Month: May 2018

Recalling the Farhud stymies revisionist history

On the Farhud’s 77th anniversary, Edwin Black in The Algemeiner recalls the bloody events of the anti-Jewish massacre, which ultimately led to the expulsion of 850,000 Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. Remembering the Farhud makes it harder for an invented Palestinian history to take root. (With thanks: Imre)

Haj Amin al-Husseini as an officer of the Ottoman army

When International Farhud Day was proclaimed at a conference convened at the United Nations headquarters on June 1, 2015, its proponents wanted to achieve more than merely establish a commemoration of the ghastly 1941 Arab-Nazi pogrom in Baghdad that killed and injured hundreds of Iraqi Jews. Farhud means”violent dispossession’.The Farhud was but the first bloody step along the tormented path to the ultimate expulsion of some 850,000 Jews from across the Arab world. That systematic expulsion ended centuries of Jewish existence and stature in those lands.

 Jews had thrived in Iraq for 2,700 years, a thousand years before Muhammad. But all that came to end when the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, led the broad Arab-Nazi alliance in the Holocaust that produced a military, economic, political, and ideological common cause with Hitler. Although Husseini spearheaded an international pro-Nazi, anti-Jewish Islamic movement from India to Central Europe to the Middle East, it was in Baghdad — a 1,000-kilometer drive from Jerusalem — that he launched his robust coordination with the Third Reich.

 In 1941, Iraq still hosted Britain’s Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which controlled the region’s oil. Hitler wanted that oil to propel his invasion of Russia. The Arabs, led by Husseini, wanted the Jews out of Palestine and Europe’s persecuted Jews kept away from the Middle East. Indeed, Husseini persuasively argued to Hitler that Jews should not be expelled to Palestine but rather to “Poland,” where “they will be under active control.” Translation: send Jews to the concentration camps.

Husseini had visited concentration camps. He had been hosted by architect of the genocide Heinrich Himmler, and the mufti considered Shoah engineer Adolf Eichmann not only a great friend, but a “diamond” among men.

 Nazi lust for oil and Arab hatred of Jews combined synergistically June 1–2, 1941, burning the Farhud into history. Arab soldiers, police, and hooligans, swearing allegiance to the mufti and Hitler, bolstered by fascist coup plotters known as the Golden Square, ran wild in the streets, raping, shooting, burning, dismembering, and decapitating. Jewish blood flowed through those streets and their screams created echoes that have never faded. (…)

 After the State of Israel was established in 1948, mufti adherents and devotees throughout the Arab world, working through the Arab League, openly and systematically expelled 850,000 Jews from Morocco to Lebanon. Penniless and stateless, many of those refugees were airlifted to Israel where they were absorbed and became almost half the families of Israel.

Remembering the tragic facts of the Farhud process will make it harder for the newly-invented history to take root. (…)

The established and incontrovertible facts chronicling the Arab world’s deep and enthusiastic anti-Jewish alliance with the Third Reich during the Holocaust, which exploded into the Farhud, plus the subsequent population shift that Arab governments engineered to expel 850,000 of their own Jewish citizens, make it impossible to weave a fabric of invented history. 

Read article in full

Survivors to appeal to have Farhud seen as a Nazi event

Survivors of the Farhud pogrom in Iraq are to appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court after their failure in the lower courts to have the 1941 pogrom recognised as a Nazi-inspired event, writes Ofer Aderet in Haaretz. The judge seems to fear that such an indictment would let Arabs ‘off the hook’ for antisemitism. (With thanks: Lily)

The Supreme Court in Jerusalem will hear the Farhud survivors’ appeal

Until now, however, the Israeli government has refused to recognize any ostensible connection between the Farhud and the Nazi regime, and as a result has not granted monetary compensation to its victims in the context of the Victims of Nazi Persecution Law. In February a panel of judges in the Haifa District Court rejected a lawsuit filed by about 2,000 survivors of the Farhud, who demanded legal recognition as Nazi victims. The judges sided with the government, ruling that the Farhud was not a pogrom whose roots lay in Nazi Germany.

“Nazi Germany’s responsibility for the Holocaust of the Jewish people is not under discussion,” wrote Judge Ron Shapira in his ruling, although he also noted that Nazi Germany should receive “all the blame for pogroms against Jews everywhere.”

He added: “Anti-Semitism, in its various forms, existed prior to the rise of the Nazi regime, and didn’t disappear from the world after Nazi Germany was defeated. There are many causes for the phenomenon of anti-Semitism and some change from one period to the next.”

The judge criticized the attempt to blame the Nazis for the Farhud, and said that anyone who does so “is missing the mark and removing responsibility from any others who championed anti-Semitism and racist theories and xenophobia – and do so to this day.”

Shapira also wrote that, “We should not allow rioters and those fomenting anti-Semitism and xenophobia to claim their innocence either, and impose responsibility for their acts and their behavior on the Nazis and others of their ilk.”

Doron Atzmon of the David Yadid law firm, who was among those filing the compensation lawsuit on behalf of the Iraqi Israelis, reads the course of history differently. “We claim that there is a causal connection between the Nazi incitement and the Farhud,” the lawyer explains.

The appeal submitted by Atzmon’s firm in March to the Supreme Court included the following text: “Thank God, the Jews of Arab countries were not caught in the claws of the Nazi beast of prey, but the waves of hatred, evil and cruelty that emerged from Berlin during the years of Nazi rule reached up to the banks of the Euphrates and the edge of the Tigris, and caused the murder of Jews there too.”

The authors of the document claimed that, “The Jews of Iraq are also victims of Nazi persecution, and the time has come to recognize that and their entitlement to compensation for the suffering caused them due to the Nazi anti-Semitic hate propaganda, among other things.”

Debate over the Farhud began in 2011, when thousands of victims demanded that the Finance Ministry’s Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority recognize them as entitled to compensation according to the Victims of Nazi Persecution Law. They based their demand on the fact that several years earlier, the government had recognized the Jews of Tunisia and Libya who suffered from Nazi persecution as eligible for such compensation.

In their lawsuits the survivors of the Farhud claimed that the 1941 pogrom in Baghdad was carried out under the aegis of a government that was supported and guided by the Nazi regime, and therefore they deserved financial compensation as victims of that same regime. But the lawsuits were rejected; moreover, in the last year, two Magistrates Courts’ appellant panels also rejected their claim.

Discourse has centered around the extent of Nazi Germany’s influence and involvement in events in Iraq in 1941. The government has claimed that, “Iraq was an independent country at the time of the Farhud itself,” and its lawyers convinced the courts that “there is absolutely no proof that at any relevant time Germany controlled Iraq or was able to deny the Iraqi institutions their ability to exercise free choice.”

But the plaintiffs presented a different assessment, as laid out in their recent appeal to the Supreme Court. It describes a pro-Nazi Iraqi regime that rose to power following a military coup carried out with the encouragement of Jerusalem Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, who is described in the appeal as “an agent of Nazi Germany.”

According to this version of events, individuals who were outright Nazi sympathizers served in the new government, and senior officials, including the commander of the army and the mufti himself, even received German funding for their activities. At the same time, Nazi propaganda was disseminated in Iraq, broadcast directly from Berlin via radio, and also penetrated deep into Iraq by means of a German representative on its soil, it is argued in the appeal.

The opinions of historians that were cited in the victims’ appeal included a lengthy description of the connection between this propaganda and the Farhud. Dr. Nissim Kazaz, an expert on Iraq, wrote, “For many years German propaganda introduced the poison of Jew hatred into the minds and hearts of broad circles and strata of the Iraqi population. This hatred erupted full force in the Farhud.”

Dr. Edy Cohen, an expert on Nazi propaganda in Arab countries, noted that, “Nazi propaganda in Arabic helped to introduce radical anti-Semitism to the Middle East and tried to acquire the affection of the Arab population for the Nazis and the Fuehrer.” He said that it “strengthened and fanned the flames of Jew hatred, to the point where it caused it to erupt in a fatal and horrifying manner in the events of the Farhud.”

Michael Eppel, a professor of history at the University of Haifa, wrote, “The German propaganda created an ‘ideological climate’ of hostility and Jew hatred, granted legitimacy, which hadn’t existed until them, to the murder of Jews for being Jews, and allowed them to be killed. In so doing it constituted, to the best of my historical-professional understanding, a decisive cause for the events of the Farhud.”

Prof. Yitzhak Kerem, an expert on Middle Eastern Jewry was quoted as saying that, “The combination of all the data leads to the conclusion that the decisive cause for the outbreak of the Farhud was Nazi incitement against the Jews in Iraq. The incitement was carried out by the Nazi regime by means of its representatives and agents, and was funded by it.”

But all of the historians’ arguments were rejected by the Haifa District Court.

“None of the studies points to Nazi propaganda as a dominant and central cause that led to the feeling of hatred for the Jews and the outburst that caused the Farhud. It’s impossible to assert that without the German incitement the events of the Farhud would not have taken place,” wrote the judges.

In the final analysis they accepted the argument that hatred of Jews existed in Iraq even before the rise of the Nazi regime and that in this context, the Farhud was launched.

According to attorney Atzmon, the problem with this argument is that this was a historical event that took place nearly 80 years ago, and was naturally influenced by many factors in addition to Nazi incitement. For that reason, he says, it is not fair on the part of the court to demand unequivocal proof of the fact that such incitement was the exclusive cause of the Farhud.

“History is not an exact science, and in the context of a historical discussion it is impossible to isolate a particular cause from the other causes that came to play, to the point of a definite assertion that it was ‘crucial,’” he explains.

“The facts are that in Iraq for a prolonged period preceding the Farhud, there was an anti-Semitic Nazi campaign of incitement, which was directed and funded by Nazi Germany. The Nazi incitement campaign influenced the Iraqi population’s hostility against the Jews living among them, and therefore this incitement campaign was one of the causes of the Farhud, in addition to other causes,” Atzmon argues.

In 2015, at the height of the legal wrangling over this case, the Finance Ministry decided that the Jews of Iraq, Morocco and Algeria who were persecuted in the Holocaust would also receive financial compensation. However, as opposed to the demand of victims of the Farhud – to receive the same compensation received in the past by others, who were deemed eligible for it – the government decided that the sum would be substantially lower than for Jews in other countries. So survivors of Holocaust-related persecution from those three countries were granted a yearly sum of about 3,600 shekels (about $1,000), compared to a monthly grant of about 2,200 shekels distributed to victims of Nazi persecution in Europe.

The Iraqi victims of the Farhud now have their hopes set on acceptance by the Supreme Court of their arguments and, in turn, a ruling instructing the government to grant them the same compensation as that received by other Jews who filed for compensation as victims of the Nazis.

At the same time, in lower judicial instances, there has been discussion of similar lawsuits filed by Moroccan Jews, who suffered from persecution by the pro-Nazi Vichy government. Their demands were also rejected in the first stage by the government, which ruled that “the anti-Semitic policy adopted toward the Jews in Morocco was not carried out based on an order issued by Nazi Germany.”


Read article in full 

For the text of the court verdict (Hebrew) apply to [email protected]

Survivors of Nazi-sponsored pogrom deserve reparations 

The Real Nakba: Jacoby on the Jewish exodus

In the flurry of articles published on or around 14 May, the anniversary of  the Palestinian Nakba, Jeff Jacoby’s article for the Boston Globe stands out – it is one of the few that focuses on the Jewish exodus without reducing it to a one-sentence throwaway. It is also one of the few pieces  to reach a mainstream audience.

The New York Times presaged ‘a tragedy of incalculable proportions’ would befall the Jews of the Arab world

Over the years, enormous attention has been paid to the issue of the Palestinian refugees. Even after seven decades, the topic remains raw and emotional. It is frequently said that there can be no lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict until the plight of the Palestinian refugees is settled. To this day, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas claim a “right of return” for the original refugees and their descendants.

More than 1.5 million Palestinians live in dozens of refugee camps administered by the United Nations, their predicament intensified by the refusal of every Arab country save Jordan to grant them citizenship.

 The “Jewish nakba” of the 1940s is now largely forgotten. Yet in terms of the number of people affected, property lost, and history erased, the catastrophe that befell the Jews of the Arab world dwarfed what happened to the Palestinians.

But with the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty in Palestine, antisemitic fury erupted across the region and those roots were ripped out. As the UN in 1947 debated whether to adopt the partition plan authorizing a Jewish state, Arab leaders had warned that violence against Jews would be uncontrollable.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, the Egyptian ambassador Heykal Pasha threatened “the massacre of a large number of Jews” if the partition plan were adopted.

In reality, the waves of expulsion and expropriation that ensued were orchestrated less by Arab mobs than by Arab governments, which passed harsh new laws stripping Jews of their property. In time, some 900,000 Jews were dispossessed or banished. Most of them made their way to Israel, which welcomed them as new citizens. Many had little more than the clothes on their backs; they had no choice but to rebuild their lives from scratch, while dealing with the trauma of upheaval and shattering loss as best they could.

Read article in full

Works in Arabic translation can be ‘unscholarly and manipulative’ (updated)

 Update: For a link to the full document (in German) please click here.

 A German scholar fluent in Arabic
has discovered numerous flaws in an  Arabic
version of Professor Mark R. Cohen’s Book Under Crescent and
Cross. The Jews in the Middle Ages
, calling it  highly
manipulative, Islamically-correct and deficient in scholarship.  Such a
translation cheats the author, the official sponsors and the unsuspecting
reader. Friedhelm Hoffmann summarises his findings for Point of No Return:

Professor Mark Cohen: ‘would be
enraged’ by the Arabic translation of his work

The Point of No Return post of 2
May 2018, “Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Abbas?”, blamed
the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for distorting history. Speaking
during the National Palestinian Council in Ramallah, Abbas had stated
that “such pogroms did not take place in Arab nations, which had Jewish
communities”. Abbas’s statement seemingly relied on evidence provided
by Jewish scholars. Indeed, he might have been truly convinced that
his opinion was actually supported by serious historical research done by
leading western scholars of Jewish studies.

Maybe Abbas had
had his views confirmed by reading the Arabic translation of a
treatise on Jewish history in the Islamic world, authored by the
renowned American scholar of Jewish studies Professor Mark R. Cohen
from Princeton University. Could he have assumed that what he
had read in Arabic corresponded to what Cohen actually
had written in the English original for the American
and international readership? Not necessarily. He might have
been unwittingly duped by a manipulated and “politically
correct” Arabic translation.

This would
be the case had he relied on the Arabic translation “Bayna l-hilāl wa-l-ṣalīb. Waḍʿal-yahūd fī l-qurūn al-wusṭā / بين الهلال والصليب : وضع اليهود في القرون الوسطى
(Cologne/Baghdad 2007) of Prof. Cohen’s book “Under Crescent
and Cross.
 The Jews in the Middle Ages” (Princeton
1994). A decade after Cohen had written this historical treatise, he
himself saw to its translation into Arabic and delegated the task to two
promising Arab researchers at the Free University of Berlin,
Islam Dayeh (إسلام دية) from
Jordan and Mouez Khalfaoui (معز خلفاوي) from
Tunisia. The aim was noble, the result disillusioning, despite the fact
that leading research institutions and networks in Germany and the
US, such as the Berlin research programme “Europe in the Middle East – The
Middle East in Europe” and the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study, the
Department of Near Eastern Studies of Princeton University, the BMW
Foundation, Herbert Quandt and
the Zeit Foundation, Ebelin and Gerd Bucerius, were
the project’s official sponsors.

What a
noble aim – to overcome the gap between western scholarship in the field of
Jewish studies and the Arab readership – to open up western humanities to
the Arab reader in his own tongue: a truly
enlightened endeavour. Moreover – and this might have been the real
reason behind the whole enterprise – this
translation granted an academic seal
of approval to the two Arab translators. Promoting
them as open-minded researchers who do not shy away from
delicate topics, such as the situation of Jewish minorities in the
Latin West and the Islamic East during the Middle Ages.

neither aim was reached.
What deep disappointment awaits readers of Arabic!
One might choose at random any page of the Arabic translation
and would find it full of
mistakes and misunderstandings of every kind, sometimes
even downright and deliberate distortions. Thus,
the Arab reader will be confronted with quite astonishing
historical and religious assertions. He will read that the Roman
emperor Constantius [II] ruled in the fourth century BC (p.
297 n 1); that Judaism counts among its holy scriptures a Hebrew (pp. 87,
268) as well as a Jewish gospel (p. 315); that Islam reveres the
“Evangelical personalities” of the Jewish Bible as prophets (p.
309); that the better conditions Jews experienced in the
medieval Polish realm, compared to other Western European kingdoms and
principalities, materialized in the fact that the Polish monarchs
treated their Jewish subjects as badly (sic) as did their
Western European counterparts (p. 27). Moreover,
according to the Arab translators Dayeh and Khalfaoui, Voltaire
(sic) advised Arabs to build modern nation states (p. 43 

2). And to believe this translation, Cohen talks about
“the peoples of Israel” (p. 86) and “all the Jewish peoples in the Islamic
world” (p. 233) in the plural. The Arab reader will encounter this
kind of mistranslation (and unconscious manipulation) all over the book.

worrying are the downright distortions wherever Cohen’s facts or
judgments do not fit into the worldview of the two translators. To give a
major example: Cohen states that “this indulgence of non-Muslims ended
abruptly with the Mongols’ conversion to Islam in 1295’: he implies
that the “pagan” Mongols were more tolerant rulers prior to, than
after their conversion to Islam. Since such a positive judgment in favour of
non-Muslims seems not to be acceptable to Khalfaoui and Dayeh,
they elide the Mongols’ conversion into “the invasion by the
Mongols” [of Baghdad] (p. 25 n. 2), thereby postponing the Mongol invasion
of Baghdad from 1258 to the key date of 1295. By this
manipulating ruse, the translators manage to lay the blame for the
deteriorating standing of non-Muslims in Iraq after 1295 on the alleged
invasion by the pagan Mongols, while Cohen originally had traced the
deterioration to their very conversion to Islam. Apart from the
ideological twist, the translators thereby commit a grave historical
error, disclosing their own ignorance of Islamic history, the destruction
of the Abbasid Caliphate in 1258 at the hands of the Mongols being a major
turning point.

This is
just one of many such distortions, which seem to have their origin in
a mindset close to the Muslim Brotherhood’s. Apart from the
distortions, the translation does not comply with generally-accepted
academic standards. One third of the annotations in the
footnotes have been omitted for no reason, another third
have been kept in the English original, and the last third
have been rendered into Arabic in a way which can best be called
a preliminary draft.The neglect of the annotations deals a further
blow to the academic character of the book.

translation of the main text is of a higher quality.
Nevertheless, it abounds in misunderstandings and
mistranslations in addition to a deficient Arabic vocabulary of
Jewish and Christian terms and general historical
terminology relating to Western Europe. Indeed, the translation
does not meet the prevalent academic standards in serious
Arabic publications in this field.

Finally, the
most serious defect is the complete lack of any references to contemporary
Arabic publications in the field of Jewish (and Israeli) studies as would
be normal in similar publications by serious scholars and translators in
the Arab world.

Arabic reader will not find any references in his own language, be
they Arabic translations of international standard treatises of Jewish studies
or indigenous Arabic treatises on Jewish and Israeli topics. This lack cannot
be justified on any grounds, since Arab scholars have been building up
quite a voluminous library of Jewish and Israeli studies over the last decades.

To sum up, this translation gives a misleading
impression of the English
original, thereby misrepresenting the discipline of Jewish
studies as pursued at American universities. It exploits the Arabic
reader’s good faith in the trustworthiness of the translators and the
quality of the translation. Yet, this is exactly
what Prof. Cohen himself affirms in his preface to the translation.
Cohen enthusiastically thanks the able translators and stresses the
high quality of the Arabic rendering, thereby admitting that he never read any
part of it, otherwise it would have enraged him.

the Arabic translation reaches
its lowest ebb when even the Islamic creed “I confess
that there is no god but God” is gravely distorted in the Arabic
rendering, thus shaking any Arab reader’s trust in Cohen’s
scholarship. If the mistranslation of the Islamic
creed was intentional, one can only assume that the two Arabic
translators wanted to make fun of Professor Cohen and ridicule his
reputation as an international expert of Islamic studies in the
eyes of the Arabic reading public.

a lopsided, manipulated and “Islamically-correct” translation
into Arabic does not benefit anyone. It only furthers the careers of
the translators who fake their intellectual grasp of the topic
translated. Neither will the western scholar know the
Arabic readership’s response on his treatise,
since they did not get to read what he wrote,
but a deficient version of it. The Arabic readership are cheated
as well, since they put their trust in a translation which does
not accurately render the ideas of the western
scholar. If the two translators thought it wise to distance
themselves from some of Professor Cohen’s more delicate topics and
conclusions, they could have easily done so in
the notes, instead of stealthily interfering in
Cohen’s main text.

To come
back to my starting point: What is the benefit of joint
academic projects between western and Arab scholars, like this
translation, if in the end the Arabic readership is deceived and
made to believe that they are getting a trustworthy
rendering of what the western scholar has written? How can they
critically compare between their own viewpoints and convictions and those held
by authors and scholars from the West? Does it not, in the
final analysis, hamper mutual understanding, when the Arab
readership, among them decision-makers like Mahmoud Abbas, are misled ?

Readers who are interested in
a more detailed treatment of the Arabic translation
discussed above and with a reading command of German, are
invited to
click here for a
free PDF copy of the complete review essay (136p.) from the online server of Tübingen University Library.  The reviewer Friedhelm Hoffmann is  at [email protected].


On Farhud’s 77th anniversary, let’s mark the Jewish ‘nakba’

While the Nakba is marked every year with demonstrations and wide media coverage, the Jewish expulsion, heralded by the Farhud in Iraq 77 years ago,  does not merit public or media notice, argues Zvi Gabay in the Jerusalem Post. It is about time it did (with thanks: Imre, Lily):

This despite the fact that its human and physical dimensions were larger than those of the Nakba (the number of Jewish refugees forced out of their homes was about 856,000, while the Arabs who left Mandatory Palestine numbered about 600,000).

Only on February 22, 2010, was the issue placed on the Israeli agenda with the enactment of the “The Law of Preservation of the Rights to Compensation of Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries and Iran,” which states that any negotiations for the achievement of peace in the Middle East must include the subject of compensation for said Jews.

And only four years later, on November 2014, did a memorial ceremony take place in the president’ residence to honor the existence and expulsion of the Jews from Arab countries, according to a law adopted by the Knesset that year.

The attacks against the Jews in Arab lands occurred even before the establishment of the State of Israel. In Iraq, they began with discrimination, in the economy, in education and public life.

Afterward, Arab nationalism ignited rioting against the Jews, which came to a peak in the Farhud of 1941. Similar tragedies happened to the Jews of Libya, Aden and other Arab countries. In Egypt, a mass expulsion took place in the dead of night.

In Iraq, the combination of xenophobic Sunni nationalism and antisemitism produced a powerful hatred of the Jews.

This hatred was abetted by Nazis such as German envoy to Baghdad Dr. Fritz Grobba and pseudo-religious leaders such as Haj Amin al-Husseini, who fled from Mandatory Palestine and found in Iraq a convenient venue for his anti-Jewish activities.

The Jews were left with no choice but to flee Iraq and the rest of the Arab countries that they had helped to found and bring into the modern era with their contributions to government, the economy, medicine, education, literature, poetry and music.

Seven years later, the threatening anti-Jewish climate that prevailed in every Arab country was accompanied by inflamed anti-Jewish declarations broadcast on radio, and even from the podium of the United Nations. Government harassment and popular attacks drove the Jews of the Arab world to migrate en masse to Israel.

There were certainly Muslims in the Arab countries who did not support the attacks on the Jews, but their voices were not heard. The Jews were the scapegoats in internecine power struggles between the Sunnis and the Shi’ites, just as today Israel is at the center of the struggle between the Shi’ite Iran and the Sunni states.

In recent years, a process of awakening can be discerned in the Arab world, especially among intellectuals, who recognize that it was not only the Palestinian Arabs who suffered a “nakba” but also the Jews of the Arab world.

For the sake of history and educating the future generations, a proper commemoration of the plight and the heritage of Jews from Arab countries should take place in Israel.

leaders would do well to stop parroting slogans about “the right of return” and deluding their people, because there is no turning back the wheel of history.

Read article in full

More from Zvi Gabay


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