Month: November 2017

Jews were victimised after the Six Day War

Today is 30 November, the date designated by the Israeli Knesset to remember the 850, 000 Jewish refugees forced from Arab countries. The date is being marked in Israel and worldwide. Writing in BESA Center News Edy Cohen recalls the predicament of Jewish communities in the aftermath of the Six Day War, a plight which Arab regimes tried to conceal.

Much
has been written about the historical marginalization of the 900,000
Jews expelled from Arab states in the wake of the 1948 War. Few know
that the June 1967 War played a similar role in accelerating the final
demise of these historic communities. It is high time the international
community rectified this longstanding injustice by ensuring that these
refugees are fully compensated for their suffering and stolen property.

Jewish refugees from Libya (World Jewish Congress)

Fifty years after the June 1967 War, the Israel
State Archives in Jerusalem released scores of classified files related
to this historic event. While most deal with the war and the events that
led to its outbreak, some address the predicament of the Jewish
communities in the Arab states during and after the war. The picture
that emerges is one of pogroms and persecution, at times orchestrated by
the government, at times through spontaneous eruptions that occurred
with the tacit support of the authorities.

This maltreatment occurred in almost all Arab
states, though the level of violence differed. In Tunisia, Morocco, and
Lebanon, for example, the authorities protected the Jews from the
rampaging mobs, while in Syria and Yemen, there were isolated attacks on
Jews. The most severe persecutions occurred in Libya, Egypt, and Iraq.
Israel refrained from any direct public action so as not to give
credence to the depiction of these Jewish communities as fifth columns
serving the Jewish state’s interests. Covertly, however, through its
Washington, London, Paris, Rome, Geneva, Brussels, Ankara, and Lisbon
embassies, the Israeli Foreign Ministry acted on behalf of these
communities.

The American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish
Committee, the UN, and Jewish communities in the West were also enlisted
to help out with protest gatherings and media publicity about the
Jewish predicament in the Arab states. According to the documents, the
Arab regimes tried to conceal the Jews’ persecution from foreign eyes,
to deny any governmental involvement in the violent acts that were
exposed, and to impose strict censorship so as to ensure that such acts
were not publicized.

Read article in full

Turks arrest Torah traffickers

Cases of the authorities preventing the selling or smuggling of Torah manuscripts and scrolls(such as this one in Turkey, as reported in Times of Israel)  arise from time to time in the Arab or Muslim world. The Torah scrolls are invariably considered part of the national heritage, and not Jewish communal property. (With thanks: Lily)   

Turkish security forces seized a Torah manuscript earlier this month
that is thought to be at least 700 years old and that was up for sale
for $1.9 million, Turkish media reported.

Police, acting on an tip, reportedly detained four antique
dealers after they tried to sell the manuscript to plainclothes
detectives in Turkey’s southern Mugla province.

Three of them were released to house arrest and one remained behind bars.

Read article in full

Events begin worldwide to remember Jewish Refugees

Mumbai, London, Singapore, Amsterdam, Miami, San Francisco, Geneva, Washington – just some of the cities where events to remember the exodus of Jewish refugees from Arab lands are being held this week. Israel Hayom reports on forthcoming events in Israel (with thanks: Imre).

Screenshot from a video clip about Jews of Lebanon, part of a World Jewish Congress series about the exodus of Jewish refugees from Arab lands. 

Next Thursday, Israel plans to mark its
annual memorial day of the expulsion of some 850,000 Jews from Arab
states and Iran. The issue will also be commemorated around the world in
the coming week.

On Thursday,
representatives from the Aharon and Rachel Dahan Center for Culture,
Society and Education in the Sephardic Heritage at Bar-Ilan University
will take part in an event at the International Convention
Center in Jerusalem to mark the exodus and expulsion of Jews from Arab
countries and Iran.

According to Social
Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, who initiated the event, “Throughout the
70 years of the State of Israel’s existence, the story of Mizrahi Jews
has been absent from the history of the Jewish
people. We must correct that.”

Next week, the Dahan
Center will head an academic conference on the subject of Jewish
refugeeism from Arab countries at the University of Maryland in College
Park, near Washington, D.C. with the aim of exposing
the plight of those Jewish communities.

Following the
conference, the Israeli Embassy will host a special reception, to be
attended by Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer and Gamliel.

Events of the Day to
Mark the Departure and Expulsion of Jews from the Arab Countries and
Iran will be held in a number of international capitals next week,
including in Europe, Latin America, North America
and India next week. The events, organized by representatives of the
Foreign Ministry, will include lectures, films and musical performances.

The head of the
Foreign Ministry’s Bureau for World Jewish Affairs and World Religions
Akiva Tor said, “The Foreign Ministry sees paramount value in the
presentation of the narrative of the expulsion and refugeeism
of Jews from Arab states around the world, as a public diplomacy
response and as a commitment to historical justice.”

On Sunday, the Dahan Center at Bar-Ilan University hosted a conference ahead of the memorial day.

Speaking at the conference, Dahan Center
Director and Chairman of the Alliance of Moroccan Immigrants Dr. Shimon
Ohayon said, “For decades, the State of Israel ignored the stories of
Jews from Arab countries and thus allowed
pro-Palestinians to focus the awareness only on the Palestinian
refugees and the Nakba [the Arabic term meaning ‘catastrophe,’ for the
displacement of Palestinian refugees during Israel’s War of
Independence], without any mention of the heavy price paid by
the Jews of Arab countries: pogroms, expulsion and the nationalization
of property.”

Ohayon noted that over $400 billion in Jewish property was nationalized by the Arab states.

Since the founding of
the State of Israel in 1948 to the early 1970s, around 850,000 Jews were
either expelled from or fled Arab and Muslim countries.

Read article in full

Moroccan minorities complain of repression

Doesn’t Morocco have a history of harmonious Muslim-Jewish coexistence? It seems not, given that a conference held  to examine the vexed question of religious and minority freedom in the country has been deemed ‘controversial’. Report in the Lens Post (with thanks: Boruch):

 Berber Jews in a transit camp

For an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim country, which once had a large
Jewish population, the conference was highly controversial due to
concerns over its motives, especially as there is no official
recognition of Moroccans who change religion.

The organisers and religious minority advocates asked the government to clarify laws concerning freedom of worship.

“The state still places barriers when it comes to legal reforms
concerning minorities,” Jawad el Hamidi, the coordinator of the Moroccan
Commission of Religious Minorities, told AFP. “There is a kind
of fear of opening this door and having a discussion – even civil
society is still reluctant to talk freely about this topic.”

“We suffer repression and harassment,” said Hamidi, adding that some
media had referred to those at the conference as “atheists” and
“homosexuals”.

Attendees see the conference as a small step towards achieving
religious freedom in Morocco, which suffers from an intolerance of
religious diversity.

Read article in full 

Similar reports on Enca.com and US Press.from

An Egyptian meets Mizrahi Israelis

It takes Haisam Hassanein, an Egyptian Muslim, to give this accurate Wall St Journal portrait of the Mizrahim he met in Israel. His conclusion is correct:  if only the Palestinians absorbed their refugees as effectively as Israel did its Jews from Arab lands. But he makes the assumption, as many do, that the culture of Mizrahim was Arabic, when for many it was French. (with thanks Gavin; Lily)

Many Mizrahim went through the experience of tent camps (Ma’abarot) on arrival in Israel

Thousands of years ago, Abraham and Sarah went from Israel to Egypt.
So did Jacob and his sons. In my lifetime, I have made the reverse
journey, traveling from Egypt to Israel by way of the U.S. During my
travels I quickly discovered that the presence of the Jewish people in
Arab lands did not end with the Exodus.

As a child in Egypt, my image of my Jewish countrymen was
shaped by the numerous Egyptian television dramas that depicted them as
spies, thieves and fifth columnists. I never knew any Jewish people
personally. Naturally it came as a shock when, during my first visit to
Israel in 2014, I met a man who spoke to me in perfect Iraqi Arabic,
laced generously with profanity. He introduced me to the concept of “

Mizrahi

Jews,” or those from the eastern lands.

For more than a
thousand years the Mizrahi Jews lived and thrived in a wide swath of
land, from Morocco to India and Central Asia. Some arrived in biblical
times while others came after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. Often
treated as second-class citizens, they nonetheless created a culture as
diverse and distinctive as the places in which they settled.

But
this story came to a crushing end for most Jews in Arab lands in 1948,
when states like Yemen and Libya responded to the creation of the state
of Israel by forcing out their Jewish populations. Since 2014, the
Israeli government has designated Nov. 30—the day in 1947 when the
United Nations voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab
states—as the “Day to Mark the Departure and Expulsion of Jews from the
Arab Countries and Iran.”

When I attended graduate school at Tel
Aviv University, I befriended Egyptian Jews who were good, kindhearted
people. They invited me to their Shabbat dinners, where we ate delicious
Egyptian dishes, shared our love of Arabic music and culture, and
discussed politics. I felt at home.

In the heart of Tel Aviv I
met Rachmo, a vivacious 73-year-old Egyptian Jew whose restaurant served
falafel made of beans in the Egyptian style, rather than the
Israeli-Levantine version made of chickpeas. Still a proud Egyptian, he
had mounted pictures of the pyramids and the sphinx at the entrance of
his shop.

In perfect Egyptian Arabic, he described the trauma of
immigrating to Israel with his family at age 13. After escaping
persecution in Egypt, his family was placed in a camp in Israel, where
his upper-middle class parents had to work in construction to earn a
living. Living in a land settled and dominated by European Jews, or
Ashkenazim, they often felt denigrated by their Jewish brethren. “They
did not know that we Egyptians were more cultured, polite, and not
troublemakers,” he told me last year.

Like many immigrant groups,
Mizrahi Jews sometimes felt the price of acceptance was full
assimilation, or abandoning their old culture. Many of the succeeding
generations do not speak Arabic or observe their unique customs. One of
my professors in Tel Aviv once said in class that as a child of Iraqi
immigrants, he used to brag among his peers that his father spoke
English and French. He never mentioned Arabic.

At the same time,
Mizrahi Jews remember all too well the discrimination they suffered in
the old country. Many Iraqi and Morrocan Jews in Israel were alive when
persecution was at its worst in the 1940s and ’50s. Some continue to
harbor a bitterness that drives them to support Israel’s far-right
parties. “The Ashkenazim will never understand the Arabs as we do,” a
friend recalled his grandmother’s admonition. “They only know about the
Holocaust.”

But today the landscape has changed as Israeli
society becomes more inclusive. Eastern Jewish culture is honored.
Intermarriage between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim is a nonissue. The Mizrahi
Jew Avi Gabbay heads the Israeli Labor Party, the current main
opposition party and historic domain of Ashkenazi Jews going back to the
Zionist ideologues of Europe.

As
a Muslim, I am acutely aware of the hundreds of thousands of
Palestinian refugees who have been left to languish in camps for
decades, unwelcome in the lands of their Arab and Muslim neighbors. Most
recently, Syrian refugees are isolated in tent cities or face
discrimination when they try to integrate into new countries. The
successful absorption of Jews from eastern countries in Israel—across
linguistic and cultural barriers—is a modern-day success story that
deserves to be remembered, celebrated and emulated.

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.

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Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

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