Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Jewish 'Nakba' event held in Tel Aviv



Photos courtesy of Dr Edy Cohen

Scenes from the event held on 22 May in south Tel Aviv's Bet Barbour to mark the 'Jewish Nakba'. Organised by Janet Dallal, the event featured talks by Golan Barhoom, Dr Edy Cohen, Levana Zamir and others, witnesses such as Emad Levy who fled Iraq, as well as musical entertainment. It is the second year running that the Jewish Nakba has been commemorated in Israel.

The event occurred shortly after Palestinians marked their Nakba on 15 May.
Gadi Kenny, a peace activist whose interest in Jewish refugees has been ignited by his friendship with Baghdad-born Janet Dallal, asked on his Facebook page  why the Palestinian Nakba was so much better known than the Nakba of 800, 000 + Jewish refugees from Arab lands. Where are the journalists writing about it, where are the films about it? he asked. He urged survivors to record their stories and testimonies on video before it's too late.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

How golden was the Golden Age of Spain?

 How golden was the Golden Age in medieval Spain? Is the idea of convivencia - the harmonious age of interfaith cooperation under tolerant Muslim rule - nothing more than wishful thinking?  Rabbi Marc Angel reviews in Jewish Ideas Daily a new myth-busting book by Dario Fernandez-Morera, The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise.


While various scholars have pointed to problems and low points during Islamic rule in Spain, Dr. Fernandez-Morera goes much further. His bold argument is that the notion of Islamic tolerance of Jews and Christians is a myth—it is simply not true. The idea of convivencia—the mutual cooperation and harmony among Muslims, Christians and Jews in Medieval Spain—belongs more to the realm of propaganda than to history.

The author quotes numerous scholars who shower praise on Islamic tolerance, on the remarkable “Golden Age” in interreligious cooperation. But he argues that these authors were engaging in “political correctness,” the fashionable presentation of a tolerant and benevolent Islam. He draws on writings of people who lived in Islamic Spain, people who described what life was actually like in their times. He draws on extensive scholarly sources, on archaeological discoveries, as well as on the abundant secondary literature of more recent scholars.

Dr. Fernandez-Morera notes that the famed Umayyad dynasty were followers of the Maliki school of Islam which had little love for non-Muslims. The early Muslim conquerors of Spain and their successors systematically razed churches or turned them into Mosques. They imposed Islamic law on Christians and Jews—known as People of the Book—which made it very clear that the minorities were to be subservient to Muslims. Although granted relative freedom to conduct their communities according to their own religious traditions, Christians and Jews were “dhimmis”—an underclass of “protected people” who had to pay a special tax for the privilege of living under Islamic hegemony.

Dr. Fernandez-Morera writes: “In short, Islamic Spain enjoyed no harmonious convivencia; rather, Muslims, Christians, and Jews had a precarious coexistence. Members of the three communities had to come into contact now and then. Sometimes they did business, or collaborated with one another, or dwelled near one another.” (p. 117) Of course, as in all societies, kinder people interacted more kindly with those of the other groups. And of course, there are examples of periods of relative quiet. And there were individual Jews and Christians who rose to positions of power and influence. Nonetheless, the massive reality was that “dhimmis” were subject to ongoing humiliation, segregation, and violence.
The “dhimmi” regulations imposed a special tax on Christians and Jews. Various rules were intended to humiliate “dhimmis” and remind them of their subservient positions. Writing about restrictions placed on Jews in Islamic Spain, Dr. Fernandez-Morera notes that Jews “must not ride horses. They must show deference to Muslims. They must not give court evidence against a Muslim…They must not proselytize….They must not dress in such an ostentatious manner as to offend poorer Muslims….” (p. 180)

While Jewish communities continued to exist in Islamic Spain, Christian communities declined and ultimately disappeared. “By the end of the twelfth century, as a result of flight (or ‘migration’) to Christian lands, expulsions to North Africa, executions and conversions, the Christian "dhimmi" population had largely disappeared from al-Andalus. When Christians entered Granada in 1492, there were no Christian "dhimmis" in the city.” (p. 208).

Professor Fernandez-Morera’s book has a clear point of view. He is especially interested in highlighting the strengths and virtues of Visigothic Spain before the arrival of the Muslims in 711. He praises the Christian re-conquest of Spain. Had it not been for the “Reconquista,” Islamic rule might not only have prevailed over all of Spain, but might have spread further into Europe. This would have led to the fostering of religious discrimination, the low status of women, the inhibiting of intellectual freedom; it would have precluded the emergence of the Renaissance, and would have left the Western world in the same general condition as the rest of the Muslim world.

While some of the arguments of Dr. Fernandez-Morera seem over-stretched and even polemical, the overall impact of his research and his book must make one stop to think more carefully about the “Andalusian Paradise” and convivencia. Are scholars and politicians perpetuating this myth because it serves a useful purpose, because they—and we—want to believe it? How nice it would be to know that there was a time and place when Muslims, Christians and Jews worked side by side in mutual respect and kindness. How nice to think that it is possible for Islamic rule to be tolerant and benevolent.

Read article in full

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tribute to Mizrahi icon Ronit Elkabetz z'l

The career of actor and director Ronit Elkabetz, who died in April at the tragically young age of  51 after a battle with cancer,  is assessed by Raya Morag in this Haaretz tribute.  Her strength of personality reflected her ability to empower submissive Mizrahi women in particular, giving them control over their destinies. 

To describe the contribution of Ronit Elkabetz – who died at 51 on April 19 – to Israeli cinema, we need to invoke the term “persona.” A persona comes into being when, at a certain moment in an actor’s work, the different characters he has played coalesce in the viewer’s mind into one imaginary entity, which is also identified with the actor’s actions, behavior and appearances in the public arena.

At a certain point in the audience’s consciousness, Elkabetz’s cinematic-stage presence in the characters she played – such as the ostracized sister in Shmuel Hasfari’s “Sh’Chur” (1994); the divorcée whom the younger, still unmarried Zaza loves in Dover Koshashvili’s “Late Marriage” (2001); the prostitute in Keren Yedaya’s “Or” (2004); the resident of the remote development town in Eran Kolirin’s “The Band’s Visit” (2007); Viviane in the trilogy she codirected with her brother, Shlomi Elkabetz (“To Take a Wife,” 2004; “Shiva,” 2008; and “Gett,” 2014), and a raped woman in Michal Aviad’s “Invisible” (2011) – became intertwined with her extra-cinematic figure and created a new image, a persona.

On the surface, it seems as though most of her films (both those she either created herself as screenwriter and director, and those in which she simply acted) saw her playing characters who are on the margins of Israeli society, and dependent on the benevolence of patriarchal figures and subject to ethnic and religious strictures. But at the same time, these characters are fed by Elkabetz’s persona. As such, even when they embody excruciating defeat (as in “Or,” when Ruthie’s daughter is unable to extricate her mother from the cycle of prostitution), or tragic victory, which they achieve at the price of their sexuality (as at the end of “Gett”), they assume, through Elkabetz’s persona, a subversive power that turns the family-social-institutional order inside out.

By means of her ability as an actor to make her persona the prime driving force of the characters she played, Elkabetz succeeded in becoming the bearer of tidings both for women and femininity in Israeli cinema, and especially for Mizrahi women (referring to Jews of Middle Eastern or North African origin).

It is not only a case of resistance to the consignment of the Mizrahi woman to being poor, uneducated, identified with domesticity and family, shackled by tradition, and so forth. The point is that in the course of representation that aspires to portray this depressing reality and rail against it, Elkabetz’s persona declares the presence of a Mizrahi woman who is educated, modern, secular and the master of her body, sexuality and decisions. As such, women’s rights to
autonomy, to their body, to divorce, to property and more, spring forth from the intensity and power of Elkabetz’s persona.

Elkabetz: Mizrahi woman breaking the shackles of tradition


The writer is an associate professor of cinema studies in the department of communication and journalism, and head of the Smart Family Institute of Communications, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
 Read article in full:

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Forward promotes 'Jews of Color' idiocy

What has happened to the Forward? Lately that revered institution of American-Jewish life seems to have been serving as a platform to some radical leftist views. Take this letter from a group calling themselves JoC (Jews of Color), which appeared on 17 May. See my comment below:


'We are a group of JOC in solidarity with Palestine who are organizing in partnership with JVP (Jewish Voice for Palestinians). For us, “Jews of Color” includes Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews, and other Jewish people, like Romaniote Jews, who are minoritized under white Ashkenazi-dominated Jewishness.

We share a commitment to the liberation of Palestine and an end to the occupation. We say “organizing in partnership with JVP,” rather than as JVP, because our work is distinct in that it centers racial justice, challenges Ashkenazi-centrism, and because we are autonomous from JVP even as we receive JVP support. '

Read letter in full

My comment: it is a shame that these young Jews, unrepresentative of the great majority of the community,  have allowed themselves to be co-opted into a pan-Arab imperialist narrative that whitewashes the plight of 'colonised' Mizrahi Jews under Muslim domination, while spreading pseudo-colonial smears against 'white' Ashkenazi Jews.  But then, even Stalinism had its fellow travellers and  'useful idiots'.

Don't excuse Muslim antisemitism

Friday, May 20, 2016

E. Jerusalem home restituted to Jewish owners

In the latest of many cases,  a Jerusalem court has ordered a property in East Jerusalem to be restituted to the Aricas,  a Jewish family originally from Syria.  They were among some 3,000 Jews  evicted from East Jerusalem in 1948. Arutz Sheva reports:

The property in question: some 3,000 Jews were evicted from E. Jerusalem in 1948 (National Lands administration)

Jerusalem Magistrates Court Justice Anna Schneider ordered the evacuation of three East Jerusalem properties Tuesday, as they were found to have been purchased by Jews before 1948 but then invaded by Arabs.

 The three properties in question were purchased in the thirties by the Arica family, Jews who immigrated to Israel from Syria. In 1948, the family fled after the Jordanians tried to kill and rape the sons and daughters of the family while the men fought on various fronts.

 In 1967 the Administrator General of the Ministry of Justice began to manage the assets, and signed a contract with the Arabs who were squatters on the property between 1948 and 1967. But the property was eventually restored due to the effort of Jerusalem City Council member Aryeh King.

 "In the early 1990s, the Aricas' assets were released from Administrator General supervision," he explained. "In 2008, the family sold the building, as the Arabs who occupied it claimed they had been paying rent to the State of Israel since 1967."

 Later, a Jewish investment company, Shabali, acquired the property - and told the Arabs living there they must leave at the end of their rental agreement. The Arabs replied that a man named Meir Nadav from the Administrator General's office had "guaranteed them use of the space for the next 20 years"; they submitted documents which were suspected to be falsified to the court.

Read article in full

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Video highlights Jewish refugee issue

With thanks: Janet
 Rabbis in Baghdad in the early 20th century

A new hard-hitting video has been produced to highlight the plight of Jews driven from Arab and Muslim countries.

The video is billed as 'The compelling story of how almost a million people lost everything when Israel declared independence.'

Made by the Israel Project, the video says that the declaration triggered a massive Jewish refugee crisis, their homes lost, their communities destroyed.

 More controversially, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan are among the countries whose Jewish communities are listed as having been expelled.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Kurdish charm offensive may cause strife

The recent Farhud and Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies conducted in Erbil are part of a campaign to enlist US Jewish aid for Kurdish aspirations.  But Kurds now living in Jewish property may resist a plan to revive the Jewish community. There is also controversy over how many Jews - if any - there are presently in Kurdistan, and the motives of Sherzad Omer Mahmoud Mamsani, the director of Jewish affairs. Zvi Barel reports in Haaretz:

In addition, a senior Kurdish delegation, including Sherzad Mamsani, the Kurdish government’s newly appointed director of Kurdish Jewish affairs, recently visited Washington, D.C. to seek financial aid for the war the Kurds are waging on the Islamic State, and at the same time to gauge support for the establishment of an independent Kurdish state.

Kurdish media reports say the delegation met with Jewish lobbyists in Washington and also sought Israeli backing to promote their interests. The Kurds still believe in the ability of the American Jewish lobby and of Israel to influence the United States, and they make a point of stressing the bond between the Kurds and the Jews.

This year, for the first time, a ceremony was held in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day. It was attended by representatives from the Russian, American and French consulates, as well as from Armenia, who together lit six candles in memory of the six million. Also for the first time, the Jewish dignitaries present donned skullcaps.

Although there is disagreement over the number of Jews, or descendants of Jews, who live in Kurdistan, the region's administration decided to set up a special Jewish section as part of its Ministry of Religion, similar to other departments that deal with religious minorities. Kurdish media say there are several thousand descendants of Jews in Kurdistan, many of whom converted to Islam; some have hidden their Jewishness for decades. For their part, however, Israeli academics believe there are no Jews in Kurdistan.

This dispute has not stopped Mariwan Naqshbandi, head of the Department for Religious Coexistence, from announcing plans to build a synagogue and to restore the Jewish quarter in the capital of Erbil. Even if his words are not backed up by action, they certainly send an important message. Still, at the same time, some Kurds worry that if a Jewish community is revived in the region, it might be accompanied by a fight to have Jewish property restored to its owners. Some of the Jewish houses in the quarter were leased to Kurdish inhabitants; others were given away or sold without permission to people who have been living in them for decades now.

“A solution can be found for everything,” a Kurdish journalist who lives in Erbil tells Haaretz. “It’s a question of money. Kurdistan has an interest in seeing Kurdish Jews return, to help develop its economy and invest in it. The historic bond with Israel is still fondly remembered here, and it’s also important as a way of strengthening Kurdistan’s connection with the West.”

Why doesn’t this journalist want his name published? “There are all kinds of folks here that might want to harm someone who tries to publicly promote the tie with Israel. It’s better to be careful,” he explains.
Read article in full

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ben Dror Yemini: The double Nakba


Reconciliation will only be achieved when the Arab world stops deceiving itself and takes responsibility for the double Nakba  - both the Arab one and the Jewish one, argues Ben Dror Yemini in Ynet News:


 The train of Return - in the West Bank

Sunday was the day the Arab world commemorated the Nakba. One can and should participate in the sorrow of those who became refugees and remained so to this very day. They lost their homes and property. They were denied basic human rights. And many of them, because of what is happening in Syria, have become victims once again. Moreover, one must look bravely at history.

In the first half of the 20th century, with the fall of the empires, nation states began to take shape. The Ottoman Empire, which became Turkey, began the process of expelling minorities. It started with the expulsion of the Armenians that turned into a genocide. It continued with a huge wave of population exchanges in Europe and Asia. At least 52 million people went through that experience. That was the norm. Even the Permanent Court of International Justice, the highest international jurisdiction in those years, ruled that it was a proper arrangement. Until the adoption of the Geneva Convention. What was until then considered the norm had suddenly become a war crime.
 
Calls supporting transfer were also heard from the Zionist movement, but they were fewer compared to those coming from Europe. In any case, Arab opposition to the UN partition plan of November 1947, declarations of destruction and the invasion of Israel immediately after its independence was declared, led to 711,000 Arabs – at the time they were not called Palestinians - becoming refugees. Most of them fled. Some were deported.

Jews also became refugees. Many leaders in the Arab world spoke menacingly of the imminent destruction awaiting the Jews of Palestine and Arab countries if the partition plan was approved. The Arab League passed a resolution that, in practice, turned the Jews into hostages. A series of pogroms against Jews in Arab countries have made it clear that a chapter in history had come to an end. The Jewish minority in the Arab countries, which numbered one million people, was mostly forced to flee. It was the Jewish Nakba.

Read article in full

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Iran both saves Jews and denies the Shoah

To mark Palestinian Nakba Day,  a second contest of 150 anti-Israeli cartoons from 50 countries has opened in the Iranian capital Tehran. Seth Frantzman in the Jerusalem Post  points out the paradox - while denying the Holocaust, Iran boasts that it saved Jews during the Second World War.
Iran's second Holocaust denial contest has opened in Tehran (photo: AFP)
Remember the “Iranian Schindler” who saved Jews during the Holocaust? That was the gist of the headline of a BBC article from 2012 profiling a book by Fariborz Mokhtari highlighting the role of Abdol-Hossein Sardari, an Iranian diplomat in Paris who saved Iranian Jews from the Nazis. Three years later, Iran is once again hosting a Holocaust denial cartoon contest, even as its diplomats try to wriggle out of their shameful intolerance by presenting Iran as having saved the Jews during the Nazi period. How can you save people, and then mock and degrade their genocide? How can you take credit for doing good, while mocking mass death and suffering? If you are Iran you can; part of a carefully orchestrated charade in which the country boasts tolerance for Jews while trampling on history.

The back story to the Iran Holocaust cartoon contests is perplexing. In response to a Danish daily newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, publishing cartoons of the Islamic prophet Mohammed in 2006, an Iranian newspaper named Hamshahri decided to mock the Holocaust. The newspaper claimed that it was standing up to “Western hypocrisy” on free speech. There is a kind of tragic irony here. The Holocaust was a European crime against the Jews. In order to respond to a European newspaper mocking Islam, the Iranians decided to bash the Holocaust. In doing so they didn’t hurt Europe or Jyllands-Posten, they simply added to what European nations had already done to the Jewish people.

In 2015, after the jihadist attack on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris in which 12 people were murdered, the Iranian “house of cartoon” decided to host a second annual Holocaust cartoon contest. It’s fascinating that the knee-jerk Iranian response to a French magazine’s perceived insulting of Islam was to mock the deaths of six million Jews.

At the same time Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the smiling face of Iran’s nuclear deal-makers, was on a charm offensive. He stressed in an interview with NBC in March that “Iran saved Jews three times in history...during the Second World War.” In the interview Zarif also said it was important to distinguish between Jews and Israel and boasted that there were 20,000 Jews in Iran, noting that “we’re not about annihilation of Jews.” The story of the “Iranian Schindler” is part of a narrative whereby Iran is presented as a savior, even though the 1943-era diplomat in question would probably be outraged by the sickening denials of the modern Iranian regime.

Yet the Holocaust cartoon contests continually make reference to the need to mock the Holocaust not only to get back at the West for its “free speech hypocrisy,” but also because the Holocaust was “pretext for the creation of Israel.” As such many of the cartoons show Palestinians dressed as Holocaust survivors.

Over the years the Iranian narrative of Iran being “tolerant” of Jews has become louder. The Jews of Iran are used by the regime to burnish its “diversity” credentials. The regime finds willing Orientalists abroad who soak up the myth.

Roger Cohen at The New York Times in 2009 claimed, “I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran – its sophistication and culture – than all the inflammatory rhetoric.”

What rhetoric? “The annihilationist anti-Israel ranting, the Holocaust denial,” according to Cohen.

Zarif made a similar point in his NBC interview, beginning a sentence with, “if we wanted to annihilate Jews...”

and then boasting of their paltry numbers in the Islamic Republic. Iran somehow gets credit for not exterminating Jews and, despite official Holocaust denial, for being “civil” to Jews. It’s like an American president being pro-slavery and expecting praise for not actually annihilating African- Americans. Yes, they were “civil” in the Old South.

Read article in full

Four arrested after Jews airlifted from Yemen

 Here's a story that's a few weeks old now, and we hope it had a happy ending: Sandy Rashty of the Jewish Chronicle reports on the arrest of four people in Yemen in the wake of the highly-publicised airlift of 17 Jews to Israel - and the 'smuggling' of a Torah scroll out of Yemen - and the efforts of businessman Moti Kahana to get them released before Passover.

 Prime Minister Netanyahu poses with the scroll brought out by Rabbi Dahari (far right)

When almost 20 Yemeni Jews fled the town of Raydah in a covert operation, few people thought of the handful of members of the 3,000 year-old Jewish community who had been left behind in the nearby city of Sana'a.
As the figurehead of the exodus, Rabbi Saliman Dahari - who brought an 800-year-old Torah with him to Israel - posed for pictures with Benjamin Netanyahu last month, he was not to know that the widely-circulated image would have serious consequences for the Sana'a Jews.

Yemeni authorities were incensed by images of the Israeli prime minister holding what they considered to be an artefact belonging to their country.
To their mind the Sefer Torah had been illegally smuggled out of Yemen.
The JC can reveal that the consequences of the image being seen around the world were catastrophic.

Israel's Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze'ev Elkin said the media reports endangered lives of those who remained in the country.
He said: "One of the reasons that there are problems for the Jews still in Yemen is because so many people spoke about it. It's better to deal with these kinds of issues quietly."

Just days after media outlets told the story of the rescue of the 17 Yemeni Jews, armed forces closed in on the remaining members of the community living in the city riddled with civil unrest and controlled by Houthi rebels.

Soldiers banged on the door of an Orthodox teacher in his 30s. They arrested him on suspicion of helping "smuggle" the Torah scroll out of Yemen.
A second Jewish civilian, who made aliyah 10 years ago but later returned to Yemen, was arrested for being a "Mossad Zionist spy" last week. On Wednesday, his mother was also taken into custody. A Muslim airport worker was also arrested for allegedly failing to seize Rabbi Dahari's bag at checkout.

Israeli American Moti Kahana, founder of NGO Amaliah, who famously helped rescue the last Jews of Aleppo in Syria last year, is one many activists said to be negotiating with Houthi representatives to free all four detainees, who are believed to have been tortured.

On Wednesday, Mr Kahana said he hoped they would be home in time for tonight's Seder. He said: "We are talking to the Yemenis. We have put two offers on the table to get them out of jail. We hope they will be home for Pesach.
"The rest of the community is very scared. They are being told by authorities that if anyone leaves, especially to Israel, the rest are going to jail."

Read article in full 

Yemen jails two for helping Jews escape

Nineteen Yemen Jews brought to Israel 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Moroccan Jews protest for occupied W.Sahara

Using the Jews as an instrument of foreign policy is not a new strategy for Morocco - it bolsters the legitimacy of the royal family in the eyes of the West. But rarely has the Moroccan media been so bold as to promote  a Jewish 'protest' in favour of Morocco's claim to the occupation of western Sahara, as it did last month. If reports are correct, 500 Jews - or a quarter of the country's entire community - would have turned up to sing a patriotic song about the contested area at Mazagan's Mimouna celebration.  The Forward reports:

 Preparing for the Mimouna (photo: DR)

( JTA ) — Several hundred Moroccan Jews protested against U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s characterization of Western Sahara as occupied by the North African kingdom.

The April 30 protest in Mazagan, 120 miles southwest of Rabat, was part of Mimouna, a traditional North African Jewish celebration held the day after Passover, and it featured group singing of Laayouna Ainiya, a Moroccan patriotic song from the 1970s about the contested area, the Assabah daily reported last week.

Last month, Ban angered Moroccan authorities when he said  they were “occupying” the Western Sahara after they ordered the expulsion of 80 staffers from the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara .
The U.N. General Assembly  endorsed  that view in 1979, declaring Morocco an occupying force in the former Spanish colony and affirming the “inalienable right of the people of Western Sahara” to independence. But Morocco, which in recent years has come under increasing pressure to allow self-rule in the area, claims it as part of its territory.

Sam Ben Chetrit, president of the World Federation of Moroccan Jewry, told JTA on Friday that while he is not familiar with the details of the gathering at Mazagan, “it is true that Moroccan Jewry in the kingdom and outside stand united in defense of Morocco’s claim on Sahara, and against those who try to portray Morocco as a foreign occupier in its own land.”

Ben Chetrit, who lives in Israel but travels to Morocco frequently, said this support is part “of the Jewish People’s gratitude to Morocco’s royal house, government and people, who have done more than any other nation in the Middle East and many nations elsewhere to preserve Jewish heritage and protect Jewish citizens.”

Friday, May 13, 2016

Polyglot Jew wrestles with identity crisis

 Eloquent article in Lilith magazine by a Sephardi Jew from Spanish-speaking Morocco about her 'identity crisis', caused by speaking too many European languages. One detects more than a hint of post-colonial guilt here, yet multilingualism has long been a component of Jewish identity in Arab countries. (Not a few Moroccan Muslims of a certain age and class also speak French - does that make them less Moroccan?)  Yaelle Azagury feels closer to an Arab from Morocco than to a Jew from the US, but it is doubtful whether that closeness would be reciprocated.


I feel closer to an Arab from Morocco than to a Jew from Brooklyn or Boston.
My mother is a Moroccan Jew, born and bred in Tangier, where she also spent most of her life. Her words rang clear as I asked her to leave Morocco for the United States, where I have lived for 18 years. Although she no longer has any relatives in Morocco, I doubted she would ever settle in the manicured and uneventful Connecticut suburb where I live with my family.

Being Sephardi means something powerful to my mother: a kinship of spirit rooted in the Mediterranean, a shared grammar of tastes, flavors, sounds and idioms, a vocabulary of cultural and regional affinities threaded together bit by bit through the centuries. For her it is a complex closeness with Arab and Spanish cultures. It is less so for me.

I used to envy her the emotional clarity about her identity I lack. Morocco is her country. I, on the other hand, left when I was 18 to study in France, and I never came back. She grew up in a thriving Jewish community in the 1940s, I in a waning one in the 1970s. I felt in exile before I had even left. It was a time when almost all Jews had left their homes in Arab countries for France, Spain or Venezuela, incited by subtle economic pressures to depart.

For years, I looked towards France, where I went to pursue my literary studies. My touchstone references were Voltaire, Hugo, Baudelaire. I wrote a dissertation on Marcel Proust and became a French teacher, effortlessly passing for French. Although I am a descendant of the well-regarded Toledano family (Rabbi Daniel Toledano was a sage who lived in Fez in the 16th-century after his family was expelled from Spain in 1492), I viewed my Castilian ancestry as a distant origin, an appendix to myself. Even though colonial times were long bygone, I, a native of Tangier, was a pure product of French education, and my alienation ran so deep that I looked at my non-Gallic being with wariness. From Albert Memmi’s brilliant analysis of the colonized self, I knew that “Portrait of the Colonized,” c’est moi!

Like Memmi — a Jew of Tunisian origins — I spoke multiple languages, but this was no mere useful multilingualism. It was confusing and alienating. Each language came with a price. It was a Mephistophelian bargain. French — the tongue of thought and flight — ranked high on the list. By contrast, Arabic was low, the locus of backwardness and deficiency. We did not speak it at home, though I later learned it at school in its “high” form — “Fusha,” or classical Arabic — versus the “Darija” spoken by most Moroccans. Instead, at home we used Spanish, but that too came with strings attached. There was “high” Spanish, with its soft Castilian inflections, and our own hybrid form, Haketia, which was the vernacular of Moroccan Jews from the North, and a byproduct of another exile, 1492. Preserved through the centuries like a jar of marmalade, it consists of Old Spanish, with accretions from Hebrew and Arabic.

Read article in full

Thursday, May 12, 2016

New Statesman: How 'the longest hatred' took root

Succinct analysis of the roots of antisemitism by Brendan Sims and Charlie Laderman, all the more remarkable for appearing in the left-leaning New Statesman. Here is the extract from The Longest  Hatred about anti-Semitism in the Middle East (with thanks: Lily): 


Sayid Qutb(top) and Ayatollah Khomeini : revolutionary anti-Semites

Previously, the Muslim-Jewish relationship was an ambiguous one. Although the Quran contains declarations commanding all Muslim believers to kill Jews and Christians, there are also verses urging tolerance towards both. There were pogroms against Jews in Granada (1066) and Fez (1465) in which thousands were killed. Within the Ottoman empire, however, Jews enjoyed protection as second-class citizens, allowed to practise their religion quietly as long as they paid a special poll tax, abided by various proscriptions, including bans on bearing arms and riding horses, and accepted their inferior status.

Up until the 18th century, Jews fared far better in the Muslim world than in Christian Europe. When anti-Jewish persecution grew more pronounced in the 19th century, responsibility often lay with Christian Arab communities, whose propagation of the European-sponsored blood libel produced the Damascus outrage of 1840 in which 13 leading Jews were arrested and four killed.

It was only after the First World War, the Balfour Declaration and the establishment of European protectorates over parts of the former Ottoman empire that growing anti-Zionism provoked violence against Jews across the Arab world. Massacres of Jews occurred in Hebron (1929), Baghdad (1941) and Tripoli (1945).

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who resided in Germany for much of the Second World War, urged the Nazis and their allies not to allow Jews to escape to Palestine, but to send them “to Poland” (meaning Auschwitz) instead. Even before the establishment of Israel in 1948, therefore, paranoid, political anti-Semitism had gained a foothold in the Islamic world.

 After 1948, anti-Semitism among Arabs was exacerbated by the defeat of their armies by a people traditionally confined to a subservient position in the Muslim world. A tragic consequence of the war was that hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled and, in response, hundreds of thousands of Jews from across the Arab world, members of 2,000-year-old communities, were now identified as Zionist agents, persecuted and ultimately driven to seek refuge in Israel.

 The Protocols, which first appeared in Arabic in 1927, and Hitler’s Mein Kampf, partially published in Arabic in the 1930s and fully in 1963, now found even more enthusiastic readers across the region. As the USSR emerged as a political ally of the Arab nations, and the United States forged closer ties with Israel after the 1967 war, Arab anti-Semites increasingly focused on the allegedly capitalist and imperialist character of world Jewry, and on Jewish control over US foreign policy.

In recent decades, this brand of anti-Semitism has become increasingly Islamised. As early as 1950, the seminal Islamist thinker and Muslim Brotherhood leader Sayyid Qutb was writing about “Our Struggle With the Jews”. Qutb claimed that “world Jewry’s purpose is to eliminate all limitations, especially the limitations posed by faith and religion, so that the Jews may penetrate into [the] body politic of the whole world and then may be free to perpetuate their evil designs”.

But it was only with the failure of Arab nationalism by the late 1970s that Islamist anti-Semitism really took off.

The founding charter of Hamas, the Sunni Muslim fundamentalist organisation that governs Gaza, refers approvingly to the Protocols and quotes a Quranic verse that states: “The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘O Muslim, o servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’

The leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, declared in his Islamic Government (1970) that “Jews and their foreign backers are opposed to the very foundations of Islam and wish to establish Jewish domination throughout the world”. Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Khamenei, often denies the Holocaust, and he and other Iranian leaders routinely refer to the global dominance of “Jewish” and “Zionist” forces – terms that they use interchangeably.

Iran’s Shia proxy, Hezbollah, has fought to keep Anne Frank’s diary out of Lebanese schools as part of a Holocaust denial campaign and its leader, Hasan Nasrallah, stated that if the Jews “all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide”. However, this did not preclude Hezbollah from targeting a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires (1994) or bombing Israelis on a bus in Bulgaria (2012).

Even in Malaysia, remote from Israel and home to barely any Jews, anti-Semitism is rife. In 2003 Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad urged the world’s Muslims to unite against Jews, claiming that although Europeans had killed six million of them, “today the Jews rule the world by proxy”.

 Just last month, Dr Fouad Bseiso, the Palestine Monetary Authority’s first governor in the 1990s, claimed on Hamas satellite TV that “global Judaism” had caused the 2008 fin­ancial crisis, fulfilling plans revealed in the Protocols. Explicit anti-Semitism is routine in Middle Eastern political discourse. At the same time, this toxic ideology is being reimported into its continent of origin and is now flourishing among disenfranchised Muslim immigrant communities in Europe.

Read article in full

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Israel warns of high terror threat in Tunisia

Not for the first time, Israel has issued a 'severe travel warning' to its citizens not to join the annual Lag Ba' Omer pilgrimage to the island of Djerba. Report in Y-net News:


The al-Ghriba synagogue on Djerba, site of the Lag Ba'Omer pilgrimage (photo: AP)

 Israel on Monday issued a "severe" warning to its citizens to avoid visiting Tunisia where hundreds of Jewish pilgrims will be celebrating the religious Lag BaOmer festival later this month.

"There is a severe travel warning for Tunisia (high concrete threat)," the Counter-Terrorism Bureau said in a statement released by the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Terrorist elements, especially those affiliated with Global Jihad, continue to operate in Tunisia and commit attacks; therefore, there is a high threat level against Jewish targets," said the statement.

"It is recommended that visits to Tunisia be avoided," it added. Last year, Tunisia was hit by a string of attacks claimed by the Islamic State group that killed dozens of holidaymakers in the North African country.

Read article in full


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Gabay: " Arab MKs behaving like thwarted Cossacks"

Arab MKs are the first to politicise the decisions of Israeli courts against Arabs with cries of 'discrimination'. But aren't they just behaving like thwarted Cossacks, asks Zvi Gabay in News1?

MK Ahmed Tibi:glaring ingratitude

The decision of the Nazareth District Court to cancel a land tender providing for the construction of homes for Arab families provoked  a public outcry from Arab MKs. It was amazing to hear them furiously attacking the court's decision, claiming discrimination against the Arab minority in Israel. While doing so, they ignored the obligation to maintain the principle of equality in public tenders, by which tenders were rejected in the past which did not involve Arab citizens, which were bid-pricing adjustments. The Minister of history laughed when he heard their complaints of discrimination against Arab MKs in the State of the Jews: the only country in the Eastern Mediterranean, where MPs enjoy complete immunity  to express their opinions.

What discrimination of Arab MKs are we talking  about?

Is it the one from which the Jews suffered in Arab countries, where the Arabs did not hesitate by any means to apply discrimination and repression against their Jewish citizens? Do they mean referring to the Jews as a minority whose mere presence was considered a betrayal to the ideal of the Arab world? For example, shortly after receiving independence from the Mandatory authorities, Jewish officials were dismissed from their ministries in the Arab world, and the entry of Jewish students restricted. Is something similar happening in Israel? Do Arabs in Israel suffer pogroms such as the  particularly vicious pogrom as conducted in June 1941, 75 years ago, by a mob against the Jews of Baghdad - a pogrom that won the support of the army and police?

Similar brutal riots occurred in almost all Arab countries where Jews lived. Arabs constantly harassed Jews and attacked their rights and gave them special identity cards emblazoned with the word"Moussawi" (of the Mosaic faith). Jews in Arab countries suffered discrimination and serious injuries, were expelled or forced to leave their homes and leave behind their personal and communal and property. Out of a million Jews living in Arab countries, which only a few remain.

The phenomenon of Arabs living in the Jewish state has no parallel in history. The Arabs never lived under Jewish rule. They have become accustomed to being rulers in their countries, while the Jews were subjects discriminated against. The Arabs never lived in their countries within the framework of which exist in freedom and equal rights for all citizens: Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, Circassians and others. A minority living in Arab countries does not enjoy conditions of freedom, equality and human rights as minorities do who  live in Israel.

Instead of helping to correct deficiencies in society together, the Arab MKs show glaring ingratitude and lack of consideration for many residents of the sector they represent, precisely because  the situation in Israel for Arabs is much better than for Arabs elsewhere. The protestations  of Arab MKs are not reflected in the  situation in Israel of Arabs living under Jewish rule: it is as good, decent and equitable as it may be. So they choose to cry out like robbed Cossacks whenever they encounter a decision or phenomenon that provides them the opportunity to do so.

  Read article  in Google translation 

Read original article (Hebrew)

More articles by Zvi Gabay

Monday, May 09, 2016

Libyan-Israeli ministers repair Holocaust injustice (updated)

Update: Israeli lawyers fighting for Holocaust reparations are complaining that may soon be banned by Knesset law from charging more than 50 shekels in legal fees for each client. The ban would make it uneconomical for these lawyers to take on such cases.


In December, Israel's Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon decided that Jews in North Africa and Iraq who had survived Holocaust events were eligible to receive one-off reparations. Some 
1, 000 Jews applied. Report by Mazal Muallem in Al-Monitor:


Moshe Kahlon: correcting injustice

This one-time grant of 3,600 Israeli shekels ($950) may not be a lot of money, but it restores this group to its rightful place, after being excluded for so long from the collective Holocaust memory. These Jews were also victims of the Holocaust, just like the Jews of Europe. While his decision might seem like a minor victory, Kahlon has managed to use it to implement his social worldview.

It is safe to assume that the fact that the finance minister is the son of immigrants from Libya, whose Jewish community suffered extensively from the Nazi occupation of that country, impacted his decision. At the time, Kahlon explained that even people who were not hurt directly by the Nazi regime but nonetheless suffered from the waves of hatred “are considered by us to be eligible for this aid.” He said that he considers it an honor to be the person correcting “a historical injustice for society at large and for the generation that experienced [the Holocaust] in particular.”

 Kahlon reached this decision together with his deputy, Knesset member Yitzhak Cohen from the Shas Party, a son of Jews who came from Morocco. According to figures from the Ministry for Social Equality, since news of the new regulations were made public, some 1,000 Jews from Algeria, Morocco and Iraq have applied for assistance. These include North African Jews who suffered persecution by the Nazi regime and their allies — especially the victims of the “Farhud," a pogrom in Baghdad in June 1941.

These numbers are small, as many people who lived in those communities at the time are no longer alive. Another prominent figure active on this issue is the minister of social equality, Likud Knesset member Gila Gamliel, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor from Libya. Gamliel also felt that she was on a mission to correct a historic injustice.

Gila Gamliel, daughter of Libyan Holocaust survivor

 “As far as I am concerned, the recognition that survivors and victims of the Nazi regime received over the past few years signifies the closing of the circle. It is doing justice to a large group of people in Israel, which did not receive the recognition it deserved,” Gamliel told Al-Monitor. “In my opinion, as the daughter of a Libyan woman who survived the Holocaust, the State of Israel owes its life to these heroes who passed through the inferno and rose up again to establish the state

Read article in full: 

Sunday, May 08, 2016

How Palestinian leaders supported the Holocaust


In the uproar following Ken Livingstone's comments about Hitler having been a Zionist “before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews” a crucial point has not been raised: the collaboration at the highest levels with the Nazi regime by Haj Amin el Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the father of Palestinian nationalism. Yitzhak Santis and Roz Rothstein of  StandWithUs set the record straight in The Times of Israel: 

 The intense criticism against Livingstone is appropriate.  Correcting the history of the Zionist movement and its response to the rise of Nazism is paramount.  Yet, if dealing in any manner with the Nazi regime delegitimizes a national movement, then Palestinian leader Haj Amin’s close collaboration with the likes of Himmler, Hitler, Eichmann and Goebbels should make anti-Israel campaigners rethink their strategy of injecting the Holocaust into their assault on Israel’s legitimacy.

 There is a world of difference between the desperate effort of Zionist leaders to rescue German Jewry from the Nazis, which by definition required the need to “deal” with Berlin, and Haj Amin’s overt alliance with Nazi Germany including support for the Final Solution. Anti-Israel campaigners often make the point that Palestinian Arabs should not be “made to pay for the Holocaust,” a “European crime.”

This argument fails on two counts.  First, it ignores the three millennia of unbroken Jewish habitation of the land of Israel, in which Jews are an indigenous people.  Secondly, it denies the close collaboration with Nazi Germany by the Palestinian leadership of that era, which by 1941 knew of, supported and even participated in the Nazi genocide.  This is something for which contemporary Palestinian leadership must finally acknowledge and take responsibility. Scholars have written comprehensively on this Palestinian (and other Arab) collaboration with Nazi Germany.  There is no excuse for ignorance on this matter.  Jeffrey Herf’s “Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World”, Klaus-Michael Mallmann’s and Martin Cüppers’ “Nazi Palestine”, Zvi Elpeleg’s “Through the Eyes of the Mufti: The Essays of Haj Amin, Translated and Annotated,” David G. Dalin’s and John F. Rothmann’s “Icon of Evil” and many other historians documented extensively this chapter of World War Two history.

Haj Amin al-Husseini meeting with Adolf Hitler (December 1941). Photo: Bundesarchiv / Wikimedia
Haj Amin al-Husseini meeting with Adolf Hitler (November 1941). Photo: Bundesarchiv / Wikimedia
The record is shocking, especially to those unaware of it.  Haj Amin, the uncontested leader of Palestine’s Arabs during the crucial Mandate years, sought an alliance with the Nazis beginning soon after Hitler came to power.  The “Great Arab Revolt” of 1936-39 was aided by German funding and weapons. When the British exiled Haj Amin in 1938 he secretly went to Iraq.  There he began agitating against the pro-British government in Baghdad with other pro-Nazi Arab nationalists.

 In 1941, with assistance from Nazi intelligence, he and his Iraqi allies staged a coup and installed a pro-Nazi government. This led to the massacre of some 200 Iraqi Jews.  This pogrom, known by its Arabic name Farhud, marked the importation of the Holocaust to the Arab world.  The Farhud is now a recognized international memorial day thanks largely to the work of noted author Edwin Black.

 After the British regained control of Iraq, Haj Amin went to Germany offering his services to Berlin.  He met Hitler who told the Palestinian leader of his plans to annihilate the Jews of the Arab world.  Heinrich Himmler, the architect of the “Final Solution,” took Haj Amin under his wing, ensconced him in luxurious quarters and established an Arab Bureau.  Haj Amin’s services to the Third Reich included pro-Nazi Arabic broadcasts to the Arab world for Goebbels’ Radio Berlin, and the formation of Bosnian Muslim Waffen SS divisions that fought the anti-Nazi Partisans in Yugoslavia.

Haj Amin also enabled the murder of thousands of Jewish children.  In 1943 he called upon his Nazi hosts to prevent the humanitarian transport of 4,000 Jewish children to Palestine that was negotiated between London and Berlin via the International Red Cross.  He corresponded with high ranking Nazis urging them to void the agreement, reminding them “that it is very much more purposeful to hinder Jewish emigration, and to send them where they are under strict control, e.g. Poland.” There is no doubt Haj Amin knew what sending the children to Poland meant: certain death in the gas chambers.

That same year, in a speech given at a public rally in Berlin, he declared, “The Germans know how to get rid of the Jews. What brings us so close to Germany … is that Germany has never caused damage to Muslims, and it fights against our mutual enemy – the Jews. But above all, they finally solved the Jewish problem for good.” Haj Amin also hoped to establish death camps in "Nazi-liberated" Palestine near Nablus once Rommel's Afrika Korps conquered Egypt. Haj Amin also supported the concentration camps established in Nazi-occupied Tunisia in which thousands of Tunisian Jews were murdered (incorrect - no more than 100 were murdered - ed) and the Einsatzcommado mobile death squads that were standing by in occupied Greece to bring theNazi genocide machinery to the Middle East to the Middle east and North Africa. Only Rommel's defeat prevented all this.

So if Livingstone and his anti-Israel fellow-travelers wish to talk about Hitler and the Holocaust, let them.  It opens the path for a full discussion on the period, allowing unto remind the world of the inconvenient truth of how Palestinian leaders knew of, and actively supported, the Holocaust.

Read article in full

Friday, May 06, 2016

Historically, Europe saw Jews as 'people of colour'

A scandal, resulting in the suspension of the ex-mayor of  London, Ken Livingstone,  has been rocking the British Labour Party, as more and more of its members are accused of harbouring antisemitic views. One theory is that they incapable of seeing Jews as 'people of colour'. Here our regular commenter Eliyahu explains why the issue of colour is a red herring : 


Ken Livingstone: suspended from the British Labour party

Historically, the Arabs and Jews considered themselves white compared to the Black Africans, called Ethiopians [Kushites --כושים-- in Hebrew] in the Bible, as in the first lines of the Book of Amos.

The skin color issue in Arab-Jewish and Israeli-Arab relations is a red herring. There is a range of skin colors among both Jews and Arabs, including Ashkenazim. If you go back in English literature, you see that before WW One, Jews generally were considered Oriental, including Ashkenazim. And in the late 19th century and up to WW 1, Jews were often seen as not quite white. Consider the character Svengali in the very popular English novel, Trilby. He is described as "sallow" in skin color. He is also a Polish Jew. There are plenty of Europeans of old stock in the more Mediterranean countries, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal who are sallow or swarthy in skin color. And nobody or almost nobody says that they are not Europeans. Rather, the traditional European prejudice against Jews [including or especially those in Europe, no matter how acculturated to European high culture] is that Jews are alien, alien wherever they are.

So Kant and Hegel 200 years ago saw Jews as alien to Germany. Kant called the German Jews: "the Palestinians who live among us." Hegel and Kant both saw Jews as Orientals or Asiatics, as did Voltaire and Baron d'Holbach. And the actual skin color of Jews doesn't matter. So, whereas Jews up to WW 1 or even up to WW2 were seen as Orientals [Victor Gollancz says this of himself, as I recall] and swarthy-skinned [which many Jews were, including Ashkenazim], the haters of Jews after the independence of Israel tended more and more to see Jews as quintessentially "white," as alien colonialists, whatever the real, empirical skin color of Jews or any particular Jewish individual.

People like Jeremy Corbyn, leader  of the British Labour Party and Ken Livingstone, fomer Labour MP and ex-mayor of London, see the Jews as inherently alien wherever they are and as inherently evil.

That many Jews in Israel are darker than many of the Arabs does not vitiate the Jews' alien nature. Arabs are "non-white" colonial victims of Jews whatever their skin color and whatever the Jews' skin color. We are not dealing with reasonable people when we deal with Corbyn, Livingstone, and so on. These people do not care about empirical facts or scientific conclusions about Jewish DNA for instance.

We know that most of the DNA of the Ashkenazim too is Middle Eastern, although no large population in the 21st century is a pure race of course. Tel Aviv university lecturer Shlomo Sand insinuated in his most popular book, popular in Europe at any rate, that the DNA/genetic researchers were all Jews who were agents of the Israeli government. As a matter of fact some of the genetic researchers were neither Israelis nor even Jews. But came to more or less the same conclusions as Jewish researchers. So if someone is a hate-ridden anti-Zionist and Judeophobe [Sand grew up in a Communist family], he will deny the science. Sand, as you may know, claimed that Ashkenazim were descendants of the Khazars and the North African Jews were descended from Berbers. Since the genetic researchers vitiated his theory, they had to be wrong and their science that found that all the geographically dispersed Jewish groups who had the Talmud were genetically related, also had to be wrong.

But anti-Zionism derives from an old European tradition that sees Jews as alien and evil. If Kant and Hegel 200 years ago saw the Jews as Oriental in Europe, and Corbyn et al. and Sand see Jews today as quintessential Europeans [who assume all the guilt for the Europeans' crimes as colonialists and imperialists], it is all one continuous tradition, albeit the locus of where the Jews are alien has shifted from Europe to the Middle East. Corbyn and Livingstone are not reasonable or rational persons.




Thursday, May 05, 2016

MK tells untold story of the North African Holocaust

MK Rachel Azaria

An MK for the Kulanu party held an event last night designed to draw attention to the persecution of Jews in North Africa by the Axis powers and French Vichy government, as Israel began observing Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Jerusalem Post reports (with thanks: Lily):
“The story that has not been told,” is an initiative of Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria and the Shaharit Institute in Tel Aviv where it is being held.
Although the persecution of Jews in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya occurred during World War II on a smaller scale, and mass murder and genocide was not perpetrated in these countries, Jews were nevertheless subjected to discriminatory racial laws and several thousand were sent to forced labor and concentration camps.
Azaria, whose father is from Tunisia, said the accounts of the persecution of North Africa Jewry must be included in the national narrative about the Holocaust.
“Over many years, the story of North African Jews, as well as the story of Jews in the former Soviet Union, has not gained a central place in the dialogue of remembrance, even though it pertains to a large communities in Israel,” she said.

Read article in ful

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Moroccan Jewish film festival gets mixed response

US singer Vanessa Paloma, organiser of the first Casablanca Jewish film festival

The first Jewish film festival of Casablanca, which was organized in the Moroccan city by a Sephardic Jewish woman from Atlanta, The Times of Israel reports  - received a mixed reception. However, as with much Moroccan'coexistence PR', the government shows itself to be out of step with social forces, which are anti-'normalisation' with Israel and even anti-Semitic.(With thanks : Lily)

 The three-day event, which ended Wednesday at the offices of Casablanca’s SOC club, featured three films about the “consequences of the emigration of the Jews from the fabric of Moroccan society,” the organizer, Vanessa Paloma, told JTA on Thursday.

Each screening drew about 150 viewers, she said. One of the two fictional features screened was “Aida,” which was also Morocco’s submission to the Academy Awards for best foreign language film, about a Paris-based Jewish music teacher’s battle with cancer.

 The other was “Midnight Orchestra,” a 2015 production about the son of a Jewish musician who left Morocco amid racial tensions spurred by the Yom Kippur war. Reactions to the festival were overwhelmingly positive, said Paloma, a singer of Judeo-Spanish music and a researcher on identity and the arts in Moroccan Judaism.

 She has lived in Casablanca since 2009 with her Moroccan-Jewish husband, Maurice Elbaz, who helped her produce the festival on a shoestring budget that sufficed because the filmmakers waived their fees.

 But the event also provoked negative reactions in Morocco, which despite being one of the Muslim world’s few countries where Jewish heritage is celebrated openly, nonetheless has a vociferous anti-Israel lobby that at times resorts to anti-Semitic rhetoric.

 Jaouad Benaissi, an author and former member of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces party, complained on Facebook about the festival’s theme, writing that “man-made artworks have nothing to do with religion,” and therefore the Jewish theme was inappropriate – a message similar to that of Abdelilah Jouhari, a journalist who accused Paloma of “trying to make business with religion,” as reported by the news site Le 360.

Read article in full

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Why are there still Palestinian refugees?

With thanks: Michelle


This new video  presented by Dumisani Washington (via JIMENA) asks the pertinent question: why are there still Palestinian refugees ?The world's most celebrated refugees are supported by huge amounts of US and European aid.

Yet no-one mentions the greater number of Jewish refugees fromArab lands. What international aid did they receive? The answer is zilch.

Monday, May 02, 2016

How Jeremy Corbyn got Israel so wrong


The current scandal over anti-Semitism in the British Labour party throws  into sharp focus how misinformed, or just plain ignorant, its leader Jeremy Corbyn and some of its members can be. Dominic Lawson writing in the Daily Mail nails the widespread misconception of Israel as a nation of 'whites'. (With thanks: Michelle)

"Bizarrely, the likes of Ken Livingstone and his leader Jeremy Corbyn (who can’t even bring himself to say the word ‘Israel’) see the Israeli Arabs as the ‘blacks’ and the Jews as the ‘whites’. Yet after the state of Israel was created by UN resolution in 1948, the overwhelming majority of Jews who flooded into the new nation were those from Sephardi and Mizrahi backgrounds, in other words, from Arab and Muslim countries.

Their descendants, not those of European survivors of the Holocaust, still form the majority of Israeli Jews.

The reason for this much less well-known exodus was not just that Jews had faced institutionalised discrimination in Muslim lands. The very creation of the state of Israel had enraged the Arab nations, whose citizens began exercising savage reprisals against their Jewish populations, many of whom were expropriated and expelled."

Read article in full


Sunday, May 01, 2016

Tel Aviv lecturer: "The Jews have no history in Muslim lands."

Who said: “the Jews have no history in Muslim lands”? Was it an Arab commentator? A European Marxist? An ISIS operative? No. The bombshell was dropped by an Israeli academic at Tel Aviv university in answer to the question: “why do you teach only the history of the Jews of Europe?” Lyn Julius blogs in the Times of Israel: 

Meir Gal exposed the shocking Eurocentricity of Israeli school textbooks in his artwork, 'Nine out of 400'

 It is true that the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa did not write their own history. Their origins are shrouded in legend and mystery. The few chronicles that survive were mostly written by outsiders, such as the traveller Benjamin of Tudela in the 12th century. In one fell swoop, however, the academic had dismissed 14 centuries of Jewish life under Muslim rule including the great contributions of Jewish poets, thinkers and translators in Muslim Spain - to say nothing of 1, 000 years pre-Islamic Jewish existence, as attested by the remains of ancient synagogues, Talmudic academies, and even a Jewish kingdom, such as once was established in Yemen.

 Most of the world’s Jews come from Europe and Europe deserves a prominent place in the teaching of the history of the Jewish people. But it is tempting to conclude, in the light of a recent survey by the mass circulation daily Yediot Aharonot, that our Tel Aviv academic was responding out of sheer ignorance.

The survey, entitled ‘Joining Israel’s elite is a long way off’ found that Ashkenazim remain dominant in six fields – culture, security, politics, the economy, the academy and law. Over 90 per cent of professors were Ashkenazi. The only Mizrahim the Israeli elite was likely to come into contact with were security guards, canteen dinner ladies or shop assistants. Out of 14 History professors at Tel Aviv University only one deals with the history of the Jews from Muslim lands. He is Yaron Tsur, who is half-Yemenite, half-Yekke (German).

 In Israel, things ought to be reflecting the new reality : Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent form a majority, but schools have done little to educate children about Jewish history and heritage in Arab countries. Every schoolchild knows about the Kishinev riots of 1903, which claimed 49 Jewish lives, but not many have heard of the Farhud in Iraq, which took 179 identified Jewish lives. They hear about the Bilu’im – the waves of Ashkenazi immigrants who founded the Yishuv’s institutions - and nothing about the Yemenite Jews who preceded them.

 In 1997 the artist Meir Gal ridiculed this state of affairs with ‘Nine out of 400’, holding the nine pages out of 400 which covered the history of Jews in Muslim lands in an Israeli school textbook.

 All this is changing slowly. Yaron Tsur sees in his students the researchers of the future in the field of Jews from Muslim lands. Social Equality minister Gila Gamliel has expressed optimism that the Eurocentric trend is being reversed. Education minister Naftali Bennett is determined to reform the school curriculum so that it better reflects the rich history and heritage of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa.

 But education needs to start with the educators. As the saying goes,"physician, heal thyself."

Read article in full

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Harking back to the lost roots of Mimouna

Prime minister Netanyahu celebrates Mimouna: a chance for politicians to press the flesh 

As many Israelis prepare to celebrate Mimouna, the traditional Moroccan festival which concludes Passover, Ben Hartman in the Jerusalem Post asks why this nostalgia persists despite the fact that out of a population of over 250,000 Jews in Morocco prior to the founding of Israel in 1948, only some 2,500 remain.

 Everyone’s seen the pictures before – a politician wearing a fez, sitting in front of a pile of mufletot pastries, as well-wishers, perhaps a belly dancer or two, hover around bearing trays of sweets and mint tea in a development town somewhere in Israel.

 The Mimouna, a traditional North African Jewish holiday marking the end of Passover, stopped being a holiday mainly for Maghrebi Jews years ago, becoming a sort of pan-Israeli Jewish occasion for partying and binging on sugary sweets.

Along the way, Israeli politicians seized upon the holiday as a can’t-miss opportunity to press the flesh, and win hearts and minds among traditional Sephardi and Mizrahi voters. To put it differently, on the morning after Mimouna, it’s a safe bet you’re going to see a picture of Shimon Peres in a fez.

 The stereotypes surrounding the Mimouna in Israel today are a stark departure from their North African traditions, according to Dr. Yehuda Maimran, CEO of the Alliance Israélite Universelle and a member of an Education Ministry committee, headed by Israel Prize laureate poet Erez Biton, that intends to strengthen Mizrahi identity in Israeli culture.

“Back in Morocco it was a Jewish holiday that Jews and Arabs would celebrate together. I was too young to remember but my parents would tell me about how everyone would open their houses and their Muslim neighbors would come bearing food and gifts. For us it was a holiday of love and opening your house to everyone.”

 Read article in full