Tag: Jewish refugees/ media bias

Whitewash and conspiracy: how the Jews from Arab lands issue is distorted

What really happened to the million Jews who lived in Arab lands? Unfortunately, so many people spread lies about what happened to those Jews – chiefly as a way of propping up a false Palestinian narrative – that most people have no idea of the truth or the scale of the disaster. They see the lies spreading online, but simply do not have the material they need to counter the disinformation campaign. David Collier summarises the issue in his blog:

The ‘Jewish problem’ in the Arab lands:

A simple fact: in the 20th century almost a million Jews resided in ancient Jewish communities spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Another simple fact: at the end of the 20th century, there was almost nothing left.

So what happened?

At the root, although there is no ‘catch-all’ that tells the story of every single Jew in all of the Arab lands – it was belief in the supremacy of Islam, rising Arab nationalism and Islamic antisemitism that all played their role. Whilst it is true that Jewish history in the MENA region was better than the Jewish experience in Europe, this is hardly a difficult benchmark to pass.

Peaceful co-existence’ involved the subordination and degradation of the Jews. The status of Jews as Dhimmi (second class citizens) meant that life was unpredictable; sometimes calm – sometimes violent – but the Jewish experience was always left to the whims of the local rulers.

The 19th century brought about the partial collapse of the Ottoman Empire – and this signalled dark times for the Jews. Pogroms – violent riots against Jews – began to reappear with alarming frequency. The Arab response to the vacuum of power left from the weakness in the Ottoman regime, resulted in power struggles – and both rising Arab nationalism and religious extremism left Jewish blood flowing down city streets. All this upheaval started occurring long before modern Zionism entered the equation.

A key point must be made. The idea that before Zionism, Jews had lived in peace in Arab lands is an absolute myth. For a full history it is worth reading the Lyn Julius book ‘Uprooted’ .

The need for the whitewash:

By the early 20th century, the attacks on these Jewish communities were brutal. Much of it was government driven, with increasing anti-Jewish legislation appearing throughout the region. But there was also a lot of anti-Jewish violence on the street. This all spiked dramatically when Israel was founded but had started long before. The growing hostility was to drive the ethnic cleansing of every major Jewish community inside Arab lands. The creation of nearly a million Jewish refugees.

For those pushing an anti-Israel agenda – and whose entire narrative is built around the non-necessity of Zionism and the tragic existence of Palestinian refugees, the true history surrounding Jewish refugees creates five key problems:

  1. The image of co-existence is a myth
  2. There were more Jewish refugees created than Arab refugees
  3. The value of what the Jewish refugees had stolen from them was many times greater than anything the Arab refugees can claim they lost
  4. The attack on the Jewish communities was unprovoked and on an innocent civilian population. The same is not true of much of the Arab population in the mandate, with many Arab villages choosing a violent confrontation that fuelled a civil conflict
  5. Like it or not, many Arab families in the mandate area had simply moved into the area as the Ottoman empire collapsed – or as Zionist investment created opportunity. This means many of the Arab refugees had no real roots in the mandate area (one example – the ‘Palestinian’ hero of the 1930s, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam – was born in Northern Syria.) The same could not be said of the ancient Jewish roots in places such as Egypt, Iraq or Yemen.

All of these factors create a huge problem for anti-Israel activists. In real terms, the unprovoked destruction of the Jewish communities in the MENA region was far worse than the destruction of the Arab communities engaged in civil conflict in the mandate area.

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The Mizrahi story is the ultimate antidote to lies

The history and expulsion of Jewish communities  of the Middle East and North Africa reverses the central common understanding of the conflict between Israel and the Arabs, writes James Sinkinson in JNS News.

Yemenite children in an Israeli transit camp

Few indigenous populations survived the centuries of onslaught on their authentic identity, and simply disappeared. Despite having second-class, dhimmi status imposed on them by Muslim rulers, Jews refused to relinquish their culture and tradition. They were made subservient to the majoritarian Muslims, who had arrived via invasion and colonization.

This history of conquest, occupation and colonization is one many anti-Zionists would like to hide, since it turns every popular Middle East narrative on its head. Today, strong forces and lobbies ensure that anything exposing Muslim colonial history is censored.

Only a few days ago, Nadia Murad, a former Islamic State sex slave, Yazidi human rights activist and 2018 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, was banned from speaking at an educational event by the Toronto District School Board, because her story of mass rape and torture by Islamic State would promote “Islamophobia.”

In other words, students cannot be exposed to stories of persecution by Muslims because it might make other Muslims look bad. Truth be damned, history be damned—as long as no one hears the story of a minority in the Middle East that was treated as chattel in accordance with an extremist interpretation of the Koran.

Progressive leftists are so intimidated that they stop defending real victims, instead siding with the persecutors’ narrative. Murad, who has experienced so much horror and trauma, is not allowed to tell her harrowing story—despite being a Nobel laureate—thus compounding her and her people’s tragedy.

This singular episode speaks volumes about the Middle East conflict. Many—seemingly most—Muslim and Arab leaders cannot countenance a story in which they are the persecutors and not victims. They act to ensure that any mention of their history as conquerors, occupiers and colonizers is excised from the history books and banished from public forums.

It is for this reason that the history and expulsion of Jewish communities of the Middle East and North Africa is so challenging for Arabs and Muslims. It reverses their central common understanding of the conflict.

The story of Mizrahi Jews confirms that the Jews are the indigenous people of the region, who were conquered, occupied and colonized by marauding Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula. The Arabs imposed their religion, language and culture on those living there, including many Jews in the Land of Israel, who were converted at the point of a sword.

This is the reason some Palestinians in certain areas, such as around Hebron—the first Jewish capital city—have discovered they have Jewish DNA.

It behooves advocates for Israel to ensure the true history of the region is spread, despite threats. The story of Mizrahi Jews is the ultimate antidote to many of the lies told about Israel.

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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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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.