Month: March 2016

Roseanne Barr: ‘US Jews ignore Nakba of ‘brown’ Jews

 With thanks: Michelle

Roseanne Barr interviewed in Israel: US Jews are ignorant of the Nakba of ‘brown’ Jews

The comedienne Roseanne Barr has accused US Jews of’ having no idea’  about the  Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews in their midst.

” It’s all about class and race. It really bothers me to see privileged Jewish students of European descent who have no idea of the Nakba of brown Jews”, she told an interviewer on Israeli TV.

Roseanne Barr, on an advocacy tour of Israel, has shown she is one step ahead of many other Israel advocates by bringing up the issue of Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews. ” Most (Israeli) Jews do not come from Europe,” she said.

The question of ‘white privilege’ and ‘intersectionality’has been a subject of controversy in academic circles in California. While some Jews complain that they can never be considered an oppressed group of colour, like black women, other Jews self-define as ‘whites’.

Barr said she found the ignorance of most Ashkenazi Jews ‘staggering’. She urged Ashkenazi Jews in the US to ‘build bridges’ with the tiny Sephardi and Mizrahi communities in their midst, which were often poor.

See the video  clip here on the Facebook page of ‘Israel Beyond’.

Guardian letter highlights exodus of Iraqi Jews

 Surprise, surprise. The Guardian has published a letter  pointing out that Jews preceded Christians in their ‘ethnic cleansing’ from Iraq.

Jewish scribes at the shrine of Ezekiel, Iraq in the 1930s

 

“The decline in the number of Christians in Iraq is indeed disturbing (Loose canon,
25 March). It is part of a wider decline in the Middle East, where
numbers have dwindled from 20% of the population 100 years ago to 5%
today.

The Jewish experience in Iraq
also reflects a story of a once flourishing community which has been
persecuted to near extinction. Jews first went there 2,700 years ago,
and while the community experienced highs and lows over centuries of
Muslim rule, the population grew steadily. Jews accounted for one-third
of Baghdad’s population by the time of the first world war, and by 1936,
official figures showed there to be 120,000 in the country.

However, the period between the world wars, when the British mandate
ended, marked the start of terrible antisemitic persecution in Iraq.
Thousands of Jews fled: 104,000 emigrated between 1949 and 1951.

The history of the Jews in Iraq is a warning, if any were needed, of
the unfolding tragedy facing the Christian community there today.

Zaki Cooper

Trustee, Council of Christians and Jews

Turkey foils terror plot on Jewish children

 A Turkish policeman runs after an explosion on the pedestrian Istiklal
avenue in Istanbul on 19 March 2016. (AFP / Bulent KILIC)

News of a imminent attack on Istanbul’s Jewish children by cells of Islamic State (Daesh) comes as no surprise to Jews in the diaspora, who have long had to protect their synagogues and institutions from terrorist threats. What is new, however, is that the story was broken by Sam Kylie at Sky News, thus making it newsworthy to a mainstream mass audience. Times of Israel reports:

Islamic State terrorists are planning an
imminent attack on Jewish kindergartens, schools and youth centers in
Turkey, according to a report by Britain-based Sky News Monday.

The
report came hours after Jerusalem issued an alert for all Israeli
citizens to leave Turkey as soon as possible, citing an Islamic State
threat, and nine days after three Israelis were killed in a bombing in
Istanbul. 

According to Sky News,
citing an “intelligence source,” terrorists are plotting to attack a
synagogue which also doubles as a school and community center in the
Beyoglu neighborhood of Istanbul.

The source said the threat was imminent and could happen at any moment.

“This is a more than credible threat. This is
an active plot,” the source said. “We don’t know when it’s scheduled
for. It could be in the next 24 hours or next few days.”

Read article in full

Egyptian activist raises $2,000 for Cairo Seder

 Update: Meligy has been told by the community leader Magda Haroun that the seder this year will not take place after all because the members are too elderly or unwell to attend.

The Egyptian Jews of Cairo will be able to celebrate their Passover Seder this year thanks to the efforts of an Egyptian peace activist.

When Ahmed Meligy visited the Shaar Hashamayim synagogue in Adly St, Cairo with his friend Isaac Cohen, he was told by the community’s leader, Magda Haroun, that they did not have enough funds to arrange their Seder night, let alone preserve Egypt’s Jewish heritage. Meligy rang a rabbi friend of his and managed to raise the money.

Meligy tells why he is passionate about working for peace  in this touching video.He describes how it took him five years to persuade Cairo-born Isaac Cohen, now living in the US, to overcome his fears and make a return visit Egypt. Cohen’s family had been summarily expelled with one suitcase along with tens of thousands of others in the 1950s. Meligy took Isaac Cohen around his old haunts, including his apartment and school, and got Cohen access to the Adly St synagogue, where he was able to sit in the same seat he had occupied as a child and read from the same 1946 prayer book.

Wherever Isaac went, he was greeted with warmth and sympathy by young Egyptians. All ‘apologised’ for what had happened to Isaac, and Ahmed too apologised.

However, Ahmed Meligy’s peace work has not come without cost. Meligy runs the risk of upsetting the Egyptian authorities and has even been jailed. He has been the butt of insults and opprobrium for expressing sympathy with Jews, including Hadar Cohen, the 19-year-old IDF soldier who lost her life protecting others from a Palestinian terrorist.

At the time of posting his videohas been blocked on Facebook. Please share this post as widely as you can so that as many people as possible can view it.

Arab press admits Jews’ history of persecution in Yemen

Except for the obligatory swipe at Israel’s ‘Ashkenazi discrimination towards Mizrahi Jews’, this article offers a surprisingly frank record of the persecution to which  Jews have been subject in Yemen through the centuries. The article, in Middle East Monitor, dates such persecution back to the 16th century, when Jews were reputed to have ‘collaborated ‘ with the Ottomans. However other sources say that active persecution of Jews gained its full force when the Zaydi clan seized power from the more tolerant Sunni Muslims early in the 10th century.

In a secret operation on Sunday evening, Israel evacuated 19 Yemeni
Jews, leaving only 50 behind fearing that this precious minority which
has contributed immensely to Yemen’s history may soon be no more. The video of the Jews arriving in Israelshowed
them wearing traditional Yemeni clothing, greeting friends and family
in Arabic and removing a 600 year-old copy of the Torah from its case.
In front of the world, this marked a bittersweet moment in their lives.

They were flown to safety, but were forced to leave their rightful
homes, because a group of extremists decided that they do not belong in
their own country.

“Curse the Jews” has been a Houthi slogan chanted by thousands each
day. Posters of the slogan are plastered around Houthi-controlled areas.
Given that the home province of most Yemeni Jews is Sa’ada, the Houthi
heartland, they would have had to suffer such abuse daily. Many of the
remaining Jews in Yemen now live in Sana’a, which was taken over by the
Houthis in September 2014.

The institutional marginalisation of Yemeni Jews dates back as far as
the Zaydi Imamate, which was established in 897 CE and abolished in
1962. The first Imam, Yahya Al-Hadi Illa Haqq, wished to keep the
treatment of Jews close to the way that Prophet Muhammad had treated
them, regarding them as “Ahl al-Kitaab”, which translates as “People of
the Book”.

Attitudes towards the Yemeni Jews began to change noticeably
in the fifteenth century when the regime’s jurist Imam Ahmad Ibn Yahya
Al-Murtada wrote a book called Kitaab Al-Azhar, though historians
still dispute whether the sentiments in the book were implemented at
that time. It is important to remember that the Imamate did not
establish an official monarchy over North Yemen until 1918. Before that,
the Imams ruled with tribal and religious authority, often in
competition with different dynasties.

Extreme changes of attitudes towards the Jewish population in Yemen
began after the Ottoman conquest of Sana’a. During the reign of
Al-Mutawakkil Isma’il (1644-1676), there was a serious crackdown on
Jewish rights as they were believed to have collaborated with the
Ottomans in their quest to govern Yemen. Because of this, harsh
discrimination got worse as tensions between the Zaydis and Jewish
populations grew. This led to Al-Mutawakkil Isma’il’s successor,
Al-Mahdi Ahmad, to conduct one of the most traumatic events in Yemeni
Jewish history, the exile of Mawza. From 1679-1680 the Jews of Sana’a
were forced to go to Mawza, which is now a district of Taiz, and
confined in uninhabitable conditions; many died slowly and painfully.
The marginalisation of Jews continued throughout the Imamate, but at
different levels as policies varied from time to time.

Jews of Maswar in Yemen, 1902

The tensions between the Jews and some Zaydis in the highlands of
Yemen today clearly have a historical basis. It is an essential part of
being a Houthi to perpetuate violent sentiments towards Jews, not only
through rhetoric, but also through actions. Soon after the Houthi
movement took up arms in 2004, it began to attack and displace the
native Jewish population, starting with Sa’ada. In early 2007, the Houthis gave the Jews in Sa’ada an ultimatum to leave within 10 days,
or they would be attacked in an attempt to expel them. Since then, they
have been subject to such violent attacks that the Saleh government was
forced to move them out of their homes to a compound within Sana’a, to
protect them from further violence. This compound was built like a
refugee camp and was barely sufficient for a competent relocation
project.

The Jews were also left out of the political process. When Ezer
Ibrahim announced his candidacy for municipal elections in January 2001
on behalf of Saleh’s General People’s Congress party, he was rejected
because of his Jewish faith.

The systematic marginalisation, under-representation and ethnic
cleansing of the Jewish population in Yemen by the government, tribes
and non-state organisations has led to there being fewer than 50 Jews
left in Yemen today. This is compared to the 350,000 Yemeni Jews in
Israel, the 50,000 in the US and 5,000 in the UK, reflecting the
distressing reality that they feel safer outside, rather than inside,
their home country.

It’s undeniable that their lives are much less at risk after their
evacuation, but there is also the question of how the Yemeni Jewish
diaspora will be able to preserve their unique and mysterious culture.
Israel is dominated by the Ashkenazi Jewish culture, which is attributed
commonly to European Jews; the Yemenis are Mizrahi Jews, who can also
be found in Jewish communities in parts of Africa and Asia. They are generally under-represented in Israeli society,with
only nine per cent of the academic staff in universities being Mizrahi
Jews despite them making up 40 per cent of Israel’s Jewish population.
There are 15 Supreme Court judges in Israel and only two of them are
Mizrahis.

Their history has also been under-represented in school
text-books, as most of the Jewish education in Israel is
Ashkenazi-centric. They do not suffer the systematic oppression that
Palestinians receive, but the fact that they were only allowed into
Israel as a form of Jewish solidarity and are under-represented at
official levels means that their heritage may not be as secure as many
would like to think.

Read article in full

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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.