Month: July 2014

My heart breaks for Aleppo

 Model of the Aleppo Great Synagogue at the Museum of the Diaspora, Tel Aviv. The synagogue, damaged in the 1947 riots, is thought to have been largely destroyed.

Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, Emma Klein laments the destruction of the Christians in Aleppo. The city’s now extinct Jewish community had included her own family, the Douek Cohens.

Aleppo has always held great resonance for me, since my paternal
ancestors found refuge there in 1492, after the expulsion of the Jews
from Spain. The city was part of the Ottoman Empire, a centre of great
tolerance which became a refuge for many communities. My family remained
there for 300 years before leaving for India, which had just become
part of the British Empire and must have offered great potential for

Jews had been settled in Aleppo since Biblical times and the name
Douek was well known. Our family name was Douek Cohen and there are
still some relatives bearing that name today.

During the visit of one of my cousins to Aleppo in the early 1960s,
she met members of the Jewish community who were living in great fear.
Very recently I met a young man, Rob, whose family had fled Aleppo a few
years later. One of his ancestors was also called Douek.

The family had been well established in Syria, until things changed
with the founding of the state of Israel*. Rob’s grandfather used to go
round Aleppo before Shabbat, giving money to the poor. His mother was
educated by nuns. Their relatively grand house was partly taken over by
the Syrians.

During the Six Day War, Rob’s mother recalled that they were given
refuge in the Italian Mission Hospital, run by nuns who were
subsequently beaten and raped for helping Jews. By then, too, Rob’s
grandfather was frequently tortured on his way home from synagogue and
Syrians would enter Jewish homes in the middle of the night to ensure no
Jew had escaped. The family’s eventual flight from Aleppo in 1971, via
Beirut, where they stayed for several months, was quite dramatic.

The Aleppo Jewish community believed that what had protected Aleppo’s
Jews for centuries was the Aleppo Codex. Written in the 10th century,
this bound manuscript of the Hebrew Bible is considered by many as the
most authoritative version. It was consulted by Maimonides himself, and
it is believed that it was brought to Aleppo in 1375 by one of his
descendants who thought that it would be the safest place for this
religious and scholarly gem. There it remained, until the synagogue
where it was kept was burned down by rioters, following the UN decision
in 1947 to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. Eventually it was
smuggled, in a washing machine, into Israel in 1958 by a Syrian Jew, and
presented to the Israeli president. It was discovered that some pages
had been lost, and more disappeared in Israel.

Christians, too, made up part of the Aleppo mosaic of communities.
One distinguished clergyman, the 17th century scholar, Henry Maundrell,
served in Aleppo for six years until his untimely death in 1701. In 1697
he travelled from Aleppo to Jerusalem and his book, Journey from Aleppo
to Jerusalem at Easter AD 1697, is considered a minor travel classic.

Today, Aleppo’s Christians live in great fear and most who could
afford to, have fled. Antoine Audo, bishop of Aleppo for 25 years, wrote
recently of the “daily dose of death and destruction” and pointing out
while there are 45 churches in Aleppo, the Christian faith was “in
danger of being driven into extinction”.

In 2006, Aleppo won the title of Islamic Capital of Culture. Today,
thousands of years of history are in danger of being reduced to little
more than a huge pile of rubble. Had the Western powers intervened, as
they did in Libya, where, of course, there was oil, they might have
saved this outstanding location of refuge, scholarship and culture from

Read article in full 

*In fact things began to change in  the 1930s

Erdogan calls on Jews to denounce Israel

 President  Recep Tayyip Erdogan (photo: AFP)

Following a call by a US Jewish group for Turkish President Erdogan to give back a prize, Erdogan is still calling for Jews to denounce Israel. But he is softening his stance by not insisting that Jews issue a statement. Report by Haaretz

Turkey will keep its Jewish citizens safe, but the Jewish community
should denounce Israel, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a
Turkish newspaper.

“Jews in Turkey are our citizens. We are responsible for their security of life and property,” Erdogan told the Daily Sabah. 

added: “I talked with our Jewish citizens’ leaders on Thursday and I
stated that they should adopt a firm stance and release a statement
against the Israeli government. I will contact them [Jewish leaders in
Turkey] again, but whether or not they release a statement, we will
never let Jewish people in Turkey get hurt.”

said, according to the newspaper, that the Jewish leaders in Turkey
should criticize “Israeli aggression,” and that the Israeli government
“abuses all Jewish people around the world for its fraudulent policies.”

Read article in full 

Erdogan: ‘I’m no antisemite’  (French)

France offers asylum to Iraqi Christians

ISIS has blown up the tomb of the Prophet Jonah in Mosul

First came reports that the jihadist terrorists of the Islamic Army of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) were confronting the the Christians of Mosul with the dreadful choice: ‘convert or die’. In a move reminiscent of how Jewish homes were identified by a red ‘hamsa’ during the Farhud, Christian homes were daubed with an ‘N’ – for Nasrani’ (Christian). Now Christians are following the Jews into exile. The Daily Star (Lebanon) reports:

PARIS: France said Monday that it was ready to welcome Christians from northern Iraq who have been told by the Al-Qaeda offshoot group now ruling the region to either convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or face death.

Islamic State insurgents seized large swaths of northern Iraq last month, prompting hundreds of Christian families in Mosul to flee a city that has hosted the faith since its earliest years.

are providing aid to displaced people fleeing from the threats of
Islamic Sate and who have sought refuge in Kurdistan. We are ready, if
they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil,” France’s foreign and
interior ministers said in a joint statement.

“We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them.”

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki earlier this month condemned the
treatment of the Christians and instructed a government committee to
help those made homeless. However, he has not said when the army might
try to win back control of Mosul.

Islamic State has warned all women in Mosul to wear full-face veils or risk severe punishment. The Sunni insurgents, who have declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria,
also view Iraq’s majority Shiites as infidels who deserve to be killed.

Read article in full

ISIS purges Christians from Iraq (Huffington Post) 

The destruction of Near Eastern Christianity(Jerusalem Post)

War on Jews is Hamas”s raison-d”être

 Hamas supporters

In spite of saturation press and media coverage of the Gaza conflict,  rarely are Hamas’s objectives put in historical perspective. Hamas are not Palestinian nationalists but Islamists. Governments and pundits talk about the need for an end to violence and a ‘diplomatic solution ‘: sit down and talk. But Hamas, an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement, simply does not have a negotiating position, short of the annihilation of Israel and the subjugation of Jews to Muslim rule, as per its Charter.

Even the UK Hamas representative Azzam Tamimi makes clear that Hamas does not want a truce in order to aspire to a more peaceful life for Gazans, whom it cynically exploits as victims and human shields. He admits that Hamas only wants Israel to capitulate to its pre-conditions. Hamas would then  steal a march over Fatah by appearing to be the only Palestinian force which could gain concessions from Israel – and so be better placed to wage the next war, or intifada. 


Hamas is the local Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its ideology has two dominant features: Islamic imperialism and extreme hatred for Jews, routinely broadcasting calls for genocide. Thus it shares certain characteristics with ISIS, the jihadist terrorist armysweeping across Syria and Iraq, and Boko Haram, who are terrorising northern Nigeria and kidnapping Christian schoolgirls.

Founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, a teacher, the Muslim Brotherhood was directly inspired by the rise of Nazism, as well as Mohammed’s campaign against the Jewish tribes of Arabia in the Koran. By the late 1940s the German-funded Brotherhood’s membership had rocketed – if you’ll forgive the pun –  from 800 to 500,000.

The movement only ever targeted the Jews and other non-Muslims – and more specifically, the Jews of Egypt.

This campaign was set off by the 1936 uprising in Palestine directed against Jewish immigration and initiated by the notorious Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. Between 1936 and 1938 the Brotherhood organized mass demonstrations in Egyptian cities under the slogans “Down With the Jews!” and “Jews Get Out of Egypt and Palestine!” Leaflets called for a boycott of Jewish goods and shops. The Brotherhood’s newspaper, al-Nadhir, carried a regular column on “The Danger of the Jews of Egypt,” which published the names and addresses of Jewish businessmen and (allegedly) Jewish newspaper publishers all over the world – attributing every evil, from communism to brothels, to the “Jewish danger.”

The Jews of Egypt were repeatedly called on to publicly disassociate themselves from Zionism.

In June 1939 bombs were planted in a Cairo synagogue and Jewish homes, but this was as nothing compared to the violence to come. In November 1945, just six months after the end of the Third Reich, the Muslim Brotherhood carried out the worst anti-Jewish pogroms in modern Egypt’s history, when demonstrators penetrated the Jewish quarter of Cairo on the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. They ransacked houses and shops, attacked non-Muslims, and torched the synagogues. Six people were killed, and a hundred more injured. A few weeks later the Islamists’ newspapers “turned to a frontal attack against the Egyptian Jews, slandering them as Zionists, Communists, capitalists and bloodsuckers, as pimps and merchants of war, or in general, as subversive elements within all states and societies,” as Gudrun Krämer wrote in her study The Jews in Modern Egypt 1914-1952 .

 The rest is, as they say, history. More riots erupted in 1948, thousands of Jews fled, discriminatory laws were introduced against non-Egyptians and in 1956, a third of Egypt’s original 80,000-strong community were expelled and dispossessed. After 1967, hundreds more Jews were interned and expelled.

The pitiful status ofJews in Egypt today would gladden the heart of any Hamas supporter: the country is almost judenrein, and the few dozen fearful Jews still living there – almost all converts to Islam or married to non-Jews – ‘know their place’.

 It is not for lack of trying that Hamas failed to subjugate the Jews of Israel: the formidable defence system known as Iron Dome, successfully intercepting 90 percent of rockets aimed at Israel’s population centres,  has thwarted Hamas’s objectives for now. Israel’s ground forces have prevented a mega-terror attack by uncovering the existence of Hamas’s vast network of cross-border tunnels. By the time you read this, Hamas might have agreed to a more ‘permanent’ ceasefire – once its rocket stockpile becomes depleted or its leadership decimated. And then Hamas will prepare for the next round.

 The West needs to understand that there is no compromise with Hamas short of it being disarmed, overthrown and replaced by a more responsible government. As long as Hamas rules Gaza, peace between Israel and the Palestinians will be no more than a short interlude between wars. Permanent peace will remain as elusive as a trail of rocket smoke.

Is it time for Jews to leave ‘Francalgerie’?

The traumatic events of 13 July and again on 22 July, when Parisian Jews were forced to barricade themselves inside synagogues to avoid a near-pogrom by angry and violent pro-Palestinian demonstrators, has  prompted professor Shmuel Trigano to ask in his Times of Israel blog: is it time for Jews to leave France? In the face of official indifference and media misrepresentation, history is repeating itself for a community that only a generation ago was forced to leave North Africa. France has become Francalgerie.

Rioting in Sarcelles on 22 July

“Le plus terrible reste cependant la réaction ou l’absence de réaction de la société et notamment des médias. La dépèche de l’AFP est un modèle du genre en matière de réécriture des événements dans le sens de leur dénaturation[2], mâtinée de l’opinion du grand « expert » en la matière, Pascal Boniface:«Interdire ce type de manifestation serait un remède pire que le mal». Les manifestants fustigeant la cruauté d’Israël sont abondamment cités et bien sûr l’AFP incrimine la Ligue de défense juive. Elle fournit dans sa dépêche un schéma sur les pertes à Gaza comme pour justifier implicitement la manifestation.

“Quel va être l’impact de cet événement sur les Juifs de France? Il pourrait jouer le rôle que des faits de ce type ont rempli dans le passé pour les Juifs du monde arabe: un événement symbolique très fort (une émeute,un assassinat…) tout ce serait plausible car c’est comme si l’exclusion des Juifs, qui avait commencé en Afrique du Nord et qui, d’une certaine façon menace, depuis, ceux d’entre eux qui ont trouvé refuge en Israël, se poursuivait sur le sol français. De la « Françalgérie »?”

Read  article in full (French):

It’s deja vu for Arab-born French Jews


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