Month: August 2014

More on the 1954 massacre at Petit Jean

 As promised, here is a little more detail about the massacre of Petit Jean, near Meknes, on 3 August 1954.  The massacre gives the lie to the myth that Moroccan Jews and Muslims had always lived peacefully together. As a commenter has pointed out, this pogrom was  the worst of a series of incidents – riots in Oujda in 1953 in which four Jews were killed, Sagan in 1955 (hundreds of Jews made homeless after their homes were burnt to the ground), riots in Wadi Zem (a family of five and two other Jews killed).

The aftermath of the massacre 

 The massacre of Petit-Jean (now known as Sidi Kacem) took place against a background of unrest and violence as Moroccan nationalists struggled for independence against French colonial rule. The tension was palpable during that fateful August of 1954.

What happened exactly on 3 August ?

Petit Jean was a commercial hub 20 kilometres from Meknes. Jewish shopkeepers prepared to shut their stores to comply with a nationalist boycott. But the French authorities told them to remain open and guaranteed them ‘total protection’. The Jews paid dearly for such a lie.

According to Robert Assaraf, author of  Une certaine histoire des juifs du Maroc (p 579), at around 6.30 pm a horde of 1,000 excited Arabs converged on the old town and fixed a portrait of the exiled sultan, the future Mohammed V, on the front of a Jewish shop. The police commissioner climbed a ladder to remove it. The mob threw stones at him. He got away. For no apparent reason, the mob then took out their frustrations on  the Jews, clubbing them with iron bars. Some believed that a Jew had lent the policeman a ladder.

The names of the dead were as follows:







The manner of their death was particularly shocking: Samuel Boussidan, a father of 11, had his chest split open. The murderers then indulged in unspeakable atrocities. They hurled him on to a heap of sacks and set fire to him. Setting ablaze  a truck belonging to Chaloum Elfassy, the screaming crowd headed for Elfassy’s warehouse, attacking him with bricks and killing his son, 22, a young married father of one. Other rioters attacked Elie Toledano, the head of a large family, and killed him and his son David. A sixth Jew, Abraham Amar, suffered the same fate.

The mob made a bonfire of the bodies and set fire to valuable stock, while their women ululated their joy. Witnesses saw the rioters distribute banknotes stolen from the unfortunate victims. The body of a sixth victim was found some time later.

It took four hours for the forces of law and order to come. The police, who were protecting the European quarter, began to fire on the rioters. They fled in all directions: 300 were arrested.

Assaraf points out that the rioters spared the shops belonging to Muslims, and even more incredible, the property of French and foreign companies. “At the SCAM warehouse, the mob enquired who was the owner,” Assaraf recounts.” When they learned it was a French company, they were careful to leave it alone, going off to plunder more Jewish assets.”

The corpses,  charred beyond recognition,  were handed over to the traumatised Meknes Jewish community. On the seventh day of mourning, the community leadership publicised an open letter in Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic to be read out in all synagogues: “Fathers and sons were sacrificed on the same day. Their murderers, full of hate, savage and cruel, made them suffer the cruellest torments. The dead are martyrs for the people of Israel.” The letter ends with a plea for Divine vengeance.

This video, taken by the granddaughter of Samuel Boussidan’s brother, ends with a view of the victims’ tombstones filmed in the Meknes Jewish cemetery. Apparently they bear the engraved inscription: “Killed by Arabs on 3 August 1954.”


Directing its anger as much at the murderers as at the police’s failure to prevent the pogrom, the community  pledged to plant trees in the victims’ memory in Eretz Israel.

Following the pogrom, letter of complaint in Judeo-Arabic sent by Meknes Jews to the Alliance Israelite headquarters in Paris

Was the riot premeditated or spontaneous? No one knows, but Jews had been singled out for an unusually sadistic death purely for being Jews. When the last French soldier left Moroccan soil, what fate lay in store for the Jewish community?

Nationalist leaders and the French governor condemned the massacre, but panic had already spread amongst the Jews. A few weeks later a Jewish merchant in Rabat was killed for opening his store in violation of the boycott of French goods declared by Moroccan nationalists.

JTAreported on the ‘pogrom’ atmosphere in Morocco:

Haifa (Aug 15): “The first group of 599 Moroccan Jews escaping from the pogrom
atmosphere now prevailing in Morocco arrived here today. Most of the
immigrants are young people and come from Marakesh, Fez, Rabat and

“The immigrants are the first of a stream of 25, 000 Moroccan Jews
already registered for entry into Israel by the Jewish Agency. They left
aboard the Israeli ship “S.S. Jerusalem” two days after the start of
the anti-Jewish attacks, which resulted in at least seven Jewish dead
and many injured at Petitjean and Fez.

Most Moroccan Jews, rich and poor alike, want to leave for Israel,
and “the sooner they are transferred, the better, ” the refugees
declared. They told how, when they were passing through the streets of
Casablanca on their way to board their ship, Arabs shouted: “We’ll start
war against the Jews within a week. “

Read article in full

More about the massacre (Darnna – French) 

Soly Anidjar’s website(French)

Jews under Muslim rule in the 19th c, by David Littman

One hundred years since the Fez pogrom

1954: Morocco’s summer of terror

Sixty-years ago this month, Morocco was in turmoil as it struggled for independence from France.  On the first anniversary of the deposing of the Moroccan sultan, who was sent into exile to Madagascar, Jews found themselves targeted by Moroccan nationalists. On 3 August 1954, a pogrom erupted in Sidi Kacem (Petit Jean), 20 km from Meknes: six Jews were killed. More about this pogrom soon.

Here is a JTA report from 12 August 1954 describing the aftermath of the pogrom:

“Twenty-five thousand Jews in Morocco have registered with the Jewish
Agency for emigration to Israel, it was announced here today. In view of
the tense situation in Morocco, the Agency started negotiations with an
Israeli shipping company for their transportation. The first group of
600 will arrive tomorrow, followed by another group of 1, 000 by the end
of this month, and 2,000 more in September.

A number of well-to-do Jews in Morocco have received threatening
letters from Arab terrorists, ordering these Jews to leave the country
within three months, it was reported here today by David Rubino, a
merchant, upon his arrival from Casablanca.

Mr. Rubino, in giving the first eye-witness report on the Moslem
terror against Jews in Morocco, said that seven Jews lost their lives in
the pogroms in Fez and Petitjean last week. Many other Jews, he
reported, were injured, shops were looted, businesses and artisans’
booths that had been maintained by Moroccan Jews for generations were
smashed by the rioters.

The scene in Petit Jean following the pogrom of 3 August.

“The terror is not aimed specifically against the Jews,” he declared.
“The terror has its own political motivation. But Jews are suffering,
and losing their lives. Most Moroccan Jews want to leave the country,
want to emigrate to Israel. This includes many who, up to very recently,
had no particular desire to go to Israel. These have changed their
minds overnight, because of the pogroms. “

Read article in full

“I live. Send help”: the Joint’s 100 years

Top: Jewish refugees waiting to leave Algeria, 1962. Middle top: the Sephardi Old Age Home in Jerusalem, 1920s. Middle Bottom: Tunisian Jewish mothers queuing to collect free milk, 1951. Bottom: The Joint helped organise the airlift of Jews from Yemen in 1949, Operation Magic Carpet.

Many Jews displaced from Arab countries  owe a debt of gratitude to the prosaically-named Joint (American Joint Distribution Committee), which has been quietly going about its business of giving humanitarian aid to Jews in need. This year, the Joint celebrates its 100th anniversary. Point of No Return salutes the Joint’s amazing work in the Middle East and North Africa with this photographic tribute. Here is some information on the special centenary exhibition being held in NYC until 21 September :” I live. Send help.”

“On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) a new exhibition,“I Live. Send Help.” 100 Years of the American Jewish Joint
Distribution Committee, will be on view at the New-York Historical
Society Museum; Library in New York City
, is running until 21
September 2014.

Founded in New York City in 1914 as a response to
the plight of Jews in Europe and Ottoman Palestine at the outset of
World War I, JDC has become a premier humanitarian organization helping
Jews and non-Jews in need worldwide.

A collaboration between the
New-York Historical Society and JDC, the exhibition recounts JDC’s
100-year history with photographs, objects, films, and letters dating
from 1914 compiled from JDC’s extensive Global Archives in New York and

Live. Send Help.
” will chronicle JDC from its inception in 1914, when
Jacob Schiff, Henry Morgenthau, Sr., and other Jewish philanthropists
came together in New York City to help needy Jews in the Middle East and
Europe suffering at the outset of World War I. After the war ended, new
crises emerged and JDC – originally intended as a temporary initiative –
continued and expanded its efforts around the world. During the buildup
to World War II, JDC helped relocate Jewish refugees and save them from
Nazi persecution, in places as far and wide as Shanghai, China; La Paz,
Bolivia; Kobe, Japan; and Sosua, Dominican Republic. JDC was critical
in rehabilitating and resettling survivors of the Holocaust after their

The exhibition also visits the challenges facing Jewish
communities in North Africa and the Middle East, and focuses on JDC’s
most recent relief activities rebuilding Jewish communities of the
former Soviet Union and aiding Filipinos in the wake of the devastation
of Typhoon Haiyan.

Highlights of “I Live. Send Help.” include a
long-lost 1940 letter from Albert Einstein to JDC Chairman Edward
Warburg, revealing the renowned Jewish scientist and Nobel laureate’s
dedication to helping children escape Nazi persecution in Europe.  In
the exchange, Einstein praises the JDC for its work and implores nations
in the Americas to admit more Jewish refugees: “Efforts to save these
children must not slacken… It is not only a question of bringing them
to the States, other countries must be opened to them…In all these
efforts the aid of the Joint Distribution Committee is of the utmost

A 1921 photograph of elderly men, women, and children desperately
waiting to receive food outside the JDC-sponsored Dreyfus Soup Kitchen
in Jerusalem illustrates the chaos in which JDC operated in its earliest

The exhibit will feature rare audio recordings including entertainer
Eddie Cantor’s radio endorsement of JDC’s WWII-era work and testimony by
an Alaska Airlines pilot involved in the JDC-organized evacuation of
Jews from Yemen.”

The curious case of the ‘Jewish’ Kurds

Jews demonstrate in solidarity with Kurds. Do Kurds have a Jewish skeleton in their cupboards?

The current  rapprochement between Jews and Kurds,standing together against ISIS and in favour of the protection of oppressed minorities in Iraq,  has obscured an aspect of their historical relationship not often talked about : how many Kurdish Jews converted to Islam over the centuries?

The 18,000-member Kurdish-Jewish community was airlifted to Israel in 1950, so  Jews attending demonstrations in solidarity with Kurds are surprised to hear that Kurds have Jewish family members living in Israel or recall that their grandmothers were Jewish. One estimated that the ‘Jewish’ Kurds living in the Kurdish region numbered 150,000. This figure is almost certainly a fantasy.

In Kurdistan, they call them Ben-Ju: they are the descendants
of Jews converted to Islam. To all intents and purposes, they are
Muslim. But they remain aware of their Jewish ancestry, and this
undoubtedly influences their views. Many are sympathetic to Israel. The Israel-Kurd magazine – whose editor disappeared without trace (reportedly kidnapped by Iranian agents) –
was apparently an initiative of Kurds of mixed Muslim-Jewish ancestry.

There could be hundreds or even thousands of these cases.

 It’s an
intriguing thought that the scale of forced conversions in Kurdistan
might even approximate what occurred in Morocco (one in four Moroccan Muslims in Fez, for example, are reckoned to descend from Jewish converts) Yemen, and Iran. It could be a skeleton in the Kurdish cupboard of massive proportions.

 Jews were under the protection of local tribal chieftains, or aghas. It is possible that these aghas seized Jewish girls as their wives.

A story doing the rounds in Israel tells that a military adviser was sent by the
Israeli army to train the Kurds in the Sixties. He wrote that when he
was invited one evening for a dinner at a Kurdish peshmerga army
leader’s house, a lady in that house brought him tea. When he looked at
her, he thought he recognised her and  asked if she was Sarah.
When she heard him calling her that name, she dropped the tray with all
the tea on the floor out of  shock, and rushed out of the room. He  never saw her again. He added that when his family lived in
northern Iraq, he had a sister by the name of Sarah who was kidnapped. He
was sure that that lady was his sister.

This story echoes that told by  Ariel Sabar in My father’s Paradise’. Ariel’s aunt was kidnapped by her Muslim wetnurse as a baby, and never heard of again.

Of Kurdish barbers and Jewish converts


Exposing Edward Said as academic fraud

A new book by Joshua Muravchik, Making David into Goliath, exposes the late academic Edward Said (pictured) as a fraud whose Orientalism turned history on its head: he made Arab Muslim imperialists into victims and colonised peoples  into colonialists. The brilliant Daniel Greenfield explains in Front Page Magazine:

Edward Said transformed the Muslim and Arab colonists into the
oppressed indigenous peoples pitted against European colonizers. The
complex nuanced realities of legitimate scholars who recognized that
Europeans and Arabs had both been imperialists and colonizers in their
time were swept aside by Said’s nationalistic polemics.

By damning legitimate scholars as racist colonialist Orientalists,
Edward Said was able to impose his own racist and colonialist
revisionist history on academia.

The New Left had made Third World nationalism into its new creed.
Said’s support of the PLO made him a voice for justice no matter how
many lies he told or how his botched scholarship perverted history.
Third World nationalists could legitimately call on Western guilt and
act as moral voices on campus at the behest of a left that glibly
assumed that only political terror would end the cycle of oppression.

The unfortunate truth of human affairs is that everyone is oppressing
someone else. The great question that the left has been unwilling to
address is who their designated victims are oppressing.

By treating the likes of Edward Said as reservoirs of unchallenged
morality, the left had become complicit in the oppression of others. The
old lessons of the USSR and the French Revolution, the danger of
handing unlimited moral authority to outraged fanatics with an agenda,
had not been learned. Instead class made way for race. The elites who
had claimed to speak for the workers in France and Russia were
dismissed. The new elites were wealthy prep school grads like Edward
Said who claimed to speak for a non-existent people in an imaginary
country based on three vacations he had taken there.

It was not only a breathtakingly impudent act of colonialism, but one
that had severe consequences for the intellectual integrity of
academia. Edward Said had staked out his place in the academic
revolution by denouncing just about everyone else for their Orientalism.
Facts were his weak point, but his tactics were Stalinist. Denouncing
potential opponents as a class allowed him to turn his own Orientalism
into the Lysenkoism of his field. It was not the quality of his
scholarship that won him influence, but the broadness of his
denunciation. Said’s work was not inclusive, it was exclusive. It came
to bar the door.

In Making David Into Goliath, Joshua Muravchik dissects many
of the myths and frauds that Edward Said built up around himself. And
yet the myths can never be entirely destroyed because of the crucial
role that he played in the alliance between the New Left and Third World
nationalists. His ideas helped assign intellectual credibility to the
intertwining of two reactionary totalitarian movements struggling to
remain relevant by denouncing every newer system of government and

Like many racists, Edward Said’s denunciations of others were really
expressions of his own limitations. Said condemned his academic enemies
for failing to see the diversity of the east, when it was Said who
refused to see the diversity of the west. Edward Said reduced his
opponents to crude stereotypes while accusing them of reducing Arabs and
Muslims to crude stereotypes.

Edward Said accused his opponents of constructing colonialist myths,
but his obsession with Israel led him to promote a colonialist myth in
which his imperialist ancestors were the true indigenous people and the
Jews, the majority of whom were Middle Eastern refugees, were foreign
(My emphasis)

Edward Said tainted scholarship with this revisionist nationalist
history. His defense of Arab and Islamic colonialism in an era in which
academia no longer looked kindly on conquerors required him to turn
history on its head and manufacture a narrative of oppressed colonizers
suffering at the hands of the newly liberated indigenous people whom
they had oppressed.

This local perversion of history fitted into the larger global
perversion of Orientalism which indicted Middle Eastern scholarship for
its intellectual colonialism as part of Said’s effort to colonize the
study of the Middle East with his own tribal nationalism. Like a thief
who pretends to be a policeman to scare away the other competing thieves
he imagines are lurking nearby, Edward Said disguised the imperialism
and colonialism of his agenda by dressing it up as anti-imperialism and

From his biography to his ideas, from his head to his toes, Edward
Said was a fraud. Neither a great scholar not a great thinker, Said’s
private nationalism played into a larger intellectual debate taking
place within the culture. His work lives on because of grants from Saudi
princes and because it serves as a pillar of a post-American academia
in which political indictments have taken the place of research.

Arafat hijacked planes in the name of a phony nationalism, but Edward
Said hijacked academia. These two Cairo natives had briefly lived in
Israel as children and built careers around their imperialist efforts to
colonize Israel with myths and violence, with lies and terror,
pretending to be the oppressed when they were actually the oppressors.

Read article in full 

Placing the colonial boot on the Arab foot


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