Monday, September 22, 2014

A British airman welcomed in Aden

The other day I got talking to a Jewish gentleman who spent  WWll in  the British Air Force in Cairo and Aden.

Aden was then an important trading post and British protectorate. Our friend told how in 1945 he was welcomed by Jewish families in Crater - the Jewish quarter of Aden built in the crater of an extinct volcano - and invited  for meals. The local Jews, mostly shopkeepers and traders, would introduce the British-Jewish servicemen to their daughters,  in the hope that they would find them too irresistible to leave behind.

The gentleman told me that the Crater families  hid in their homes refugees fleeing trouble in north Yemen. Norman Stillman in Jews of Arab lands in modern times confirms that there were some 6 - 700 Jewish refugees in private homes. The rest were housed in the Hashed refugee camp outside the town as they waited to go to Israel.

I could not find details of the specific events they were escaping in 1945. According to Tudor Parfitt's The Jews of Redemption, the  Jewish predicament had deteriorated following the 1929 Palestine riots, and many were in poor health, living in dire poverty and under threat of persecution. They were desperate to leave, but the British Mandate in Palestine had a very restrictive immigration policy. Throughout the 1930s and 40s,  a steady stream of Jews fled Yemen for Aden, sleeping on pavements and in shelters, with the hope of eventually reaching Israel.

Our young Jewish airman resisted all temptation to bring home an Adeni bride. Some years later, in London, he ran into a man who remembered him from those days.

He would have been demobbed when the terrible events of December 1947 erupted. A rampaging mob, incensed at the November 29 UN partition plan for Palestine, drove the Jews out of Aden. Some 50, 000 Jews were airlifted to Israel from Yemen.

Eight-two Jews died in the Aden pogrom. Jewish shops were looted. Jewish schools and cars were burnt down. Our airman would not have recognised the place.

Top: the skeleton of the George V Jewish school for boys, with the crater in the background,  after it was burnt down in December 1947. Bottom: looters fight over bolts of cloth seized from a Jewish store in Crater.

1947- 48 Diary of Leon Betensky, sent by the JOINT to Aden



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Islamists pillage ancient sites for profit

 Jewish shrines and synagogues in Iraq and Syria are amongst ancient archeological sites now being pillaged by Islamist terrorists. UNESCO is warning art dealers and museums not to buy valuable antiquities smuggled out of the region, AP reports:
Mural from a 2nd century CE synagogue at Dura Europos, Syria, showing the consecration of the tabernacle

The Islamic State militants seek to purge society of everything that doesn’t conform with their strict, puritanical version of Islam. That means destroying not only relics seen as pagan but even some Islamic sites — Sunni Muslim shrines they see as idolatrous, as well as mosques used by Shiites, a branch of Islam they consider heretical.

In and around Mosul, the militants destroyed at least 30 historic sites, including the Islamic mosque-shrines of the prophets Seth, Jirjis and Jonah. The shrines were centuries old in many cases.

But their extremist ideology doesn’t prevent them from also profiting from the sale of ancient artifacts, either by selling them themselves or taking a cut from thieves who are increasingly active in looting sites.

The shrine of Jonah was built on top of an unexcavated palace in the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh. After blowing up the mosque, thieves burrowed underneath and are believed to have taken artifacts, said Rasheed, citing reports from local antiquities officials who remain in Mosul.

It is unclear how much the militants are earning from antiquities. US intelligence officials said the Islamic State rakes in more than $3 million a day from multiple sources, including smuggling of oil and antiquities, human trafficking, extortion of businessmen, ransoms and outright theft. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified assessments, said the militants sell goods through smuggling networks in the Kurdish region, Turkey and Jordan.
In civil war-torn Syria, looting of archaeological sites is believed to have increased tenfold since early 2013 because of the country’s chaos, said Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria’s director-general of antiquities and museums. The past year, the Islamic State group has overrun most of the east, putting a string of major archaeological sites in their hands.

In one known case, they have demolished relics as part of their purge of paganism, destroying several Assyrian-era statues looted from a site known as Tell Ajaja, Abulkarim said. Photos posted online showed the gunmen using hammers to break apart the statues of bearded figures.

More often, the extremists seem to have latched onto the antiquities trade.
For example, the 2,300-year-old city of Dura Europos is being pillaged. The site is in a cliff overlooking the Euphrates near the Iraq border in an area under the Islamic State group’s control, and satellite imagery taken in April show it pockmarked with holes from illegal digs by antiquity-seekers.

Images showed hundreds of people excavating on some days from dawn to nightfall, with gunmen and gangs involved, said Abdulkarim. Dealers are at the site and “when they discover an artifact, the sale takes place immediately,” he said. “They are destroying entire pages of Syrian history.”

Dura Europos is a remarkably well preserved cultural crossroads, a city first founded by Alexander the Great’s successors and later ruled by Romans and various Persian empires. It boasts pagan temples, churches and one of the earliest known Jewish synagogues. Archaeologists in 2009 found likely evidence of an early use of chemical warfare: During a 2nd century siege, Persian attackers dug tunnels under the city walls and set fires that poured poisonous sulfur-laced fumes on the Roman defenders above.

Alarmed by the militants’ advance, the United Nations’ cultural agency UNESCO adopted an emergency plan to safeguard Iraq’s cultural heritage. It called on art dealers and museums not to deal with Iraqi artifacts and alerted neighboring countries of potential smuggling.

“We are very, very, very concerned that the situation could be aggravated in a way that causes more and more damage,” Nada al-Hassan, of the UNESCO World Heritage Center, told The Associated Press.

Friday, September 19, 2014

BBC reports on a community's death

With thanks: Hadar; Ahuva

Magda Haroun...dying

"We are dying, we are drowning," says Magda Haroun, elected leader of Cairo's Jews. In this melancholy two-minute news clip, she tells the BBC reporter that there is no future for the 12-member Jewish 'community' of Cairo.

Her first priority, she says, is to look after the human beings - the old ladies like Lucy, helpless and without family in an old age home. Then, it is to preserve Egypt's cultural and religious heritage. Magda is filmed opening the Torah scrolls of the Adly synagogue, a place of worship without Jews.

The report is forthright : the Jews, who were accused of being spies, were forced to leave in the 1950s and 1960s. As the camera lingers on Magda kissing the grave of her father at the Bassatine cemetery, it's clear that the community's only future is death.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Only anti-Zionists need apply

Israelis who support Israel's right to exist are not welcome in some of Britain's leading educational institutions. Post- and anti-Zionist Israelis, on the other hand, are welcomed with open arms, writes Edgar Davidson in his excellent eponymous blog. Watch out for a forthcoming guest at the London School of Economics,  Smadar Lavie: she belongs firmly in the second camp, claiming to speak for 'downtrodden' Mizrahim (oriental Jews), although her own father is actually Ashkenazi  (with thanks: Michelle):

Smadar Lavie: 'oppressed Mizrahim'

"In the next few weeks the Centre is hosting major presentations by two of the worst of such people: Smadar Lavie (on 27 October 2014) and Joel Beinin (on 4 November 2014) who are not just classic "self-hating Jews" but also archetypal examples of the very worst kind of deranged, pompous, self-righteous academics:

Smadar Lavie describes herself as an "Arab Jew residing in Israel" (although she actually works at the University of Berkeley California). You can read about her here (on the well named "Pathetic Assholes Conspiring to Boycott Israel" website). She has managed to create her own special category of extremist ultra-leftist anti-Zionist "Mizrahi" feminism. She is a regular contributor to the anti-Israel blog Electronic Intifada and she uses her Israeli nationality to delegitimize Israel publicly claiming it is an apartheid state. Here is her own report of her presentation last week to the antisemitic Irish-Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The Jewish anti-Israel (and some claim antisemitic) website Mondoweiss  published a favourable review of her latest book which is the subject of her talk entitled: "Mizrahi Mothers, Wrapped in the Flag: Ultra-Nationalism, Apartheid, and the Divinity of Bureaucracy in Israel".

To give you a feel for the academic pomposity, hatred, and downright lies of Lavie here is a letter she had published in the Guardian in 2005 supporting the academic boycott of Israel. It ends with the assertion

"...Israel's academics perpetrate and benefit from the systematic discrimination against Israel's 70% non-European majority (48% Mizrahim and 22% Palestinian). Israel's Ashkenazi "post-Zionist" professors, brandishing their progressive politics as they use Mizrahim and Palestinians for grantsmanship and as career advancement tools, are just the cynical tip of this apartheid iceberg"
Read blogpost in full 

**********
*The 'favourable review' of Smadar Lavie's new book on the Israel-bashing site Mondoweiss, parades a familiar catalogue of lies or half-truths. It amplifies the disparaging comments which Israel's Ashkenazi leaders made about Israel's new immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa in the 1950s; claims that they were forbidden from speaking Arabic or preserving their Arabic culture; were exploited as cheap labour; that families were broken up, many children taken away for adoption, and exposed to deadly doses of radiation in order to eradicate ringworm.

I can think of no better way to rebut these canards than to reproduce this excellent comment  by Mikhael, an Israeli of mixed Mizrahi/Ashkenazi ancestry, who deals, one by one, with the allegations (in italics) made by another commenter, Walid. 



Mikhael
July 8, 2014, 2:34 pm
Walid says:
July 8, 2014 at 1:49 am


....the Israeli authorities so succeeded in their de-Arabising efforts to the point of having people like Mikhael firmly believe it never existed and never will. 
To be “de-Arabized” one must first be “Arabized”. “Arabization” actually is an apt word. Long ago, the Jews of the Levant, Maghreb, Mesopotamia and Yemen/Hadhramaut, actually were Arabized at one point–that is, they either had Arabic language and culture imposed on them or were assimilated into it. But the Arab nation and culture was not their own. That’s why the traditional Jewish term for Arabic-speaking Mizrai Jews, in Eretz Yisrael and elsewhere, was “Mustarabim”–i.e.., Arabized Jews (and not Arab Jews) . 
Mikhael is evidently ashamed of his Mizrahi roots and relieved that he’s the product of a mixed marriage.
Sure, I’m so ashamed of being of partial Mizrahi-Jewish heritage that I mention it all the time. I suppose I am proud of my Mizrahi and Ashkenazi heritage (although one should really only be proud of one’s own accomplishments and not one’s ancestors), especially as I can count some of the Safed Kabbalists and a Rishon Le-Siyyon (Sephardic chief rabbi) among them. I’m equally proud of my Ashkenazi (Hungarian-Jewish) background. Walid, you seem to think that Ashkenazi descent is something to be ashamed of. I don’t agree with you. When my parents married in the mid-1960s, such unions were relatively rare, but they were already increasingly becoming more common. Today, marriages between different Israeli Jews with roots in the different parts of the Diaspora are at around 40%. 
...another into heavy denial is the “I proud of Israel” fluently Arabic-speaking Mahane, of Iraqi Kurdish Mizrahi roots that most probably lived with his parents in tent cities when they arrived in Israel, 
It’s sweet that you mention Mahane so much. I think you have a crush on him. If I was him, I’d be flattered. I don’t know the guy (maybe I’ll look for his stall next time I am in the market), but if he is of Kurdish Jewish background, the language his family spoke immediately prior to their aliya was likely neo-Aramaic (lishna didan), possibly with Arabic as a second language. If he is Israeli-raised, any Arabic he has most likely comes from school or friends or self-study. I know a lot of Ashkenazim who also speak fluent Arabic. Whether an Israeli is of Mizrahi, Sefaradi or Ashkenazi ancestry, it’s great to know Arabic. It’s always good to know any foreign language. 
Iraqi Kurdish Mizrahi roots that most probably lived with his parents in tent cities when they arrived in Israel,
Yup. Jewish refugees from Arab countries were housed in maabarot, tent cities, alongside Jewish refugees from Europe, in the impoverished Israel of the 1950s.
…the Yemeni Jewish baby kidnappings to provide children to childless Ashkenazim couples
Something that was investigated by no fewer than four government committees with no evidence of any conspiracy to kidnap Yemenite-Jewish children uncovered. Exactly two cases of Teimoni children adopted by Ashkenazi couples were discovered, and it seems this was arranged by a corrupt social worker. Post-WW2, some 2,000 Irish babies were taken from their unwed mothers by the Church in collusion with the government and sent away for adoption against their mothers’ consent, in Australia, the same thing happened with Aboriginal children. In Israel, there’s evidence of exactly two instances of such abuses.
the infamous irradiation experiments conducted on Mizrahi children by Israel for money in the early 50s
Israel was guilty, in the early 1950s, of being stuck in the scientific mindset of the early 1950s, when X-Rays were considered to a safe and effective treatment for ringworm infection. Israel treated immigrant children suspected of having ringworm with this procedure, as this was considered advanced and harmless procedure and was being used in the Americas and Europe for decades. Ashkenazi immigrant kids ( from Romania, Poland and elsewhere) who were suspected of having ringworm infections in their scalp were also subjected to this alleged “irradiation experiment”. With 21st century hindsight, modern medicine now knows that X-raying the soft tissue around a kid’s skull without lead protection is not a good idea, they were less sophisticated in the ’50s. 
It’s a fact that Mizrahim had to live their Arabic culture in secret for years to avoid being penalized in Israel. I’m guessing Mikhael parents or grandparents are of this background.
Like many old Jerusalemite families, Arabic was but one of many linguistic strands in our Mizrahi family–in my paternal grandmother’s Jerusalem home (her family had lived there for about a century, prior to Jerusalem, they lived in Galilee)–Ladino, Arabic, French and later modern Hebrew were all used interchangeably, sometimes in the same sentence. My grandfather was initially raised in more of a “pure” Arabic-speaking environment, at least in early childhood–his parents came to Jerusalem from Aram Soba (Alleppo) and Damascus in the late 19th century. Far from being ashamed and hiding his Arabic fluency, and worrying about being penalized for it, his native knowledge of the lingo was put to good use monitoring Arabic radio communications for the Etzel underground and later, the IDF. My father’s uncle taught Arabic language and literature in Israeli schools. My father understood it perfectly, but never spoke it well. Nobody kept anything a secret.

I was raised both in the States and Israel, I’ve studied it formally and informally at various stages of my life in both countries. I can read it with difficulty and have always wanted to perfect my very imperfect Arabic, as it is a useful language to know. But it certainly doesn’t “belong” to me, even if some of my ancestors once spoke it well, any more than Hungarian belongs to me, just because my mother grew up in a Hungarian-speaking home. Hebrew-speaking Israeli Jews, have no national connection to the Arab people nor the Magyar people.

Mikhael
July 8, 2014, 2:34 pm
Walid says:
July 8, 2014 at 1:49 am
the Israeli authorities so succeeded in their de-Arabising efforts to the point of having people like Mikhael firmly believe it never existed and never will.
To be “de-Arabized” one must first be “Arabized”. “Arabization” actually is an apt word. Long ago, the Jews of the Levant, Maghreb, Mesopotamia and Yemen/Hadhramaut, actually were Arabized at one point–that is, they either had Arabic language and culture imposed on them or were assimilated into it. But the Arab nation and culture was not their own. That’s why the traditional Jewish term for Arabic-speaking Mizrai Jews, in Eretz Yisrael and elsewhere, was “Mustarabim”–i.e.., Arabized Jews (and not Arab Jews) .
Mikhael is evidently ashamed of his Mizrahi roots and relieved that he’s the product of a mixed marriage.
Sure, I’m so ashamed of being of partial Mizrahi-Jewish heritage that I mention it all the time. I suppose I am proud of my Mizrahi and Ashkenazi heritage (although one should really only be proud of one’s own accomplishments and not one’s ancestors), especially as I can count some of the Safed Kabbalists and a Rishon Le-Siyyon (Sephardic chief rabbi) among them. I’m equally proud of my Ashkenazi (Hungarian-Jewish) background. Walid, you seem to think that Ashkenazi descent is something to be ashamed of. I don’t agree with you. When my parents married in the mid-1960s, such unions were relatively rare, but they were already increasingly becoming more common. Today, marriages between different Israeli Jews with roots in the different parts of the Diaspora are at around 40%.
other into heavy denial is the “I proud of Israel” fluently Arabic-speaking Mahane, of Iraqi Kurdish Mizrahi roots that most probably lived with his parents in tent cities when they arrived in Israel,
It’s sweet that you mention Mahane so much. I think you have a crush on him. If I was him, I’d be flattered. I don’t know the guy (maybe I’ll look for his stall next time I am in the market), but if he is of Kurdish Jewish background, the language his family spoke immediately prior to their aliya was likely neo-Aramaic (lishna didan), possibly with Arabic as a second language. If he is Israeli-raised, any Arabic he has most likely comes from school or friends or self-study. I know a lot of Ashkenazim who also speak fluent Arabic. Whether an Israeli is of Mizrahi, Sefaradi or Ashkenazi ancestry, it’s great to know Arabic. It’s always good to know any foreign language.
Iraqi Kurdish Mizrahi roots that most probably lived with his parents in tent cities when they arrived in Israel,
Yup. Jewish refugees from Arab countries were housed in maabarot, tent cities, alongside Jewish refugees from Europe, in the impoverished Israel of the 1950s.
…the Yemeni Jewish baby kidnappings to provide children to childless Ashkenazim couples
Something that was investigated by no fewer than four government committees with no evidence of any conspiracy to kidnap Yemenite-Jewish children uncovered. Exactly two cases of Teimoni children adopted by Ashkenazi couples were discovered, and it seems this was arranged by a corrupt social worker. Post-WW2, some 2,000 Irish babies were taken from their unwed mothers by the Church in collusion with the government and sent away for adoption against their mothers’ consent, in Australia, the same thing happened with Aboriginal children. In Israel, there’s evidence of exactly two instances of such abuses.
the infamous irradiation experiments conducted on Mizrahi children by Israel for money in the early 50s
Israel was guilty, in the early 1950s, of being stuck in the scientific mindset of the early 1950s, when X-Rays were considered to a safe and effective treatment for ringworm infection. Israel treated immigrant children suspected of having ringworm with this procedure, as this was considered advanced and harmless procedure and was being used in the Americas and Europe for decades. Ashkenazi immigrant kids ( from Romania, Poland and elsewhere) who were suspected of having ringworm infections in their scalp were also subjected to this alleged “irradiation experiment”. With 21st century hindsight, modern medicine now knows that X-raying the soft tissue around a kid’s skull without lead protection is not a good idea, they were less sophisticated in the ’50s.
It’s a fact that Mizrahim had to live their Arabic culture in secret for years to avoid being penalized in Israel. I’m guessing Mikhael parents or grandparents are of this background.
Like many old Jerusalemite families, Arabic was but one of many linguistic strands in our Mizrahi family–in my paternal grandmother’s Jerusalem home (her family had lived there for about a century, prior to Jerusalem, they lived in Galilee)–Ladino, Arabic, French and later modern Hebrew were all used interchangeably, sometimes in the same sentence. My grandfather was initially raised in more of a “pure” Arabic-speaking environment, at least in early childhood–his parents came to Jerusalem from Aram Soba (Alleppo) and Damascus in the late 19th century. Far from being ashamed and hiding his Arabic fluency, and worrying about being penalized for it, his native knowledge of the lingo was put to good use monitoring Arabic radio communications for the Etzel underground and later, the IDF. My father’s uncle taught Arabic language and literature in Israeli schools. My father understood it perfectly, but never spoke it well. Nobody kept anything a secret.
I was raised both in the States and Israel, I’ve studied it formally and informally at various stages of my life in both countries. I can read it with difficulty and have always wanted to perfect my very imperfect Arabic, as it is a useful language to know. But it certainly doesn’t “belong” to me, even if some of my ancestors once spoke it well, any more than Hungarian belongs to me, just because my mother grew up in a Hungarian-speaking home. Hebrew-speaking Israeli Jews, have no national connection to the Arab people nor the Magyar people.
- See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/mizrahi-loyalty-smadar#sthash.44WXpkCt.dpuf
Mikhael
July 8, 2014, 2:34 pm
Walid says:
July 8, 2014 at 1:49 am
the Israeli authorities so succeeded in their de-Arabising efforts to the point of having people like Mikhael firmly believe it never existed and never will.
To be “de-Arabized” one must first be “Arabized”. “Arabization” actually is an apt word. Long ago, the Jews of the Levant, Maghreb, Mesopotamia and Yemen/Hadhramaut, actually were Arabized at one point–that is, they either had Arabic language and culture imposed on them or were assimilated into it. But the Arab nation and culture was not their own. That’s why the traditional Jewish term for Arabic-speaking Mizrai Jews, in Eretz Yisrael and elsewhere, was “Mustarabim”–i.e.., Arabized Jews (and not Arab Jews) .
Mikhael is evidently ashamed of his Mizrahi roots and relieved that he’s the product of a mixed marriage.
Sure, I’m so ashamed of being of partial Mizrahi-Jewish heritage that I mention it all the time. I suppose I am proud of my Mizrahi and Ashkenazi heritage (although one should really only be proud of one’s own accomplishments and not one’s ancestors), especially as I can count some of the Safed Kabbalists and a Rishon Le-Siyyon (Sephardic chief rabbi) among them. I’m equally proud of my Ashkenazi (Hungarian-Jewish) background. Walid, you seem to think that Ashkenazi descent is something to be ashamed of. I don’t agree with you. When my parents married in the mid-1960s, such unions were relatively rare, but they were already increasingly becoming more common. Today, marriages between different Israeli Jews with roots in the different parts of the Diaspora are at around 40%.
other into heavy denial is the “I proud of Israel” fluently Arabic-speaking Mahane, of Iraqi Kurdish Mizrahi roots that most probably lived with his parents in tent cities when they arrived in Israel,
It’s sweet that you mention Mahane so much. I think you have a crush on him. If I was him, I’d be flattered. I don’t know the guy (maybe I’ll look for his stall next time I am in the market), but if he is of Kurdish Jewish background, the language his family spoke immediately prior to their aliya was likely neo-Aramaic (lishna didan), possibly with Arabic as a second language. If he is Israeli-raised, any Arabic he has most likely comes from school or friends or self-study. I know a lot of Ashkenazim who also speak fluent Arabic. Whether an Israeli is of Mizrahi, Sefaradi or Ashkenazi ancestry, it’s great to know Arabic. It’s always good to know any foreign language.
Iraqi Kurdish Mizrahi roots that most probably lived with his parents in tent cities when they arrived in Israel,
Yup. Jewish refugees from Arab countries were housed in maabarot, tent cities, alongside Jewish refugees from Europe, in the impoverished Israel of the 1950s.
…the Yemeni Jewish baby kidnappings to provide children to childless Ashkenazim couples
Something that was investigated by no fewer than four government committees with no evidence of any conspiracy to kidnap Yemenite-Jewish children uncovered. Exactly two cases of Teimoni children adopted by Ashkenazi couples were discovered, and it seems this was arranged by a corrupt social worker. Post-WW2, some 2,000 Irish babies were taken from their unwed mothers by the Church in collusion with the government and sent away for adoption against their mothers’ consent, in Australia, the same thing happened with Aboriginal children. In Israel, there’s evidence of exactly two instances of such abuses.
the infamous irradiation experiments conducted on Mizrahi children by Israel for money in the early 50s
Israel was guilty, in the early 1950s, of being stuck in the scientific mindset of the early 1950s, when X-Rays were considered to a safe and effective treatment for ringworm infection. Israel treated immigrant children suspected of having ringworm with this procedure, as this was considered advanced and harmless procedure and was being used in the Americas and Europe for decades. Ashkenazi immigrant kids ( from Romania, Poland and elsewhere) who were suspected of having ringworm infections in their scalp were also subjected to this alleged “irradiation experiment”. With 21st century hindsight, modern medicine now knows that X-raying the soft tissue around a kid’s skull without lead protection is not a good idea, they were less sophisticated in the ’50s.
It’s a fact that Mizrahim had to live their Arabic culture in secret for years to avoid being penalized in Israel. I’m guessing Mikhael parents or grandparents are of this background.
Like many old Jerusalemite families, Arabic was but one of many linguistic strands in our Mizrahi family–in my paternal grandmother’s Jerusalem home (her family had lived there for about a century, prior to Jerusalem, they lived in Galilee)–Ladino, Arabic, French and later modern Hebrew were all used interchangeably, sometimes in the same sentence. My grandfather was initially raised in more of a “pure” Arabic-speaking environment, at least in early childhood–his parents came to Jerusalem from Aram Soba (Alleppo) and Damascus in the late 19th century. Far from being ashamed and hiding his Arabic fluency, and worrying about being penalized for it, his native knowledge of the lingo was put to good use monitoring Arabic radio communications for the Etzel underground and later, the IDF. My father’s uncle taught Arabic language and literature in Israeli schools. My father understood it perfectly, but never spoke it well. Nobody kept anything a secret.
I was raised both in the States and Israel, I’ve studied it formally and informally at various stages of my life in both countries. I can read it with difficulty and have always wanted to perfect my very imperfect Arabic, as it is a useful language to know. But it certainly doesn’t “belong” to me, even if some of my ancestors once spoke it well, any more than Hungarian belongs to me, just because my mother grew up in a Hungarian-speaking home. Hebrew-speaking Israeli Jews, have no national connection to the Arab people nor the Magyar people.
- See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/mizrahi-loyalty-smadar#sthash.44WXpkCt.dpuf

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

(Some) Bosnian Muslims saved Jews

 A page from the Sarajevo Haggadah, hidden by Muslims during WW2

An exhibition charting the role Muslims played in saving Jewish lives in the Holocaust went on show at a  Cardiff synagogue last week, the BBC tells us. Bosnian Muslims hid the Sarajevo Haggadah, a 600-year old manuscript, beneath the floor of a mosque - a remarkable story. It is a pity that the BBC does not pay equal attention  to the 20,000 Bosnian Muslims who joined the Handschar SS division and took part in the killing of thousands of Jews, Serbs and Roma. (With thanks: Lily)


Stanley Soffa, chair of Jewish Representative Council for South Wales who has brought it to Wales said it was a "heroic story".

It is part of Open Doors 2014, the annual event offering free entry to many attractions throughout September.

The programme is marking 30 years of making heritage more accessible.
The Righteous Muslim Exhibition documents the story of Bosnia Muslims who went to great lengths to preserve Jewish tradition during World War Two by safeguarding the Sarajevo Haggadah, a 600-year-old manuscript which narrates the Exodus from Egypt every Passover.

When a Nazi official came to seize the Haggadah, two men carried it through Nazi checkpoints, to a mountain village above Sarajevo. A Muslim cleric kept it hidden beneath a floor of a mosque until the war was over.

Mr Soffa said: "The exhibition was very well received in London last year, so we are delighted to have the opportunity to share this story with the people of Wales... this weekend.

"For us, it is a heroic story of Muslims saving Jewish lives which provides a unique bond between two communities that we can celebrate together and remember together."

Read article in full

Monday, September 15, 2014

How the Mizrahi story can end the colonial myth

 This summer's Gaza war has highlighted the role of the media and opinion formers in shaping a hostile view of Israel and a favourable understanding of Hamas.  Two journalists, Matti Friedman (right) and Tom Gross (left), have called the biased reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict a 'political weapon -with which they arm one side in the conflict.' Lyn Julius blogs in the Times of Israel:
There are many reasons why journalists have become accessories to Hamas's propaganda war, behaving as activists rather than reporters. They relay a picture  of Palestinian victimhood and Israeli extremism and intransigeance, suppressing any facts that make a  nonsense of this narrative. Tom Gross identifies one reason:

" ...Many have a kind of guilt about being white and Western, and the history of their own colonization. Israel is perceived as a white country and the Palestinians are perceived as non-white, even though in fact many Palestinians have lighter skin than some Israelis. Many Western journalists abroad have barely heard of the fact that there are Sephardi or Mizrahi Jews."

This is a key reason why organisations like mine, Harif, have been trying to raise awareness that Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews constitue over 50 percent of Israel's population.

We want people to ask why these Jews ended up in Israel. They did not move to Israel only out of Zionism, although this was a factor : the majority fled their countries as refugees - out of fear, to escape harassment, violence and death.

They fled the same conditions of intolerance and bigotry that are now forcing the other non-Muslim minorities of the Middle East to choose between extinction or exodus.

We must turn the Israel-as-colonialism narrative on its head. We must re-assert that Jews are the most ancient of indigenous Middle Eastern peoples, with a history of continuous residence in what is now known as the Arab world going back 3,000 years.

Moreover, the colonial relationship between Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews and the Arab Muslim conquerors is the exact opposite of what reporters and western observers believe:  the Jews of the region are the colonised and the Muslims the colonisers. For fourteen centuries,  Jews survived at the beck and sufferance of their Muslim rulers. As the historian Georges Bensoussan has explained, they sought to escape insecurity as a vulnerable minority and their second-rate status by seeking western protection and embracing modernity.

The modern state of Israel, although under attack since the day it was born, has provided Jews with the wherewithal to defend themselves. This is an affront to Muslim pride and supremacy, and a key reason why the Arab/ Islamist struggle to destroy the sovereign Jewish state continues.

The Sephardi/Mizrahi 'narrative' may not be able to reverse the supertanker of current public opinion any time soon, but it can seriously hole it below the waterline.

Read blog in full 

Cross-posted on Harry's Place

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Turkish pundit : Jews must pay Gaza tax

Faruk Kose (photo: Haber Vaktim)


A Turkish pundit writing for Yeni Akit, a major publication aligned with President Erdoğan, called for the country’s Jews to be taxed to pay for reconstructing buildings damaged in Gaza during Israel’s recent Operation Protective Edge. The idea has precedence:   During World War II, Jews, as well as ethnic Armenians and Greeks, were subject to an arbitrary lump-sum tax. It also has overtones of the 'dhimmi' jizya tax on non-Muslims. The Algemeiner reports (with thanks: Michelle):

Faruk Köse said that the “Gaza Fund Contribution Tax” should apply to Turkish Jews as well as foreign Jews doing business in Turkey and any Turkish nationals with commercial ties to the Jewish state.

The columnist even said the tax should apply to any company or business that maintains a partnership with a Turkish Jew.

“The reconstruction of Gaza will be paid for by Jewish businessmen,” he said.
The penalty for failing to pay the tax should be the revocation of the Jew’s business licence and the seizure of his property, Köse said.

Köse also sparked controversy in July when he penned an open letter to Turkey’s chief rabbi, calling on Erdoğan to demand that the Jewish community apologize for Israel’s actions in Gaza.

“You came here after being banished from Spain. You have lived comfortably among us for 500 years and gotten rich at our expense. Is this your gratitude – killing Muslims? Erdoğan, demand that the community leader apologize!” he wrote at the time.

The article was mentioned in a subsequent open letter to Erdoğan from Jewish human rights group, the Anti-Defamation League, calling on the leader to “publicly reject all expressions of anti-Semitism including the scapegoating of Turkish Jews for the actions of Israel, and assure the Turkish Jewish community that they continue to have the full support and protection of the state and people of Turkey.”

Read article in full

Friday, September 12, 2014

Iraqi-Jewish archive to go on tour

 Summer 2014 has come and gone but the Iraqi-Jewish archive has still not been returned to that war-torn land. According to the US State department, the archive, whose highlights have been exhibited in Washington and New York,  will embark on a tour of more American cities. Report in the Washington Post:


Fragment of Torah scroll (Book of Numbers)

WASHINGTON — After the U.S. Army rescued a trove of Jewish artifacts from the basement of Saddam Hussein’s secret police headquarters, many American descendants of Iraq’s once vibrant Jewish community had an urgent question.
Is the U.S. going to return these artifacts to war-torn Iraq?

The answer was yes. Over the objections of many Jews whose families came from Iraq, the U.S. had agreed that the “Iraqi Jewish Archive,” painstakingly restored in a laboratory outside Washington, would return to Iraq in the summer of 2014.

But the summer of 2014 is nearly over, and the archive is still in the U.S. Now a new plan will delay at least some of the collection’s journey back to Baghdad, where it had been discovered — moldy and disintegrating — in the flooded basement of the former dictator’s intelligence headquarters.

According to the State Department, highlights of the archive — exhibited in Washington and New York this year and last — will soon embark on a tour of several more American cities.

Some see this extension — at a time when much of Iraq is in chaos — as an opportunity to revisit the question of the archive’s destiny. They want its Torah fragments, prayer books, documents and photographs, dating from the mid-16th century to the 1970s, housed permanently among Jewish communities capable of caring for them.

“There is no regard for human life there now, so how can there be regard for our precious legacy?” said Carole Basri, vice president of the American Sephardi Federation, a group of Jews of Spanish, Portuguese, Middle Eastern and North African heritage.

Read article in full 

Sign the petition: don't let the Iraqi-Jewish archive go back to Iraq

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The invisible Jews of Algeria

 Jews in Algeria? We don't hear of them much. Could it be that there aren't many left? in the Arab imagination, however, their numbers are exaggerated (how else could one explain Jewish power?). One thing's for sure: there are not enough Jews to form a community, even if synagogues were re-opened. Officially there are no Jews left in Algeria, but as with Lebanon and Kurdistan, there could be Jews of mixed ancestry who still identify with the faith but are forced to hide their identity.  Even Mohammed Aissa, minister for religious affairs, admits that if they became visible they would soon be vulnerable to attack by Islamists. 

Article in MondeAfrique (With thanks: Andrew)
Google Translation into English

Synagogue in Oran, now a mosque

« Des juifs en Algérie ? On en entend parler, mais sincèrement on ne les voit jamais et on ne sait pas où ils sont. Pour une grande partie des algériens, l'existence de cette communauté dans leur pays relève du mythe. Pourtant ils sont nombreux à y vivre depuis des siècles. Ils forment une communauté invisible depuis la fin du régime colonial Français en 1962. Ceux qui ont choisi de rester en Algérie ont toujours mené une vie très discrète, surtout après l’avènement du terrorisme dans le pays aux débuts des années 1990.

On dit qu’ils sont nombreux mais leur présence est presque fantomatique », explique un journaliste à Alger. Une réponse qui à elle seule permet de comprendre la situation des juifs d’Algérie. Il existe toutes sortes d'anecdotes sur cette minorité religieuse. Un habitant de la région de Blida raconte comment il a découvert que son voisin était juif. « J’ai remarqué que mon voisin recevait chez lui une dizaine de famille chaque week end. J’étais curieux et étonné à la fois de savoir le motif de ce regroupement chaque semaine, jusqu’au jour où j’ai su qu’il s’agissait de juifs qui pratiquent leur religion et font leurs prières collectives. C’est vraiment étonnant. Ce sont des gens arabes comme nous et leurs femmes portent même le voile islamique pour passer inaperçues." « Sincèrement, cela ne me dérange pas, mais si les islamistes les découvrent, ils risquent leur vie », nous raconte Ahmed, un habitant de la même région.

Et les juifs, eux même, acceptent-ils de parler ? Pas facile de nouer le contact avec eux. « Ils sont protégés par les services de sécurité. Ils ne se manifestent pas et c’est pour leur sécurité. Les juifs d’Algérie se méfient de tout et de tout le monde», nous confie une source de ministère de l’intérieur. Ils vivent en retrait au milieu d’une société pas toujours tolérante. Notre contact avec deux étudiants juifs de la région de Constantine, après plusieurs mois de tractations et par l’intermédiaire d’amis journalistes qui ont mené des investigations sur ce sujet rarement abordé en Algérie, ne donne pas grand chose. Ils ne livrent que peu d'informations et refusent de répondre à nos questions relatives à leur mode de vie. Pour des raisons de sécurité, ils ont exigé d’abord l’anonymat. « On vit comme tous les algériens. Il n’y a rien qui nous distingue de nos concitoyens, seulement en privé, on mène notre vie à notre manière et on pratique notre religion en catimini. On est très attaché à notre religion et certains d’entres nous
apprennent même l’hébreux.

Read article in full (French)

*This rare clip of a religious Algerian Jew is subtitled: Jews and Arabs lived well together. The Jew explains that he was born in Montgolfier and left soon after Algeria became independent in 1962: there was no synagogue in his place of birth, but the Jews led orthodox lives, and attended synagogue services on festivals in the neighbouring town. He went to school with Arabs and 'there was never a problem."

However, matters began to change 'after the war'. Algerians 'returned from abroad' (from Germany?) and 'began to turn against the Jews'. The interviewee does not go into detail. It is instructive that he does not blame 'Palestine' for the deterioration of Arab-Jewish relations.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Even Jewish funerals guarded in Turkey

 Antisemitism is reaching fever pitch in Turkey, where even Jewish funerals need security. Hurriyet columnist Burak Bekdil writes for the Gatestone Institute (with thanks: Eliyahu):



 The motive for murder of the Jewish couple Georgia and Jak Karako was criminal, but mourners at their funeral needed security
If you are a Jew in Turkey not even a funeral is peaceful.
Just imagine a Turkish Jew having a legal dispute with a Muslim Turk and facing this judge in the courtroom...
As usual, apparently Muslims are allowed to kill Muslims as they like, only Jews are not.
Nearly three years ago, the Israeli news site Ynetnews.com published an opinion piece written by a Turkish-Jewish girl. She wrote: "…I have never had the need to discuss my Jewish identity, let alone my Israeli identity… We are a Jewish family with a connection to Israel, and as fit for a Turkish family we enjoy... freedom of religious rituals and worship. Holidays and vacations, Jewish schools, synagogues, and Jewish after-school clubs, all out in the open, and with no reason to fear… (Nov. 17, 2011)"

Just when I suspected that the author must be describing a Turkey other than the one I lived in, her final line confirmed that it was the same Turkey: "Despite my love for Turkey, I have chosen to remain anonymous, in case, well, you know..." Well, I knew...

Last month, Georgia and Jak Karako, a prominent, affluent Jewish couple, were found stabbed to death in their apartment in Istanbul's upscale Ortakoy neighbourhood, amid President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdogan's thundering speeches that, "Israel was worse than Hitler," and regular attacks on Israel's diplomatic missions in Ankara and Istanbul, including rocks thrown at -- and hundreds of angry Turks trying to break into -- the diplomatic compounds. The mayor of Ankara, Melih Gokcek, was quoted as saying: "We will conquer the consulate of the despicable murderers."

Unfortunately, the Jewish couple had already been slain. But fortunately, this was not a crime motivated by anti-Semitism. The police quickly caught the suspects, an Uzbek couple who worked for the Karakos. They confessed to the killing. It was a simple criminal act like hundreds of others committed in Turkey everyday.
All the same, the poor couple's funeral service at the Ulus Askenazi Jewish cemetery was revealing. In fear of an attack, tight security scanned every guest. If you are a Jew in Turkey, not even funeral is peaceful.

Read article in full

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Iraqi-Jewish voice heard on BBC

 Demonstrators in London protesting at the genocide of minorities in Iraq


The current disaster afflicting minorities in Iraq, threatened by the advancing Islamic State army (IS), has had a positive unexpected effect: a Jewish voice was heard on the BBC programme, Beyond Belief.

You can hear Edwin Shuker (at 10 minutes into the programme) give an eloquent potted history of his life in Iraq, how the ancient Jewish community was persecuted again after the murder of King Faisal ll in 1958 and most of its remaining members fled to freedom over the mountains of Kurdistan in the 1970s.

Shuker was introduced by presenter Ernie Rea as an 'Arab' Jew - approved BBC-speak. Shuker told Point of No Return that he has never used this expression in his life to describe either Jews or Christians.

To the BBC's credit, however, the injection of a Jewish voice puts into perspective the ethnic cleansing of Iraq's minorities. Yazidis and Assyrian Christians are the latest to suffer from the IS's demands: pay an unaffordable jizya tax, convert to Islam or die. Hundreds have been killed and their women and children sold into slavery.

Ernie Rea and his guests projected the BBC party line that until the 20th century Iraq was known as a 'harmonious melting pot of religious and ethnic diversity'. No mention of the 1941 Farhud.

All agreed that the persecution of the Jews (attributed solely to the Ba'ath party) was 'political' rather than religious.

Dr Reza Pankhurst, author of The Inevitable Caliphate, was revealed only at the end of the programme as belonging to Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a banned Islamist organisation in the UK. He made the dhimmi status of non-Muslims sound like a privilege and the caliphate sound like a bit of necessary dental surgery: it may hurt in the beginning, but it will benefit you in the end.

Gerard Russell, former British and United Nations diplomat and author of "Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East, suggested that the survival of non-Muslim minorities was a tribute to the 'tolerance' they experienced under Islam in Iraq. Later in the programme, however,  Russell admitted that the 'tolerant' Ottomans had managed to massacre three-quarters of all Yazidis.

Only Dr Erica Hunter, Senior Lecturer in Eastern Christianity in the Department of Religions at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, was sanguine about the impact of 'dhimmitude' on non-Muslims, suggesting that minorities survived in Iraq into the 20th century despite Islam, not because of it.

At the end, the academics puzzled over what conditions needed to exist for Edwin Shuker to be able to 'return' to the country - a favourite BBC theme.

Puzzling indeed.

You can hear a podcast of Beyond Belief: The religious history of Iraq over the next year.

BBC Watch



Monday, September 08, 2014

Turkish shop sign bans 'Jew dogs'

A shop in central Istanbul has put up a sign forbidding entry to 'Jew dogs', according to the local Jewish publication, Salom.

banner

The sign, which features an Israeli tank,  was first sighted three days ago. It says: "Jew dogs are not permitted entry."

Ironically, the shop, which sells mobile phones and accessories, is in Tahtakale, an area with many Jewish businesses.

The sign is symptomatic of a dramatic rise in Turkish antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric.

'Jews and Armenians not allowed, but dogs are'

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Iraqi Jew leaked beheading video


An Iraqi Jewess was behind the 'leak' of the execution video of the journalist Steven Sotloff. Rita Katz, whose own father was executed in Iraq, has made it her life's work to monitor Islamist internet sites, according to Ynet News:

Rita Katz

Shortly after international media got hold of the horrible execution video of American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff, the radical terror group behind the beheading, the Islamic State (formerly ISIS), published a bizarre clarification: The video, they explained, was "mistakenly leaked" to the internet. What they didn't know was who was behind the leak – meet Rita Katz,  an Israeli expat originally from Bat Yam.

From an office in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Maryland, a small team scans the Web 24 hours a day for jihadi videos often featuring gruesome executions by groups such as Islamic State.

On Tuesday, SITE Intelligence Services grabbed headlines when it found and alerted its subscribers to footage of the beheading of Steven Sotloff, the second American journalist to be put to death by IS in two weeks.

Founded by Katz, SITE has built up more than a decade of experience tracking extremist groups online for clients including government agencies of the United States and other governments, private firms and media outlets.

Katz, 51, was born to a Jewish family in Basra, Iraq's second largest city, and was forced to flee the country after her father was executed by the regieme for allegedly spying for Israel. At the age of six she made Aliyah to Israel with her family, living in the coastal city of Bat Yam, directly south of Tel Aviv.

After serving in the IDF, she competed her BA in Middle East Studies at Tel Aviv university and then moved with her family to Washington, moving on to become a prominent figure on the world of research into radical Islamism and terror. She founded SITE in 2002.

Katz would not disclose the number of staff SITE employees, but said it was a small and dedicated team.

By monitoring file-sharing sites, Islamist forums and other obscure and often password-protected areas of the Internet, the firm says it has built up a sophisticated picture of how Islamic State and similar groups operate online.
"Our ability to find jihadist materials so quickly doesn't come from luck," Katz told Reuters. "Tracking them is a science."

Read article in full 

Rita Katz, Iraqi-born terrorist hunter

Friday, September 05, 2014

The left's blindspot for Iranian Jews

The Iranian intellectual left in exile has latched on to popular leftwing causes like the Palestinian cause, without paying the slightest attention to the great injustice taking place under their very noses: the loss of their own age-old Jewish community. Important essay by Roya Hakakian in The Tablet. (With thanks: Eliyahu)

Jews in Hamedan in 1918. They have now disappeared

These friends got me to replace my petty anxieties with much grander ones. I was to preoccupy myself with the plight of the mineworkers of Bolivia, pray for the struggling Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the Northern Ireland nationalists, keep alive the memory of Native Americans, and march on behalf of the displaced Palestinians. Somehow this proved the best antidote for the discontented adolescent at the time.

But even at the time, it puzzled me why the dwindling community of Iran’s own Jews never fell within the otherwise generous purview of their concerns. In 1977, that ancient community had more than 100,000 members. Today fewer than 10,000 remain. Such drastic diminishment of any population in the West would surely place that community on the endangered list, warranting the issuing of buttons and stickers, pasted on car bumpers and the binders of idealistic freshmen in colleges. But somehow Bolivia was closer to the hearts of my compatriots than Ju-bareh, the Jewish district of their own Isfahan, where, as it happens, Jews had, indeed, built underground tunnels to alert each other when pogroms broke out.
***
The extinction of a community to which Iran owes so much of its distinction as a non-Arab nation, a distinction so important to the Iranian sense of self, has never been recognized by Iran’s elite, nor eulogized, for with the loss of the Jewish community Iran’s claim to tolerance and Persian-ness will be harder to sustain. And so a nearly 3,000-year history is ending in silence. The Jews who had aspired to anonymity throughout their life in Iran are becoming extinct in anonymity now. If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not manage to wipe Israel off the map of the world, his revolution surely has just about wiped the Jewish community off the map of Iran.

Of the 90,000 Iranian Jews who have been displaced since 1979, possibly half emigrated to Israel. These were the less-well-off Jews, the “proletariat” of the community who could not afford to go elsewhere. My aunt and her family were among them. In January 1979, in a town called Khonssar, an angry mob of anti-Shah demonstrators set fire to the fabric shop the family ran. In the rolls of fabric they kept in the store, they had tucked their life’s savings in cash. When the shop burned, so did their future. And so did their home, for they lived on the story above.

In the thousands of posts that avid secular Iranians have placed on social media since the start of the recent war in Gaza, as in the numerous articles they penned, statements they signed and speeches they gave over the years, there has never been a mention of their own uprooted Jews. Palestine, they have consistently demanded, must be returned to the Palestinians. But not once a contemplation on what was to become of those who made their home there because the revolution they helped usher into the country drove them out of their ancient homeland.

Reams of translations and invocations of the literature of wronged communities—of poetry of Langston Hughes, for instance, and of the suffering of African Americans under slavery—but not a word about the gas chambers of the Nazis. In what they have not done, this so-called Iranian leftist vanguard is denying the Holocaust just as much as the president they opposed did.

In the thousands of posts on the “apartheid” in Israel, there has been none about the apartheid in Iran, the one where Jews (like other non-Muslims) cannot testify in a criminal trial against a Muslim. Thousands of posts on the alleged genocide committed against the Gazans, not a word about disappearance of Iranian Jews from Hamedan, for instance, where of the rule of the Jewish Queen Esther, only an abandoned tomb remains. The wrongs done to the Jews of Iran do not wash away the wrongs done against the Palestinians. But how can the necessity of Israel as a Jewish homeland be so readily dismissed by those who have been the culprits of the displacement and extinction of a community of their own?
 (My emphasis)

It is far too easy to resort to “anti-Semitism” as the explanation for what is ailing my compatriots, though it cannot be ruled out. Having observed them for as long as I have known them and myself, I have come to see their profound loss as the single most formative, and tragic, force of their lives. Once the Young Turks of their own era, they are now reaching the end of their lives in Iran or in diaspora, their destinies determined and ruled by a lesser sort—less educated, less erudite, less debonair, less sophisticated: mullahs who outwitted them in a Trojan moment. The innocuously turbaned giant they allowed into the country in February of 1979 proved to be their archenemy. They lost Iran, then they lost their hope in the Soviet Union as a utopia. Of all the things that used to define, bind and unify them, nothing is left today.

Nothing, that is, but their antagonism to Israel. Israel is the one cause around which their disarrayed lot can still unify, to reclaim a modicum of their old revolutionary glory. And it is cost-free, too. So many of these aging and ailing opposition figures, who had sworn off traveling to Iran until the mullahs were gone, are now dual citizens, returning to the bosom of families and communities after decades of separation. To keep their travel privileges, there is much that they keep silent about. But bashing Israel and the Jews, where their convictions miraculously overlap with those of the archenemy—well, that gets their passports renewed. Besides, for the more visible figures, it may even land them an interview or two on national television.

In the meantime, several promising signs point to a different attitude emerging among average Iranians, as documented in the latest ADL’s report on the state of anti-Semitism globally. A far more pragmatic generation, disenchanted with the regime and even more so with their “enlightened” predecessors, is rising throughout Iran.

Read article in full

Thursday, September 04, 2014

What really made Moroccan Jews leave?


 A press cutting reporting the Petit Jean massacre of 1954


The Petit Jean massacre 60 years ago,  the subject of a blogpost in the Times of Israel by Lyn Julius, has elicited an interesting reaction from those who have always believed that Moroccan Jews did not leave for Israel as a result of antisemitism, but out of ideological reasons (see below):

Last month, at the height of the Gaza war, French Jews in a Paris synagogue were shocked to find themselves the target of a near-pogrom by an enraged mob. And not only in France. Attacks on Jews in the UK went up 500 percent. Germany, Italy and Australia saw a worrying rise in anti-Jewish incidents too.

Jews in the West have been dismayed and traumatised: campaigns against antisemitism have been launched, demonstrations called. Leaders are hastening to distance diaspora Jewry from Israel in the hope that Jews will not be targeted for violence. 

In fact ‘collective punishment’ of Jews is nothing new to Jews who originate from Arab and Muslim countries.

Sixty years ago last month a massacre occurred that actually had nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The massacre of Petit Jean (now known as Sidi Kacem) may surprise those who extol Morocco as a model of Muslim-Jewish coexistence.
In a private exchange, Lyn Julius responded to a reader who claimed this article marked a serious revision to the history of Jews from Arab lands. Even Moroccan Jews themselves, and the new centre for Moroccan Jewry in Jerusalem, he asserted, make no mention of events such as the Petit Jean massacre. She replies:

The period just before independence must have been very difficult for Jews, with regular outbreaks of violence - as well as Petit Jean, five Jews were murdered in Oujda in 1953 and seven in Wadi Zem in 1955. This must have made Jews want to leave but the gates were slammed shut as soon as Morocco got independent. 
In fact Morocco has the worst record for pogroms of all Arab countries in the late 19th and early 20th century, culminating in the major pogrom of Fez in 1912 which 45 - 60 Jews died. 
Also in Morocco the dhimmi status, with its ritual humiliations and exactions, was still being applied to Jews into the 20th century, long after it had been abrogated in the Ottoman empire, and the country had a dismal record of forced conversions and abductions of Jewish women. Having said that, independent Morocco never passed discriminatory laws against Jews and did not expropriate their property, although fleeing Jews left many of their assets behind.
In addition, the impression of Morocco as the model of Muslim-Jewish coexistence has emerged because the King has invested heavily in a PR campaign to project an image of Muslim-Jewish harmony to a) encourage tourism and b) gain brownie points with the US and legitimacy for its invasion of Western Sahara.

 Jews themselves often confuse the issue by expressing their affection and loyalty to the Moroccan monarchy, not least because of the role the wartime sultan was supposed to have played in 'saving' them from Nazism. But no less than the head of the Moroccan Jewish organisation in Israel, Dinah Levin, has compared the plight of Morocco's Jews to a Nakba.



Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Turkish Jew girds loins against eviction

Ilya Avramoglu's bra and corset shop in Istanbul has survived much antisemitism in the past; this time, however, the antisemitic threat is (allegedly) coming from his Catholic landlord, Sophia Jones writes in the Huffington Post:

Avramoglu's Kelebek shop in downtown Istanbul : threatened with eviction

In one of the wood-paneled walls at the back of the shop, just below a poster of a smiling woman in a black bra, is a small hole. It’s all that is left from an attack on the minority-owned shop 60 years ago. It was nearly his grandfather’s downfall.

In early September 1955, rumors spread like wildfire that the home of Kemal Ataturk, the widely loved founder of modern Turkey, was set ablaze by Greeks (the rumor was entirely false). What ensued was a slew of attacks on homes, churches, schools and shops of Greeks, as well as Armenians, Georgians and Jews. The actual death toll of what is now known as the Istanbul pogrom is unknown; at least a dozen people were killed. Istiklal, then home to many shops owned and run by foreigners and minorities, was totally destroyed.
Kelebek was ransacked, its money and merchandise stolen. Nothing was left except debris and broken glass, and there was a hole in the wood paneling -- which Avramoglu now proudly shows off as a mark of defiance.

kelebek corset
Avramoglu holds up a photo of his grandfather standing in Kelebek Corset Shop after it was destroyed by a mob in 1955 during the Istanbul pogrom.
Two faded black and white portraits, one of his grandfather, and another of Ataturk, hang in the shop like a silent reminder of the time.

Two generations later, Avramoglu says he still isn’t safe from persecution. He vividly recalls two major anti-Semitic attacks in particular: In 1986, two gunmen locked the doors of an Istanbul synagogue and open fired during Sabbath prayers, killing at least 21. And then in 2003, twin car bombs exploded near two synagogues in central Istanbul.

Avramoglu's sister, who was attending a bar mitzvah in one of the synagogues during the attack, survived. But more than 24 people were killed and 300 wounded, the majority of them Turkish bystanders.

Rising levels of anti-Semitism have rocked Turkey’s Jewish community. Scores of Jews have left home, bound for Europe, the United States and Israel in search of religious freedom and a better life. In some cities, like Antakya, there are only a few remaining members of the ancient communities.

Avramoglu’s family started a Change.org petition pleading to Pope Francis to rescind the eviction order, and they plan to go to court. His lawyer tells him they’ll lose, he says, somberly. “The law is against us.”

Avramoglu cannot support his large family if he gets evicted. A local Jewish foundation is already pitching in to help pay his son’s university tuition.
kelebek corset
Avramoglu hangs fliers condemning his eviction order.
On Thursday, Avramoglu taped up his eviction order in the storefront and a poster in Turkish reading, "Where is the mercy? Where is the conscience?" Passersby stopped and watched him, whispering among themselves.
“We support you fully,” a woman said to Avramoglu, briefly poking her head into the store.

“An era is ending,” murmured a man who has been coming to Kelebek for 48 years.

For Avramoglu, his shop is a monument, not just to bras and underwear, but to religion and identity -- which is what he’s fighting for. Kelebek is his life’s work, and he's proud to have achieved his grandfather’s dream.

“This store is everything for me,” he says. “It’s history.”

Read article in full

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

IS within 30 km of Ezekiel's tomb

 With thanks: Maurice
Detail from the ceiling at Ezekiel's tomb

Islamic State (IS - formerly known as ISIS) has advanced to within just 30 km of Ezekiel's tomb at Al-Kifl. Ezekiel's tomb was the place of pilgrimage most revered by Jews when Iraq had a community.

 Last week, Islamic State (IS) elements in Iraq detonated two truck bombs in the city of Hillah, about 30 km. from al-Kifil. Although these attacks and others near the Imam al-Hussein Shrine in Karbala show IS's reach into southern Iraq, analysts think that IS's goal is to further foment Shi’a-Sunni sectarian tensions. The region is home  to many Shiite shrines, especially one belonging to the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson.

Iraq's five remaining Jews live in Baghdad, where IS suicide bombers routinely target Shi'a mosques. Dozens are killed daily.

Although the Iraqi defence ministry takes credit for repulsing IS elements, it is US airstrikes which are making the difference. A combined army of Iraqi security forces,  Shia militia and Peshmerga Kurdish forces  launched an offensive to retake Amerli, a Turkmen Shi'a town of 15,000 - thus averting a humanitarian catastrophe. The mobilisation of Shi'a militia, which fought the US military in Iraq, puts them in the ironical position of benefitting from US airstrikes.

The suffering of Yazidi girls and women who were captured in Iraq  afew weeks ago, reached its peak when it was reported that 300 of them were sold by IS fighters to their elements in Syria after they were forced to convert to Islam, so that they can marry IS fighters. The reports added that the 300 girls/women were sold for $1,000 each. Other girls/women were previously sold in Iraq for as low as $15 each. Three weeks ago, there were reports that some Kurdish and Arabic mediators in Syria also bought women from IS as a way of returning them to their families.

During the last few weeks, more than 1000 children were killed by IS in Iraq, and more than 400,000 people were displaced in the country, mostly in the Kurdish region. The old tensions between Iraqi Kurds and Arabs are feeding battles there. Kurdish fighters suspect that area Arabs have backed IS militants that have rampaged in Iraq’s north over the past month. The Yazidis in Iraq are paying a higher price than other minorities in the country in light of the progress that IS achieved in the north last month (IS advances are now being reversed following the US attacks). After IS gunmen had entered Yazidi villages with machine guns, they gave a choice to Yazidis between conversion to Islam or death. Hundreds among them who refused to convert were executed. Following that IS released a video clip that shows hundreds of Yazidis who were “happy” to convert to Islam.


 The video clip was issued not long after IS released another video showing one of its fighters beheading American journalist James Foley.


*****

Senior Kurdish government officials are reportedly angry at Israel for declaring its support for Kurdish independence. They fear such support will damage the Kurdish cause. The reaction among Iraqi Sunni and Shi’a Arabs is much worse, they say.  The Israeli leaders' declarations will increase Arab suspicion and animosity towards the Kurds.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Rebutting Hamas's Mizrahi narrative

 CNN's Wolf Blitzer challenges Hamas's spokesman Osama Hamdan


Enjoying greater media exposure during the Gaza war,  Hamas has been busy spreading the disinformation that the Muslim world welcomed Jews as 'normal' citizens before the establishment of Israel. JIMENA, the US organisation representing Jewish refugees from Arab lands, has been equally busy countering the lie. Article in Digital Journal: 

Amidst the flurry of international media surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Operation Protective Edge, one crucial voice continues to be co-opted and silenced: that of indigenous Mizrahi Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.

In an August 6, 2014 interview on CNN's "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan was questioned regarding his accusations that Jews "slaughter Christians in order to mix their blood in their holy matzoh." In response, Hamdan denied the Anti-Semitism in Arab countries, by painting a picture of Islamic societies as pluralistic and accepting of Jews: "The Jews lived in the Arab region and among the Muslims as normal citizens. When the Jews were kicked from Europe in the mid-ages, they came to live in peace in our countries, and they were accepted." JIMENA President and Libyan native, Gina Bublil-Waldman counters by noting that, "Jews have had a continuous presence in the Middle East for over 2,500 years – an entire millennium before the advent of Islam. Under Muslim rule, many Jewish communities in the Arab world were relegated to a subservient, second-class "dhimmi" status."

Hamdan is only the most recent to make this claim. Dr. Mousa Abu Marzook, then Deputy Head of Hamas' political bureau, stated in an August 25, 2008 interview with IslamOnline: "The Jews who were living under the Islamic rule were the happiest on earth…Jews lived freely and ran prosperous businesses in Egypt and Baghdad, and the markets of Baghdad are evidences of what the Jews owned. Jews did not face any persecution or mistreatment."

Hamas also refuses to recognize Mizrahi refugees, instead blaming them for their own exile and the plight of the Palestinians. In a September 22, 2012 public statement published by Ma'an News Agency, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri condemned the first UN conference on Jewish refugees from Arab countries, held in New York in 2012, claiming that "those Jews are criminals rather than refugees… They were actually responsible for the displacement of the Palestinian people after they secretly migrated from Arab countries to Palestine before they expelled the Palestinians from their lands to build a Jewish state at their expense."

As a leading representative voice of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East & North Africa aims to achieve universal recognition of the Mizrahi refugee experience by collecting and sharing the personal and communal eye-witness testimonies of some of the 850,000 Jews who fled Anti-Semitic persecution in the Arab world. Legal experts assert that the UN Agency for refugees (UNHCR) recognized Jews fleeing Arab countries as bona fide refugees. UN Resolution 242 which was unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council officially recognized Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

In a JIMENA testimony, Iraqi-born author Emil Murad describes the long history of Anti-Semitism in Iraq: "From l930 all Iraqi governments systematically suppressed any sign of Jewish or national consciousness on the part of the Iraqi Jews...study of Jewish history was forbidden, restrictions were imposed on relations with Jews abroad and Zionism was considered to be treason." In 1941, these actions culminated in the massacre known as the Farhud: "They began dragging Jews out of buses and murdering them in the road. Wild crowds and defeated soldiers who had returned with their weapons to the city, saw the pogrom as a celebration and a sort of amusement. The Jewish Quarter in the city centre became a battlefield, with looting, robbery, and rape…The pogrom inflicted mortal wounds on the Jewish community."

JIMENA President Gina Bublil-Waldman recalls the danger to Jews in Arab countries. "We were denied the most basic human and civil rights, such as the right to become citizens, the right to vote, the right to hold public office, or hold government jobs." Waldman remembers the pogroms in 1945 in her hometown of Tripoli, Libya: "Libyan Arabs looted and burned Jewish homes and killed Jews. They dragged my neighbors and relatives out on the streets and slaughtered them… Nine synagogues – four of them in Tripoli – were burned to the ground, and 35 Torah scrolls were destroyed."

Mrs. Bublil-Waldman relates to ethnic and religious persecution in Muslim countries today: "Mizrahi refugees can empathize and serve as great allies to minorities from Arab countries. Honoring Mizrahi history is key to understanding the suffering of Yezidis, Christians and other oppressed groups, including Palestinian refugees, in the Middle East."