Saturday, March 31, 2012

Muslim caretaker takes over Alexandria community

Inside the Nebi Daniel synagogue in Alexandria

The Jewish community in Alexandria no longer runs its own affairs, a Jewish visitor discovered on a visit to Egypt in March.

Point of No Return has learnt that the Muslim former doorman of the Nebi Daniel synagogue has taken over the leadership of the community from Yousef Gaon. Abdel Nabi collects the community's rents, has a new car and is living well.

A visitor from England went to the Nebi Daniel synagogue in order to ask for the death certificate of a relative. Abdel Nabi intruded into the visitor's conversation with Gaon and asked to see proof of his relationship with his relative.

The visitor then showed him his family's successoral document.

- Ah ! Abdel Nabi said without even reading the document, this is a copy, I need the original.

Gaon later offered this explanation: "Ah!" the erstwhile leader said, "I am nothing now in this office. Abdel Nabi is the government’s eyes and ears. He directs everything and I can’t say anything. I have resigned but the powers that be don’t accept my resignation. I’m sorry, I cannot help you."

Yousef Gaon, a Jewish convert to Islam, had himself caused controversy when he became head of the community. The Nebi Daniel synagogue is the flagship of the Jewish community of Egypt. The affairs of the Jewish community in Cairo are managed by Mrs Carmen Weinstein, who is in her eighties.

The Alexandria community: 20 women and three men

Crossposted at Elder of Ziyon

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Moroccans are bellyaching over Israel dancers

Another nail in the coffin for Arab-Israeli relations: Moroccans are upset at two Israeli women slated to join dancers at the May International Belly Dance Festival in Marrakesh, Israel Hayom reports. The Festival is also under fire for being “immodest.”

Ab-solutely opposed: Israeli belly dancers want to perform in Marrakech, but Moroccons are not to keen on having them.
Photo credit: Reuters

Officials in Marrakesh are shaking their heads at the idea of Israeli women shaking their hips in Morocco.

Several weeks before the third annual International Belly Dance Festival is set to open in Marrakech, bringing with it a swarm of beads, hip scarves and gyrating abdomens, several Moroccans are refusing to participate after learning that Israeli dancers will attend and shimmy with the rest of them.

Israelis Simona Guzman and Asi Haskal have added their names to the official list of participants. According to the Al Arabiya news network, both women will be at the festival to train participating dancers as well as show their stuff in the event’s official dances. But on Facebook and across the blogosphere, Moroccans are crying foul, calling the presence of Israelis in Morocco an atrocity and accusing the festival’s organizers of ignoring the wishes of the Moroccan public.

Read article in full

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

David Gerbi still has hope for Libya

In spite of the title of this Foreign Policy article, Next year in Tripoli, David Gerbi never once says he wants Libyan Jews to return en masse. He is more concerned with restoring Jewish heritage sites, and seeing a pluralistic, minority-friendly Libya emerge from the post-Gaddafi turmoil.

Speaking in Italian, I pressed him (Gaddafi) on opening the Dar Bishi Synagogue. While I had little to hope for, given his detached manner and empty promises, I was pleased to discover that the meeting somehow helped me start shedding my fears and gain back some of the dignity I had felt I lost as a refugee: Qaddafi could no longer harm me, and my Libyan, Jewish, and Italian identities gave me strength.

During my last trip to Libya in the spring of 2011, I joined the anti-Qaddafi rebels by volunteering again at the Benghazi Psychiatric Hospital, where I trained the rebels to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I was in the mountains north of Tripoli a few months later, working on PTSD with Amazigh Berbers. Like most Libyans, their suffering resulted not only from the current conflict, but also from 42 years of calamities caused by the dictatorship. What they desperately needed was to overcome their fears and find that they could hope again -- hope for a better life in freedom.

After Tripoli was liberated, I once again tried cleaning up the Dar Bishi Synagogue. Even though I had received permission from the National Transitional Council (NTC) and the local government to undertake this work, a mob gathered, shouting that "there is no place for Jews in Libya" and carrying signs in both Arabic and Hebrew to make sure, I suppose, that I got the message. Once again, I had to leave. But this time I left with dignity, not fear: I left on the day of my choice and on my own terms. I wanted to signal to the NTC that I would work with it to restore calm and that it needed to work with me. And in so doing, I found more strength.

Despite all these challenges, I still have hope. I will continue to do what I can so that the Jewish presence in Libya is not forgotten and Jews, as well as all minorities, can reclaim their rightful place in Libya. I know that this will take time. Tripoli's new leadership faces enormous challenges, such as building the essential elements of government and civil life and bridging ethnic and regional divides. But part of this effort must include preserving and protecting Libya's few remaining Jewish heritage sites. I also urge the NTC and similar bodies to recognize and meet with the WOLJ as the legitimate representative of the Libyan Jewish community.

Hope often needs help. The international community must also act. The United States and its NATO allies played a pivotal role in helping the Libyan people achieve freedom, and now they can help steer the new government toward a path of justice and reconciliation. These countries must send a message to the NTC and other Libyan leaders that they can demonstrate their seriousness about democracy and human rights by breaking with Libya's past and welcoming back Jews and other minorities. It is a win-win proposition for all interested in Libya's development and success.

U.S. citizens can also help by urging President Barack Obama's administration to remain true to its values. The White House must not only focus on economic and political development, but also human rights. As we so often have seen, the way countries treat their minorities signals how they will behave toward their neighbors and the world.

A peaceful, stable Libya is most likely to be realized if it is pluralistic, open, and tolerant. Libya must become a free, just, and democratic country, grounded in the rule of law, in which all of Libya's minorities -- including those Jews forced to flee -- are welcomed back into the Libyan family. We can make a difference at this critical juncture, before the cement dries, by making a mark for democracy, human rights, and religious pluralism, so that Libya becomes a model for reconciliation and tolerance.

Read article in full

Hail to the champion of Libyan Jewish rights

Jewish leader will take Salafist preacher to court

The leader of the Jewish community in Tunisia, Roger Bismuth (pictured), has been talking tough: he intends to take a Salafist preacher to court. The preacher called for a war against the Jews at a demonstration last weekend, Tunisialive reports:

The President of the Tunisian Jewish Community Roger Bismuth has expressed deep concern over the security of Tunisia’s Jewish Community, and has called on the government to take immediate action against those who incite hatred against others.

During Sunday’s Salafist demonstration on Avenue Habib Bourguiba, one Salafist preacher shouted “young people rise up, let’s wage a war against the Jews,” to a cheering crowd chanting “God is great.”

Bismuth announced that he will be taking legal action against the Salafist preacher. “We can’t have this violent speech in our country… it is not the first time this has happened… it is totally unacceptable and I am going to take him to court,” said Bismuth.

While Bismuth told Tunisia Live he has been unable to meet today with Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, he paid a visit to the President of the Constituent Assembly Mustapha Ben Jaafar, who strongly condemned the Salafist preacher.

Mofdi Mossadi, a spokesman for Ben Jaafar, told local radio station Mosaique FM that Ben Jaafar strongly condemned verbal abuse against Tunisia’s Jewish community and that it was critical that hateful rhetoric end.

During a press conference yesterday, Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia’s Islamist political party Ennahda, promised to defend the rights of all of Tunisia’s minority communities. “Tunisia defends the rights of all citizens. We will fight for the rights of all our minorities, including the Jewish minority,” Ghannouchi said.

According to Tunisian State News agency, TAP, the Ministry of Religious Affairs has also condemned “all calls to fight Jews,” and deemed the incident on Avenue Habib Bouguiba to be an “isolated act.”

Read article in full

Salafists rally against Jews in Tunisia and Morocco

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Toulouse memorial service held in Casablanca

Three faiths came together in the Casablanca synagogue a few days ago to remember the jihadist murders of three children and a rabbi in Toulouse. In this video from Dafina, A representative of the king pays homage to the eminent family of Miriam Monsenego z'l, the grand-daughter of a chief rabbi of Morocco.

Now that Morocco has experienced its homegrown murderous violence and threats of violence against Jews, the community leader Serge Berdugo's praise of Morocco's traditional tolerance, however, seems a touch ironical.

Monday, March 26, 2012

74-year-old Fez Jew beaten to death with hammer

Israeli flag being burned in Land Day protests in Morocco

Update: the victim has been identified as Benjamin Serrero. His killer - Debka claims he was shouting Allah Hu akbar - escaped and is being hunted by police. An autopsy and investigation have been ordered by the Fez authorities.

'Arab Spring' anti-Jewish incitement in Morocco claims its first victim: An elderly Jewish man was murdered by an unknown attacker with a hammer today in the city of Fez, Israel National News has reported.

The 74-year-old victim, whose name has not yet been released, worked in property management for rentals owned by other Jews.

According to reports in Moroccan media, the elderly victim was seen being hit repeatedly by a man wielding a hammer.

The murderer fled the scene. Police are investigating to determine whether the attack was nationalist or criminal in nature.

Critically injured, he died as he was being rushed to King Hassan II University Hospital.

Read article in full

Salafists rally against Jews in Tunisia and Morocco

Marchers shouting extremist slogans were out in force last weekend in both Tunisia and Morocco. While an Islamist preacher shouted anti-Jewish death threats, an Israeli diplomat had to be smuggled out of a conference after demonstrators protested his presence.

The blog Cybersion reports:

TUNIS – A Salafist preacher made death threats against the Jews during a large-scale march on avenue Habib Bourguiba, Tunis's main artery.

"Get ready for the fight: Jews! Jews! The fight is for God's cause. Paradise! Paradise! " the religious leader with a white beard and djellaba screamed into his loudhailer while the crowd boiled over.

The President of the Tunisian Jewish community, Roger Bismuth, told Associated Press such calls were 'unacceptable'. He called on the authorities to react. "I have only contempt for these people. They are not worthy of respect because they do damage to their country, my country, because I am a Tunisian," he said.

Salafists had called for the deaths of Jews during a visit last January by the Palestinian Hamas leader, Ismaïl Haniyeh. These calls had been universally condemned by the authorities and organs of civil society, including the 'moderate' Islamist party Ennahda, now in power.

Sunday's demonstration brought together more than 10,000. All came to call for sharia law and to condemn the desecration of the Koran and other incidents that took place last week in mosques around the country.

Read post in full (French)

Israeli flags burned in Morocco (with thanks: Gili)

Ynet News reports: Several days prior to the Global March to Jerusalem, thousands of Moroccans took part in a mass rally in Rabat "in support of Jerusalem." Israeli diplomat David Saranga, who was in the city for a conference, was taken out of the building through a side door as demonstrators protested his presence there, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday. Palestinian flags were flown and Israeli flags were burned during the march.

A Moroccan Islamic organization that organized the march claimed that 100,000 participated in the rally.

"The people want to free al-Aqsa," the protesters chanted. "A million martyrs are going to Jerusalem."

Arab media reported Sunday that Saranga's participation in a Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EUROMED) meeting at Morocco's parliament stirred uproar among citizens and legislators. The country's ruling party boycotted the meeting.

Read article in full

Diplomat leaves Morocco (Jerusalem Post: with thanks: Lily)

Do wartime tales of Arabs rescuing Jews mislead?

Michael Lonsdale plays the rector of the Paris mosque in the film Les hommes libres

In this post for the
Times of Israel, Lyn Julius argues that a new film highlighting the efforts of the rector of the Great Mosque in Paris to save Jews is part of a trend whitewashing Arab collaboration with, and sympathy for, Nazism:

If you go down to the cinematheque in Tel Aviv to see the film Les Hommes Libres, you might be forgiven for coming out thinking that a good number of Arabs saved Jews from the Nazis.

You might also have heard that Muslim Albanians saved their Jews because their strict code of honour, BESA, demanded it. Or perhaps you thought that Arabs had nothing much to do with the Holocaust – the extermination of the Jews was strictly a European affair.

‘Les Hommes Libres tells the story of how the rector of the Great Mosque in Paris, Si Kaddour Ben Ghabrit, gave a 20-year-old up-and-coming North African Jewish singer, Salim Halali, sanctuary during the Nazi occupation of France. He issued a false certificate stating that Halali had converted to Islam. It is even said that a bogus headstone was erected in the name of Halali’s grandfather in the Muslim cemetery, to put his Nazi persecutors off his scent.

Ben Ghabrit saved other Jews too, although it is not known how many. Robert Satloff, author of the book ‘Among the Righteous, reckons at least 100 Jews were issued with false certificates by the Paris mosque. Some say that Ben Ghabrit acted on orders of the king of Morocco, Mohamed V.

‘The film pays homage to the people of our history who have been invisible. It shows another reality, that Muslims and Jews existed in peace. We have to remember that − with pride,” the film’s director, Ismael Ferroukhi, said in an interview with the New York Times.

But reality is rarely that simple. Anti-Jewish attitudes had been evident in North Africa for many years before the war. The climate of opinion among Arabs was generally pro-Nazi. Is Ferroukhi trying to portray a mythical and misleading solidarity between Arabs and Jews? It is important to know that individual Muslims saved Jews, as did French non-Jews. But these brave souls were exceptional.

In North Africa, Robert Satloff is one of the few to have lifted the veil on this murky wartime chapter. He found that some Arabs actively persecuted Jews, that the vast majority did nothing, and that those who did save Jews have not wanted to be found.

The French, whose police force collaborated in the Nazi round-up of Jews in France, as depicted in the film La Rafle, are only now beginning to come to terms with their role in this painful episode of their history. How much more difficult to get Arabs to come to terms with their wartime role, when many are ready to deny the Holocaust happened?

Les Hommes Libres, it seems, is part of a trend to whitewash Arab sympathy for, and collaboration with, Nazism. Gilbert Achcar, a Lebanese academic, in his book The Arabs and the Holocaust, has made strenuous efforts to downplay the alliance of the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem with Adolph Hitler. Interfaith groups hold up Muslim Albania as a model of behaviour: The country ended the war with more Jews than it started with, although it only had 200 Jews anyway. On the other hand, thousands of Bosnian Muslims were recruited into SS Divisions in Yugoslavia, and committed unspeakable atrocities.

Read post in full

Historian challenged over 'Muslim saved Jews' film

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jews of the Arab world are already home

David Gerbi praying in a Tripoli synagogue. Foreign Policy magazine did not mention he had left Libya after receiving threats to his life

Jonathan Tobin in his Commentary blog is right to call out Foreign Policy magazine on their bizarre and misleading statement that the 'Arab Spring' is the best chance for exiled Jewish communities 'to return home'. Aside from the fact that Iran is not an Arab country, the word 'dwindling' in the title is better replaced by 'extinct'. And photos of Arabs restoring Jewish buildings or reading Hebrew cannot mask the ethnic cleansing of Jewish people from the region. (With thanks: Eliyahu)

Do the descendants of Jews who fled the Arab and Muslim world in 1948 want to “go home?” That’s the odd question asked today by Foreign Policy magazine in introducing a photo essay featuring images of the remnants of Jewish life in places like Libya, Iraq and Iran. But while the photos are interesting, the idea that “the uncertain revolutions of the past year may present the best chance for long-exiled Jewish communities across the Middle East to return home” is probably the most bizarre as well as misleading statements published on the topic in some time. Not only are Jews not longing to return to the Arab world, the so-called Arab Spring has unleashed forces of Islamism that makes such an unlikely occurrence even less inviting for anyone foolish enough to believe that Jews are welcome there.

For decades one of the most appalling gaps in knowledge of the modern history of the Middle East is the way even supposedly educated people ignore the fact that what happened in 1948 was an exchange of populations. (My emphasis -ed). While hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled the area that would become the State of Israel, hundreds of thousands of Jews were fled, usually for fear of the lives, from Arab countries where Jews had lived for more than a millennium. The difference between the two sets of refugees is that while the Jews were resettled in Israel and the West, the Arabs were left refused homes elsewhere in the Middle East and kept in camps where they were told to wait until the Jewish state was destroyed.

The descendants of those Arab refugees, whose numbers we are amount to several millions, are still waiting and their demands for a “return” continues to serve as a standing impediment to the otherwise dim hopes for peace. Meanwhile the descendants of the Jews of the Arab and Muslim world have been successfully integrated into Israeli life. They rightly insist that any compensation to the descendants of the original Arab refugees should be matched by payments to the Jews for the property they left behind. These demands are routinely ignored, as is the entire narrative of Jewish dispossession.

Rather than the Arab Spring helping to create a situation where amends might be made for the Jews who were expelled from countries like Egypt, the rise of Islamist parties there has made the status of religious minorities even more uncertain. While Jews once thrived in the Muslim world, albeit under the intermittent threat of persecution and pogroms, the notion that Jews would be free to live there while expressing their identity is farcical.

In the first picture in the essay, the magazine notes the example of David Gerbi who returned to Libya after the fall of Qaddafi hoping to begin the reclaim a lost synagogue. But they fail to note that he was arrested and threaten with violence for doing so. In the next photo, they put forward the claim that Jews live freely in Iran and are not put out by the anti-Semitic invective that flows from its government. Here again, the caption fails to note that Iranian Jews are the subject of frequent persecution and are virtual hostages living under threat of punishment for speaking freely about their situation. The magazine’s portrayal is reminiscent of Roger Cohen’s infamous whitewash of Iran on this subject.

There are some bright spots Foreign Policy can actually point to. One is Iraq where Hebrew studies have been encouraged. But this is more the work of the long American presence in the country than any popular sentiment to welcome home those who were victimized by pogroms in the 1940s. In Iraqi Kurdistan, there is the chance for good relations with Israel and the Jews but that only demonstrates the Kurds’ determination** to reject the Islamism that dominates Iran and some parties in Iraq.

However, the magazine altogether misses the one example of a successful Jewish community in the Arab world that predates the Arab spring: Tunisia where the Jews of Djerba have never left*. Unfortunately, the rise of Islamist parties in post-authoritarian Tunisia makes their stay a bit more precarious.

Read post in full

Photo-essay in Foreign Policy

*The Jews of Djerba were encouraged to stay because they were essential to tourism in Tunisia. Only 1,500 are left, and hardly any in the Hara Sghrira on Djerba, where the al-Ghriba synagogue stands.

**More likely it reflects some Kurds' determination to distance themselves from the Iraqi government. Kurdish rebels have in the past been allied with Israel. Nevertheless there are no Jews in Kurdistan.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Iranian Jews 'to be human shields in Global March '

Hossein Sheikholislam, march organiser

Update: the Jerusalem Post is repeating the Debkafile claim that Iranian Jews have been ordered to take part in the Global March.

This report from Debkafile may or may not be reliable, but if it is true, it indicates that the Iranian regime has sunk to a new low of depravity by coercing Iranian Jews to take part in the Global March on Jerusalem planned on 30 March.

The Islamic regime in Tehran was not satisfied with the public support the Iranian Jewish community’s was forced to confer on the Global March to Jerusalem for which Iran is recruiting Islamists worldwide. Now, the event’s organizers, Majlis Speaker Hossein Sheikh-ol-Eslam and Salim Ghafouri, have ordered the community to send a Jewish delegation to march with the Islamist groups in Lebanon, debkafiles Iranian sources disclose.

The delegations are scheduled to mass on the Lebanese and Jordanian borders with Israel and at West Bank and Gaza checkpoints on March 30, when Israeli Arabs mark Earth Day every year.

Iran’s ancient Jewish community of around 15,000 souls (9,000 in Tehran, 4,000 in Shiraz and 1,300 in Isfahan) has been living in fear of reprisals should Israel or the United States carry out a military operation against the country’s nuclear facilities. Now, they face a fresh danger of murder and abduction by Hizballah and Palestinian gunmen and terrorists in Lebanon.

Jewish communal leaders were instructed by the Iranian authorities this week to have at least 10 young men aged 18 to 22 ready for the march. They were to be given “the honor” of acting as vanguard for breaking through the Lebanese-Israeli border fence and leading a mass incursion across the border.

They suspect that this ploy is meant to prevent Israeli soldiers from firing on the trespassers for fear of killing the Jewish contingent, while at the same time, exposing them to violence when the event is over at the hands of al-Qaeda linked Palestinian groups under Hizballah protection.

The Salafi doctrine held by the al Qaeda killer Muhammad Merah who murdered four Jews, including three children, in Toulouse Monday, is rife in the south Lebanese Palestinian Ain Hilwa refugee camp. The most active are two Palestinian jihadist groups, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which now and then shoots rockets into northern Israel, and Jund al-Sham, which is closely tied to al Qaeda branches in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, where they call themselves Osbat al-Ansar.

The two terrorist groups are the bosses of the Safouri Quarter of the camp.
Our sources report an Iranian scheme to send the Jewish marchers on a visit to Ain Hilwa to show their solidarity with the most radical Palestinian cause.

Last week, Jewish leaders were obliged to sign a declaration of solidarity with the Global March and condemnation of Israel. The text put before them for signing was as follows: We the Jews of Iran strongly condemn the barbaric crimes of the occupation regime in Palestinian and declare the Zionist state in violation of the principles of Our Teacher Moses and the Will of God. We are totally at one with the aspirations of the heroic Palestinian people.”

Signed: Dr. Syamak Mare Dedeq, Jewish Member of Parliament, and Rabbi Mashallah Golestani-Nejad, described as the Chief Rabbi of Iran.

Debkafile’s Iranian sources add: Tehran is the main bankroller and live wire of the Global March against Israel’s borders and claims to have rounded up Islamist delegations from five continents to support the Palestinians. Seventy sympathizers are on their way to Lebanon, Syria and Jordan from India, Malaysia, Pakistan and other Asian countries.

Read article in full

Friday, March 23, 2012

Pro-Jewish Muslim students suffered antisemitism

With thanks: Michelle-Malca

With the Arab and Muslim world convulsed by antisemitism, two Moroccan Muslim students must be congratulated for bucking the trend: they have set up the Mimouna Club at Ifrane university.

The purpose of the Mimouna Club, named after the Moroccan-Jewish celebration that concludes Passover during which Jews traditionally invited Muslims into their homes for a feast, is to promote the idea of Jewish-Muslim coexistence and to recall Morocco's Jewish heritage.

It is the nostalgia of his grandmother's generation for the Jews - she was one of very few Muslims living in the Casablanca Jewish ghetto and attending the Jewish (Alliance) school - that motivated El-Mehdi Boudra to set up his club, with the encouragement of Andre Azoulay, the Moroccan king's Jewish adviser. In the case of Laaziza Dalil, it was the fact she had grown up with many Jewish friends. Both were interviewed on the John Batchelor radio show in New York by Jewish leader Malcolm Hoenlein on 22 March. (Segment starts 11 minutes into the programme).

It is interesting that two Moroccans with no Jewish blood or connections have themselves experienced antisemitism: When the Mimouna Club was first set up, it was denigrated as the 'Mellah' (Jewish ghetto). Someone daubed a swastika. Laaziza Dalil was shocked and deeply upset by an antisemitic encounter in Paris with an old lady who mistook her for a Sephardi Jew. 'Things were better when Paris was cleansed (of Jews) by the Germans', the old lady sneered. Although their parents are largely supportive, El-Mehdi's father fears that his son's involvement with the Mimouna Club will later put at risk his chances of finding a job. The two students are aware that the affection of their grandparents' generation towards Jews has been replaced with fierce anti-Jewish hatred among the youth.

The Mimouna Club has plans to organise a trip by Moroccan students to Israel. It has also worked with US interfaith organisations to hold the first conference ever on the Holocaust in the Arab world, and made a film about it. ' We don't need to deny the Holocaust,' El-Mehdi declares triumphantly,' because of the actions of King Mohammed V.'

While Malcolm Hoenlein gushes his approval of this initiative, I beg to differ. The wartime king Mohammed V (pictured) was said to have saved Jews from deportation to the death camps. But the Vichy government did not attempt to deport them. The king did not prevent Moroccan Jews from being shunted back into their ghettos. He did not prevent Jews being sacked from their jobs and subject to quotas and restrictions under the Vichy 'statut des juifs'. He had nothing to say about the hundreds of European Jews who died in forced labour camps on Moroccan territory. And if he was powerless to prevent these things, why exaggerate his role and elevate him to sainthood?

Laudable efforts to educate Arabs about the Holocaust run the risk of whitewashing the record if they only tell one side of the story. Attempts to show only stories of rescue and sympathy among Arabs for Jews, when plenty of others were ready to betray them and sympathise with the Nazis, become distortions of history.

Moroccan Holocaust conference has its dangers

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Targeted Toulouse school founded by Syrian Jew

The victims of the Toulouse shooting at the Ozar Hatorah school

The founder of Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse - scene of the horrific murder of one of its teachers, his two children and the child of the headmaster - was a Syrian Jew, according to Reuters. Isaac Shalom opened a network of schools in Arab countries and Iran in the 1940s to respond to 'disastrous educational conditions.'

The shooting marks a tragic turn for Ozar Hatorah, which was created in the wake of the Holocaust in the mid-1940s by a Syrian-born Jew intent on improving the lot of Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa.

In 2001 a classroom was burned down at a "Ozar Hatorah", or "Treasure of the Torah", school in the Paris suburb of Creteil, but the perpetrator turned out to be a pupil.

(Rabbi Jean-Paul) Amoyelle said Monday's attack was a sign of growing danger.

"This was deliberate. Anti-semitic and deliberate, I have no doubt," Amoyelle said by telephone as he was due to return to France. "I plan to install a zone of reinforced security."

The creator of Ozar Hatorah, Isaac Shalom, opened schools in countries including Morocco, Iran, Libya and Syria to respond to what his network described as disastrous educational conditions.

As the region underwent upheaval and war following the creation of the state of Israel, Ozar Hatorah also followed the path of Jewish emigration, starting schools in France from the late 1960s as large numbers of North African Jews crossed the Mediterranean to escape heightened regional tensions.

"I was in France in 1967. I began with a school in Sarcelles (a Paris suburb), and there was already one in Lyon," said Amoyelle, who now oversees 20 schools across Paris and cities like Marseille, Strasbourg and Aix-les-bains.

"These are schools that are perfectly integrated in the community," he added, describing the educational program as offering two possibilities: a straightforward French education as well as a Jewish education rooted in history and religion.

Read article in full

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Toulouse murders 'are payback for desecrations'

This is how it works: a fabrication, rumour, or incident falsely blamed on the Jews, becomes the pretext for killing them in cold blood. Already a Turkish editor is tweeting the Toulouse murders of Jewish children as payback for Tunisian Jews allegedly vandalising mosques and Korans, as reported by Arutz Sheva:

A Jewish Star of David was spray-painted by vandals last Friday on to the wall of the al-Fath mosque in the Tunisian capital.

A day earlier, two mosques in the town of Ben Guerdane were vandalized. Their Islamic holy books, the Koran, were damaged inside the buildings as well. The town is located near the border with Libya.

The desecration comes as Tunisians are struggling to maintain a peaceful compromise between all the elements of a society rocked with conflict since the Jasmine Revolution that toppled its longtime dictator, President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, in January 2011.

Read article in full

1902: blood libels erupt in 'tolerant' Egypt

The year is 1902, well before Israel was created, and the 'cycle of violence' between Jews and Arabs took hold in in the western mind. So how does one explain these examples of blood libels and looting of Jewish property uncovered by the inestimable Elder of Ziyon? Antisemitism ? - surely not! (With thanks: Lily)

From the American Jewish Yearbook archives for the years 1902-1903:

September 17, 1902: 17. A year old ritual murder charge revived at Port Said, Egypt, and the alleged abductor of a child sentenced to sixteen months' hard labor.

March 25, 1903: The Jewish quarter of Port Said, Egypt, invaded and despoiled, in consequence of a ritual murder charge. (See September 17, 1902.)

Egypt wasn't the only Arab country where Jews were made to feel less than welcome. They also had problems in Morocco:

To be sure, the oppression of Jews in Arab countries were much, much less than in Europe at the time - during the same time period 49 Jews were killed in the Kishinev pogrom, 14 were killed in Czenstochow, Poland, and there were blood libel charges in Hungary as well as other Eastern European countries.

But that doesn't mean that Jews were safe in Arab countries.

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