Month: November 2010

Mind the gap….

To the dear regular and not-so regular readers of Point of No Return,
Posting will be sporadic or non-existent while Bataween goes travelling. Full service will resume at the beginning of December.

November is the cruellest month

With thanks for his research to Eliyahu and acknowledgements to The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times by Norman Stillman

Charred and damaged remains of the Great synagogue in Aleppo, Syria, one of 18 synagogues attacked by rioters in late 1947, causing half the city’s Jewish community to flee.

It was in November 1945 that a series of anti-Jewish riots broke out in several Arab countries. In Egypt, anti-Zionist demonstrations were called by the Muslim Brotherhood, Misr al-Fatat and the Young Men’s Muslim Association. Mass demonstrations took place on Balfour Day (2 November) in Cairo, Alexandra and other cities. Jewish businesses in Cairo and in the Jewish Quarter were looted and the Ashkenazi synagogue ransacked. The disturbances soon spilled over into anti-dhimmi violence, with Coptic, Greek Orthodox and Catholic institutions also attacked. Of 500 businesses looted, 109 belonged to Jews. Amazingly only one policeman was killed in Cairo. Five Jews were among six killed in Alexandria.

Far worse was the pogrom in Libya which began on 4 November in Tripoli when thousands went on the rampage in the Jewish quarter and bazaar. Jewish homes and businesses had been marked out beforehand for exclusive attack. The violence spread to other towns. Over three days of rioting, the police stood by and British and US servicemen on the outskirts waited until three days later to impose a curfew. By then 130 Jews were dead including 36 children. Women were raped, some 4,000 Jews were left homeless and nine synagogues destroyed.

In Syria a mob broke into the great synagogue in Aleppo and beat up two elderly men. In Iraq, the government avoided a repeat of the 1941 Farhud by banning public demonstrations.

Arab-Jewish tensions reached new heights in the autumn of 1947 as the UN debated Palestine. Dr Muhammad Husein Heykal, chairman of the Egyptian delegation warned that one million Jews in Arab countries would be endangered by partition.

A new wave of violence spread following the vote in favour of Partition on 29 November 1947. Demonstrations were called for 2 – 5 December. It was only because the police prevented the mob from attacking the Cairo Jewish quarter that lives were spared.

In Bahrain, beginning on 5 December, crowds began looting Jewish homes and shops and destroyed the synagogue. Two elderly ladies were killed.

In Aleppo, Syria, the Jewish community was devastated by a mob led by the Muslim Brotherhood. At least 150 homes, 50 shops, all 18 synagogues, five schools, an orphanage and a youth club were destroyed. Many people were killed, but the exact figure is not known. Over half the city’s 10,000 Jews fled into Turkey, Lebanon and Palestine.

In Aden, the police could not contain the rioting. By the time order was restored on 4 December, 82 Jews had been killed. Of 170 Jewish-owned shops, 106 were destroyed. The synagogue and two schools were among the Jewish institutions burnt down.

In the Maghreb the French still kept tight control of the population. Morale was better there than among the Jews of the Middle East: these were desperate to leave but had nowhere to go. However, rioting in Morocco six months later was to claim 48 Jewish lives.

The Palestine Post ran an editorial entitled “Unwilling hostages” on 11 December 1947. It quoted an editorial in the Manchester Guardian the day before, entitled ‘Hostages’. This deplored inflammatory statements made by Arab leaders which could be interpreted as threats against the Jewish minorities. Both in Syria and Iraq “pressure has been put on the Jews to denounce Zionism and support the Arab cause. One cannot help wonder what threats have been made to bring this about.”

The riots of the previous week had been attributed by Arab governments to the ‘fury of the people’. The editorial charged that ” the governments concerned, if they do not activate or instigate them, look upon them with a benevolent eye.”

The Lebanese government issued orders of expulsion against Palestinian Jews in Lebanon. The Palestine Post of 22 December 1947 carried a report about harsh measures that the Arab League was considering taking against Jews in Arab lands. They would first be denaturalised, their property confiscated, their bank accounts frozen, and they would be treated as enemy aliens.

‘While there is no news of the acceptance of this resolution by the Arab League, it is significant and tragic that such a document should have been drafted,” the editorial lamented. “It is easy for them to play the bully and to keep a sword hanging over the heads of many hundreds of thousands of Jews who are at their mercy.”

Although it was not passed, aspects of the Arab League draft resolution were adopted by individual Arab governments. The human rights lawyers and ex-Canadian Justice minister Irwin Cotler has called them ‘Nuremberg-style measures.’

By the time Israel was established on 15 May 1948, the Jewish communities in Arab countries had been rocked to their very foundations. As Norman Stillman says, the Palestine issue was a major contributing factor, but it was not the only one – it was more of a catalyst. Arab and Islamic nationalism could find no room for ethnic and religious groups that deviated from the norm, and Jews found themselves alienated and isolated from society at large.

The Guardian ignores inferior status of Christians

The massacre of Christians at a Baghdad Church last month has suddenly focused western attention on the pitiful plight of Middle East Christians. But most media coverage ignores the fact that discrimination against Christians and Jews is institutionalised, even in ‘secular’ Arab lands. Read my post on Comment is Free Watch:

The atrocity atOur Lady of Salvation in Baghdad in which 52 Christians were murdered has set off a flurry of articles about Christians under threat of extinction in the Middle East. Al-Qaeda has declared Arab Christians a legitimate target. Even Robert Fiskof The Independent is sounding the alarm about a flight of Christians of Biblical proportions – and that was before the massacre.

First the Saturday people – now the Sunday people. Jews have been virtually wiped out in Muslim lands. Now it’s the turn of the ancient Christian communities. Forty percent of the Assyrian Christian population of Iraq has fled since the fall of Saddam.

“Shhhh! “– whispers Middle East analyst Chris Phillips onCIF.Reports of the death of the Christian communities of the Middle East are greatly exaggerated: they will only ’ escalate fears of potential persecution’. Let’s not talk about the imminent demise of the Christian minorities, or radicals will start believing in the ‘clash of civilisations’.

I hate to break it to you, Mr Phillips – but radicals already believe it. They virtually shout ‘clash of civilisations’ from their mosques and minarets. Their ideology pits Dar-al Islam in a holy war or jihad against the infidels of Dar-al Harb. And in case Phillips had not noticed, it is radical Islam which has declared war on non-Muslims, not the other way around. Radical islamists have been around since the 1930s, burning down Coptic churches and Jewish homes and shops in Egypt. The massacre of Christians is not new either – some 3,000 Assyrian Christians were murdered in Iraq in 1933. Since then the Assyrians have thought only of emigrating.

The gist of Phillips’ argument is that not all Arab countries should be tarred with the brush of intolerance: “ Though anti-Christian feeling may be rising on the extreme radical fringe of sole Arab societies such as Iraq, this should not obscure the harmony that has long been a characteristic of other parts of the Arab world.”

‘Secular’ Arab regimes in particular treat their Christians as well as any totalitarian dictatorships could, it is claimed. As evidence, Phillips cites the fact that most of Iraq’s displaced Christians have fled not to the West but to Arab states, notably Syria and Jordan. It is true that the ruling Alawite minority – considered heretical by Sunni Muslims – likes to show solidarity with the Christian minority in Syria. Ten percent of Syria’s population are Christians, religious festivals are observed and the state even gives free electricity and water to churches, Phillips tells us.

In spite of Syrian ‘tolerance’, Phillips does recognise that numbers in Syria have been dwindling. But he does not say that since the late 1960s private Christian schools have been suppressed, nor that the Armenian Christians of Syria are leaving at a particularly high rate: the government has banned their associations, publications, the teaching of their language and their political party.

Phillips tells us that in Jordan, the monarch sees itself as the protector of the six percent of Jordan’s population who are Christians; they are given limited political rights. However, there is plenty of evidence that displaced Iraqi refugees view Jordan as a way-station to a third country of asylum – namely, the US. The refugees -and by no means all are Christian – complain bitterly that as non-residents they are not permitted to work or are paid exploitative wages. Only those with $100,000 to spare can obtain Jordanian residency rights.

It was the ‘secular’ regime under Gamal Abdul Nasser which did most to marginalise the Copts, now barely 10 percent of Egypt’s population. They are not allowed to repair their churches without government permission, let alone build new ones. Ever since the 1950s, the Copts have been persecuted, murdered, their women kidnapped and forcibly converted. Copts have been leaving Egypt for decades.

It is fashionable to claim that the Christians were well treated under the ‘secular’ Baathist regime in Iraq. Saddam Hussein did appoint the Chaldean Christian Tariq Aziz as foreign minister, but he was an exception. Christians have long ago been on the political margins in Iraq: the National assembly of 1984 included just four Christians among 250 members.

The apologetics kick in big time when Philips picks up Fisk’s spurious argument that demographics could explain the flight of Christians: they tend to have smaller families than Muslims – and in any case, they have been emigrating from the Middle East since the 19th century. Does Philips stop to ask why? Could the D-word have something to do with it?

The D-word is not one you’ll see much on Comment Is Free. ‘D’ stands for Dhimmi, a term designating the inferior status of Christians and Jews under Islam. It is a status that accounts for the fact that dirty jobs were the preserve of the dhimmi: Christians alone were assigned the task of clearing septic tanks in Iraq and still today, the task of collecting the rubbish in Egyptian cities is reserved for the Christian Copts. They would feed the rubbish to their pigs, until the latter were recently culled in a spiteful measure to eradicate swine flu. In Yemen, where there were no Christians, it fell to the Jews, until their mass flight in 1949 – 50, to clean the public latrines.

No matter how many Jordanians, according to Chris Phillips, say they don’t feel Muslim in a poll, Islam is a major source of law in all Muslim-majority countries. This puts all non-Muslim minorities at a disadvantage. Even in Jordan a Christian woman married to a Muslim cannot inherit from her husband, for instance, and Christians are subject to a raft of other inequalities. While Christians are given every encouragement to convert to Islam, the traffic is strictly one-way. Last week, ‘secular’ Pakistan became the latest country to sentence a Christian woman to death for blasphemy.

While the spectre of belligerent Islamism hovers over the Middle East and North Africa, non-Muslims are at terrible risk. Neither will they ever be treated as equals as long as discrimination against non-Muslims is institutionalised. That’s why the Chris Phillipses of this world, with their delusions of Muslim-Christian harmonious coexistence, are whistling in the wind.

Read post and comments

Ed West (Daily Telegraph blog) (with thanks: bh)

Project Aladdin is coming to town

Project Aladdin has translated Anne Frank’s Diary into Arabic

Roll up, roll up! Project Aladdin is coming to London on 24 November. An afternoon session called ‘Towards Jewish-Muslim dialogue’, immediately following the Jews from Arab lands conference,is being held at SOAS. Morocco is expected to play an important part, with the Moroccan Ambassador to the UK addressing the audience.

The Paris-based Aladdin project, launched under the patronage of UNESCO in 2009 and with support from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has the aim of combating Holocaust denial in the Arab and Muslim world. Conferences have been held to introduce the Arab and Muslim world to the works of Anne Frank and Primo Levi. Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld has been sent on tour in North Africa and the Middle East.

So far, so very laudable. But the Project makes no real effort to explore the Nazi roots of Jihadist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood or to link their anti-Jewish ideology to the conflict with Israel. Quite the reverse: in order to foster Jewish-Muslim dialogue Project Aladdin is compelled to minimise Arab complicity with Nazism. From Project Aladdin’s website (my emphasis – ed):

“Before and during the war, Nazi Germany made a concerted effort to win the hearts and minds of Muslims, relying on modern propaganda techniques that included short-wave radio broadcasts of Radio Berlin in Arabic and Persian. But sympathy for the Nazis across much of the Muslim world was more attributable to strong anti-British feelings among Arabs and Muslims than support for the Nazis’ anti-Semitic policies.

Although for the vast majority of Muslims the war in Europe remained a distant conflict, the Nazis managed to recruit some Muslims directly. Two Muslim SS divisions were raised: the Skanderbeg Division from Albania and the Handschar Division from Bosnia. Smaller units from Chechnya to Uzbekistan were incorporated into the German armed forces. But the Nazis soon discovered that these units were militarily ineffective and unmotivated to fight for the Third Reich. The much-vaunted “Hanschar” SS division was disbanded after a few months due to mass desertions and earned the distinction of being the only SS division ever to mutiny.

The Nazis made much propaganda about the meeting between Hitler and Haj Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, which took place on November 21, 1941. In the meeting, the Mufti declared that the Arabs were Germany’s natural friends. Hitler promised that as soon as the German armies pushed into the Southern Caucasus, the Arabs would be liberated from the British yoke. The Mufti’s part of the deal was to raise support for Germany among the Muslims in the Soviet Union, the Balkans and the Middle East. He conducted radio propaganda through the network of six stations and set up pro-Nazi fifth column networks in the Middle East.

Al-Husseini and the Muslims troops fighting on the side of the Wehrmacht were not representative of Muslim sentiments in the course of World War II. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim soldiers from Africa, India, and the Soviet Union helped to defeat fascism at places like El-Alamein, Monte Cassino, the beaches of Provence, and Stalingrad.

Without wishing to rain on the Aladdin parade, let’s point out the project’s inherent dangers. As already reported on Point of No Return, at the Aladdin conferenceheld in 2009, Jewish organisations were complicit in reinforcing the ‘Golden Age’ myth of harmonious coexistence between Jews, Christians and Muslims in order to get the Arab and Muslim world to condemn Holocaust denial. Just as worrying, Jewish speakers joined Arabs and Muslims in whitewashing the Arab/Muslim link with Nazism, portraying the Holocaust as a purely European phenomenon. The conference concealed the Sephardi/Mizrahi ‘forgotten exodus’ from Arab countries. In other words, Ashkenazi and Sephardi narratives of suffering were made to compete: the Ashkenazi ‘won’. The Arab/Muslim world condemned Holocaust denial, but at the expense of historical truth, and with dubious dividends to Jews and Israel. Read Veronique Chemla‘s impassioned analysis in Front Page magazine.

Veronique Chemla has also made these pertinent remarks:

“We need to go beyond the perennial We are brothers, cousins, shalom, salam! and engage in a real dialogue with the Muslim word in which we recognise what unites us but also what divides us. We need to air our disagreements in order to build enduring and deep relationships. Jihad targets ‘Jews and Crusaders’. We need to enter into a real dialogue with Muslims and non-Muslims in order to make them understand the jihadist threat and build alliances with them.

“Initiatives such as the ‘islamically-correct’ (anti-Holocaust denial) Aladdin project marginalise and isolate moderate Muslims and distance Jews from their anti-jihadist allies. It is not denial and revisionism which feeds antisemitism but the demonisation and delegitimisation of the State of Israel. “

And so Aladdin’s visit to London may generate more heat than light.

Three generations listen to Nazem al-Ghazali

Performing works by Nazem al-Ghazali at the Oud festival in Nazareth (Photo: Michal Fattal)

Three generations of Iraqi Jews came to hear a musical tribute in Jerusalem to Nazem al-Ghazali, described as the Pavarotti of the Arab world. Haaretz was there (with thanks: Lily):

The homage to singer Nazem al-Ghazali drew at least three generations of Israelis, most of them of Iraqi descent. And when the evening’s musical director, Yair Dalal, noted that although al-Ghazali had died almost 50 years ago, his songs remain etched in the memories of Iraqi Jews, many grandparents in the audience nodded in agreement.

Al-Ghazali, who died at 42 in 1963, was one of the great Iraqi vocalists of the mid-20th century. Although he’s not as well-known as his counterparts in Egypt and Lebanon, the festival organizers deserve credit for aiming the footlights at him and his work.

Prof. Yossi Yonah translated some of the songs and spoke in between sets, but unfortunately, his amusing anecdotes and esoteric theories did not exactly bring al-Ghazali and his milieu to life. Indeed, the Oud Festival is probably not the best place to declare a great Iraqi singer “the Pavarotti of the Arab world.”

But these are trivial matters. In fact, who cares what anyone says when the music is fantastic? Dalal gathered a group of fabulous musicians, some of whom – the older ones – come from al-Ghazali’s world: violinist Elias Zubeida, qanun player Victor Ida, oud player Said Ajami and Albert Elias, who even played in al-Ghazali’s orchestra. Their playing, energetic and rich in nuance, was best characterized as “straight and to the point,” without a tad of sentimentality.

Zubeida’s violin solos were focused and short but worth their weight in gold. So were oud player Ajami’s black-and-white trills. The younger players (Dalal and three percussionists – Herzl Sagi, Erez Munk and Avi Agababa ) took on the old guards’ aesthetics and perfectly complemented the ensemble.

Three singers attempted to fill al-Ghazali’s shoes. Dalal Salam, the oldest, impressed with his theatricality (al-Ghazali was an actor before he became a singer ), though sometimes his singing lacked force.

Read article in full

About

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.