‘Ramat Gan committee’ challenges campaign

Almog Behar

 Update: The Iraqi newspaper Azzaman is now quoting Behar’s statement to support its assertion that Iraqi Jews are refusing to be party to  ‘the file of the Palestinian refugees’.

Ever since last week’s official launch by Israel’s Foreign ministry and the World Jewish Congress of the campaign for recognition and redress for Jewish refugees from Arab countries, it won’t have escaped your notice, dear reader, that Arab and anti-Zionist writers have been falling over themselves to find reasons why the campaign is a bad idea.

The latest salvo of criticism comes from the newly-formed Committee of Baghdadi Jews in Ramat Gan, of which Almog Behar, a young leftist Mizrahi poet, is a founder member. Needless to say, his pronouncements are grist to the anti-Zionist and Israel-bashing mill, and a statement on his Facebook page has already been eagerly seized upon by Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss.

“The way the Israeli establishment uses our history from the 1950s is not in order to give us our rights back, but in order to get rid of the rights of the Palestinians, and avoid a peace agreement with them,” Behar wrote to the Electronic Intifada.” We are seeking to demand compensation for our lost property and assets from the Iraqi government -NOT from the Palestinian Authority – and we will not agree with the option that compensation for our property be offset by compensation by the lost property of others (meaning Palestinian refugees) or that said compensation be transferred to bodies that do not represent us (meaning the Israeli government).”

Hang on a minute, Almog. You haven’t been listening. Nowhere does Israel say that property compensation for Iraqi Jews will be offset by compensation for Palestinians. The current thinking is that both sets of refugees will be able to draw individual compensation from an international fund. This was an idea proposed by President Clinton at Camp David in 2000.

No one is talking about using claims by Jews from Arab countries to negate Palestinian rights. The organisationJustice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC) explicitly says : ” this is not a campaign against Palestinian refugees.”

Almog Behar’s Facebook statement continues: “our property in Iraq is something between us and Iraq and not between us and the Palestinians, and remembers also that most Palestinian property from 1948 was taken by the Ashkenazim and the state and not by Jews of the Arab world.”

Dream on, Almog. When the US set up the Iraqi Property Claims Commission after the invasion of 2003 to pay compensation to those whose property had been seized in Iraq, the property seized from Iraqi Jews in the 1950s (when the great exodus took place) was specifically excluded. As for Palestinian property being taken by Ashkenazim, how does Behar know? Has he done a survey? His statement certainly contradicts the fact that such was the housing shortage in Israel in the 1950s that a fair number ofpoor Mizrahimwere moved into abandoned Arab homes.

Behar’s Facebook statement then dredges up two old chestnuts from the 1950s: one is the belief that Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri as-Said cooked up a deal by which Ben-Gurion might have told Iraqi Prime minister Nuri as-Said that he is ‘authorized to take possession of the property and assets of Iraqi Jewry if he agreed to send them to Israel’.

The second is that staple of Arab propaganda accusing Israel and Mossad of the bombing of the Masouda Shem-Tov synagogue in Baghdad.

” If it is determined that Ben-Gurion did, in fact, carry out negotiations over the fate of Iraqi Jewish property and assets in 1950, and directed the Mossad to bomb the community’s synagogue in order to hasten our flight from Iraq,” Almog Behar writes,” we will file a suit in an international court demanding half of the sum total of compensation for our refugee status from the Iraqi government and half from the Israeli government.”

As for the first assertion, Almog has got it backwards – it was Nuri as-Said who premeditated the expulsion of Iraqi Jewry and their dispossession: Ben Gurion’s foreign minister Moshe Sharrett, who had for years resisted Nuri As-Said’s attempts to link the two sets of refugees, finally conceded after the Iraqi Parliament had passed a law in March 1951 freezing Jewish property, that Israel would be forced to take into account Palestinian property in a reckoning with Iraq. It is highly unlikely that Ben Gurion would have had talks with an Iraqi Prime Minister whose country had never signed the 1949 armistice agreement with Israel, and was still technically at war.

As far as the notorious bombs are concerned, this old chestnut was investigated by an Israeli court, and the Mossad operative Mordechai Ben Porat acquitted of any involvement. Point of No Return has disposed of this particular myth here.

The question remains: who are the members of this hitherto-unknown Ramat Gan Committee of Baghdadi Jews. Whom does it represent?

The Ramat Gan Committee most probably represents no-one but a handful of naive young post-Zionists. When it comes to making controversial statements on behalf of a tiny minority of radical Israelis, Almog Behar hasform. The vast majority of Iraqi Jews in Israel back the government in its initiative on refugee rights. This might as well be the Committee for the Appreciation of Zingoola (A highly-calorific desert popular among Mizrahi Jews).

Take my advice, Almog: stick to poetry.

More Cambridge capers on Arab Jews

Naeem Giladi and the Jews of Iraq


  • word omitted above:
    . . . oppressed & EXPLOITED. . .

    BTW, the Commies in eastern Europe tried hard to persuade Jews there after WW2 & especially after 1948 that they should stay in those places and "build socialism," whereas in Israel they would be capitalist wage slaves. Eventually the Commie govts in most of those countries [inc. USSR] decided that they really didn't want the Jews in any large number. In the best of circumstances, would the Arabs/Turks/Persians be any better than the Commies?

  • Many of the so-called "Leftists" think that they are superb socio-political engineers. Lowi is clever up to a point but overlooks the fact that Jews as dhimmis were traditionally oppressed & in Arab/Muslim lands. So why why would Jews want to "return" to Iraq, Yemen, etc in any case? Anyone can read a newspaper and find out what's going on in those countries, the "Arab Spring" notwithstanding. It's terrifying. Many many Arabs, Copts, Assyrians are fleeing. Why would Jews go back? Doesn't "Lowi" read newspapers? Doesn't he know about what happened last week in Libya? Or maybe he thinks that those mobs are the anti-imperialist vanguard?

    The traditional oppressed dhimmi status of the Jews was avoided –I believe– in the official campaign. That's the next step.

  • Nicely put,may I call you TIT?
    Instead of going to live with her mother, perhaps the woman goes off with another man, one who had little to offer her at first but who turns out to be a good husband.

  • Oops. I meant, the lack of critical thinking that accompanies THE DENIAL to acknowledge Jewish refugees is astounding to me.

  • The lack of critical thinking that accompanies the campaign to acknowledge Jewish refugees is astounding to me.

    Suppose a woman is married to a man her mother doesn't get along with very well. He is abusive, not always, but sometimes. Her mother tells her, "come home and live with me. That guy is no good for you." Eventually, the husband becomes so hostile that he makes life unbearable for his wife. He no longer feels any motive to be nice, or even respectful toward her. She doesn't really want to leave the home she has lived in for years, but she no longer feels safe there due to the things her husband is doing and saying. She finally says, "forget this. I don't need to be maltreated or to live in fear. I can go where I am wanted," and so she packs just a few essentials, leaves almost all her belongings behind, and moves in with her mother because she lives nearby and is offering her daughter a sanctuary where she will never have to live in fear again. Her husband then runs all over town screaming, "I didn't do anything wrong. She moved out because her mother told her to! I have voicemails to prove it. If her mother didn't interfere in our relationship, my wife would still be here today. Don't blame me, blame her family! Besides, look how happy she is now. Don't tell me she's a battered wife."

  • There are also people who were members of the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow if you know of that organization.

  • Yes, thanks, that would be wonderful if you could translate it, Sylvia.
    Dahan and Saporta are definitely N. African!

  • Right. He can't repudiate what he wrote after all but besides the usual he is not opposing the campaign. If you wish I'll translate it tomorrow.

    It's a leftist, socially oriented site on general economic and political subjects in Israel. The owners are Yossi Dahan and Itzhak Saporta, Yossi Dahan is an economist and I think Saporta is too if I am not mistaken – both are of North African origin.

    The site can't be described as "Mizrahi" though but that same group of radical Mizrahis and their friends hang out there.

  • Sylvia
    What sort of site is Oketz and how come they attract such commenters?

    My (admittedly cursory) reading of Shenhav's article suggests that he is regurgitating much of what he wrote in that Haaretz article of 2003 – only replacing WOJAC with JJAC…

  • "Continued previous post)

    Dear David:
    Of course, Zionism tried to induce Jewish immigration to Palestine by sordid means. The story of the bombing of the Massouda Shemtov synagogue in Baghdad is just one small episode. There were all the deals with the Nazis, preceded by the Nazis' "JEWS TO PALESTINE" campaign, and Ben Gurion's statement about how colonizing Palestine is more of a priority than rescuing persecuted Jewish children.
    With all of that, Zionism has always claimed that the Oriental immigration was sparked by strong religious Zionist impetus, i.e. not a response to persecution. This has always caused friction in Israel. My in-laws, who moved to Haifa from Cairo in 1957, always felt shut-out from Holocaust memorial activities in Israel, because they tended to favour the glorification of Ashkenazi persecution and sacrifice over the celebration of Oriental zeal and Zionist commitment.
    Only now is Zionism hoping to use the Arab Jews to counteract the resurgent demand of the Palestine refugees to recognize their right of return. I, of course, have no hesitation in recognizing the right of return for all, whether forcibly displaced or not. That is what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says. So, we have to get over the hurdle of recognition, rather than contest the legitimacy of the claim. Then, can you imagine Jews in Israel or Montreal or Los Angeles standing up and saying: "I can't stand living here any longer. Let me return, reclaim my property, and rebuild my life in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, or Iran."? This Zionist campaign will boomerang back on itself, but, in the interim has to be confronted on its merits or lack of same.
    At this point, I am contemplating an organized response to Zionism's organized propaganda offensive on the Palestine refugees' right of return.
    The format of "refugee voices" is attractive for its authenticity and openness and diversity. Each participant has a story, and a take on that story, and a position.

    Be prepared.
    I don't know who is Henry Lowi he could be Lowinstein or maybe Pappe.

  • Well, I found most of them on that 'Oketz site with their Ashkenazi acolytes already plotting.

    Here's what to expect – from one post in English. Admire the duplicity.

    "This will boomeran
    17.09.12 02:22 Henry Lowi

    This is great! I can't wait to see Ran Cohen and Fuad Ben Eliezer say: " I am a refugee! I did not come to Israel because of strong Zionist feelings! If I could, I would go back to Iraq! Recognize my rights as a refugee!" That is the end of Zionism. This campaign will boomerang. I cannot wait.

    Four years ago, I proposed an outreach and educational campaign along the following lines:
    Dear Ben:
    The apologists for Israeli brutality on the refugee issue are taking 3 tacks: a. outright "Nakba denial" ("They left voluntarily"), b. trivialization ("There's been a tradeoff already"), and c. racism-supremacism ("Jews are better than Arabs because we are compassionate with our refugees while they are not")
    I believe that it is important to tackle all of this head on, as I have said ad nauseam.

    Currently, I am proposing a public forum, with a title something like: "Refugee voices: Palestinians, and Jews from Arab lands". Possibly with the addition of "Holocaust survivors". The idea would be to have a panel, with 4 (or 6 speakers), in which each panelist will address briefly 3 matters: 1. own experience of dislocation; b. attitude to exercise of own right of return, and 3. attitude to others' right of return. We could have one first-generation speaker and one 2nd or 3rd generation speaker from each refugee experience. We would not have to go far afield for guest speakers: They are all in our community! Possibly there would be some diversity, eg. one speaker might assert right of return for self and deny it to others. Another speaker might express an intention not to exercise her/his own right of return, but recognize it for others. The result would be heightened awareness of the values set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the focus on "choice" ("refugees' right to choose") which would immediately benefit the campaign for the Palestine refugees.
    I believe that the propaganda war on this important issue is ongoing. This year is the 60th anniversary of the Nakba and Nakba denial. These issues should be aired in a way that can raise awareness. A public forum, or series of forums, would seem to be the way to go.
    What do you think?

    (Continued next post)

  • They're the same ones I was talking about and there has been an article about them years ago in I think Middle East Quarterly. I used to read their site regularly.

    They used to work with their Ashkenazi counterparts on the same pro-palestinian activities until t6hose Ashkenazi radicals stabbed them in the back one time too many.

    They have closed down their site Kedma which is now used as archive.
    Some of them will probably join this group, and no doubt radicalize it because so far, all his argument against the campaign is that he doesn't want the compensation to fall into Israeli government hands.

    He evidently doesn't know that there is an independent fund and he clearly hasn't read Martin Gilbert who has a brilliant account of the Iraqi episode with Nur-Al-Maliki.

  • Anti-semites, no, but when Sephardic Jewish Canadian tele-journalist Ralph Benmurgui explored I/P for Canadian TV a few years ago, he exposed an element in the Mizrahi community that sinks to the same level as some Ashkenazim who hold prejudices against the Mizrahis.

  • Finally, Yehuda Shenhav has reacted to the campaign in the Hebrew Ha'oketz. He must have been tired seeing people unearthing his old articles from the early 2000.

    Interestingly, and except for some of his rhetoric, there is very little I don't agree with in what he says. He expresses the same concerns I have about the need for absolute accuracy and nuance and staying away from generalizations, the problem with the textbooks, and the like.

    He has no problem with the term refugees the recognition of which he says is long overdue.

    He criticizes of course the intent behind the campaign. But he seems satisfied, in a grouchy sort of way.

    He gives an interesting historic background on the issue which in my view should be translated and completed.

    I think what he was doing in effect is address the remark Danny Ayalon always makes when speaking to an Israeli audience, which is that why it took so long is something that we'll have to deal with eventually.


  • I think he was one of that handful of 'mizrahi" leftist radicals -who by the way closed shop some time ago.

    But antisemite I don't think so. None of them has ever reached the evilness of their Ashkenazi leftist counterparts – who by the way stabbed them in the back on more than one occasion.

    Another thing is that I don't think his organization is registered since it was founded just last Friday.
    maybe you are giving him too much importance, Bataween.

  • Or more precisely why do they insist on residing there at all. I would like to start of fund, hopefully from Arab Muslim sources, which will pay people like this to emigrate to any Arab country.


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