Month: March 2019

Palestinians share responsibilty for Jewish refugees

If Israel shares responsibility for Arab refugees with the Palestinians and Arab states, then the same logic applies to Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Lyn Julius offers reasons why in JNS News:

Not long ago, I heard emeritus professor of Tel Aviv University Asher
Susser give a talk on the Israel-Palestine conflict. He came to the
following conclusion:

The conflict is insoluble because the Palestinians and Israelis
have two irreconcilable narratives. And the Palestinians will never give
up their so-called “right of return.”

Yet as I pointed out to him, two sets of
refugees arose out of the conflict: one Arab and one Jewish. The
Jewish-refugee issue has been solved, but there was an incontrovertible
(and irrevocable) exchange of roughly equal refugee populations between
what is now Israel and the Arab world. Such exchanges happened in the
India-Pakistan conflict, between Greece and Turkey, and between Greek
and Turkish Cyprus.

End of story.

Professor Susser acknowledged that Israel would never accept 5
million Arab refugees (this number, uniquely, includes their
descendants). The responsibility, he said, should be shared with the
Palestinians and the other Arab states.

Maybe the professor was playing Devil’s advocate, but his reply is
one I have heard from Arab sources: What have the Palestinians got to do
with the Jewish refugees?

When I replied that the Mufti of Jerusalem embodied Palestinian
antisemitism, inciting the 1941 Farhud massacre of the Jews in Iraq, he
countered by saying the Mufti was just one man, and there were other
causal factors behind the Farhud.

 The Mufti of Jerusalem meeting Hitler in November 1941. He wanted a free hand to exterminate the Jews not just in Palestine, but across the Arab world

Yes, the Palestinian Mufti was just one man. But he was the de facto
leader of the Arab world, where popular opinion was overwhelmingly
pro-Nazi. He aligned himself with pro-Nazi nationalists to overthrow the
Iraqi government. He took refuge in Berlin with 60 other influential
Arabs, there to broadcast virulent anti-Jewish propaganda over Radio
Berlin with a view to facilitating the extermination of the Jews, not
just in Palestine, but across the Arab world.

Palestinian and Syrian
pro-Nazi nationalists had taken control of levers of power in Iraq, and
they, too, bore responsibility for inciting anti-Jewish hatred.

The Palestinians, therefore, helped lay the groundwork for the forced
exodus and dispossession, under color of law, of the peaceful,
non-combatant Jews from the Arab world – branded by Arab League states
“the Jewish minority of Palestine.” Seven Arab League states, egged on
by the Palestinian leadership, made the fateful decision to wage a war
of annihilation against Israel. They must bear responsibility for
creating both refugee problems.

Israel took responsibility for resettling 650,000 people over the
years—the majority of Jewish refugees. But by Professor Susser’s logic,
responsibility for causing the Jewish-refugee problem should also be
shared with the Palestinians and Arab states.

The “right of return” is possibly the single greatest obstacle to
peace. It is quite clear that the Palestinians, supported by their
exclusive agency UNRWA, will never give it up. But this is a fictitious
right in international law, a ruse to reverse Israel’s victory in the
1948 war by demographic means.

Why has the international community indulged this destructive fantasy?

Of the 135 million refugees produced through conflict in the 20th
century, only the Palestinian refugees, their children, grandchildren
and great-grandchildren have not been absorbed 70 years on, even those
who come under Palestinian control in the West Bank and Gaza.

If it really wants to encourage peace, the international community
needs to show some tough love, by telling the Palestinians: Get real and
stop trying to reverse history. You can choose your own narrative, but
you can’t choose your own facts.

Read article in full

‘Jews of color’ push back at identity politics

The myth that all Jews are white is  gaining ground on US campuses and in politics – and nowhere more than in that crucible of liberalism on American’s West Coast, where identity politics are the new orthodoxy. This week’s Jewish Journal (of Los Angeles)  has as its cover storyThe Forgotten Jews of Color. The magazine aims to tackle two main myths: that all Israelis are from Europe; that all Ashkenazi Jews are white. The third article tells how Jews who are neither Ashkenazi nor Mizrahi can still be accepted as part of the Jewish people.

 Defining Israel in Black and White by Shahar Azani:

The narrative of Mizrahi Jews does not and should not exist only as a
counterreaction to that of Palestinian refugees. It is much more than a
bargaining chip on the table. It is a story very much worth telling. As
mentioned above, Zionism drove many members of the ancient Yemenite
Jewish community to arrive in Israel in 1881. Those early pioneers, who
were lucky enough to survive the journey, faced difficulties upon
arrival in the Land of Israel. They were rejected by some of their
Ashkenazi brothers and sisters, who doubted their Judaism.

The ignorance did not end there. While Mizrahi Jews were many and
present in Israel’s culture and everyday life, the country’s educational
system for too long taught Western Jewish history to the letter while
only slightly touching on the history of Mizrahi Jews, if at all. This
lack of knowledge contributed to the marginalization of this important
community in the overall Israeli narrative.

In response, the Israeli government has taken important steps in
recent years to narrow the gap. Israel’s Ministry for Social Equality in
2016 allocated about $2.5 million in U.S. dollars for a special project
to document the stories, heritage and history of Jews who immigrated to
Israel from Arab lands. The goal is to collect personal testimonials
from Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews — their lives before they made aliyah,
their situation when they left or were expelled from their homes, and
the story of their absorption into modern Israel. Upon announcing this
national project, Minister Gila Gamliel stated: “This is not a uniquely
Mizrahi interest but a national, Jewish and Zionist interest. From now
on, the Jewish story will be more complete, and Israeli citizens young
and old will get to hear, study and become familiar with both the
Eastern and Western sides of the glorious heritage of the Jewish
people.”

Read article in full 

 We’re Jews, we’re not white, we define ourselves by Karen Lehrman Bloch:

I wrote a column about that fact this past summer, titled, “We, the
Israelites.” The response was mostly positive, but I was intrigued by
the negative reactions. Some Jews, no matter how religious or Zionist,
didn’t want their whiteness taken away from them. They essentially told
me to back off.

I no longer discuss these types of things with my dad, who just
turned 89. But if he were younger and I said to him that I no longer
identify as white, he would flip out. He would be angry, but more than
anything he would be scared. I realized the same fear was underlying the
responses of some of my friends.

This conversation probably would have continued in the backwaters of
the web if it weren’t for the current practitioners of identity
politics. In the past six months, Jews have been told:

  • We are inexorably white and thus responsible for colonialism, the slave trade and mass incarceration.
  • We are white supremacists, and thus responsible for all racism and oppression.
  • We are white and thus incapable of being persecuted — past and present. 
  • The Holocaust was a white-on-white crime and thus of little import. We should stop “centering” ourselves!
  • As part of the white European ruling caste, we are the primary beneficiaries of white privilege.
  • We are responsible for tragedies like New Zealand, especially if we
    dare to call out anti-Semitism (which doesn’t really exist because we
    are white).

We are once again being defined by others, and not just by any
others, but by others who have an agenda that includes, at the very
least, the destruction of Israel.

Read article in full

One Nation, Many faces by Michael Freund

‘Turkey’s Jews are unsafe and should leave’

Leaders Erdogan and Netanyahu, both facing imminent elections,  have repeatedly traded verbal insults recently. However,  a familiar pattern has emerged in Turkey of the government using incitement and threats against the local Jewish community in order to score domestic political points.  The result? Physical violence against Turkish Jews may not be far off, predicts Michael Rubin in the Washington Examiner. They should leave.


Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu have clashed

Turkey’s mercurial leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan took his diplomatic
spat with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a new level on
Wednesday when he implicitly threatened the well-being of Turkey’s already dwindling Jewish community.

“Do not provoke,” Erdogan said,
before noting that he had not yet taken any action against Turkish Jews
or their houses of worship. This is, of course, not the first Turkish
government threat against its Jewish community. A decade ago,
then-Foreign Minister Ali Babacan privately told
Turkish Jewish leaders that if the U.S. Congress passed a resolution
condemning the Armenian genocide, Erdogan’s government would feel no
obligation from preventing Islamist mobs from attacking Turkish
synagogues.

It may not have happened yet, but it will, and soon. It is
true that Turkey, and the Ottoman Empire before it, has been more
hospitable to Jews than many European and Arab countries. Jews received
refuge in Ottoman domains upon their 15th century expulsion from Spain,
and they remained generally welcome for centuries after. One of the
reasons successive Turkish governments have welcomed and protected the
Jewish community has been that Jews in Palestine were one of the few
Ottoman groups which did not rise in rebellion against Istanbul. Greeks,
Armenians, Bulgarians, Arabs, Egyptians, Syrians, and Serbs, on the
other hand, all did. As for the Kurds, they of course rose up repeatedly
after Turkish independence, and still do.

But early in his reign, Erdogan discovered that anti-Semitic incitement was a powerful political tool. For that matter, the same was long true for his ally-turned-rival Fethullah Gulen, although as Gulen has been targeted by Erdogan, he has had a change of heart.

The Erdogan years have been scary for Turkish Jews. The Turkish leader and his top aides have regularly peddled in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
Wikileaks? The whole episode was a Jewish plot to embarrass Turkey. The 2013 environmental protests at Gezi Park? Another Jewish plot.

Read article in full

Iraq’s unsung Jewish airforce hero

A Jew  appointed  head of Iraq’s
Air Force? Unlikely as it may sound, it almost became a reality.
  This is the extraordinary story of Nagi Dabby, son
of Messouda Sourani and Efraim
Dabby, as told by Sami Sourani,
his first cousin. (With thanks for their help to Sass, Miriam)

Growing up in the 1920s, Nagi Dabby was very
intelligent, had a fantastic memory and a charming
personality.  But his mother Messouda was very worried. When he was a young schoolboy he would come home
and sit on the swing (jelala) every day.  He never opened a
book. So she went to see
the teacher to find out what was going on. She was told that he
was the best in his class.

 Nagi Dabby had always wanted
to be a pilot. He registered at the  Royal Military College, (Al-Madrasa
Al-Askaria) at a time when  King
Faisal of Iraq was encouraging Jews and other minorities to
play their full part in contributing to Iraq’s prosperity. 

It is telling,
however, that he felt the need to change his name to Nagi
Ibrahim to conceal his ethnic background. 

 

After
graduation, the Iraqi Government sent him to England for two
years to be trained as a pilot. When he returned to Iraq, his career literally took off after Iraq acquired fighter ‘planes from Italy and the United States.

Amazing as it
might sound, Nagi Dabby was within a whisker of becoming Head
of Iraq’s Airforce. He was offered the top job after a purge
of the Iraqi military following a period of instability. On
October 29,1936, the then Iraqi Defence Minister, Baker Sidqi,
 had staged a coup. Sidqi
was assassinated a few months later and matters returned to
normal.

Nagi turned
down the job. 

He went to
England for a time, returning 
to Iraq so that he would not be called a deserter. On
his return, he  received
a personal welcome from the Iraqi Armed Forces Chief of Staff.

While living
in Iraq, he became a very close friend of King Ghazi (the son of King
Faisal I) and his personal pilot. King Ghazi liked  fast cars and enjoyed
flying at every opportunity.

After becoming an
Iraqi officer Nagi never hid the fact that he was Jewish.

The Iraqi Minister
of Interior  only flew in a plane if Nagi was the pilot.

However,  the
Iraqi army and Defence Ministry became very antisemitic and
refused him  the promotion to the rank of Major which he was due.

Nagi left  for England again just
before King Ghazi was killed in a car accident. In England Nagi did a
special training course  to
attain the rank of Captain.

When WWII
broke out, he volunteered to join  the Royal Air Force.

With the RAF, he
was initially based in Wales where he trained young pilots. He
survived the war because he was much more useful to the RAF as
an instructor than to fly on missions. ( A pilot’s life
expectancy was less than four months, or five missions at the time).

Nevertheless, he
went on at least two bombing raids in Germany.

Arabic Radio
Berlin branded him a traitor and  bad-mouthed him on
several occasions.
A few days before the
Farhud massacre in June 1941, a firebomb was thrown at his
parents’ home in Baghdad. His parents had to go and live with
relatives. On the day of the Farhud, the mob broke
into his parents’ home and looted everything, leaving the
house
stripped bare.

He had some
expertise with bombs and he was sent to North Africa to
investigate why certain bombs did not explode on impact.

From there he is
believed to have visited  Baghdad. His nephew Sass remembers
that Nagi stayed with  his family and the Regent sent a
magnificent bouquet of flowers. Nagi went to see the Regent to
“pay his respects”.

He was also sent
on  a secret mission in Spain. He went there as an Iraqi
civilian using his Iraqi passport. He never gave away any detail
of this mission to anyone. He is thought to have visited Baghdad
from there too.

 Nagi’s ID

Nagi was
highly decorated and received medals both from the Iraqi and
the British armed forces. King George VI of England awarded him a
medal and an Administration Certificate.

 Nagi was decorated by both Britain and Iraq

Certificate from King George VI admitting Nagi to the wartime RAF Volunteer reserve

Nagi retired
from the RAF with the rank of Squadron Leader. He was
working in the Ministry of Defence in London toward the end of
the war and for a short period after the war. The RAF wanted him
to stay on but he decided to quit.

On leaving the RAF
after the war, he acted as an intermediary for British companies seeking to do business in Iraq. He knew both Salih Jabr and Nuri Said (senior Iraqi politicians) .
He was a close friend of Nuri Said’s son (they may have trained
as officers at the same time). Initially this work earned him a
magnificent house in Wimbledon, London. Following the
Kassem revolution in 1958, his finances deteriorated but he still
carried on this sort of work. He maintained his contact with the
Iraqi Embassy in London and helped very many Iraqi Jews with
passport matters.

Nagi with his wife Soohad

 

 His wife,  a
child bride, was very beautiful.  They had no children and
separated in the mid 1960s. He had little to do with Israel but was very proud of its achievements.

He died in 2008 just short of his 100th birthday.  In his last
days, in a London h
ospital, the staff treated him with respect and insisted on calling him The General.

There are
plans to turn Nagi Dabby’s story into a film and  to display his
medals  at the Babylonian Jewry Heritage center in Israel.

Jews owned more than 200,000 dunams in Golan

With thanks: Hadar and Yisrael


 President Trump’s endorsement of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights has led to much comment assuming the territory has always been Syrian. But Jews did own land prior to 1948 in the Golan, and the JNF still own acres of land in the Houran, south-west Syria today. While ownership is a separate issue from sovereignty, the matter, like much else in the Middle East,  is not as clear-cut as some would have us believe. 

The Jews  had a farming community at Ramtania at the turn of the century. 

The  Beit Yehuda Society on the western slopes of the Golan had 2 ,000 dunams of  land (One dunam equals one English acre or 1,000 sq. metres).

Originally called Bir a Shagum,  the community was established by Jews from Safed. The original Bir a Shagum community suffered terribly from attacks by  Bedouin who used to arrive in the Golan every summer with their livestock. Families left because of the attacks and eventually just one family remained. They held out for a while but eventually left too.

Between  1891-4,  150,000 dunams were owned by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild and 
100,000 dunams bought  by Agudat Haim Society in Fiq & Daraa. Land was also owned by the  Shavei Zion Association. 

 Land in the Horan area of what is today south west Syria technically belongs to the Jewish National Fund like the rest of Rothschild’s purchases now.

 The Golan Heights, looking towards Lake Kinneret (Photo: Roman Sulla)

Here is an extract from Manfred Lehmann’s blogabout the Baron Rothschild’s purchases:

“After making acquisitions in various places west of the Jordan, he turned his attention to buying land east of the Jordan, on the Golan. Toward the end of 1891 a certain Ahmed Pasha made it known that some 120,000 dunam of prime land in the triangle formed by the Yarmuk and the Allane rivers were up for sale at the bargain price of around 1.5 franc per dunam, provided that the sale was made “en bloc,” i.e., for the total area.

There followed intensive discussions among various Jewish groups interested in the offer, among them groups in Russia, New York and London. The Baron agreed to cover the whole cost of the purchase.

 Since the Baron was always keen to preserve his anonymity, he arranged for the deeds to be registered in the name of Emile Frank, the Representative of Alliance Israelite in Beirut.

The plan called for the Russian group, under Ekaterinoslav, to take 25,000 dunam and the Americans also 25,000, with other holders taking the balance. But since these groups did not come up with the money, it fell to the Baron to become the owner of the major part of the Golan Purchase.

 When the Baron died in 1934, 80,000 dunam on the Golan were owned by the Rothschild company, PICA (Palestine Jewish Colonization Association). The land had been registered in the name of PICA in 1929.

The Syrian government – Syria was then practically a French colony – tried in the 1940s to confiscate the land but failed.

In 1957, the son of Baron Edmond, Baron James de Rothschild (1878 – 1957), as one of his last acts in his life, transferred the deeds to the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet) and from there to the Land Office of Israel. All deeds and other documents were transferred to Israel’s Foreign Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

 Books referring to Baron Rothschild’s purchases on the Golan

History and overview of the Golan Heights 

Tangled web of Jewish ownership in ‘Arab’ areas 

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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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