First passenger flight takes off from Tel Aviv for Morocco

The first direct commercial flights between Israel and Morocco departed from Ben Gurion Airport this morning some seven months after the two countries agreed to normalize relations. El Al laid out the ‘red carpet’ to passengers departing for Marrakesh. i 24 News reports (with thanks: Ruth)

A Moroccan welcome awaited the first passengers to board the El Al flight to Marrakesh

Israir flight number 6H61 took off at 8:15 am local time for the six-hour flight to Marrakech Menara Airport.

Moroccan musicians greeting passengers arriving on the first flight to Marrakesh from Tel Aviv.

El Al flight number LY553 was set to take off at 11:20 am local time.

Sunday’s trips are technically the second and third direct commercial flights between the two countries following the reestablishment of diplomatic ties in December.

Read article in full

See MEMRI clip (with thanks: Ruth; Lily)

Antisemitic row provokes uproar in Pakistan

Jemima Goldsmith, who divorced Imran Khan in 2004

Jemima  Goldsmith is only a quarter Jewish on her father’s side – but antisemitic mud sticks. From the time of her marriage in 1995 to Pakistani cricketer-turned-PM Imran Khan, Jemima has been dogged by antisemitic attacks. To call someone a Jew is a popular tactic in Muslim countries to discredit politicians – and Maryam Nawaz, who leads her father’s political party,  is no exception. This article in the Times contextualises the current spat between Nawaz and Goldsmith by drawing attention to the persecution of Pakistan’s Jews, but wildly exaggerates the remaining numbers. Of  3,000 in 1948,  today there are perhaps 10 ‘secret’ Jews, not 800. (With thanks: Lily, Laurence)

Nawaz, who leads her father’s political party, launched into an antisemitic tirade at the prime minister and Goldsmith, the daughter of the late business tycoon, Sir James Goldsmith.

“My son is the polo team captain and is bringing honour to Pakistan. I didn’t want to bring children into it, but the way you’re talking, you’re going to get a fitting reply,” Nawaz said. “He is Nawaz Sharif’s grandson, not Goldsmith’s. He is not being raised in the lap of Jews.”

The comments provoked a horrified response from Goldsmith, who married Khan, the World Cup-winning cricketer, in 1995. The couple, who divorced in 2004, have two sons, Sulaiman Isa, 24, and Kasim, 22.

“I left Pakistan in 2004 after a decade of antisemitic attacks by the media and politicians (and weekly death threats and protests outside my house). But it still continues,” Goldsmith tweeted.

The row has provoked uproar in Pakistan, with partisan supporters leaping to the defence of Khan or Nawaz. Unflattering paparazzi shots of Goldsmith began circulating on Pakistani Twitter, along with references to “Jew kids”.

Like other religious minorities, Jews in Pakistan have faced discrimination and violence over the past century. Hundreds emigrated to Israel when it was founded in 1948, a year after the partition of India created Pakistan.

Islamabad does not have formal relations with Israel in protest at its occupation of Palestinian land. Local media estimate the number of Jews still living in Pakistan at about 800, but the few who openly admit their faith place that number at fewer than 200.

“Pakistani politics at its finest,” lamented a column in the newspaper Dawn. “Our politicians have regressed and instead of attacking their opponents, they’re going after their children.”

Nawaz has refused to back down, responding to Goldsmith’s remarks with another attack on Khan. “You have only your ex to blame,” she said on Twitter.

Read article in full

Ruth Rejwan Pearl, mother of Daniel, dies

The death has been announced of Ruth Pearl (nee Rejwan), mother of Daniel Pearl, the Wall St Journal reporter who was murdered for being a Jew by terrorists in Pakistan. Asra Nomani has written this  moving obituary in the Jewish Journal, praising Ruth’s character and grace, and her determination to fight for justice for her son to the last.  Born in Baghdad, Ruth was a survivor of the Farhud massacre of 1941. In 2013 she shared her memories of that time, and  her Baghdad childhood,  with Diarna. 

Ruth Pearl at her childhood home in the upscale neighbourhood of Bataween, Baghdad.

On January 23, 2002, she awakened in her home in California with a startling dream and wrote an email to her son, Danny, warning him to be careful, thousands of miles away in Karachi, Pakistan, where he was staying with his wife, Mariane, at a home I had rented on Zamzama Street. Danny and I were friends from our work together at the Wall Street Journal. Alas, later that evening, Danny slipped into a taxi for an interview from which he never returned.

Five weeks later, the FBI learned militants had slain Danny. It was a mother’s nightmare come true. Ruth would outlive her child. Born Ruth Rejwan in Baghdad, Iraq in 1935, Ruth Pearl died this week, 19 years later.

But what Ruth did over these 19 years is testimony to a mother’s love and her character and grace. “My beautiful, wise, generous, loving mama who overcame the traumas in her life with strength and vitality and dedication to helping others died today,” her eldest daughter, Tamara, wrote to friends.

In June 1941, as a six-year-old girl in Baghdad, born in the capital of Iraq to one of the city’s Jewish families, Ruth witnessed a massacre, the Farhud, when at least 180 Jews were killed by locals, wreaking chaos during a power vacuum. “It was like a movie,” she recalled in an interview, watching looting and violence. As bullets flew, her father led her family to the cellar. “I had nightmares,” she said, for decades.

She met her husband, Judea, at Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology. With her passing, he wrote, “I’ve lost my dear wife this afternoon, my northern-star and my college sweetheart.”

Read article in full

Historians battle over nature of Jewish-Muslim relations

The historian Georges Bensoussan has hit back against accusations of ‘essentialism’ and writing a ‘lachrymose’ version of relations between Jews and Muslims in the Arab world.

Georges Bensoussan: hitting back

The accusations came from Lucette Valensi, herself a historian, speaking at the opening session of a recent conference in Paris. 

She singled out Georges Bensoussan, David Littman and Paul Fenton for criticism  and attempted to distinguish between legitimate historians and ‘jobbing’ historians. Littman and Fenton were the authors of the ‘excellent’ (according to Bensoussan)  Exile from the Maghreb, a compilation of  documents detailing antisemitic abuses suffered in 19th century Morocco.

Bensoussan himself was acquitted in a case against incitement to racial hatred in 2017. Given a right-of-reply by Akadem, the ‘Jewish digitial campus’, Bensoussan claimed that ‘essentialist’ was another term for ‘racist’, without the legal implications. It was simply an attempt to shut him down.

Pointing to the introduction to his major work, Juifs en pays arabes: le grand déracinement, published in 2012 (See English version here), Bensoussan had clearly written that a lachrymose version was as inappropriate as an idealisation of the past, vaunting a golden age, as promoted by the Wissenchaft historians of 19th century Germany. Nonetheless, his book was based  not on police reports but hard archival evidence that Jews had suffered grave abuses at the hands of Muslims.

There was not one memory of the the Jewish past in North Africa, there were several layers of memory, depending on social class. Cultural attitudes were not static but evolved over time.

In turn, Bensoussan accused Valensi of speaking for a privileged ‘comprador’ merchant elite, representing less than one percent  of the Jewish population. The great mass of Jews lived in the oppressive city mellahs.  Bensoussan remarked that the conference featured an appearance by royal adviser André Azoulay, who was pushing the agenda of the king of Morocco. Valensi could be said to have a political agenda herself, being associated with a project to establish a Jewish museum  supported by the Tunisian ministry of Tourism.

Bensoussan contrasted Lucette Valensi’s take on history with that of fellow-Tunisian, Albert Memmi, who grew up in the poor Tunis hara, or  Jewish quarter. Bensoussan quoted Memmi’s words, written in 1975: ‘ The much vaunted idyllic life of the Jews in Arab lands is a myth! The truth, since I am obliged to return to it, is that from the outset we were a minority in a hostile environment; as such, we underwent all the fears, the agonies, and the constant sense of frailty of the underdog.”

The Akadem interview by Antoine Mercier with Georges Bensoussan on Facebook has garnered over ten thousand views,  and comments mostly favourable to Bensoussan.

See Akadem interview with Georges Bensoussan (French)

More about Georges Bensoussan

 

Moroccan singer ‘has no problem’ with Jews

To accuse an Arab of being a Jew is a tried and tested means of discrediting him. But Morocco has a long tradition of popular antisemitism, as per the expression ‘Yehudi hashak’ (Jew, pardon me).  By claiming he has no problem with people who think he is Jewish, Moroccan singer Hamid El Hadri  may be pushing back against this longstanding prejudice. Clip via MEMRI (with thanks: Lily):

Hamid El Hadri: ‘Jews are good people’

Moroccan singer and musician Hamid El Hadri responded to speculations that he was Jewish, saying that perhaps he looks Jewish, and he has no problem with that, but he is a Muslim. He made these remarks in an interview that aired on Chada TV (Morocco) on July 12, 2021. Hadri continued to say that he considers Moroccan Jews as brothers and believes that everyone is free to choose their own faith. He added that the Jews “are good people who love their country.”

Interviewer: “Some people saw this picture and said Hamid El Hadri is a Moroccan Jew.”

El Hadri: “Maybe. Perhaps I look Jewish, but this something I have no problem with. I believe that Moroccan Jews are our brothers, and I have some friends from among them who are like brothers to me. I believe in the freedom of everybody to choose their own faith. I am a Muslim – I pray and I have performed the Hajj.

[…]

“The Moroccan Jews are part of Moroccan society. They are good people who love their country. They respected their religion and they loved their Moroccan spirit.”

See clip

 

About

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.