Month: January 2017

Trump ban affecting non-Muslims from Iran

Update: The US Embassy in Tel Aviv has clarified
that President Donald Trump’s travel ban will largely not affect the
tens of thousands of Israeli Jews born in Middle Eastern countries. (Most fled persecution and are over 65).

A statement today said the controversial executive order would not be
enforced against Israelis from those countries unless they possess a
valid passport from one of the seven Arab countries banned under the

See Times of Israel report.

The 90-day immigration ban from seven Muslim countries has already been having an effect on Jews born in those countries, although President Trump has said that Christian refugees will be given priority for entry to the US and Green Cardholders will no longer be affected.  Here is an unintended consequence of the ban – on a programme originally established in Austria to help refugees from religious persecution in Iran. NBC New York reports:  (with thanks: Michelle)

 President Trump in the Oval Office

Austria has shut its door to about
300 non-Muslim Iranians hoping to use the country as a way station
before establishing new homes in the United States, The Associated Press
has learned. The action is an early ripple effect of U.S. President
Donald Trump’s effort to clamp down on refugee admissions.

a 27-year-old program originally approved by Congress to help Jews in
the former Soviet Union, Austria had been serving until recently as a
conduit for Iranian Jews, Christians and Baha’i, who were at risk in
their home country and eligible to resettle in the United States. Iran
has banned the Baha’i religion, which was founded in 1844 by a Persian
nobleman considered a prophet by followers.

  • U.S.
    officials had been interviewing the candidates in Austria because they
    cannot do so in Iran. But the United States suspended the so-called
    “Iranian Lautenberg Program” in recent days, according to Austrian
    officials, who in turn stopped Iranians from reaching their territory.
    It’s unclear when the program might restart.

 Read article in full

Egoz tragedy was catalyst for aliya

It is 61 years this month since the tragic sinking of the old Pisces launch (renamed the Egoz) with the loss of 44  on board (42 Moroccan-Jewish would-be emigrants to Israel, one Israeli radio operator, one Spanish machine operator – Paco Perez. The rest of the crew survived). The boat was on its 13th illegal voyage to Gibraltar from Casablanca. Gilad Kabilo, whose family was on the 12th voyage, writes in the Jerusalem Post (with thanks: Lily, Imre, Sylvia)

 Monument to the Egoz dead in Ashdod, Israel

King Mohammed the Fifth, who some say had favorable views of his
kingdom’s Jewry, continued to allow aliya (immigration). Moroccan Jews, raised on
passionate Zionist ideals, had been making aliya in great numbers – over
72,000 Moroccan Jews made aliya between 1948 and 1955 – and still over
200,00 Jews remained in Morocco.

In 1956, Egyptian president
Gamal Abdel Nasser began pressuring Morocco to stop allowing Jewish
return, reportedly saying to king Mohammed “every Jew you allow to
leave becomes a soldier.” In the days of the War of Attrition and
rising Pan-Arabism, king Mohammed could not refuse president Nasser,
and the aliya efforts went underground. Secret immigration continued,
with Moroccan authorities unofficially adopting a very lax enforcement

By 1961, over 30,000 more Jews made the perilous journey
from Morocco to Israel, weathering freezing seas and subhuman
conditions in their hope to reach the Promised Land.

The Egoz
tragedy was the catalyst for a new arrangement. Morocco, always more
attuned to the Western world than other Arab countries, began facing
pressure from France and the United States to stop preventing Jews from
leaving to Israel and to an establish an organized channel for
departure. Thus, an agreement was reached between the king and the
leaders of Morocco’s Jewish community, with American and French
involvement and the oversight of the Israeli government, to allow the
immigration of Jews out of Morocco to any country except Israel. This
agreement was the precursor to Operation Yachin, under which over
80,000 Jews made aliya to Israel through a third country, mainly France
and Gibraltar.

On January 9, a night before the departure of
the Egoz, another family made the perilous journey across the
Mediterranean to their homeland. My family, immortalized in a photo of
them waiting for the next ship on the shores of Gibraltar, ended their
journey home in the northern town of Hazor Haglilit, with nine children
who have since begotten dozens of proud Israelis. Though they left
Morocco in the dead of night with nothing but their heaviest blanket,
the word “refugee” was never heard in my father’s house. Making aliya
through choice and not for a lack of it, this Moroccan family, like
thousands of others who make up Israel’s diverse nation, has never
looked back – they are home.

Read article in full 

Fifty years since 42 Jews died in the sinking of the Egoz

Freedom of thought goes on trial in France

Wednesday 25 January 2017 will go down as a
sad day in the annals of the French Republic. It was the day when
France’s freedom of thought and expression went on trial: one of
France’s leading historians, Georges Bensoussan, 64, was hauled up
before a criminal court accused of ‘incitement to hatred.’ Lyn Julius explains in The Times of Israel:

Georges Bensoussan, target of ‘intellectual terrorism’

against him was the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, together
with various other ‘anti-racism’ groups. The hearing went on for a
gruelling 12 hours. At the end, a weary Bensoussan announced: ‘for the
first time in my life I am having thoughts of leaving the country.’ 

The drama had begun 18 months earlier. During a TV discussion broadcast on 10 October 2015, Repliques,Bensoussan
commented that France could not hope to integrate its Maghrebi
immigrants unless it recognised that these immigrants imbibe
antisemitism ‘with their mother’s milk’.

Georges Bensoussan, the son of Moroccan Jews,
is one of France’s leading historians and editorial director at the
Holocaust Memorial in Paris.  The author of an 800-page volume on the
uprooting of Jews from Arab countries, Juifs en pays Arabes: le grand deracinement 1850-1975,
he claims that he was merely paraphrasing the words of a ‘brave’
Algerian sociologist, Smain Laachar. “Everyone knows it but nobody will
say it,” Laachar had declared of Arab/Muslim antisemitism.

Laachar has since denied having said or
written this ‘ignominy’. He said it was outrageous for Bensoussan to
have claimed that antisemitism was transmitted by blood. To accusations
that he is ‘essentialising’ against all Arabs,Bensoussan has countered that Arab antisemitism was not transmitted biologically but culturally:

Every Arab family knows it. It
would be monumental hypocrisy not to see that such antisemitism begins
at home… People are being selectively indignant. In France today, a
section of young French youth of Maghrebi extraction is having trouble
integrating and the old prejudices in North African Muslim culture are
being revived — conspiracy theories centered around the Jew, aggravated
by the fact that the Jewish community has been successful in France.

Bensoussan has charged his critics with
‘intellectual terrorism’. So-called human rights and anti-racist groups
had been co-opted in the Islamist struggle to intimidate those who swim
against the tide of political correctness. It was notable that the
journalist Mohamed Sifaoui, who had, in the past, inveighed against
Islamism had, on this occasion, turned devil’s advocate.  He reproached
Bensoussan of ignoring the positive aspects of Arab-Jewish interaction.
Instead of building bridges, the historian was tearing them down.

But Bensoussan has his prominent supporters. Alain Finkielkraut, presenter of Repliques, was a witness. Written testimony from Boualem Sansal, the outspoken Algerian author of An unfinished business, was read out.

Some have likened the Bensoussan trial to that
of Galileo, whose discovery that the earth revolves round the sun put
him on a collision course with established orthodoxy. It is a
carbon-copy of the barely-reported case brought against the philosopher
Pascal Bruckner in 2015. Bruckner had called for a file to be opened on
certain groups he claimed were collaborators with Islamist terrorism. He
was acquitted.  

Even if Bensoussan wins the case — the verdict
will be announced in March — anyone who  states politically-unpalatable
fact clearly runs the risk of falling foul of the ‘thought police’.
Freedom of expression all too easily can become ‘hate speech’ in France
today. The Bensoussan case is another attempt to shut down debate. It’s not the first. And it probably won’t be the last.

Read article in full 

Crossposted at Harry’s Place

Georges Bensoussan: ils veulent interdire de penser (JForum – French (with thanks: Eliyahu)

Trump ban could touch Jews from Muslim lands

 Israeli Jews born in Muslim lands may be barred from entering the US even if they have only Israeli citizenship. This is one of the effects of the ban signed by Donald Trump on travellers from seven Muslim countries, Haaretz reports. 

 Demonstrators against Trump’s ban on travellers (Photo: AP/ Brian Smith)

NEW YORK – An executive order barring travelers from seven Muslim countries from entering the United States could also affect Jews, including some in Israel, a prominent New York immigration lawyer told Haaretz on Saturday.

In the most sweeping use of his presidential powers since taking office a week ago, President Donald Trump paused the entry of travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for at least 90 days on Friday, saying his administration needed time to develop more stringent screening processes for refugees, immigrants and visitors.

Israeli Jews who were born in one of the countries on the list can end up with a problem – even if they only have an Israeli citizenship. “The executive order says, ‘If you are from that country’,” Michael Wildes, Managing Partner at Wildes and Weinberg, told Haaretz. “If you are born there, and you left, you are at risk. If you were born there, you are from there. You have to read it this way till they come out with interpretations,” he said.

Asked whether he would advise such a person not to travel, whether to the U.S. or from it, Wildes said: “Absolutely.”

“We don’t know how this is going to deteriorate, and we have to be thoughtful, and we are advising our clients not to travel if they are from that region.”

Read article in full

Sudanese Jews look back with nostalgia

Almost nothing is left today of the Jewish community of Sudan. It was the smallest in the Arab world, composed mainly of recent arrivals from  the Ottoman empire and under British control, but ‘blowback’  from the Arab-Israeli conflict in the 1960s drove it to extinction. What this AP article, reprinted in the Times of Israel, does not say is that the original 19th Jewish community was forced to convert to Islam by the fundamentalist El-Mahdi.  Nasserist decolonisation in the 1960s also forced Jews to flee. (With thanks: Lily)

AP — Lily Ben-David gets emotional when she
talks about her childhood in Sudan. She still dreams of her school, the
courtyard, the balcony and frolicking on the banks of the Blue Nile,
even though it has been more than 50 years since she saw any of it. 

A New Years’ Eve party in Khartoum (Photo: F. Eleini)


Jews once made up the smallest Jewish community in the Middle East, a
close-knit group of 1,000 people who enjoyed warm relations with their
Muslim neighbors. But the establishment of Israel in 1948, followed by a
series of Arab-Israeli wars, forced them to flee in the 1960s. Although
Israel and Sudan are now bitter enemies, the remnants of that community
retain fond memories of the northeast African country. 

“If I could get a ticket under an assumed
name, I will go, honestly,” the 71-year-old Ben-David, who left Sudan in
1964 and now lives outside Tel Aviv, said with a chuckle.

The history of Sudanese Jews has been largely unknown, even among world Jewry, until now.

Over the last year, Daisy Abboudi, a British
researcher and granddaughter of Sudanese Jews, has been working to
record the stories of her forefathers. Adding to very few works on
Sudanese Jews, she started the website Tales of Jewish Sudan, where she
posts extracts of interviews with living members of the community.

Read article in full


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

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forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.