Month: November 2012

First, they went for the Jews

  House set on fire during the December 1947 Aden riots, in which 82 Jews were murdered (via Daphne Anson)

Sixty-five years ago almost to the day, as attacks escalatedagainst the Jews of Palestine, the Arab states launched a war against their defenceless Jewish citizens. The Arabs went for their Jews BEFORE a single Palestinian Arab refugee had fled what was to become Israel. I am re-posting extracts from ‘November is the cruellest month’, a summary of the events that followed the Arab rejection of  UN General Assembly resolution 181 on 29 November 1947 partitioning Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state.

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.

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

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.”

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.

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

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.

Cotler slams Arab states for double aggression

As the UN General Assembly votes to approve an upgrade in the Palestinians’ status, ex-Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler, writing in Haaretz, slams the false narrative that claims that the Palestinian Arabs were the only refugees in 1948. Arab states must acknowledge their responsibility in the ‘double aggression’ of launching a war against Israel, and committing human rights violations against their Jewish nationals:

“How do we rectify this historical – and ongoing – injustice?

“First, it must be appreciated that while justice has long been delayed,
it must no longer be denied. The time has come – indeed it has long
past – to restore the plight and truth of this forgotten – and forced –
exodus of Jewish refugees to the Middle East peace and justice
narrative. Indeed, the UN should take the lead in establishing a center
of documentation and research to tell the 850,000 untold stories of
Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

“Second, remedies for victim refugee groups – including rights of
remembrance, truth, justice and redress, as mandated under human rights
and humanitarian law – must now be invoked for Jews displaced from Arab

“Third, in the manner of duties and responsibilities, each of the Arab
countries – and the League of Arab States – must acknowledge their role
and responsibility in their double aggression of launching a war against
Israel and their human rights violations against their respective
Jewish nationals. The culture of impunity must end.

“Fourth, on the international level, the UN General Assembly – in the
interests of justice and equality before the law – should include
reference to Jewish refugees as well as Palestinian refugees in its
annual resolutions; the UN Human Rights Council should address, as it
has yet to do, the issue of Jewish as well as Palestinian refugees; UN
agencies should also address compensatory efforts for Jewish refugees
from Arab countries.

“Fifth, jurisdiction over Palestinian refugees should be transferred
from UNRWA to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. There
was no justification then – and still less today – for the establishment
of a separate body to deal only with Palestinian refugees, particularly
when that body has been itself compromised by its revisionist teaching
of the Middle East peace and justice narrative.

“Sixth, any bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – and any and all
discussions on the Middle East by the Quartet or others – which one
hopes will presage a just and lasting peace – must include Jewish
refugees as well as Palestinian refugees in an inclusive joinder of

“Significantly, some Governments have made welcome progress on this
question, such as the U.S. Congress in recently adopting legislation
recognizing the plight of Jewish refugees and requiring that the issue
be raised in any and all talks on Middle East peace. Democratic
legislatures around the world should hold hearings on the issue to
ensure public awareness and action, to allow for victims’ testimony, and
to right the historical record – an effort with which I am engaged in
the Canadian Parliament.

“The exclusion and denial of rights and redress to Jewish refugees from
Arab countries continues to prejudice authentic negotiations between the
parties and a just and lasting peace between them. Let there be no
mistake about it: Where there is no remembrance, there is no truth;
where there is no truth, there will be no justice; where there is no
justice, there will be no reconciliation; and where there is no
reconciliation, there will be no peace – which we all seek.”

Read article in full

Two synagogues ransacked in Sfax, Tunisia

 With thanks Ahoova and JIMENA

On 14 November at 3.50 pm, as Israel embarked on its Pillar of Defense operation in Gaza, two synagogues were ransacked in the Tunisian town of Sfax.

 According to Camus (Yigal) Bouhnik, born in Sfax but now living in Israel, vandals forced open the gate and front door of the Edmond Azria synagogue in rue Philippe Thomas. This synagogue was restored in 2010 by volunteers and with the help of Jewish community funds.

 The back door of the Beth-El synagogue was discovered open and the synagogue plundered once more. It’s the second time that the Beth-El synagogue in Avenue de Picville has been broken into. The vandalism, first reported in English on Point of No Return, began 15 months ago.

Bouhnik claims that there is no security to speak of in Sfax:’every bastard is king and does what he fancies.’

 The Ark containing Torah scrolls at the Beth-El synagogue, plundered and damaged

Bouhnik has posted 87 photos of the damage, but it is not clear whether these are recent or taken of the early wave of devastation at the Beth-El synagogue. The synagogue had undergone major restoration, including the repair of its smashed windows, three years earlier.

Read Camus Bouhnik’s report (Hebrew)

Looting and damage to Sfax synagogue is confirmed

Jewish woman brutally murdered in Iran

  Mosque in central Isfahan

Unconfirmed news of the brutal murder of a Jewish woman in Isfahan and the dismemberment of her body  has reached The Times of Israel:

A 57-year-old Jewish woman was brutally
stabbed to death on Monday by Muslim attackers in the Iranian city of
Isfahan, in what her family says was a religiously motivated crime
related to a property dispute, Menashe Amir, an expert on Iranian Jewry
who spoke with the victim’s family, has told The Times of Israel.

Tuba N., whose family requested not to reveal
her last name, was murdered by her Muslim neighbors, who had harassed
her family for years in an attempt to drive them from their home and
confiscate the property for the adjoining mosque.

“The religious radicals even expropriated part
of the house and attached it to the mosque’s courtyard,” Amir said.
“The Jewish family appealed to the courts with the help of a local
attorney” to seek redress for the conflict, “despite the threats to
their lives.”

On Monday, while her husband was in Tehran
attending to business matters, “thugs broke into her home, tied up her
two sisters who were living with her, and repeatedly stabbed her to
death.” Afterward, her attackers allegedly butchered her body and cut
off her hands, a sister who witnessed the event told her relatives in
the US, who conveyed the information to Amir.

Iranian authorities were said to have not
returned the woman’s dismembered body to her family and have tried to
cover up the case.

The Times of Israel could not independently verify the report.

Read article in full

Saga of Islamist harassment goes on in Djerba

North African Jews face precarious future

Old man at prayer in the al-Ghriba synagogue, Djerba, Tunisia

Deutsche Welle has a reasonable summary of the current state of two Jewish communities on the verge of extinction – in Egypt and Tunisia, under new threat from the ‘Arab Spring’. But their plight is not just a function of the Israel-Arab conflict.

The re-opening of the Maimonides Synagogue was overshadowed by political
and religious conflicts. Representatives of the Egyptian government did
not attend the ceremony, citing Israeli aggression against
Palestinians. Tensions caused by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impact
the Jewish community in Egypt, even though Cairo signed a peace treaty
with the Jewish State in 1979. Hopes that the so-called Arab Spring
would help ease tensions have been largely disappointed.

“The situation hasn’t improved in any way,” David) Harari (of the Association for Egyptian Jewish Heritage in Paris)  said. The head of the
Jewish community in Cairo is surveilled by the Egyptian state and
cannot speak freely, he added. In Alexandria, the authorities closed the
city’s synagogue this year during Jewish holidays, according to reports
in the Israeli media. Egyptian officials later rejected this

Maimonides Synagoge im ehemaligen jüdischen Viertel Haret al-Yahoud von Kairo. Hier: Das Innere der frisch restaurierten Synagoge mit Bimah und Thoraschrein. Kairo, Ägypten, 21.03.2010 +++picture alliance / JOKER

The Egyptian government financed the Maimonides Synagogue restoration, but did not attend the opening ceremony


There is concern among Cairo’s Jews about what will become of their
once vibrant community’s property. Their buildings in Cairo and
Alexandria are on valuable plots of land, which are being eyed by
businesspeople and politicians.

“When the last Jew in Cairo dies, the valuables will be confiscated by the state,”  said Harari.

 In Tunisia, there is still a functioning Jewish community. In the
capital and on the island of Djerba, a few synagogues are open on the
Sabbath. But compared to the past, fewer and fewer people attend
services on the high holy days, according to Roger Bismuth.

“The situation began to change in 1967 with the Six Day War and the
dangerous and unfair equation of Jews with Israelis,” Bismuth, president
of the World Center for North African Jews in Marseille, told DW. The
Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become a conflict between Jews and
Muslims, precipitating the emigration of most Jewish families in
Tunisia, he said.

The revolutionary upheaval of the Arab Spring had brought hope for
greater religious equality in Tunisia. In early 2011, former president
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was deposed. Jewish establishments were attacked
twice during the ensuing chaos. In one of the attacks, Islamists
attempted to force their way into Tunis’ main synagogue, yelling
anti-Semitic epithets.

Interim President Moncef Marzouki promised the Jewish community
protection. In the future parliament, Jews may be allotted two seats.
But concerns remain. Perez Trabelsi, the head of the Jewish community in
Djerba, recently called for more protection after a failed attempt to kidnap a Jewish person in the city of Zarzis. And the Israeli government
has discouraged its citizens from participating in the traditional
pilgrimage in Djerba this year, fearing terrorist attacks. In 2002, the
Ghriba Synagogue in Djerba was devastated in an al Qaeda attack, killing
21 people including 14 German vacationers.

Bismuth believes the Tunisian government hasn’t taken a clear position
on Jews and minorities, because “the ruling Ennahda party has Salafist
allies,” who are very anti-Semitic. He worries that if the situation
deteriorates, then the last Tunisian Jews will emigrate.

Read article in full


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