Thursday, August 21, 2014

'Jews burn Algerian flag' claim debunked

 If you can't report the news, make it up. That seems to be the watchword of a disturbingly large sector of the media. In this case, expertly debunked by Elder of Ziyon, the Algerian paper El Chorouk is projecting the impression of Algerian-born Jews as disloyal colonialists by inventing a story of flag-burning.

Algerian newspaper El Chorouk is covering the Muslim attacks on Jews in France - but it is claiming that it is violence between the groups, not the one-sided would-be pogroms we have seen.

According to the paper, French Jews have been burning the Algerian flag in response to French Muslims burning the Israeli flag. According to the article, French Jews and Muslims have lived together in peace, but (Zionist) French TV coverage of Muslims burning Israeli flags, along with them carrying Algerian flags, has caused all the problems of Jews returning the favor.

"For the first time by the Jews of France protests are not against the Palestinians and against Hamas, but against Algeria and its symbols," the article says.

The article helpfully adds that Algerian Jews - who lived in Algeria for centuries - were colonialists who helped the French during the revolution and who were therefore expelled.

We are told that Algerians are afraid of the Jews in their midst, and that - get this - Jews in France are trying to gain the trust of French Tunisians, Moroccans and Turks in an attempt to isolate the Algerians.


Looking through photos and video, I could not find a single instance of a Jew burning an Algerian flag.

Read post in full

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Liberals, look at the new Middle East




A petrol depot ablaze in clashes in Tripoli, Libya

Smoke billows after a petrol depot was set ablaze during clashes between rival militias near the international airport in Tripoli, Libya, August 13, 2014. Photo by AFP
 
Leading Haaretz columnist and liberal Ari Shavit is right. Liberals need to revise their world view in the light of the terrible violence and brutality we are now seeing in the Middle East. But his view is still frustratingly Eurocentric: he fails to view the Jews as an authentic Middle Eastern minority, and the first to have been ethnically cleansed from the Arab world. Stuck in his mental rut of bashing Israel for its West bank settlements, he fails to draw the main lesson of the catastrophe befalling the Yazidis: that the Jews are essentially on the side of liberal values against religious fascism and fanaticism. They are vindicated for having a homeland of their own, a safe haven called Israel.

The new Middle East is a brutal one. Many Sunnis hate Shi’ites and many Shi’ites hate Sunnis. Many Sunnis and Shi’ites hate Christians, Jews, women and homosexuals. In numerous countries in the region, a considerable part of the majority hates the minorities – Kurds, Druze, Copts, Turkmen, Yazidis. Monarchs and secular people hate members of the Muslim Brotherhood and members of the Muslim Brotherhood hate secular people and monarchs.
These hatreds turn into violence. The violence becomes ferocious. Too many demons awaken and begin devouring people. Heretics are murdered, sinners are stoned, women are sold to slavery. A new Middle East is exposing its face these days, and it’s a face of horror.

The Middle East was tainted with inter-religious fanaticism and inter-tribal hostility in the past as well, but the Ottoman Empire, the colonial powers * and Arab nationalism forced members of other religions and tribes to live together and restrain the primeval hatreds. The collapse of modern nationalism in recent years led to the breakdown of the joint frameworks and to a horrific outbreak of hate crimes. This is why today we see hideous sights that seem to have been taken from the Middle Ages. That is why today we’re facing a Sambatyon river of barbarism. The chopped heads and limbs of innocent human beings are much more than a blood-curdling metaphor. In large parts of the new Middle East there’s no place for human rights, human dignity or freedom. In many regions in East Asia and North Africa there is no room for individuals, equality for minorities or compassion for the weak.

Violent fanaticism has spun out of control in Iraq and Syria, but is also raging in Libya and Lebanon and threatening Egypt and Jordan. Only Tunisia and Kurdistan still hold up the torches of progress. In all other states in the region, the choice is reactionary monarchy, military dictatorship, theocracy or murderous chaos.

It is difficult for the Western liberal to observe the new Middle East. His worldview is based on criticizing the West and granting sweeping amnesty to those who are seen as its victims. This liberal’s code of values forbids him to define Third World evil as such. So he demonstrated against the war in Vietnam, but kept silent in the face of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia. He opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but kept silent in the face of the oppression in Iran.

This is why he hastens to denounce Israel, while displaying leniency toward Hamas’ fascism. The Western liberal knows how to rise up against Western exertion of force and likes doing so. But at the sight of Arabs slaughtering Arabs, he is lost. Whom will he rage against? Whom can he demonstrate against? At whom will he feel holy fury?

The American President Barack Obama did the right thing this week when he provided humanitarian and military assistance to the murdered people in northern Iraq. Secretary of State John Kerry did right when he said uncompromising things about ISIS. Leading media in the United States and Europe have done and are doing holy work to expose the horror.

But all these are not enough. The new Middle East is now raising penetrating questions that must generate an upheaval in liberal thought. Liberals can no longer ignore the awful plague of Middle Eastern brutality and the fact that millions of Arabs live with no rights and no future.

While voicing justified criticism against Israel (for the occupation, settlements, racist fringes), they must lift their eyes and see the expanse in which Israel is located. An expanse in which Yazidis are massacred and Christians are persecuted and women are stoned. An expanse in which there is no democracy, or peace, or grace. This is a Middle East that liberals must see as it is – and deal with its diseases courageously.

Read article in full  (subscription/ registration required)

Jews and the Left: an alliance breaks up, by Philip Mendes (Israel Hayom)

*This statement rings hollow in the light of the Armenian genocide, 19th c. blood libels and pogroms against Jews and the gassing of the Kurds by the British - ed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

85 years since the Hebron massacre

 It is 85 years ago this month since the 1929 Hebron massacre. This massacre claimed 67 Jewish lives - 133 Jews were killed across Palestine. It preceded 'occupation', the establishment of Israel, 'Palestinian' claims, and marks the abandonment, on British advice, of Jewish communities on the 'West Bank', parts of Jerusalem and Gaza. I am re-posting this blog from the 80th anniversary.

Wrecked synagogues and Jewish homes, stained with the blood of 67 Jews. Such was the scene on this day in 1929 when a mob rampaged through the ancient Jewish community of Hebron. Here are some rarely-seen photos of the destruction from the Picture-a-day American Colony collection. The leaders of the Hebron Jewish community have admitted not having seen them before.

On Yom Kippur 1928, Jews brought chairs and screens to prayers at the Western Wall. This purported change of the status quo was exploited by the Mufti, Haj Amin el Husseini, to launch a jihad against the Jews. Husseini’s campaign continued and escalated after a Jewish demonstration at the Kotel on Tisha B’Av in August 1929. Rumors spread that Jews had attacked Jerusalem mosques and massacred Muslims. The fuse was lit for a major explosion. 

Starting on Friday, August 23, 1929 and lasting for a week, attacks by enraged Arab mobs were launched against Jews in the Old City in Jerusalem, in Jerusalem suburbs Sanhedria, Motza, Bayit Vegan, Ramat Rachel, in outlying Jewish communities, and in the Galilee town of Tzfat.Small Jewish communities in Gaza, Ramla, Jenin, and Nablus had to be abandoned.
The attack in Hebron became a frenzied pogrom with the Arab mob stabbing, axing, decapitating and disemboweling 67 men, women and children. At least 133 Jews were killed across Palestine. In 1931, there was a short-lived attempt to reestablish the Jewish community in Hebron, but within a few years it was abandoned until the Israel Defense Forces recaptured Hebron in 1967.

The British indulged the Arabs and responded by limiting Jewish immigration and land purchases.

See post in full
 
Synagogue desecrated


Large common grave of Jewish victims. Later the grave
was destroyed
 
Jewish home plundered






Today in Hebron: A recent Jewish service in the rebuilt
Avraham
Avinu Synagogue (with permission of photographer)
 



























































Scars of a  Hebron  survivor (Haaretz)

  Lessons for coexistence of the Hebron massacre (This post has been updated to take account of errors in the original source article.)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dual citizens targeted in Turkey

Against the background of presidential elections where Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the front-runner, the  antisemitic climate in Turkey is worsening.  The pro- Turkish government daily Milat has picked up a social media campaign questioning a law allowing dual-nationals to serve in the military of a country Turkey recognises:  Israeli citizens who have served in the national army, it alleges, 'have blood on their hands and are responsible for the killings of civilians in Gaza'.


Milat, a staunch pro-government paper that uses political Islamist rhetoric, used English in its headline, stating “Go home killer” in reference to Turkish Jews who allegedly serve in the Israeli army. The article stated that after Israel announced its recent military campaign, Turkish Jews who hold dual citizenship rushed to “massacre” Palestinians. The paper also commented that Jewish Turkish citizens involved in fighting against innocent Palestinians come back to Turkey and “resume their lives as if nothing happened.”

Milat based its report on a social media campaign launched by a number of journalists and activists with the hashtag #israilaskeriistemiyoruz (We do not want Israeli soldiers). A website under the same name urges citizens to sign a petition and send it to Parliament so as to revoke the Turkish citizenship of anyone who fights in the Israeli army on the grounds that they have committed premeditated murder. The petition also requests that the Ministry of Defense abolish an existing legal exemption regarding military service for people who carry dual citizenship and have served in the Israeli army. According to a 1993 law, citizens with more than one nationality are exempt from military service in Turkey if they have served in the military of a county that Turkey recognizes.

 Read article in full

Meanwhile, anger at 'Israel's behaviour in Gaza' is spilling over into racist insults against Turkish Jews 'for political benefit'. This surprisingly sympathetic article comes from Al-Jazeera (America):

Necmettin Erbakan, the Islamist political mentor to Erdogan in the 1980s and ’90s, was known for his anti-Semitic views. In early 2005, a wave of anti-Israeli sentiment pushed Hitler’s Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to the bestseller list in Turkey. And just last year, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay blamed the “Jewish diaspora” for the nationwide Gezi Park protests.

On July 18, the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League expressed alarm at the increasingly hostile environment in Turkey, calling on Erdogan to reject the targeting of Turkish Jews. To his credit, the prime minister has done just that. “I don't approve of any attitude against Jews in Turkey, who are our citizens,” he said at a recent campaign rally. “They are under our guarantee.”

But this is similar to a dinner party host releasing a pack of Dobermans on his arriving guests, and then chastising his four-legged minions as they sink their teeth into the visitors’ necks. Erdogan and his party believe this rhetoric resonates with their base and, possibly, boosts their standing in the Arab world.

Read article in full 

The silence of Turkish Jewry (Jerusalem Post)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Jews are natives, Muslims colonists

 There has been a small but almost continuous Jewish presence in Palestine for 2,000 years.  When the state of Israel was declared in 1948,  Muslims in Palestine were colonists from other parts of the Ottoman Empire who had been resettled  there for less than 60 years. The narrative that Jews, Yazidis and Copts are settlers is false, Ezequiel Doiny argues in the Gatestone Institute:
Religious leader at the Yazidi temple at Lalish. Yazidis, Copts and Jews are not settlers in the Middle East

The Muslim rulers not only kept the number of Jews low through discriminatory taxes, they also increased the Muslim population by providing incentives for Muslim colonists to settle in the area. Incentives included free land, 12 years exemption from taxes and exemption from military service.
Bat Ye'or continues:
"By the early 1800s the Arab population in Palestine was very little (just 246,000) it was in the late 1800s and early 1900s that most Muslim Colonists settled in Palestine because of incentives by the Ottoman Government to resettle displaced Muslim populations because of events such as the Austro-Hungarian Occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Crimean War and World War 1. Those events created a great quantity of Muslim Refugees that were resettled somewhere else in the Ottoman Empire... In 1878 an Ottoman law granted lands in Palestine to Muslim colonists. Muslim colonists from Crimea and the Balkans settled in Anatolia, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine."
Justin McCarthy, a professor of history at the University of Louisville, writing in his Annotated Map, "Forced Migration and Mortality in the Ottoman Empire," also notes that there were about five million Muslims displaced due to the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Crimean War, Balkan wars, the Turkish war of independence and World War I.

Sergio DellaPergola, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in his paper "Demography in Israel/Palestine: Trends, Prospects and Policy Implications," provides estimates of the population of Palestine in different periods. As the demographic data below shows, most Muslims living in Palestine in 1948 when the State of Israel was created had been living there for fewer than 60 years:
1890: Arab Population 432,000
1947: Arab Population 1,181,000
Growth in Arab population from 1890 to 1947: 800,000
The Yazidi in Iraq and the Christian Copts in Egypt are not "settlers" and "occupiers;" neither are the Jews in Israel. They are victims of a common enemy that seems to want a Middle East free of non-Muslims.

Read article in full 

Jews have always been part of the landscape

Friday, August 15, 2014

' It could have been us. It used to be us'

  Click on image to enlarge


The catastrophic plight of the Yazidis and Christians in northern Iraq should remind every Jew of what life was like before we had a safe haven in Israel. Eloquent article ('We must not ignore this cry') in the Jewish Chronicle by Eylon Aslan-Levy (no link yet available).

"For Jews this tragedy has special resonance. This used to be us. This is how we lived before we had Israel: stateless, defenceless, helpless minorities under the perpetual Damocles sword of Genocide. This is how we lived: at the whim of hostile powers and the mercy of an apathetic or hapless international community.

This would have been the fate of Iraqi Jewry, had it not found a safe haven in its own sovereign corner of the Middle East. (...)

The Mizrachim among us are the lucky ones: the ones who got away."

Don't forget Iraq's oldest persecuted minority 

Minorities need a land of their own

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jews join Kurds in anti-ISIS protest

 (Left:) Ranbir Singh of the Hindu Human Rights Group and Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association (third from left) together with Kurdish representatives and Lyn Julius of Harif  presented a petition to David Cameron, UK Prime Minister.

Some 500 demonstrators gathered outside Downing St yesterday evening  to protest noisily against the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Yazidis and Assyrian Christians in northern Iraq by the jihadist army ISIS,  also known as IS (Islamic State). Shouting 'Stop the crisis, down with ISIS", 'Today the Middle East, tomorrow the UK' and 'We are all peshmerga (a reference to Kurdish independence fighters)!" the crowd was dominated by a spirited contingent of Kurds, some in traditional dress.

Joining the protest, which was organised at short notice by Solidarity against ISIS and the British Pakistani Christian Association, was a group from Harif, the UK association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. A couple of Harif members, Michelle Huberman and Ralph Assor, gave interviews to LBC and Kurdish radio.

Left, ex-jihadi Majid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation, Harif's Michelle Huberman and a Kurdish supporter

"We are here to stand in solidarity with persecuted minorities in the Arab and Muslim world," said Harif co-founder Lyn Julius." As we all know, Jews are, tragically, no strangers to genocide. The Jewish community, one of the oldest, was the first to be ethnically cleansed from Iraq. As the saying goes,"first the Saturday people, then the Sunday people. " What begins with the Jews never ends with them."

Mrs Julius added:" We are also here because we owe a debt of gratitude to the Kurdish people.  Kurds helped smuggle over the border Jews escaping from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, and saved many Jewish lives."

In their turn Kurds greeted the Jewish protestors with enthusiasm, thanking them for their support. One referred to them as 'our brothers'. Some addressed them in Hebrew and confided that they had Jewish family members in Israel. 

Lyn Julius was part of a delegation, including a Pakistani Christian, a Hindu human rights activist, a Sunni Muslim and several Kurdish representatives,  presenting a petition to David Cameron. The UK Prime Minister had just returned to Downing St from his holiday. The petition called on the British government "to live up to its obligations and prevent the vortex of genocide and killing taking any more innocent lives."

Harif members met a Yazidi Phd student at Reading University, one of 200 members of the UK community. A 4000-year old  pre-Islamic sect, the Yazidi religion combines Zoroastrianism with Jewish and Christian elements. Like Judaism, it does not proselytise. The Yazidi student, from Mosul,  had not had any news from his extended family in Iraq.

ISIS has been targeting the Yazidis - there are estimated to be some 200, 000 -  because they are considered infidels who must either convert to Islam or die. While the world  had begun to respond to the humanitarian disaster on Mount Sinjar, where Yazidis besieged by ISIS  were stranded  in the unbearable heat without food or water, stories abound of mass executions, beheadings, women raped or sold into slavery. ISIS buried alive hundreds of Yazidis, including women and children.

The predominantly Kurdish demonstrators chanted "Stop the crisis, down with ISIS!". (With thanks for photos to : Daniel J Levy, Sharon Da, Sai Arjun, Wilson Chowdhry.)


Report in the Jewish Chronicle

Ardent about argent from Yemen



 Delicate silver filigree work on a Yemeni dagger (photo: Al Ahram)

An American couple, Marjorie and David Ransom, have dedicated themselves to preserving the dying art of Yemenite silversmithing, traditionally a Jewish craft. Even though the Jews have left for Israel, Yemeni jewellers refer to their most highly prized and intricate work as 'Jewish'.  Review of a book by Marjorie Ransom in Al-Ahram:

Yemeni Jewish craftsmen were known throughout the Middle East for their delicate work: they had comprised much of the silversmithing craft in North Yemen prior to their 1949 exodus to Israel. Although there were many fine Yemeni Muslim silversmiths, the art for was clearly threatened when the Jews departed. Preservation became for us a principal goal,” the author tells the tale, the commencement of her infatuation with salvaging Yemeni silver accessories. Eventually she had so many precious pieces that she was unable to display them all simultaneously.

Ransom’s seminal work is not guilelessly divided into “North” and “South” Yemen. That would have been nothing short of obscene and unbecoming for a collector with a keen eye for precision.

The author took pains to distinguish the peculiarities of regional stylistic variations. From Saada and Amran in the far north of Yemen, regions that have recently been embroiled in civil wars to the Tihama on the Red Sea coast and the capital Sanaa, Taiz, Aden, sprawling Hadramout, Mahra and even the the enigmatic island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean, off the African continent.
“Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, is one of the oldest cities in the Arab world and one of the best preserved traditional Islamic cities in the Arabian Peninsula. It is also the highest capital city in the Middle East, situated at 2,295 meters above sea level.

In the heart of the old city is the salt market, or Suq Al-Milh, where the silver market, or Suq Al-Fidhdha, is located. It is where I lived for most of my time in Yemen and did much of my research. Silver dealers and silversmiths opened their homes to me as they shared valuable information about their craft,” Ransom recollects.

The craftsmanship of the indigenous Jewish  silversmiths in Yemen was stunning even with the most mundane everyday objects featuring highly intricate and alluring distinctive designs.

And, Yemeni women of yesteryear never bought silver jewelry on a whim. Ironically, Muslim Yemenis countenanced the Jewish silversmith’s ingenuity and inventiveness even if it subtly displayed uniquely Jewish religious imagery and inscription such as the Star of David. Silver jewelry was traditionally brought for a specific purpose, invariably as bridal appurtenances.

Contemporary Muslim silversmiths have scrupulously adhered to the age-old Jewish classical styles. “Although most Jews left Yemen in the late 1940s in Operation Magic Carpet, which took Jews from Aden to Israel, silver dealers to this day will use as their best sales pitch that the piece is shughl Yahoudi, or Jewish work,” Ransom extrapolates.

Read article in full

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Minorities need a land of their own

 Female members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and an Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighter take position on the front line in Makhmur, some 50 km south of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on 9th August 2014. (Image: SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)

What lesson can Jews teach Yazidis and Christians in Iraq? The unfashionable idea that without a homeland to call their own they will always be at the mercy of others, Ed West blogs in the Spectator (with thanks: Lily)

 A clear lesson that the Yazidis and Christian Assyrians have learned is that without a patch of land for oneself, and soldiers to protect it, no people is safe.

Ten years ago, when the pogrom against Iraq’s Christians began with a number of church bombings and sectarian murders, Christian leaders in that country proposed an administrative area in the Nineveh Plains where Iraq’s minorities, including the Assyrians and Yazidis, and smaller but equally persecuted groups like the Shabak and Mandeans, would have political and military autonomy, with a police force composed of minorities to protect them.

Iraq’s more powerful groups rejected the idea, and the Americans did nothing to help; the counter-argument was that Iraq’s minorities should be encouraged to remain part of a multi-denominational country, and that a safe haven would be a magnet for jihadis. The former argument is fine in theory, but the latter looks rather irrelevant now.

The lesson of history, especially Europe’s, is that without a homeland or safe area of its own, no minority is ever entirely safe. The Kurds learned this lesson under Saddam Hussein. After 1991 Iraqi Kurdistan gained de facto autonomy. Now it looks certain to emerge as a nation-state. While I cannot say what will happen in the battle between the Islamic State and the Peshmerga (Kurdish fighters),
Kurdistan will certainly survive and will have even acquired a foundation myth, its status in the world elevated after a struggle against an evil enemy.

For a long time now there has been an idea among many western intellectuals that we had somehow outgrown the nation-state. No one told the Kurds, obviously. And while nationalism is discredited because of its associations with 1914-45, it can also act as a counter-balance to other forces, namely religious extremism. It may not be coincidence that Turkey, the one Islamic nation in the region with a very strong national identity, is the most resistant to Islamism; perhaps it is only a matter of time but second-generation Turks in Europe also seem far less prone to religious extremism than men whose families hail from weak states with multiple, competing identities, such as Pakistan. (I’m not suggesting this is the main reason — Pakistan is, after all, much more religious than Turkey.)

One Iraqi minority, of course, learned this lesson very, very painfully some time ago. Baghdad was one-third Jewish a century ago. Had Israel not come into existence, how might Iraq’s Jews have fared today? Not very well, I’d imagine.

Read article in full

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

More about the Constantine pogrom, 1934


 The devastation following the Constantine pogrom, which claimed the lives of 28 Jews


Last week Point of No Return flagged up the 80th anniversary of the Constantine pogrom in Algeria.  Elder of Ziyon has unearthed two more detailed contemporary accounts of what happened. It should be noted that rioting occurred in neighbouring towns as well:

From the Encyclopedia of Antisemitism:
Between August 3 and 5, 1934, Muslim mobs went on a rampage in the Algerian city of Constantine, attacking Jews and Jewish property. In the attack, 25 Jewish men, women, and children were killed, most from having their throats cut or their skulls crushed, and 26 more were injured, according to official statistics. More than 200 Jewish-owned stores were ransacked. The total property damage to homes, businesses, and synagogues was estimated at over 150 million Poincare francs. Some 3,000 people, one-quarter of Constantine's Jewish population, were in need of welfare assistance in the aftermath of the pogrom. During the rampage, anti-Jewish incidents were recorded in the countryside of the Department of Constantine, extending over a 100-kilometer radius. Jews were murdered in Hamma and Mila, and in Ain Beida, Jewish homes and businesses were looted. In all, 314 Jews left Ain Beida for good, seeking the relative security of larger communities. During much of the rioting, the French police and security forces stood by and did little or nothing to stop the rioters.

Differing analyses of the causes of the Constantine pogrom were offered by the French colonial administration, by Jews, by Algerian Muslims, and by later historians. All agree that the spark igniting the violence was an argument between a Jewish Zouave (infantryman), Eliahou Khalifa, and worshipers in a mosque adjacent to his home. Eyewitness accounts differed over the precise circumstances. The antisemitic French colonial authorities and press reported only the Muslim version that Khalifa was drunk, urinated on the Arabs, and insulted Islam. A report by the Jewish authorities claimed that he was not inebriated, that he had asked the Muslims to close some windows opening onto their ablution hall for the sake of modesty, and that in the ensuing argument, they had cursed him and his faith and that he in turn cursed them and their religion. ("God curse your religion" is a common imprecation in North Africa freely and frequently used by Muslims and Jews, even between members of the same faith.) Jewish public opinion at the time blamed the incident on a conspiracy between European antisemites in the Algerian colonial bureaucracy and on pan-Arab propaganda. In the official government account at the time, the rioting was described as a completely spontaneous event. The antisemitic pieds noirs (colonists) and some Muslims blamed the outbreak on the enmity of the native underclass caused by the arrogance of nouveau riche Jews, who supposedly flaunted their superiority as French citizens  under the Cremieux Decree of 1870, and by the alleged exploitation of Jewish moneylenders.
JTA reported:
A scene of utter desolation and horror, of Jewish girls with their breasts cut off, of little children with numerous knife wounds and of whole families locked in their homes and burned to death, was described by a Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent, who succeeded in reaching this city today.

“It will take days before the world will obtain a true picture of all the atrocities committed by the Arabs during the pogrom on the Jewish quarter,” the correspondent wired.

“The only comparison I can think of is the Palestine riots of 1929. I found Jewish girls with their breasts cut off, greybearded Jews stabbed to death, little Jewish children dead of numerous knife wounds and whole families locked in their homes and burned to death by the rioters."
Read post in full 

Lest we forget: Constantine, 1934 

For Jews in France, 'plus ca change'

Monday, August 11, 2014

Don't forget Iraq's oldest persecuted minority

The tragic plight of Yazidis and Christians in Iraq should not be seen in a vacuum. Before Sunday comes Saturday: the Jews were the first minority to be ethnically cleansed from Iraq, Lyn Julius reminds Times of Israel readers:

Yazidi women shelter in a school in Duhok, Iraqi Kurdistan (Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)

Until a few days ago, not many people in the West had heard of the Yazidis – 50,000 are stranded without food and water on the Sinjar mountains escaping the genocidal intentions of the Islamic State’s ( IS) army.

Now that the international community has bestirred itself to relieve their dramatic plight with US and British airdrops of desperately-needed supplies, the under-reported tragedy of Iraq’s pre-Islamic religious minorities – not just Yazidis but Assyrian and Chaldean Christians – is finally capturing the headlines. 

The gruesome details are trickling out, of IS’s barbarous treatment of the local population as they advance into Kurdish areas: mass executions, crucifixions and beheadings, women and children forced into slavery.

Church leaders, among them Canon Andrew White, the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’, lament:
“We are witnessing today an act of religious and ethnic cleansing toward Christians as well as many other communities such as Sufis, Shabaks, Mandaeans, Yazidis, Turkmen, let alone Shi’is and Sunnis, as extremists drive people out of the lands that have been their home for thousands of years.”
Missing from the list of persecuted groups is the oldest of Iraq’s religious minorities : the Jews. Canon White, who has taken on the mantle of protecting Baghdad’s remaining five Jews, knows better than most that Iraq’s 150, 000- member Jewish community has been driven to extinction. First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people. But there are so few left in Iraq that Jews – once Baghdad’s biggest single ethnic minority – do not merit a mention.

There is no doubt, however, that had there still been Jews in the area which has fallen under its control, IS would have massacred them all. Mercifully, the 18,000 Jews of the Kurdish region fled in 1950.

For IS, the next best thing to ethnic cleansing is to eradicate all memory of Jewish history in Iraq. Already it has blown up the tomb of Jonah, who is revered not just by Jews but Christians, and Muslims who do not subscribe to IS’s nihilism. The jihadists have also blown up the tomb of Seth. (There is also a claim that they destroyed the tomb of Daniel in Mosul, one of several supposed burial sites.)

Now IS is threatening the tomb of another Biblical prophet. The terrorists of IS are but five miles from the shrine of Nahum, who lived during the Assyrian period and is buried with his sister Sarah in the Christian town of El-Qosh. The positive news, however, is that 500 young armed residents have stayed behind to make a stand against IS, while their families have been evacuated to Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Before they fled to Israel, almost the entire Jewish populations of Mosul and surrounding villages would arrive at the shrine of Nahum to celebrate the festival of Shavuot. (...)

The Shavuot pilgrimage last occurred in 1951. In the words of a popular Kurdish Jewish saying: “He who has not witnessed the celebration of pilgrimage to Nahum’s Tomb has not seen real joy.”

Despite the destruction of their heritage, the only sentiment one can feel nowadays is boundless joy that the Jews of Kurdistan, and of Iraq, found a safe haven in Israel. Unlike the Christians and Yazidis, the Jewish minority of the Middle East, now concentrated on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, have the luxury of a sovereign state of their own. Yes, the Jews of Israel are faced with a genocidal campaign by IS’s ideological cousins, Hamas – but at least they have the means to defend themselves.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Islamists only five miles from tomb of Nahum

With thanks: Maurice
(Top) The Tomb of Nahum seen from the north west. (Bottom) The grave with its green silken coverlet.

 Some 500 young armed residents  are staying behind to defend the Christian town of Al-Qosh against the onslaught by IS (Islamic State).  The rest of their families  have been evacuated to the city of Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Al-Qosh, built on high ground,  is the site of the tomb of the Biblical  Nahum and his sister Sarah, who lived during the Assyrian period (721 - 722 BCE).

The Islamic State (IS) now controls  the Christian cities of Qarakosh, Bartella, Tel Keif, and others near Mosul. It is only five miles away from Al-Qosh.  In Mosul its jihadis have destroyed sites holy to the Shi'a sect, Christians and Jews. When they took over Mosul they issued an ultimatum to Christians to pay the jizya tax, convert or die. The jihadis of IS blew up  the shrine to the Prophet Jonah and that of Seth in Mosul.

If they capture Al-Qosh IS will certainly destroy the tomb of Nahum. It is already in a dilapidated state, but the tomb itself, with its green coverlet, is still intact. The pictures here were taken by a Christian scholar who bought a house in Al-Qosh,  intending to return for good from Europe to the town of his birth.

Meanwhile  US planes have begun to relieve a humanitarian disaster by  dropping thousands of gallons of drinking water  and ready-to-eat meals to the beleaguered 50,000 Yezidis, (out of a total of 200,000) members of an ancient pre-Islamic sect, stranded  in the Sinjar mountains. The Yezidis were forced to flee a  threatened genocide at the hands of the  IS terrorists in the plains below.

The US has reportedly bombed IS terrorists marching towards Erbil, Iraq's Kurdish capital. The advance of IS accelerated dramatically in the past week when they routed Kurdish troops near the Kurdish autonomous region in the north. Their seizure of the Mosul dam gives IS a potent weapon - to deprive the population of water or flood whole cities.

Maurice Shohet, president of the World Organisation of Jews from Iraq (WOJI), said: "Obviously we are concerned for the well-being  of those whom IS militants are targeting, as well as any damage to the tombs of Nahum and Sarah, if IS reaches that area."

Londoner visits Nahum's tomb

Friday, August 08, 2014

For Jews in France, 'plus ca change'

 History is repeating itself for Jews in France, most of whom are descended from refugees from the Arab world. Traumatised by anti-Jewish riots, they are moving on for the second time in a generation, writes Lyn Julius in the Jerusalem Post:
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators shout 'Death to the Jews' at the 13 July Paris riot

The Jews of France are reeling. It's been a month that they would rather forget. Although all European Jewish communities have been affected, the French community has, since the outbreak of the Gaza war, seen a larger spike in violence than most.  Eight synagogues were attacked in a week. 


Jews in France no longer feel secure. Four times as many Jews as last year are leaving the country to move to Israel. Newsweek's lead story is  "Exodus: they're fleeing once again".

Antisemitic attacks have been on the rise for some time, culminating in the murders of Sebastien Selam and  Ilan Halimi ; the Toulouse massacre of three Jewish children and a rabbi; the gunning down of four people at the Brussels Jewish museum by a French jihadi returning from Syria. All these atrocities have shaken the 500,000-strong community to the core. They have been taking their children out of public schools, moving to 'safer' areas of Paris, and choosing more Jew-friendly universities.

On 13 July 2014, Jews narrowly escaped a pogrom as an angry mob of pro-Palestinian supporters funnelled down the rue de la Roquette in Paris.  The JDL (Jewish Defence League)  improvised a line of defence until police reinforcements arrived. Some media accused the vigilantes of provoking the violence, but their actions probably saved  Jewish worshippers, barricaded inside the synagogue, from being lynched.

A week later, a  rampaging mob of 400 threw firebombs at a synagogue, a pharmacy and a kosher butcher in Sarcelles - a suburb of Paris where North African Jews and Muslims live cheek by jowl.

But  French Jews, who mostly hail from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, are also experiencing a sense of deja-vu.  Bernard Abouaf, a journalist of Tunisian-Jewish descent who witnessed the Rue de la Roquette riot, wrote on his Facebook page that the whole scene looked like a re-enactment of the storming and torching of the Great Synagogue in Tunis during the Six-Day War in 1967: a traumatic event that accelerated the flight of Tunisian Jews to France or to Israel.

"What I have seen today," he remarked, "is Arab hatred against Jews. Pure hatred. Right in the middle of Paris. Don't try to 'explain' or 'understand', it was hatred, period."

Aurelie A. spoke to her father about the assault on La Roquette. " I asked him if he had ever seen any such clashes," she wrote in an article in the Tablet.

He answered, "yes.... In Algeria, before leaving it all behind... He added: but we were in Algeria, here we're in metropolitan France!!"

In truth, long before Jews in Arab countries became hostages to the conflict and bore the brunt of Arab frustration and anger over Palestine, Jews were victims of anti-Jewish riots and massacres.

Take the Constantine pogrom, 80 years ago this week.

Jealousy and resentment of the Jews had been building among the Muslim masses of Algeria since the passing of the 1870 Decret Cremieux, which gave Jews French citizenship.

It all started on 3 August 1934 with a brawl involving a Jewish drunk and a small group of Muslims. The Jew, a soldier, was accused of urinating inside the famous Constantine mosque of Sidi Lakhdar. The Muslims headed for the Jewish quarter of the town, attacking Jewish passers-by and wrecking shopfronts. Some Jews defended themselves.   Fired up by the death of one Muslim, a furious mob returned the next day and invaded the marketplace. Rioters broke into Jewish homes and strangled their occupants. Whether by accident or by design,  the French police and military failed to  intervene.

By the time  the deputy Mayor, M Morinaud, appeared on the scene, 28 people had died - mostly women, old people and children. Damage to property was put at 150 million Francs-Pointcare, affecting 1,777 people.

In 1962, when Algeria gained its independence after a bloody war,  Jews understood that they were not welcome.  The community of 160,000 Jews fled - lock, stock and barrel - to France.

Now it looks like France gave these Jewish refugees just a temporary respite from persecution.  For  the second time in a generation, Jews are moving on.



Thursday, August 07, 2014

Yazidis condemned to die in Iraq

It is impossible to remain unmoved by the tragic plight of the Yazidis, one of Iraq's indigenous peoples. About 50,000 have been stranded in the Sinjar mountains without food, water and medical supplies - casualties of the IS (Islamic State) 's advance in Kurdish-controlled regions. The Iraqi army and Kurdish forces are cooperating to regain lost ground. Arutz Sheva reports:

An Iraqi MP and member of the ancient Yazidi religion broke down in tears earlier this week as she described the slaughter of thousands of her people earlier this week.




MP Fiyan Dakheel's heartbreaking display of sheer desperation highlighted the alarming advances made by the "Islamic State" group (formerly ISIS) in recent weeks, and the damning silence of international leaders and human rights bodies.
An undetermined number of Yazidis in northern Iraq - most of whom are ethnic Kurds and whose presence predates both Islam and Christianity in the region - have been killed by advancing jihadists. More than 200,000 other Yazidis have been forced to flee in a campaign of ethnic-cleansing and, some have charged, attempted genocide of one of Iraq's most ancient communities.

In the video, Dakheel herself alleges that no less than a "genocide" is being perpetuated against her people under the banner of Islam.

"I am speaking here in the name of humanity! Please save us! Save us!" she cried, shortly before collapsing with grief.

Some 147,000 of refugees have made it to Kurdish-controlled regions of northern Iraqi, but approximately 50,000 have been left stranded in the Sinjar Mountains with no food, water or medical supplies, after Kurdish forces retreated in the face of Islamist advances.

Islamic State forces have surrounded the foot of the mountain, cutting them off in an attempt to starve them out. As a result dozens, potentially hundreds, have already died of thirst - mostly women, children, the elderly and the weak.

It is just the latest tragic episode in the march of the Islamic State through Iraq and Syria. The list of atrocities is already long: Shi'ites and Allawites who do not manage to escape Islamist forces are summarily executed, their shrines and mosques systematically dynamited; Christians have been totally expelled from areas under "Islamic State" control, most recently from Mosul; other ancient shrines - Sufi, Jewish and even Sunni ones which are deemed heretical by the jihadis - have also been demolished.

Read article in full

 
Interview (Arabic) with a Christian refugee from Mosul

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

You can't take Baghdad out of the girl



Samantha Ellis is homesick for Baghdad.  Except that  Samantha has never been to Baghdad.  She will never be able to go there. And yet, like in the song Hotel California,  she can never leave. Lyn Julius reviews her 'bibliographical autobiography' for the Sephardi Bulletin:

In How to be a heroine, Samantha Ellis, author and playwright, born in London and is still only in her thirties,  internalises the emotional scarring suffered by relatives who fled Iraq in the early 1970s. A cousin was executed. Her mother transmits to Samantha her fear of having her hair touched, and her dislike of watermelon.  Both reminded her mother of her interrogation in jail after she was stopped at the penultimate checkpoint on her escape from Iraq. Samantha’s grandfather, moping around his London home in his pyjamas, is perennially ‘sad, because of what happened in Iraq.'

 Growing up, Samantha is torn between two worlds: the suffocating, sheltered Iraqi-Jewish world, and what lies beyond her Wembley doorstep: a world tugging her towards freedom, feminism, a career as an artist. Her closeted Iraqi-Jewish community expects her to be a good girl, a dutiful daughter, a domestic goddess and wife. "I didn't want to win my community's game, I didn't even want to play it," she writes.

 In How to be a Heroine, Samantha Ellis has hit on a ingenious literary device :  this is an autobiography told through the book heroines who influenced her as a child, whom she re-visits as an adult. Each heroine corresponds to an aspect of her character, a particular stage or need in her life. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights (Cathy Earnshaw) Pride and Prejudice (Lizzy Bennet), the Little Mermaid, Gone with the Wind (Scarlett O’Hara), Romeo and Juliet, Anne of Green Gables, parade like a recommended reading list for 12-year-olds. Sylvia Plath, Germaine Greer and raunchy feminist characters later shape Samantha as a young adult. Each inspires Samantha to be independent, assertive, and choose her own man  - or remain single.

One by one Samantha breaks every taboo: goes away to university, eats a prawn, has boyfriends her parents would not have approved of, decides to make her life in the theatre. But Baghdad keeps tugging her back. Her relationship with a Kurdish oud player, with its 'frisson of star-crossedness'  ‘felt like home'. She writes a play about Gertrude Bell, who fell in love with Iraq.

 In the last chapter Samantha arrays her cast of characters: who will be her heroine of heroines? She chooses Sheherazade – Middle Eastern, a storyteller, a feminist. Not a born heroine, she becomes one. But Samantha pays her final tribute to her refugee mother, who managed to re-write the story of her uprooted life.

 If this funny, brilliant book suffers from a drawback it is that How to be a heroine at times reads like a Cambridge Lit Crit essay. Samantha Ellis is forced to give a sometimes irksome summary of the plot of each book for the benefit of readers less well-read than herself.

But those who share her background will chuckle at Iraqi-Jewish foibles described with wit and zest. For instance, the temperature in her family home (“we were not big on the outdoors”) was kept “Baghdad-hot.”

 " In a five-minute call about yoghurt my grandmother (using the Iraqi-Jewish endearment Fudwa – ‘I will die for you’) will offer to die for me ten or fifteen times.”

Samantha Ellis mocks her mother’s superstition of sewing packets of salt into her clothing for luck. Yet she stuffs salt all about her, including her bra, in preparation for a crucial interview.

You take the girl out of Iraq, but you can’t take Iraq out of the girl.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Lest we forget: Constantine 1934

 Destruction in the Jewish quarter following the Constantine pogrom

While the world remembers the start of World War 1, 100 years ago, Jews from Algeria will be reminded of the Constantine pogrom which took place 80 years ago almost to the day.

Jealousy and resentment of the Jews had been building among the Muslim masses of Algeria since the passing of the 1870 Decret Cremieux, which gave Jews French citizenship.

It all started on 3 August with a brawl involving a Jewish drunk and a small group of Muslims. The Jew was accused of urinating inside the famous Constantine mosque of Sidi Lakhdar. The Muslims headed for the Jewish quarter of the town, attacking Jewish passers-by and wrecking shopfronts. Fired up by the death of one Muslim, a furious mob invaded the marketplace. Rioters broke into Jewish homes and strangled their occupants. The French police and army were under instructions not to intervene.

By the time  the deputy Mayor, M Morinaud, appeared on the scene, 28 people had died - mostly women, old people and children. Damage to property was put at 150 million Francs-Pointcare, affecting 1,777 people.

Mourning the Temple on Tisha B'Ab


 
With thanks: Ruth

Today is Tisha B'Ab (Ninth of Av) - the saddest day of the Jewish calendar.  Jews fast in memory of the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD.

Here is a lamentation  from the Megillat Ekha for Tisha B'Ab by Rabbi Meir Attia in the Moroccan tradition, one of seventy videos from the website Darke Abotenou. (Way of our fathers).

This website was started by two Canadian students of Moroccan heritage in 2008, fearing that their unique traditions would be lost unless someone made an effort to preserve them.

Something light for Tisha B'Ab 

Tisha B'Av , Tunisian style

Monday, August 04, 2014

'Saudi Arabia will compensate Jews'

Rabbi Bruno Visotzky of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, an interfaith dialogue activist, meeting King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.


Update (with thanks: Ahuva): According to Barry Grossman,  the AWDNews.com domain is registered to the al Bayan Magazine owned by the Dubai Media Inc, the control of which is associated with the Dubai royal family:

Barry comments: " At least somebody is trying to make it look like it is connected with al Baya and the Qatar royal family. I hate to say it but this could be coming out of Syria. In any case, this is an item of interest to be taken with a good dose of salt. I think it is important to expose propaganda games like this which stoop so low as to commit outrages like using the term "Propject" but I am going to suggest that this article be treated as a fabrication. For example, clearly the KSA has no authority to pass legislation which binds other Arab states."

What are we to make of this bizarro article from AWD News? It says that Saudi Arabia will pay Jews who lived in Arabia compensation for properties lost in the 7th century. Yes, folks, the 7th century. Perhaps it is the Saudi way of  cementing the new ' axis of anti-Hamas sympathy' - putting Israel, Egypt and the Kingdom on the same side in the Gaza war. Lest you interpret this attempt at  'rapprochement' as a sign that Jews will be welcomed back into Saudi Arabia, sorry to disappoint: the monarch reiterates that it has 'no place for non-Sunni Muslims'. (With thanks: Eylon)

The Saudi government is preparing a draft bill which, if ratified by king Abdullah, will permit the Jewish state sending claims for compensation for historic Jewish property in a number of Arab countries including Saudi Arabia and Yemen. It is believed that the bill will be held back to be used during any secret negotiations discussing the ways to promote bilateral relation between Tel Aviv and its close ally Kingdom of Saudi Arabia(KSA).

Despite this historic rapprochement between Arabs and Jewish people, the Saudi monarch reiterated that there is no place for non-Sunni Muslims in a land which according to him, Propject (sic) Muhammad call it as pure Islamic territory.

The bill is divided into two: the first will demand that Saudi Arabia Mauritania, Morocco, Yemen and Bahrain pay compensation for the properties of approximately 2,000,000 Jews who lived around 640 A.D., with an estimated value of $900 billion.

At a second stage, Saudi Arabia will be landed with a compensation bill of more than $650 billion for Jewish properties in the kingdom since the time of Prophet Mohammed.

Saudi Arabia once hosted a thriving Jewish community. (...) They were powerful and wealthy. They were respected by the local Arabian tribes for their religion, culture, erudition, and literacy. They built castles on mountaintops and developed productive plantations. They had military prowess, horses, and advanced weaponry. And they were almost totally annihilated in the short span of a few years.

Apparently, Israeli experts in international law, history and geography in the universities of Bar-Ilan, Beer Sheva, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa are working on this part of the claim. The budget for their work has been taken from the Foreign Ministry and is claimed to be in the region of $100m for 2012.*

Read article in full

* there is no truth to this, unless the writer is referring to Israel's  21st century efforts to gather claims from Jews forced out of Arab lands.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Jews live 'in safety' in Morocco

The US International Religious Freedom Report for 2013, just released, does not make for happy reading. Christianity in Syria is a shadow of its former self, it states. One wonders how the report would describe Christianity in Iraq today, where ISIS has given Assyrian Christians in Mosul an ultimatum - convert or leave. The report does not even bother to point out that Judaism in the Arab Middle East is almost extinct - except in Morocco where some 2,500 Jews still live 'in safety'. 
Here is an analysis by Aziz Alilou in Morocco World News of his country's record of religious tolerance:
Fez, Morocco. While conversion to a religion other than Islam is not offence, proselytising is

Hailing Morocco for its constitutional, legal, and political protection of religious freedom, the 2013 International Religious Freedom Report states that the Moroccan constitution and other laws and policies “generally protect freedoms of worship and conscience, but restrict attempts to convert Moroccans from Maliki Islam. The constitution stipulates that Islam is the religion of the state and that the state guarantees the free exercise of religion,”the report said.

However, while the free exercise of religion is guaranteed, all citizens, including members of Parliament, who are normally immune to arrest, as well as the media, “may be prosecuted on charges of expressing opinions injurious to Islam.”

The report goes on to say that the Moroccan government permits the display and sale of Bibles in French, English, and Spanish, and a limited number of Arabic translations of the Bible are available for sale in select bookshops.

The Moroccan government does not require the designation of religion on passports or national identity documents. Nor are there any prohibitions on religious clothing or symbols in either the public or private sphere.

The Moroccan government gives “preferential treatment to Islam of the Maliki School and to Judaism,”according to the Report. “The government’s annual education budget funds the teaching of Islam in all public schools and Judaism in some public schools. The government also funds the study of Jewish culture and its artistic, literary, and scientific heritage at some universities. At the University of Rabat, Hebrew and comparative religion are taught in the Department of Islamic Studies. Approximately a dozen professors teach Hebrew throughout the country,” the report stated.

While the report highlighted many positive facets of religious freedom in Morocco, it noted that some Moroccan Christians reported increased police harassment. “Christians continued to report societal scrutiny and pressure from non-Christian family and friends.”On the other hand, “Jews lived in safety throughout the country,”the report said.

According to the report, while the Moroccan law permits Sunni Muslims of the Maliki school of Islam to proselytize, it prohibits efforts to convert Sunni Muslims to other religions.

Because religious freedom in Morocco is guaranteed by law, any act of preventing or impeding a person from worship or attending worship services of any religion can be punished by six months to three years of imprisonment and a fine of 115 to 575 dirhams ($14 to $68).

While voluntary conversion from Islam to another religion is not a crime under the criminal or civil codes, the government considers it an offense (my emphasis) to proselytize and convert Moroccan Sunni Muslims to other religions, and anyone accused of such an offense will be subject to the same penalty.

Friday, August 01, 2014

ISIS has destroyed Seth's tomb



This clip, carried by Al-Arabiya, confirms the destruction by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) of the shrine in Mosul of the Prophet Seth, son of Adam. As reported on PoNR last week, the tomb of Jonah has also been blown up. A local official, Zuhair al-Chalabi, has also claimed that the tomb of the Prophet Daniel (there is a tomb attributed to Daniel in Mosul, although there is a better-known shrine to Daniel in Kirkuk) has also been destroyed, but there is no independent confirmation of this. 
'Before' and 'after' pictures of the tomb of Seth, which dates back to 1647.

 In another offensive to destroy Mosul’s religious heritage, radical militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group blew up Nabi Shiyt (Prophet Seth) shrine in the northern Iraqi city, Agence France-Presse reported Saturday.
“ISIS militants stopped people from coming close, set explosives in and around the shrine and then detonated them as a crowd looked on,” one resident who witnessed the demolition told AFP.

A video published on YouTube on Friday showed how ISIS detonated the entire shrine.
Seth is revered in Christianity, Islam and Judaism as the third son of Adam and Eve.

Sami al-Massoudi, the deputy head of the Shiite endowment agency overseeing holy sites, confirmed that militants blew up the Nabi Shiyt shrine and added that they took some of the artefacts to an unknown location.

“These people follow this impossible religious doctrine according to which they must destroy or kill anything or anybody deviating from their views,” he said.

“That simply has nothing to do with Islam.”

Meanwhile, a local Mosul official, Zuhair al-Chalabi, told Al-Sumaria News that ISIS on Friday wanted to destroy Al-Hadba Minaret, which is considered to be one of Iraq’s historical icons, but local residents stopped them.

Read article in full 

The shrine of the Prophet George and the famous Nur al-Din mosque with its landmark listing minaret, the Hunchback, have also reportedly been destroyed.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

My heart breaks for Aleppo

 Model of the Aleppo Great Synagogue at the Museum of the Diaspora, Tel Aviv. The synagogue, damaged in the 1947 riots, is thought to have been largely destroyed.


Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, Emma Klein laments the destruction of the Christians in Aleppo. The city's now extinct Jewish community had included her own family, the Douek Cohens.

Aleppo has always held great resonance for me, since my paternal ancestors found refuge there in 1492, after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. The city was part of the Ottoman Empire, a centre of great tolerance which became a refuge for many communities. My family remained there for 300 years before leaving for India, which had just become part of the British Empire and must have offered great potential for prosperity.

Jews had been settled in Aleppo since Biblical times and the name Douek was well known. Our family name was Douek Cohen and there are still some relatives bearing that name today.

During the visit of one of my cousins to Aleppo in the early 1960s, she met members of the Jewish community who were living in great fear. Very recently I met a young man, Rob, whose family had fled Aleppo a few years later. One of his ancestors was also called Douek.

The family had been well established in Syria, until things changed with the founding of the state of Israel*. Rob's grandfather used to go round Aleppo before Shabbat, giving money to the poor. His mother was educated by nuns. Their relatively grand house was partly taken over by the Syrians.

During the Six Day War, Rob's mother recalled that they were given refuge in the Italian Mission Hospital, run by nuns who were subsequently beaten and raped for helping Jews. By then, too, Rob's grandfather was frequently tortured on his way home from synagogue and Syrians would enter Jewish homes in the middle of the night to ensure no Jew had escaped. The family's eventual flight from Aleppo in 1971, via Beirut, where they stayed for several months, was quite dramatic.

The Aleppo Jewish community believed that what had protected Aleppo's Jews for centuries was the Aleppo Codex. Written in the 10th century, this bound manuscript of the Hebrew Bible is considered by many as the most authoritative version. It was consulted by Maimonides himself, and it is believed that it was brought to Aleppo in 1375 by one of his descendants who thought that it would be the safest place for this religious and scholarly gem. There it remained, until the synagogue where it was kept was burned down by rioters, following the UN decision in 1947 to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. Eventually it was smuggled, in a washing machine, into Israel in 1958 by a Syrian Jew, and presented to the Israeli president. It was discovered that some pages had been lost, and more disappeared in Israel.

Christians, too, made up part of the Aleppo mosaic of communities. One distinguished clergyman, the 17th century scholar, Henry Maundrell, served in Aleppo for six years until his untimely death in 1701. In 1697 he travelled from Aleppo to Jerusalem and his book, Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem at Easter AD 1697, is considered a minor travel classic.

Today, Aleppo's Christians live in great fear and most who could afford to, have fled. Antoine Audo, bishop of Aleppo for 25 years, wrote recently of the "daily dose of death and destruction" and pointing out while there are 45 churches in Aleppo, the Christian faith was "in danger of being driven into extinction".
In 2006, Aleppo won the title of Islamic Capital of Culture. Today, thousands of years of history are in danger of being reduced to little more than a huge pile of rubble. Had the Western powers intervened, as they did in Libya, where, of course, there was oil, they might have saved this outstanding location of refuge, scholarship and culture from destruction.

Read article in full 

*In fact things began to change in  the 1930s

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Erdogan calls on Jews to denounce Israel

 President  Recep Tayyip Erdogan (photo: AFP)


Following a call by a US Jewish group for Turkish President Erdogan to give back a prize, Erdogan is still calling for Jews to denounce Israel. But he is softening his stance by not insisting that Jews issue a statement. Report by Haaretz

Turkey will keep its Jewish citizens safe, but the Jewish community should denounce Israel, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a Turkish newspaper.

“Jews in Turkey are our citizens. We are responsible for their security of life and property,” Erdogan told the Daily Sabah. 

He added: “I talked with our Jewish citizens’ leaders on Thursday and I stated that they should adopt a firm stance and release a statement against the Israeli government. I will contact them [Jewish leaders in Turkey] again, but whether or not they release a statement, we will never let Jewish people in Turkey get hurt.”

He said, according to the newspaper, that the Jewish leaders in Turkey should criticize “Israeli aggression,” and that the Israeli government “abuses all Jewish people around the world for its fraudulent policies.”

Read article in full 

Erdogan: 'I'm no antisemite'  (French)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

France offers asylum to Iraqi Christians

ISIS has blown up the tomb of the Prophet Jonah in Mosul

First came reports that the jihadist terrorists of the Islamic Army of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) were confronting the the Christians of Mosul with the dreadful choice: 'convert or die'. In a move reminiscent of how Jewish homes were identified by a red 'hamsa' during the Farhud, Christian homes were daubed with an 'N' - for Nasrani' (Christian). Now Christians are following the Jews into exile. The Daily Star (Lebanon) reports:

PARIS: France said Monday that it was ready to welcome Christians from northern Iraq who have been told by the Al-Qaeda offshoot group now ruling the region to either convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or face death.
Islamic State insurgents seized large swaths of northern Iraq last month, prompting hundreds of Christian families in Mosul to flee a city that has hosted the faith since its earliest years.

"We are providing aid to displaced people fleeing from the threats of Islamic Sate and who have sought refuge in Kurdistan. We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil," France's foreign and interior ministers said in a joint statement.

"We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki earlier this month condemned the treatment of the Christians and instructed a government committee to help those made homeless. However, he has not said when the army might try to win back control of Mosul.

Islamic State has warned all women in Mosul to wear full-face veils or risk severe punishment. The Sunni insurgents, who have declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, also view Iraq's majority Shiites as infidels who deserve to be killed.

Monday, July 28, 2014

War on Jews is Hamas"s raison-d"être

 Hamas supporters

In spite of saturation press and media coverage of the Gaza conflict,  rarely are Hamas's objectives put in historical perspective. Hamas are not Palestinian nationalists but Islamists. Governments and pundits talk about the need for an end to violence and a 'diplomatic solution ': sit down and talk. But Hamas, an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement, simply does not have a negotiating position, short of the annihilation of Israel and the subjugation of Jews to Muslim rule, as per its Charter.

Even the UK Hamas representative Azzam Tamimi makes clear that Hamas does not want a truce in order to aspire to a more peaceful life for Gazans, whom it cynically exploits as victims and human shields. He admits that Hamas only wants Israel to capitulate to its pre-conditions. Hamas would then  steal a march over Fatah by appearing to be the only Palestinian force which could gain concessions from Israel - and so be better placed to wage the next war, or intifada. 

   Hamas is the local Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its ideology has two dominant features: Islamic imperialism and extreme hatred for Jews, routinely broadcasting calls for genocide. Thus it shares certain characteristics with ISIS, the jihadist terrorist army sweeping across Syria and Iraq, and Boko Haram, who are terrorising northern Nigeria and kidnapping Christian schoolgirls.

Founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, a teacher, the Muslim Brotherhood was directly inspired by the rise of Nazism, as well as Mohammed's campaign against the Jewish tribes of Arabia in the Koran. By the late 1940s the German-funded Brotherhood's membership had rocketed - if you'll forgive the pun -  from 800 to 500,000. The movement only ever targeted the Jews and other non-Muslims - and more specifically, the Jews of Egypt.

This campaign was set off by the 1936 uprising in Palestine directed against Jewish immigration and initiated by the notorious Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. Between 1936 and 1938 the Brotherhood organized mass demonstrations in Egyptian cities under the slogans "Down With the Jews!" and "Jews Get Out of Egypt and Palestine!" Leaflets called for a boycott of Jewish goods and shops. The Brotherhood's newspaper, al-Nadhir, carried a regular column on "The Danger of the Jews of Egypt," which published the names and addresses of Jewish businessmen and (allegedly) Jewish newspaper publishers all over the world - attributing every evil, from communism to brothels, to the "Jewish danger."

The Jews of Egypt were repeatedly called on to publicly disassociate themselves from Zionism. In June 1939 bombs were planted in a Cairo synagogue and Jewish homes, but this was as nothing compared to the violence to come. In November 1945, just six months after the end of the Third Reich, the Muslim Brotherhood carried out the worst anti-Jewish pogroms in modern Egypt's history, when demonstrators penetrated the Jewish quarter of Cairo on the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. They ransacked houses and shops, attacked non-Muslims, and torched the synagogues. Six people were killed, and a hundred more injured. A few weeks later the Islamists' newspapers "turned to a frontal attack against the Egyptian Jews, slandering them as Zionists, Communists, capitalists and bloodsuckers, as pimps and merchants of war, or in general, as subversive elements within all states and societies," as Gudrun Krämer wrote in her study The Jews in Modern Egypt 1914-1952 .

 The rest is, as they say, history. More riots erupted in 1948, thousands of Jews fled, discriminatory laws were introduced against non-Egyptians and in 1956, a third of Egypt's original 80,000-strong community were expelled and dispossessed. After 1967, hundreds more Jews were interned and expelled. The pitiful status of Jews in Egypt today would gladden the heart of any Hamas supporter: the country is almost judenrein, and the few dozen fearful Jews still living there - almost all converts to Islam or married to non-Jews - 'know their place'.

 It is not for lack of trying that Hamas failed to subjugate the Jews of Israel: the formidable defence system known as Iron Dome, successfully intercepting 90 percent of rockets aimed at Israel's population centres,  has thwarted Hamas's objectives for now. Israel's ground forces have prevented a mega-terror attack by uncovering the existence of Hamas's vast network of cross-border tunnels. By the time you read this, Hamas might have agreed to a more 'permanent' ceasefire - once its rocket stockpile becomes depleted or its leadership decimated. And then Hamas will prepare for the next round.

 The West needs to understand that there is no compromise with Hamas short of it being disarmed, overthrown and replaced by a more responsible government. As long as Hamas rules Gaza, peace between Israel and the Palestinians will be no more than a short interlude between wars. Permanent peace will remain as elusive as a trail of rocket smoke.