Friday, March 23, 2018

Netanyahu's Mizrahi support remains solid

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is beset by allegations of scandal and corruption, but his Sephardi/Mizrahi support base in Israel's poor periphery remains solid. This New York Times article by Isabel Kershner typically attributes his popularity to Sephardi resentment of the Ashkenazi 'discrimination' these Jews experienced on arrival in Israel. But it is fear and mistrust of the Arabs, among whom they lived for generations, which drives their politics.

 Posters of Israel's prime ministers look on in a street in Netivot (Photo: NY Times)

Reflecting one of Israel’s oldest social divides, many of Likud’s staunchest supporters come from so-called development towns like Kiryat Malachi. These grew out of transit camps hurriedly set up in the 1950s to absorb waves of immigrants, mainly Sephardic Jews from Arab countries.

The country’s Zionist pioneers of European descent, socialists who dominated the state after it was founded in 1948, were struggling to populate the more remote corners of their young and poor country. So they directed the new immigrants to these once-desolate outposts while denigrating their culture.
The tents and shacks gave way to rows of public housing that became hubs for the have-nots on the margins of Israeli society. The development towns have since expanded to include neat neighborhoods of single-family homes and have absorbed immigrants from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union.

Former Prime Minister Menachem Begin was the first leader to harness the feelings of resentment among the Sephardic Jews, helping to sweep Likud to its first victory in 1977. The power of the conservative camp has only grown since. But among Netanyahu supporters, the underdog sentiment and distrust of the old, liberal elite still run deep.

Israel has long been polarized between a hawkish right-wing that has taken a harder line toward the Palestinians and a leftist camp more willing to compromise on territory to reach an accommodation.

“The Sephardim in Israel won’t change their skin even if there’s no food in the house,” said the greengrocer, Mr. Ayyash, whose family came from Morocco. He described how his mother would sit in their tin shack with six of her 11 children on her lap to keep them off the wet floor in winter.

Mr. Ayyash said all five of his children, now married, also support Likud.
“It’s genetics,” he said. “I don’t need to tell them anything.”

Read article in full

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Awards go to outstanding Mizrahi research projects

For the second year running, Israeli government Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel has honoured three outstanding Israeli research projects for their contributions to the study of Mizrahi Jewish communities at a special awards ceremony in Jerusalem. Israel Hayom reports. (With thanks: Lily)

The 150,000-shekel ($43,000) Prime Minister's Prize for Encouraging and Empowering Research about Jewish Communities in Arab Countries and Iran was split equally among the three winners: Dr. Ovadia Yerushalmi, for his research titled  "The Five Long Minutes" on the arrests of hundreds of Egyptian Jews in the 1967 Six-Day War; the Association for Society and Culture of Yemenite Jewish Tradition, for its publication of the Teima Journal for Judeo-Yemenite Studies; and the World Organization of Libyan Jews for Gershon Stav's "From the Abyss" research on Libyan Jewry during World War II.

This was the second year of the ceremony was held, after Gamliel suggested the prize and won the cabinet's approval and a budget in 2016.

The 2018 ceremony was attended by Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman, research institute and publishing house Yad Ben-Zvi's CEO Ya'akov Yaniv, academics and social activists.

"Over the past two years, the State of Israel, which has taken part in historic injustices [in failing to sufficiently recognize Mizrahi Jews], is itself spearheading efforts to bring historic justice through the Social Equality Ministry," Gamliel said. "It is important that we honor the pioneers who have invested all of their efforts to research the legacy and history of Eastern Jewry, turning the wheels of history."

 Read article in full

Last year's Awards Ceremony

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Israel Eurovision entry a hit with Arabs

More evidence that music can help break down barriers between Israel and the Arab world: Israel's Eurovision entry for 2018 by Netta Barzilai seems to have gone down well with the Arab world. Haaretz reports: (with thanks: Yoel)

Netta Barzilai: empowering women

Israel’s Eurovision entry is already the favorite to win the tournament on betting sites, and now, it’s arousing interest in Arab countries as well. 

The Foreign Ministry shared a video of Netta Barzilai performing “Toy” on its Arabic-language Facebook page, which has 1.5 million followers. Several users declared that they hate Israel but nevertheless wished Barzilai success. 

“I liked it,” wrote Hamad from Morocco. “Good luck, girl. Morocco is with you.”

Olaya, a woman from Morocco, wrote, “I’m in love with this song!” Another Moroccan even invited Barzilai to make a joint video with two Moroccan singers. 

Abu Majd from Saudi Arabia was also encouraging. “This isn’t the type of music I like, but this song has everything it takes to become an international hit,” he wrote.
Ahmed, an employee of Iraq’s Interior Ministry, wished Barzilai luck. That prompted an Egyptian, also named Ahmed, to attack him. 

“You’re a Muslim, but your feelings are Jewish,” he wrote. “You don’t deserve the name Ahmed.” 

The Iraqi retorted, “What does religion have to do with music and competitions?” 

Another user called the song "wonderful", saying it mixes Arabic, Western and European music. A resident of Yemen said Barzilai had a beautiful voice and also wished her luck. 

Yonatan Gonen, who heads the Arabic desk in the Foreign Ministry’s digital diplomacy department, said the post also garnered many comments from women, even though the page has few female followers. 

“Many women from Morocco commented on the song,” he said, adding that Morocco “is a relatively open and liberal country, so many women apparently found something empowering in this song and wrote about it. The fact that it was posted around International Women’s Day was significant in this regard.” 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Yemenites reunite with US pilot after 70 years

 More than 200 Yemenite immigrants, many of whom came on the Wings of Eagles operation, gathered in Be'er Sheva to hold a festive reception for Captain Elgin Long, 91, the last of the surviving Alaska Airlines pilots. The American company   brought 1, 800  Yemenite immigrants to Israel in a secret operation. Report by Branza. (With thanks: Yoel)

Long, who flew especially from Los Angeles to Israel, was very excited: a Yemenite folklore group from Kiryat Ekron who came to the event in Be'er Sheva, dressed him in traditional Yemenite dress and led him by playing drums and dancing to the hall next to the synagogue. Many people, already adults in their eighties, got to their feet and gave him lengthy applause.  

"I was a little girl when I came to Israel, but I will not forget the flight. We came in 1949, we arrived in Be'er Sheva in 1950 and we grew up and raised a family. Today I came to say thank you to this dear man, "says Rachel, who is not ashamed to reveal her age.
Captain Long (seated), wearing traditional Yemenite clothing and enjoying himself (Photo: Danny Beller)

Captain Long (seated), wearing traditional Yemenite clothing and enjoying himself (Photo: Danny Beller)
 Captain Long told an amusing incident in retrospect, but not welcome at the time: "As we fly in total darkness, you suddenly smell smoke from the engine room. I went down myself to check what had happened and I saw the immigrant making tea in a teapot that he warmed with a fire, right next to the fuel tanks. "

The aliya of Yemenite Jews was made possible thanks to the airline, when Israel did not have a national airline. Only this American company was willing to fly the Jews from Yemen to Israel, with little  means. During the flight, the captain's navigational equipment failed and he navigated by looking at the sky. "When we got to Israel, I asked the control tower to turn on the lights on the runway, but there were none, because there was a war. Now, when I arrived  in Israel, I saw at the airport in Lod a picture of the airport as it was 70 years ago and as I remember it. "
"The pilot is one of the best people from the early years of the country who took a huge risk," said the initiator of the event, Dr. Yigal Ben-Shalom, chairman of the Yemenite Heritage Foundation.

A special Yemenite evening, held in honor of the pilot, was put on by the Northern Yemen dance company from Kiryat Ekron and the Be'er Sheva singer Ram Cohen. During the day, Long was a guest at Hatzerim base, and visited the Israel Air Force Museum. The visit and tours in Israel were led and accompanied by Dr. Yigal Ben-Shalom, Chairman of the Association for the Promotion of the Heritage of the Jews of Yemen, with help from StandWithUs.  During his visit, he is expected to meet with President Reuven Rivlin and visit as a guest of the Knesset, an event sponsored by Minister Gila Gamliel and others.

Long flew the plane secretly, in a bold and dangerous operation in which thousands of Yemenite Jews immigrated to Israel, passing over enemy states exactly 70 years ago, starting on the eve of the country's establishment. The second part of the operation between 1949 and 1950 brought about another 50,000 Jews.

Ben-Shalom commented: "First of all, Long is one of those good people at the birth of the country who took a huge risk for us and we appreciate his contribution because we, many of the Yemenite Jews who came to Israel and their descendants, simply owe him the success of the secret immigration to Israel. His encounter with those who immigrated and their children and with other immigrants from Yemen points to something else that is no less astonishing in the Zionist enterprise. With all the difficulty of a different culture, with all the difficulties of integration, the Yemenite Jews succeeded here amazingly. Long is so excited to meet happy, happy people who live here, families, and succeed in their professions in all areas of life. "

Read article in full (Hebrew) 

Monday, March 19, 2018

The answer to racism is not a return to patriarchy

Amid the controversy created by the screening of a film alleging discrimination against Mizrahim resettled in Israel's outlying development towns, this brilliant article by Ben-Dror Yemini in Ynet News says that racism demands distributive justice, not a return to the patriarchal societies of the East. This is a rough translation from the Hebrew. (With thanks: Yoel)

Most of the Mizrahim in Israel, that is, those who are called Mizrahim, are no longer Mizrahi. They do not have much to do with the East, and what they do is exactly what the third generation Poles have with the East, and what the French have with the East. Mainly music and food. Those who speak in the name of "Mizrahim" or "Orientalism" are usually the ones who have undergone a process of politicisation. You can call it "Westernization". They recommend to others what they have not adopted for themselves.
There is no dispute that there was discrimination and racism. The TV series Sallah, Here is the Land of Israel - and before that the film - presents these things. And in any case, when you look at the gaps between East and West - there is no doubt that the encounter between them created discrimination and racism. This happened within the framework of colonial control in the Middle East, and it happened with waves of immigration from the East to the West. But the fact that there was - and there is - discrimination, oppression, exclusion and racism does not make the Middle East a worthy alternative. The solution, as long as there is a solution, is not Easternisation, because one of the greatest differences between East and West is the status of women.
Edward Said, one of the most influential intellectuals of the last half-century, was more concerned with representations and descriptions of the East in the service of the West than in the East itself. The East mostly fits the descriptions of those writers and thinkers who so moulded Said. The East is patriarchal, magical, and usually primitive. That's a fact. This is not an opinion. There are also some good things there. Haredi culture has good too. So what? There is a rule that works in almost all human communities: the more patriarchal a society is, the weaker it is. The more a society discriminates against women, the lower its achievements. Most of the Mizrahim in Israel are no longer at that stage. And the more egalitarian the older Mizrahim are, the more equal they are.
In a completely distorted fashion, some of the militants who fly the Mizrahi flag supported or supported Shas, which was once a conduit for protest, but nothing good can come out of a movement that has been for years trying to promote a return to the old patriarchy. It reminds me of the coalition of intellectuals and western progressives - such as Jeremy Corbyn, Judith Butler, Gianni Atimu (?), Noam Chomsky, Slavoj Zižek and Norman Finkelstein - with the Islamists, including Hamas and Hezbollah. What they have in common is hatred of the West and an abhorrent hatred of Israel. It is anti-Semitic and destructive, and we do not have to import it here.
Israel is not Britain. But it seems to be worth looking at what happened there. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants arrived in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. Some came from Indian subcontinent, with similar economic backgrounds. There were Hindus and Sikhs and Muslims. There was racism and discrimination, and that was how it was. Now the Hindus are at the pinnacle of achievement. In education they surpassed the white natives and also the Jews, who until recently were the most educated group. Many Muslims have also advanced. But those who insisted on perpetuating the culture with which they came - mainly patriarchy and oppression of women - were left behind. They are in ghettos. One who oppresses is depressed, just as one who strives for equality. The Muslims advanced. The others advanced even further.
All human beings are equal. Not all values ​​are equal, and not all cultures. Multiculturalism can be wonderful when it comes to music, art, art. In practice, multiculturalism has failed. The "other" remains within a cultural ghetto, with its customs and values ​​and with its culture. As early as 1999, Susan Muller Okin wrote the groundbreaking article: "Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?" Nearly two decades have passed. The situation today is worse. Multiculturalism is bad for women, not just for women. It did not create integration. It created separatism. It perpetuated patriarchy. Muslim feminists in the West, such as Fadela Amara of France, (?) of Belgium, Sayran Atash(?) of Germany or Ayan Hirsi Ali of Holland, oppose multiculturalism. They know this is a false formula. The change will come from the liberation of the woman, not from the recognition that the culture of the "other" is equal. What did not work in the West will not work in Israel.
Prof. Momy Dahan found, in the most serious study in the field, that the gaps between Ashkenazim and Sephardim are narrowing, both in terms of income and education. The gaps between Jews and Arabs are also shrinking, but there is a significant gap between Muslims and Christians in Israel. One can assume that Christians, by virtue of their Arab identity, also suffer discrimination, but they manage to overcome and achieve impressive achievements. In the matriculation exams, for example, they pass the Jews. Is this gap between the Christian population in Israel and the Muslim one related to patriarchy? Presumably yes. The higher the status of women, the better the community does.

Poster from Sallah, this is Eretz Israel (English version: The Ancestral Sin). The film has been stirring controversy.

Most of the Mizrahim in Israel, members of the second and third generation, do not exactly connect with the Mizrahi identity that some people try to infect them with. They want to live in a democratic and liberal state and even, God willing, Western. It is true that there is a phenomenon of Mizrahi youth who discover their Mizrahi identity, and there is something romantic about the phenomenon, but it is mainly a protest against discrimination, exclusion and racism. This is a protest that demands distributive justice, even in the field of culture. But despite the cultural yearning for the East, and even the construction of a memory, often imagined, of harmony between Jews and Arabs in Arab countries, it is doubtful whether any of the current protest activists would want to live under an oriental regime, that is, an Arab one. It was not always that way. The East was once more advanced. The oldest university in the world, El Kerouan, was established in Fez, Morocco. But that does not change the fact that in the past few centuries the Arab East has been lagging behind.
One of the great problems of the East, which Yehoshafat Harkabi dealt with as early as the end of the 1960s, is the externalization of blame. There is no self-responsibility. They are all guilty. The West, capitalism, colonialism, Zionism. Just not the East itself. Patriarchy? Suppression of women? tyranny? Yuk. The flock of academically-blind bishops has become partners to the great deception that absolves the East of responsibility. The greatest challenge of the Arab East is to take responsibility. This does not mean that there are no signs of racism and discrimination today. We must fight for distributive justice, changing the municipal boundaries and theoretical education in places where there is still a paved road. But embracing racism, in and of itself, distances self-responsibility, and "integration into the East" is a recipe for exacerbating the problem.
There was oppression. There was racism. It is not over. But that's not the point. Between Ashkenazi oppression and oppression in the style of Eastern countries - the first is much less terrible. After all, about 70 percent of those members of the oppressive generation have granddaughters and grandchildren of Mizrahi origin. The melting pot, despite all the blows it has sustained, is what is winning. It is therefore not advisable to be impressed by the claims of the postcolonial school, which is usually anti-Zionist. This is propaganda. And propaganda is also created in academia. Reality is much stronger. And it is winning.

Read article in full 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Philanthropist calls for archive to lead to better relations

With the Iraqi-Jewish archive poised to return to Iraq in September 2018, businessman and philanthropist David A Dangoor makes a plea in JNS News for the archive to be a bridge-builder for normalising relations between Arabs and Jews and restoring the rights of Iraqi Jews. It does not matter to him where the archive ends up as long as Jews have access to it (with thanks: Imre, Independent Observer).
David A Dangoor commissioned the film Remember Baghdad
The answer to what happens next should lie in not whose property it is, but where would it be best preserved and provide access for all, especially in its potential use as a gateway towards better relations between Jews and Arabs.
Between 1950 and 1952, approximately 130,000 Iraqi Jews were airlifted to Israel, where they became fully integrated into the country despite their arrival with no assets. This constituted around 75 percent of the total Iraqi Jewish community at the time. While the creation of the State of Israel was the proximate driver, the Jewish community, which had been living in many places around Iraq, had already been traumatized by the Nazi-directed troubles in the early 1940s that highlighted the need for a safe haven, which Israel now represented.
 The way we were: a scene from Jewish life in Iraq as captured in Remember Baghdad
Those of us who remained behind subsequently fled in the ensuing years—after the Iraqi government stripped us of our citizenship, property and business interests—to places like the United Kingdom.
Many of us, despite how it ended, look back fondly on our lives in Iraq and are deeply proud of our more than three-millennia sojourn there. Some of the greatest rabbis, scholars and artists enriched not only world Jewry with their work, but the non-Jewish world around them.
Arabic was our mother tongue, our culture and a strong part of our identity. Iraq is still in our blood and in our bones. It’s like a distant bell ringing in the back of our heads, always reminding us where we came from.
For those, like for me, Baghdad is the formation of our identity.
To be a Jew is sometimes to be a bridge to the past, but I believe that we can also serve as bridges to the future.
In the Iraq where I was raised, Jew, Christian, Muslim, Sunni or Shia worked, learned, sang and danced together. We lived side by side in peace and harmony.
I believe that while the Jewish community there is no more, perhaps the Iraqi Jewish Archive can serve as a new conduit between peoples, nations and religions.
With ISIS finally expelled from Iraq, this could be an auspicious time for Jews of Iraqi origins to rebuild ties with our former country, and for the leaders of the Republic of Iraq to provide gestures of reconciliation to its Diaspora Jewish community.
We hope it could begin with ensuring the Jewish character of holy sites such as the Prophet Ezekiel and Ezra the Scribe, and that the cemeteries of our families and ancestors are well-maintained. Most of all, we hope to be provided with visas to visit Iraq, or better still, to have our passports and citizenship returned and restored.
I know I speak for many when I say I would love to travel to Iraq to see my family home on the banks of the Tigris and visit the places in my dreams of childhood.
For that to happen, there would need to be a complete change in the way the people and government of Iraq viewed people of different faiths. There would need to be a genuine desire to welcome them, treat them with care and consideration, and respect their national aspirations—something now common in many parts of the world.
If this were to be achieved, it would matter less where the archive resided because we would have access to it. Perhaps an agreement could be formulated whereby the archive would also be on display at various locations, allowing this collection of artifacts to educate and inform others.
For Jews and non-Jews around the world, this could serve as a testament to the good relations that Jews and Arabs shared in the past, and serve as a point of entry in exploring how these ties could become strong and vibrant once again.
To Iraqis, the archive communicates the long-standing Jewish community that lived among them. They could demystify the tradition and culture of the Jewish people in the hopes of exploding certain myths and as a point of greater engagement.
I call on all those who are involved in the issue not to use the Iraqi Jewish Archive as a point of division, but instead, as a point of unity and harmony. Not to hide the materials away in the dark, but to allow the artifacts to shine a light in informing the world about how Jews and Arabs are not so very different. About how we can and should live side by side.
Let these artifacts inspire and not discourage relationships, so that we can regain aspirations of a better future for all the peoples of the region.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Jewish Affairs rep fired by Kurdish government

The representative of the Jewish Community in Kurdistan, Sherzad Mahmoud Mamsani, has been fired 'to appease Baghdad' according to this Times of Israel piece. The news does not come as a total surprise to readers of Point of No Return. In March 2017, we reported that the Jewish Directorate had been suspended, ostensibly for lack of funds. From the outset, rumours have been swirling around the figure of Mamsani: he is not a Jew, he is responsible for the 'fake news' that Kurdistan still has a Jewish community - and even enlisted the help of an Israeli rabbi to reconstruct it in order to attract US funds - or, he is an Iranian agent. Whatever the truth, it seems that Kurdistan wants to reset its relationship with Baghdad following the disastrous independence referendum in September 2017.(With thanks: Lily)

Update: Mamsani himself has left a comment. This accuses the journalist, Judith Neurink, of misinformation putting his life at risk:
There is some very misleading information in the report
Some information is threatening my life
I am three years with all my efforts I served my mother's religion in the midst of fire
If I have a position or without positions
I am proud of my Jewish religion and our Jewish and Kurdish people
So far I am a constant activity and struggle
Sherzad Mamsani

IRBIL, Iraq – After working for Iraqi Kurdistan’s Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs for two years, the region’s Jewish representative, Sherzad Mamsani, has been let go. The move is especially peculiar since Mamsani’s position was unpaid.

Mamsani said he was not forewarned about his dismissal, which occurred while he was on sick leave abroad.

Mariwan Nasqshbandy, the director of religious coexistence at the Endowment and Religious Affairs Ministry, hinted that the firing could be an effort by the Kurds to reconcile with Baghdad following shaky relations after an independence referendum in September of last year. In the referendum, 93 percent of Iraqi Kurds voted for secession and an autonomous state.

Nasqshbandy said that the move was likely political because the Religious Affairs ministry previously ignored his complaints that Mamsani was proving ineffective at mobilizing Kurdistan’s dormant Jewish community.

Mamsani was one of seven religious minority representatives whose posts were created by the Kurdistani parliament in 2015. The Jewish representative’s position was unique in that its aim was to unite Kurds whose Jewish grandparents converted to Islam. He wanted to offer them a Jewish education and opportunity to return to their roots.

To help rebuild the Jewish community in Kurdistan, Mamsani looked for help from Rabbi Daniel Edri, the chief of the Haifa, Israel, rabbinical court.
In a telephone call with The Times of Israel, Edri claimed that Kamal Muslim, the Minister of Endowment and Religious Affairs, appointed him chief rabbi of Kurdistan. (Naqshbandy said he had no knowledge of this.)

A December 30, 2017 post on the Facebook page entitled Rabbi Daniel EDRI, Kurdistan claimed that the region had a new rabbi for the first time in years.

Sherzad Mamsani, left, with Israeli Rabbi Daniel Edri, who is helping trace Jewish lineage and rebuild the community in the region. (Courtesy)
“Hello my friends from all over the world,” the post said. “Its Kurdistan have new Rabbi after 70 years [sic]. Its the first time after 70 years a Rabbi can start in Kurdistan the new Jewish life.”

The rabbi stressed that Israel did not send him and that he has no political motivations. “I will only work for the religion, since the [locals] do not have any information on the Jewish laws,” Edri said.

Since the September referendum, Kurdish airports have been closed for international flights and Iraqi troops have taken control of disputed territories formerly overseen by the Kurds, including the oil rich city of Kirkuk. Iran also temporarily closed its borders with the Kurdistan region.

Edri expects to return to Irbil as soon as international flights are resumed, although Naqshbandy said he would prefer to have a Kurdish rabbi who speaks the language.

In most Muslim countries leaving Islam is considered a crime, but returning to Judaism is especially discouraged by the staunchly anti-Israel governments in Baghdad and Tehran. Both countries were incensed when Israeli flags appeared at rallies during the referendum campaign, where Israel was touted as the only state supporting the Kurdish demand for secession.

Read article in full 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Sephardim 'would have set up another Arab country'

 Had Sephardim, not Ashkenazim been first to settle in Israel, they would have set up 'another crappy kingdom' in the Middle East. This is the view of Eli Moyal, Sderot's ex-mayor, himself of Moroccan origin. Moyal's reaction, reported by Haaretz,  was part of the fall-out to the TV screening of The Ancestral Sin, a controversial documentary allegedly revealing  discrimination by the Israeli authorities towards Middle Eastern and North African immigrants.  The film has led to ministerial calls for the Jewish Agency archive to be opened, although at least one academic claims that the documentation has long been accessible to  interested parties.

Sderot ex-mayor Eli Moyal: how many universities in Morocco?

Speaking Monday on Israel’s Southern Radio, Sderot (ex-)Mayor Eli Moyal discussed claims that the authorities, during Israel’s early years, were biased against Jews who were not of Ashkenazi, or Eastern Europe, descent. “It’s good that the Ashkenazim received the Sephardim and not the other way around, because otherwise they’d have set up another Arab country in the Middle East,” he said. “If the Sephardim had come first, this would be another crappy kingdom.” 

The country's Sephardim and Mizrahim should look in the mirror, Moyal went on to say. “How many universities were there in Morocco? What did we know about the developed world? How much technology was there in Morocco? When you move cultures, the first and second generation pay the price. You can’t get away from that. The price is justified, and I understand it. In exchange, we received independence and democracy.” 

Yael Ben Yefet, director of the Sephardi Democratic Rainbow, called Moyal a “racist” and a “collaborator.” 

Moyal's comments were possibly related to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked's declaration on Sunday that she intends to open the Jewish Agency’s archive to the public. Shaked, who is also in charge of national archiving, made the decision in response to the 2017 documentary series “The Ancestral Sin.” 

Aired on Channel 2, “The Ancestral Sin” reveals archive documents, some reportedly shown for the first time, that show the racist, discriminatory attitudes Israeli authorities had toward immigrants from Middle Eastern and North African countries, who were relegated to development towns in outlying areas – mainly in the southern and desert areas. After the series was first broadcast, government authorities including Interior Ministry Arye Dery and Culture Minister Miri Regev demanded that the Agency archive be opened.
“There is no reason for materials that deal with the country’s history not to be revealed. We will go over the documents and recommend publishing them, as long as they do not include matters that could jeopardize state security,” Shaked stated on Sunday.

 Read article in full

Film stirs controversy over development towns

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

'The Christians owned the land, Muslims came as guests'

The Al-Khoei family are religious Shi'ites in Iraq with a reputation for moderation. Here scholar Jawad-al-Khoei demonstrates his sense of history and how distant Islamism can be from his brand of Islam. From MEMRI: (with thanks:Lily)  

Jawad Al-Khoei: Violence in our region has its origins here. We are all in the same boat. There is no difference between Syria, Iraq, and so on. Some of the violence is the outcome of the injustice of the dictatorships that ruled us. Poverty, ignorance, deprivation, and oppression all stem from that. Some of the violence is religious violence. It exploits religion.

 The birth of ISIS is not an anomaly. ISIS is deeply rooted in Islam. Its roots can be traced back 1,400 years, to the first century of Islam. When you read [Islamic] history, you find that people would kill someone, then exhume the body, cut off his head, and then burn the body.

Hostess: But all nations experienced this kind of violence.

Jawad Al-Khoei: Fine. But violence is a bad thing, and when it dons the cloak of religion, it is a hundred times more evil. 

Hostess: From what you are saying it sounds as if violence is predestined to remain in this region, because it is so deeply rooted.

Jawad Al-Khoei: No. This depends on our determination, our resolve, and the will of our rulers. If our rulers really want… I mean, is it really conceivable that to this day, there is not a single page in the religious curricula in Iraq about Christianity or about the Yazidi faith?

Hostess: Even though the first Christians were…

Jawad Al-Khoei: They were the owners of this land, and the Muslims came in as their guests. Read transcript in full

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Iraqi newsman calls for apology: English transcript

An Iraqi top news presenter, Ahmed al-Hamdani, called for Iraq to make an apology to Iraqi Jews (and other minorities) recently and called on the Iraqi foreign minister to 'rectify that historic error'. MEMRI has now posted the full transcript of his broadcast. (However, Al-Hamdani's solution is for Iraqi Jews to return. It is not to recognise that Iraqi Jews are now irrevocably Israeli, but to say that many 'refused to go to the Israeli entity'.) Nevertheless, al-Hamdani's call is historic. In contrast, an Algerian politician conjures up anti-Jewish conspiracy theories while rejecting their 'hellish plan' to 'return' to Algeria, a prelude to their takeover of the world. (With thanks: Lily) 

Al Hamdani: "Some seventy years have passed since our honorable Jewish Iraqi community fell victim to a human tragedy and to reckless behavior, when they were taken prisoner and subjected to forced deportation. The consecutive Iraqi governments that followed the monarchic era realized that this had been an error of historic proportions.

All those governments maintained that the property of the Jews was off-limits. That property remained frozen because of the sense that an historic mistake had been made. If such [non-democratic] regimes have acknowledged the tragedy, it is our duty, after seventy years, to rectify that historic error.

It is the same historic error that has been suffered by the Christians, our loyal compatriots, who were banished or killed. It is the same historic error that has been suffered by the Sabaeans, our loyal and honorable compatriots, who were also banished or killed. And it is the same thing that has happened to our loyal and honorable Yazidi compatriots, whose girls, our sisters and our compatriots, have been abducted, which is a crime of honor, a crime [against] humanity.

Hence, seventy years later and from our studio here, I would like to go on record and say that it is our duty to apologize to our Iraqi Jewish compatriots for the tragedy that befell them.  (My emphasis) We should indeed apologize to them, and those who have remained loyal to Iraq should regain their property. Many of them refused to go to the Israeli entity, and have remained loyal to Iraq in the U.S., in Europe, in Britain…

On the Facebook page of the Iraqi Jews, I saw a story about an Iraqi woman called Majdoleen. She talked about the tragedy of being driven out of Iraq with her family. But to this day, she continues to love and respect Iraq and to be loyal to it. Let’s listen to what she has to say.

Majdoleen: The Jews lost all their property. Everything. My father sold our home and put the money in the bank. Then [the bank accounts] were frozen, and he couldn’t withdraw a single penny. We came here [to Israel], and lived for two and a half years in a tent in a refugee absorption camp – two and a half years in a tent, after having a house in Iraq. My father used to be an accountant for the Iraqi airline.

(Majdoleen here seems to be having a flashback to the 1941 Farhud): Some two thousand Arabs came, and burst open the huge iron door [of the market] with knives and axes. They shattered the door, and within one hour, they had cleared out the Salem Shimon market.

We closed the door to grandma’s home and peeped through the windows. One of the thieves said about grandma’s home: “This is a Jewish house”. We placed all kind of things up against the door so that they couldn’t open it, but two thousand people just gave it two or three blows and broke down the door.

They beat up my grandma. She was overweight and could not go upstairs, so she stayed downstairs. They beat her up. They made an “orange”. Do you know what an “orange” is? A stick with a ball of tar. This hurts! They beat her on the head, asking: “Where are the girls?” They were looking for girls. Each time she screamed, I would cry and say: “They killed grandma”.

Hajj Moussa was a prominent businessman, and we went to him. When we walked in – may they rest in peace… When they saw us, the mother and her two daughters began to cry. The mother was cursing the people who had done this.

The first thing the two girls did was to open the sewing machines. They brought some material and sewed dresses for us. They said: “Here you have new clothes, and you can cook for yourselves, since you do not eat the food of the Muslims”. They gave us a roof. In Iraq, we used to sleep on the roof in the summer. They gave us a roof for ourselves, and they slept on another roof. They brought food from their fields. I heard that they had handed out food to all the Jews in the neighborhood. They gave food to all the Jews, who were left without anything.
It was not like in Europe, where there were camps and ghettoes for the Jews. Our neighbors were just like me. We used to eat at each other’s home.

We have come here, but Iraq is dear to our hearts. We grew up and studied there, and we have friends there. What is happening in Iraq is painful to us.

Al-Hamdani: I salute all of our people who have suffered injustice, including the Iraqi Jews who remained loyal to Iraq, despite the seventy years that have passed since the tragedy. I salute them wherever they may be in the world. Someone asked me what about the [Shiite] Feyli Kurd minority. Well, I salute them just as I salute all the others. People, if we do not care about the tragedies of others, nobody will care about our own tragedy.

If I were the foreign minister, I would invite Majdoleen and say to her: “Here is a plane ticket. Come and see your country after seventy years”. I would give her an official welcome, thus sending a positive message to the world. But where can we find a reasonable person who would understand that? If [Foreign Minister] Ibrahim Jaafari has brains, he should do it. We should get him a doctor to see whether he has brains in his head or something else.

Read article in full
Meanwhile, Algerian MP Naima Salhi, Secretary-General of the Parti de l'équité et de la proclamation, warned of a "hellish plan to create a second Zionist entity - a so-called 'Israeli state ' in the Maghreb," and to restore the Jews from Arab countries to their countries of origin. "By now [they] have taken over the world financially," she said. "[Their state] in Algeria will spread to Tunisia, Morocco, Mali, and Mauritania," she warned.

View transcript page

Monday, March 12, 2018

Dershowitz calls for end to Arab 'refugee' charade

It's long overdue. Alan Dershowitz is the most high-profile figure since Irwin Cotler to take up the question of refugees in the Israeli-Arab conflict. A visit to Morocco has prompted his Gatestone Institute call for Palestinians to end the deadly charade of being called 'refugees'. Strikingly, he calls for Arab governments, not Israel, to compensate them for their losses. (With thanks: Simone, Eliyahu)

The Arab exodus from Israel in 1948 was the direct result of a genocidal war declared against the newly established Jewish state by all of its Arab neighbors, including the Arabs of Israel. If they had accepted the UN peace plan — two states for two people — there would be no Palestinian refugees. In the course of Israel's fierce battle for its survival — a battle in which it lost one percent of its population, including many Holocaust survivors and civilians — approximately 700,000 local Arabs were displaced. Many left voluntarily, having been promised a glorious return after the inevitable Arab victory. Others were forced out. Some of these Arabs could trace their homes in what became Israel hundreds of years back. Others were relatively recent arrivals from Arab countries such as Syria, Egypt, and Jordan.

 Moroccan Jews arriving in Israel

Approximately the same number of Jews were displaced from their Arab homelands during this period. Nearly all of them could trace their heritage back thousands of years, well before the Muslims and Arabs became the dominant population. Like the Palestinian Arabs, some left voluntarily, but many had no realistic choice. The similarities are striking, but so are the differences.
The most significant difference is between how Israel dealt with the Jews who were displaced and how the Arab and Muslim word dealt with the Palestinians who had been displaced by a war they started.

Israel integrated its brothers and sisters from the Arab and Muslim world. The Arab world put its Palestinian brothers and sisters in refugee camps, treating them as political pawns — and festering sores — in its persistent war against the Jewish state.

It has now been 70 years since this exchange of populations occurred. It is time to end the deadly charade of calling the displaced Palestinians "refugees." Almost none of the neatly five million Arabs who now seek to claim the mantle of "Palestinian refugee" was ever actually in Israel. They are the descendants — some quite distant — of those who were actually displaced in 1948. The number of surviving Arabs who were personally forced out of Israel by the war started by their brethren is probably no more a few thousand, probably less. Perhaps they should be compensated, but not by Israel. The compensation should come from Arab countries that illegally seized the assets of their erstwhile Jewish residents whom they forced to leave. These few thousand Palestinians have no greater moral, historic or legal claim than the surviving Jewish individuals who were displaced during the same time period seven decades ago.

In life as in law there are statutes of limitations that recognize that history changes the status quo. The time has come – indeed it is long overdue – for the world to stop treating these Palestinians as refugees. That status ended decades ago. The Jews who came to Israel from Morocco many years ago are no longer refugees. Neither are the relatives of the Palestinians who have lived outside of Israel for nearly three quarters of a century.

Read article in full 

Jerusalem Post

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Where is the outcry about the Islamic slave trade?

 Slavery has always been an integral part of Islamic practice, and Jews among other others were still being sold as slaves in Morocco in the 1890s. In a scathing critique of western liberals, who have a blindspot towards both Islamic imperialism and slave-trading, Denis MacEoin addresses the issue in his piece for Gatestone Institute:

Liberals (do not) mention another issue that should be close to their hearts: the Islamic slave trade.

Slavery has been an integral part of Islamic practice from the start. It is scripturally endorsed, embedded in shari'a law, and has been practiced from the seventh century until today. The slave trade was notably carried on by Arab merchants across the Sahara and brought Africans to North Africa. Liberals rightly condemn the European slave trade and its impact on North America; they – again rightly – act to eliminate modern slavery through trafficking – which is estimated to involve some 40.3 million people worldwide by 2016. It is almost unheard of, nevertheless, for people on the left also to speak of the Islamic (mainly Arab) slave trade.

The educational website History World, for instance, has a substantial account entitled "History of Slavery", in which it describes the use of slaves in Babylon, Greece, Rome, the European Middle Ages, and the Portuguese and triangular (chiefly the Transatlantic) slave trades. Yet it only mentions Islamic slavery in passing, despite its having lasted far longer than the European and American versions. Here are the three short paragraphs the site devotes to the subject, all of which appear to argue that supposedly Muslim slavery was not altogether a bad thing:
Slavery is an accepted part of life in Arabia during the time of Muhammad, in the 7th century, and the Qur'an offers no arguments against the practice. It merely states, particularly in relation to female slaves, that they must be well treated. In general that has been the case[3] compared with the barbaric treatment of slaves in some Christian communities.
Meanwhile the Muslim habit of using slaves in the army has led to one unusual result - in itself an indication of the trust accorded to slaves in Middle Eastern communities.
In 1250 the slave leaders of the Egyptian army, known as Mamelukes, depose the sultan and seize power. A succession of rulers from their own ranks control much of the Middle East, as the Mameluke dynasty, for nearly three centuries.
This article also does not mention the three centuries of the Barbary Slavers: North African Muslims who went out as pirates into the Mediterranean to capture ships from European countries and take crews and passengers as slaves to be sold in the markets of Tunis, Algiers and other towns. Barbary pirates ventured as far as England and Ireland, where they would raid coastal villages, and carry residents off. Professor Robert Davis writes:
"The fishermen and coastal dwellers of 17th-century Britain lived in terror of being kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in North Africa. Hundreds of thousands across Europe met wretched deaths on the Barbary Coast in this way".
As late as the early 19th century, the new US Navy fought two wars against the Barbary States, bringing the piracy to an end.

Edward Moran's 1897 painting, depicting the burning USS Philadelphia at the Battle of Tripoli Harbor, during the First Barbary War in 1804. (Image source: U.S. Naval Academy Museum Collection/Wikimedia Commons)
Fantasies about the benign effects of slavery under Islam or, more widely, the tolerance enjoyed by non-Muslims living in the Muslim empires are still widespread. Muslims themselves insist that Islam is the most tolerant religion, and many progressives take this on board without much knowledge of the facts. Classroom, a website devoted to education, illustrates the naivety of excessively open-minded Westerners.

Read article in full

Friday, March 09, 2018

'History of Jews from Arab lands has been distorted'

The Jewish cultural institute Spiro Ark recently held the official launch for UPROOTED by Lyn Julius. Lyn is the director of Harif (Association of Jews from Middle East and North Africa), with whom Spiro Ark frequently collaborates on exciting projects. 

 Lyn Julius with her book Uprooted (Photo: Maurice Hoffman)

 Lyn's book addresses many of the difficult questions concerning the exodus of Jews from Arab lands and, during her interview with Saul Zadka, Lyn presented several of her analyses of the causes and effects. See what Saul asked Lyn, HERE. Here is a blog about the launch by Spiro Ark:

We asked Lyn a few questions of our own: 
1) What inspired you to write your book?

"I have been gathering published information on the topic of Jews from Arab and Muslim countries for about 13 years and posting links to articles on  Point of No Return.  It is a much neglected and misunderstood issue, yet is central to an understanding of Israel and the conflict. Academics have written about it, but I realised that there was a need for a book accessible to the mainstream that could also serve as a work of reference."

2) Can you please tell us a little bit about the writing process and your research?
"It was through blogging that certain themes seemed to suggest themselves. I adopted an analytical, rather than a historical approach. I had already written much of the material over time, but it was quite a challenge to knit it all together into a coherent whole without repeating myself too much."

3) What aspects do you feel are often overlooked/what are the misconceptions relating to the experience of Jews from the Arab world?
"I almost chose the title 'Three colonisations'. The first is the colonisation of the indigenous peoples of the Middle East and North Africa by the Arabs and Islam. The second is the 19th century European colonisation: this 'liberated' the Jews from their servile dhimmi status, but ultimately betrayed them. The third colonisation is that of the history books. Jews from Arab countries have been systematically ignored and their history distorted: Israel is blamed for ending 14 centuries of 'peaceful coexistence' between Jews and Arabs."

4) I have heard you mention that the term Arab-Jew is anachronistic, Jews having come before Arabs, can you expand a little on your objection to the term?
"Yes, the Jews are pre-Arab by 1,000 years. I object to the term because it is imprecise. The Jews of the Babylonian exile also settled in Persia, a non-Arab country. Not all Jews speak Arabic. Nowadays, the expression "Arab Jew" is used by Anti-Zionists to infer that Jews are Arabs of the Jewish faith. Therefore, they are not a people with a right to self-determination."

5) Your parents were Iraqi refugees. In Shimon Ballas’s novel ‘Outcast’, set in Iraq, his protagonist converts to Islam and does not emigrate. I interpreted this, in the simplest terms, as Ballas suggesting that it was not possible to remain in Iraq, as a Jew, particularly after the Farhud (the 1941 pogrom of Jews in Iraq). Would you say this is an accurate assessment? 

"Yes, I would agree. Jews found they could not be accepted as equal citizens when Arab states became independent  unless they converted (there is a similar character in Eli Amir's Dove Flyer.) The Farhud showed they could not rely on the state to protect them."

6) Writers such as Eli Amir and Sami Michael, including in the film ‘Forget Baghdad’, express the sentiment that Mizrahi refugees, specifically, experienced discrimination in Israel. You suggested their experiences were not specific to the Mizrahim, can you elaborate on this a little please?

"Social Discrimination was real enough, but it was not confined to Mizrahim. Holocaust survivors were despised as 'sabon'. Ben Gurion wanted the new arrivals to put the past behind them. Of Yiddish he said "that language grates on my ears". He wanted to transform the weak Diaspora Jew into a virile, Hebrew-speaking Israeli who could build the country and defend it. But Ben Gurion did not discriminate against new immigrants on ethnic lines, and once said "I would prefer a fit Persian to a sick Pole"."

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Thursday, March 08, 2018

Tunisian film producer gets NYC Sephardi award

The Pomegranate Awards Ceremony on the Opening Night of the American Sephardi Federation's New York 21st Sephardic Film Festival celebrates Sephardi excellence in the arts. Past recipients include Senior Counsellor to the King of Morocco André Azoulay, French-Algerian recording legend Enrico Macias, Kuwaiti star and human rights activist Ema Shah, and Morocco-Israeli poet Erez Bitton.

This year's recipient is Said Ben Said (pictured) , the Franco-Tunisian producer who took a courageous stand for coexistence against Anti-semitic extremism.

A prominent Tunisian-born movie producer, he  has denounced the systemic and deep-rooted anti-Semitism in the Arab world, after he was excluded from North Africa’s most prestigious film festival because of his work with Israelis,  The Tower reported.

Said Ben Said 's invitation to preside over the jury of the 28th Carthage Film Festival in Tunisia had been revoked as a result of his collaboration with Israeli film director Nadav Lapid and his involvement in the Jerusalem Film Festival.

“No one can deny the misery of the Palestinian people, but it must be admitted that the Arab world is, in its majority, antisemitic,” Ben Said wrote. “This hatred of Jews has redoubled in intensity and depth not because of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but with the rise of a certain vision of Islam,” he added, referring to the problem of Islamist extremism.

Hatred for Jews was not limited to radical quarters of the Arab world. He explained how he was taught as a schoolboy in Tunisia through Quranic verses that “the Jews were…treacherous, falsifiers, immoral, evil, etc., and, most importantly, these verses were the words of God.”.... “Every Arab child grows up with these images.”

The ten-day ASF  Film Festival features premiere film screenings and documentaries,  followed by Q&A with filmmakers, as well as special honorees and guests.

This year's film line-up includes Jews of Syria 1930 - 67 by Lisa Ades, a 2010 Mexican fim by Mariana Chenillo called Nora's Will, as well as an 1959 classic called Stars, in which a Nazi officer falls in love with a Greek-Jewish girl. Laura Bialis's popular documentary Rock in the Red Zone and a new production by David Deri called the Ancestral Sin focus on the lives of Mizrahim resettled in development towns.

On 11 March at 5.30 pm, there will be a screening of Starting Over Again, Elliot Malki and Ruggiero Gabbai's film about displaced Egyptian Jews. It will be followed by a Q&A with Viviane Acker-Levy and Lucette Lagnado.

For full listings at the New York Sephardic Film Festival visit their website. For tickets 18008383006 or

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Do not give artefacts to states which expelled their Jews

The injustice of sending the Iraqi-Jewish archive back to Iraq, which stole it in the first place, has been extensively documented on this blog, but few are aware that the US has been signing laws and memoranda with Arab governments which will result in unfair import restrictions on artefacts belonging to exiled minorities.  (Arab states such as Yemen argue these are essential to prevent artefacts being smuggled out of the country). Lawyer Carole Basri explains in The Times of Israel (with thanks: Imre; Michelle):
Detail from a tik (Torah casing) found among the 2,700 artefacts and documents that comprise the Iraqi-Jewish archive
In May 2003, over 2,700 Jewish books and tens of thousands of documents, records, and religious artifacts were discovered by a US army team when in the basement of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters flooded. This written record provides a robust understanding of the 2,600-year-old Iraqi Jewish community: the texts were sent to the US to be preserved, cataloged, and digitized, and they have been on exhibit in a number of cities for several years. Now, based on an executive order signed by President Bush in 2003, and extended by the US government in an executive order signed by President Obama, the Iraqi Jewish archive is set to be returned to Iraq in September 2018.

On a parallel track, but unknown to the Iraqi Jewish community, the Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of 2004 was amended in 2008 to include import restrictions on Jewish artifacts, including Torah scrolls, made on or before 1990. Then, the State Department put together separate Memorandums of Understanding, where the Jewish religious and cultural artifacts from Egypt, Syria, and Libya would be returned to the governments that had ethnically cleansed their Jews out of existence. Yet the Emergency Protection Act and the Memorandums of Understanding stipulate that religious or cultural artifacts need to be returned to their country of origin (limited, in the case of Iraq, to those artifacts made before 1990). It is like saying Jewish property that was looted during World War II and found in the US must be sent back to Germany. It allows these Jewish artifacts and documents to get into the wrong hands, hands of people who never owned them, and might not protect them from destruction.
The key point to remember here is that these artifacts — religious and cultural artifacts that are sacred to my community — never belonged to Iraq in the first place. The items are expropriated property stolen under the color of law that either belonged to private citizens or to the Iraqi Jewish community. It is critical to note that there is no longer a Jewish community in Iraq.

It is not just about the Iraqi Jewish archive though. They are part of a larger issue impacting Jews and Christians that needs to be solved. The Emergency Protection Act and the Memorandums of Understanding result in unfair consequences, and they do not take into account the circumstances at hand. The issue of potential return of stolen Jewish property to countries such as Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Libya that ethnically cleansed the Jews is growing as red lists are published at US Customs, and countries such as Yemen may be added to those countries covered by Memorandums of Understanding. Suffice to say that the Emergency Protection Act and Memorandums of Understanding are not understanding or protecting at all of Jewish and other minorities’ artifacts.
Indeed, the Jewish populations of those Middle Eastern countries are now minuscule after years of violent persecution leading to ethnic cleansing. Of the million Jews living in Arab countries in 1948, fewer than 4,000 Jews remain. In Iraq in particular, the count is just five Jews.

Yet, the United States government, using the Emergency Protection Act and Memorandums of Understanding has placed import restrictions on cultural artifacts produced by Jews, Coptic Christians and other minority peoples, on behalf of Egypt, Syria, Libya and Iraq. Further, the United States government has promised to return the Iraqi Jewish archive to Iraq’s sectarian government in September 2018, including the notes of the Ben Ish Hai, a 19th century scholar, and a 16th century Jewish book seized by Saddam Hussein’s secret police.

Sign the petition if you haven't already.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

'A Jew asks for favours and does not claim his rights'

Fascinating piece by May Samra, Director of Enlace judio, and president of the Association of Jewish Journalists and Writers of Mexico (APEIM). She describes the last years of the Jewish community of Lebanon. This piece is based on a speech given on 15 February 2018 at the event "Expulsion of Jews from Arab countries." (With thanks: Albert)

"I was born in Lebanon and arrived in Mexico, via England and Israel, aged 18 years old. As such, I know first-hand what it is like to be a Jew in an Arab country:
1) A Jew in an Arab country had no rights.
I learned to drive a car in Mexico at the age of 27, in Mexico. I once took my mother, Shella Samra z"l, in my car down a street in Polanco, when a policeman stopped us, asked for my papers and told me that I had passed a red traffic light (which was not true). He started a discussion like many of those we have all had with representatives of order. Suddenly, my mom leaned out and said to the police: "Sir, please forgive my daughter, she is very distracted, please forgive her". "Mom!" I was outraged, "why do you ask the officer for forgiveness? You know I did not pass the traffic light. " Putting aside my protest, she continued praying: "Please, officer," give us your hand, "my daughter is very absent-minded."
Shella Cohen of Samra Z "L with her grandson David Samra
At that moment, I understood that, despite having a Mexican passport, my mother suffered from old complexes that made it difficult for her to feel like a complete Mexican citizen; since, by force of habit and having grown up in an Arab country, she knew that a Jew does not claim his rights, but asks for favors, an attitude inherited from a whole life in the shadow of discrimination and fear of authority.
2) A Jew was not worthy of nationality.
When the State of Israel was born, my father's family had to escape from Syria to Lebanon through the border between both countries. And they chose Lebanon for a simple reason: they were stateless. Syria did not consider that its Jews, although born in Syrian territory, deserved to have passports or documents of Syrian nationality. Lebanon also did not want to give nationality to the Syrian Jews. So the nationality we just had was ... the Iranian, but granted by the Shah's Iran.
And how did the Jews of Syria and Lebanon get Iranian nationality? There are two versions. One of them explains that the precious passport was exchanged for a school that the Jews sponsored in Iran. The other was told to me by Mr. Maurice Helwani, a Lebanese Jew, who, by chance, had been a banking partner of the man who became Foreign Minister of Iran. It happened that both men had procreated only daughters.

Noting the sensitivity of the situation of stateless Lebanese Jews in Lebanon, Maurice Helwani moved to Iran. He went to see his friend and said: "We both have only daughters. In the Jewish tradition, as in the Muslim one, there is no one who prays for us after the deceased (in Judaism, only males can say Kaddish). Let us do a good deed by which we can be remembered; grant Iranian passports to Jews from Syria and, after 120 years, many will pray for our souls. "  
The Minister agreed, although  his action was not altogether altruistic either, since the beneficiaries had to pay for the desired nationality. Later, in Mexico, my family and I had to vote for Ayatollah Khomeini, but that's another story ...
3) To be an Arab Jew was to secretly profess the love of Israel, and it is this secret love that produced the most fanatical Zionists on the planet.
In 1948, Lebanon was one of the first countries to declare war on the newborn State of Israel. There, the Jews of Lebanon were considered a sort of captive fifth column, subject to the wishes and whims of the authorities.
In spite of that, I would like to say that Lebanon often looked the other way when the Jewish Community of Lebanon served as a stopover for Syrian Jews escaping to Israel. The "Club" of the Jewish community, a recreation area for young people, served as a refuge for these Jewish boys who risked their lives to flee from Syria. Many times we brought them oranges and toothbrushes, and they disappeared the next day.
For security, the slogan of our community was to affirm the following: we were Jews by religion, but not Zionists. Furthermore, we were Jews who completely disapproved of the State of Israel. Therefore, no kippot or necklaces with stars of David in the street, no Israeli flag in sight; Lying if we were asked our religion, saying we were Christians.

After the Six Day War, my father risked his life to bring my mother an exceptional gift: the disc of Yerushalayim Shel Zahav ("Jerusalem of gold"), wrapped in her underwear. I remember the whole family sitting around the turntable, after having carefully closed doors and windows, to listen to the victory songs of our spiritual homeland, so close and so distant at the same time; while, in the streets, demonstrations approached dangerously close to the Jewish neighborhood, to the shout of Falastin Bladna or Lyahud klabna ("Palestine is our land and the Jews our dogs"). In the civil war, my mother destroyed the record, for fear they would find him in our house and accuse us of being Israeli spies.
4) Being an Arab Jew was to make your own textbooks.
And here I would like to pay homage to the Alliance Israelite Universelle school and to the teachers who risked their lives so that we would not lose our Jewish identity and learn such a good Hebrew that, upon our arrival in Israel, no one believed that we were not native speakers. Among them: my mother Shella Cohen of Samra and Moré Moshe Kamhine, z"l.
My mother educated tens of generations, teaching Hebrew in preschool wholeheartedly. She always liked to sing and  did it with her children, teaching them Judaism with joy. Since the school did not have educational toys, my mom bought them with her own money. I carried out the teaching of my grandfather: 'always carry with you two loaves, one for you and another because someone could be hungry'. She shared her breakfast with the children in the class and did not want to leave the school until its final closing in 1975, during the civil war.
El Moré Moshe Kamhine, who died in Mexico, was a Mason and a great Zionist. In Lebanon there were no textbooks for the teaching of Hebrew, but that did not stop him: he crossed the border with Israel and returned with a copy for each level; Next, we young people made our own books with the help of"stencils", a kind of photocopying process. I can assure you that, after the hard work of copying and stapling the volumes, these were the most cared for books in the world.
He taught us the traditions and customs of the Jewish people, organized celebrations of the festivities and their extraordinary "Oneg Shabat" each week. His wife Frida sewed costumes and costumes. Later we learned that he had hidden weapons for the defense of the community, and that he had made an alliance with the Falangists, the Christian militia of Lebanon, which defended the entry of the Jewish neighborhood when the anti-Israel riots got too close. We also learned that the Lebanese authorities forced him to teach Hebrew to the high command of the Lebanese army, but this also benefited him: on the day of graduation, Kamhine took a picture with the class in its entirety, a picture that, with everything and names of the officers, ended up in the hands of Israeli intelligence.

5) To be a Jew was to be considered subhuman
When, in the middle of the civil war, a Jew was killed by a sniper at the gates of the Temple, Mr. Agami, in charge of the synagogue, wanted to give him a dignified burial. He asked a Muslim friend to help him transport the deceased. Suddenly, the same sniper hit the Muslim with another accurate bullet. Relatives of the new victim lamented: a Muslim killed because of a Jew! A Jew! It was like saying: because of a fly! Even Kafka himself would not have said it better.