*Mordechai Ben-Porat. After decades of accusations that Zionists planted bombs in Iraq to kill Jews, more evidence emerged vindicatingthe Mossad architect of the mass aliya of Iraqi Jewry in 1950-1. Ben-Porat had always protested his innocence.
*The Iraqi-Jewish archive. This collection of Jewish artefacts and
documents remains in the US beyond the deadline for its return in
* ‘Uprooted‘ by Lyn Julius (Vallentine Mitchell), which grew out of Point of No Return. The book was favourably reviewed in a number of prestige publications and on radio.
*Jewish moveable property in Arab lands: the US has signed Memoranda of Understanding with several Arab states legitimising theft of Jewish artefacts still in Arab states. Eighteen Jewish organisations have written to the US secretary of state in protest.
The election of an Iranian-born Jewish woman to the New York state Senate marks a new departure for her community, traditionally excluded from politics. For Anna Monahemi Kaplan, it’s an opportunity to give something back to a country which saved her, reports The Tablet (with thanks: Michelle):
Anna Kaplan: from refugee to senator
Democrat Anna Kaplan’s recent victory
over Republican incumbent Elaine Phillips helped flip the New York
state Senate, long dominated by Republicans, to Democratic control.
That’s a very big deal in New York politics but the win is notable for
other reasons as well—it makes Kaplan, who came to America as refugee
from Iran, the highest ranking Persian-Jewish elected official in the
Kaplan was born Anna Monahemi in
Tabriz, Iran, and raised in Tehran. There was a recorded Jewish presence
in Tabriz, located in the mountains of northwest Iran, since at least
the 12th century, but that ancient community of some 400 Jews was wiped
out in a blood libel massacre in 1830. About a century and half later,
when she was 13 years old, Kaplan fled the Islamic Revolution as a child
refugee and arrived in the United States as part of an airlift of
Iranian children. She initially stayed in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and
then fostered with a family in Chicago where she learned English and
attended high school until her parents and family were able to legally
join her in the United States more than a year later. She went on to
graduate from Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women and Benjamin
Cardozo School of Law.
“Persian Jews stayed out of politics in Iran,” writes Kaplan on her
Facebook page. “My parents and community were afraid of being
noticed—they were a small, vulnerable minority in a conservative part of
a conservative country. But here in the United States, we have been
given so much opportunity and I am so grateful to this country for
opening its arms that I’ve had to give back.”
Where does the campaign for Mizrahi rights leave Ashkenazi Jews? Lyn Julius, writing in the Times of Israel, reassures them: Jews are all one people, whose two halves have been reunited.
A battle is currently raging to rebut the calumny in the court of
world opinion that ‘Israel is a ‘white settler’ state. Leftist groups in
the US have recently gone further, and tarred all Jews – not just
Zionists in Palestine – with the ‘white’ brush. The postcolonial orthodoxy is that Palestinian ‘people of color’ are
the true natives; Jews are foreign interlopers who have ‘stolen’ their
My organisation, Harif, the UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa,
has been playing its part in trying to dispel these myths. Harif was
founded to raise awareness of the post-war destruction and dispossession
of ancient Jewish communities in the Arab and Muslim world and their
transplantation, in large part, to Israel. But does making the case for
Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews necessarily detract from the right of Ashkenazi
Jews to self-determine in Israel? Does the fact that our sister
organisation JIMENA has
an ‘I’ in its name that stands for Indigenous – imply that non Sephardim/Mizrahim are not indigenous?
The purpose of groups such as Harif and JIMENA is to draw special
attention to a sector of the world Jewish population whose existence is
routinely denied or ignored. The Mizrahim never left the ‘Arab’ world –
they merely moved from one corner of the region to another. It is
essential emphasize their indigeneity vis-a-vis the Arabs, who
arrived in the greater Middle East and North Africa 1,000 years after
the Jews. Native Jews, who now happen to comprise the majority of the
Jews of Israel, also have a specific quarrel with Arab and Muslim
states: these regimes need to be called to account for ‘ethnically
cleansing’ their Jews. Our job is to advocate for Mizrahi rights to
justice – recognition and redress. The plight of Middle Eastern Jews is
also essential to understanding the ongoing Arab and Muslim conflict
with Israel and the persecution of minorities.
There is another important goal: to vindicate the legitimacy of the
sovereign state of Israel in the modern Middle East. As an aboriginal
people of the Middle East the Jews of the region have no less a right to
a state of their own in their ancestral homeland. In the words of the
great Tunisian-Jewish writer Albert Memmi:’if one were to base oneself
on this legitimacy and not on force and numbers, then we have the same
rights to our share of these lands – neither more nor less – than the
To campaign for Mizrahi rights is not to delegitimize Ashkenazi Jews.
Jews from East and West form one Middle Eastern people, whose two
halves have become reunited in their ancestral homeland.
A montage of ‘white’ US Ashkenazi celebrities (Dani I. Behan)
Jews from the West were often treated as swarthy aliens during their
2,000-year peregrinations in Europe, and have closer genetic links with
their Sephardi and Mizrahi brethren than they do with non-Jewish
Europeans. Nowadays it is fashionable to smear Ashkenazi Jews as Khazar
converts with no roots in the Middle East. Replacement theology declares
Jesus to be a Palestinian and the Palestinian Arabs the new Jews.
It was not always thus. Only 75 years ago, millions of Jews became
non-white sub-human victims of the Nazi genocide. They had been despised
as exotic, but unwanted, outsiders in Europe. As the Israeli novelist
Amos Oz wrote:’When my father was a little boy in Poland, the streets of
Europe were covered with graffiti,”Jews go back to Palestine’, or
sometimes worse:’Dirty Yids, piss off to Palestine’. When my father
revisited Europe fifty years later, the walls were covered with new
graffiti,’Jews get out of Palestine.’
A disturbing new trend in the West sees Jews no longer as an
oppressed minority, but part of the white establishment, identified with
wealth, success and power.
For all the reasons listed in Dani Behan’s excellent article, Ashkenazim are part of the nation of Israel. Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi are mere geographic terms.
Now that the pernicious vogue for describing all Jews as ‘white’ is
spreading in leftist circles in the US, it is important for all Jews to
show our credentials as ‘people of color’, no matter how silly and
reductive this label is.
We are all one people, with a common origin and a common destiny.
An alarming new trend in the US to brand Jews as ‘white’ is antisemitic and must be resisted at all costs, declares Seth Frantzman in The Jerusalem Post. This also strips Jews of their wonderful and historic diversity.
Jews from Warsaw in Poland
The term “white Jews” is anti-Jewish because no other group is subjected
to this same slur of forcibly shoehorning them into a false whiteness.
For instance, Muslims, of which there are almost two billion, are not
called “white Muslims.” Only Jews are called “white Jews.” Used often
enough, the term is designed to dehumanize Jews and take away their
diversity, forcing them into the “white” category in America, the
category that means “majority” and “privileged.”
The term “white
Jews” should be resisted. It is designed solely to make Jews not only an
“other” but at the same time a member of the majority. “White” means
“majority” in the US, while “Jew” means “other.” So labeling Jews
“white” is a way to purposely attack and single out this one group.
You’ll notice that those who use this term don’t say “white Muslims,
white Hindus, white Catholics.” There is only one group whose religion
they seek to lump in with “white.” The goal is to say this often enough
until the word “Jew” is synonymous with white. And you’ll notice that
“white supremacy” is often lumped in as well, until the word “Jew” in
some American circles will be synonymous with “white supremacy.”
strips Jews of their historic and wonderful diversity. Jews are from
Yemen, Morocco, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Ethiopia, India and many other
places. When Americans say “white Jews” the idea is to rip that
diversity away and bleach it out until there is no history of Jewish
people. Jews are even told now that any discussion of Jews being victims
of racism is a way for Jews “dwell” or “center” on themselves. The only
minority group in America told that it cannot discuss its suffering,
and that it is “white.” Just as the term antisemitism, coined in the
19th century, led to dehumanizing of Jews, the term “white Jews” is
designed to dehumanize, to package Jews into one monochrome and binary
concept of race.
The Islamic revolution in Iran was motivated by antisemitism, not anti-Zionism, argues Colin Schindler in the Jewish Chronicle. It ended 30 years of collaboration between Israel and Iran. History might have taken a different turn, however, had Mossad, which knew little about Iranian politics, agreed to assassinate the revolution’s leader, Ayatollah Khomeini.
For many in the Jewish community,
it was Khomeini’s theological dislike of Jews — not solely Zionists —
that mattered. In 1970, he had written: “Since its inception, the
Islamic movement has been afflicted with the Jews, for it was they who
first established anti-Islamic propaganda and joined its various
stratagems, and as you can see, this activity continues down to our
Khomeini viewed the Jews of the 20th century through
the same lens as the Jews of the 7th century who were in conflict with
the Prophet. In his eyes, Jews were corruptors of Muslim society,
mistranslators of the Koran, controllers of the Iranian economy and
agents of imperialism.
In power, Khomeini refused to insert the
word ‘Democratic’ before ‘Islamic Republic’ because it was “too
Western”. As Khomeini’s clergy strengthened its grip on power, secular
teachers were pushed out of education, women purged from the judiciary,
members of the Bahai faith dismissed from government positions and their
places of worship closed. All this unnerved Iranian Jews and hastened
the exodus of a community that traced its history back to Cyrus the
Great’s conquest of Babylon in 539 BCE.
Khomeini often praised the
work of a Palestinian pan-Arabist writer, Akram Zu’aytar, which seems
to have shaped his views. Originally from Nablus and a member of the
nationalist Istiqlal party, Zu’aytar worked for the Iraqi Ministry of
Education in the 1930s and was regarded by the British as having
The founder of the Pahlavi dynasty, Reza
Shah, had allowed the Jews in 1927 to live outside their assigned
ghettos, to vote and to own land. Like his son, the Shah, he blew hot
and cold regarding the Jews. Yet Iran de facto recognised Israel in
1950, the second Muslim country to do so. Such contacts developed in the
years ahead. Turkey and Iran were viewed as the northern tip of “the
doctrine of the periphery” — states which were resisting the advance of
Nasserism and Soviet influence. While their political and military
elites were cosmopolitan, their rural populations, often poverty
stricken and illiterate, were devout Muslims.
Yossi Alpher, the author of Periphery: Israel’s Search for Middle East Allies,
records that on the eve of the revolution, several thousand Israeli
businessmen were living in Iran. There was even an Israeli school in
Tehran. Despite Iran’s support for OPEC’s oil embargo after the Yom
Kippur War, by 1977, “oil sales were booming”. Despite the turmoil all
around, Israel and Iran were busily negotiating a $1.2 billion bilateral
arms deal. The project would use Iranian finance for the development of
six new Israeli weapon systems and a new generation of Jericho
In 1978, Mr Alpher had become the Mossad’s chief
intelligence analyst on Iran. He comments that no one in the Mossad or
the Foreign Ministry actually possessed any deep knowledge about events
Mr Alpher recalls in his book a meeting with the head of
the Mossad, Yitzhak Hofi, on 28 January 1979. Mr Hofi said that Shapour
Bakhtiar, the Shah’s last prime minister, had called in Eliezer Shafrir,
the Mossad’s representative in Tehran, and asked the Mossad to
assassinate Khomeini in France. Before the astonished Mr Alpher could
respond, Mr Hofi said that he thought that Khomeini would never last.
“Let him return and the army would deal with him”. Mr Bakhtiar escaped
from Tehran, but was subsequently murdered in his home in Suresnes near
Paris by Iranian agents in August 1991.
Within a couple of months
of Khomeini’s return, the communal leader and philanthropist, Habib
Elchanan, was executed as a spy for Israel and opponent of the
revolution. Three days later, a chastened communal delegation travelled
to meet Khomeini in Qom. Khomeini recognised that “the Iranian Jews are
not Zionists and we work together against Zionists”.
a welcome comment belied Khomeini’s past attitudes. While the official
line was to make a distinction between “Jews” and “Zionists”, reality
often intervened to prove otherwise.
The Iranian press spoke of “a Talmudic mentality” and “a kosher brotherhood” while Salman Rushdie’s book, Satanic Verses, was part of a Zionist conspiracy to destroy Islam. Jewish suffering as depicted in Schindler’s List
was no more than an attempt to deflect attention away from the
Palestinians. Cartoons in the Iranian media bore an uncanny resemblance
to the antisemitic stereotypes depicted in the Soviet press.
fundamental opposition was not based on where the borders of Israel
should be situated but on its existence. Israel was not “a natural
phenomenon”, it was a tumour to be excised from Muslim lands. For
Khomeini, Islam was not privatised religious practice, but a political
power. There was therefore a sacred duty to liberate Palestine.
the eight-year long Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the Iranian cry was
that “the road to Jerusalem goes through Baghdad”. An elite group of
several thousand Revolutionary Guards was established to form the Quds
(Jerusalem) Force. Yet Ariel Sharon, then Minister of Defence, perceived
that Saddam Hussein’s forces were the greater threat to Israel and
ordered that arms should be sent to Khomeini in unmarked aircraft via
The Iran-Iraq war was one of trench warfare and
gas attacks, but it also spawned the rise of the suicide bomber — first
used by the precursor of Hezbollah in Lebanon in the 1980s and later by
Hamas and Islamic Jihad in attacks on Israeli citizens.
UK, the brutality of Khomeini’s tenure did not deter Jeremy Corbyn or
Ken Livingstone from regular appearances on Iran’s state controlled
Press TV. Mr Corbyn sat silently when anti-Jewish remarks were made, his
regular presence was a betrayal of the thousands of Iranian socialists
killed by Khomeini’s men. Mr Corbyn’s comment during the “English irony”
episode was that his detractors “don’t want to study history”. His role
as a fellow traveller here is yet another example of his superficial
grasp of the complexity of the past.
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.