Month: June 2010

Jews fear flotilla backlash of rising antisemitism

Anti-Israel demonstration in Istanbul(Ynet News)

A Turkish newspaper editor told the European Jewish Press on Wednesday that Turkey’s Jewish community feared that the backlash over Israel’s interception of aid ships headed for Gaza earlier this week would provoke antisemitism, according to Haaretz :

On Monday, Israeli navy commandos clashed with activists aboard a Turkish ship carrying aid to the blockaded Gaza. The clash resulted in the deaths of 9 activists as well as dozens of injuries, among activists and soldiers alike.

The editor of the Istanbul-based weekly Salom, Ivo Molinas, said Wednesday that “we are definitely worried, because [the anger in Turkey] can turn very easily to anti-Semitism.”

“The rhetoric used by the Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] has been very radical,” added Molinas, part of the 20,000-member Jewish community residing in Turkey.

Erdogan accused Israel at the Turkish parliament on Tuesday of a “bloody massacre” and declared “now Israel has shown to all the world how well it knows how to kill.”

Turkey has recalled its ambassador and Erdogan, charging Israel with “state terrorism”, has called for those responsible for the deaths to be punished.

Other activists, who have given harrowing accounts of their ordeal on the high seas, arrived in Istanbul on Thursday to a hero’s welcome by thousands of cheering supporters.

“But the Prime Minister also said yesterday [Tuesday] that he was against anti-Semitism. He says it during each crisis but he repeated it yesterday,” said Molinas, whose newspaper has a circulation of around 5,000.

Read article in full

Ynet News:Turkey’s chief rabbi calls Israeli raid a provocation

Turkish Jews distance themselves from Israel

It was not long in coming: fearful Jews in Turkey, led by their chief rabbi, have followed other dhimmi Jewish communities in Yemen and Iran in condemning the Israeli action on the Mavi Marmara (and heaping praise on the Turkish government for protecting them), the Jerusalem Post reports.

Though hundreds of Turks protested against Israel for the third day on Wednesday, the Turkish Jewish community seems to have scored an important success by publicly distancing itself from the Jewish state and the violent hatred aimed at it.

Following the Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla, Turkey’s Jewish community and chief rabbinate expressed their sorrow over the “military operation against the Mavi Marmara ship” and the “loss of life and injury resulting from the operation,” in a joint statement on the community’s official Web site,

“We share the public reaction this operation has created in our country and express our deep sorrow,” the statement read.

In addition, during an interview with Israeli haredi radio station Kol Barama on Monday, Turkish Chief Rabbi Isak Haleva repeatedly praised the regime’s attitude toward its Jews, while softly condemning Israel for its recent operation, to the native-Israeli interviewer’s surprise.

Turkey maintains strict separation between religion and state, and Jews there consider themselves Turks, which might strike some Israelis who automatically fuse religious and national identity as odd.

The results of Turkish Jewry’s public voice were apparent in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Tuesday speech on the raid: Even as he slammed Israel’s “bloody massacre… deserving of any kind of curse and condemnation,” he not only praised his Jewish subjects for their loyalty, but spoke out against any hostilities toward them.

“I thank the Turkish Jewish community, putting in words their right and sincere reaction to the event,” he said. “Our Jewish citizens have, as members of the Turkish people, defended, and continue to defend, the right position of Turkey to the utmost.”

He added that “looking with hatred upon our Jewish citizens… is not acceptable; it cannot be and should never be.”

On Wednesday, Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay said security had been stepped up at 20 different sites alone in Istanbul, which has several synagogues and centers serving 23,000 Jews.

Nonetheless, it is likely that beyond their loyalty to the state, any other public sentiment by the Jewish community in Turkey would only have exacerbated the hostilities they face from the majority-Muslim population.

“The situation in Turkey is very difficult for the Jews now,” Eyal Peretz, chairman of Arkadash – The Turkish Community in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

“The atmosphere on the streets is hostile, and there is a feeling of anger,” he said, noting that the Israeli institutions in Turkey had been closed.

Peretz noted the link that Islamists in Turkey made between Jews and the State of Israel, and pointed out that Erdogan’s statements would carry weight on the Turkish street in helping to curb violence toward Jews.

Still, he added that “the Jewish community in Turkey, which has always tried to culturally assimilate into the general society and maintain a low profile, is now perplexed and helpless.”

Read article in full

The Farhud cemented Arab Sunni supremacy

In its simplest terms, the message of the 1941 Farhud is that the Near East is an Arab Sunni Muslim world that must be violently purged of all other elements. Excellent report from the Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty website by Karam Mnashe and Charles Recknagel on the 69th anniversary of the pro-Nazi pogrom against the Jews of Iraq.

Few people in Iraq know what happened in Baghdad exactly 69 years ago.

But on June 1-2, 1941, something previously unthinkable in the city occurred. Mobs attacked the capital’s prosperous and influential Jewish community, killing more than 100 people and looting homes.

By the time the orgy of murder and pillaging was done, the Jewish community was so shaken that it would never recover. Within 10 years, the vast majority would leave the country, leaving behind just the handful of people who tend the capital’s empty synagogue today.

The two days of terror are known in Iraq as the Farhud, the Arabic word for pillaging or looting an enemy. Yet most Iraqis know very little about the event because Iraq’s history books rarely speak of them. Those writers who do mention those days simply explain the violence as the result of the Iraqi Jewish community’s “Zionist activities,” without detailing more.

But people who survived the attacks and remember the events tell another story — like Layer Abudia, who now lives in Israel, who was a child at the time of the pogrom.

“I watched people killing at least four to five Jews in front of me,” Abudia says. “Every car that passed by was stopped by the mob that pulled Jews out and killed them. I heard they killed 20 to 25 people in the airport area.”

Abudia and the others who experienced the two days of horror will never forget standing on the rooftops of their apartments as the violence started on the first night.

For many, the first warning was a dull orange glow that appeared over the very heart of the city center where the Jewish and Muslim communities abutted. Then came distant screams and banging, which grew louder as looters moved deeper into the Jewish neighborhoods. Finally, up close, there was the horrifying sight of the neighbors desperately trying to leap with their children to an adjoining rooftop as armed men broke down their doors.

“That night we heard screams coming out of the houses of Jews,” recalls Nassim al-Qazzaz, another survivor who now lives in Israel. “They were killed and their homes were pillaged. This continued for less than 24 hours.”

“The next day, approximately at noon, the regent Abdul Illah issued an order to fire on the mob,” Qazzaz says. “He could have done that the same day of course, before things got worse, but he preferred not to interfere so the mob could release their anger at the Jews.”

The Farhud was so shocking because, based on most of the 1,000-year history of Jews in Iraq, no one could have expected it.

At the time of the pogrom, Jews made up some 3 percent of the Iraqi population, with some 90,000 living in the capital. Many were successful in business, many worked as officials in the British-mandated government, and many were among the country’s leading intellectual and cultural figures.

A Baghdad street in 1941

But by 1941, several things had happened to make the Iraqi Jews’ position especially vulnerable.

One was the rise of fascism in Europe, followed by the Axis powers’ sweeping successes against Britain in the first years of war. And central to the Nazi ideology was hatred of the Jews. Finally, there was the common cause some Arab Muslim leaders made with Nazism and its hatred of Jews in hopes the Axis powers would propel them to power in the Middle East.

One such leader, who arrived in Iraq in 1939, was Amin Muhammad al-Husayni, the grand mufti of Jerusalem. He had fled British-mandate Palestine after the failure of the Palestinian uprising of 1936-39 against growing Jewish immigration.

Husayni had been a key instigator of violence on the Arab side as the number of Jews jumped from 17 percent of Palestine’s population in 1931 to 30 percent in 1935. Many of the arriving Jews were fleeing Germany and now the grand mufti was seeking Berlin’s help to expel both them and the British mandate authorities from the Holy Land.

But it was in Iraq, not Palestine, that the kind of alliance Husayni was proposing got its first test. There, Berlin backed an anti-British coup in April 1941 led by nationalist Rashid Ali al-Gaylani — a Husayni ally — and supported by high-ranking army officers. The coup easily toppled the country’s weak Hashemite monarchy, which was originally from the Hejaz region of Saudi Arabia and widely regarded as London’s puppet.

The coup was soon suppressed with the arrival of British-led Indian and Arab Legion troops, who reached Baghdad by May 29. But the combination of the failed coup amid months of the sort of pro-Nazi and anti-Jewish propaganda espoused by Husayni proved to be fatal for Jewish Baghdadis.

Exactly what set off the pogrom is not known, but it may have been the Jewish community’s celebration of its annual harvest festival, Shavuot, on June 1. The sight of Jews celebrating became a pretext for fascists to portray them as welcoming the coup’s failure. And the chance to act came as British troops waited outside Baghdad so that royalist Iraqi soldiers could enter first, creating a power vacuum in the city.

Survivor Qazzaz says that even today he doesn’t know what happened to his father in the pogrom. But he says after such violence, most Iraqi Jews felt they had no option but to emigrate.

“Since then we have not heard anything about the fate of my father and his companion. Some 180 Jews were killed in this massacre. Scores of houses and shops were looted and plundered, women violated and murdered,” Qazzaz says. “That was the Farhud. In my opinion it was one of the main reasons that drove Jews to leave Iraq.”

Most of the exodus took place in the early 1950s, after tensions over the 1948 Arab-Israeli war isolated the Jewish community even further. The Iraqi government declared “those who want to leave can leave” and some 100,000 left for Israel.

Today the Farhud — Baghdad’s Krystallnacht –– remains significant not only for breaking the spirit of Baghdad’s once thriving Jewish community. It also proved how powerful the fusion of fascism and radical Islam could be.

That fusion would develop further as Husayni spent the rest of the war in Nazi Germany and broadcast messages across a sizable segment of the Middle East via a powerful radio located in Bari, Italy.

His messages were a continuous call for uprisings to evict the allies. But he reserved his greatest invective for Jews, saying their “spilled blood pleases Allah, our history, and religion,” and proclaiming “if America and England win the war, the Jews will dominate the world.”

At the same time, he vigorously recruited European Muslims for the Wehrmacht and for special Waffen SS units, especially in the former Yugoslavia. And he actively lobbied against any deportation of Jews to Palestine from Romania and Hungary, urging they be sent to Poland — with its death camps — instead.

Throughout, what Husayni wanted from Hitler and finally got in 1942 remained the same. It was a letter sent by the German and Italian foreign ministers to him and a fellow exile in Nazi Germany, al-Gaylani, promising three things: Axis support for the independence of the Arab states from British and French colonial rule; the right of the independent Arab states to form a union; and the right of Arab authorities in Palestine to eliminate the proposed Jewish homeland there.

Husayni was always accorded the respect due a head of state in Berlin, leading many historians to speculate he may have hoped to be the Axis’ fuhrer of the Middle East, had it won the war. But it didn’t, and as Germany surrendered, Husayni was arrested by the French.

Astonishingly, however, the French too treated Husayni with deference as a Grand Mufti with influence in the Muslim world. He was placed under house arrest in Paris and, when it became clear he might be indicted for war crimes based on testimony emerging at the Nuremburg trials, he secured an invitation from Egypt’s King Farouk and fled to Cairo.

Husayni went on to serve for decades in Egypt as a central member and ideological inspiration of the Muslim Brotherhood. His ideas have since passed on to generations of radical Islamists, far outlasting his own death in Syria in 1974 at the age of about 80.

What is the ultimate message of Husayni that was also so brutally expressed 69 years ago in the Farhud?

In its simplest terms, it is that the Near East is an Arab Sunni Muslim world that must be violently purged of all other elements.

The argument flies in the face of history in a region that has always been home to many religions and ethnicities. But it continues to be a justification for intimidation and attacks as fundamentalist groups today try to cleanse their home countries of “others” just as the Nazis once did in Europe.Read article in full

Dhimmi Jews condemn Israel’s flotilla actions

‘Peace’ activist on board the Freedom Flotilla

In time-honoured fashion, the good dhimmi Jews of Yemen and Iran – in the wake of the deaths of nine activists on board the Mavi Marmara are being forced to buy their own security with words condemning Israel. Will Turkey’s Jews be next? In the past, Jews have felt under pressure to back Turkey’s policy on the Armenian genocide. So far, Prime Minister Erdogan has echoed efforts to protect Turkish Jews from the wrath of the mob. But his rabble-rousing pro-Islamism has already created so much insecurity that 600 Jews were ready to pack their bags for Israel before the incident took place.

According to the Yemen Times :

AMRAN, June 01 (Saba)- The Yemeni Jews condemned on Tuesday the Zionist attack on Freedom Flotilla which claimed the lives of a number of peace activists, injuring and arresting others.

During a meeting of the Yemeni Jews Rabbi Yahya Ya’ish with deputy governor of Amran Yahya Ghawbar, he said that the Yemeni Jews censure any attack or killing against the innocents, considering the Zionist attack on the people on board the flotilla for a humanitarian task as beast acts denied by all divine religions and laws.

According to Zawya:

Iran Jews ‘want Zionist criminals punished’ for Gaza raid

TEHRAN, Jun 01, 2010 (AFP) – Iranian Jews demanded on Tuesday that those responsible for Israel’s raid on a Gaza aid flotilla be punished and that such attacks be prevented in future.

“Tehran’s Jewish community condemns the inhuman act by Zionists of attacking a non-military flotilla,” Tehran Jewish Community, which represents the minority in the Islamic republic, said in a statement.

“On behalf of Iran’s Jewish community, we firmly demand serious international action to punish the criminals and measures to prevent such catastrophes.”

On Monday, Israeli commandos raided a flotilla carrying aid to Gaza and in ensuing clashes nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed, according to the Israeli army.

Shiite Iran is home to around 20,000 Jews and its 290-member parliament has one Jewish lawmaker.

The attack on the flotilla has triggered a fresh wave of tirades from Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against Israel, the Islamic republic’s arch-foe and which he has repeatedly said is doomed to be “wiped off the map.”

Dhimmi Palestinian Christians join the condemnation (with thanks: Stuart)

New book in English puts the Farhud on record

A new book provides essential facts in English about one of the most significant events to affect Jews in Iraq in the last century: the Farhud pogrom, which erupted 69 years ago today.

My 89-year old aunt recently shared her recollections of the Farhud with mefor the first time. The Iraqi-Jewish Kristallnacht erupted exactly 69 years ago, in the wake of the pro-Nazi Rashid Ali coup. My aunt lived with my grandparents in their house in Baghdad. The house had an entrance on either side. As they heard the rampaging mob approach, my family fled through the back entrance and into the Muslim neighbour’s house.

Although the neighbour was a Nazi sympathiser, his wife was a ‘lady’ and a good friend of the family. She offered them hospitality until the trouble died down. ” She even made the beds for us,” my aunt reminisced. Eventually the Nazi neighbour, too, turned up trumps: he remonstrated with the looters and made them return all the property they had stolen from my grandparents’ house.

When I asked my aunt if she knew anyone who had been killed in the Farhud, she said, ‘ the lady who used to make the tea for us.’ No-one knows exactly how many Jews were killed, but estimates have ranged from 100 to 900.

Now a new book, Al-Farhud: the 1941 pogrom in Iraq, by Shmuel Moreh and Zvi Yehuda, provides an indispensable record in English of the events of those fateful two days.

Al-Farhud: the 1941 pogrom in Iraq is being published on the sixty-ninth anniversary of the Farhūd, the pogrom committed by religious and nationalist Arabs against the Jews of Iraq on the Jewish holiday of Pentecost (Shavu‘ot), 1–2 June 1941.

The Hebrew edition of this book was published in 1992 by the Research Institute of Babylonian Jewry in Or Yehuda, Israel. This volume is a revised version of the Hebrew edition.

The title consists of papers on the pogrom and on the events leading up to it which were originally published in English, others which were written in Hebrew and now appear in English for the first time, and documents which have not been previously published, including an updated list of the names of victims of the Farhūd and a map indicating the places in Baghdad where rioters attacked Jews.

The book thus provides the English reader with comprehensive and updated information on the Farhūd and constitutes a memorial to the innocent victims killed during these pogroms and whose only crime was that they were Jews.

* Delivering this year’s Elie Kedourie lecture on 13 May to an audience of 250 at the British Academy, the historian Simon Schama began by evoking the Farhud, which had a profound effect on the late Professor Kedourie, if not the entire Iraqi-Jewish community. Schama mentioned the incriminating role of the British ambassador Cornwallis, who told his superiors in London that ‘there had been a little trouble, and some Jews had been set upon’. Schama’s entire lecture, Jewish History Wars, is worth listening to. Here’s the extract ,in which Schama talks about the Farhoud, transcribed on to their Memories of Eden blog by Mira and Tony Rocca.


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