Month: June 2013

A Jew founded Cairo’s Al-Azhar university

Millions turned out in Cairo today to demonstrate against the Muslim Brotherhood’s unpopular President Morsi. In all the turmoil gripping Egypt, it is forgotten that the centre of Sunni Islamic religious scholarship was once the ‘moderate’ Al-Azhar university, now eclipsed by the Islamists and Salafists. Also forgotten is that this respected institution was founded by a 10th century Jew, Yaqub Ibn Killis, who was born in Baghdad. (With thanks: Desi)   


 From Encyclopaedia Britannica:

“al-Azhar University, Arabic Jāmiʿat al-Azhar,  chief centre of Islamic and Arabic learning in the world, centred on the mosque of that name in the medieval quarter of Cairo, Egypt. It was founded by the Shīʿite (specifically, the Ismāʿīlī sect) Fāṭimids in 970 ce and was formally organized by 988. Its name may allude to Fāṭimah, the Prophet’s
daughter, known as “al-Zahrāʾ” (“the Luminous”), from whom the Fāṭimid
dynasty derives its name. The format of education at al-Azhar remained
relatively informal for much of its early history: initially there were
no entrance requirements, no formal curriculum, and no degrees. The
basic program of studies was—and still is—Islamic law, theology, and the Arabic language.

“An Ismāʿīlī centre of learning, al-Azhar fell into decline after Egypt’s conquest by Saladin, founder of the Ayyūbid dynasty and a Sunni, in the second half of the 12th century. It was revived under the Mamlūks
(1250–1517), however, and continued to thrive thereafter as a centre of
Sunni scholarship. It was damaged in an earthquake in the early 1300s
and subsequently repaired, and additions, alterations, and renovations
to its structures were undertaken at various points throughout the 14th
and 15th centuries, particularly in the later Mamlūk period, when it
came under direct patronage.

 From Wikipedia:

“Fatimid Wazir, Abu al-Farj Yaqub bin Yusuf known as Ibn Killis, was
born of an honorable family of Baghdad. By birth he was a Jew, born in
318 A.H./930 C.E. At the young age he came with his father to Egypt
where he started his political life at the court of Kafur. He was very
intelligent, hard working and honest. Very soon he secured an important
position in the Court of Kafur as an expert in economics. In 356
A.H./967 C.E., he embraced Islam by which Kafur was highly pleased and
appointed him as his courtier. By this promotion of Yaqub, Wazir Ibn
Furat of the court of Kafur got excited with jealousy and was searching for a
cause to bring him down.

“Incidentally in 357 A.H./967 C.E. Kafur died and Wazir Ibn Furat
arrested all his companions including Yaqub bin Killis. It is said that
Yaqub bribed the jailer and absconded to the West where the Fatimid
Caliph Mu’izz was in power on the throne of Imamat and Caliphate. (..)

During his tenure as vizier, Yaqub bin Killis established various
new departments for the administration of the state – promoted
agriculture, reformed trade and stabilised currency. The country
began to flourish and revenue from the provinces increased. In this period the Central Exchequer was so wealthy that neither before
nor since had such wealth ever accrued. In 373 A.H. he fell
from office and it is said that Imam Aziz penalised him with a fine of 200,000 dinars. The actual cause of his removal is not

Dr. Zahid Ali assumes that because Ibn Killis had treated badly one
of the court prisoners of al-Aziz to whom the Imam had promised all honours, Ibn Killis had to pay a fine. All the same within a few months, in 374 A.H., he was reinstated in  office and forgiven.

It is said that Yaqub bin Killis fell seriously ill on the 21st of
Shawwal 380 A.H. The Caliph Aziz visited him and said: “O Yaqub! If your
recovery is to be gained through spending wealth then I am prepared to
give away the whole wealth of the state. And if your life is saved by
sacrificing any life, I am ready to sacrifice my own son”. By this it is
understood what position Yaqub bin Killis held with the Caliph Aziz.
The sickness of Yaqub began to worsen day by day and on the 4th of
Dhul-Hijja 380A.H./991 C.E. he succumbed to death.

His death was mourned throughout Egypt. His shroud was decorated with
50 pieces of clothes of which 30 were embroidered with gold thread.
According to Ibn Khallikan, 100 poets composed lamentations and every
poet earned his reward from the Caliph. In Cairo a place was named the
Vizier’s Quarter in his honour.

The forgotten refugees of 1948

  Jewish refugees from Jerusalem in 1948

A just and comprehensive Mideast peace is possible only when Muslim
states recognize their role in two historic wrongs: displacing one
million indigenous people only because they were Jews, and perpetuating the plight of Palestinian refugees by denying them
citizenship.  Noah Beck’s article in the Commentator  has also appeared in Frontpage magazine,  American Thinker,  The Times of Israel and the Algemeiner :

Media bias also explains why so few people know about the 1948
Jewish refugees from Muslim lands. A search for “1948 refugees” on the
BBC news site generates 41 articles (going back to 1999); 40 discuss
the Palestinian Arab refugees of 1948. Only three of those 40 (dated
9/22/11, 9/2/10, and 4/15/04) even mention the Jewish refugees from
Muslim lands, and two do so only in a single, superficial sentence that
presents the issue as a claim rather than a historical fact.

A search for “1948 refugees Jews from Arab lands” on the New York
Times site produces 497 results (replacing “Arab” with “Muslim” halves
the results), while “1948 Palestinian refugees” yields 1,050 results.
Consider a comparison using Sri Lanka, another war-torn, multi-ethnic
country that gained its independence from Britain in 1948. The nearly
26-year ethnic conflict there began in 1983 and claimed 80,000–100,000
lives, many multiples of the total casualties from the nearly 100-year
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sri Lanka’s conflict also produced
hundreds of thousands of refugees, including at least 200,000 Tamil
refugees in Western Europe alone. Yet a search for “Tamil refugees”
generates only 531 articles – less than 5% of the 11,300 results for
“Palestinian Arab refugees.”

Institutionalized favoritism at the UN has also enabled the
Palestinians to monopolize the refugee issue, which undoubtedly
reinforces the media’s bias. All non-Palestinian refugees around the
world (nearly 55 million) are cared for by the U.N. High Commission for
Refugees, which works under the guidelines of the Convention on
Refugees of 1951. But Palestinian refugees (whose original population
was under one million) have a UN agency dedicated exclusively to them

UNRWA’s unique definition of “refugee” includes anyone “whose normal
place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who
lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948
Arab-Israeli conflict.” So, in addition to families who lived in the
area for generations, UNRWA’s definition includes any migrants who
arrived as recently as 1946 but were then displaced.

And because the
definition includes “descendants of fathers fulfilling the definition,”
UNRWA’s refugee population has grown from 750,000 in 1950 to 5,300,000
today (making resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue even
harder). Despite these problems, the United States continues to support
UNRWA (with over 4.1 billion dollars since 1950).

The rest of the world’s refugees are assisted by the High
Commission, which is mandated to help refugees rapidly rebuild their
lives, usually outside the countries that they fled. Jewish refugees
from Muslim lands did just that: they rebuilt their lives in Israel and

 But the fact that they quietly adapted and Israel granted
them full citizenship doesn’t lessen the wrongs committed by their
countries of origin. These Jewish refugees from Muslim lands suffered
legal and often violent persecution that resulted in immeasurable
emotional and physical loss. They lost billions in property and endured
huge socioeconomic disadvantages when forced to rebuild their lives
from scratch. Israel was unfairly burdened with the colossal social and
economic cost of suddenly absorbing so many refugees. So any
suggestion that Jewish refugees from Muslim lands don’t deserve
compensation is resoundingly wrong.

On the recent World Refugee Day, the Israeli Knesset member Shimon
Ohayon, whose family fled Morocco in 1956, called on the Arab League to
“accept their great responsibility for driving out almost a million
Jews from lands [in] which they had lived for millennia.” He explained
that “In 1947, the Political Committee of the Arab League drafted a law
that…called for the freezing of bank accounts of Jews, their
internment and [the confiscation of their assets]. Various other
discriminatory measures were taken by Arab nations and subsequent
meetings reportedly called for the expulsion of Jews from member states
of the Arab League.” Ohayon challenged the League to accept
responsibility for “the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish population from
most of the Middle East and North Africa…[and] to provide redress to
the Jewish refugees.”

A just and comprehensive Mideast peace is possible only when Muslim
states recognize their role in two historic wrongs: 1) displacing one
million indigenous people only because they were Jews, and 2)
perpetuating the plight of Palestinian refugees by denying them
citizenship. The first wrong requires financial compensation to the
families of Jewish refugees from Muslim lands, which reparation can be
administered by the states that absorbed them. The second wrong should
be remedied by granting full citizenship to Palestinian refugees (and
their descendants) who have resettled in Muslim lands. Both wrongs have
festered for too many decades.

Read article in full 

Link in French (thanks Eliyahu)

Refugee memorial day to be 17 February

 Point of No Return exclusive (with thanks: Levana)

 MK Simon Ohayon

 The proposed annual commmemorative day marking the tragedy of Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries will now be 17 February, Member of Knesset Shimon Ohayon has announced.

That day corresponds to the date in 1948 the Arab League  decided on a coordinated policy to persecute Jews living in Arab countries.

The original date chosen for the memorial date was 30 November, the day after the 29 November 1947 UN Partition Plan was rejected by Arab states. The decision to change to 17 February is to de-couple the tragedy of Jews in Arab Countries from the establishment of Israel.

Explaining the reason for the change, Dr Ohayon noted that the creation of Israel was a day of great happiness for the  Jewish people. Moreover, the decisions taken by the Arab League caused a tragedy for all Jews in Arab countries irrespective of where in the world they fled, not just those who immigrated to Israel.

Moroccan-born Dr Ohayon, MK for the Yisrael Beytenu party, tabled a Knesset bill proposing the memorial day for Jewish Refugees from Arab countries in May.  Lobbying for the bill to be passed will begin in earnest after the High Holydays at the end of September, or in October.

The Knesset plenary will debate the bill under the aegis of the Committee for Culture and Sports. (The minister responsible is Limor Livnat).  Ex-foreign minister Danny Ayalon laid the groundworkfor the bill, then under the aegis of the Committee for Coins and Ceremonies.

The Jewish refugees campaign has the backing of senior Likud government minister Silvan Shalom, who was born in Tunisia.    


Moroccans condemn anti-Jewish exam questions


 The lecturer who set the offensive exam questions has been suspended.

The Moroccan university lecturer who set antisemitic questions in an English exam paper has been temporarily suspended.

The move comes after a storm of criticism in Morocco. A condemnatory blog post by Fahd Yata in La Nouvelle Tribune received hundreds of ‘Likes’, mainly from young internet surfers.

The chairman of the Human Rights Council, Driss El Yazami, announced that an inquiry would be launched into the issue. Several media condemned the antisemitic exam questions as ‘an insult to Morocco’s proverbial tolerance and a violation of the Moroccan Constitution.’

Ahmed Gayet, chairman of of the Association of Plural Moroccans, has publically condemned the lecturer, who is from the university of Oujda.

The French Jewish siteJForumsaid that ‘one swallow doesn’t make a summer’, but asked whether Morocco’s condemnation of antisemitism might set an example to France.

As highlighted on Point of No Return, Essaouira-based blogger Noam Nirmentioned the scandalous questions in his articlefor the Hebrew newspaper Maariv.

The questions read as follows: 

 Answer each one of the two questions given below using correct English :

1) «How does the history of Jews prove their hatred towards other people ?»

2).«How would you justify the fact that immorality and misconduct
in Judaism are basically due to spiritual gap? Use historical facts to
highlight your answer».

Egypt to try six Israelis as spies

US comedian Jon Stewart, who is Jewish, is hauled onto Bassam Youssef’s Egyptian TV satirical show hooded ‘as a spy’.

Another nail in the coffin for Egyptian-Israeli relations as six Israelis and three Egyptians are to be tried for spying, the Jerusalem Post reports (with thanks: Desi):


CAIRO – An Egyptian state security prosecutor said on
Wednesday he had ordered six Israelis and three Egyptians to be tried
for spying.

In a statement, he said the six Israelis and one
Egyptian would be tried in absentia, along with two Egyptians now in
custody, on charges of espionage for Israel.
Israeli suspects include four intelligence officers who Egyptian
authorities say had recruited the Egyptians to spy for them, a source in
the prosecutor’s office said.

The prosecutor’s statement said the
Egyptians were accused of giving the Israelis information that could
damage Egyptian national security, including details on the security
situation in Egypt and the location of army bases in the Sinai

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said he
did not know of any Israeli under arrest or being charged in Egypt. “It
is unclear where such odd rumours emanate from,” he said.

This month Egyptian authorities detained an Egyptian they said had been recruited by Israeli spy agency Mossad in 2011.

Read article in full


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.

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Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

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forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.