are poor enough to take in boarders. Some turn out to be thieves and even mental cases.

It is the Yemenite side of her family which most interests Miriam: she persuades her father to start writing down his childhood memories in Jerusalem. Some are reminiscent of Amos Oz's.  Green's  subjects are Miriam's  brother, her much-married mother, her gay uncle, who is taken under the wing of a Russian dance teacher, her father's own squabbling parents. All the Yemenite characters seem to accept the hardships of life in Israel. They are devout and work hard, the women eking a living from selling food or cleaning houses. However, Miriam's tough ex-paratrooper father, shouting Arabic expletives, is not afraid to take his revenge on those who  upset him.

In painting her picture of developing Israel, Green suggests the white-on-black racism of the Ashkenazi establishment, passing the Yemenite grandfather over for promotion despite his loyal service to the Mapai workers' party. There is the black-on-black racism of the Arab who objects to what he thinks are  two Arab girls (in fact one is the swarthy Miriam) consorting  in the Jewish students' canteen.

Back in Canada Green subtly hints at the effects of assimilation  - Miriam's brother marries out, presumably to a woman with money whose rosary hangs in her SUV. Miriam's prematurely dead uncle is hurriedly cremated by his shiksa wife before his shocked parents have time to say farewell. At the other extreme we are given a glimpse into Israel's secular-religious divide, where a yeshiva  boy talking to a girl could be reason for savage punishment.

White Zion is not short of black humour, and some moments in  Gila Green's short stories are hilarious.   Take the description of the religious wedding in a shabby hall. The groom  has gone 'frum' and the marriage begins inauspiciously with  his forcing the wedding ring down on the bride's finger. Rats scamper in the toilet. Ironically, the bride in the toilet stall  has to console her rattled young escort, who is there to protect against the evil eye.

White Zion never ceases to fascinate while at times it repels. Gila Green should be commended for  adding grit and detail to a literary field where the Yemenite experience remains  under-represented.

White Zion by Gila Green (Cervena Barva Press, 2019)

Read article in full

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

On the trail of what is left of the Cicurel legacy in Egypt

Egyptian Tarek Heggy is a liberal author and academic, with a special interest in Jews and Israel. So when offered  the opportunity to show descendants of the prominent Cicurel family around his home country, he took it. Not all of the Cicurel legacy was still standing.  A note slipped to Heggy by a fellow tour guide read: "History can be distorted, but it can never be erased or denied.'

"I was delighted and honoured to be the tour guide accompanying the Cicurel family during their recent visit to Egypt. The children and grandchildren of Solomon Cicurel gathered in Egypt from the United States and France. 

The trip was intended to explore Egyptian civilisation and discover its modern history in which the family played a part, especially the Egyptian economy: Solomon Cicurel and others had joined Tallat Harb Pasha to found Egypt's first bank.

 The journey was steeped in emotion. It was a search for roots and history in Egypt. They grieved in front of every demolished building and rejoiced in front of every relic. Every suspicion was met with frustration and every confirmation with pride.

The Cicurel department store in Cairo before it was  demolished.

 The biggest shock was in Cairo. The Cicurel department store had been demolished and replaced with the Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt. Villa Cicurel bore no relationship to (the exclusive district of ) Zamalek and its demons, nor with the novel and the stories written about it. Villa Cicurel was in Giza. Here in his own house, Solomon was murdered in 1927 while sleeping next to his wife.

Solomon Cicurel and Villa Cicurel in Cairo's Giza district where he was murdered

 The family were most anxious to find Villa Cicurel in Giza. They wanted to rush their visits in order to look for the villa, and forego lunch for sandwiches. With the help of Google and GPS we found it. The villa is now the building of the College of Oriental Languages, as far as we could see from the newspaper photos of the time reporting the tragedy.

The family were happy to find the villa but were saddened by the tragedy, happy to take a picture of the outside but disappointed that the director would not allow them inside (they respected his refusal). They rejoiced when some confirmed that it was Villa Cicurel, but were sceptical when others said that it was the property of Princess Fatma and that the original villa had been (surprise!) demolished.

 In Luxor they were introduced to Pharaonic history and civilisation, and were amazed at all the monuments.

Alexandria filled them with joy - they rejoiced when they saw the restored (Nebi Daniel)  synagogue and were proud to see the names of their ancestors engraved among the synagogue founders. They told me that Solomon Cicurel was married to a member of the Toriel family, known as Egypt’s ‘cotton kings’ in that era.

No words can describe their feelings, that I witnessed, when we visited El Shatby cemetery and they found the graves of their family members.

The Cicurel residence in Alexandria was demolished in 2012

 The city of Alexandria was a blessing and gave us more joy when we spotted the original Oreco building (a branch of the Cicurel store catering to the middle classes) : the letters of the name are still visible on the facade.

Returning to Cairo, the American Cicurels left us to return to the States and the French branch continued their visits, alternating their tourist schedule with their search for roots. We visited the Adly St synagogue and found the name Cicurel engraved on the founders' board and on the wooden benches (No.122)."

Inside the Adly St synagogue