Sunday, July 24, 2016

Canadian Jews name Yazidi rescue after Ezra

Canadian Jews have named their rescue mission for Yazidi families Operation Ezra, after the great airlift of Jewsfrom Iraqin the 1950s, the Forward reports: 

The small Yazidi community in Canada is teaming up with local Jewish organizations to help refugees running from ISIS find new homes.
With an initial goal of raising $34,000 to sponsor one refugee family, activists and community members in Winnipeg, Canada raised $250,000 to help 7 Yazidi families with a total of 42 people settle permanently in their city. Two families have already been greeted at the Winnipeg airport this July while 5 more will be joining them later in the year.
Nafiya Naso, an organizer with Operation Ezra, said that the collaboration started in 2015 when conversation around Syrian refugees was just beginning to seep into Canadian dialogue. With some of her family in Turkish refugee camps, Naso felt that the plight of the Yazidi people, who are a separate religious and ethnic group in Iraq and began to be killed and persecuted once ISIS took control of their region, often went unnoticed in most refugee discussions.
“Nobody knew who the Yazidis were and what had happened to them,” she said.
In a project named after the 1951 relocation of Iraqi Jews to Israel, community organizers partnered with The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, Jewish Child and Family Service, and several local synagogues to help raise the funds necessary to sponsor the families and provide advice and counselling services once the refugees arrived.
“We have many people who have offered their time to help them with their English, take them shopping, take them to the doctor,” said Naso.
The families come from two different refugee camps in Turkey, where the Yazidis were placed separately from other refugees due to discrimination in the camps.
Naso’s cousin Saood, 21, was shocked to see so many different groups come to greet him with signs and cheers when his family landed at the Winnipeg airport on July 12.
“The most surprising part of arriving at the airport was all the people there,” he said. “We can’t believe how many people came and how many helped in giving us a new home here in Winnipeg.”
Michel Aziza, who works as chair of Operation Ezra, said that he immediately saw similarities between Jews who had been taken from their homes during World War II and the Yazidis.

“They’re a religious minority where they came from,” he said, noting that both groups have persecuted due to their religion. “They have been persecuted for hundreds of years.”
Naso and Aziza said that they will continue rallying to raise money for new families to join the 500 or so other Yazidi people who currently live in Canada for as long as the persecution continues.
“Unfortunately for the Yazidi people, time is of the essence,” said Aziza. “There’s a genocide going on as we speak and so we don’t have the luxury of time.”
The push is not connected to a Montreal Sephardic businessman whose claim to have singlehandedly rescue hundreds of Yazidis drew criticism last year.

Read article in full




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Steven Maman refutes allegations by a French-Canadian journalist that he did not rescue certain Yazidis (with thanks: Michelle)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Another Jew emerges in Pakistan

Point of No Return exclusive

Pakistan does not recognise Judaism and there were no known Jews living in Pakistan until Fishel Benkhald embarked on the struggle to self-identify. Now another young Jew, Aryeh Ben Samuel, has decided to declare himself as a Jew, despite all the risks. Here is his story. (With thanks: Wayne)




"Shalom to the whole world from Pakistan,

 I am an 18 year- old Pakistani boy. My grandparents crossed the Indian border in 1948. They used to live in Hyderabad, South India. During the migration process, my grandfather told me that those days were the toughest days he had ever seen in his life: there was blood all the way, kidnappings, rapes.

Extremists also robbed my grandparents ; when they forced my grandparents to accept Islam and leave Judaism, my grandparents refused, then they raped my grand mother, so I was told. When they got into Pakistan at the Wagah border with Lahore, they were processed so as to obtain migration documents. When it came to religion, the migration registrar refused to provide documents for my  ancestral family. His words were, so as I was told: " we hate Jews, because of non-Muslims we had to sacrifice our lives to obtain a country, and you people will ruin it, and make our land unholy."

My ancestral family was forced to accept Islam once again, but they now decided to pretend rather than accept. From that very moment we were registered here under Muslim names.

A few days ago when I became legally an adult of 18 years of age, I filed an application to the registration department NADRA for my ID card. I also mentioned to them that I want to make my religion Judaism again. The registration officer lady, replied with an angry face, " once the religion is Islam it can never be changed as per  the policy laid down by the Interior Ministry." Thrice I received same reply,  even though I showed them some documents which we obtained after migration, documents which still show that we are Jews.

Shalom from Pakistan.
Baruch Shem kavod malchuto leo'lam vaed.* 🙂

Aryeh Ben Samuel from Pakistan

 Even though we are pretending to be Muslim, we have never forget to observe shabbat, and we do pray the shema, read Tanach (Torah) Tehilim (psalms).

*Verse from the shema

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Biton Report perpetuates a false narrative


Education minister Naftali Bennett with Erez Biton

You cannot solve a real problem by using a false narrative, argues Oded Lifschitz in this must-read Haaretz article, written in the wake of the Biton report, which he fears will be used as a Mizrahi vote-winner and an instrument of the 'thought police'. He shoots down various myths spread by 'Mizrahi deprivation activists': Rather than have had their 'Arabic culture stolen from them',  Moroccan Jews had already assimilated French culture before they arrived in Israel and number more Nobel prize-winners than another group.

Most of the Middle Eastern and North African Jews in Israel, other than the small number who lived here before the state was established, immigrated to the country in the 1950s and ‘60s. According to the narrative woven by Mizrahi deprivation activists, most of the immigrants from Morocco and the Maghreb had their glorious Mizrahi-Arabic culture stolen from them by the left-wing Ashkenazi regime, which forced them into a Zionist, secular, European “melting pot.”

The Mizrahim, they say, were discriminated against economically, socially, culturally and in their dealings with the government. Jewish and Zionist history focused on Ashkenazi Jewry and ignored the Jews of the east. The conclusion: The Mizrahim were discriminated against and there must now be economic and social affirmative action to make both parts of the nation equal.
The facts are different.  (...)

And to what extent were Moroccan Jews Mizrahi-Arabic? Colonialist France seized Algeria in 1830, Tunisia in 1881, and Morocco in 1912. Even before that, France’s Ashkenazi Jewish community had integrated into secular society in France and into its colonialist French culture. It declared itself the patrons of the Jews of the east, and set up the French-Jewish Alliance school network, which operated hundreds of schools between Baghdad and Casablanca.

From 1860, Alliance established dozens of schools in Morocco, with 80 percent of the Jewish children studying in them. Avraham became Albert, Moshe became Moise, Sarah turned into Jacqueline and Miriam to Claudine. The pupils memorized Moliere, learned algebra and aspired to do well on “le bac,” the French matriculation exams, so they could study in French universities.

While the Muslims in these countries dreamed of independence, the Jews supported the French colonial regime, which advanced them in the economy and the civil service and which generously funded the Alliance network.

The Francophile melting pot was a tremendous success; three Jews of Moroccan origin have won the Nobel Prize: Baruj Benacerraf (Medicine, 1980); Claude Cohen-Tannoudji (Physics, 1997) and Serge Haroche (Physics, 2012). Moroccan Jews are thus the group with the highest rate of Nobel Prize winners in the world.

The deprivation activists complain about the repression of Mizrahi music in Israel, even though most Jews of the Maghreb preferred French chansons to Mizrahi music, and here many of them are fans of Gaston Ghrenassia, the talented Algerian-born French-Jewish singer and songwriter better known as Enrico Macias.

The deprivation activists never boast about Macias or the Nobel Prize winners because it would mess up their narrative of how their “authentic Moroccanism” – mufleta, clapping and Arabic songs – was stolen from them. That’s as insulting as arguing that the main legacy of Polish Jewry is gefilte fish, Hasidic dances and Polish songs. There’s a Hungarian saying that roughly translates as “Whoever comes from a distant land says that there he was a king.” Indeed, whoever had a cabin in his native land says he lived in a palace, and if his father taught little children the son says he was a famous rabbi.
In contrast to the false narrative, no one stole pure Mizrahi-Arab culture from the Jews of the Maghreb, because most of them had lost it long before they came here. In Israel, all they did was move them from the Francophile melting pot to the Zionist-Hebrew one, which combined those who spoke Yiddish, Romanian, Arabic, Ladino and French, and gave them a language and crucial tools they needed to integrate and advance in secular, Western Israel.

Migration is a difficult and painful process, but the difficulty would have been intensified had these immigrants been left to seclude themselves in their Franco-Maghreb Mizrahism. If they were deprived, it was for the opposite reason – many of them were sent to distressed towns and neighborhoods and to homogenous immigrant communal settlements where they didn’t meet enough Israelis or other types of immigrants. This undermined their integration and delayed their advancement.

Is there still an ethnic gap? There is, and the deprivation activists blame the Ashkenazim, Mapai, “the left,” the kibbutzim, everyone. This is despite the fact that by the 1970s, after decades of left-wing, Ashkenazi rule, Israel was a leader in socioeconomic equality, while today, after decades of right-wing rule, it’s a world leader in socioeconomic gaps. Because the ratio of Mizrahim in the lower deciles is high, the obvious conclusion is that the left actually advanced the Mizrahim and it’s the right that impoverished them.

Momi Dahan, a Morocco native and a professor of public policy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, claims that in 1996 the income gap between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim was 40 percent, while in 2011 it was 26 percent, meaning that it is closing at a fast pace, one percent a year. Interethnic marriages are accelerating the closing of this gap and are blurring the boundaries; when one asks how to define a Mizrahi or what percentage of the population is Mizrahi it’s hard nowadays to find an answer. The Mizrahi thought police now being established following the great cultural revolution of Naftali Bennett, Miri Regev and Erez Biton will only perpetuate the false Mizrahi narrative.

The initiators might benefit. Bennett will try to pick off Mizrahi voters from the Likud, Regev will solidify her position, and for the matriculation exam in literature pupils may learn more Biton than Bialik. But the tough commissars that will be taking over the educational, cultural and media institutions to condemn, denounce and punish those who will deviate from the official Mizrahi narrative, and the tough kashrut inspectors who will purge the Ashkenazi hametz from the textbooks will do all of us harm, particularly the Mizrahim among us.

You cannot solve a real problem by using a false narrative. What’s urgently needed is a reliable Mizrahi narrative that will define the real reasons for the ethnic gap and work to erase it. This is the only way we can bury the fabricated and divisive ethnic demon that is nurtured and exploited by the deprivation activists and right-wing governments. They continue to enrich tycoons and oppress the weak, including many Mizrahim, who are still misled and continue to vote for those who are screwing them.

Read article in full


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Once Biton, Mizrahim are twice shy

Erez Biton presents his report to Education minister Naftali Bennett

It's been a torrid few days since the Israel prize-winning poet Erez Biton presented his committee's 366-page report to education minister Naftali Bennett. Biton had been charged with the task of making recommendations for how Israeli schools might introduce more content about Mizrahi and Sephardi history and heritage into the curriculum. But not everyone is happy, Lyn Julius blogs in The Times of Israel: 

The report, which purports to acquaint school kids with their rich and beautiful Mizrahi heritage by sending them on trips to North Africa and the Balkans, among other suggestions, came in response to pressure from Israeli organisations representing Jews from Arab lands. Mirroring the western origins of the founders of modern Zionism, the history Israeli schoolchildren learn is Eurocentric, although over 50 percent descend  from Jews driven from Arab and Muslim countries. Mizrahi leaders have been pushing for the Biton report to correct the imbalance.

The published report has sparked a variety of reactions - some violent. The Israel Army Radio critic Gidi Orsher lost his job over remarks he made that the Biton report marked a victory for eastern superstition and obscurantism over science and technology. Miri  Regev, culture minister of Moroccan descent,  lost no time in savaging Orsher as a worthless elitist.

By contrast, the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper has been crowing its glee, commending the report for letting 'Arab-Jewishness out of the closet'. For Zvi Barel, it's all about ending the state's historic  'discrimination' against the Arabic language and culture. At last, Barel enthuses, Israeli school kids will be able to tap into their latent 'Arab' identity by studying the now officially-approved works of the great medieval Muslim poet al-Mutanabbi.

But as Ashkenazi opinion-formers descend into time-worn cliches about 'discrimination' - to which the Biton report pays lip service, recommending that school kids be taught in civics classes of the Black Panthers, the Wadi Salib  riots and the 'kidnapped' Yemenite children - no one seems to have asked Mizrahim themselves what they thought. A survey by the Israel Democracy Institute found that only 1.4 percent of respondents thought that Ashkenazi discrimination of Mizrahim was a point of conflict. Economic inequality and lack of career prospects were far more pressing issues.

 Although they recognise that the Biton report is an important first step, Mizrahi leaders, for their part, are bitterly disappointed." It's a scandal," says one. The coalition of Mizrahi representative bodies are reported to be drafting a scathing letter to the Biton committee members, with a copy Naftali Bennett.


The reason for their disappointment is that the report does not adequately reflect the 'tragedy' of the Mizrahi Jews - the  expulsion and dispossession of Jews from Arab and Muslim lands. Cryptically, the Biton report promises that "Arabs and  Islam will be presented not just in relation to the Jews (as subjugators or providing good treatment) but as themselves." Quite what the report writers mean by this is not entirely clear, but to wax lyrical about the cultural points of connection between Jews and Arabs while glossing over one of the worst examples of mass ethnic cleansing of the 20th century would be like enthusing over the great Jewish contribution to Eastern European culture while barely mentioning the Holocaust.

It is essential for children to learn the context of why their parents and grandparents had to come to Israel without exaggerating the Mizrahi contribution to Zionism.  For the most part, they came as refugees, and no amount of studying the great poet al-Mutanabbi can  obscure this fact.

IBA programme (watch from1:39): Ephraim Kishon's son speaks in favour of the Biton report and maintains that his father's 1960s blockbuster Sallah Shabtai was not racist (with thanks: Michal)






Monday, July 18, 2016

Honouring Circassians who rescued Jews

 Muslim Circassians who saved Jews during the Holocaust will be among those honoured in a new memorial at the Arab-Jewish village of Neve Shalom, Haaretz reports. Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust memorial,  already honours 'Righteous Gentiles': to meet its strict criteria, these Righteous must have themselves risked their lives to rescue others. (With thanks: Lily)



The new Neve Shalom memorial will honour those rescuers who do not meet Yad Vashem's strict criteria

NEVE SHALOM – A makeshift sign tacked onto an olive tree is for now the only clue to the grand plan in store for this stretch of woods overlooking the Ayalon valley in central Israel. “Honoring the Circassians who saved the lives of Jews,” it reads.

If all goes as planned, this several-acres-large plot will become the site of an ambitious memorial project commemorating courageous individuals around the world who, during periods of war, ethnic cleansing and genocide, risked their lives to save others. Alongside the tree commemorating the tiny Muslim Circassian village in the Caucasus that saved 32 Jewish children during the Holocaust, there will be others — many others, in fact.

Within the next few years, according to the latest blueprint, the entire area will be covered with plaque-bearing trees and other monuments paying tribute, among others, to Turks who saved Armenians during the World War I genocide, Palestinians who rescued Jews during the 1929 Hebron riots, Jews who saved Palestinians during the Jerusalem riots that same year, Armenians who saved Jews in Budapest during the Holocaust, Jews who saved gypsies from the Nazis, as well as Hutus who rescued Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide — in short, any rescuer, no matter their origin or creed, not officially acknowledged by Israel’s state institutions.

Read article in full (subscription required)


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Christians for Israel launch 'Mizrahi Project '

This week, Christians United for Israel hold their summit in Washington. The launch  of their 'Mizrahi Project' is expected to be a talking point:  it is a real breakthrough in the campaign for justice for Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Iran. For the first time, three million Evangelical Christians who support Israel will be exposed to the story of the Mizrahi Jews told through a series of video clips and recorded testimonies. Leading the Mizrahi Project is Pastor Dumisani Washington, who has been working closely with the advocacy group JIMENA. He spoke to Karmel Melamed of Jewish Journal:


Dumisani Washington: Christian students and pastors are 'intrigued' by the Mizrahi story (photo: Karmel Melamed)

KM: Can you please shed light on why you think it is important for young Christian Zionists in your organization to know more about the plight of 850,000 Jews who fled or were forced out of the Arab lands and Iran during the 20th century?

 Like much of the world, most Christians are completely unaware of the story of the Mizrahi Jews.  They are somewhat aware of the Holocaust, but do not know that more than half of Israel’s Jewish population came from North Africa (and the Middle East - ed), and the It reminds Christians that the God of the bible is indeed gathering the “dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth,” by challenging them to think beyond the Jews of Europe.  It is also a reminder that Jewish communities in what are now Arab or Muslim countries predated Islam and Christianity by more than 2,000 years. Finally, knowledge of the Mizrahi Jews gives a more accurate account of the Arab-Israeli conflict, making an even stronger case for the need for a Jewish state.  For example, knowing that the Jews of ancient Babylon or Iraq were persecuted and expelled during the Farhouds of the early 1940’s is evidence that the current “conflict” is not truly about territory.  It’s about hatred for the Jewish people. 

KM: With all due respect, the Ashkenazi Jewish community in the U.S. has never shown an interest in hearing about the story of the forced Jewish exile from the Arab lands and Iran. As you indicated, some do not even know about it. Why do you believe Christians will have interest in this story?

 Not only do I believe Christians will be interested in the Mizrahi narrative, CUFI is already seeing the extent of the interest.  In January we shared this story with CUFI’s top college advocates during our Student Advocacy Leadership Training Conference.  There were also many pastors and CUFI staff in attendance.  We connected the Mizrahi Jews with the biblical narrative, and showed 19th century pictures of the Jews of Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Lebanon, and Yemen.  The conference attendees were inspired, empowered, and strengthened in their spiritual faith.   A few pastors asked that the presentation be made at their churches.  Many wanted even more information.  The stage is set.

  KM: I understand you’ve mentioned to CUFI members and even to Christians who had support for the Palestinians about this issue of the forced Jewish exile from the Arab lands and Iran in your speeches here and there. What have been their initial reactions to learning about these Mizrahi Jews and their forced exile during the 20th century?

 As I mentioned, our ‘CUFI On Campus’ leaders and pastors were very intrigued by the initial presentation we made at our annual student conference in January.  Since that time I’ve had the opportunity to share the Mizrahi narrative in our introductory events which are Pastors briefings, and the reaction has been consistently positive.  Also, I have begun including the information in campus lectures – lectures that have both pro-Israel and anti-Israel attendees.  Even Israel’s detractors are taken aback by the unfamiliar story of over 850,000 Jews expelled from Arab and or Muslim lands.  I strongly believe that, as this topic becomes a staple in Israel advocacy on college campuses, it will help our students make an even stronger case against the de-legitimization of Israel – especially during BDS campaigns.

  KM: Can you please share why you have outreached to the L.A. Iranian Jewish community and other Mizrahi communities to tell their story about their forced exile and escape? What impact do you believe it will have if Christian Zionists here it directly from those whose families experienced this exile?

I’m a believer that one who has actually experienced something can make the most compelling case for it.  For The ‘Mizrahi Project’ that will include both the first generation who fled to Israel and other places, as well as their children. I have personally interviewed many members of the Mizrahi community both in Israel and the United States and have found them to be among the most passionate and articulate supporters of the Jewish State.  The older generation has vivid memories of what it was to live in places like Egypt and Turkey.  One of my dear friends is a Jew of Egyptian and Iraqi descent who remembers being stateless for years while waiting for immigration to the U.S.  Her mother’s family was kicked out of Iraq with nothing more than what they could carry in a briefcase.  Her father left Egypt when the Arabic version of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” became a best-seller.

Read article in full


Pastor Washington's video (in conjunction with Prager University) "Why are there PalestinianRefugees?" has had over a million views

Friday, July 15, 2016

Egyptian media in a panic over Israel restitution move

Whenever the question of Jewish property seized in Arab countries comes up, it is not unusual for Arab media to become somewhat hysterical. Yesterday's Knesset session on restitution  of Jewish property in Arab lands, and Israel's secret efforts to advance this issue,  was enough to send the Egyptian internet site Dotmsr.com into a panic.

Instead of doing its own research Dotmsr.com lifted whole chunks from the Facebook page of Dr Edy Cohen, a Lebanese-born academic researcher and activist on behalf  of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, including his photos. Perhaps in anticipation of Arab media interest, Dr Cohen had thoughtfully posted his comments in Arabic.


Zionist Union Isaac Herzog attended the Knesset session on Jewish property in Arab lands, underscoring the cross-party nature of the issue.

Dotmsr..com quoted Dr Cohen's words: "there will be no solution to the Palestinian refugee problem as long as it does not solve the Jewish refugee issue and the problem of  their looted property, especially in Egypt, Iraq and other Arab states. He added: "Arabs know that the Israelis would ask Arab states to compensate Jews who left the Arab countries and moved to live in the Jewish state. They will soon themselves demanding of the countries of the world, and in front of international tribunals, and institutions of public law, compensation for their suffering, their property and their rights which they left in their countries of origin. The Arabs carry the moral responsibility for the departure of the Jews. "

Dr Edy Cohen 


Dotmsr.com found it noteworthy that on his Facebook page Dr Cohen had called for the leader of the Zionist Union Party, Isaac Herzog, to raise the issue to the forefront of Israeli public opinion, and  asked him to talk about this issue in the media.


Some of those attending the Knesset session. In the blue blouse, Mrs Levana Zamir, head of the organisations representing Jews from Arab countries in Israel.

The meeting was chaired by MK, Oren Hazan, who heads the lobby for the return of the property of Jews from Arab countries. Hazan belongs to the Likud party.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Israel 'working secretly to get restitution in Arab lands'

Israel is working secretly to obtain the return of Jewish property in Arab countries, Social Equality Ministry Director-General Avi Cohen said Wednesday, adding that millions of shekels have been allocated to the process, Haaretz reports. Quite what this 'covert activity' involves, and how Israel will obtain the 'restitution' is not clear, but it shows that at last the Israeli government is willing to do more to gather data than simply relying on the relatively small number of claims made. (With thanks: Yoram)

Most of the Jews came to Israel with nothing, having abandoned assets and property worth millions of dollars 

Speaking to a Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee hearing on restitution, Cohen said, “There is classified activity in conjunction with the Foreign Ministry in which we will invest millions to restore property belonging to Arab and Iranian Jewry, which will come to fruition within a month to a month-and-half. I cannot elaborate further.” Alon Simhayoff of the National Security Council confirmed the statement, adding that the covert move has the backing of the Prime Minister’s Office and the NSC.

 The news that Israel is secretly working to secure the return of property stolen from the Jews of the Islamic world some 70 years ago is surprising. Though the restitution issue resurfaces in the public debate every few years, until now, virtually nothing has been done about it. The sensitive issue resurfaces in public debate every few years. Though numbers aren't exact, it is believed that nearly a million Jews resided in Arab countries and in Iran on the eve of the War of Independence in 1948.

After Israel was established, around 600,000 of them immigrated to Israel over the next three decades in waves that continued in 1956 and 1967 and after the Iranian revolution in 1979. A State Comptroller report published 2014 blasted the state for neglecting the issue, and put the combined value of the lost assets at “a few billion dollars.” Despite repeated promises by successive governments, the state has made almost no effort to gather data on this lost property, and as of when that report was published in 2014, it hadn’t even formulated any real plan for doing so.

The Knesset did pass a law in 2010 stating that restitution for the lost property would be part of any future peace negotiations. And three years ago, the Social Equality Ministry, which is responsible for dealing with this issue, issued a public appeal to any whose family lost property in the Arabs states or Iran to fill out forms seeking its restitution.

Read article in full (registration required)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Libyan Jewry's unspoken Holocaust

It is only through a novel published two years ago by Yossi Sucary that many Israelis first learned that Libyan Jews were victims the Holocaust during WWII .  Hundreds ended up in Bergen Belsen. Sucary talks to JenniferLipman in the Jewish Chronicle:

In Israel, the Holocaust is almost always front of mind. Yet for decades, explains Sucary, whose novel Benghazi - Bergen-Belsen has just been published on Amazon, almost nothing was said publicly about the experiences of the Jews of Benghazi, Tripoli and beyond after the Nazis occupied Libya in 1942.

"They suffered from the Holocaust in the most brutal way, like their brothers in Europe, but people didn't know about it in Israel," says Sucary, shaking his head. "We call it the unspoken Holocaust."

 Even now, the story of the Libyan Jews during the Holocaust remains in the shadows. What's known is that after seizing the country, the Nazis created at least three concentration camps: Jado, Gharyan and Said al Aziz, where many died from disease or starvation alongside Nazi brutality. Jews were also transferred through Italy to Belsen and Birenbach Reiss.

Many of the latter group, Sucary's grandparents included, were upper class Libyans who, by virtue of having worked in Egypt, held British passports. "The Nazis planned to make prisoner substitutions," he explains. Unlike in Europe, the Nazis did not keep meticulous records and the number of victims is the subject of ongoing debate. Sucary puts it in the thousands, but is clear that "every one of the 50,000 Libyan Jews suffered one way or another from the Nazi occupation… every family suffered from someone who was killed, wounded or collapsed."


 After liberation, survivors were sent back to Libya. Vast numbers of Libyan Jews joined other Mizrachi communities and emigrated to Israel, where Sucary was born in 1959. Growing up hearing his mother wake from nightmares in which she would cry "the Nazis are coming", in Arabic and Italian, Sucary always knew this story needed to be told. When his novel was published in Israel in 2014, it won critical praise - Sucary received the prestigious Brenner Prize for Hebrew Literature -- and sent shockwaves around the intelligentsia, most of whom knew nothing about what had happened.

A few historians had written about it, he says, but people didn't pay attention. "Literature can encourage history to speak and that's what happened. Now everybody knows about this story." The novel tells of Silvana, a young woman who watches her community crumble and displays leadership in the face of this crisis. It is not his mother's story - she was just 10 when the Nazis arrived - but is inspired by it. Sucary's family were wealthy - his grandfather a successful merchant importing building material from Italy to North Africa – and had flourished in then-cosmopolitan Benghazi.

 "They lived a very good life and had relatively good relationships with the Arabs." While they survived, his mother's eight-year-old cousin was shot at close range, and other relatives perished. Beyond the atrocities, Sucary is struck by how those taken to German concentration camps survived against the odds; speaking Arabic not Yiddish, used to warmer climates.

Read article in full

Monday, July 11, 2016

First visit by Egyptian official to Israel in 10 years

Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry  discussed Palestinians, but not Jews in his meeting with Israel's prime minister Netanyahu

Perhaps it is too much to ask, but compensation due to Egyptian Jews or the future of their heritage did not figure in the first visit by an Egyptian official to Jerusalem since 1967. Al-Jazeera reports: 
Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, the first such visit in nearly a decade. Speaking at a news conference on Sunday alongside Netanyahu, Shoukry called for renewed peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials, and warned of the "constant deterioration" of the situation on the ground since the last round of negotiations between the two sides collapsed in April 2014.

 "My visit to Israel today is a continuation of Egypt's long-standing sense of responsibility towards peace for itself and all the peoples of the region, particularly the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, who have suffered many decades due to the perpetuation of the conflict between them," Shoukry, the first Egyptian official to visit Israel since 2007, said. "The plight of the Palestinian people becomes more arduous every day," he added. "The dream of peace and security moves further out of the Israeli people's reach as long as the conflict continues."

  Read article in full

Yemenite families want document declassification

 More than 100 families are ready to sue the Israeli government unless it releases classified documents concerning the (allegedly) kidnapped children of Yemenite refugees who arrived in Israel in the 1950s, Ynet News reports.

The Yemenite Children affair has resurfaced once again in the public debate following the Achim Vekayamim organization’s stated intention to renew efforts to discover the truth behind one of the cases, which has caused a storm in Israel for decades.
Yemenite family

The governmental investigative committee on the mysterious disappearance of Yemeni children classified documents and materials about the case that were classified in 2001. Achim Vekayamim, which comprises dozens of Yemenite family members who were either allegedly kidnapped (or parents of those allegedly kidnapped), announced its intention to petition the Supreme Court to provide access to these files.

The Yemenite Children affair raised much suspicion in Israel after hundreds of babies and toddlers belonging to Yemenite immigrants to the newly founded state between 1948 and 1954 were said to be kidnapped and sold to Ashkenazi families. The parents were reportedly informed that their children had died in the hospital. However, some of the children later sought to track their biological families and discovered DNA matches. Suspicions were further vindicated when parents received military draft orders when their “deceased” children would have reached 18 years old—an indication that they were still, in fact, recorded as alive.

Read article in full 

Netanyahu wants closure on vanished Yemenite  children

Sunday, July 10, 2016

At last, a voice for Mizrahi history and culture (updated)

Update: watch Ashley Perry, president of Reconectar, being interviewed by Eylon Aslan-Levy on the IBA news channel.

The day that the Biton report  recommending more Mizrahi and Sephardi content in Israel's schools was presented to minister Naftali Bennett was a red-letter day for the 50 percent of Israelis who hail from Arab and Muslim countries. For Ashley Perry in The Times of Israel it means that recognition that  there is no one Jewish way in anything, but a myriad of histories, has arrived.

                                                     Ashley Perry
While for many, this will barely merit a blip on their radar, for the millions of Jews of Sephardi or Mizrahi background, it is a day that has finally arrived, albeit 68 years too late.
Statistically, every other Jew in Israel comes from the Middle East or North Africa and when the Jews of Morocco, Iran, Spain, Portugal, Yemen, Greece, Afghanistan, Egypt and other places throughout the Sephardi and Mizrahi world study their history and culture at school, it was largely ignored or skipped over.
The lack of education about the history of these Jewish communities allows for bigoted reactions simply largely because of a lack of knowledge and awareness.
Many still refer to Sephardi Jews as somehow “backward,” “superstitious”, “oriental” or “medieval”, as we heard from a well-known radio film critic recently, which is simply bizarre when one understands that, to give but one example, during the last century some of the worldliest, educated, successful and cosmopolitan Jews in the world could be found in places like Cairo and Baghdad.
Others will simply refer to Jewish history, culture and tradition through an entirely Ashkenazi lens.
I can’t count the amount of times I have heard people refer to the “usual” prayer book, the “normal” way of doing things or “traditional” Jewish culture when referencing Ashkenazi custom and tradition.
For those who think this is an exaggeration, try a little thought experiment. When you think of Jewish music, food or language, do you think of anything other than klezmer, gefilte fish, or bagel and lox, and Yiddish, or similar examples?
Do you know any Judeo-Spanish romansas, ever tried Kubbeh matfuniya or heard Judeo-Berber?
This has an effect of creating an “otherness” in respect to these communities, which creates the impression that they are somehow outside the normative social identity of the state and society.
There is no one Jewish way in anything, not history, culture or tradition.
There are a myriad of histories, a kaleidoscope of cultures and cacophony of traditions which makes the Jewish People a beautiful mosaic, each with its roots in our ancestral homeland but with different experiences during the millennia Diaspora.
The State of Israel has always had a tension between two models of identity politics, that of ‘melting pot’ and multiculturalism.
While many of the founding fathers and mothers understandably sought to create a ‘New Jew’ and new society for the reestablishment of sovereignty in our national homeland, it largely meant that it was constructed along Central and Eastern European lines that they had experience of and attempted to emulate.
Israelis Jews were expected to melt away their cultural prism into a largely Central and Eastern European pot.
Unfortunately, this meant that the history and culture of the Jews from other parts of the world were deemed superfluous and even damaging to this national ethos.
Nevertheless, in recent generations there has been a greater move towards multiculturalism, where multiple cultural traditions have gained slightly more prominence, if still not equality.

Read article in full

Biton report re-ignites culture wars

With thanks: Sylvia and Eliyahu

The Biton report, which was released last week, has already sparked a furious controversy.


No sooner than the ink was dry on the report into how more Mizrahi and Sephardi culture and history might be incorporated into Israel's education system, than Gidi Orsher (above), a movie critic on the Army Radio station Galei Tsahal, launched a rant on his Facebook page. Orsher disparaged Biton's recommendations that more should be taught about North African rabbis such as the Baba Sali.

"Next time you want protection from missiles, forget Iron Dome and put a chicken leg on your head," Orsher wrote, referring to a North African old wives' superstition.

"Next time you want to conceive a baby, bypass the fertility clinic and go and prostrate yourself at the tomb of Rabbi Kosama in the Galilee. And wait, wait, and wait."

Culture minister Miri Regev (right), who is of Moroccan extraction,  has applauded the suspension of Orsher pending an inquiry. On her Facebook page, Regev denounced Orsher as an elitist who 'rated zero' in her scheme of things.

The Biton report seems to have ignited a new phase in Israel's culture wars, recalling the resurgence of the 'ethnic demon' at the time of the 2015 national elections.  Yair Garbuz, scion of the Ashkenazi cultural elite,  had then denounced the 'talisman kissers and tomb-worshippers' who supported the Likud party.

Seth Frantzman has translated Orsher's entire rant

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Jewish couple murdered in Casablanca

An elderly Jewish couple in Morocco were murdered in their Casablanca home last week, allegedly by their gardener. The Times of Israel has the gruesome story: (with thanks: Michelle)

 Sam Toledano and Vicky Chetrit

 The killer then dismembered their bodies and disposed of the parts in different areas across the city.

According to Moroccan media, the couple’s gardener was arrested by police and has confessed to the crime, which he said he committed due to financial hardship.
The victims were identified as Sam Toledano and Vicky Chetrit.

According to local reports, the man, identified in the Moroccan daily Le360 by the initials M.R., was facing eviction from his apartment when he hatched a plan to kill the couple and steal their money and jewellery.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Biton report will 'right a historic injustice'

More Mizrahi and Sephardi content in the schools and university curriculum. Annual school trips to Spain and Morocco. A TV show. No longer will education about Jews from Arab countries be Israel's Cinderella.  What's not to like in the Biton committee's report, submitted this week to Education minister Naftali Bennett? According to the Jerusalem Post, however, the report seems heavy with words like 'enrichment' 'cultural works' ' heritage' and the 'Mizrahi contribution to Zionism', but seems less keen to emphasise that 90 percent of Mizrahim came to Israel as refugees. (With thanks: Lily, Michelle)

Blind, Algerian-born poet Erez Biton presents his report to Education minister Naftali Bennett

“After 68 years, we’re righting a historic injustice,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said on Thursday.

Speaking at a press conference in the Education Ministry offices in Tel Aviv, Bennett was presented with the recommendations of the Biton Committee, tasked with empowering Eastern Jewish cultural studies within the general education curriculum.

Bennett launched the committee some four months ago, and appointed as its head, Erez Biton, the first poet of Mizrahi descent to win the Israel Prize in Literature (2015).


Biton was tasked with empowering the identity of the Mizrahi Jewish community – including immigrants from Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia and Libya – within the education system.

“The students of Israel will learn the entire Zionist and Jewish story, including the rich heritage of Mizrahi Jews,” Bennett said upon accepting the report.

“I’m deeply moved by the addition of amazing stories, long left out of our education system, into our classrooms. I will make sure every girl and boy studies their heritage, their family’s history, and be proud of it.”


Bennett said that he was raised in an Ashkenazi home, and was never exposed to the culture of Mizrahi Jews or their contributions to the state.

“I want and ask that my children be raised on a complete Israel story, that they be educated in the spirit of the entire Jewish story,” he said. “We will tell the story of the entire Jewish nation, of all its communities, of all those who helped us arrive at the wonderful country we have today.”

The committee, comprised of numerous subcommittee, among them literature, history, thought, academia and research, and enrichment, presented their recommendations in all fields on how to incorporate Eastern Jewish culture into the education system.

According to the recommendations, first and foremost, the general school curriculum as well as textbooks used in classes should be updated to include chapters on the culture of Mizrahi Jews and on their works and contributions.

The committee also called to establish a National Day for Jewish Refugees from Arab and Islamic States to be marked annually in schools on November 30. This would include visits to museums and other enrichment activities.

The recommendations also included the organization of annual school trips for youth to Balkan states, Spain and Morocco as part of a heritage tour to learn about Sephardi roots in those countries.

Additionally, the committee recommended launching a television show on the Educational Television Network about the many contributions of Eastern Jewry to Zionism and to the development of the State of Israel.

With regards to higher education, the committee called for equal representation of Mizrahim and Ashkenazim on the Council for Higher Education.

It urged that Mizrahi representatives be included in the social sciences in order to empower Mizrahi Jewish identity.

In addition, the committee recommended establishing a new faculty in the social sciences for the study of Eastern Jewry in order to promote research in the field.

The committee also made recommendations outside the purview of the education system, calling to establish museums for all the different communities of Mizrahi descent, such as, for example, establishing a Libyan Jewish heritage museum. (This already exists in Or Yehuda - ed)

The recommendations also called for the commemoration of significant figures in Eastern Jewish culture by naming schools and streets after them.

Additionally, the committee called to strengthen ties with Diaspora organizations to explain and raise awareness of the situation and history of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

Over the next few months the ministry is set to learn the recommendations, and put together a plan to implement them.

“I’m excited to open for our students a window toward beauty they haven’t yet met,” Biton told Bennett.

“The committee for the empowerment of Mizrahi Jews in the educational curriculum took me on an unexpected adventure, meeting 17 communities whose voices are silenced in the Israeli experience; communities begging to be given a place and identity in the education system,” he said.

Biton said the report and recommendations are a “statement of legitimacy to a valid Mizrahi identity, without taking anything away from the current Israeli identity.”

He added that Bennett had given a “historic meaning by establishing the committee” and said the opportunity, the first of its kind, is “exceptional.”

Read article in full

*************

Ynet News has a more specific report on the Biton recommendations (with thanks: Ralph)


"Other topics the commission recommended to add to the curriculum are: Mashhadi Jews, the Damascus affair,the resettlement of Jews in Tiberias by Dom Joseph Nasi, the Golden Age of Safed in the 16th century, and other topics. The students will also learn about Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Israel's fifth president Yitzhak Navon, and others.

In civics class, the commission recommended incorporating topics like the Wadi Salib riots, Israel's Black Panthers, the Yemenite Children Affair, the 2011 protest over the cost of living, and more.

"As part of civics class, students should discuss the reasons for the failure to integrate the immigrants in the 1950s," the commission noted.

In literature, the commission lamented the fact students could take their matriculation exam in the subject without learning even one Sephardic or Mizrahi piece of literature. Therefore, the commission recommends introducing creations by Sephardic and Mizrahi poets and authors to the curriculum of all age groups (pre-school to senior year in high school), including Erez Biton, Amira Hess, Shimon Adaf and Haviva Pedaya. In addition, the commission recommended to add the topic of "immigration poetry" to the curriculum in which students will have to learn five poems from a list of poets including Adi Keissar, Roy Hasan, and Shlomi Hatuka."


Times of Israel 

Haaretz 

Education minister learns something new 

More about Erez Biton

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Yemen releases suspects held for smuggling scroll

The Likud MK Ayoub Kara has revealed that those persons arrested for allegedly smuggling a Torah scroll out of Yemen have all been released. Arutz Sheva reports: 


Israel's prime minister Netanyahu reads from the Torah scroll which 17 Yemenite Jews brought out with them in the last airlift to Israel in March. The scroll is claimed to have been in the custody of the Dahari family for generations

A tiny handful of Jews - numbering around 50 - opted to remain in Yemen for a variety of personal and commercial reasons, but a number of them, along with several Arabs suspected of helping smuggle the Torah scroll out of the country, were arrested in the weeks that followed. The Yemenite government has claimed that the scroll is part of Yemen's heritage, as opposed to belonging to the Jewish community, and accused them of stealing it.

All those arrested have now been released, Kara said.

The deputy minister revealed the good news at a conference of the Likud party's Netanya chapter.

During his address, Kara - a Druze Arab who maintains extensive links to Arab communities outside of Israel - also confirmed that an a Jewish Israeli citizen is currently being held prison in the Yemenite city of Amran. He said Israel is making every effort to secure his release.

It is not clear whether that prisoner is the 64-year-old Ashkelon resident who disappeared during a trip to Yemen last year.

Read article in full

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Survivors of Nazi-sponsored pogrom deserve reparations

 The Nazi-inspired Mufti's agitation against the Jews of Iraq, coupled with Nazi radio propaganda, were the prime causes of the devastating pogrom known as the 1941 Farhud. Its survivors therefore deserve Holocaust reparations - but have had to resort to the courts in order to convince the Israeli government. Academic researcher Dr Edy Cohen writes in The Tower:


German propaganda in the Arab world in general and Iraq in particular sought to create sympathy for Hitler and the Nazis. In order to do so, it engaged in wild anti-Jewish incitement—blaming the Jews for stealing Arab money and causing all the problems of the Arab world.

Nazi propaganda was also disseminated on the streets of Iraq, arousing hatred of the Jews until it caused a deadly explosion in the form of the Farhud. The investigative committee convened by the Iraqi government after the Farhud concluded that Nazi incitement was an enormous influence on Iraq and the central factor in the pogrom against the Jews.
Further evidence that supports the fact that the Mufti was responsible for the Farhud comes from the prime minister of Iraq Nuri al-Said. Details of this come from new evidence: the minutes of a meeting of Jewish Agency leaders in Jerusalem on July 27, 1941, 55 days after the Farhud. In it, Moshe Sharett, head of the political division and later prime minister of Israel, reports on a meeting with Nuri al-Said in Cairo shortly after the Farhud.
He began a serenade that lasted around 25 minutes, and didn’t give me a chance to open my mouth. He said, “This is the question of questions—Palestine is a bleeding wound in the body of the Arab people and with England, and it causes disasters to the Jews and the Arabs, and there will be no happiness if this question is not solved. We don’t understand this. Your entire movement is against nature, against history, against reality; it won’t succeed; it’s impossible.”

When I finally got a chance to speak, he would return to our “original sin”—that we didn’t agree to his offer. … I don’t remember at what point he started to talk about the riots in Baghdad and the rumor that that the Arabs were planning riots. … He said, “Pay attention to the fact that in every place the Jews lived in Arab neighborhoods, nothing happened to them. If there were attacks on the Jews, it was an organized thing, organized by Nazi agents, Arab Nazi agents, and not a spontaneous event that occurred by surprise.”
In other words, Nuri al-Said stated that the Arabs were not inclined to attack the Jews, and they did so because of an organization of Nazi agents. Moreover, Sharett recounted, Said also mentioned that “there was a large amount of Nazi propaganda” and that the instigators of the Farhud “returned to Berlin.”
“It was connected to the Mufti,” Sharett concluded. “He evaded my words because the Mufti was a guest of the Iraqi government.”
Sharett’s report shows that Nuri al-Said had confirmed less than two months after the Farhud that the riots were organized and executed by the Mufti and his entourage.
It is clear that the Farhud was a Nazi-sponsored event. The State of Israel has received millions of dollars from Germany as reparations for Nazi crimes against the Jews. Accordingly, the survivors of the Farhud deserve similar reparations. But they have not been recognized as survivors of Nazi crimes. For various reasons, Israel and the world in general have not paid nearly enough attention to the Jews of Arab lands. To this day, for example, the Farhud is not taught in schools.
For more than three years, attorney David Yadid has led a legal struggle with the Finance Ministry to recognize immigrants from Iraq as Holocaust survivors because of the Farhud, holding that they should be paid monthly reparations of at least 2,200 shekels ($570). Yadid has presented evidence of the collaboration between the Nazis and the Iraqi government, German military aid to Iraq, and anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda disseminated in the media both directly by the Nazis and by those who received support from them, all of which contributed to the Farhud.

In response, the Finance Ministry recommended that the survivors of the Farhud should receive 3,600 shekels ($940) per year and free medication from the Health Ministry, but this is offered on condition of ending the legal proceedings. The ministry’s goal is clear: To get the Farhud’s survivors to give up their rights. The State of Israel and the Finance Ministry’s Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority are conducting a struggle against recognizing the survivors of the Farhud as victims of Nazism and seek to run out the clock until all the survivors are dead.

Today, 75 years after the Farhud, it is necessary for justice to be done. I myself have aided Yadid’s efforts and presented a legal and historic opinion that Nazi activities led to the Farhud. Despite this, ironically, the State of Israel and the Finance Ministry have paid many academics to “prove” that only the Arabs were responsible for the Farhud and the Nazis were not connected to it. Shockingly, Israel has actually whitewashed the role of the Nazis in this tragedy in order to avoid paying the money required should this be proved. It is now necessary to wait for the results of the lawsuit.

Read article in full 

More articles by and about Edy Cohen

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Bene Israel will benefit from official minority status

The state of Maharashtra is the second in India to confer official minority status on the Jewish community.  This will help preserve the community's legacy and protect its synagogues and property. Sifra Lentin reports for F. India in the second of a two-part series :

Mumbai's oldest Bene Israel synagogue (photo Jamshed Lentin)

For generations of Indian school students, especially those from the ICSE stream, Indian English poet, Nissim Ezekiel’s poem ‘Night of the Scorpion’ will always be fondly remembered. Not only is the poem simply written but its multiple themes of good versus evil, superstition versus rationality, and love conquers all ( “My mother only said/Thank God the scorpion picked on me/And spared my children”) were not just easy to learn but easy to score marks on.

What escapes most readers though is the vivid imagery of village life that Ezekiel conjures (“I remember the night my mother/ was stung by a scorpion. Ten hours/of steady rain had driven him to crawl/beneath a sack of rice.”), drawn from Ezekiel’s childhood memories and his community’s roots in the villages of the Konkan coast.

Nissim Ezekiel (b. 1924-d. 2004) belonged to the largest Indian Jewish community on the subcontinent – the Bene Israel (children of Israel) – who are better known in the villages of Raigad district (which includes the north Konkan coast) as shanwar tellis or Saturday oil-pressers. This is a reference to this community’s traditional village occupation as oil pressers who abstained from work on Saturday – the Jewish sabbath.

The Bene Israel Jews of Maharashtra (part of erstwhile Bombay State) will be the major beneficiaries of the Maharashtra state government’s announcement last week notifying Indian Jews as a minority community. Although community numbers have dropped from their peak in the 1951 census (Bombay state 20,135 versus all India 26, 512) to the last census (2011) figures of 2466 (Maharashtra state) versus 4650 all India, the fact remains that Maharashtra is still home to 53 percent of Indian Jews today.

Read article in full 


The case of the aggrieved Dr Krief

A French -Jewish doctor of Tunisian origin has claimed that his career has been ruined by 'state-backed' antisemitism.

Dr Lionel Krief ran two nuclear medicine clinics in northern France, but fell out with his professional partner.
                                            Dr Lionel Krief: 'ruined by state-backed antisemitism'

Dr Krief's troubles began when a legal case was brought against him  after he replaced a faulty scanner 'which did not belong to him', resulting in his eviction from his clinics. After eight years of fighting in the courts, Dr Krief's career is in ruins and he has been forced to sell his home to pay legal costs. He  has taken up Israeli citizenship and sent away his children for their own safety.

His defenders allege a witchhunt against him. Says journalist Veronique Chemla, who has campaigned on his behalf, Krief did nothing illegal. Indeed, she claims, key evidence was withheld from the courts.

Ms Chemla blames government and public institutions for incompetence,  but also detects  a strong whiff of antisemitism about the Krief case.

Extreme right and leftwing - but not mainstream - politicians support him. A local MP said: "Dr Krief's only problem is that he does not have Catholic genes going back 22 generations."

Veronique Chemla has criticised the French-Jewish establishment, with one or two exceptions, for failing to call out the antisemitic nature of Dr Krief's case.

According to Ms Chemla, they have stood by while other Jews have suffered harrassment and loss.

 Read article in full (French)
English version

Monday, July 04, 2016

Mass cleansing of Jews is 20th century's legacy

The real story of the 20th century has been a massive assault by regimes on the rights of Jews, leading to their ethnic cleansing in Europe and the Middle East. And even when the Jews are gone, hatred of them remains. Stunning must-read by Seth Frantzman in Terra Incognita.

 Seth Frantzman: 'Jews were victims of every regime'

In only a few states has the percentage of Jews increased since 1900.  In what is now Israel, France and Canada.  In Australia where the Jewish population increased from 15,000 to 112,000, the population of the country increased similarly.  In many ways the re-creation of a Jewish state in the Middle East is a tremendous revolution, and some of the decline in Jewish communities in the world has been due to their own decision to move to the new state after 1948.  But in many cases it was not, it was due to discrimination, ethnic-cleansing, and genocide. When Jews fled or left on their own accord, those countries erased too often the Jewish heritage often, turned synagogues into stables, and bulldozed graveyards, cities built by Jews, today pretend the vibrant minority never existed.

So what we see is that throughout the entire world, Jews have disappeared.  In some places this is due to migration of their own accord, as noted above.  For instance the Jews of Barbados, once around ten percent of some localities, declined in the 20th century to a tiny population as most sought work elsewhere.
But the real story has been a massive assault by regimes on the rights of Jews. It is interesting that in many cases the 19th century paved the way for Jewish emancipation throughout Europe and also in parts of the Middle East.  Jews in the late 19th century played an unprecedented role in the political and economic life of states throughout the world.  Whether in Hong Kong or the Ottoman Empire, Jews acquired positions of influence.  But this was a short flowering. Within one generation they were gone.

Consider cities like Lemberg, once with a vibrant Jewish population, now today you can go there and visit a mock-Jewish restaurant and see the old courtyard of a great synagogue.  But it is all just talk about their being Jews there.  Their community was destroyed. Perhaps the 1903 pogrom in Kishinev should have been a foreboding of what would come. Then in 1905 the attacks on 660 Jewish communities in Ukraine. Worse would come in 1919-1920 during the chaos of the Russian Civil War. This was just a prelude to the Nazi Holocaust. When one considers the forces arrayed against the Jews, in retrospect, it is extraordinary how the whole of the world turned against this community, which had lived in these areas for more than 1,000 years, which predated the modern nationalism and communities that claimed these areas.

Consider Ukraine and how Jews were victimized by almost everyone. They were attacked in Kishinev on Orthodox Christian easter, they were attacked during riots against the Russian Tsar.  In other places they were attacked by Ukrainian nationalists.  They were attacked by Red Army soldiers, in Lvov in 1918 they were attacked by Poles while the Polish army looked on.  Whether Cossacks or those loyal to the white Russian army, this community stood little chance against such forces. But the events of 1900-1920 was only a prelude of the mass cleansing of the century. Collectivism in Ukraine by the Soviets led to famine, and when the Nazis arrived, total extermination began.

How is it that all the major movements of the first half of the 20th century turned on the Jews?  The Nazis obsessed over exterminating them, but the Communists targeted them as well.  After the Holocaust, with 3 million Polish Jews murdered, it wasn’t enough for the local anti-semites.  Neither Communist nor Nazi, the people of Kielce slaughtered 42 Jews in 1946. In Poland Jews were blamed for “importing communism” after the Soviet victory in 1945. But the Communist party in 1968 launched an anti-Jewish program blaming Polish Jews for being “Zionists” and arrested Jews and removed thousands of Jews from official and academic positions. 13,000 fled Poland due to the “anti-Zionist” anti-semitic attacks by the Communist government.

Even in countries like Turkey Jews suffered numerous recurring discriminations. In 1934 there were attacks on Jews in Thrace. In 1941 Jews aged 27-40 were forced into “labor battalions”.  Soon after forcibly drafting Turkish men the government passed a special Capital Tax Law that taxed Jewish professionals and merchants at a rate four times that of Muslims. After the creation of Israel the Jewish community declined from 76,965 in 1945 to 45,995 in 1952. Jewish representation in politics virtually disappeared mostly after 1961.  With the rise of Islamism, Jews became the targets of terror.  In 2003 fifty-seven people were murdered in bombings of Istanbul’s two main synagogues.  Once again the combination of religious extremism and nationalism, as well as state policies all combined against a tiny minority, to make that minority even smaller.


The model for the destruction of Jewish communities worldwide is that they were victims of every regime and scapegoated by every group.  They were called “Jews” when everyone was Christian or Muslim, they were “capitalists” when people were communists and “communists” when people were capitalists, “semites” when being white was good and then “white” and “European” when being non-white was good, they became “Zionists” and “colonialists” when Zionism and nationalism was wrong. It’s convenient that a tiny group of people, who often pre-dated many of the local people, were always perceived as the other and a threat.  Anti-Semitic colonial authorities in North Africa disliked Jews and excused pogroms like the one in Constantine in 1934. Nazis persecuted them during the occupation of 1940-1943, and then there were widespread pogroms in Gabes, Tunisia in 1941 and in Tripoli in 1945 and in Cairo in 1945.  The combination of nationalism, religious hatred of Jews and “anti-Zionism” all were “reasons”, but the end result was the total cleansing of Jews from the entire Middle East.

Always there is an excuse why countries have to genocide Jews, cleanse Jews, make anti-Jewish laws, burn synagogues, have special anti-Jewish taxes or bulldoze graveyards. And in many of these countries in the Middle East especially even when Jews are gone, the hatred of Jews remains.  During the anti-Mubarak Arab Spring in Egypt in 2011 there were signs accusing him of being a Jew and a Zionist. Mohammed Morsi made anti-semitic comments.  Later Mohammed Morsi would also be accused of collaborating with Israel. Then Al-Sisi would be accused of being Jewish and Zionist, by anti-semites both in the West and Arab world. Throughout the Middle East even when there are no Jews, “the Jews” are always to blame. When there was a film festival in Morocco, once home to 300,000 Jews, Islamic and left wing groups protested it.

 Of course they did, because there is not one issue that can unite Nazis, leftists and Islamist extremists, like hatred of Jews. You cannot even have a movie about Jewish life without it being “Zionist” today.  You cannot discuss the Holocaust without it being a “Zionist” conspiracy.  In the Syrian civil war both Bashar al-Assad and those fighting him blame eachother for conspiring with Jews and Israel. Iran and Saudi also trade accusations that each one is part of a Jewish and Zionist conspiracy.  Iran, the “lest anti-semitic” country in the Middle East according to polls, hosts Holocaust denial contests, but the media interprets them merely as a “strategy.”

Read article in full 

More by Seth Frantzman

Sunday, July 03, 2016

1,000 Turkish Jews departed in past year

 The Turkish-Jewish community is losing 1, 000 members every year owing to the runaway state-sanctioned incitement and hatred Jews encounter at school, in the supermarket and in nightclubs, Haaretz reports:

ISTANBUL – The caretaker and three other Jews came to Istanbul’s biggest synagogue on Friday. After a short discussion, they decided not to open Neve Shalom for Shabbat prayers, since there weren’t enough people present for a minyan.

The empty Neve Shalom synagogue, Istanbul: today a museum

“Once we even had a minyan on weekdays,” says the beadle, who asked for his name not to be published. “On Saturdays there were always 30-40 Jews at prayer, and they’d be joined by Israeli tourists. But today it’s a museum.”

The synagogue’s fate tells the story of Turkey’s dwindling Jewish community, which is dealing with rising displays of anti-Semitism and profound fears for its future.

“We’re not afraid of Islamic State and Kurdish terror – that’s directed against all Turks,” says another community member, who also wished to remain anonymous. “The problem is with our neighbors and the neighbors’ children we grew up with. Today, they are fed with wild incitement and treat us and our children with hatred and anti-Semitism. Our problem is at school, nightclubs, the supermarket.”

The synagogue is located in the heart of the city’s old Galata neighborhood, where Jews settled on first reaching Istanbul. Many of the Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492 settled in the Ottoman Empire and until World War I the Jewish-Turkish community numbered some 150,000.

After the Great War it lost half of its population to Israel, Europe and the United States, and has been in constant decline ever since. By the time Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party rose to power in 2005, the community numbered 19,500. It fell to 17,000 over the following decade and has fallen by a further 1,000 in the past year.

Read article in full