Why are Jews so quick to defend our enemies?

If we talk about the Arab nakba, we should, as a matter of law and equity, also talk about the Jewish nakba of 870,000 refugees from Arab countries, writes Lyn Julius in the Jewish Chronicle in response to a plea by a young Jew for schools to teach Palestinian views.

Infographic by Elder of Ziyon

Writing here last month, Sabrina Miller made a plea: Jewish schools should teach Palestinian views. Her argument was that this would help woefully ill-informed young Jews better to argue Zionism’s case once they arrive on campus. Although the plea came with the best of intentions, it risks falling into a trap. The nakba (an Arabic term for the ‘catastrophic’ exodus of 710,000 Palestinian refugees) is the self-inflicted consequence of the Arab decision to go to war in 1948 — a war which their side instigated and lost. To talk of the nakba without balance or context would be to promote a one-sided narrative of Palestinian victimhood.

If we mention the Arab nakba, we are compelled as a matter of law and equity to talk about the Jewish nakba (I use the expression for convenience). As many as 870,000 Jews (persecuted by the Arab League as the “Jewish minority of Palestine”) were driven from, or fled, the Arab world at around the same time as the Palestinian refugees — and as a consequence of the same conflict, merely because Jews in Arab lands shared the same religion and ethnicity as Israelis.

Why should we take only the Palestinian refugee cause seriously, while dismissing the Jewish refugees? Why are Jews so quick to empathise with our enemies, while failing to defend our own rights? Furthermore, no credible and lasting peace settlement could be reached if the grievances of more than half the Jews of Israel — refugees from Muslim lands or their descendants — are ignored.

Recognising the Jewish nakba, the mass displacement and dispossession of ancient Middle Eastern Jewish communities, is central to achieving reconciliation. It would mean acknowledging that an irreversible exchange of refugees took place, similar to exchanges which occurred as a result of other 20th Century nationalist conflicts.

One cannot teach about the Arab nakba without also teaching about its root cause: Arab rejectionism. Today, such rejectionism has religious overtones. The Israel-Palestine conflict cannot be divorced from the eliminationist intentions of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranian ayatollahs and Islamist groups generally. These do not even bother to camouflage their genocidal aims in terms acceptable to western ears, such as “occupation”, “settlements” and “Palestinian human rights”.

Diaspora Jews do not make the right counter-arguments because our approach to Israel is frustratingly “Ashkenormative”. The tragedy of the Mizrahi (eastern) communities is not known to the majority of Ashkenazi Jews. Consequently, we don’t adequately make the case for Jews in general.

Israel is the vindication of an aboriginal Middle Eastern people’s aspirations for self-determination. Over half its Jewish population — Mizrahim from the Muslim world — never left the region and pre-dated the Arab conquest by 1,000 years or more. (The long sojourn of Ashkenazim in Europe does not make them any less Middle Eastern in origin, culture and identity.) Why should Arabs have 22 states, while other indigenous victims of Arab imperialism such as the Amazigh (Berbers) or the Kurds — 99 per cent of whom have voted for an independent state — have no political rights? To the latter, Israel is an inspiration.

Moreover, far from being a “white colonial settler” state, Israel is the native response to a long history of subjugation to Muslim antisemitism. The creation of Israel marked the final deliverance of Jews from a form of historic, but resurgent, Muslim colonialism towards non-Muslims which gave them “dhimmi” status. Like women, whose purpose is to serve Muslim men — witness their treatment today by the Taliban — dhimmi Jews and Christians under sharia law occupied the penultimate rung on the social ladder, just above slaves. They lived in the Muslim world under sufferance, not as of right.

Our children ought to see the Jews of Israel as a “people of colour” who have thrown off the yoke of submission.

Israel’s supporters could indeed deploy ironclad arguments, if only they are given the right facts.

Read article in full

Egyptian professor is accused of re-writing history

Point of No Return exclusive

The author of two books on the Jews of Egypt has been accused of re-writing history.

Dr Mohamed Aboulghar; Levana Zamir

Dr Mohamed Aboulghar is  a busy man –  an obstetrician and professor of gynaecology; a pioneer in infertility; one of the founders of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party.

He is also the author of two books on the Jews of Egypt: the second, titled Jews of Egypt: departure and dispersion has just been published and is apparently selling like hotcakes.

It is  his latter interest which is proving somewhat controversial. At a Zoom meeting organised by the Goutte de Lait association in Egypt on  the subject of the great rabbi and philosopher Maimonides,  Dr Aboulghar was challenged by Levana Zamir, President of the International Association of Egyptian Jews in Israel.

While praising Egyptian Jews for their contribution to society and the economy,  Dr Aboulghar blames them for causing their own exodus, or downplays  or denies any discrimination they might have suffered.

An 1922 law decreed that anyone born in Egypt was eligible for Egyptian nationality, he claims. The Jews rejected this option, ‘preferring’ foreign passports.

Mrs Zamir responds that it was not enough for a Jew to be born in Egypt – even if he had roots going back several generations. If Jews ‘preferred’ foreign passports,  that is because, as stated by Shimon Shamir in his book, after 1922  Egypt’s nationality laws excluded anyone who was not Arab.

She disputed  Dr Aboulghar’s  claim that Jews sold their property or transferred their assets before leaving the country. There was no evidence that property confiscated from Jews in 1948 ‘was restituted to them’.   Historians estimate that some 25,000 Jews left Egypt as a direct  or indirect result of the 1956 Suez crisis – yet Dr Aboulghar alleged that ‘very few’ were expelled at the start of the crisis and the remainder left of their own free will.

However, Dr Aboulghar did recognise that Jews of Egyptian nationality were forced to give it up, and that they had no right of return.

The Jews who went to Israel were another bone of contention. Dr Aboulghar claimed only the poor and under-educated made aliya. Ms Zamir said that 50,000 – half the community – went to Israel. Only 5.4 percent were poor in 1947, as stated by the historian Gudrun Krämer. All the rest,  educated enough to speak four languages and dispersed all over the world,  were poor in the sense of being ‘dispossessed’.

“To deny the tragedy of one million Jews from Arab countries is like Holocaust denial, although the latter is of a different order,” says Levana Zamir. ” We said nothing after Dr Aboulghar published his first book. But if we Jews of Egypt don’t speak up against lies, who will?”

The Goutte de Lait association said it would hold a future Zoom meeting to discuss the issue.

The Jews of Egypt, through the eyes of an Egyptian

 

 

Hamas dystopia ‘would prevent Jewish brain drain’

Assuming that ‘victory is nigh’, a  Hamas conference in Gaza  planning for a dystopian future for Israel ‘s Jews has received surprisingly little press coverage. The new order after Israel ceases to exist will be that of ‘sharia’ law – Jews  who are not killed or expelled would revert to submissive dhimmi status. It is interesting, though, that Hamas feels it would need to retain Jewish professionals to help it run its state. This conforms with the age-old tradition of exploiting dhimmi non-Muslims for their useful skills. Analysis by MEMRI (with thanks: Lily):

Hamas leader Yahya al-Sinwar: preparing for the ‘liberation of Palestine’ (Photo: AP)

The September 30, 2021 “Promise of the Hereafter[1] – Post-Liberation Palestine” conference, sponsored by Hamas leader in Gaza Yahyah Al-Sinwar and attended by senior officials from Hamas and other Palestinian factions, discussed preparations for the future administration of the state of Palestine following its “liberation” from Israel after the latter “disappears.”

The conference published a concluding statement listing “ideas and methods of operation [to be implemented] during the liberation of Palestine” after Israel ceases to exist. This list included, inter alia, a call for drafting a document of independence that will be “a direct continuation of the Pact of ‘Umar Bin Al-Khattab” concerning Byzantine Jerusalem’s surrender to the Muslim conquerors which took place apparently in 638; a definition of the leadership of the state until elections are held; recommendations for engagement with the international community and the neighboring states; a call for preparing in advance appropriate legislation for the transition to the new regime; a call for establishing apparatuses to ensure the continuation of economic activity once the Israeli shekel is no longer in use and to preserve the resources that previously belonged to Israel; and a call for compiling a guide for resettling the Palestinian refugees who wish to return to Palestine.

The conference also recommended that rules be drawn up for dealing with “Jews” in the country, including defining which of them will be killed or subjected to legal prosecution and which will be allowed to leave or to remain and be integrated into the new state. It also called for preventing a brain drain of Jewish professionals, and for the retention of “educated Jews and experts in the areas of medicine, engineering, technology, and civilian and military industry… [who] should not be allowed to leave.” Additionally, it recommended obtaining lists of “the agents of the occupation in Palestine, in the region, and [throughout] the world, and… the names of the recruiters, Jewish and non-Jewish, in the country and abroad” in order to “purge Palestine and the Arab and Islamic homeland of this hypocrite scum.”

The conference was organized by the Promise of the Hereafter Institute, which was established in 2014; the institute called it “a conference that looks to the future.” Dr. Issam Adwan, chairman of the conference’s preparatory committee and former head of Hamas’s department of refugee affairs, said that the conference’s recommendations would be presented to the Hamas leadership, which also funded the event.[2] The recommendations were also included in the strategies that the Promise of the Hereafter Institute had been drawing up since its establishment to address the phase following the liberation of Palestine.[3]

In his statements for the conference, which were delivered by Hamas political bureau member Kamal Abu Aoun, Hamas leader Al-Sinwar stressed that “we are sponsoring this conference because it is in line with our assessment that victory is nigh” and that “the full liberation of Palestine from the sea to the river” is “the heart of Hamas’s strategic vision.”

Read article in full

Nostalgia for vanishing Jews masks their ethnic cleansing

The exit of the Last Jew from Afghanistan, Zevulon Simentov , masks the larger, dark issue of the rejection of the ‘other’. Thousands of years of Jewish history are completely erased, remembered only by the descendants of the dead. Dara Horn, author of People love dead Jews has written a heartfelt essay in The New York Times addressing the extinction of diversity, particularly in the Muslim world:

Dara Horn: feeling rage

These stories are used as comic relief, like a Mel Brooks skit injected into the relentless thrum of bad news. But when I read about the Last Jew of Afghanistan, a country where Jewish communities thrived for well over a thousand years, it occurred to me that there have been many “Last Jews” stories like this, in many, many places — and that the way we tell these stories is itself part of the problem.

Dozens of countries around the world have had their Last Jews. The Libyan city of Tripoli was, astonishingly, one-quarter Jewish in 1941; today the entire country is Jew-free. After the fall of Muammar el-Qaddafi, who banished the country’s lingering Jews during his reign, a lone Libyan Jew came back to Tripoli and took down a concrete wall sealing the city’s one remaining synagogue. But he was soon forced to flee, having been warned that an antisemitic mob was coming for his head.

Chrystie Sherman, a photographer for Diarna, an online museum of Jewish sites in the Islamic world, once told me how she tracked down the last Jewish business owner in Syria, a millenniums-old Jewish community that once numbered in the tens of thousands. In 2009, he took her to a magnificent 500-year-old synagogue. The structure didn’t survive Syria’s civil war. At another synagogue, she had to lie to government agents about why she was there; admitting that she was documenting Jewish history was too dangerous.

In my travels, I’ve also seen what happens in such places decades after the Last Jews have vanished. Often, thousands of years of history are completely erased, remembered only by the descendants of the dead. Sometimes, something even creepier happens: People tell stories about Jews that make them feel better about themselves, patting themselves on the back for their current love for Jews long gone. The self-righteous memory-keeping is so much easier without insufferable living Jews getting in the way.

Places around the world now largely devoid of Jews have come to think fondly of the dead Jews who once shared their streets, and an entire industry has emerged to encourage tourism to these now historical sites. The locals in such places rarely minded when living Jews were either massacred or driven out.

But now they pine for the dead Jews, lovingly restoring their synagogues and cemeteries — sometimes while also pining for live Jewish tourists and their magic Jewish money. Egypt’s huge Jewish community predated Islam by at least six centuries; now that only a handful of Jews remain, the government has poured funding into restoring synagogues for tourists.

I have visited, and written about, many such “heritage sites” over the years, in countries ranging from Spain to China. Some are maintained by sincere and learned people, with deep research and profound courage. I wish that were the norm. More often, they are like Epcot pavilions, selling bagels and bobbleheads, sometimes hardly even mentioning why this synagogue is now a museum or a concert hall. Many Jewish travelers to such sites feel a discomfort they can barely name.

I’ve felt it too, every time. I’ve walked through places where Jews lived for hundreds or even thousands of years, people who share so many of the foundations of my own life — the language and books I cherish, the ideas that nourish me, the rhythms of my weeks and years — and I have felt the silence close in.

I don’t mean the dead Jews’ silence, but my own. I know how I am supposed to feel: solemn, calmly contemplative, and perhaps also grateful to whoever so kindly restored this synagogue or renamed this street. I stifle my disquiet, telling myself it is merely sorrow, burying it so deep that I no longer recognize what it really is: rage.

That rage is real, and we ignore it at our peril. It’s apparently in poor taste to point out why people like Mr. Simentov wind up as “Last Jews” to begin with: People decided they no longer wanted to live with those who weren’t exactly like themselves. Nostalgic stories about Last Jews mask a much larger and darker reality about societies that were once ethnic and religious mosaics, but are now home to almost no one but Arab Muslims, Lithuanian Catholics or Han Chinese. It costs little to wax nostalgic about departed Jews when one lives in a place where diversity, rather than being a living human challenge, is a fairy tale from the past. There is only one way to be.

What does it mean for a society to rid itself of other points of view? To reject those with different perspectives, different histories, different ways of being in the world? The example of Jewish history, of the many Last Jews in places around the globe, holds up a dark mirror to those of us living in much freer societies. The cynical use of bygone Jews to “inspire” us can verge on the absurd, but that absurdity isn’t so far-off from our own lip service to diversity, where those who differ from us are wonderful, so long as they see things our way.

On paper, American diversity is impressive. But in reality, we often live siloed lives. How do we really treat those who aren’t just like us? The disgust is palpable, as anyone knows who has tried being Jewish on TikTok. Are we up to the challenge of maintaining a society that actually respects others?

I hope so, but I’m not holding my breath. The Last Jew of Afghanistan is gone, and everyone is glad to be rid of him.

Read article in full

Israeli court proposes compromise to Sheikh Jarrah Arabs

A property dispute in  the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem has become politicised and was the pretext for a war between Hamas and Israel in May 2021.  Now the Israeli High Court has proposed a solution. The Jerusalem Post reports:
The Sheikh Jarrah case ignited regular protests and international media coverage
The High Court of Justice (HCJ) has presented a compromise to four Palestinian families in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah that would allow them to remain in their homes for 15 years.
During that time the issue of land ownership could be adjudicated, but in the interim, the court would recognize the families as protected tenants and the Jewish-owned Nahalat Shimon company as the owners of the property.
As protected tenants, the families would have the right to make repairs or renovations to the property. They would be required to pay rent biennially in the sum of NIS 2,400.

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.