Month: July 2020

Seth Rogen ignores that most Israelis descend from refugees

For those who have never heard of him, Seth Rogen is a Canadian-Jewish actor. Rogen has raised a firestorm with his controversial remarks about Israel, which he claims is ‘antiquated and ridiculous’. He was never made aware of the fact ‘other people’ lived there. He says he has been fed a huge amount of lies about Israel.

Too true, he and many ‘woke’ celebrities like him, have  swallowed a great deal of pro-Palestinian lies and propaganda.

David Harsanyi writes in National Review:

“I was once a young Jewish person growing up in similar cultural circumstances to Rogen’s, and anyone with basic cognitive abilities understood that “other people” lived in Israel. It was “other people” who launched pogroms against Jews in 1920s and 1930s. It was the “other people” who allied with Hitler during World War II, continuing to stoke violence against Jews, making the formation of a peaceful multiethnic state impossible. It was the “other people” who rejected the United Nations partition plan and launched an all-out war against Jews only three years after the concentration camps were liberated. It was “other people” who initiated wave after wave of terrorism against Jewish civilians — years before there were any “occupied” territories in the West Bank. It was “other people” who rejected dozens of peace offerings from 1948 onward. And yet, some of those “other people” still reside in Israel and enjoy more liberal rights than Arabs do in any Arab nation.”

Absent, as usual with pro-Palestinian Hollywood personalities moving in  comfortable, privileged, assimilated circles, is any awareness of the need for Israel for the vast majority of Israeli Jews – refugees or descendants of refugees.

Siamak Kordestani of JIMENAtweeted: ‘and how much did you learn in your schools about the many thousands of Mizrahi Jews  ethnically cleansed  from Arab lands in the 1940s and 1950s’?

For rebuttals to Rogen, see Shany Mor in The Forward, Aaron Bandler in Jewish Journal , Shahar Azani and Dani Ishai Behan in Times of Israel. 

Israel is not a European colony

Sherry Sufi PhD is a pro-Israel Australian intellectual with a keen interest in the Middle East. In this Times of Israel blog, he cautions against using the argument that Israel cannot be an outpost of European colonialism because most of its Jewish residents never left the Middle East.  The indigeneity argument must apply to Jews in Europe and the US: all Jews, wherever they live,  belong to a distinctly semitic Middle eastern civilisation, he argues. (With thanks: Dani)

Sherry Sufi, PhD

What’s even more important is to avoid responding in a way that defeats its own purpose.
For instance, a popular argument often seen floating around on social media says:

 • Most Jews in Israel today didn’t even come from Europe.

 • 2/3rds came from other Middle Eastern or North African countries.

 • They have had greater influence on Israeli cuisine and music.

• So it follows that Israel can’t exactly be a European colony.

The premise here is spot on.
Those Jews who came from Israel’s neighbouring lands are to be saluted for their continued sacrifices in service to the Jewish state using their bilingual capabilities and intimate understanding of hostile forces.
Yet the conclusion has a hidden flip side.

It concedes that when Jewish exiles from Europe did make up the majority of Jews in pre-state Israel between the first aliyah (1882) and independence (1948), that was a European colony.
It also implies that if Jews from Europe or America were to ever become the majority in Israel through mass aliyah, that would again make it a European colony.
These are misleading implications.

More Jews live outside Israel than within it.

3/4ths of the world’s Jewish population is made up of exiles who lived in Europe and by extension, America.
An argument like the one above compromises their identity and status as native Middle Easterners.
Remember, they are as Jewish and as authentically Middle Eastern as Jews elsewhere.
They have kept the same traditions in exile as did their counterparts who remained within the Middle East and North Africa.

No one denies that the Zoroastrian Parsees that have lived in India for centuries are the natives of Persia (Iran).
Though they have not been physically present on Iranian soil for over a thousand years, their historic and civilisational connection is undeniable.

That connection will remain intact so long as the Zoroastrian Parsees resist efforts to assimilate and dissolve into another civilisational identity.

The same is true in the Jewish case.

So the argument in response to the anti-Israel world view needs to be tighter than the above.
All Jews belong to the same civilisation — Am Yisrael — a distinctly Semitic Middle Eastern civilisation.

Read article in full

Gisèle Halimi, rebel with a feminist cause, has died

Tunisian-born Gisèle Halimi has died aged 93. Rebelling against the misogyny of her family, she made her name fighting for feminist causes as a lawyer in France, and defended an Algerian woman accused of planting a bomb during the war of independence in 1960. Obituary in Le Monde:


To describe Gisèle Halimi, who died on 28 July, the day after her birthday, two words spring to mind: fighter and rebel.

On July 27, 1927, in the district of La Goulette, in Tunis, when Zeiza Gisèle Elise Taïeb was born, no one was celebrating. As she recounts in La Cause des femmes (Grasset, 1974), her father, Edouard,was so upset to have had a daughter that he took several weeks to tell his friends about her   birth. A father who does not like daughters will nevertheless passionately love “his” daughter.

Relations between Gisèle and her mother had always been difficult, as she writes in Le Lait de l’Oranger (Gallimard, 1988), a moving autobiographical story, and in Fritna (Plon, 2000) .
Mme Taieb would have probably wanted a more compliant daughter.

The young Gisèle rebels against everything, going as far as to embark on a hunger strike at the age of 10 to demand the right to learn to read. She challenges the religious beliefs of her Jewish family by refusing to kiss the mezuzah before going to class.

At 16, she refused an arranged marriage, pursued her law studies in France, returned to Tunis and enrolled at the Bar in 1949. The rebel she had always been became an activist – first for the independence of her country. Though she became French, she never gave up her (Tunisian) nationality. She always loved Tunisia and returned there regularly. In Paris, she loved to cook Tunisian dishes for her friends.

Settling in France in 1956 and marrying Paul Halimi, a civil administrator, she changed her name and gave birth to two sons. She divorced, while keeping the name by which she made herself best known, and married Claude Faux, who was Jean-Paul Sartre’s secretary. She has a third son with him. Never a girl. This is perhaps why she had, a close relationship with her grand-daughter that she explores in Histoire d’une passion (Plon, 2011), her last published book.

 
Read article in full (French)

Israel should build on changing Arab attitudes to Jews

In the wake of the Ramadan screening of Umm Haroun, the TV series which projects a more sympathetic view of Jews, Israel should build on the warming relations with Gulf states and Saudi Arabia to advance dialogue and the peace process with the Palestinians, argues Ksenia Svetlova in the Jerusalem Post: (with thanks: Beatrice)




A screenshot from Umm Haroun

Saudi Arabia’s latest binge-worthy television series has an unlikely subject: Umm Haroun, produced for the month of Ramadan, depicts life in the Jewish community of Kuwait in the 1940s. It is far from coincidental that the show is aired on the Saudi MBC channel, flying in the face of harsh Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns and radical Islamic criticism. Arab and Muslim states’ interests in Judaism and the Jews has been growing quietly for around a decade. The gradual rapprochement can be seen in official meetings and rabbis’ visits to Arab capitals; the restoration, renovation and establishment of synagogues in Egypt, Morocco and Dubai; messages of reconciliation from Arab leaders; moderate legislation in several states; positive remarks by senior Muslim clerics and even, as Umm Haroun demonstrates, in literary and cinematic endeavors.

 The changing tides are inherently linked to sweeping geopolitical developments in the Middle East throughout the past two decades, from 9/11 and the US invasion of Iraq, to the Arab Spring and the ascent of Iran. Since 1948, Arab regimes have officially sought to distinguish between Jews and the State of Israel, preempting Israel and the West’s accusations of antisemitism. Yet, their artificial distinction did not prevent them turning on their Jewish residents, expropriating their property, excluding them from public life and ultimately expelling them. Thus although the official line of Arab regimes always targeted the State of Israel and the Zionist movement, it appeared that 1,400 years of Muslim-Jewish and Arab-Jewish co-existence had ended abruptly. From Egyptian and Syrian caricaturists depicting Jews as malicious parasites to Saudi Arabian stores banning ‘dogs and Jews,’ relations were far from warm.

Read article in full

Scores of discriminatory laws were passed against Iraqi Jews

With thanks: Michal

Seventy years on from the mass emigration of Jews from Iraq, the full extent of state-sanctioned discrimination against them  – and the  community which stayed behind –  is not fully appreciated.

At a conference on the Jews of Iraq held at London’s SOAS in September 2019, Khairuldeen al-Makhzoomi of Georgetown university enumerated dozens of laws and decrees passed by Iraq’s government against Jews, despite the fact that they were nominally Iraqi citizens.



Kahiruldeen al-Makhzoomi making his presentation at the London conference at SOAS

Law 51 of 1948 added Zionism to the criminal code. From then on, Jews could be arrested, tried and even executed for ‘Zionism’. Law1 of 1950 permitted Jews to leave Iraq legally on condition that their citizenship was revoked. The law was in force for a year.

Law 5 passed in urgent session in  March 1951 froze the property of Iraqi Jews stripped of their citizenship. In 1954 such property was open to public bidding.

There was an attempt to draw an equivalence between the confiscation of Jewish property and compensation for dispossessed Palestinian refugees.

 Law 12 set up a Secretariat to manage confiscated Jewish property. From 1951 – 56 several decrees  were passed, seizing, managing, disposing and liquidating Jewish property. These decrees piled on the pressure on Jews still living in Iraq.

However, not all newspapers supported the government’s anti-Jewish  policy. Nor did all the religious authorities.

In spite of attempts by General Kassam, who overthrow the royalist regime in 1958 –  to affirm that Jews were equal citizens,  his successor General Aref rescinded Law 11 encouraging Jews to return.  In 1963, Law 161 introduced yellow identity cards for Jews, several of whom changed their names.

Other laws banned the sale of Jewish property and limited the amounts that could be paid to Jews.

The Baath regime passed a host of discriminatory laws. In 1981, the management of seized Jewish property came under the remit of the ministry of  finance.

One law, no 643, targeted the extensive property and assets of a single Jew – Ezra Menahem Daniel, although Daniel lived and died in Iraq.

To see video of al-Makhzoomi’s presentation (29 mins), click here.

More about the SOAS ‘Jews of Iraq’ Conference 


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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.

Point of No Return

Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

One-stop blog on the Middle East's
forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.