Month: December 2017

Beauty contestants’ selfie sets off scandal

With thanks: Yoel

It was the selfie that should have said ‘peace’ between erstwhile enemies at a beauty contest in Las Vegas.

Instead, it led to death threats and the banishment of a family.

Little did Adar Gantlesman, Miss Israel, and Sarah Idan, Miss Iraq, predict that Sarah’s family would have to flee after a selfie showing the two of them posing together went viral.

Sarah Idan said that she had Israeli and Jewish friends. Some of those, she said, had been born in Iraq and themselves had had to flee. Miss Iraq, the first to represent her country in a beauty contest for 45 years, refused to take the selfie down.

According to this report on Israeli TV, the two beauty queens have remained friends via Skype.

Hummus wars take to Twitter

Another round in the ‘hummus wars’, this time on Twitter, where Arabs accuse Israelis of ‘cultural appropriation’ – or even ‘cultural genocide’. The truth, as readers of this blog will know, is the exact opposite. Seth Frantzman reports in the Jerusalem Post:

In a Twitter battle that raised eyebrows on both sides of
the Atlantic, James Zogby accused Israel of “cultural genocide” after
American celebrity cook Rachael Ray posted a photo of “Israeli nite,”
with hummus, stuffed grape leaves and other edibles.

Zogby, the founder of Arab American Institute, and managing director of
Zogby Research Services, took issue with Ray’s December 21 post:
“Holiday feast highlights – Israeli night, meze, stuffed grape leaves,
hummus, beet dip, eggplant and sun dried tomato dip, walnut and red
pepper dip, and tabouli,” she tweeted.

Wrote Zogby, “This is cultural genocide. It’s not Israeli food.
It’s Arab (Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian, Jordanian). First the
Israelis take the land and ethnically cleanse it of Arabs. Now they
take their food and culture and claim it’s theirs too! Shame.”

Bret Stephens, op-ed columnist at The New York Times and a
former Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief, joined the battle on Tuesday.
“Please tell me this is a joke tweet,” he wrote. “Or is it ‘cultural
genocide’ when Arabs use Israeli technology? Do you use Instant
Messaging? Waze? If so, please stop.” Waze was invented in Israel.

Zogby
responded that the case would only be similar if he used Waze and then
claimed it was Lebanese. Zogby’s father was a Lebanese immigrant to
the US.

“This isn’t a joke. It’s about a history of cultural
appropriate and a systematic effort to erase Palestinian history and
culture,” he claimed. There was a ray of hope. “Peace is possible, but
not on those terms.”

Read article in full

Second synagogue is vandalised in Iran

Popular violence against Jews in Iran has been rare, but the 8,000-member community has been shaken by two incidents in the last week in the city of Shiraz.  A second synagogue has been reported vandalised, with attackers damaging Torah scrolls, prayer
books and ritual objects.
JTA and The Times of Israel have the story: (with thanks: Michelle)

The city’s Kashi Synagogue was attacked Sunday night, while the Hadash
synagogue was attacked Monday afternoon, according to Sam Kermanian,
senior adviser to the Iranian-American Jewish Federation, who has been
in touch with Jews from Shiraz. The local Jewish community believes the
attacks were committed by more than one person, but does not know who
perpetrated them.

An earlier report by a member of the Shiraz Jewish community on the
vandalism at the Hadash synagogue was broadcast by Israel’s Channel 10
on Wednesday. The community member said the damage was documented by a
pair of journalists and three local Jews.

Blurry footage aired by the television channel purported to show the damage in the synagogue.

“Obviously they are scared,” Kermanian told JTA. “They’re not comfortable speaking freely, but overall, life goes on.”

The vandals ripped Torah scrolls, which are written on parchment, as
well as some 100 prayer books, some of which were thrown in the toilet.
They damaged and “soiled” prayer shawls and tefillin, the leather
phylacteries traditionally worn by men during prayers. The attackers
also broke glass and stole silver ornaments that adorned the synagogues’
Torah scrolls.

“In light of these clearly anti-Semitic incidents we call upon the
authorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran to ensure the protection of
all places of worship as well as all members of our community, and to
bring the perpetrators of these criminal acts to justice,” read a
statement by leaders of the Iranian-American Jewish Federation.

Read article in full

Baghdad bombs:Iraqi author blames Istiqlal

With thanks: Kheder

An Iraqi author has for the first time written about the role of the Istiqual independence party in setting off bombs to scare the Baghdad Jewish community in 1950. The assertion may now put an end to decades of speculation regarding who was behind the bombings.

In a book in Arabic about the history of Zionism in Iraq, Abdul Kader mentions that the nationalist Istiqlal party was responsible for the bombs. Hitherto controversy has surrounded the incidents. Some Iraqi Jews themselves have pointed the finger of blame at the Zionist underground. Mordechai Ben Porat, the leading Mossad operative, has always protested his innocence and in the 1960s even sued an Israeli magazine for libel. He won his case, but a cloud of uncertainly has always hovered over him.

The only fatal bombing took place at the Messouda Shemtob synagogue in January 1951. It was being used as a registration centre for Jews seeking to emigrate to Israel.

The page in the book by Abdul Qader blaming the Istiqal party for the bombings. 

Muslims threw 1951 Iraq synagogue bomb

Levana Zamir gets award for outstanding achievement

Levana Zamir,  the president of the umbrella organisation of Associations of Jews from Arab countries in Israel, was one of 12 Mizrahi figures given the Ministry of Education
Award for their contribution to Israeli society and to the State of Israel.

Mrs Zamir received her award along with 11 other Mizrahim, including Shlomo Hillel and Erez Biton. The award was inaugurated by the ministry to honour Mizrahim who have made an outstanding contribution to the state of Israel, and promote their achievements to a wider public.

The award ceremony on 19  December at Binyanei Ha’Uma in
Jerusalem was attended by 3,000 guests and officials. Guests were given a hand-out listing the biographies of sixty prominent Mizrahim. This will apparently be distributed to schools.

Being well-versed
in Egyptian as well as in Israeli culture, Mrs Zamir, then president of the Israel-Egypt Friendship Association,  was invited to
accompany the Israel president Ezer Weizman and his wife Reuma on their official visit to President
Mubarak in Cairo. ” We created the easy atmosphere needed for a
successful visit. We need to get know the Other, for to know him, is to love him,” she said in a pre-recorded interview.

 Mrs Zamir, whose working career began at 16, also recalled her role as PR director of the French Aeronautics Industries in Israel, OFEMA. “Following the Six Day War, we were furious that General de
Gaulle had declared an embargo against Israel,
stopping the delivery of the 50 Mirages-5 that Israel
had bought from France. It had already paid for them, and our Israeli
Airforce pilots had just completed their training in
France.”

Together with Marcel-Dassault Aviation and the Israel military attache in France Moka Limon, OFEMA in Israel embarked on a clandestine mission to smuggle the 50 Mirage-5 fighter planes to Haifa from the French port of Rochefort. Thereafter, Israel began developing its own fighter aircraft, the Nesher, modelled on the Mirage 5.

Embargo or not,  in Israel we never
give up. 
It was a huge responsibility but we did it,’ Mrs Zamir said.

During the late 1970s, Mrs Zamir headed ALSAM, the Anti-Drug Abuse Association in Israel. She established a hostel for the rehabilitation of addicts, as well as programmes in schools to teach children to say no to peer group pressure.

In the 1990s, Mrs Zamir  chaired the Women Entrepreneurs’ organisation in Israel to help women break the glass career ceiling. “Thirty years ago,  women were asked,’what does your husband do? Today, they are asked: what do YOU do?” she commented.” There is much still to do, but  I am very proud of the achievements of this generation of young women.”

Her elation at receiving the award was tempered, however, by regret that there were four women only among the 12 successful winners, just reaching the 30 percent threshold required by law for any Israeli public forum.  


Six-minute video showing the award ceremony and video clip (Hebrew) 

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