Jacob Lellouche, owner of the last Kosher restaurant in Tunis
What’s the story on the Jews of Tunisia? They are defiantly rejecting Israeli calls to leave, says the BBC. (Extended article here).
BBC reporter Wyre Davies says there used to be 300,000 Jews in Tunisia ( there were never more than 120,000, but oriental exaggeration is catchy). Numbers, however, came ‘crashing’ down with the creation of Israel. Those dastardly Zionists, spoiling centuries of interfaith coexistence.
In other words, the BBC neatly avoids any discussion of antisemitism. Could Tunisian Jews have left to escape their historic second-class and insecure status as ‘dhimmis’ under Muslim rule? And how do you explain the fact that not every Jew left for Israel? We are not about to find out from Wyre Davies.
Since the revolution, he tells us, Tunisians are ‘expressing their beliefs’ in an overwhelmingly Islamic country. Pray what beliefs may these be? ‘Death to the Jews’, screamed supporters of Hamas – the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza – at Tunis airport recently. But Rashid Ghannouchi of the Islamist Ennahda party (the Tunisian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) reassures Wyre that Islam is a tolerant religion (although it was he who invited the Hamas leader to visit Tunisia, and his supporters who shouted anti-Jewish slogans). The government posts guards to protect synagogues. So that’s all right then. Wyre is not in the mood to ask searching questions.
In contrast to news outlets like Tunisia Live, the BBC acts as a mouthpiece for the ‘moderate’ Islamists of Tunisia. Two dhimmi Jews are trotted out to give credence to the official line. Look, they even have a Kosher restaurant in Tunis. And a working synagogue. We are not afraid.
National Committee for Supporting Arab Resistance and Fighting Normalization and Zionism
Instead of transmitting messages of false comfort, the guys at Tunisia Live are doing a great job exposing antisemitism wherever it might be rearing its ugly head. Regrettably this is not the first timethat we have had news of pressure in Tunisia against normalisation with Israel since the start of the ‘Arab Spring’ (via EoZ) :
The National Committee for Supporting Arab Resistance and Fighting Normalization and Zionism, is a post-revolution Tunisian association whose mission is to lobby the National Constituent Assembly to criminalize normalization with the State of Israel.
The association organized a rally on Sunday, January 29th at the Ibn Khaldoun Cultural Center in downtown Tunis. Almost 100 people attended.
“We want our new constitution to include an article outlawing all types of normalization with the Zionist terrorist entity,” announced Ahmed Kahlaoui, President of the National Committee for Supporting the Arab Resistance and Fighting Normalization and Zionism.
Kahlaoui expressed his discontent with Tunisian civil society for their disinterest in the Palestinian cause.
He blames the lack of interest on what he calls foreign funding coming from “Zionist bodies” attempting to divert Tunisians from paying more attention to normalization.
“But what can we expect from people receiving huge amounts of money from Zionist bodies disguised behind the masks of tolerance and democracy,” Kahlaoui declared.
Hatem Dkhil, is a high school teacher and an anti-Israel advocate. He accused the Ben Ali regime of cultural normalization with Israel.
Haj Amin al-Husseini meets Hitler in November 1941
As the world marks Holocaust Memorial Day, Petra Marquart-Bigman in her Jerusalem Post blog can’t help but recognise an eerie similarity in genocidal intent between the Palestinian Mufti and his 1940s predecessor, Haj Amin al-Husseini..
Sheik Muhammad Hussein, the mufti of Jerusalem, who is the Palestinian Authority’s senior religious official, recently recited a traditional Islamic text urging Muslims to “fight and kill the Jews” during a ceremony celebrating the 47th anniversary of Fatah’s establishment, he unintentionally revealed how little the messages of Palestinian religious leaders have changed since the days of another Palestinian mufti by the name of Husseini.
This deplorable rhetorical continuity also serves as a timely reminder that words are usually spoken to inspire deeds. Palestinians, eagerly echoed by many of their world-wide supporters, like to claim that they had no part whatsoever in the Holocaust, and that they should indeed be seen as indirect victims of the Jews who fled Europe.
This “narrative,” which seems particularly popular among Germany’s progressive elites, requires that the historical record of Amin Al-Husseini – the predecessor of the current Palestinian mufti – is ignored. While both muftis call for killing the Jews, Husseini sought and seized the opportunity to contribute to the Nazi’s genocidal undertaking to kill as many Jews as possible.
In a review of a book by Klaus Gensicke about Husseini’s collaboration with the Nazis, John Rosenthal emphasized that the mufti did not only collaborate with the Nazis by contributing to propaganda activities aimed at Arab speakers and by organizing the Muslim SS division “Handzar” in Bosnia:
Indeed, perhaps the most shocking finding of Gensicke’s research concerns the repeated efforts of the mufti after 1943 to ensure that no European Jews should elude the camps […] Thus, for example, Bulgarian plans to permit some 4,000 Jewish children and 500 adult companions to immigrate to Palestine provoked a letter from the mufti to the Bulgarian foreign minister, pleading for the operation to be stopped. In the letter, dated May 6, 1943, Husseini invoked a “Jewish danger for the whole world and especially for the countries where Jews live.” […]
Inevitably, some people will be inclined to argue that Husseini was only defending the national interest of the Palestinian Arabs when he tried to prevent any Jewish emigration from Europe. But as Gensicke has shown, Husseini was convinced that there was a “Jewish danger for the whole world and especially for the countries where Jews live,” and in May 1943, he also expressed this view in a letter.
Soon after Husseini had written these words, Arab regimes proceeded to demonstrate that they shared this view. The Arab League drafted Nuremberg-style laws designed to disenfranchise and dispossess Jews, and Arab states began to encourage the ethnic cleansing of the ancient Jewish communities that had existed for millenia all over the Middle East. Hundreds of thousands of the Jews who had to flee from Arab countries found refuge in the fledgling Jewish state that the Arabs vowed, and tried, to wipe out.
Back then, the motives may have been rooted in Arab nationalism, but as the recent remarks by the Palestinian mufti illustrate, there is a long and – according to the mufti, “noble” – tradition of Jew-hatred in Islam that up to this day is regularly invoked to present the Arab and Palestinian refusal to accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state as part of a fight against Jews that is an integral component of Muslim identity.
Nazi-like rhetoric about Jews is nowadays mostly expressed in Arabic and Farsi, and just like 70 years ago, there is widespread reluctance to confront this rhetoric and face the fact that it is meant as incitement to deadly deeds.
Israeli Jews from the Indian province of Kerala have been on a ‘roots’ trip, reports the Indian medium NDTV. (In this article ‘God’s own country’ is India, not Israel.)
Thiruvananathapuram: Over five decades after they settled down in Israel, a group of Kerala-born jews are back in God’s Own Country on a nostalgic trip.
The 20-member team, which included 16 women, who were at the Santhigiri Ashram near here yesterday, said the long-cherished journey to their birth place was a refreshing and inspiring experience.
Many of them were born at Kochi, which had a centuries old Jewish settlement and often cited as a shining example of Kerala religious harmony.
The forebears of the Cochin Jews had come as spice traders from West Asia and the local ruler gave them permission to build Synagogues for maintaining their faith and religious traditions. But most of the Jewish families shifted to Israel last century.
“Though we have made Israel our home, Kerala has always remained a nostalgia. Now we are here with a great sense of belonging,” they said.
“Kerala is not just beautiful but a land pervading with peace and harmony,” said Tobia Eliace, a teacher.
Some in the team could still speak Malayalam since they had studied upto 4th class in Kerala. One of them even sang the Indian National Anthem and a couple of lines of an old Malayalam film song.
They said it was with great difficulty that they could obtain visiting visa to come to India. “I feel it like a dream-come-true. How beautiful and calm is Kerala.”
There is a saying in my house: ‘you can’t beat Tbeet.’ It’s hard to serve up chicken and rice in a more appetising way. I can almost smell the aroma of cardamon and turmeric rising from the photograph. Excuse me, dear reader, while I hurry off to the kitchen. I’ll leave it to Vered Guttman, food blogger at Haaretz, to resurrect her great aunt Toya’s Tbeet recipe for you:
In her modest, shack-like home in southern Israel, my great aunt Toya served some of the best food I’ve ever tasted.
After my Iraqi grandmother, Rachel, passed away, her cousin Toya (Victoria) Levy took it upon herself to fill void in our hearts and in our bellies. One of her duties was to prepare tbeet for us on shabbat.
Tbeet is the Iraqi version of a Shabbat overnight stew. A chicken is stuffed with a mixture made of its inner parts, rice and spices, then covered with more rice, topped with hard boiled eggs and cooked overnight. The rice comes out moist and flavorful, the chicken so soft you can literally chew the bones.
The tradition of the Shabbat overnight stews grew from the desire to serve a hot meal on Shabbat, while keeping the Jewish law that prohibited lighting fire on the holy day. Women prepared the dish on Friday and baked it overnight, usually in a communal bakery, so it was ready at lunch time the next day when the men came back from synagogue.
Many people are familiar with the Ashkenazi (Eastern-European) Shabbat stew, the cholent, that is made of beans, potatoes and meat.
But Shabbat stews developed all over the Diaspora, and each community had its own version, using some of the local spices and ingredient that were available to them.
The Iraqi Jews had the tbeet; Yemenites had jachnoon and the kubaneh (both are basically breads that are baked all night and served with spicy tomato salsa); the North African communities had the d’fina, or skheena, a stew of meat, chickpeas, grains and spices; and the Sephardi Jews of Jerusalem had their own version of Shabbat stew, made with beans, meat and bread patties, called chamin.
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.