Month: June 2010

Refugees: BBC learns nothing and forgets nothing

Dr Shakshuka …really a Libyan Jewish refugee

The BBC has learned nothing and forgotten nothing when it comes to refugees of the Arab-Israeli conflict: one side’s narrative is relentlessly plugged, while the other side’s is ignored. ‘Fakery and propaganda’ is CAMERA ‘s verdict on the BBC’s Middle East coverage at the time of Israel Independence Day:

The remains of the Arab village of Lifta on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The inhabitants left in 1948. They were some of the 700,000 Palestinians for whom Israel’s birth meant dispossession. There are deserted Arab villages like this dotted all over Israel. The Palestinians insist on the right of those who fled and their descendants to come back. The Israelis fear that – that would mean the end of their country as a Jewish state. And so, the so-called “right of return” is one of the seemingly insoluble issues of the peace process.

– BBC reporter Paul Wood

But the BBC is deceptively omitting relevant facts concerning Palestinian Arab refugees and the forgotten Jewish refugees. The comprehensive CAMERA article, Palestinian Arab and Jewish Refugees, citing authoritative source material, shows that in the wake of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, the overwhelming majority of Palestinian refugees were not expelled by the Israelis. But a much larger number of refugees, Jewish refugees who had resided in Arab countries for many generations, were forced to flee their native lands. (…)

Between 1948 and 1951, as a result of the War of Independence, about 400,000 Jewish refugees were absorbed by Israel after being driven from their homes from Arab lands. In total, well over 800,000 Jews indigenous to Arab and Muslim countries lost their homes and property following Israel’s independence, roughly 600,000 of whom found refuge in Israel. Although the number of Jewish refugees and the total area of their lost land exceeded that of their Arab counterparts, the vaguely similar number of Jewish and Arab refugees has led some to describe the exodus of the two groups as a de facto population transfer.

Arab Refugees Have Been Invited to Return: In an essay published in Commentary in May 2001, Ephraim Karsh discussed Israel’s policy on Arab refugees: In 1949, Israel offered to take back 100,000 Palestinian refugees; the Arab states refused. Nevertheless, some 50,000 refugees have returned over the decades under the terms of Israel’s family reunification program, and another 75,000 who were displaced from the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 war have also returned to those territories.

Correspondent Wood Takes Viewers on a Walking Tour Ending at a Villa in Jerusalem:
WOOD: For Claudette Habesch, 1948 is a year of painful memories. Her family fled this house in Jerusalem when she was a little girl and then lost ownership.
HABESCH: They did not leave by free will. We had two bombs here. My father had to take us out from here for security, for physical security. I wondered very often, who is sleeping in my bed? Who is playing with my dog?
WOOD: Her childhood friend, a Jewish woman (Ruthie), still lives next door.
RUTHIE: My parents rented this little house here from her parents.
HABESCH: This is my home and I go out as a stranger? Why? I need somebody to explain to me.

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My comment: For every Claudette Habesch, there is a Jew forced to leave his or her home in an Arab country. And while the Habesches were fleeing a war situation, many Jews were escaping a hostile social and political climate which threatened them as Jews. But where are the BBC stories about them? Why are we not shown Naim Kattan visiting his childhood home in Baghdad, or the BBC accompanying Lucette Lagnado back to the apartment she grew up in in Cairo? The BBC is already in breach of an undertaking it made in 2008 to commission morepieces on Jewish refugees.

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

*The May entry for BBC Middle East correspondentTim Franks’ swansongdiary is another example of the BBC’s knee-jerk juxtaposing of Israel independence celebrations with the Palestinian Nakba. Nahla Assali moved all of two kilometres from West Jerusalem to East, but Jews uprooted from their homes in Arab countries and transplanted many hundreds of miles into a new country with a different culture and language are nowhere to be seen. A non-biased approach would balance the Arab Nakba with the Jewish Nakba.Ironically enough, the following entry of Tim Franks’ diary profiles the colourful restauranteur Dr Shakshuka. Yet Franks calls him a ‘Libyan emigre’. Would the BBC ever describe Dr Shakshuka as a Jewish refugee? Not on your life.

Readers revolt as Tariq Ali scrapes the barrel

The old communist Tariq Ali is wheeled out by The Guardian to write an elegiac review of SOAS Professor Gilbert Achcar’s latest attempt to minimise Arab complicity with the Holocaust. But even the readers are not impressed. Read my critique on CiFWatch:

When Georgina Henry moved from the Comment is Free Middle East desk to edit the Culture Section at the Guardian, CIF Watch predicted that Henry would turn her new fiefdom into a cesspool of antisemitism masquerading as anti-Zionism. And so it has come to pass. Henry’s latest commission: Tariq Ali’s review of “The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives” by Gilbert Achcar scrapes the barrel of malevolent ignorance and Orwellian misrepresentation. But wonder of wonders, the readership aren’t having it.

The book in question, is itself a scurrilous work of revisionism, intended by a ‘professor of International Relations at SOAS’ partly to demolish the sacred cow of Arab complicity with the Nazi Holocaust. Like all anti-Israel propaganda, it tries to turn fact into controversy – declaring, as the book’s subtitle denotes, a ‘war of narratives’. Downplaying Arab antisemitism and support for the Holocaust exonerates Arabs from any responsibility for Israel’s establishment.

Tariq Ali, venerable Pakistani Marxist anti-Zionist and warrior against US imperialism, applauds Gilbert Achcar’s ‘systematic and scholarly refutation of the simplistic myths that have arisen from the formation of Israel’. The book, which is being published in an Arab edition, is a ‘valuable corrective’, drawing on such ‘objective’ sources as Tony Judt, Norman Finkelstein, Gabriel Piterberg and Amira Hass. But Ali’s review does not make clear where Achcar’s opinions begin and Ali’s views end.

From the outset Ali (or is it Achcar?) spouts a few myths of his own: Jewish-Muslim ‘civilisation’; the Spanish Golden Age. Most jaw-dropping of all is Ali’s statement: ‘it was not until after the first world war that relations between the communities began to deteriorate seriously. The reason for this was the Balfour Declaration…’

So Tariq Ali, despite coming from the Indian sub-continent, has learnt nothing from the subjugation and forced conversion of Hindus to Islam. He has seemingly never heard of ‘dhimmi’ non-Muslims. He seems blissfully unaware of the ‘untouchable’ Jews of Persia, who could be executed if they brushed up against a Muslim in the rain.

In Ali’s looking-glass world, the Arabs with whom the Israelis chose to ‘mate’ (curious choice of word, that), like Anwar Sadat and Abu Mazen, are crude antisemites. Egyptian President Sadat was indeed a pro-Nazi in his youth, but enough of a pragmatist to sign a peace treaty with Israel, before being gunned down by bigger antisemites than he. As for Abu Mazen, his ‘mating’ dance with Israel is not yet over: this ‘antisemite’ has still not agreed to peace or renounced the sine qua non of a Palestinian ‘right of return’ .

If these two were antisemites, Nasser, whom everyone believes was an antisemite (and Anthony Eden called an Arab Hitler), was not. Tariq Ali (or is it Achcar ?) sees Nasser as first and foremost as a socialist anti-imperialist, ‘whose principle critique of Israel was not ethnic, but political.’And so Ali recycles the old canard that Israel ‘orchestrated’ the exodus of Jews from Egypt and Iraq.

The Arab alliance with Nazism is explained away by Ali as a pragmatic, nationalist ‘the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend’ policy, similar to the example of Subhash Chandra Bose in India, who started an Indian National Army to fight alongside the Japanese. But the Mufti of Jerusalem’s anti-Jewish activity spread well beyond Palestine. (As commenter Armaros remarks: The methods of the Mufti’s army of Nazi Jihadis in Bosnia/Croatia shocked even the Nazis.)

Nasser was a member of the pro-Nazi Young Egypt. Hard to argue Nasser was not an antisemite, when he institutionalised Nazi-style antisemitism by publishing the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ and enlisting the services of thousands of fleeing Nazi war criminals to whom Egypt gave safe haven.

For once, however, the CiF readership is in revolt at such a shoddy review. All but one or two of the 20 comments below Ali’s review are critical. “I should feel insulted that he takes us for such fools, but it’s par for the course unfortunately”, writes whichiswhich.

MiniApolis reflects that Tariq Ali is a singularly inappropriate choice to write about Achcar’s book.” What’s next – a Turkish reviewer of a book explaining why Armenians make too much of the genocide inflicted upon them at the turn of the century? A Hutu explaining why Tutsis should shrug off the Rwandan genocide?”

Adds RayHumm: we come to CiF threads not to be informed, but to be entertained.

Georgina Henry take note: your Culture Section is fast becoming a laughing stock.

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Jews demand execution of Yemen killer

The father of murder victim Moshe Nahari with an official of the Yemen Ministry of Justice

As dhimmis, Jews have often not qualified for equal treatment under sharia law: that’s why the small group of Jews living in the Yemeni capital, all refugees from Amran province, are insisting that the courts confirm the statutory death sentence for the killer of their kinsman Rabbi Moshe Nahari. If the Supreme Court commutes the sentence, the Jews will conclude that the state is not prepared to give Jews the same protection under law as others. Report in Middle East Online:

SANAA – A small group of Yemeni Jews demonstrated on Monday in Sanaa demanding a final ruling against a Yemeni man sentenced to death last year for killing a Jewish father-of-nine in 2008.

An appeals court in Amran, north of the capital, had in June last year sentenced Abdel Aziz Yahia al-Abdi, 39, to death by firing squad for the murder of Masha Yaish Nahari, a member of Yemen’s tiny Jewish community, in the town of Raydah, but the sentence must be confirmed by the supreme court.

Around 20 demonstrators gathered outside the supreme court and the ministry of justice demanding the speeding up of the court process, a media correspondent reported.

Justice minister Ghazi al-Aghbari told representatives of the demonstrators that the process was taking time due to the high number of cases being revised by the supreme court.

The appeals court had turned over a lower court verdict that ordered Abdi to only pay 27,500 dollars in blood money in lieu of execution after medical reports found he was “mentally abnormal.”

See articles under ‘Jews of Yemen’ label

How one young woman kept her promise to Ezra

The tomb of Ezra at Uzair, near Basra

This story’s still being told in Iraqi-Jewish circles. Let’s call it the story of O.

A young woman – call her O. – attended a Sephardi synagogue in the US some years ago. She struck up a conversation in Arabic with some of the congregants, who came from Iraq. ” What’s a Muslim doing in our synagogue?” the congregants muttered to each other – for the young woman did not speak Judeo-Arabic, with its distinctive accent and pronunciation.

It turned out the young woman was a Jew who had recently arrived from Basra. There had been so few Jews in the city that O. had never learned to speak Judeo-Arabic. As one of the few dozen Jews still living in Iraq under Saddam’s rule in the late 1990s, her dearest wish was to leave. But the government were holding the tiny Jewish community as virtual hostages.

It was customary for Jews in Iraq to go on pilgrimage to the tombs of Jewish prophets in order to seek divine intervention to help fulfil their deepest desires. O. decided to go to the shrine of Ezra the Scribe at Uzair, near Basra. She prayed for Ezra to help her to leave Basra. If her wish came about, she promised that she would donate a new parokhet (hand-embroidered cover) for the tomb.

Time passed and the young woman fulfilled her wish to leave Basra for the US. But it rankled with her that she was not able to keep her promise to Ezra – and deliver a new parokhet to his tomb.

With the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the young woman was suddenly presented with the opportunity to go back to Iraq as an interpreter for the CPA. The decision was not easy – after all, for so many years she had wanted nothing more than to leave Iraq.

But she had a promise to keep. She returned to Iraq, bringing with her a rich, velvet, elaborately embroidered parokhet for Ezra.

But the Jewish prophet had another reward in store for O. While in Iraq she met her future husband, an American-Jewish diplomat.

She accompanied her husband on his next posting – to Algeria.

The posting after that was back to Iraq. But at that point, after everything she had done to leave Iraq, O. decided that she had had enough of living in Arab countries.

O. moved to Israel. Her husband is believed to travel back from Iraq to see her at regular intervals.

We Muslims are lucky Jews only want Jerusalem

Farid Ghadry

Hate for Jews following the Free Gaza flotilla incident is off the scale, Farid Ghadry, leader of the Syrian Reform Party and now a US citizen, has calculated. Yet, Muslims who inflict much more pain on each other and own 97 percent of the Middle East, escape accountability. Every Muslim should try being a Jew for one day.(With thanks: Lily)

When I Googled the words “Hate Jews” and “Hate Zionsim”, I received back 1,520,000 and 4,100,000 hits. Similarly, when I Googled the words “Hate Muslims” and “Hate Islam”, I received back 1,170,000 and 2,110,000 hits. But these numbers tell part of the story because if you are a good statistician (I just know finance), you would know that 1,520,000 or 4,100,000 for a global population of let’s say 15,000,000 Jews is vastly different from a 1,170,000 and 2,110,000 hits for a global population of 1,400,000,000.

How different?

In percentages, Jews are hated to the tune of 121 times more. That is 12,125% more than people hate Muslims if the ratio of number of Muslims as compared to Jews is taken into account as well as the “Hate Index” of each. An index that the unsuccessful, jealous of Jewish accomplishments, keep pushing up.

In spite of the terror we Muslims inflict daily on others and on each other, Jews are hated more than we could ever be.

Israel attacked Hamas only after Hamas launched thousands of rockets. But Hamas attacked the PLO in Gaza for no reason. Yet, the Jews are hated, and the Muslims, inflicting pain unto each other, escape accountability. Israel established a blockade to weaken its extremist nemesis, yet, the Jews are hated for defending their borders when we Muslims own 97% of the lands. Lands where Jews lived and roamed thousands of years ago and where remnants of Synagogues are found today in several Arab countries, including Syria, Yemen, Oman, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, and as far as Morocco.

We, Muslims, should be lucky the Jews only want Jerusalem.

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This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

Point of No Return

Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

One-stop blog on the Middle East's
forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.