Tag: Jewish refugees/ media bias

Media ignores Jewish exodus and denies persecution

The media has almost completely ignored the annual commemoration of the exodus of Jews from Arab countries and Iran, argues HonestReporting, while Matt Lebovic, writing in the Times of Israel, says that Jewish persecution has been denied or downplayed (with thanks Michelle, Dan):

Jews in the Tunis Hara

HonestReporting writes:

The media went into overdrive this week with wall-to-wall coverage of the United Nations’ “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” that marked the 74th anniversary of the historic partition proposal that would have – but for its rejection by the entire Arab world – resulted in a Jewish state alongside an Arab one. In fact, this series of speeches and ‘cultural events’ only served to legitimize the Palestinian ‘right of return’ demand that would – if ever actualized – destroy the Jewish state by weight of numbers.

In stark contrast, the November 30 commemoration by Israel and the entire Jewish world of the expulsion of Jews from Arab and Islamic lands that took place following the Palestinian leadership and neighboring Arab states’ violent rejection of the UN Partition Plan generated virtually no coverage by prominent news outlets.

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Matt Lebovic writes:

Surrounding Cairo’s Tahrir Square, houses confiscated from Jewish families host Egypt’s top foreign embassies. To this day, ambassadors from Germany, Switzerland, and the United States work or live in homes expropriated from Jews after 1948, while other formerly Jewish-owned homes became the Great Library of Cairo and government offices.

The expulsion of 850,000 mostly Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) and Sephardic Jews from Arab and Muslim countries took place before, during, and after the Holocaust. As nationalist Arab leaders aligned with Nazi Germany in the name of oil and expelling the British, Jewish communities were targeted for pauperization, expulsion, and murder.

Despite the region’s centrality to Jewish history, the narratives of Middle Eastern Jews have long been considered “supplemental” in collective Jewish memory, as well as that of the rest of the world. One of several reasons for the marginalization of their accounts is that Mizrahi Jews developed different ways of telling their stories, according to historian and journalist Edwin Black.

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How TIME reported the North African exodus in 1962

Press reports about the mass exodus of Jews from North Africa and the Middle East are rare: perhaps the media just haven’t considered it newsworthy. But in 1962, TIME did devote column inches to the subject. Most Jews did go to Israel, although a fair proportion did end up in France. Now French Jews of North African origin are making aliya in their thousands.

Refugees from North Africa arriving in Marseille

The independence of Morocco, Tunisia and now Algeria—joyful news to Moslems—has for Jews signaled another vast and melancholy exodus like so many other uprootings since Moses. A decade ago, 250,000 Jews lived in Morocco. 150,000 in Algeria and 100,000 in Tunisia; now about half of them have left. Last week alone, 5,000 North African Jews arrived by ship and plane in Marseille. By 1975, Jewish leaders estimate, their communities in North Africa will be reduced to less than 15% of their former size.

Jews were living and working in North Africa before the Romans came. Some of them are Berber tribesmen whose ancestors were converted from paganism before the 7th century A.D. Others are Sephardim—Descendants of Spanish Jews who were forced into exile across the Mediterranean by Visigothic persecution in the 6th century or the Inquisition of the 15th. A third strain consists of European Jews who settled in North African cities after World War II. All three have found that exile is the inevitable aftermath of independence.

In Tunisia, President Habib Bourguiba promised that Jews would be allowed to practice their religion in peace: “While I am alive, not a hair on Jewish heads will be touched.” But Tunisian Jews are trapped in the cold war between Israel and the Arab states. Bourguiba’s government has disbanded even Jewish religious organizations on the ground that they promote Zionism, and Jews fear that other Arab countries could force Tunisia to impose restrictions upon them.

In Morocco, the government placed restrictions on Jewish emigration until last October, and fortnight ago closed down the office of the agency in Casablanca that chartered ships and planes for Jews eager to leave the country. Although Jews who leave for Israel are officially forbidden to return to their homes, there is little overt anti-Semitism in Morocco. But emigration goes on, and businessmen in Casablanca complain that they cannot find Jewish labor. “Morocco is down the drain for us,” says one Jewish cafe owner.

In Algeria, Jews fear the onset of independence this week even more than their Christian pied-noir neighbors. Many were active supporters of the underground Secret Army; in Constantine, for example, the first anti-Moslem commando force was composed largely of Jews—and the F.L.N. has not forgotten it.

In many Algerian towns, Moslems have stopped patronizing Jewish-owned movie houses. In the streets of Djelfa, Moslem children chant: “Ben-Gurion to the gallows, Ben Bella to the palace.” In the last 18 months, entire communities of Arabized Jews from the Sahara, whose speech and dress are indistinguishable from their Moslem neighbors, have left the country.

Some North African Jews have, of course, gone to Israel, but more than two-thirds have settled in France, if for no better reason than that they speak French. Thanks to the exodus, France now has the fourth largest Jewish community in the world.* Jewish, Christian and nonreligious charitable organizations have collaborated to help the newcomers, but their life is often unbearably hard.

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BBC Radio breaks its silence about the Farhud

Eighty years on,  the BBC has marked the Farhud with a short segment on the Sunday religious programme. Previous BBC coverage of Iraqi Jews studiously avoided any mention of this cataclysmic pogrom, which sounded the death knell of the Iraqi Jewish community. The emphasis of this programme, however, is on recalling the ‘coexistence’ between Jews and Arabs,  rebuilding the relationship, and preserving Judeo-Arabic customs. Report in the Jewish News (with thanks: Sandy, Lily):

Memorial to the Farhud in Ramat Gan, Israel

The 80th anniversary of a pogrom against Iraq’s Jewish community in 1941, was marked by BBC Radio 4 on Sunday. (11 minutes in)

In a news package, the broadcaster recalled the history of the antisemitic attack against the Baghdadi community over the festival of Shavuot from 1-2 June 1941. It led to the deaths of at least 180 Jews, 1,000 people who were injured and the looting of 900 homes.

Interviewee Edwin Shuker, who fled Iraq in the 1970s, said his mother remembered the pogrom.

“She simply can’t speak of the atrocities she saw,” said Mr Shuker, who acknowledged that there was a time when Jews were at the forefront of Iraqi “music, literature, political scenes”.

Despite its 2,500-year-old history, there are now only three Jews believed to be living in Iraq.

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Video puts Mizrahim at centre of debate about Israel

A new Youtube videoputs Mizrahi Jews at the centre of reframing the debate about Israel.

Lyn Julius, a journalist and author of Uprooted, demolishes eight common propaganda myths. She says context must be restored to the way the conflict is perceived. More Jews than Palestinians became refugees and they lost more in seized land and property. Forces in the Arab and Muslim world were allied with the Nazis. The distinction between Zionism and Judaism is spurious, she argues. Historically, Jews were subject to a form of Muslim colonialism called ‘dhimmitude.’

The video, produced by J-TV,  has so far drawn more than 500 views.

BBC watchdog rejects complaints on refugees

Last Monday was not a happy day for Elisha Manasseh.  He had had a
third complaint rejected by OFCOM, which adjudicates on complaints to
the BBC.

He first complained to the BBC in 2018, claiming that its reporting on the MENA constantly refers to
Palestinian refugees, while ignoring Jewish refugees.

“I have now been through the whole system with the BBC,”  he says.

Manasseh  argued that the BBC had breached its own guidelines on
accuracy and impartiality when it failed to mention Jews displaced from
Arab countries in a background ‘explainer’ to the Eurovision Song
Contest in May 2019, held in Tel Aviv.

The BBC retorted that  ‘impartiality’ did not mean that every reference
to one side had to be matched with a reference to the other side. For example, a
reference to Israel’s security concerns needed not be matched by a
reference to Hamas security concerns.  They claimed that Jewish refugees
arising out of the’ Arab/Israeli conflict’ were ‘irrelevant’ to the
Israel/Palestinian conflict. Finally, they said, the Oslo Accords
allegedly addressed Palestinian refugees but makes no mention of Jewish

In fact this statement  is incorrect, as the Oslo Accords deferred such
difficult topics as borders, Jerusalem and refugees to be discussed as
final status issues. The Clinton Parameters of 2000 did mention Jewish
refugees. The BBC does mention the Palestinian ‘right of return’ – a euphemism for the destruction of Israel
by overwhelming the country with thousands of returnees. It is
essential to the audience’s understanding to explain this
point, but the explanation is never given.

The BBC’s position confuses claims with facts. Both sets of
refugees – Jewish and Arab – arose out of the same conflict
and both should be mentioned in the context.

Some 90 percent of the Jews of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen fled
to Israel within three years of 1948. Some 90 percent of Jews fled
Arab countries in the 15 years since 1948 (and many more of
those would have left earlier, but were officially banned from
leaving ), making this one the most dramatic examples of
ethnic cleansing in the 20th century.

There was an exchange of refugee populations between Israel
and the Arab world. The BBC regularly mentions the exchange between
India and Pakistan and gives equal weight to both parties.

A radio programme with the historian Simon Schama marking Israel’s 70th anniversary did mention Jewish refugees, but the
Jewish side deserves equal time, not a solitary mention on
a single programme.

It appears that a lone complainant will  remain a voice in the wilderness unless the Jewish refugee issue is consistently and loudly raised by  the Jewish establishment and Israeli spokespersons.

Will Elisha Manasseh now give up complaining?

“What I will be doing is just carrying on, waiting
for the next time they mention the subject, and
there will be a next time, I will start all over
again,” he declares, undaunted.


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.