Month: September 2011

Erdogan sends Rosh Hashana greetings to Jews

Tayyip Erdogan (photo: Reuters)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has extended his Rosh Hashana greetings to his country’s Jews, the Jerusalem Post reports. His statement restates the myth that Turkey was a multicultural paradise over the centuries. This may have been true at certain times, but the brutal extermination of the Armenians, the expulsion of the Pontine Greeks, and entrenched discrimination against dhimmis belie a less-than-tolerant attitude towards non-Muslims.

“There have been a number of different beliefs and cultures living together for centuries in our country,” the Turkish prime minister said in his address. “Special days and holidays add special color to our community life.”


“Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year and I wish our Jewish citizens a healthy and fruitful new year,” he added.

Erdodgan did not mention Israel in his statement.

His message came as a war of wordswas developing between him and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over comments made about the Holocaust and the number of Palestinians killed during conflicts.
On Wednesday, Turkish daily Hurriyet reported that comments made by Erdogan to CNNwere mistranslated by the network.

According to the original translation, Erdogan apparently said that Israel has killed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

A Turkish transcript of the interview, provided by Turkish state news agency Anatolia, revealed that “Erdogan said hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of Palestinians were killed by Israelis,” Hurriyet reported.

Read article in full

Battle lines are drawn: Achcar v Kuntzel

Professor Gilbert Achcar of SOAS

The battle lines are drawn for the latest academic skirmish concerning the Arab relationship with Nazi antisemitism, as reported by Engage website. Mattias Kuntzel and Colin Meade take issue with Gilbert Achcar, author of The Arabs and the Holocaust. His anti-Nazism is subordinate to his anti-Zionism, they argue, and Achcar’s fundamental concern is with the notion that Israel is responsible for both antisemitism and Holocaust denial (which Achcar disparages as ‘the anti-Zionism of fools’). Achcar’s all-too brief rebuttal trades insults of ‘intellectual dishonesty’ with Kuntzel and Meade, but nowhere does he explain, as one commenter points out, how come non-Zionist Jews in Arab countries were singled out for punishment. (With thanks: Veronique)

From Kuntzel and Meade’s critique:

“A straightforward and logical structure”, thinks the reader, as he opens the book with eager anticipation. Alas, the experience of actually reading it confirms the verdict of two history professors, Stephen Howe and Jeffrey Herf, that “Achcar is a man at war with what he has written in his own book“1 and “a combatant, and even victim, in such a war within his own pages.“

“Another way of putting it would be: this is a book in which an author from the political left seeks to protect the dogmas of Western anti-Zionism from the reality of Arab antisemitism.
On the relationship between Nazism and pan-Islamism

Achcar is probably the first anti-Zionist author to describe and criticize the ideological affinity between National Socialism and Pan-Islamism in the 1930 and 40s. He emphasizes “the sympathy, … that Islamic fundamentalists generally felt for Nazism, both in the Nazi period and later“ and confirms what others have written before him: that the most important spiritual mentor of the Islamist movement was a pro-Nazi Egyptian religious scholar, Rashid Rida. Rida “legitimized his sympathy for Nazism by treating it as the instrument of God’s will, sweeping aside heresies and false beliefs, corrupt versions of Islam among them, and thus clearing a path for the ultimate triumph of the Muhammadan revelation.“ The rationale for the affinity between Pan-Islamism and National Socialism “is plain” writes Achcar: “the common enemy was not Britain, as is too often believed, but the Jews.” Achcar then moves on to a critical examination of three of Rida’s most prominent pupils.

The first is Amin el-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who “espoused the Nazis‘ anti-Semitic doctrine“. His position, states Achcar, “is, down to Husseini’s eulogy of the Final Solution, perfectly consistent with Nazi anti-Semitism.”

El-Husseini maintained this position until his death in 1974. As Achcar points out, he never concealed his “enthusiasm for Hitler“ or his belief in the “Nazi notions of a world Jewish conspiracy“.

“The rather embarrassing fact is that Küntzel’s analysis of al-Banna, Husseini, the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb and Islamism in general runs along the same main lines as Achcar‘s own account of the Pan-Islamist reactionaries from Rashid Rida onward,” states historian Jeffrey Herf with reference to Matthias Küntzel’s Jihad and Jew-Hatred. Nazism, Islamism and the Roots of 9/11 (New York, Telos Press, 2007), translated by Colin Meade.

Second comes Hassan al-Banna, founder and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Here Achcar informs his readers about “the convergence of views and the close collaboration between the Muslim Brotherhood and the mufti”. On the one hand, the Brotherhood operated “with the mufti’s blessing and benefited from his popularity”, while, on the other, “the Brotherhood supported the mufti during his lifetime, treating him as the legitimate leader of the anti-Zionist struggle.“ Quite correctly, Achcar also notes that the Brotherhood’s antisemitism survived the end of the Nazi regime. “On November 2, 1945, … Young Egypt and the Muslim Brothers organized attacks on Jewish stores and institutions – the first of their kind.“

The third is Iz-al-Din al-Qassam, the first Palestinian jihadist who had ties to the Saudi Wahhabites and remains to this day the idol of Hamas. Again as regards Qassam and his supporters Achcar points out “the anti-Semitic affinities between Wahhabi-type fundamentalism and Nazism”. Achcar describes the action by the Qassamites on 15 April 1936 that ushered in the so-called Arab Revolt.

“It was 8:30 p.m. Cars were being stopped at a barrier made of barrels on a mountain road in the Nablus region. The barrier was under the surveillance of three armed men: one kept an eye on the road, another held the passengers of stopped vehicles in his gun sights, and the third relieved them of their cash. Then they asked their victims if there were Englishmen or Jews among them. The driver of a truck and his passenger, both Jews, were shot on the spot. Also present was a man who ‘proved to the band that he was German, a Hitlerite, and a Christian, swearing on Hitler’s honor that he was telling the truth. The three men released him… ‘for Hitler’s sake’ … with thirty-five pounds sterling in his pockets.’”

In the second part of his book, Achcar returns to the issue of the current role of the Islamist movement: “The banners of preceding struggles, on which the adjectives ‘national,’ ‘popular,’ and ‘socialist’ were inscribed, have vanished almost without trace; their place has been taken by the standards of Islamic fundamentalist movements. At the same time, anti-Semitism, in both its traditional and Islamized variants as well as its Holocaust-denying corollary, has grown spectacularly in Arab political statements and Arab media.“ He provides the specific example of the Hamas Charter. “Articles 7 and 22 in particular represent a condensed version of the Islamized anti-Semitic ravings cultivated by Rashid Rida, in the years just before his death in 1935.”

So, Achcar explains to his readers, firstly, that a Nazi-like antisemitism appeared in the region well before the foundation of the State of Israel and, secondly, that the links between Islamism and National Socialism were not just tactical but reflected shared beliefs, in particular as regards antisemitism. And, finally, he makes it clear that the contemporary struggle against Israel is now being led by precisely those same Islamist currents that espoused and continue to espouse a Nazi-like hatred of Jews.

For “the enemies of Philistinism, in a word all thinking and feeling people“ an obvious conclusion flows from the facts Achcar provides: Israel, the Jewish state, not only has a right to exist, but also a right to defend itself against the antisemitically motivated aggression emanating from the region. However, it is precisely here that Achcar goes to “war with what he has written in his own book“. As if responding to an order from some inner Central Committee, in the second part of his book Achcar repudiates the evidence he has himself presented in the first part of the same book and turns to political agitation, the essential purpose of which is to justify an anti-Zionist alliance with the antisemites and Holocaust deniers of Hezbollah and Hamas.

Continue reading on Engage blog (PDF link)

Gilbert Achcar responds:

… my two utterly dishonest critics conceal from their readers that what they are quoting as an interview in Socialist Worker is actually an interview that was done for and published in Israel’s most widely circulated Hebrew-language daily newspaper (where the “League against Denial” title comes from; the article was published on two full pages, 4 and 5, on 27 April 2010) and published again in English translation in Israel’s best-known English-language magazine. They conceal this fact that shows to what extent pro-Zionist zealots like themselves may be much more fanatical in their defense of Israel than the Israeli mainstream itself—a truth that anyone who is familiar with the contrast between the Israeli press and Israel’s unconditional defenders in the West can confirm, and which moderate Israelis themselves readily acknowledge.”

Read Achcar’s response in full on Engage blog (PDF link)

Arabs and The Holocaust: The truth

Gilbert Achcar: neither scholarly nor moderate

Seth Franzman dissects Gilbert Achcar

American hiker is son of Iraqi-born Israeli

Josh Fattal greeted with a hug in Muscat, Oman on his release from Evin prison, Tehran, Iran

The story can now be told. For more than two years, relatives of Josh Fattal, one of the two American hikers freed from prison in Iran last week, managed to hide a vital piece of information from his captors: Fattal’s family is Israeli, Haaretz reports. But what took a man like Fattal, with his Iraqi background, into the heart of darkness? The answer is that as a universalist with a penchant for alternative lifestyles, his Jewish identity sounds rather dilute. (With thanks: Lily)

Jacob Fattal, Josh’s father, immigrated to Israel from Basra, Iraq in 1951. He lived with his parents and siblings in the Kiryat Ono transit camp, and later in Pardes Katz. After his military service, he left for the United States, where he studied engineering and raised a family. Today, he is the publisher of a high-tech magazine distributed in the United States, Europe and Asia.

“We’re very happy; it’s the greatest gift we could have dreamed of receiving for Rosh Hashanah,” Jacob Fattal told Haaretz yesterday.

Jacob’s two sisters and his brother, who live in Israel’s central region, knew about the arrest from the first day.

“The problem was their being American, not Jewish,” Fattal said of the freed hikers. “The Iranians used them as a political weapon for two years.”

To avoid drawing attention to the family’s background, Josh’s brother and mother led the campaign to free him, while Jacob refrained from giving media interviews.

“I want to thank the media in the United States and Israel for cooperating with us,” Fattal said.

Now that his son is back home in a Philadelphia suburb, Fattal can contact the family of another Israeli captive.

Read article in full

Long piece in the Jewish Exponent

Wishing SHANA TOVA to all our readers

The secret’s out! Even the most orthodox of Ashkenazi Jews are discovering that the Sephardi celebration of the Jewish New Year (which starts tomorrow evening) is much more colourful and exciting than theirs. While Ashkenazim simply eat apples dipped in honey, Sephardim have a whole range of different foods to eat and blessings to recite – an entire Seder to rival that of Passover.

The video above describes a Moroccan tradition, but customs do vary all over the Sephardi and Mizrahi world.

Whatever it is you do to celebrate, Point of No Return would like to wish our visitors and loyal band of readers SHANA TOVA U’METOOKA – A Good and Sweet New Year.

Harif holds good-natured protest against Durban 3

Photo: melpressmen.com

Photo: Adrian Korsner

Photo:melpressmen.com

Photo: Adrian Korsner
Photo: Adrian Korsner

In the week of the UN’s Durban 3 charade, Harif, the UK Association of Jews from Middle East and North Africa, held its first ever protest rally on behalf of the forgotten refugees of the Middle East and the wider Muslim world. It was a good-natured affair, as 100 or so demonstrators in London’s Trafalgar Square drew attention to the UN’s hypocrisy.

The demonstrators held balloons, distributed sweets and carried placards pointing out that the Durban 111 conference*against racism was ‘no joke for oppressed minorities’. They drew attention to the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Jews of the Middle East – down to 4,000 in Arab countries from a 1948 figure of almost one million. The UN and international community has ignored them, preferring to pass resolution after resolution on Palestinian refugees, and condemn that beacon of democracy and pluralism – Israel.

The mood was cheerful in September sunshine, with bystanders stopping to express interest or sympathy, and only a few confrontations. Kurds turned up to show solidarity, and the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell sent a message of support.

Crossposted at Elder of Ziyon
Jewish Chronicle

Jewish Chronicle (updated)

While the United Nations controversial “Durban III” conference against racism took place in New York, protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square to highlight the plight of Jewish and other persecuted minorities driven out of the Middle East and North Africa.

Organised by Harif, which represents Jews from the Arab world, the British Israel Coalition and Stand With Us UK, around 100 demonstrators handed out leaflets on Sunday to tourists and waved Israeli flags.

Lynn Julius of Harif, whose family fled Iraq, said: “We have been forgotten by the world and the UN. We are here on behalf of all the forgotten refugees, the Kurds, the Berbers, Assyrians, Copts and Baha’is. “

Moroccan-born Sydney Assor, a member of the Board of Deputies, said: “This is the first occasion there has been to remind us of forgotten causes. It’s not just about the Jewish refugees, Christians are disappearing from the Middle East.”

Jews of Iraqi, Tunisian and Syrian descent were also in attendance. Ms Julius said: “We are really pleased to see such support from Ashkenazi Jews, too. This issue is the key to peace. Palestinian refugee issues currently monopolise the debate.”

Ari Soffer, an activist with the British Israel Coalition, spoke of his family’s escape from Baghdad. “My father would be heartened to see everyone here. He has always felt betrayed by the UN. When he left Iraq, the only country that would accept us was Israel. If I were a Palestinian, I would be considered a refugee myself, even though I was not born in Iraq. No other nationality has that status. There should be no more double standards.”

He said there had been a mixed response from passers-by. “We have had a few people shout and disagree, but a lot think it is a purely pro-Israel protest, because of the flags. But, when you explain, people are interested.”

Kurdish writer Azad Miran also attended the protest in support of refugee rights. He said: “We have suffered for a long time, but the UN is mostly concerned with Palestinian people. We have been labelled terrorists when we fight for our freedom.”

* Professor Alan Dershowitz’s must-see video’d speech (with thanks: Ivee)

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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.