Month: May 2013

BBC ignores Jewish claims in Abu Dis

 Not content with reporting the news, the BBC is making it: its Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has waded in to support Ali Ayyad’s campaign to reclaim ownership of the Cliff Hotel in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis, now in the custodianship of the Israel Absentee Property Law.  BBC Watch argues convincingly that Knell makes no attempt at balance or context: she has failed to point out that Jewish-owned lands in Abu Dis were taken over by the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property.

Knell devotes a considerable portion of
her written article to the subject of the Israeli Absentee Property Law.
Significantly – especially in this case – she makes no effort to inform
readers of the fact that during the 19 year Jordanian occupation of
Judea, Samaria and parts of Jerusalem (the later annexation of which was
not recognized by the international community), there existed a body
called the
Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property which was established to handle property seized from Jews during the War of Independence.

“During the
war of independence, the mandatory Jordanian legions conquered the area
of Judea and Samaria, and in 1950 annexed the area. In the aftermath of
the Jordanian occupation of the area, the appointed Jordanian governor
published proclamation 55, declaring all residents of Israel as
“enemies” of the state. This declaration enabled the application of
the Trading with the Enemy Act, 1939, to the property of Israelis in the

According to
the act, a Jordanian custodian was appointed to manage enemy property
including all the “Jewish Lands”. In turn the authorities of the
Jordanian Kingdom used the lands for various purposes, including leasing
and renting the land to the citizens.”

After the Six Day War and the subsequent
end of the Jordanian occupation, property previously administered by
the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property was transferred to the
administration of the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property, but the
fact that the Jordanian authorities had frequently leased or sold
Jewish-owned land to Jordanian citizens further complicated the legal

In Abu Dis – as is acknowledged even by Palestinian organisations – some 598 dunams of land are actually Jewish-owned. 

During the years 1920-30 the ‘Agudat
HaDayarim’ Jewish Cooperative Society was established in Jerusalem in
order to establish Jewish neighborhoods outside of the Old City for its
members. The Society had over 210 members, from all walks of life and
ethnic backgrounds including Persians, Iraqis and Yemenites.  In 1928
the Aguda purchased 598 dunams of land in the area known today as Abu
Dis – due to its proximity to the city centre – in order to build a
‘Garden Community’ (homes with agricultural plots). Although it acquired
a legal title to the area, the Arab revolts of 1929 and 1936-9
prevented the Aguda from establishing the new community.  

The War of Independence resulted in the
Jewish-owned lands in Abu Dis coming under the control of the Jordanian
Custodian of Enemy Property. After the Six Day War and the subsequent
reunification of Jerusalem, most of the Jewish-owned land in Abu Dis
(some 540 dunams) remained outside of the city’s municipal boundaries
and part of modern Abu Dis is built upon that land. Some 60 dunams of
the land originally owned by ‘Agudat HaDayarim’ in Abu Dis does fall
within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries. 

Of course the BBC (strangely, for an
organisation committed to accuracy) does not make a practice of
informing its audiences about the subject of Jewish-owned lands in what
it terms “the West Bank”, but the Jewish-owned lands in Abu Dis
certainly should have been part of Yolande Knell’s research before she
elected to co-opt the BBC to Ali Ayyad’s prolific media campaign.

Read post in full 

Tangled web of Jewish-owned land in ‘Arab’ areas 

Palestinians have more restitution rights than Jews

Cairo belly dance music is ‘hip’ – in London

With thanks: Gil


Guy Schalom (left) with his Baladi Blues Band

It’s official.

 ‘Music to belly dance to’ is no longer confined to sleazy, smoke-filled cabarets in Cairo. Known as Baladi –  Egyptian urban dance music –  it is becoming increasingly ‘hip’ – in Europe.

Listening to one of the main popularisers of Baladi – percussionist Guy Schalom – causes an irresistible urge to shake your hips, shimmy and girate your torso. The cookery writer Claudia Roden, a contemporary of Guy’s grandparents, Jews exiled from Egypt in the 1950s, is a great Baladi fan.

Guy Schalom’s Baladi Blues Band is a fusion of East and West. They play not just traditional Middle Eastern instruments such as darbuka, tabla and oud, but alto sax and piano accordion.

‘Baladi’ means ‘country’. As Egyptians flocked to the cities from the countryside, they brought the music with them. But what has always been regarded as a strongly Egyptian music form was in fact exposed to many outside influences. In this radio podcast by the Jewish Music Institute, Guy explains that it is now forgotten that the Jewish influence on Baladi music was considerable. Jews performed it and composed it. “There are Jewish connections, and for me this is quite powerful,” says the Israeli-born musician, who was brought up in the UK.

If you are in London you can hear Guy and his Baladi Blues Band perform at King’s Place on Thursday 6 June.

Other JMI  podcasts  feature the Sephardi and Mizrahi musicians ofEl Gusto, the Jewish-Arab Algiers Band reunited after 50 years (full details of their 3 June concert at the Barbican here) ; you can also listen to interviews with Ladino singer Yasmin Levyand the Sephardi band Los Desterrados.

The Jewish divas of the Arabic music scene

Kurds could blaze the trail for Jews

 Kurds demonstrate in Iraq (photo: Reuters)

The disintegration of Syria could provide an opportunity for the Kurds – and that could be good for the Jews, and other minorities, Dan Diker and Harold Rhode write in the Jerusalem Post.

  What stands behind most of the violence in
Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and other areas is Arab Sunni fundamentalism in its various
forms – whether Salafi, Wahhabi, or Muslim Brotherhood. All forms of radical
Islam threaten the existence of the Alawites, Kurds, Lebanese Shi’ites,
Christians, and other members of the non-Sunni ethnic and religious groups,
including non-fundamentalist Sunnis.

This Arab Muslim “zero-sum game”
culture defines their view of Kurds and other minorities, including Israel. Just
as the Arab Sunni Muslims in general relentlessly “hunt” Israel, they would only
accept a permanent solution in the Middle East by which they conquer and control
the region, and – according to classical Islamic dogma – eventually the entire

But tectonic shifts triggered by the Islamic revolutions over the
past few years may succeed in liberating the region from Sunni Arab imperialism
and create a better future for the region’s minorities. The Kurds, while
overwhelmingly Sunni, see the Muslim Brotherhood and the Wahhabis by and large
as Arab imperialists trying to force them to abandon their Kurdish identity and
become Arabs – probably the reason most Kurds loathe the Muslim

For the Brotherhood, being Sunni is not enough. In their
view, only Arabs can be true Muslims. Non-Arabs must abandon their languages and
cultures and adopt an Arab identity – the same attitude which explains how most
of the Middle East became Arab and Muslim during the first century of

The shifts are important to the Kurdish future. The Kurdish
self-governing authority in Northern Iraq, Syria’s unraveling into geographical
units comprised of Alawites, Kurds, Arab Sunnis and other ethnic groups, and
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent outreach to Turkey’s Kurds
could result in a more pluralistic governing structure for a new Middle East
whose centers of power are more dispersed.

In this context, the
legitimacy and success of the Kurdish national project across the region could
blaze a new path for other minorities. It could also help Israel.

example, Iraqi Kurdistan’s success as an autonomous area or a potentially
independent state may influence a process of self-determination for other sects,
tribes, ethnic and religious groups.

Shared challenges make Kurds and the
Jewish state good potential allies. Like Jews, the Kurdish people have lived
under foreign domination for millennia.

Kurdish suffering under Arab,
Turkish and Iranian rule infuses them with a natural affinity for Jews and

There are an estimated 35 to 45 million Kurds in the Middle East,
many of whom have been secretly sympathetic to Israel for years and have even
been labeled “Zionist agents” in Iraq, Syria and Iran.

The addition of
millions of potential Kurdish friends, for micro-sized Israel with a mere eight
million inhabitants, could enhance the Jewish state’s security and regional
position. While Jews were always considered politically and socially inferior in
the Arab Middle East, Kurds generally did not discriminate against Jews, nor
have they demonized Israel. In short, geography, history and destiny create
natural affinities and interests between Kurds and

Read article in full

Imams’ Auschwitz visit tells half the story

Muslim leaders have travelled to Germany and
Poland to see and hear for themselves about the horrors of the Jewish
Holocaust, the BBC reports. While visits like this are vital in combating Holocaust denial in the Arab and Muslim world, they are more remarkable for what they conceal than reveal. They have the unfortunate side-effect of projecting the Holocaust as a purely European story.  I’ll wager that the question of sympathy with Nazism,even complicity,of key Arab figures, is not touched on, nor is the postwar ethnic cleansing of Jewish communities in the Arab world as a result of Nuremberg-style laws mentioned; nor the legacy of Nazi-inspired Islamo-fascism, still very much with us today.

The 11 imams, sheiks and religious teachers from nine
countries met a Holocaust survivor and Poles whose families risked
execution to save Jews from the Nazis, in the Polish capital’s Nozyk
Synagogue as part of the tour.(..)

“The main aim is to get Muslims who are leaders all over the
world, particularly in the Middle East, to acknowledge the reality of
what happened here and to be able to teach it to the people that they
lead,” said trip organiser Rabbi Jack Bemporad, who is executive
director of the US-based Center for Interreligious Understanding.

He was standing underneath the red brick watchtower over the
main entrance to Birkenau, the largest of more than 40 camps that made
up the Auschwitz complex. This was where the Nazis installed four gas
chambers and crematoria to speed up the murder and disposal of people,
who were mostly Jews, from across Europe.

Auschwitz-Birkenau, set up by the Germans in Nazi-occupied
Poland, is largely intact and is now a museum. Historians estimate 1.1
million people were killed there – one million of them were Jews but
there were also Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and others.

“I think that when someone wants to deny the Holocaust or
think that it is exaggerated, which many of them do and certainly many
of their followers do, when they come here and see it, their experience
is such that they can no longer think that,” Rabbi Bemporad said.

Muslims pray during a trip to Auschwitz


The visitors stopped to pray beside an execution wall. 


Beside the ruins of one of the gas chambers – the Germans blew
them up as they retreated, in an effort to hide their crimes – the
Muslim leaders paused for a moment’s silence.

“You may read every book about the Holocaust but it’s nothing
like when you see this place where people were burned,” said Mohamed
Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America.

“This is the building, the bricks. If they were to speak to
you and I, they would tell you how many cries and screams they have

Mr Magid, who is originally from
Sudan, first visited Auschwitz-Birkenau during a trip organised for
American imams in 2010. He said the experience had led him to hold an
annual Seder, a Jewish ceremonial meal, at his mosque in Virginia where
he invites people to listen to the story of a Holocaust survivor who was
saved by a Muslim family.

“We go back more committed to human rights and more
understanding of conflicts and how to resolve them, but also to be
careful of a curriculum that teaches racism and hatred,” he said.


Earlier, the group had taken photos as they walked around an
exhibition in the red brick barrack blocks at Auschwitz, about 2 miles
(3kms) from Birkenau.

They made comments such as “Can you imagine?” and “It’s
beyond comprehension” as they saw a great pile of hair shorn from women
prisoners that was used to make rudimentary textiles. They shook their
heads as they saw faded children’s shoes and dolls in glass cases.

After they had seen just two of the 14 exhibition blocks,
some of the group asked for a break and they knelt in prayer beside the
camp’s execution wall.

Barakat Hasan, a Palestinian imam and director of the Center
for Studies and Islamic Media in Jerusalem, said he “didn’t know many
details about the Holocaust” before the trip.

Barakat Hasan, a Palestinian imam and director of the Center for Studies and Islamic Media in Jerusalem


 Barakat Hasan, a Palestinian imam, said he would share what he had learned on the visit


“I felt my heart bleeding when I was looking at all this. I was
fighting back tears,” he said through an interpreter. “As a Palestinian
living under occupation, I feel sympathy for the pain and injustice
that was inflicted on the Jews,” he added.

Mr Hasan said he did not believe there were people in the
Muslim world who denied the Holocaust happened, but he said there was
discussion in his community about whether the commonly quoted figure of
six million Jewish victims was correct.

“Maybe now after seeing what I’ve seen, maybe the numbers are
correct also,” he said, adding that he would write articles and mention
his trip on Facebook.

As he walked along the railway line and unloading ramp at
Birkenau – where the trains hauling cattle cars crammed with Jews
arrived – Ahmet Muharrem Atlig, a Turkish imam and secretary general of
the Journalists and Writers Foundation in Istanbul, said he wept when he
saw a photograph that showed children looking scared as they got off a

“Unfortunately the Muslim communities and congregation don’t know much about the Holocaust,” he said.

“Yes, we’ve heard something. But we have to come and see what
happened here. It’s not just about Jews, or Christians, this is all
about human beings because the human race suffered here.”

Read article in full 

A Libyan Holocaust survivor’s story 

Hitler has never left the Middle East 

Jews question Egyptian cutback – report

 Detail from an Egyptian synagogue

Blowback in Egypt Independent from reports of Egypt’s decision tocut off funding from Egypt’s tiny Jewish community: the community has written a letter to the Shura Council. It is apparently also demanding the appointment of an ‘Arab’ rabbi. It is not clear where this rabbi would come from – certainly not from inside a community of some 20 elderly Jewish women.

Egypt’s Jewish community on Tuesday demanded that the Shura Council
explain itself regarding the alleged halt of government financial
support to Egyptian Jews.

Anadolu Turkish news agency quoted on Wednesday an official from the
Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs who said that the government
has revoked annual grants of LE100,000 (US$14,000) allocated to the
Jewish community by former President Hosni Mubarak.

Mubarak had secretly granted the funds starting in 1988.

A letter submitted to the Shura Council on Tuesday inquired about the
credibility of a report that the state would annul the funds, which
were a classified component of the Ministry’s budget.

The letter was discussed during a meeting of the council’s Human
Rights Committee. Mohamed Al-Azab, a committee member, said that the
Jewish community had called for the funds to be an explicit part of the
country’s budget. They had also called on the government to facilitate
the appointment of an Arab rabbi (sic)  to help community members perform
religious rites.

Read article in full


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