Newly-released documents show that the authorities were guilty of gross negligence, but not state-sanctioned kidnappings in the saga of the disappeared Yemenite children. The Times of Israel reports:
As the Israeli public and media began perusing hundreds of thousands of newly released documents pertaining to the missing “Yemenite Children Affair,” early reports on the files from a 2001 government inquiry appeared to dispel notions of state-sponsored abductions of children during the early years of the state as has been alleged by many Yemenite families.
The declassified documents point to numerous cases of children being taken away from their families to receive medical treatment without parental approval, proper documentation, and identification procedures. Families subsequently lost all trace of their loved ones, with deaths going unreported and children being put up for adoption after authorities claimed their families had disappeared.
US Secretary of State John Kerry made a long-awaited speech yesterday about the outgoing US government’s approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The speech enunciated six principles. On refugees, Kerry said:
The plight of many Palestinian refugees is heartbreaking, and all agree that their needs have to be addressed.
“As part of a comprehensive resolution, they must be provided with compensation; their suffering must be acknowledged and there must be the need to have options and assistance in finding permanent homes. The international community can provide significant support and assistance. I know we are prepared to do that, including and raising money to help ensure the compensation and other needs of the refugees are met. And many have expressed willingness to contribute to that effort, particularly if it brings peace. But there is a general recognition that the solution must be consistent with two states for two peoples, and cannot affect the fundamental character of Israel.”
David Harris , writing a letter to John Kerry in the Huffington Post , spotted that something was missing from Kerry’s speech – 850,000 somethings, to be precise:
“One of your six principles was resolution of the Palestinian refugee question. I waited for you to add in that section some reference to the Jewish refugee question, but, alas, there was none.
Mr. Secretary, as you know, there were two, not one, refugee populations created by the Arab-Israeli conflict, and they were of roughly equal size. Just because one has been kept alive by UNRWA and the absence of any mandate to resettle refugees (and, I’d add, their descendants in perpetuity), while the other has been dealt with by people who refused to be instrumentalized and chose to move on with their lives, the tragedy – and the claims – of both populations require attention.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inaugurated an online database today that gives the public full access to some 400,000 pages of
declassified documents that the state hopes will help bring closure to
the decades-long controversy known as the “Yemenite Children Affair.”The Times of Israel reports (with thanks: Sylvia):
we right a historic wrong,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony launching the
database. “For close to 60 years people did not know the fate of their
children, in a few minutes any person can access the pages containing
all the information that the government of Israel has.”
Since the 1950s, over 1, 000 families — mostly
immigrants from Yemen, but also dozens from the Balkans, North Africa
and other Middle Eastern countries — have alleged their children were
systematically kidnapped from Israeli hospitals and put up for adoption,
Israel is reeling from the passing of the controversial resolution UNSC 2334 last week. The resolution which passed without the usual US veto, ‘breaks new ground’ by declaring all Israeli settlement on the land east of the 1967 Green line ‘illegal’. Time to revisit the Clash of Cultures blog on this fraught subject. The reality on the ground is far more complex than the international community believes.
A Jewish ‘settlement’
The idea that the territories beyond the Green Line should be
Jew-free received a ringing endorsement from Palestinian Prime Minister
Mahmoud Abbas just as US secretary of state John Kerry sat Israelis and
Palestinians down to peace talks in Washington DC. Not a single Israeli
would be allowed in a Palestinian state, Abbas announced.
Like the Palestinians, the EU assumes that the West Bank, East
Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are ‘Arab land.’ But nothing is ever
that simple in the Middle East. Land ownership is a tangled web,
although that”s a point not often made by the Israeli government.
The Golan Heights are almost universally considered ”Syrian” territory and yet the Jewish National Fund lays claim to 73.974 dunams in southern Syria. The earliest purchase was made in the 1880s.
Similarly, land ownership in Jerusalem and the ”West Bank” is far
more complex than the EU thinks. The ”Jewish settlements” north of
Jerusalem, Atarot and Neve Yaakov, were evacuated in 1948. Mount Scopus –
technically in ”Arab” East Jerusalem – remained a Jewish enclave in
It is also little known that hundreds of thousands of Arab
squatters in ”Arab East Jerusalem” live on land still owned by the
Jewish National Fund. The JNF purchased hundreds of individual parcels
of land in and around Jerusalem during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. In
1948, on one of these parcels the UN built the Kalandia refugee camp. The Deheishe refugee camp south of Bethlehem was also built on JNF land.
In the 1920s and 30s Iraqi and Iranian Jews queued up to buy
parcels of JNF land; after the 1948 war, they were cut off from their
purchases when these came under Jordanian rule, as Gil Zohar explained
in his 2007 Jerusalem Post piece. In total 145. 976 dunams (I dunam = 1,000 sq. m) of Jewish land is said to have come under Jordanian control. (Jewish property claims against Arab countries by Michael Fischbach, p 85).
During the 1920s and 30s the ‘Agudat HaDayarim’ Jewish Cooperative
Society was established in Jerusalem in order to create Jewish
neighbourhoods outside the Old City. The Society had over 210 members,
from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds – including Persian, Iraqi
and Yemenite Jews. In 1928 the Aguda purchased 598 dunams of land on
the city outskirts in Abu Dis in order to build a ‘Garden Community’
(homes with agricultural plots). Although it acquired a legal title to
the area, the Arab revolts of 1929 and 1936-9 prevented the Aguda from
establishing the new community. The War of Independence resulted in the
Jewish-owned lands in Abu Dis coming under the control of the Jordanian
Custodian of Enemy Property.
Another 16.684,421 dunams of Jewish land in the rural West Bank –
including the Gush Etzion settlements, land between Nablus, Jenin and
Tulkarm, and in Bethlehem and Hebron – were seized by the Jordanians
Even before 1948, riots and massacres caused Jews of the centuries-old Yishuv to evacuate their homes in Hebron and parts of Jerusalem.
Before it fell to the Arab Legion in 1948, Jerusalem had a Jewish
majority. The first refugees from eastern Jerusalem were Jews from the
Shimon Hatzaddik quarter – the site of the tomb of Simon the High Priest.
The Old City of Jerusalem became ”judenrein” as thousands of Jews
were expelled, leaving their property behind. The Old City was ransacked
and some 58 synagogues were destroyed during the 19-year Jordanian
occupation. Jews were banned from their holiest places.
There is a respectable body of opinion which argues that most
Israeli settlements are legal. Even if Israel were to agree that the
Jewish settlements stigmatized by the EU are illegal under international
law, the proportion of land ”built on Arab land” in the West Bank
represents a tiny fraction of the Jewish-owned land abandoned or seized
as a matter of deliberate policy in Arab countries.
The issue of Jewish settlements has to be seen in the context of
the mass exchange of land and population between Jews and Arabs across
the entire region.
Update: the US-backed Arabic channel Al Hurrah has an interview with kippa-wearing Steven Maman. Maman draws parallels between the suffering of the Yazidis and the Jewish experience of persecution.
For the first time, an Iraqi newspaperhas paid tribute to Jewish philanthropist Steve Maman.
Steve Maman and his family
Journalist Imran Hussein profiles Maman and his work to rescue Yazidis and Christians from Islamic State in Iraq.
However, Hussein describes Maman simply as a Montreal businessman with a wife and six chldren, making no reference to the fact that he is an observant Jew from Morocco. The mere mention of Maman is nevertheless a breakthrough, indicating that the Iraqi press is freeer than it has ever been in the past.
In another example of Iraqis reaching out to Jews, the committee for the defence of religious and ethnic groups in Iraq has extended its greetings to Iraqi Jews on the occasion of Hanucah.
The logo of the Committee for the defence of religious and ethnic groups in Iraq.
Ala Mahdi sends congratulations and blessings. “Our brothers in humanity the Jews in particular
loved us Iraqis wherever they were in the world. Merry Christmas free of
all manifestations of mourning and sadness.”
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.