Friday, July 30, 2010

Jewish leader visits Libya after 43 years

Raphael Luzon (pictured) has long expressed his wish to take his aged mother to visit Libya before she dies, and light a candle for eight relatives murdered in Benghazi in 1967. This AFP report does not mention them. Neither does it mention that Khadafi never kept his promise to compensate Libyan Jews for their lost property.

TRIPOLI — A Libyan Jewish community leader who visited his birthplace for the first time since being forced to flee in 1967 said on Friday it felt like he was living a dream.

Raphael Luzon, who was driven out after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and now lives in London, visited his birthplace of Benghazi, 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) east of Tripoli, with his sister and 83-year-old mother.

"We visited Benghazi and met our loved ones amid tears and great longing for friends we have never forgotten," Luzon told AFP. It felt like he was "in a dream."

Luzon, who also met several Libyan officials during the visit, said he regretted not having had the chance to hold talks with the country's leader Moamer Kadhafi.

Libya's Jewish population, numbering tens of thousands, shrunk after the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. Most of the estimated 7,000 remaining Jews were evacuated after the 1967 war following anti-Jewish riots.

Kadhafi has said he would be willing to compensate Jews who left behind their properties in Libya.

"All the Jewish community (living abroad) is waiting for my return so I can tell them about the results of this visit," Luzon said, adding that he plans to make another return to Libya.

"All the Libyan Jews living in Palestine (did he really say that? ed) and Europe and America, and there are 110,000 Jews of them, yearn for Libya and wish to return, or just to visit," he said.

Read article in full

The denial of Jewish heritage in the Arab world

Scene from the Book of Esther from the frescos of the Synagogue of Dura-Europa in Syria (mid-3rd Century CE)

The Arab world is busy denying its ancient Jewish history, but eagle-eyed tourists may stumble across some real gems. This exchange between two commenters is from a recent thread on Harry's Place:


I was in Libya two years ago visiting the archeological site Leptis Magna. In the archeological museum there was a section labelled Christian artifacts. We spotted an object with a menorah carved on it. The guide had a prestigious degree in archeology from a Libyan university, and told me the BBC was in the process of making a programme about Libya’s archeological wonders which he was fronting.

I asked him if he could tell me anything about the menorah. No, he said blankly. I gave him a clue; It looks exactly like the one on Titus arch in Rome, you know the one depicting the Jewish exile from Jerusalem, one of the spoils from the Temple being carried to Rome?

No, sorry I don’t know anything about it, he shrugged.

Abu Faris:

When last I travelled to Syria, I had to fill in a visa application form which asked whether I had ever visited “occupied Palestine” – the Syrian state being constitutionally unable to even print the word “Israel” on its visa application forms.

Until recently all Sudanese passports carried on the first page a large comment in red ink: “For travel to all countries EXCEPT Israel” – at least the Sudanese could bring themselves to mention the name of the country. Sudanese passports no longer carry this caveat – however, you are still not allowed to visit the country if you are a Sudanese, or (for what ever bizarre reason may possess you) wish to visit Sudan after getting Israeli border stamps in your passport (personally, I would not bother – Sudan is grim, dusty, as hot as hell and is most certainly *not* the party capital of sub-Saharan Africa).

Amie, when I was last in Syria I was wandering about the National Archaeological Museum in Damascus (as one does) and I bumped into a very nice French couple, who turned out to be archaeology post-grads with a specialism in the ancient Near East. They told me that beyond courtyard yonder was one of the great treasures of the museum – but that the local authorities never made a big deal of it and would only open up the room on request. I located the nearest lounging Syrian museum guard, who was happily flicking his cigarette ash into some ancient pot and asked for entry to said room. He was somewhat reluctant, but I managed to corral in some other tourists and eventually he shuffled off in the direction of the room, crossing the courtyard and unlocking the door to the exhibit.

Inside was a complete reconstruction of the synagogue of the ancient city of Dura-Europa. It’s wall frescos dating from the Third Century C.E., carefully extracted from site and rehung on the walls of this little room in the National Museum in Damascus. This treasure has no signs leading to it – and the guard, Jihad was his name, is clearly under instructions not to encourage visits. I think they find it all a bit embarrassing actually – what *Jews* in the Middle East? Shurely shome mishtake.

Read thread in full

Abbas wants Jew-free Palestine in West Bank

(Photo: Flash 90)

Hearts will sink to learn, according to Israel National News, that the Palestinian leadership want a new state of Palestine in the West Bank to be as
judenrein as the majority of other Arab states. How this policy will encourage peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews is anybody's guess:

If a Palestinian Authority state is created in Judea and Samaria, no Israeli citizen will be allowed to set foot inside, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said this week in a meeting with members of the Arab League. The PA chairman also stated that he would block any Jewish (he said Jewish, not Israeli - ed) soldiers from serving with an international force stationed on PA-controlled land.

"I will never allow a single Israeli to live among us on Palestinian land,” Abbas declared.

Abbas addressed the Arab League during a discussion over the possibility of holding direct negotiations with Israel. Like Abbas, Arab League members agreed to direct talks in theory, but only if a number of “measures and conditions” were met. De facto, both Abbas and the League nixed the talks, but the constant discussion of conditions is seen as an attempt to throw the ball back into Israel's court after PM Netanyahu, in Washington recently, succeeded in putting the onus for agreeing to talks on Abbas.

Read article in full

Beware Palestinian Apartheid (Ynet News)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Remembering Ebi: why we fled Iran

Karmel Melamed, then a toddler, with his father, before their departure from Iran

It was the cruel execution of their relative Ebi, a young man of 30, which caused Karmel Melamed and his family to flee Iran. Without personal experience of the random brutality of the Ayatollahs' regime, the Melameds might still be living in Iran today. Writing in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles Karmel Melamed movingly recalls that terrible time 30 years ago:

“I will never forget when I first saw his body — they shot him with one bullet at point-blank range in his heart,” my father, George Melamed, shared with me a few weeks ago, reflecting on his friend — and brother-in-law’s brother — Ebrahim (Ebi) Berookhim, who was executed in an Iranian prison on July 31, 1980, at the age of 30. For the past 30 years, my father has rarely spoken of this young Jewish man’s killing and the circumstances that propelled our family’s abrupt flight from Iran. During these past three decades, he’s tried to forget how Ebi was unjustly accused of being an Israeli and American spy, then ruthlessly murdered by Iran’s radical Islamic regime.

"Yet as Ebi’s 30th yahrzeit approached this month, my parents, our relatives and some local Iranian Jews who knew this successful young Jewish businessman finally opened up to me about this tragedy that completely transformed all of our lives.

"With news of the Iranian government’s pursuit of nuclear weapons continually filling today’s airwaves, the story of Ebi’s killing serves as a stark reminder to us all of the continuing brutality and illogical nature of the ayatollahs’ regime in Iran. The Iranian government’s inhumane practice of random arrests and imprisonment of innocent individuals continues to this day: On July 31, 2009, the same date that Ebi died but 29 years later, three American hikers were randomly taken hostage in Iran for mistakenly crossing a border; they remain unfairly imprisoned. Last year, Roxana Saberi, an Iranian American journalist based in Tehran, was arrested on false charges of espionage — she was one of the lucky ones; after immense pressure from abroad, the Iranian authorities released her.

"Ebi, my relative, wasn’t so lucky. And the pain of losing him continues to haunt our family three decades later."

Read article in full

Change is the name of the game

Photo: Cecile Masson

A North African Jew is behind a new movement of French Jews who wish to revert to their original, 'Jewish-sounding' names: their forefathers had been persuaded by la Republique, exerting its usual pressure on newcomers to assimilate, to change their names after World War 2. But will French law allow them to do so?

In a surprising reversal of that historical trend, a group of Jews in France whose parents took on French-sounding surnames after World War II are now seeking to return to their original Jewish names and reclaim their lost heritage.

La Force du Nom represents about 200 French Jews whose parents and grandparents adopted French last names after the war.

“Between 1945 and 1947, many Jews who were fed up with Polish names changed them to French ones,” explained Regine Weintrater, who serves as an acting spokeswoman for the group.

“They did so in various ways, altering or shortening them in various ways. They were not forced to do so, but there was creeping prejudice. They did not want to lose their Jewish identity, only to avoid sticking out and protect their children from the anti-Semitism they experienced.”

Celine Masson, the founder of the group, says she was inspired to start it due to her own background.

“My father changed his name from Hassan, a traditional Jewish name, to Masson when he moved to France from North Africa,” she said. “I started to hear about more Jewish families who did the same and would like to return to their original names. That’s when I decided to form this collective.”

Article in the Los Angeles Times (with thanks: bh)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ministry begins collating Jewish refugee claims

After years of neglect, a new department set up by the Ministry of Pensioners' Affairs to manage the legal claims of Israeli Jews of Middle Eastern descent who lost their property when they left countries throughout the region has begun collecting information. According to this Media Line report, expanded in the Jerusalem Post, the Ministry will prepare legal cases against Arab countries and Iran claiming compensation, not just for material losses but human rights abuses. The Ministry estimates that Jews lost assets worth 50 percent more than Palestinians (with thanks: Joel):

The office will help identify, locate and seek compensation for the assets of the more than one million Jews who came to Israel from Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Syria.

The initiative follows a law approved earlier this year by the Knesset requiring the compensation of Jews from Arab countries and Iran to be included in any peace negotiations.

“The Palestinians have been collecting evidence of their losses for many years,” said Yoni Itzhak, a spokesman for the Pensioners Affairs Ministry.

“So we are not waiting until there is a negotiation for a peace accord. We need to be prepared, so that if there are negotiations and the Palestinians say, ‘We are owed a few billion dollars,’ We will say, ‘OK, no problem,’ and be ready with a much higher figure of what we are owed.”

The ministry says that as of 2007 “the estimated value of Jewish property in Arab countries is 50 percent more than the value of the property of Palestinian refugees and is valued at billions of dollars.” The ministry did not provide specific figures.

Following the establishment of the state, most Muslim states declared or supported war against Israel, and the status of Jews in these countries became threatened.

According to estimates by the United Nations and a number of civil society organizations, during Israel’s first decade about 265,000 Jews left Morocco, 140,000 left Algeria, 135,000 left Iraq, 120,000 left Iran, 103,000 left Tunisia, 75,000 left Egypt, 63,000 left what is now Yemen, 38,000 left Libya, 30,000 left Syria and 5,000 left Lebanon. More than half a million additional Jews have left these countries since.

Most of the emigres headed to Israel, and just a few thousand Jews remain in the Arab world today.

“People often forget that there is also the Jewish side to the refugee story in the Middle East,” Itzhak said. “Almost every Jew who left Iran or an Arab country can tell you a whole story about what they left. These people left their things, their houses, their institutions – in some cases because of threats and laws that forced them out. So just like the Palestinians tell everyone that they have the keys to their old homes, we have our keys as well.”

The government refers to Jewish emigres from Middle Eastern countries as “refugees", but whether these Jews emigrated for economic or ideological reasons, or were pushed out of their home countries by anti-Semitic and political persecution, is a matter of debate.

What is clear is that Jews who emigrated from Muslim countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa left extensive assets in their home countries, from houses, stores and businesses to land and bank accounts. Estimates of the total value of Jewish personal and communal assets left in Muslim countries range from $1 billion to more than $100b.

Israeli Jews of Middle Eastern descent have been asked by the new department to report the details of their lost assets.

“We have already collected evidence from a few thousand people, but it was being done by a tiny branch of a small department,” Itzhak said.

“Now we have set up an entire department to deal with this issue, and we are putting the pedal to the metal are in the process of identifying, registering and assessing the value of everyone’s lost assets.”

The ministry is also searching public archives for documentary evidence of Jewish communal assets, such as synagogues, hospitals, event halls, retirement homes and ritual baths, which were abandoned when Jews left for Israel.

The new department is also preparing a case to demand damages for discrimination against Jews in the Muslim countries, such as Jews who were prevented from entering educational institutions, Jews who were stripped of their citizenship or other freedoms, and Jews who endured pogroms.

The department plans to collect compensation for Jews of Middle Eastern descent who were never paid their pensions, purchased plots in graveyards, anti-Semitic dismissals, etc.

Once all the evidence is collected, the ministry plans to prepare a legal case for each Jewish Israeli individual of Middle Eastern descent to demand compensation through a process of indirect negotiations with the relevant countries, almost none of which have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Read article in full

Desinfos article in French (with thanks: Eliyahu)

Algeria will not honour Jewish restitution claims

Israel's new initiative to set up a ministerial office to collate Jewish claims, reported in YnetNews among others, has raised a storm of controversy and alarm in the Arab media. Algeria is among the first to say it will not honour any Jewish claims for restitution:

The article published in Yedioth Ahronoth covering the Ministry of Pensioners' Affairs initiative to sue Arab states for the restitution of property and assets left behind by Jews fleeing the countries to Israel has resonated in the Arab world. Algeria, in particular, has said that it will not honor a request for restitution.

Dozens of Arab newspapers and websites ran the article prominently. The Ministry for Pensioners' Affairs recently called upon about one million immigrants from Arab countries to fill out letters of claim in preparation for a lawsuit the ministry is preparing in order to return their property. The ministry also raised the possibility of holding indirect negotiations with the relevant countries as a means of establishing compensation.

According to the plan, which was initiated by Deputy Minister Lea Nass, a department will be formed within the ministry to handle the claims.

The Yedioth article was widely run in a number of newspapers and was cited in many Arab websites. Among the news outlets that ran the article are: Egypt's al-Akhbar, the Palestinian News Agency, the website Syria News, and Egyptian el-Fagr, and others.

"The media coverage throughout the Arab world proves that the citizens of the Arab countries are also aware of the injustice done to Jews from Arab and Islamic countries," said Deputy Minister Nass.

Read article in full

Was Lea abducted, or did she marry willingly?

A tiny remnant of Jews lives in constant fear in Yemen

The Yemen press says that Lea married a Muslim willingly, but her brother Yahya, who has been frantically searching for her, is convinced that she was abducted. In this harrowing interview with Ynet News, Yahya Marhabi, now living in Israel, describes the constant fear and intimidation which threaten the last of the Jewish community of Yemen. Some 18 families have moved to Israel in recent months, but those Jews living in a ghetto in the capital Sana'a prefer to depend on the Yemen president than flee and lose everything. (With thanks: Daniel)

From his home in Beersheba, Yahya Marhabi still misses his hometown of Sana'a, Yemen. He left it nine years ago, but it is not the neighbors he misses, nor is it the air of constant fear.

Marhabi misses his sister, Lea (18), who disappeared several months ago.

The Jewish Agency is doing everything it can to bring Jews residing in Yemen to Israel, said Eli Cohen of the JA. "The connections we've made there and the support we give them will enable us to bring them here.

Marhabi claims she was abducted, forced to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim. Some six weeks ago, he returned to Yemen to look for Lea, and saw firsthand how Jews were living in a country where al-Qaeda cells roam free.Marhabi's concern for the Jewish community in Yemen, including his parents and brother who still live in Sana'a, does not give him a moment's rest. Lea, he said, was abducted from the Jewish quarter by Muslims, probably members of al-Qaeda.

"She was abducted just two weeks after marrying one of the Jewish men of the congregation. She was forced to convert to Islam and marry one of her abductors," he said.Lea's Jewish husband, he continued, has since remarried, realizing chances of her return were slim. Marhabi, however, has vowed to find his sister."This was a hard blow for us. Not a day goes by that I don't think of her, try to figure out a way to help her, to bring her home," he said. "If I were there at the time of her abduction I would have done everything to bring her back, but it's not that simple now. There is little we can do – but we are doing it."

Arab media paint a different picture: According to reports in the Palestinian News Agency, Lea eloped with a young Muslim man by the name of Aaron Salam, converted of her own free will and kept in touch with her family – at least long enough to make it clear she had no desire to come home.

The reports claim that the wedding was celebrated by the local elite, with dignitaries such as the president of Yemen, the deputy prime minister and other high ranking officials attending the ceremony. The report further alleged that the young couple eloped after the Marhabi family rejected the young man's offer of marriage.

"They made it look like she went willingly rather then she was abducted," Marhabi said, "But we know she was kidnapped and we pray that she comes back to us, by some miracle."

After four weeks of searching to no avail Marhabi returned to Israel. The Sana'a he left nine years ago, he said, is not the one he found, or even the one he remembered from his previous visit.

Today, he said, the story of the Jewish community in Yemen is one of a few hundred Jews, trying to survive amid a Muslim majority. The Jews currently living in the Yemenite capital essentially live in a ghetto; and in constant fear of violence, abduction and murder.

Al-Qaeda's grip on Yemen has grown considerably over the past few years. "The real change began a year ago, when the brother of the head of the Jewish community was murdered," said Marhabi.

The act prompted the president to order a well defined, closed off area be set for Jews in Sana'a.

"Life there is very hard. They barely leave the area. They have no freedom, they don't work and they are afraid of coming into contact with the Arab population. Only the men leave the area, and only in broad daylight, and usually only to go to the market. They also make sure to disguise all their Jewish markings, like skullcaps. If they are recognized as Jews, they are spat and cursed at.

"The volatile situation, he added, even had Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh order armed troops to guard the Jewish quarter of Sana'a. "He made a personal trip to the area to reassure them, that they would be protected.

"He really doesn’t want any harm to come to any of them. He even gives them money, since they don't work," he said.

Jewish life in Sana'a is clouded by fear and uncertainty, said Marhabi. "There is no joy there. People there have no light in their eyes. They are very lonely – 185 Jews amid a huge Arab nation. There used to be such joy there. Contentment, despite the hardship. Now there is just fear. Al-Qaeda wants to eradicate the Jews."

Some 18 families came to Israel from Yemen in recent months. Jews find it hard to leave despite the hardships, and Israel is currently trying to convince the remaining Jews to leave.

"There are several issues with coming to Israel," said Marhabi. "First, it's not easy to leave one's homeland. It's also a different world there, altogether.

"They are also afraid to leave, because they are afraid they will be left with nothing. The Arabs won't buy their property because they know it's only a matter of time before they leave Yemen anyway, leaving it behind for the taking."

Read article in full

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Carmen Weinstein 'has fled the country'

Update: friends of Carmen in the UK say that media reports that she has fled the country (or has taken refuge in the Israeli embassy) are without foundation. They say that she is in touch with them from Egypt, where she is biding her time while preparing her court appeal.

The plot thickens....! The leader of Egypt's minuscule Jewish community, octogenarian Carmen Weinstein (pictured), is reported to have fled Egypt for the US after being sentenced to three years in jail for fraud. Ynet News has the story:

Egyptian media reported that Carmen Weinstein (82), convicted of fraud, had fled the country after she received a sentence of three years behind bars, a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,750) and compensation payments of 40,000 Egyptian pounds ($7,000).

Weinstein was convicted of illegally selling a building belonging to the Jewish community to Egyptian businessman Nabil Bashai. She received the money but the deeds were not transferred to his owership because she had no right to sell the building.

Egyptian security sources confirmed that Weinstein had disappeared and that searches had not discovered her whereabouts.

Some Egyptian sources claimed she had escaped to the US. Hassan, her neighbor and owner of a shoe shop in central Cairo, said she had fled to an unknown destination after the sentence was handed down. He said she would visit his store most days, but that she had not been recently.

The Jewish community secretary, Rauf Fuad Tawfiq, said Weinstein had not fled, but gone to visit the US, and that she intended to return to Egypt at a yet undetermined date. He also said she had left before the ruling, and not in response.

Security sources said she may have succeeded in leaving because it takes a few days to update the lists of those forbidden to leave at the airports and border crossings. The A-Zaman newspaper even accused Israel of being behind her departure.

Read article in full

Carmen Weinstein convicted of fraud

Court upholds death sentence for Jew's murderer

Yemen's supreme court on Saturday upheld the death sentence against a man convicted of killing a member of the country's small Jewish minority, a judicial source told AFP. But has the court ruling come too late to reassure the Jews? (with thanks: Janet)

Abdel Aziz Yahia al-Abdi, 39, was sentenced in June last year by an appeals court in Amran, north of Sanaa, to death by firing squad for the murder of father-of-nine Masha Yaish Nahari in the town of Raydah in 2008.

The supreme court was presided over by judge Khamis al-Dini, the source said requesting anonymity.

A small group of the Jewish community and members of Nahari's family had protested outside the supreme court and the ministry of justice last month demanding the speeding up of the court process.

Last year's decision by the appeals court had turned over a lower court verdict that ordered Abdi to only pay 27,500 dollars in blood money in lieu of execution after medical reports found he was "mentally abnormal."

Abdi killed his wife five years ago but was spared prison at the time when he was ruled to be mentally unstable.

A former air force pilot, Abdi had repeatedly said he carried out the murder of Nahari after warning Yemeni Jews that he would kill them unless they converted to Islam, the court heard during his trial in February last year.

The case stoked fear in Yemen's remaining Jewish community of only around 400 people, most of whom live in the Amran area.

Read article in full

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mossadnik wants to become first Kurdish consul

Mossad's retired general Eliezer Jeffrey gives this remarkable interview to the Israel-Kurd magazine. He hopes to become Israel's first consul in Kurdistan.

Mossad‌'s retired general ( Aliayzar (Eliezer) Jeffery ),who is known as ( Jayzi-Ghazi ) among the Kurds talks in a special interview to the Israel-Kurd magazine about a number of important issues including the relations between the Kurds and Israel during and after the ( Aylul - September ) revolution.

Aliayzar, who is now busy with writing his memoirs about the Aylul revolution and the years he spent with the Peshmerga in the mountains of Kurdistan, He had a strong relation with Malla Mustafa Barzani. He was amazed by Barzani‌'s character. Aliayzar has published his memoirs in a book entitled I am a Kurd)that traces the Kurdish revolutionary movement from the beginning until the downfall of the revolution in 1975. This book will be translated by the Israel-Kurd staff into Kurdish and will be published soon in Kurdistan.

Israel-Kurd: Who is Aliayzar ( Jayzi-Ghazi ) ? Aliayzar: as I was born, I named (Aliayzar Jeffrey). All of my colleagues call me by this name. When I attended school in ( Tiberias ), I had a friend whose name was also ( Aliayzar ), so my friends decided to call me ( Jayzi ) and call him ( Leski ) to distinguish between us.
When I started working for Mossad, I had to pick a pseudonym. So I chose (Jayzi). When I was in Kurdistan, they were calling me by (Ghazi).

Israel-Kurd: (Ghazi) is an Arabic name, why did you choose it?
Aliayzar: we are closed to Arabs and our work is mostly with them, so I chose it to avoid being recognized or identified.
I hope that Israel opens a consulate in Erbil and that I become the first consul.

Israel-Kurd: What ranks did you achieve in Mossad?
Aliayzar: We weren't working for ranks at the beginning. We were like government civil officials. Later, everyone was ranked according to ability and courage. I held the (Tat-Aluf) rank in the Israeli military which is level-1 general. I held this position until retirement.

Israel-Kurd: Who appointed you as Israel‌s emissary to Kurdistan, did you want it yourself or did the state of Israel send you?
Aliayzar: Firstly, I have to say that there is no such thing as “your own desire”. This is military command, and it must be obeyed. We could only ask a few questions. Actually, I was delighted to be sent to Kurdistan and I was lucky in this mission. My father was a Kurd, form the Iraqi Kurdistan. My mother was a Moroccan. I, with most of my colleagues at Mossad, were willing to come to Kurdistan. At the end, we came and I became the head of the Israeli envoy to Kurdistan.

Israel-Kurd: How long did the Israeli envoy stay in Kurdistan and until when were you the leader of this envoy?
Aliayzar: The Israeli envoy stayed for 1 year in Kurdistan. In this period, it achieved many things for Kurds. The Israeli aid included arm and financial supplies. Through Israel, Kurds could make their voice be heard to the world, especially Europe and America. I started work in Kurdistan in the fall of 1974. I stayed there until the downfall of the revolution and I did what I could to do. I, as a Kurdish descendant, love Kurds very much. The Kurd people are very brave. They are similar to Jews in these attributes.

Israel-Kurd: How many times did you see Barzani while in Kurdistan?
Aliayzar: I used to see Barzani twice a week. We would talk and discuss war and I reminded him of the Israel support for Kurds all the time. I had to inform Barzani about anything I received that concerned the Kurds so that he could express his views about these issues. I used to see Massoud and Idris Barzani everyday. I also exchanged views and ideas with Abdul wahab Atrushi, Sami Abdulrahman, Dr. Mahmud Othman and others.
Barzani became a general three times, In Mahabad , another in the military academy in Russia, and once in Israel.

Israel-Kurd: Why did you want to be in Kurdistan and not any other country?
Aliayzar: In Mossad, we didn‌t have ability to choose to where we could go. Sometimes, we would go to countries which we were against and we would go to their homes and they didn‌t like to see us. You read their letters and listen to their talks without their consent. Sometimes you would face dictatorships. Anyway, you have no choice and you must obey. However, we were all happy to work in Kurdistan, because we knew that they were an oppressed nation.

Israel-Kurd: You have helped the Peshmarga in using anti-plane rockets and tanks, it is said
that you have once hit an Iraqi military plane with a rocket, to what extent is this true?

Aliayzar: I just helped as an interpreter with the instructors in the courses. I also learned like the peshmerga to shoot rockets and my hope was to strike an Iraqi plane. I recall once when a plane came and I shot a rocket, but didn‌t hit it.

Israel-Kurd: When you were in Kurdistan, how far did you go? Could you pass through Gali ali Bag and reach Khalifan , Harir and Shaqlawa?

Aliayzar: I went as far as Gali Ali Bag, however before reaching Gali, I went to Badinan through the Bapshtian and Barzan route. I also went to Betwata through Rania. But I never went to Khalifan and Shaqlawa through Gali because the orders prevented us and it was risky. On that side of Gali, the enemy had more power than the Peshmarga.

Israel-Kurd: You have helped the Peshmerga against the enemy tanks when they entered the Rawanduz valley, how did your help benefit the peshmerga?

Aliayzar: (Ghazi Atrushi ) who is a close relative of ( Abdulwahab Atrushi ) was formerly in the Iraqi army. They were fearful; they didn‌t know how to fight the tanks. They had anti-tank weapons like RBJ and Israeli ( Stinger ) rockets which is Russian. I helped them and told them that they don‌t have a choice and they must fight the enemy, otherwise the enemy would reach Haji Omaran. They were very brave in the mountains. However, they were afraid of the tanks because they hadn‌t fought them before. My friend ( lieutenant Anwar Majid Sultan) , who was previously in the Iraqi artillery and had run away , joined the revolution. In this battle , he won over the enemy because of the ( Stinger rockets ) which were directed at the tanks by controllers. They would hit the tanks even if they were moving. These rockets overwhelmed the enemy.

Read article in full

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Historians run out of excuses for Arab-Nazi alliance

Many academics have hitherto given a free pass to the Arab Middle East, dressing up its collaboration with the Nazis as pragmatic 'anti-colonialism'. But leftist and liberal conventional wisdom has been unravelling in the face of irrefutable evidence that Arab and Muslim Jew-hatred was, and remains, ideological. In this interview with Karl Pfeifer, first posted on Harry's Place, Professor Jeffrey Herf is convinced that a paradigm shift is taking place.

You have been to the conference “Arab responses to Fascism and Nazism” at Tel Aviv University at the end of May. What did you experience?

JH: I saw historians of the modern Middle East having great difficulty sustaining a now well-established paradigm of explanation in the face of challenges coming mostly from historians of Nazism as well as Israeli historians of the Arab and Islamist politics. As the historian of science Thomas Kuhn argued in 1962 in his classic work “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” scholars cling to established paradigms and are often fiercely resistant to evidence that does not support them. This, he argued, was the case in the history of physics. Today I think it is also the case as advocates of the paradigm whose key words are “third world,” “anti-imperialism,” “Orientalism,” “sub-altern studies” and in the case of the Middle East, “anti-Zionism” tied themselves in knots when faced with clear evidence that some very important Arab, Palestinian and Islamist leaders, such as Haj Amin al-Husseini, enthusiastically, willingly and effectively collaborated with the Nazi regime, shared its hatred of the Jews as Jews, and played a major role the cultural fusion of Nazi and Islamist- not Islamic- forms of anti-Semitism.

I have presented abundant evidence of that collaboration in my recent book “Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World.” So too have Klaus Gensicke, Martin Cuppers and Klaus Michael-Mallmann, Matthias Kuentzel, Meir Litvak and Esther Webman, Zvi Elpeleg and others. I even heard one conference participant say that presenting such evidence, even if true, was politically damaging to the Arab and Palestinian cause and thus, presumably, should not be brought forth. Others resorted to the slogans of the existing paradigm but had no effective responses to the growing mass of inconvenient evidence. For me, the recent Tel Aviv conference was one chapter in a larger story that will unfold in the coming years, namely the unraveling of leftist and left-liberal conventional wisdom that is fueling varieties of anti-Zionism in the Middle East, in Europe and in my own country, the United States. A paradigm shift is beginning.

Why this resistance?

JH: Many details of Husseini’s collaboration with the Nazis have been well-known for decades. But the third worldist paradigm served to shift him from the ranks of Nazi collaborators into the pantheon of third world revolutionaries fighting against Western imperialism. Like ex-Nazis in Europe after 1945, Husseini and others worked hard to whitewash their activities during World War II and the Holocaust, but they had the benefit not available to Europeans that they could justify their hatred of the Jews with the slogans of anti-colonialism. Some historians of the region appear to find it hard to believe or imagine that anti-Semitism can emerge in the world outside of Europe or that Islamism stands in relationship to Islam as National Socialism did to Christianity. Neither was simply an extension of the previous religious tradition but neither would have emerged without their radicalization and selective reading. The historians still under the spell of Edward Said and third worldism found it hard to imagine that, as Robert Wistrich has recently argued, there has been a shift in the center of gravity of global anti-Semitism from Europe to the Arab world and Iran. Double standards make their appearance. When anti-Semitic statements come from Islamist political figures like Husseini, they don’t receive the same kind of condemnation that identical statements would receive if voiced by anti-Semites by his former friends and comrades in Nazi Berlin, such as Himmler and officials in Ribbentrop’s Auswaertiges Amt [the German Foreign Office].

What where the conclusions of this conference?

JH: The conference participants agreed to disagree. Several of us there made the following points. In recent years a number of historians in Germany, Israel and myself have offered a great deal of new evidence about collaboration between Nazis and some Arabs and Islamists. Nobody has ever claimed that all Arabs or all Moslems adored Hitler. But a great many did. As a result of research that has been done by Martin Cuppers, Zvi Elpeleg, Klaus Gensicke, Matthias Kuentzel, Meir Litvak, Klaus-Michael Mallmann, Benny Morris, Ester Webman, Yehoshua Porat, Robert Wistrich and others that I can’t recall at the moment, the case of significant Islamist and Arab nationalist collaboration with Nazi Germany is now irrefutable. The evidence is now overwhelming that anti-Semitism drawing on a particular interpretation of the Koran and Hadith contributed to support for Nazism among Arab and Moslem radicals in the thirties and forties well before the foundation of Israel. Indeed, it was the Islamists themselves who refashioned and distorted the traditions of Islam to foster this distinctively modern form of Islamist Jew-hatred. One implication of this recent work is that anti-Semitism expressed by these political figures was a cause of the war of 1948 and of the Arab and Islamist refusal to accepts a compromise, two state solution, when it was offered in the late 1930, in the UN partition plan in 1947-48, at Camp David in 2000 and again by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyanu in 2009.

But usually it is argued by right that persecution of Jews was in the Moslem world never so bad as in the Christian one. What do you think?

JH: I defer to other historians who know more about the place of the Jews in Muslim societies. As Bernard Lewis has argued, as long as Jews accepted their second-class dhimmi status they were tolerated. The existence of Jewish sovereignty in the form of the state of Israel would thus be an intolerable affront to some Muslims who thought the proper position of the Jews was a subordinate one.

The key point is one about Islamism, not Islam. Beginning with the foundation of Moslem Brotherhood in 1928 in Egypt by Hassan al-Banna, a new political tradition was created called Islamism. Hassan al-Banna and Haj Amin al-Hussaini created an interpretation of Islam that redefined it as an inherently anti-Semitic religious tradition. They took anti-Jewish stories and quotations from the Koran and Hadith that had been marginal in the past and made them central to their understanding of Islam. Indeed, they argued that hatred of Jews was central in Islam from Mohammed’s time until the 20th century. By the late 1930s officials in the German Foreign Office understood that Nazism could appeal to these people by trying to convince them that they could meet on the common ground of hatred of the Jews and subsequently opposition to British presence in the Middle East. This is why Nazi Germany’s Arabic language short wave radio propaganda cited the Koran and not “Mein Kampf.

Read post in full

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Jew and Baha'i' may monitor Bahrain elections

Huda Noonoo, Bahrain's Jewish ambassador to Washington

A local human rights group plans to appoint a Jew and a Baha'i to monitor the parliament and municipal elections in Bahrain later this year, the Dubai news service Zawya reports.

The Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society (BHRWS) has announced its decision to form a monitoring committee for the 2010 state elections. The panel will be headed by Menashe Cohen and Gada Ehsan.

"We have a team of young volunteers who will monitor the elections and prepare a report. Our society has always backed the rights of minorities and with a Jewish- Bahraini and a Bahraini-Baha'i representing us, we are sending out a strong message of religious tolerance in the Kingdom," Faisal Fulad, BHRWS head said.

Ehsan belongs to the Baha'i community which constitutes approximately one per cent of Bahrain´s population, while Cohen is a senior member of the society and is part of the 47-strong Jewish community in Bahrain.

The elections are expected to be held in October, though no official date has been announced as yet.

BHRWS co-founder and long term serving member Huda Nonoo was appointed by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in 2008 as the Bahrain Ambassador to Washington. She is presently the only Arab-Jewish ambassador to hold the top position which she still serves.

Bahrain is one of the most religiously tolerant countries in the Middle East with more than a century-old missionary to promote Christianity, temples, and several other worshipping places.

Citizens from minority groups such as Christians and Jews are represented within the special quota in Parliament and for other leading posts in the state.

In May this year, the Bahraini leadership appointed Ibrahim Nonoo, a Bahraini Jewish, onboard the National Human Rights Authority (NHRA) that addresses human rights issue issues.

Read article in full

Monday, July 19, 2010

The rise and fall of a Jerusalem party called Shas

Shas leader Eli Yishai, and (in the background) Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Ariel Jerozolimski)

Interesting piece by Peggy Cidor in the Jerusalem Post tracing the rise, from its local Jerusalem roots, and fall, of the orthodox Sephardi party Shas. The Shasniks distinguished themselves in local politics as pragmatists and gentle persuaders, but since the departure of Aryeh Deri, jailed for corruption, have retreated into quiescence, notably over the recent haredi school crisis. Perhaps Deri will lead a comeback.

The phenomenon called Shas could not have been born anywhere else but in Jerusalem. Here was the most natural soil for it: Sephardi Jews from all over the world, most of them modest people who kept their traditions alive. They were close to the Ashkenazi haredim, studied at their institutions, yet suffered from disdain and experienced the pain of seeing their traditions disregarded. What’s more, all the great rabbis of this community were here, especially Ovadia Yosef. Shas had to be created here.”

“They [the members of Shas] all had great respect for Teddy Kollek,” adds Mar-Haim. “But the most important thing was that we could really rely on them. They would never use threats as a weapon, never set fire in the streets to obtain what they wanted.

They always used the technique of persuasion, negotiations. It was a real change compared to what we had to face with the Ashkenazi haredim. I think what characterized them most was their commitment to their communities – hesed, support, community interests. They were very much aware of the situation of their peers, tried very hard to bring some relief, some improvement, especially in the education issues.

“If today, somehow, there is still an understanding that the north of the city will largely be in haredi hands and the southern part will stay open, secular and pluralistic – well, that is an achievement we should thank Shas for. They were always realistic, pragmatic. I think they were good partners.

If they had been in charge of things here, many things would look much calmer and less radical today.”

As for the changes that have led to Shas’s decline, Mar-Haim believes it is a general process – as with the Likud, which has always been a local strong movement and has only one representative on the city council (Elisha Peleg), and what happened with Labor, whose representative Hilik Bar is a member of Barkat’s party.

According to Arye Dayan, a journalist who wrote a book about Shas, the trend is not surprising. “The fact that Shas was created first on the local level doesn’t mean it had to stay there. I believe that the decline of Shas is more representative of the decline of all the political parties in Israel today,” he says.

He adds that in his view, the party had roughly three stages. “First as a group created to take care of the Sephardi interests within the Ashkenazi hegemony; then the period of Aryeh Deri, who led a bold struggle against that hegemony; and now, again, at least for the moment, back to the basics of the first period,” he says.

“Then it is clear why the leaders of Shas, in front of the Ashkenazi rabbis and leadership and with the High Court of Justice in the background, couldn’t do anything but remain silent in the Emmanuel case and dare not openly criticize the discrimination against the Sephardi girls,” he continues, referring to the recent struggle against the segregation of Sephardi girls in the Beit Ya’acov school there.

When all is said and done, the consensus is that if and when Aryeh Deri decides to make a comeback, everything will change. “Those who gave in and left, and those who lost hope will all come back and restore Shas to its former splendor,” say many Shasniks, including at least one MK who prefers to remain silent for the moment.

Read article in full

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Anne Frank exhibition comes to Morocco

Volunteer guides in training at the Anne Frank exhibition in Fez

Moroccans have never heard of Anne Frank. Now all that is changing, with an exhibition in Fez about the famous Jewish diarist from Amsterdam, intended to combat Holocaust denial. However, the exhibition tries so hard to 'relativise' the Holocaust, that visitors ask why Anne Frank should have been singled out for attention from other victims of discrimination. Via the View from Fez blog (with thanks: Michelle):

Hafsa Aloui Lamrani (19) says she had been told millions of Jews were killed by the Nazis, but before the training, questioned whether it was true or not.

'Here in Morocco we're always shocked by what we see on television, the Palestinians, Iraq, Afghanistan', she said. 'We're always shocked, so this isn't something new. But we still experience this story of Anne Frank.... That there's nobody to help you, that you're all alone in the world and that you're always attacked. One’s race is like a terrible thing.'

The exhibition features 36 panels on the young Anne Frank and her family, as well as photos showing Jews being deported. There is also a focus on other crimes against humanity including the genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia. During the training, participants are shown video clips of anti-Jewish protests in Berlin, followed by a violent anti-Islam film, and are challenged on whether freedom of speech should apply to both examples.

It's a different way for these young people in Morocco to learn about a delicate topic that clearly provokes emotional reactions. As well as expressing scepticism about the aims of the organisers and concern about pro-Jewish propaganda, they ask why Anne Frank has been singled out from all the other victims of discrimination.

History lessons in Morocco focus little on World War II, and in the past have tended to skim over the subject of the Holocaust, according to teacher Hassan Moussaoui:

'The reason for this is primarily political, and secondly, religious', he explains. 'The Arab-Israeli conflict is a conflict Arabs feel is unfair. They're mistreated, they're marginalized. It's normal that there are negative repercussions. Of course we don't teach this history because the ministry of education is responsible for the curriculum .... It's not that they don't want to include it, but they're hiding from repercussions on the street, from parents.'

Amsterdam's Anne Frank Museum has already taken the exhibition to more than 60 countries, and works with local partners to adapt it where necessary - in this case, the Fez-based Moroccan Centre for Human Rights. Director Jamal Chadhi admits it was a difficult decision to become involved. There were calls for the project to be scrapped after the recent Israeli attacks on aid ships bound for Gaza in which people were killed.

Read post in full

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Putting Muslim Holocaust heroes in context

The Jewish Chronicle follows Fiyaz Mughal's comment piece, launching the interfaith group Faith Matters' booklet (highlighting the role of Muslim heroes who saved Jews), with a couple of letters in its 16 July issue. While applauding Mughal's initiative, both seek a wider context:

Fiyaz Mughal’s Faith Matters organisation is to be commended for its initiative (JC, July 9) to promote the stories of individual Muslims who saved Jews during the Holocaust : it shows not only that the Holocaust reached deep into Arab and Muslim lands, but can help counteract Holocaust denial.

However, the wartime bravery of Righteous Muslims can only be properly appreciated in the context of massive Arab and Muslim support for the Germans. Indeed, readers of the Faith Matters booklet will wonder why Muslims needed to be righteous in the first place, had their fellow-Muslims not collaborated in the persecution of Jews.

In Nazi-occupied Tunisia, for instance, for every Khaled Abdulwahhab, who sheltered Jews in his farmhouse there was a Hassen Ferjani, who sent Gilbert Scemla and his two sons to their deaths.

Antisemitism was not simply a matter of personal prejudice, but of ideology. The Palestinian leader, the Mufti of Jerusalem, the only non-German leader to have visited a concentration camp, played a key role in inspiring the Nazis’ genocidal project, raised an SS Muslim division in Bosnia; and sent 20,000 European Jews to death camps through his personal intervention.

He also incited a pro-Nazi government to plan the 1941 Farhud, the Iraqi Jews’ Kristallnacht, in which 180 Jews were murdered.

The Arab world has never exorcised its Nazi demons, which fuel the rejection of Israel and caused the ethnic cleansing of a million Jews from communities predating Islam by over a millenium.

The Mufti was never tried as a war criminal, Nazi-style antisemitic propaganda and imagery are rife today, and both Islamic fundamentalism and Arab nationalism owe a great deal to Nazi influence.

If it is to work, interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Jews needs not just to dwell on positive stories of compassion and cooperation, but address these painful and uncomfortable issues.

Lyn Julius
Harif – Jews from the Middle East and N. Africa


As a Holocaust survivor born in Yugoslavia, I can only be thankful for the Muslim actions Fiyaz Mughal describes, but let us not forget that most Albanian Christians were actively saving Jewish lives, too.

Unfortunately we should also remember the 20,000 Muslim members of the Hanjar SS, on policing duty in Hungary and the two SS divisions recruited from Yugoslavia's Muslim populations, the Bosnian 13th Waffen Hanjar and the Albanian Skanderberg 21st Waffen SS Division. Nevertheless, Fiyaz' Mughal's effort to bring Britian's Muslim and Jewish communities closer is to be applauded.

Leslie Rubner

Controversy over Righteous Muslims rumbles on

Friday, July 16, 2010

Where is our gratitude to the Kurdish people?

In the light of the crumbling relationship between Israel and Turkey, Eli Avidar, writing in the Jerusalem Post, pleads for Israel to re-evaluate its relations with the Kurdish people for whom Israel's 130,000 Jews of Kurdish descent have affection and regard. In recent decades, the Kurds undoubtedly did much to assist Jews escaping from Iraq. Nevertheless, Avidar tends to idealise historical Kurdish-Jewish ties and whitewash antisemitism against Kurdish Jews, who suffered from 19th century blood libels and religious discrimination. (With thanks: Lily)

For a long time I have warned that we must cease black-and-white conduct, which causes damage to us and prevents us from advancing vital interests in the international arena and in our relationship with the Palestinians and the Arab world in general. The story of our relationship with the Kurdish people and our conduct with Turkey concerning them is no different.

Some 130,000 members of the Kurdish community live here, and their stories indicate that they lived in peace and with regard among their Muslim neighbors. The very fact that they preserved their Jewishness in areas remote from other Jewish centers proves that the Jews of Kurdistan achieved respect and appreciation. You can see that concentrations of Jews living in similar isolation disappeared over the years.

Most of the Israeli public does not even know that the Jewish people from Kurdistan happened to arrive there in the wake of the Assyrian royal exile. The first stage of the exile was undertaken by Shalmaneser V in 733 BCE, and it was completed by his successor, Sargon II in 722 BCE.

The two kings deported Jews living in the northern kingdom of Israel and east of the Jordan River.

The aliya of Kurdish Jews to Israel began before the establishment of the state, with the majority of the community immigrating after the establishment of Israel, during 1950-1954, under the orders of the rabbis and community leaders.

Their emigration was not due to riots or pogroms of the Muslim population among which the Jews lived, but because of deep love for Israel, which prompted them to follow their community leaders and leave their region.

We have a moral and a historic debt to the Kurdish people in all the geographic regions in which they live, especially the Kurdish community in Iraq. Following the riots, pogroms and harsh conditions that Iraqi Jews were exposed to, since the founding of the State of Israel and even before, it was the Kurdish people who helped Jewish families escape from Iraq to Turkey, and from there to reach the Land of Israel. I am personally familiar with one incident, the case of the late Fouad Gabai, who was hanged in the central square of Baghdad on January 27, 1969 along with eight others also killed by the government.

His widow and four children were arrested and placed in a detention camp. They were later smuggled to Israel by the Barzani family, one of two main Kurdish families in Iraq.

For many years the Kurds have suffered under the strong arm of the Iraqi regime, their only sin being their desire for independence, and the Sunni world was silent. The Kurdish people have always been among the adopted sons of Sunni Islam and the Middle East in general.

The change of government in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein led to a Sunni-Shi’ite civil war. In 2007, in a live broadcast on Qatar’s satellite channel, the world’s most extreme Sunni preacher, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who kept silent when members of the Kurdish community in Iraq were slaughtered during the regime of Saddam Hussein, called upon the Kurdish leadership not to forget that they are Sunni, and to help their fellow Sunnis against the Shi’ites. The Kurdish leadership in Iraq did not buy this and did not assist. They suffered too many years for a call like this to bring them to action.

Over the years, members of the Kurdish community in Israel have shared the pain of the Kurdish people suffering in Iraq and Turkey. I have learned from their stories; community leaders returning deeply moved after travelling to Turkey, making sure to reach Kurdish areas to connect with their heritage and to talk to the people.

Over the years of tight relations with Turkey, the anger of the Kurdish resistance has been directed against Israel more than once. The best example of this took place on February 17, 1999, when, following the announcement by the Turkish court of the verdict in the trial of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, a furious mob of Kurds took over our consulate in Berlin for a few hours.

The Jewish people, which knows how to be grateful to every citizen of Poland, Russia or Germany who saved Jews, also needs to know how to be grateful to an entire people with whom we lived in peace, appreciation and understanding for thousands of years.

Read article in full

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Egypt TV shows Jews as tight-fisted and depraved

The Sha'ar Shamayim synagogue in Adly St, Cairo

Whatever the true facts of the case, the conviction for fraud of the Egyptian-Jewish leader Mrs Carmen Weinstein has to be seen against the background of increased media antisemitism and hostility to the Jews of Egypt. This MEMRI clip shown on Egyptian TV in October 2009 propagates the age-old antisemitic stereotype of the Jew as tight-fisted and depraved, exploiting ordinary Egyptians for every fils. The Jews of Egypt are said to have liquidated their assets and taken their money with them on their mass departure. In other words, contrary to the provisions of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, it is preparing the ground for denial of Jewish rights: Egypt owes them nothing for their lost property. (With thanks: Lily)

Following are excerpts from a report about the Jews of Egypt, which aired on Al-Mihwar TV on October 6, 2009:

"Presenter: Many Jews lived in Alexandria, and they are well known.

Man on the street: There is a story behind this pharmacy. It was owned by a Jew, called Mizrahi. In 1948, there was an air raid on Alexandria, and Mizrahi took a flashlight, climbed to the roof, and pointed out the houses. People sitting in the Turkish cafe – now called Batata – saw him, and they caught him, gave him a beating, and took him to the police station.

Umm Mary was an old woman, and her husband was called Palacci. This man had a grocery store, and he also worked as a real estate agent. At lunchtime, he would ask his wife: "What’s new, Umm Mary?" She would start talking about people, and then he would cut her off, and say: "If what you are saying doesn’t put money in my pocket, I don’t want to hear about it, my dear.

They are the epitome of miserliness, and if they owe you a penny, you have to wrest it from them.

A woman from Al-Fardous Street was going on a trip, and she sold her mattress to an upholsterer. Do you know what happened? When he opened up the mattress, he found it was full of money. He built a house from this money. I swear this is true.


Presenter: There was a Jew who worked as a watchmaker. When his son died, he published a death notice: "Cohen mourns the death of his son, and he fixes watches." The Jews are like that – they are known to be tightfisted and depraved.

What are the characteristics of the Jew? He is an outstanding economist. The banks in Egypt were established by Jews. In 1880, the first bank in Egypt was founded. It was owned by a Jew called Qattawi, who controlled over one million acres in Egypt. He would give loans to the peasants. Eventually, Qattawi was appointed Finance Minister of Egypt. Who were the most famous Jewish economists of Egypt? The Adés family, who owned [the businesses] of Rivoli, Omar Effendi, and Benzion, which means "sons of Zion." A Jew called Mosseri owned the hotels of Mina House, Continental, and San Stefano.

The Jews controlled almost the entire Egyptian economy. They had a monopoly on gold, on textile, and on the paper trade. But they were clever, and before they left, they liquidated their businesses and took their money. Then they left."

Read transcript in full

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Controversy over Righteous Muslims rumbles on

Round 2 in the controversy over Righteous Muslims, the subject of a new booklet by the UK-based interfaith organisation, Faith Matters, highlighting the actions of individual Muslims who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

Last week on the weblog Harry's Place I commended Faith Matters for highlighting the role of Righteous Muslims. However, I questioned whether the booklet could mislead by failing to spell out the proper context. Unlike the book by Robert Satloff which inspired it, the booklet fails to provide 'balance' to the saviours in the Arab and Muslim world by mentioning collaborators with Nazism. It says nothing about the elephant in the room - the ideological antisemitism pervading the Arab and Muslim world from the 1930s on. This antisemitic fundamentalism produced a pro-Nazi government in Iraq and led directly to the ethnic cleansing and dispossession of a million Jews from the Arab world. It sowed the seeds of Holocaust denial and virulent, if not universal, Arab and Muslim hostility and rejectionism towards Israel. This ideological legacy is still with us today.

Now Faith Matters founder Fiyaz Mughal has had his say on Harry's Place:

The launch of the book produced postings on this site suggesting that the book did not describe those who had collaborated with the Nazis. As if the booklet in 32 pages was to take a critical approach to the complex arena of the role of all Muslims in the Holocaust and with postings even suggesting that the individuals could not be driven by Islam and their faith and that they did so because they just wanted to protect people. Increasingly, the dehumanisation of Muslims and the demonization of Islam is pervading its way into the minds of people who should know better.

There were even suggestions that Muslims should feel a collective guilt on the Holocaust, which was just plain wrong. The collective guilt was and should be felt within Europe where some governments did nothing during the Holocaust even though they knew that the extermination camps had been developed and a systematic plan to exterminate people had been triggered within the Nazi administration.

Furthermore, the much used example in postings on the Mufti of Jerusalem did not represent all Muslims and some of the postings continued to support a blanket assumption that all Muslims cannot be trusted due to the actions of the Mufti of Jerusalem. I would seriously questions the motives and the basis of these assumptions and statements and the actions of the Righteous Muslims are a clear counter to that.

Several articulate commenters have rebutted Mughal's arguments:


"Never mind “collective guilt”, more like collective denial, at least in the UK. Denial coupled with the idea that if the Holocaust happened (which it did not or was hugely exaggerated to support the creation of modern Israel) then the Jews deserved it anyway.

"The courageous and decent individuals who saved Jews deserve massive credit for their individual actions but the commonality of Jew-hatred within Islam and Nazism are surely too extensive to deny and post-war anti-semitism and anti-Jewish conspiracy theory has found its most fertile ground in Muslim countries, with loud cheerleading from the Left in Western countries and communities. Much as the EU tries to deny it, most attacks on Jews in Europe are carried out by Muslims, as in Malmo:

“deeply shared histories between Muslims and Jews”: With a few brief exceptions, the relationship between Muslims and Jews was continually one of oppressor and oppressed, subjugating a persecuted and reviled Jewish minority with specific religious sanction and culminating in the expulsion of about a million Jews from Arab countries after 1948 and confiscation of their assets. Any very different version of such relations is wishful thinking (and I wish it wasn’t so as well).


"As Amie says, it’s dangerous to admit your family ever helped a Jew in most Islamic states today, so we have the hideous irony of the descendants of these brave people having to repudiate their deeds out of a desire for contemporary self-preservation."

Karl Pfeifer:

Nobody serious is essentializing Muslims and nobody says that there was a “genocidal intent of Muslims”. However the facts are to be respected there were many Albanians who joined the SS. And there was the prominent leader of Arabs in Palestine who collaborated with the Nazis.
Hasan claims:

“that Albania was the only Axis-occupied country with a larger Jewish population in 1945 than in 1939.” No there was also Bulgaria. But of course Bulgaria did not protect the Jews in those parts of Yugoslavia it occupied after 1941. So yes, everywhere in Europe there were decent people and of course also in Albania, Serbia, Croatia."

And as I myself tried to argue, it is plain wrong to say that only a minority of Muslims supported the Nazis and to whitewash the role of the Mufti of Jerusalem, who was in a unique position of power and influence not only with the Nazis but with the Arab leadership. And while Arabs and Muslims continue to be in denial about their collaboration and support I don’t see how we can move on, in terms of reconciliation between Arabs and Muslims on the one hand, and Jews on the other.

Read Fiyaz Mughal's post and comments

Read my original post

The German struggle against Zionism, for Islamism

While we're on the subject of the Nazi influence on fundamentalism in the Arab and Muslim world, Daniel Pipes has a review in Commentary (subscription required) of Jeffrey Herf's book Nazi propaganda for the Arab world. Pipes' conclusion is all the more remarkable because he is a late convert to the idea that fascism had a weighty impact on Islamism. Via Jonah Goldberg's blog:

"A specialist in modern German history at the University of Maryland, Herf brings a new corpus of information to light: summary accounts of Nazi shortwave radio broadcasts in the Arabic language that were generated over three years by the U.S. embassy in Cairo. This cache reveals fully, for the first time, what Berlin told the Arabs (and to a lesser extent, the Iranians). As page after page of Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World establishes in mind-numbing but necessary detail, the Germans above all pursued two themes: stopping Zionism and promoting Islamism. Each deserves close consideration.

And his conclusion:

"Ideas the Nazis helped spread in the Middle East have had an enduring twofold legacy. First, as in Europe, they built on existing prejudice against Jews to transform that prejudice into something far more paranoid, aggressive, and murderous. One U.S. intelligence report from 1944 estimated that anti—Jewish materials constituted fully half of German propaganda directed to the Middle East. The Nazis saw virtually all developments in the region through the Jewish prism and exported this obsession.

"The fruits of this effort are seen not only in decades of furious Muslim anti-Zionism, personified by Arafat and Ahmadinejad, but also in the persecution of ancient Jewish communities in countries like Egypt and Iraq, which have now shriveled to near-extinction (my emphasis - ed), plus the employment of Nazis such as Johann van Leers and Aloïs Brunner in important government positions. Thus did the Nazi legacy oppress Jewry in the Middle East post-1945.

"Second, Islamism took on a Nazi quality. As someone who has criticized the use of the term Islamofascism on the grounds that it gratuitously conflates two distinct phenomena, I have to report that Herf’s evidence now leads me to acknowledge deep fascist influences on Islamism. This includes the Islamist hatred of democracy and liberalism and its contempt for multiple political parties, preference for unity over division, cult of youth and militarism, authoritarian moralism, cultural repression, and illiberal economics.

"Beyond specifics, that influence extends to what Herf calls an “ability to introduce a radical message in ways that resonated with, yet deepened and radicalized, already existing sentiments.” Although a scholar of Europe by training, Herf’s detective work in the U.S. archives has opened a new vista on the Arab—Israeli conflict and Islamism, as well as made a landmark contribution more broadly to an understanding of the modern Middle East."

The rest of Jonah Goldberg's post deals with reviews of Paul Berman's must-read book, The flight of the intellectuals. See also review by Melanie Phillips and this post.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Scholar slams marrriage of Muslim woman to Jew

As this snippet from Gulfnews shows, it is forbidden for a Jewish man to marry a Muslim woman, but perfectly acceptable for Jewish women to marry Muslim men (invariably they convert to Islam). The reason for this curious double standard, and the Kuwaiti scholar's wrath, could simply be that the wife is expected to take on her husband's religion, and Islam must never defer to Judaism.

(Manama:) A Kuwaiti religious leader has rejected the marriage of a Muslim woman to a Jewish man, saying it amounted to adultery.

"The Islamic text about such marriages is very clear: A Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim even if he is Christian or Jewish," said Dr Anwar Shuaib, the head of Islamic jurisprudence at the University of Kuwait.

On Saturday, former US president Bill Clinton officiated at the wedding of US Representative Anthony D. Weiner, a 45-year-old Jew, and his bride, Huma Abedin, a 34-year-old Muslim.

Huma, a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, had been dating the congressman for about two years. They announced their engagement last summer.

However, the Muslim scholar said that the union should never happen.

"This marriage is null and void and amounts to adultery."

Read article in full

Monday, July 12, 2010

Israel denies envoy's plea for Egypt to protect Jews

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has denied that the Israeli ambassador to Egypt wrote to the authorities asking them to protect Egypt's tiny Jewish community from 'oppression and cruelty' in the wake of the conviction of Carmen Weinstein (above), the community's leader, for fraud. Mrs Weinstein faces a fine and a suspended sentence for swindling a businessman over the sale of a Jewish site. The Jerusalem Post reports:

From what we’ve gathered, we understand that [the affair] is related to a business dealing,” said Amira Oron, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry.

“That’s all we’re willing to comment [on] at the moment.”

Oron categorically denied earlier reports that Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, Yitzhak Levanon, had intervened on Weinstein’s behalf by sending a letter to authorities asking them to protect the Jewish community from “oppression and cruelty.” She said it was a private affair.

According to local media reports, Weinstein was found guilty of swindling money from an investor to whom she allegedly sold property she did not own. They added that she could face a prison sentence of up to three years.

A senior Israeli diplomat voiced his concern regarding the accusations against Weinstein.

“There are a couple of dozen Jewish women left; all the men are gone, and Weinstein is running what’s left,” the diplomat said. “The community has a few assets, and she rents it out – that’s how they get by. I hope they haven’t been duped by anyone.”

Weinstein is the leader of a community that dates back to ancient times. At its peak in the 1920s, there were 80,000 Jews living in Egypt, belonging to Sephardi, Ashkenazi and Karaite congregations. However, following Egypt’s independence and the 1948 creation of the State of Israel, Jews left en masse due to persecution.

Nowadays, only a handful of Jews remain in Cairo and Alexandria.

Nevertheless, in an interview with a local paper in 2007, Weinstein was upbeat about the future of Egypt’s Jews.

“There have been Jews in Egypt since biblical times, the time of Moses, and I don’t see why there shouldn’t be Jews here until the end of time – sometimes less in number, sometimes more,” she was quoted as saying.

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Netanyahu will not raise issue in Egypt talks this week (Ynet News)

Egyptian Jewish leader convicted for fraud

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Egyptian Jewish leader convicted of fraud

News has just broken that octagenarian Carmen Weinstein, the de facto leader of Egypt's tiny Jewish community, could face three years in jail after her conviction by an Egyptian court for fraud, according to the Earth Times. After years of Mrs Weinstein taking great pains to distance herself from Israel in order to protect her community, it is ironical that the man now calling for Egyptian Jews not to be victimised as a result of Mrs Weinstein's conviction is the Israeli ambassador to Egypt, Yitzhak Levanon.

Update to the update: According to Ynet News Weinstein was sentenced on Saturday to three years in prison after being convicted of defrauding an Egyptian businessman out of three million Egyptian pounds (around 520,000 dollars).

According to Israel Radio Carmen Weinstein will be fined an equivalent in Egyptian pounds of 30,000 Israeli shekels. She will face a three-year suspended sentence.

Cairo - The Israeli ambassador to Cairo, Yitzhak Levanon, has asked the Egyptian government to protect Jews in Egypt, following the conviction of the head of the Jewish community in Cairo on charges of fraud, media reports said Sunday.

Carmen Weinstein was sentenced on Saturday to three years in jail after being convicted of defrauding an Egyptian businessman of three million Egyptian pounds (around 520,000 dollars).She had sold him a building* which did not belong to her and then refused to return his money, the court said.

Al-Jareeda newspaper reported that Levanon sent a note protesting the sentence to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, accusing the judiciary of "oppression and cruelty" and saying it reflected a bias against Weinstein because of her religion.

There are less than 100 Egyptian Jews in the country. They are the remaining members of what was once the most vibrant community in the region, after the mass expulsion of Egyptian Jews in the 1950s.

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Jerusalem Post

* The Carmen Weinstein case could have been rigged to distract from a similar scandal involving two Egyptian MPs. Ovadia Yerushalmi summarises the story behind the sale of another Jewish site :

Two Egyptian members of parliament, Yahya Wahdane and Muhammad Abd el-Naby, tried to sell a Jewish synagogue and a historic property in Cairo to contractor Badr Amer. The contractor, who paid an advance of one million Egyptian pounds, destroyed part of the synagogue.

The fraud was exposed when a row broke out between the two members of Parliament. The two members of Parliament presented to the contractor fake documents indicating ownership of a Jewish synagogue and additional property belonging to the Jewish community. The MPs have been stripped of their immunity and they have been investigated by the police. The contractor was arrested in the summer of 2009 and accused of taking over the synagogue.

The neglected and abandoned synagogue is on Sakaliba street No. 16 in the Bab Alshaaria. The structure is characterized by unique architecture. The contractor Amer Bader destroyed, without licence, columns and a bridge connecting between the two buildings of the synagogue. The Star of David adorning the entrance gate was damaged.

Moreover, local residents took advantage of the fact that this is an abandoned synagogue and squatters moved in.

1. by: Hisham Al-miani from 28 September 2009.
2. By Tarek Abbas from 28 September 2009.
3. The weekly Rose al-Youssouf - from 19 June 2009, Issue No. 4227.