The year 2014 will be remembered as the year that a genocidal group overran large parts of Iraq and Syria, destroying age -old minorities. Gina Waldman of JIMENA , writing in the Times of Israel, calls for sympathy with, and support for, beleaguered Yazidis:
In 1941, during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, Iraq’s pro-Nazi government led by Rashid Ali al-Kailani encouraged mobs to pillage the Jewish quarter of Baghdad and to kill and rape innocent men, women, children, and babies. This pogrom or Farhud left 120 dead, dozens wounded and the Jewish quarter destroyed. In 1952, 120,000 Iraqi Jews were stripped of their nationality and fled with only the clothes on their backs. Today the Jewish community of Iraq is extinct.
Similar events are currently taking place in Iraq and again, violence is directed at minority communities who have been part of the fabric and the history of Iraq, and the Middle East, nearly 1,000 years before the advent of Islam. Violent attacks by ISIS targeting Yezidis, Shabaks, Assyrian Christians, and other groups have escalated to ethnic cleansing and genocide. The Middle East, which used to be one of the most diverse regions of the world, is sadly becoming one of the most homogenous.
CAIRO – An Egyptian court has banned a Jewish celebration that has taken place since the 1979 peace deal with Israel and asked the government to remove the tomb where it takes place from a list of official shrines, the JerusalemPost reports. Although the authorities have threatened to ban pilgrimages to this Moroccan rabbi”s shrine on previous occasions, this time the ban looks permanent. So much for official protestations that Egypt is not anti-Jewish, just anti-Zionist.
The court said its decision was due to “moral offenses” committed in previous years at the three-day festival celebrating the birth of Rabbi Jacob Abu Hasira. It did not elaborate on what the offenses were.
Jews, mostly from outside Egypt, have congregated every year at the 19th century tomb around Jan. 1 even though the festival was cancelled for security reasons after the 2011 uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak.
Monday’s ruling would make the ban permanent unless a higher court overturns it on appeal.
The court called for the government to reverse the 2001 recognition of the festival by state tourism officials and to remove the tomb in Egypt’s Nile Delta region of Buheira from a list of recognized shrines.
Local residents have previously complained of the disruptive security presence that comes with the festival.
Bad news for the (predominantly Sephardi) Jews in France, who experienced an antisemitic backlash from the summer’s Gaza war and are still suffering from antisemitism, causing over 5, 000 to emigrate to Israel.
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It is said that any resemblance between Ridley Scott’s new biblical epic and the Bible story is purely coincidental – but the suggestion that the Jews built the pyramids is too much for Arab states to take, among other things. (I wonder what Arab states would have said about the Cecil B de Mille version?). The Guardian reports:
A scene from Exodus: Gods and Kings
Egypt has banned the Hollywood biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings, citing historical inaccuracies, the culture minister said on Friday. The decision comes a day after a similar move by Morocco.
The film, directed by Ridley Scott
and starring Christian Bale, relates how Moses helped Israelite slaves
flee persecution in Egypt under the Pharaoh Ramses by parting the Red
Sea to let them cross safely. The Egyptian culture minister, Gaber
Asfour, said the film was rife with mistakes, including an apparent
claim that “Moses and the Jews built the pyramids”.
“It is a Zionist film,” he said. “It gives a Zionist view of history
and contains historical inaccuracies and that’s why we have decided to
The ban was decided by a committee comprising the head of the supreme
council for culture, Mohammed Afifi, the head of the censorship
committee and two history professors, Asfour said.
Afifi said he took issue with the scene showing the parting of the
Red Sea in which Moses – a prophet revered by Jews, Christians and
Muslims alike – is seen holding a “sword” like a warrior, instead of a
“stick”. Furthermore, he said, the parting of the Red Sea was explained
in the movie as a “tidal phenomenon” rather than a divine miracle.
has also banned the film, despite it having been approved by the
state-run Moroccan Cinema Centre, media reported on Thursday, quoting
theatre managers. Hassan Belkady, who runs Cinema Rif in Casablanca,
told media24 news website that he had been threatened with the closure
of his business if he ignored the ban.
“They phoned and threatened they would shut down the theatre if I did not take the film off the schedule,” Belkady said.
An Arab Middle East without minorities is a terrifying prospect for a Lebanese Christian acquaintance of Einat Wilf, MK. He wants the Jews back, a symbol of pluralism and tolerance. It is not about the Jews, however: the Arabs, like the Europeans, are working out their identity – with tragic consequences. But this time, the Jews are not sticking around, she writes in The Irish Examiner:
Dr Einat Wilf, MK: ‘it’s not about the Jews’
“We, the Arabs of the Middle East, miss you – the Jews.” I smiled at the irony.
went on to explain that while it has been more than sixty years since
nearly a million Jews of the Arab Middle East have been expelled and
forced out of their home countries, it is now becoming evident that this
merely foreshadowed things to come.
He recounted his
horror by the rising tide of Islamic brutality, genocide, and ethnic
cleansing of Christian communities that is taking place everywhere the
Islamic State is gaining ground. Just like the Jewish communities, those
Christian communities – gone overnight – have been there before the
birth of Islam and the Arab conquest of the region.
said that he is terrified to think of an Arab Middle East without
minorities. He expressed fear that the intolerance demonstrated towards
the Jews decades ago is now being turned towards almost all other
minorities from Christian to Allewaites to Shiites to the Sunni Muslims
who fail to uphold the demented standards for Muslim piety set by the
My Arab colleague was brave enough to admit
this simple truth that the world has learned over and over again, and
yet seems to never internalize: It starts with the Jews. It never ends
with the Jews.
Rising tides of hatred, intolerance and
brutality are not satisfied once they have rid society of its Jews.
Sooner or later, others will follow. Not only does it never end with the
Jews. It is never really is about the Jews. That is why it never ends
with them. Hatred of Jews is about those who hate – not about those who
When the “Jewish Question” was discussed in
Europe of the 19th century, it was not really the Jewish Question –
rather it was the European Question. It was about what Europe is and
what it wants to be.
Tragically, Europe worked out its
identity as a continent, its ideologies and its loyalties, on the back
and ultimately, on the ashes, of the Jews, nearly destroying the entire
European civilization in the process.
When Europe is
experiencing yet again rising tides of hatred and intolerance towards
Jews – whatever else it might call it and however it might seek to mask
it. It is time for Europe to ask what is wrong with Europe and not what
is wrong with the Jews. Europe’s vision of itself is challenged from
within and without, and this time around, it seems that many Jews don’t
plan to stick around to find out how Europe will resolve the European
Question “this time around “.
The Arab world is no
different with respect to the “Jewish Question”. It is not about the
Jews, and not even about Israel and Zionism, it is about the question of
Arab and Muslim identity. And, like Europe before it and, sadly perhaps
still today, it is working out its identity, ideologies, and loyalties –
initially on the back of the Jews and now on the back of other
The Christians of the Middle East believed
they would find their peace and security by aligning themselves with
Arab nationalism and becoming some of its most vocal defenders. They
thought that by aligning themselves with Arab intolerance towards Jews,
they would shield themselves from the simple fact that the vast majority
of Arabs were Muslims and that as far as Muslim theology is concerned
Christians, like Jews, are not and cannot be considered equal to
With the advancing terror, my colleague expressed
his desired to see the Jews back in Beirut, Alexandria, Baghdad,
Damascus, Aleppo, Tripoli and Casablanca, as they have been for over a
He believed that if the Jews were to
return, the minorities of the Middle East could join hands together to
promote a vision of pluralism and tolerance that would stem the tide of
rising intolerance and brutality.
My colleague overlooked
the irony that the only place in the Middle East were Christians were
not fleeing, but were secure, growing and prospering, was in the Jewish
State of Israel.
Some day, perhaps, the Jews will return.
Some day, perhaps, there will once again be bustling Jewish communities
across the Arab Middle East.
Some day, perhaps, the Jews
of Europe will reverse their renewed Exodus. Some day, these places
might truly offer havens of peace, pluralism, and tolerance, and would
settle the questions of identity that plague them.
Until that day – thank goodness for the Jewish state.
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.
Point of No Return
Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries
One-stop blog on the Middle East's forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.