Bahrain has signed an agreement with the US State Department, represented by the US antisemitism ‘tsar’ Elan Carrand his deputy, Ellie Cohanim, to combat antisemitism, anti-Zionism and delegitimisation of Israel. JTA reports:
Elan Carr and a representative of the al-Khalifa institute signing the agreement
The agreement signed Thursday is well short of the legislative adoption of the IHRA definition that the Trump administration has sought from countries, and that has been adopted by a number of US state governments, with the backing of some pro-Israel organizations. The Bahrain memorandum outlines only educational programs and does not include enforcement language.
The institute that al Khalifa runs, which mostly builds goodwill with other faiths and nations, does not appear to be connected to any Bahraini body that would enforce the definition.
Still, the significance of a Muslim Arab country that not long ago would not formally recognize Israel now signaling its willingness to educate its population about the value of a Jewish state was not lost on Carr, who is of Iraqi Jewish origin, or his deputy, Ellie Cohanim, who was born in Iran.
“As a child, I had to flee my homeland of Iran with my family to escape the Islamic revolution of 1979 that brought into power this despotic regime which to this day oppresses the people of Iran with the most appalling human rights record,” Cohanim said at the signing ceremony.
“My story is the story of almost 1 million Jews, all indigenous to the Middle East, all who love their homelands.”
Carr also described the longing Jews for Arab lands feel for their homelands. “I come from a heritage that lived for millennia, with Arabs and with Muslims and flourished in the Middle East,” he said.
“We who come from that region, understand that there were wonderful periods, not only of tolerance but of true affection.”
Will Morocco be next to sign a peace agreement with Israel? Niger Innis, writing in JNS News, thinks not. While the king of Morocco likes to say that one in five Israelis has familial links with Morocco, a powerful coalition of Islamist and progressive organisations have recently declared their radical, even antisemitic, opposition to ‘normalisation’ with Israel.
Mohamed V1: pays for upkeep of Jewish cemeteries
There are good reasons to believe that Morocco could be the next Arab land to make a formal peace agreement with the Jewish state. Its current king, Mohammed VI, ensured that the rights of Moroccan Jews (and other religious minorities) were safeguarded in the kingdom’s 2011 constitution. Jewish schools and synagogues operate freely. The king also personally pays for the upkeep of Jewish cemeteries, following the 1969 exodus of many Jews from Morocco, and publicly dines with Hollywood stars attending the Marrakech International Film Festival every year.
The king likes to point out that nearly one in five Israelis has a familial tie to his kingdom. Morocco, going back to the days of former King Hassan II, has called for peace and normalization of trade ties with Israel, following certain humanitarian guarantees for Palestinian Arabs. Finally, every nation after Egypt’s 1978 peace agreement with Israel (Jordan in 1994, UAE this past month and now Bahrain) is a monarchy; lands where leaders are less likely to face removal by taking unpopular stands such as making peace with Israel. Morocco is a moderate Arab nation, run by a constitutional monarch.
Yet a closer look at Morocco’s current elected leaders and the Western-funded non-governmental organizations that influence them reveals that Morocco will likely not follow its fellow Gulf Cooperation Council members into making a peace deal with Israel. Indeed, this shows the dangers that American and European donors face when they fund groups with lofty-sounding goals tied to radical, even anti-Semitic, views.
Consider the Moroccan Democratic Network for Solidarity with Peoples, a national symposium that was held on Sept. 2 in Rabat. The organizations brought together student, cultural and human-rights groups alongside political and union organizations to map out, in the words of its official statement, the “ways of solidarity with the Palestinian people, especially with regard to anti-normalization with the Zionist entity.”
The official declaration, signed by a large cross-section of Islamist and progressive organizations, reads like an anti-Israel screed from the 1970s. The participants signed their names to certain affirmations, including that “Zionism is a form of racism,” that the modern-day settlement of the land of Israel “constituted a crime against the Palestinian people,” and that any peace or normalization “aims to undermine the spirit of solidarity that inhabits the conscience of the peoples, especially the peoples of our Arab and Maghreb regions, and annihilate the historical balance of the national liberation and democracy movement in the region in an attempt to write off the Palestinian cause and subjugate these peoples and to extend imperial and Zionist hegemony over them by means of tyrannical reactionary regimes.”
It calls the UAE’s peace efforts “a treacherous step,” and demands that Morocco cease any efforts to normalize relations with Israel. It even faults the Moroccan government’s official recognition of “the Hebrew component of the Moroccan identity” contained in the kingdom’s constitution. Jews, as well as Berbers with a Jewish identity, have lived in Morocco for nearly 1,000 years. This rejection of a shared history of Jews and Muslims in Morocco is both sweeping and shocking.
Finally, the declaration demands an economic boycott of any government body or business that advocates for peace with Israel.
The Druze minister Ayoob Kara, who has special responsibility for relations between Israel and Arab countries, has revealed to the Jerusalem Post that a Bahraini princess’ treatment in an Israeli hospital set the ball rolling towards ‘normalisation’ between Bahrain and Israel ten years later (with thanks: Lily):
King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa
Israel’s treatment of Bahraini princess Fatima bint Khalifa in 2010
helped pave the way for the normalization deal between the two
countries a decade later, former communications Minister Ayoub Kara said
on Tuesday. “I believed in 2010 that we had an opportunity
to [have] good relations with the Gulf states,” Kara said.
He spoke at the second annual Israeli-Palestinian Economic Forum, which
was held last year in Jerusalem and was transformed this year into a
virtual event. Kara recalled how ten years ago he had helped facilitate
the Bahraini princess’ treatment at Haifa’s
Rambam Hospital, with an eye to creating an opening for formalized Israeli-Bahraini ties.
“This was the beginning of the process,” he said. The entire
incident was “very discreet” known only to the princess, her husband,
himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Kara said. “She was very
sick” and believed that she could be treated in Israel,
Then upon her release from the hospital Kara helped the couple settle in an Israeli hotel for a month. Prior to their return to Bahrain, they asked how they could help
suggested they improve the treatment of the Jewish community in
Bahrain. He also asked them to support a new vision of expanded Israeli
relations with the
Gulf, given that it was impossible to come to a resolution with the
Palestinian Authority, Kara recalled. “No way that we will find a
solution with them. We need a new policy,” Kara told them.
It is a fact that 90 percent of the Jewish community of Libya emigrated to Israel after the end of WW2, but how many know that, until emigration became legal, hundreds of Libyan Jews passed through Italian Displaced Persons (DP) camps, intending to make it to Israel?
These Jews, some mere teenagers, had suffered through privation and even internment during WW2. They were the survivors of labour camps such as the notorious Giado camp, south west of Tripoli, where 600 Jews died of typhus or starvation. They had also survived pogroms – some 130 Jews died in the November 1945 Tripoli pogrom. To add insult to injury, another pogrom was to break out in June 1948.
Libyan Jews, most young, receiving food ratons from the Joint Distribution Committee in Tripoli, Libya (Photot: JDC Archives)
An Anglo-Arab regime controlled Libya until independence in 1951. The administration would not let Jews leave. Emigration was only legalised in January 1949. Those desperate enough were smuggled across the Mediterranean in overcrowded boats from September 1948. Some 1,300 made it to Israel via Italy between 1947 and 1949.
According to Danielle Willard-Kyle (21.30 into the video) who has made a study of the inmates of the DP camps, an additional complication is that many fleeing Libyan Jews did not have citizenship, or had been stripped of their citizenship. Arriving in the DP camps, some pretended to have Eastern European citizenship.
The international community, in the shape of the International Refugee Organisation (IRO), which had been set up to deal with the massive postwar refugee crisis, callously refused to recognise Libyan escapees as refugees. The IRO went so far as to claim that they were economic migrants. They would therefore not be eligible for asylum benefits.
The American Joint Distribution Committee, which cared for the humanitarian needs of Jews, insisted that those who had made it to Italy were bona fide refugees. But the IRO argued that if they helped the Jews, they would have to help the Arab refugees fleeing from Palestine. If the Joint had not intervened, these Jews would have been repatriated to Libya, not allowed to continue their journey to Palestine.
The Arab problem was soon dealt with by the creation of UNWRA, dedicated to this day, to helping Palestnian ‘refugees. The case of the Libyan Jews in DP camps seems to be the perfect example of an international double standard when it comes to Jewish refugees.
For the third year running, prayers will be recited in synagogues across the world in remembrance of Jews buried in inaccessible cemeteries in Arab lands.
Graves in the Baghdad Jewish cemetery
This year the mass Hashkaba (kaddish) will take place on 28 November, the nearest Shabbat to the official day to commemorate the exodus of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran, 30 November.
The mass Kaddish is the initiative of a Montreal resident of Iraqi origin, Sass Peress. For decades, families have been prevented from reciting prayers at the gravestones of their loved ones buried in Arab lands.
Inspired by a Facebook post by a Muslim friend in the UK referring to Miss Israel’s selfie with Miss Iraq in 2017, Peress embarked on a project to locate and clean up his grandfather’s grave in the Sadr City Jewish cemetery in Baghdad. This was done in secrecy in case of official interference.
“While some Iraqi Muslims stepped up and saw the positive in helping me discover my grandfather’s grave, some tried to get in the way, to the point of threats against the lives of those who sought to help me, “Peress recalls.
Before long the clean-up was extended to 150 graves.Their inscriptions were photographed and translatedinto English by Sami Sourani, a historian of the Iraqi-Jewish community based in Montreal. Peress hopes to obtain a photographic record of all 3,000 graves in the Sadr City cemetery.
Last year, some 50 groups in Canada, the US, the UK, Mexico and Germany recited the prayers.
In 2020, due to the worldwide pandemic, the event has also gone “virtual”. Refer to https://www.kaddishinitiative.com to join the prayer in remembrance of those who cannot be visited. The joint prayer may be dowloaded and and recited from the comfort of your own home, or if possible, in those synagogues which are open for services.
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.