Month: September 2021

Frantzman: ‘Iraq’s outrage is more lip service than reality’

In a groundbreaking conference recently,  300 Iraqis declared their support for ‘Abraham Accords ‘ to be signed between Iraq and Israel. The Iraqi government’s response was to issue warrants for the arrest of two of the most prominent participants. But how much of this anger is genuine, and how much is posturing to placate Iran? Read Seth Frantzman’s analysis in the Jerusalem Post


Iraq’s president Barham Salih meeting Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran on 5 August 2021 (Photo: Reuters)
The reports that 300 Iraqis took part in an event in Erbil in the Kurdistan region, supporting the Abraham Accords and ties with Israel, were greeted with anger in Baghdad. A lot of the anger, as well as calls for court cases to be opened against participants, is virtue signaling. The goal is for Iraqi politicians, from the president to Muqtada al-Sadr, to jump over one another to show off who can condemn the conference and Israel.


Al-Sadr must posture because he has been holding the keys to power in Baghdad for years. Navigating between Iran’s role in Baghdad in which Iran has influence through Hadi al-Amiri’s Fatah Alliance in parliament, and his outreach to Saudi Arabia and other states in recent years, Sadr must show that he is tough on the Israel issue.


The Prime Minister  and president must posture as well. President Barham Salih is Kurdish and would not be anti-Israel in a normal Iraq, free from Iran’s domination. But the one-time academic has put out a statement. Current prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi came to power after pro-Iran militias massacred Iraqis in 2019. He is also someone that in a normal world, untethered from Iran’s guns in Iraq, would be open minded, liberal and able to show nuance on the Israel issue. “Proposing the concept of normalization is constitutionally, legally and politically rejected in the Iraqi state,” read the statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.


The event in Erbil discussing Israel also comes prior to Iraqi elections, so politicians must pretend to be very angry about this conference. In addition Wisam al-Hardan, who is described as a “leader of the ‘Sons of Iraq Awakening’ movement” also wrote about the event in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal. “He said it gathered more than 300 people, including tribal leaders, intellectuals and youth activists from the October protest movement, from Baghdad, Mosul, Anbar, Babel, Salahaddin and Diyala,” reports claimed. Now Iraq has supposedly ordered the arrest of officials who took part.


The “outrage” in Iraq appears more like lip service than reality. The Arab Weekly says the event played into the hands of pro-Iran militias. That is a correct analysis since these militias want to target Erbil and have accused Kurds in the past of being pro-Israel or even a “second Israel” within Iraq. Frequent rumors in pro-Iran media paint Erbil as being linked to Israel or write about “Mossad bases” in Iraq.

Even hospital patients were expelled after Suez

The Suez crisis of 1956 was followed by President Nasser’s  expulsion of 25,000 Jews in the space of  two years. Some had 24 hours to leave, others a week. In an episode of singular brutality,  Jewish hospital patients were expelled.

A post by Doron Skal on the Facebook page יציאת מצרים ובחזרה cites  a report by Haaretz of 16 January 1957. The newspaper quotes a group of expelled Egyptian Jews who had arrived in Israel via Italy. The group said that patients in the Jewish hospital in Cairo had been thrown out of the wards into the corridors. From there, they were taken to the public hospitals. Security guards then literally threw them out onto the streets.

The hospital staff was also dismissed. Haaretz reports that seven out of 15 personnel were still in Egypt at the time.

Egypt Air to run direct flights to Israel

In a sign of thawing relations between Israel and Egypt, the national Egyptian airline will run four flights a day to Israel beginning in October. Egyptian Streets reports:

Israel speaks Arabic,’ the official Arabic-language Facebook page for Israel, announced Tuesday 14 September, that Egypt’s national airline, EgyptAir will start operating direct flights between Cairo and Tel Aviv next month.

For the first time in decades, EgyptAir will operate with four weekly flights starting with 3, 4, 5, and 7 October.

More so, Israel’s Transportation Minister, Merav Michaeli, stated that Sinai’s Taba border crossing will become fully operational with extended opening hours, allowing an unlimited number of entry permits per day.

Read article in full

Yemen Jews’ plight evoked at Geneva conference

A recent conference on minority and women’s  rights and religious freedom invited Ellie Cohanim, former US deputy envoy to combat antisemitism, to speak on the plight of the Jews of Yemen. A community of 50,000 is now reduced to six people, including Levi Salem Marhabi, wrongfully imprisoned by the regime. Cohanim traced the anti-Jewish ideology of the dominant, Iranian-backed Houthis back to their founder, Hussein al-Houthi, who first chanted the official Houthi slogan’ Death to America, death to Israel and curse the Jews’ in a school hall in 2002. The Jerusalem Post reports: 


(From left) Human-rights activist Dr. Arwa al-Khattabi, head of the Yemeni Broken Chair Organization for Mine Victims, former U.S. Deputy Envoy to Combat Antisemitism Ellie Cohanim and Andy Vermaut, president of human rights NGO Post Versa speaking at the “Terrorism and Rights Violations of the Minorities in Yemen” conference in Geneva on 21 September 2021.

Speaking at the conference, former U.S. Deputy Envoy to Combat Antisemitism under the Trump administration, Ellie Cohanim, noted the deeply anti-Semitic, Nazi-like nature of the Houthis.

“We have to be very careful when making any comparisons with the Nazis,” she explained. “But incredibly enough, there is much video evidence which has surfaced online over the years with the Houthis mimicking the Nazis, and expressing anti-Semitic and anti-American rhetoric during their ceremonies, military recruitments and other large gatherings, including videos in which the Houthi militia performed the Nazi salute.’ ”

Underscoring the close ties between the Houthis and Iran, Cohanim noted that while Iran chants “Death to America, Death to Israel,” the Houthis’ official slogan goes one step further. “They chant ‘Death to America,’ ‘Death to Israel’ and ‘Curse the Jews.’ ”

She said the Houthis’ founder—Hussein al-Houthi, for whom the group is named—took credit for coming up with the hateful slogan. “In a sermon at a school hall in January 2002, Hussein al-Houthi announced that he was the first to start a chant against America, Israel and Jews.”

Cohanim said “the Houthis have engaged in a policy of ethnic cleansing of Yemen’s Jews. Even prior to the civil war in 2015, we saw the Houthis begin their campaign against the indigenous Jewish community with their 2007 expulsion of approximately 70 Jewish individuals who lived in the Houthi stronghold town of Sa’adah.

“Nearly all of the last Jews, 13 from three different families were driven out in March,” she continued. “There is now only a handful left of the once 50,000-strong community. Most of them were flown to the Jewish state during an Israeli operation in 1949 to 1950.”

One of the few still in the country, Levi Salem Musa Marhabi, has been imprisoned since 2016, jailed for allegedly helping a Yemeni Jewish family flee to Israel with a Torah scroll. The Yemenis were particularly aggrieved about the loss of the scroll, which despite their mistreatment of Jews, they consider a national treasure.

Read article in full

The Houthis and the Jews by Ellie Cohanim (JNS News)


Herzog calls on Israel to embrace Mizrahi religious tradition

Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog,  has marked the 200-year old anniversary of the passing of a great Moroccan rabbi with a call for Israeli society to embrace the traditions of the Jews from Arab and Islamic lands.

President Herzog speaking at the Hoshana Rabbah event

Speaking on Hoshana Rabbah, at the end of the Succot holiday, President Herzog declared: “We must all, as a nation and as a state, lovingly embrace the roots of the tradition of the Jews from Arab and Islamic lands, those known as Mizrahi Jews, and make it a significant and influential element of our conduct and lifestyles—as a society, as individuals, and most importantly—to discover, to learn, and to know.”

President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog hosted a study session at the President’s Residence in honor of the Jewish holiday of Hoshana Rabbah. The event was held to mark 200 years since the passing of Rabbi Raphael Berdugo, one of the great sages of Moroccan Jewry. The event was attended by Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar; the president of the Academy of the Hebrew Language, Prof. Moshe Bar-Asher; Rabbi David Berdugo, a sixth-generation descendant of Rabbi Raphael Berdugo; and other rabbis, scholars, and descendants of the Moroccan sage.

Rabbi Raphael Berdugo (“the Angel Berdugo”) passed away 200 years ago on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Hoshana Rabbah. He was one of the greatest rabbis of Moroccan Jewry and left a tremendous mark on the history of Middle Eastern Jewry, leaving behind a glorious legacy. This special study session in his honor was the initiative of the Israel Prize laureate Prof. Moshe Bar-Asher, the president of the Academy of the Hebrew Language.


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